THOUGHT CONTROL AND SCIENTOLOGY
"The only way you can control people is to lie to them."
- L. Ron Hubbard, "Off the Time Track," lecture of June 1952, excerpted in JOURNAL OF SCIENTOLOGY, issue 18-G, reprinted in TECHNICAL VOLUMES OF DIANETICS & SCIENTOLOGY, vol. 1, p. 418.
Scientology appeals to people by offering them a grand game; a unique and comprehensive self-improvement system; a solution for almost every problem (many people come to Scientology when their lives are in crisis); and a welcoming group focused on major societal issues such as drug abuse, mental health, education, spirituality and morality. After joining the Church of Scientology, one meets with increasing demands for money, time and recruiting others. Those who resist these demands bolt, usually quickly. Those who remain go step-by-step into agreement with indoctrination, all the while believing that they are becoming more aware and self determined.
How and why people surrender their critical thinking skills and succumb to "re-education" has been the subject of study and controversy since the 1950s, when researchers began to encounter forms of coercive persuasion, or ideological re-molding, that were developed in China and the Soviet Union and were used on prisoners of war and on civilians in a variety of milieus. The methods of thought reform identified by such groundbreaking investigators as Dr. Robert J. Lifton (3) and the late Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer (4) have been shown to be present in virtually all high-demand religions presently operating in the United States and the Western world. (5)
This current generation of thought reform practices, in the opinion of many researchers, poses a greater threat than did the politically oriented behavior control practices of the past because its primary attack is not just upon the individual’s political views but rather upon the sense of self. (6) "Basic consciousness, reality awareness, beliefs and world view, emotional control, and defense mechanisms" (7) are destabilized, with resultant loss of independent perspective and thus of the capacity for informed consent.
Some of the influence techniques that attract and hold people in a thought reform environment are:
• Creating a triad of "miracle, mystery, and authority...MIRACLE - ideology imputing miraculous powers to leaders and/or activities...to produce an atmosphere of awe...MYSTERY - secrecy obscuring actual beliefs and practices...[which] hides unattractive aspects of cult routine...AUTHORITY - claims on members’ time, talents, bodies or property to meet group needs. A leader‘s allegedly immense intellectual, spiritual, or even physical powers may rationalize whims and doctrines, [allowing him] to hold sway over followers. While leaders are intelligent and articulate, often their biographies and abilities are puffed up." (8)
• Attributing "all individual suffering to misapplication, misunderstanding or even casual doubting of the group’s unfailing teaching." (9)
• Inducing "sensory deprivation and sensory overload, guided imagery and visualization, trance induction through repetition of words or slogans..." (10)
• Controlling the environment, i.e., the group member "is deprived of the combination of external information and inner reflection which anyone requires to test the realities of his environment and to maintain a measure of identity separate from it." (11)
• Creating a mystique of importance around the group and its leader, so that the group and its goals are seen as more important than anything else. (12)
• Requiring a level of perfection that is unattainable, with consequent guilt and shame serving as powerful control devices. (13)
• Demanding extraordinary levels of confession, including confession to crimes that one has not committed, making it "virtually impossible to maintain a reasonable balance between worth and humility." (14)
• Claiming absolute infallibility of the group’s leader and doctrine. (15)
• Creating a unique language, often non-understandable to outsiders, the effect of which "can be summed up in one word: constriction.... [The group member] is, so to speak, linguistically deprived; and since language is so central to all human experience, his capacities for thinking and feeling are immensely narrowed." (16)
• Giving the member a new identity by bringing his or her thinking into alignment with the group’s, prompting a redefinition of the self and a reinterpretation of the past in terms of the new present. The individual "switches worlds...and through socialization, discovers the ‘plausibility structures’ that make the new world coherent, fully tangible and fully believable...The formula for reinterpretation of the past is, ‘Then I thought...now I know.’ (17)
• Relegating outsiders to the status of reduced value or non-person. (18)
Reports of personal experiences from many ex-Scientologists in court testimony, books, articles, interviews, lectures and internet forums bear out that every one of the above mentioned influence techniques is used in Scientology. (19-26)
1. Robert T. Penny. SOCIAL CONTROL IN SCIENTOLOGY, Chapter 2. 1993. http://tinyurl.com/34ezz
2. Ibid., Chapter 1.
3. Robert J. Lifton. THOUGHT REFORM AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF TOTALISM (New York: Norton, 1961 [republished by University of North Carolina Press, 1989] ).
4. Margaret Thaler Singer and Janja Lalich. CULTS IN OUR MIDST: THE CONTINUING FIGHT AGAINST THEIR HIDDEN MENACE (San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Revised ed. 2003).
5. Ronald Burks and Lawrence A. Pile, Eds. "Thought Reform in Cults and Abusive Relationships." http://tinyurl.com/3fcl6
6. Margaret Thaler Singer and Richard Ofshe. "Thought reform programs and the production of psychiatric casualties," PSYCHIATRIC ANNALS, 1990; Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 188-193.
8. John Hochman. "Miracle, mystery, and authority: the triangle of cult indoctrination," PSYCHIATRIC ANNALS, 1990; Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 179-187.
9. Ibid., pp. 182-183.
10. Singer and Ofshe, op. cit.
11. Lifton, op. cit., p. 421.
12. Ibid., p. 422.
13. Ibid., p. 423.
14. Ibid., p. 424.
15. Ibid., p. 425.
16. Ibid., p. 430.
17. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann. THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF REALITY: A TREATISE IN THE SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1966, pp. 157-160).
18. Lifton, op. cit., p. 433.
19. On May 9, 2003, the Church of Scientology paid Lawrence Wollersheim more than $8 million after he won a lawsuit alleging severe psychological damage due to Scientology counseling practices. http://tinyurl.com/2lxv3
20. The Church of Scientology settled out of court with former member Raul Lopez, who filed suit alleging that the Church had swindled him of more than $1.3 million which he had received in a settlement following an auto accident that left him brain damaged. http://tinyurl.com/3ar6b
21. Margery Wakefield. UNDERSTANDING SCIENTOLOGY, Chapter 14: "Brainwashing and Thought Control in Scientology - the Road to Rondroid." 1991. http://tinyurl.com/2o78g
22. Penny, op. cit.
23. Richard Behar. "Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power," TIME MAGAZINE, May 6, 1991, p. 50. The Church of Scientology sued TIME for libel following the publication of this article and lost. http://tinyurl.com/28nox
24. Stephen A. Kent. .BRAINWASHING IN SCIENTOLOGY’S REHABILITATION PROJECT FORCE (RPF). Revised version of a presentation at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, San Diego, California, November 7, 1997. http://tinyurl.com/29n8f
25. Inside Scientology: First-Person Accounts. http://tinyurl.com/3frmm
26. Your Story from Inside Scientology. http://tinyurl.com/33ccr
SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING:
BATTLE FOR THE MIND: A PHYSIOLOGY OF CONVERSION AND BRAINWASHING, by William Sargent
CAPTIVE HEARTS, CAPTIVE MINDS: FREEDOM AND RECOVERY FROM CULTS AND OTHER ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS, by Madeleine Landau Tobias, Janja Lalich and Michael D. Langone
COMBATTING CULT MIND CONTROL, by Steven Hassan
INFLUENCE: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF
PERSUASION, by Robert B. Cialdini
RELEASING THE BONDS: EMPOWERING PEOPLE TO THINK FOR THEMELVES, by Steven Hassan
SNAPPING: AMERICA’S EPIDEMIC OF SUDDEN PERSONALITY CHANGE, by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman
THE MIND ALIVE, by Harry A. Overstreet and Bonaro W. Overstreet
THE POWER OF PERSUASION: HOW WE’RE
BOUGHT AND SOLD, by Robert V. Levine
THE TRUE BELIEVER: THOUGHTS ON THE NATURE OF MASS MOVEMENTS, by Eric Hoffer
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