Saturday, August 07, 2010

There Is No Doctrine Of Exchange

Dianetics FlyerImage by seangraham via Flickr

The 30 Second Skinny Many people join Scientology on the promise that it will help them achieve their goals, but over time these personal goals fall away to be replaced by Scientology's own goals. The Church fails to fulfil its part of the deal and tends to behave as if it is the injured party whenever a parishioner or staff member calls them out on it.

One of the things that continues to fascinate me is what leads people to Scientology in the first place. Given its reputation, what is it about the organisation that allows it, in spite of everything, to recruit new members and, more critically, staff. I know many people rationalise their association with Scientology by describing their early wins, but they do so specifically within the context of Scientology itself.

People will typically say that they got into Scientology because of those early wins. They may talk of vagueries, of becoming a better person, of finding freedom from whatever mental prisons they find themselves in, but ultimately there is a dilemma. These desires are all secondary.

Someone does not generally want to become a better communicator because they want to be a better communicator. They want to become a better communicator in order to achieve their primary goals. Scientology offers them a toolset (whether it works or not) that they hope will help them on their way to their own personal achievements.

But that's not where the people who hand out the Stress newsletters and Dianetics cards are. They will seem cheery enough, and be willing to engage with people, but I'm pretty sure that they didn't get into Scientology to become pamphleteers.

To discuss this further, I want to put it in the framework of the first four of the eight dynamics. The first four dynamics in Scientology are:
  1. the self;
  2. the family (partners and offspring);
  3. the group;
  4. mankind.
The reason most people cross the doors of an Org is because they have First Dynamic goals. They want to sing, or write, or run their own company, and they believe that Scientology might be able to help with that.

But two years later they find themselves freezing their proverbials off on Tottenham Court Road giving out leaflets. Their First Dynamic goals have been totally supplanted by the Third Dynamic, and it's not even their original Third Dynamic. In a sense, the deal has been broken. Scientology has offered an individual a path to their 1D goals, but instead forces on them a set of goals that aren't 3D goals in any real sense, but 1D goals of the Church of Scientology. Staff members cease to get anything out of the Church of Scientology. They suffer poor working conditions and pay in order to achieve something that really has very little to do with them and their ambitions.

I think this is one of the reasons why the wins get fewer and farther between (that and only the early courses do have much of an effect); during the initial courses they are able to relate what they are learning to what they want to achieve, but as they continue up the bridge, their wins have less and less to do with the reality of their life and goals and more and more to do with the abstract fantasies of the high church. The Third Dynamic, as presented by the Church of Scientology, supplants the First Dynamic entirely. But any group is made up of individuals; the group drive needs to negotiate, and accommodate the needs of the individual. In most cases the group has been formed with the very purpose of fulfilling the needs of the individual. Where things go wrong is when the group reaches a point where it only serves itself, which is very much the problem with the Church of Scientology. It works its staff to the point where little or no time is made available for personal development, just so that it can open the next building no-one needs, or book donation no-one wants.

If there is one outreach action it is this; to encourage Scientologists to recognise what it was that they wanted from Scientology and judge whether or not Scientology has delivered. If it hasn't then they are well within their rights to demand the Church of Scientology does better, whichever side of the threshold the parishioner finds themselves standing.

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