Why do people join -- and stay -- in Scientology?
I while back I was browsing this news group and came across a post in which
someone suggested that the reason people get into and stay in scientology is
simple: They're stupid. Not a Nobel Prize calibre analysis, but nonetheless
troubling for me--I'm a former long-term scientologist. I noticed another post with
a similar but kinder, more Darwinian theory: Scientology 'selects for' people with
low critical thinking skills. (Actually, I can't remember if he said 'skills' or just
'ability.') Bothersome. Both statements really irked me, but I wondered how much
of my response was just reflexive self-image defense--it hurts to think of yourself
as stupid and gullible.
Actually, I'd been thinking about this basic problem since I left scientology. It is
complex, and I haven't fully resolved it yet in my mind, but I've come with what I
think is a better, and yes, a much more comfortable way of looking at it. One isn't
just 'stupid' or 'not stupid,' 'skeptical or 'gullible.' We are complex creatures.
We can be brilliant about one thing and simultaneously dumb as a brick about
something else. Same applies to critical thinking (by which I mean intelligent
skepticism): The same person can have a healthy skepticism in some situations
and be trusting as livestock in others. Seems to me there are lots of
examples of this sort of thing, both infamous and mundane. But rather than
go on about it in a post that may soon be lost and forgotten in the sea of
argument that is ARS, let me make the point quickily in a sort of 'thought
experiment.' Please, with no potential informer watching, follow
along in your imagination for the next few minutes.
Imagine that your Acura is in the shop--periodic maintainence of course--and
you've decided to take a bus to the office. In this experiment I thought I'd make it
more pleasant by having you be a successful, well-to-do Scientologist, so
imagine that too if necessary. (Do continue imagining yourself as male or female,
etc., whatever you prefer.) Normally you'd have taken a cab or ridden with a
friend, but today for some reason you've decided you wanted to 'rub shoulders'
with the bus-riding classes. Anyway, you're on the bus, taking it all in, when a tall,
thin guy gets on and sits down next to you. His clothes are low budget, but clean.
Seems at first friendly and unthreatening. You're an accessible, talkative person
yourself and soon you get into conversation. Turns out he's some sort of writer,
now serving coffee and bagels to make ends meet until he can sell some of his
work. Your conversation goes on cheerily for a while, until the writer mentions
some research he's been doing recently. Now his manner changes; takes on an
deep intensity you didn't notice before. He seems to have something huge and
profound he has to get out about this research. He pauses. The rules of polite
conversation force what happens next.
'So uh what's this research all about. What kind of research anyway.'
'Well, I've gone way, way back.'
You get an idea of the guy with stacks of books and a notepad in the library.
'Uhuh. What were you researching?'
'Well, this might seem funny, but I've been researching sex. More specifically, uh,
sex waves and their uh use.' Now you think you notice something strange about
his eyes--a sort of tension and fixidity.
'Uh--s-sex WAVES? (I can confront this.)Well THAT sounds interesting uh I mean
what are sex WAVES anyway?'
'You see, in my research I discovered the exact wavelength of sex. I mean, sex
has an exact wavelength that can be produced by a machine. Basically, you can
induce sexual sensation by beaming a ray of a certain frequency at someone. Like
with a sex ray-gun. Sounds weird I know. Couldn't believe it myself at first, but
there it is.'
Things instantly get more distant between you. A break in reality you realize. You
know you can remedy it by increasing communication. You decide to continue the
conversation for a while, forcing youself to grant the writer beingness.
'OK. Well, what kind of rays are we talking about. Are they part of the
electro-magnetic spectrum or is it more of a, well you know, like an ultrasonic uh
well, vibrator-type wave?'
'The electro what? . . . Oh yeah, right. Uh, well actually I'd rather not say because
the technology is so dangerous. But I discovered the exact wavelength and exactly
how it can be produced.'
'Good. I mean, OK! So do you plan to patent this device and manufacture it or
what? Hey, do you want me to test it for you?' Nervous laugh.
'Oh no no no. I plan to keep it absolutely secret.' He pauses again. You force an
'Yeah. The truth is that sex is a tool of enslavement. It isn't really natural; it's quite
artificial and it's been used deliberately and systematically by certain evil beings
to prevent us from achieving our full potential.'
'By shooting us with sex rays?' Up to now you've been proud of application of the
ARC triangle and your granting beingness even to a possible type III, but now
you're getting sarcastic. Your TR 0 is faltering. You have to muscle back near
The writer begins to go on about the evil beings and how sex seems like fun but
it's really just part of a scheme to enslave us. You realize it's going to go on and
'Hey! This is my stop. Nice meeting you and good luck with getting your stuff
published.' You almost say, 'Don't worry, your secret's safe with me,' but you're
kinder than that. You don't mind walking the extra eleven blocks to your office.
End of situation 1
Please note for yourself your honest answers to the following questions:
1. How skeptical would you have been of what the 'writer' said? In what ways were
you skeptical? What seems WRONG with what he said?
2. What would the writer have had to do to persuade you to help finance his future
research? (Remember you're a pragmatic buinessman/woman with plenty of
money to spare.)
3. If the writer, sensing your affluence, had handed you a thick packet containing
a draft of a book, based on his research, told you he was looking for financing and
asked you to read it and get back to him, would you have bothered to read it?
Now I realize, since we're on the subject of skepticism that you must have some
very skeptical thoughts about me, my prejudices, logical inconsistencies in what
I say, my 'hostile' selection of subject matter, ways in which I'm being stupid,
whatever. OK, go ahead and note these too as you continue to read this post.
You are yourself, a loyal Scientologist and you are reading 'Pain and Sex,' HCO
Bulletin of 26 August 1982. (page 417, Technical Bulletins, Volume XII, copyright
1991, L Ron Hubbard Library) If you have a copy, just read it. If not, read my 'fair
use' excerpts below:
'There are two items in this universe that cause more trouble than many others
'One is PAIN.
'The other is SEX.'
. . .
'Despite the false data of Freud, psychologists, psychiatrists and other criminals,
they [pain and sex] are not native to a being. They are only artificial wavelengths.
They have exact wavelengths that can be manufactured. A being or a machine
can synthesize either one.'
. . .
'Destructive creatures [psychs] who do not want people big or reaching--since
they are terrified of punishment due to their crimes--invented pain and sex to
shrink people and cut their alertness, knowingness, power and reach.'
. . .
'. . . . the stocks-in-trade of the psychs are PAIN and SEX. . . .'
. . .
'These are data which emerged from recent thorough research of the whole track
[the distant past]. This is not theory or some strange opinion. It is provable
electronic fact. The [pain and sex] waves are just synthesized.
'They are the most-used tools in the campaign against beings in furthering the
general goal of those creatures whose sole ambition is destruction. . . . It fits their
purpose to make seem natural what they make artificially. . . . They destroyed
every great civilization to date and are hard at work on this one. . . .'
End of fair use excerpts.
Probably you've read this issue before. But back to the subject of 'selective'
intelligence and skepticism. Did you notice a great difference in the degree of
skepticism with which you regarded what 'the writer' said and what L. Ron Hubbard
said? Both were saying quite similar things. True, I made 'the writer' a little funnier
and less 'authoritative' than Hubbard, but both said many of the same things. Only
your responses were, I'm guessing, very different, one deeply skeptical, one
perhaps, 'Wow! That's heavy stuff.'
Why is that? Why is critical thinking 'there' and then 'not there?' Why does it shine
brightly on the 'writer' (and certainly on me) and switch OFF for L. Ron Hubbard?
I don't have a simple answer, but I think I have part of it. Loyalty. Not just loyalty,
but what I'll call 'deep loyalty.' Without a doubt, you have loyalty for LRH. But could
your loyalty for LRH be so deep, so supreme in your scheme of values that your
intelligence and skeptical faculties have become its slaves? Is your loyalty so
senior that it can command your intelligence to shut down or at least go very dim?
I think so. That's how it was for me for many years. I never noticed that
Scientology had somehow installed a 'loyalty switch' that shut down my critical
thinking when it came to LRH. Bad analogy maybe, and very vague I know, but
it was something like that for me and I think it's like that for you too.
Maybe you don't think I've proven my point. Maybe you believe you are
sufficiently skeptical when you study LRH. Oh well. And I haven't dealt with the
question of WHY people would be so loyal in the first place--or indeed whether
the loyalty could somehow be deserved. Another time. But you'll probably agree
that no well-intentioned leader would require of his followers such supreme loyalty
that they had to regard everything he said with childlike reverence. So try this:
Next time you read or listen to LRH imagine you were reading or listening to
someone else. Someone you don't know and therefore don't yet 'trust' or have
any loyalty toward--like me or 'the writer.' Be suspicious. Then notice how 'true'
it seems to you. Notice what questions and doubts arise. Ask yourself if it even
seems to make sense any more? Does it still seem so brilliant and liberating or
does it seem like wishful fantasy?