Couched in pseudoscientific terms and rites, this dangerous cult claims
to help mentally or emotionally disturbed persons -- for sizable fees.
Scientology has grown into a very profitable worldwide enterprise . . .
and a serious threat to health.
By Ralph Lee Smith
[Picture in upper right of page caption: L Ronald Hubbard, Scientology's founder.]
[Picture in lower left of page caption: Bust of Hubbard flanks "altar" in Scientology "church" near London. Among his accomplishments, Hubbard claims to have been dead and recovered, to have visited Venus and heaven.]
LAST SUMMER in New York City, a seriously disturbed woman who was receiving psychotherapy heard about a wonderful new way to solve emotional problems. It was called Scientology. "Step into the exciting world of the totally free!" Scientology leaflets read. "Scientology processing releases you smoothly and swiftly from the tensions, oppositions, frustrations, and problems that sap your vigor and inhibit your abilities
The woman went to a Scientology center, was impressed by the sales pitch, signed a contract to be "processed," and informed her analyst that she was abandoning therapy. "As you know," the enthusiastic new convert said, "Scientology and psychoanalysis don't mix."
In Washington, D.C., a man of modest means, living with his wife and family in a suburban home, fell under the Scientology spell. So far he has spend $5000 being processed. "The only difference in him," observed a neighbor, "is that he has lost his sense of humor, constantly talks in a language of gibberish that no one can understand, and is letting his family drift slowly into bankruptcy."
A Los Angeles housewife told a district attorney that she had spent $1000 [illegible - could also be $4000] on Scientology processing, on assurances that it would help her to overcome frigidity. The net result of her investment was that her husband divorced her.
Scientology is a cult which thrives on glowing promises that are heady stuff for the lonely, the weak, the confused, the ineffectual, and the mentally or emotionally ill. For a healthy fee, Scientology claims it can "help people do something about the upsets and travails of life. Hope and happiness can return again through Scientology."
Believers have established a firm foothold in the United States and a number of foreign countries. From its international headquarters in England, the organization oversees active groups in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Canada. In this country, Scientology centers are operating in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and Honolulu.
On street corners and college campuses, eager Scientologists press their literature into the hands of passers-by. Widely advertised free lectures, films, and parties are given almost continuously at Scientology centers.
[Picture in upper right caption: Modern teaching methods provide aura of authenticity to instruction at Hubbard College of Scientology in Great Britain.]
[Picture in middle right caption: Students practice "auditing," using the E-meter, which supposedly measures when a person is suppressing information.]
[Picture in lower right caption: Popularity of cult spurred expansion of Saint Hill complex. This recently completed annex is "Castle Number Two."]
One Scientology source says that the cult is growing at the rate of 250 percent a year in the U.S. Another enthusiast states that the total membership already is "in the millions."
Whatever the actual figures may be, it is clear that large numbers of persons are responding to Scientology's promise of a quick, easy road to mental and emotional health. Unfortunately for many, the road may lead not to health but to tragedy and disaster for themselves and their families.
At the head of this activity, ensconced at Saint Hill (a magnificent 18th century manor near London, England), surrounded by servants and scores of the faithful, with a chauffeur-driven black Jaguar at his constant disposal, lives a solidly built, broad-faced, ruddy-complexioned American named L. (for Lafayette) Ron (for Ronald) Hubbard. Hubbard, the inventor of Scientology and its predecessor Dianetics, rules over the worldwide organization with a smile, a gentle voice, and a silken-gloved iron hand. His easy assurance befits a man who says that he has been up on the Van Allen radiation belts, has dropped in on the planet Venus, and has visited heaven twice.
Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska, on March 13, 1911. Scientology literature claims that he graduated with a B.S. in civil engineering from George Washington University and was "trained as one of the first nuclear physicists."
In a tax case involving a Scientology center in Washington, D.C., university officials testified that Hubbard entered school in 1930, took -- and flunked -- physics, was placed on probation after his first year, never returned after his second, and received no degree.
According to Scientology brochures, Hubbard also attended and received a Ph.D. from an institution called Sequoia University in California. No such university is recognized by the state Department of Education. There is a junior college in California named College of the Sequoias, but this school certainly does not grant doctoral degrees.
In the 1930's, Hubbard became a writer of science fiction and novels, using such hairy-chested pen names as Winchester Remington Colt. In 1938, he finished the manuscript of a book called Excalibur, containing the ideas that he later amplified into the concepts of Dianetics and Scientology.
In World War II he served in the Navy. After he left the service in 1947, he went back to work on his theories. Dianetics, the fruit of his reflections, was given to the world in an article in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Soon thereafter he published a book entitled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which became a surprise best seller. He subsequently made a few additions to his system and rechristened it Scientology, although the term Dianetics is still used. Since then he has nearly buried his ideas in millions of words written in scores of books. He has devised such an elaborate special vocabulary that he even published a Scientology dictionary to enable people to plow through his writings.
His basic ideas, however, are simple -- some say simplistic. The mind, he says, is divided into the analytical mind (which is similar to the conscious mind of psychology) and the reactive mind (which roughly corresponds to the unconscious). The analytical mind is rational: it perceives, reasons, figures things out. The reactive mind, under certain stimuli, takes over, shorts out the analytical mind, and causes irrational behavior.
The object of Scientology is to bring the reactive mind under the full control of the analytical mind, thus achieving "total freedom" from nutty behavior. This ultimately will bring about "a condition of high intelligence, above genius," will put the person in possession of unlimited powers, and will cause him to overflow with happiness, Hubbard claims. A person who has achieved this state is called a "clear."
Hubbard, and Hubbard alone, has discovered how people can be "cleared." Scientology, and Scientology alone, is the avenue through which it can be accomplished. "No such knowledge has ever before existed," Hubbard notes modestly, "and no such results have ever before been attainable."
According to Hubbard, the reactive mind stores "engrams." These are impressions made on the protoplasm of the mind by an acute emotional shock or pain. When some incident in the present has elements that resemble some painful past experience, the appropriate engram is "keyed in." The reactive mind promptly takes charge of the person's behavior and causes him to act irrationally.
A third entity in the theory is called the "thetan," which roughly corresponds to the spirit. A person's thetan, says Hubbard, is immortal, and has lived in countless bodies, human and animal, on this and other planets, since the beginning of time. In its wanderings, it has picked up engrams like barnacles. To be cleared, a person must be released, not only from engrams created by traumas in his own life, but from all the engrams that his thetan has picked up since time began.
A person who arrives on the doorstep of a Scientology center encrusted with engrams is called a "preclear." On the wall he will find an immense chart showing the "grades of release" through which he will pass as he shucks off his engrams. If his money holds out, he will scale the ladder to blessedness. He is told that it is an easy and joyful experience, and he will make swift, glorious strides.
Processing involves regular sessions with a Scientology auditor. The preclear is quoted a blanket price for a series of sessions that will bring him up to certain specified levels, and he is required to sign a contract for the full amount. The price works out to about $30 for each one-hour session. A course that will carry the person up through the first four stages of release costs about $1000. Completion of all courses and levels offered by Scientology costs several thousand dollars. Police records cite the case of one wealthy Floridian who spend some $28,000 on Scientology processing.
From the time that the Astounding Science Fiction article appeared, disturbed persons have been beating a path to Hubbard's door to press their money into his willing hands. Few have heeded the warning of the American Psychological Association that Hubbard's claims are "not supported by empirical evidence." They ignore the statement by the late Dr. William Menninger, one of the founders of the famed Menninger Clinic of Topeka, Kansas, that Hubbard's system and ideas "can potentially do a great deal of harm."
[Picture along bottom of page caption: Students, young and old, flock to Scientology's mecca, Saint Hill, to become auditors and spread the gospel throughout the world]
In 1955, Hubbard and his third wife Mary Sue set up the "Founding Church of Scientology" in Washington, D.C. Three-week intensive processing courses were offered for $1250. Scientology auditors, calling themselves "ministers," were instructed by Hubbard in the fine art of beating the bushes for customers. The techniques included:
[Picture in upper right caption: Worldwide headquarters of Scientology is magnificent Saint Hill Manor at East Grinstead, about 30 miles from London.]
[Picture in middle right caption: Church of Scientology of California, housed in Los Angeles mansion, is one of cult's 10 centers in the United States.]
[Picture in lower right caption: Hubbard's writings and devices are major sources of cult's profits. Books sell for up to $7; E-meters cost about $149.]
In the four-year period from June 1955 to June 1959, the center brought in $758,982. It denied that it owed any federal taxes on this amount since it was a church. The Internal Revenue Service began an investigation.
In March 1959, Ron and Mary Sue moved to England to preside over the expansion of Scientology from Saint Hill Manor. The tax case moved slowly. Finally, in August 1968, the U.S. Court of Claims ruled that the Washington center was not a church but a profit-making commercial enterprise, and required that it pay taxes.
The Scientology movement is coordinated and governed through the "Hubbard Communications Office-World Wide" (HCO-WW) at Saint Hill. This office distributes Hubbard's decisions, policies, dicta, and accounts of such things as his visits to heaven. It is also Hubbard's vigilant international collection agency, raking in a slice of the action wherever preclears are being processed.
"Subsequent to L. Ron Hubbard's departure to Saint Hill," says the U.S. government, "the weekly remissions by the affiliated Scientology churches and congregations and franchised Scientologists (of 10 percent of their gross income) were made directly to L. Ron Hubbard in the name of HCO-WW. Some of these checks were deposited in banks in Switzerland."
The international office's take also is increased by Hubbard's refusal to permit most of his centers and franchisees to process preclears all the way up to the state of clear. After the clients have reached a certain level, they must make the journey to Saint Hill for the final stages of clearing, and may be declared clear only by the Saint Hill Qualifications Division.
The Saint Hill headquarters recently inaugurated a super course for people who have been cleared, which carries them yet another step upward to the state of O.T. -- "operating thetan." This state is described as achieving something akin to complete omnipotence.
(The only operating thetan that I have met is the co-owner of a Scientology franchise who recently returned from Sain Hill, his O.T. certificate in hand. He is a former narcotics user, a former proprietor of a health-food store, and an enthusiastic proselytizer for the "macrobiotic diet," a fad that recently caused at least one person to die of malnutrition. He usually is attired in unpressed dungaree pants and shirt, with a dingy T-shirt visible at the neck.)
What goes on in Scientology auditing sessions? Preclears won't tell you -- they are forbidden to discuss their experience with anyone. They also are forbidden to speak any word of disparagement of Scientology to the press or to listen to any condemnation of the cult. If the preclear's superiors think that he is guilty of any conduct "undertaken knowingly to suppress, reduce, or impede Scientology or Scientologists," he may find himself labeled a P.T.S. -- potential trouble source and charged with "high crimes." The penalty is dismissal from Scientology. Others in Scientology, who might presumably include his friends and/or members of this family, are instructed to "disconnect" from him.
[Picture in upper left caption: Students examine clay figures, which are used to depict preclear's progress up through the various grades of Scientology.]
However, the procedures used in Scientology auditing are easily obtained without imperiling any preclears. Hubbard goes into them in detail in his books.
The first step is to get a preclear "securely under the auditor's command." The preclear is required to answer very simple questions over and over again, or is ordered to move a small object around a table, starting it, stopping it, and changing its direction at the auditor's command. These exercises are carried on until the preclear responds to all questions and commands "quickly and accurately and without protest."
The auditor then begins to ask certain rather oddly worded questions, such as "Tell me something real," or "Can you not-know something about that person?" Following this confusing concept of "not-knowing," the preclear is led to deny the existence of objects around him. "The auditor should not be startled when, for the precelar, large chunks of the environment start to disappear." But, Hubbard cautions, "the environment does not disappear for the auditor." This mind-numbing questioning is "continued for 25 hours or even 50 or 75 hours."
If the preclear shows a tendency to respond by bringing up some genuine current problem in his life, such tendencies are sternly cut off. "To a preclear who is worried about some present-time situation or problem," says Hubbard, "no other process has any greater effectiveness than the following one: The auditor, after a very brief discussion of the problem, asks the preclear to `invent' a problem of comparable magnitude him lie about the problem he has . . . After he has lied about the problem for a short time, he will be able to invent problems. He should be made to invent problem after problem until he is no longer concerned with his present-time problem."
Instead of discussing present reality, the auditor wishes to push the preclear into a world of fantasy. To help him, he uses a device called an E-meter, which consists of a meter and knobs mounted in a small housing. In the sessions, the auditor and preclear sit facing each other across a small table. The E-meter is placed on the table with its face visible to the auditor only. The preclear is given two tin cans to hold in his hands. The cans are attached to the E-meter by wires.
As the preclear answers the questions, the auditor watches the meter's needle. Certain movements of the needle supposedly mean that the preclear is suppressing something. The auditor "listens, computes, and commands," closing in relentlessly until the preclear comes up with the "suppressed information."
When the preclear is eager to cooperate, is fully under the sway of the auditor's will and the apparently scientific verdict of the E-meter, he accepts the auditor's statement that he is suppressing something, even if he can't remember anything. Sooner or later he begins to exhibit symptoms resembling those of schizophrenia. These symptoms are encouraged; the preclear is given to believe that the hallucinations he is experiencing are factual incidents of his thetan's past, and that his discovery of them is the high road to health and freedom. Hubbard has published numerous stories that preclears have told in Scientology auditing sessions about their thetans' past histories.
One preclear said that his thetan had inhabited the body of a doll on the planet Mars, 469,476,600 years ago. Martians seized the doll and took it to a temple, where it was zapped by a bishop's gun while the congregation chanted "God is Love." The thetan was then put into an ice cube, placed aboard a flying saucer, and dropped off at Planet ZX 132, where it was given a robot body, then put to work unloading flying saucers. Being a bit unruly, it zapped another robot to death, and was shipped off in a flyer saucer to be punished. But the saucer exploded, and the thetan fell into space.
Another preclear recalled that he had been Mark Antony. He remembered Cleopatra, but she apparently had given him such a whopping engram that he couldn't recall the battles of Philippi and Actium.
A woman patient remembered that she had once been a male lion that had gotten an engram by eating its keeper. This enlightening discovery, says Hubbard, cured her psychosis.
As each trauma in the thetan's past is "discovered," the auditor pushes the preclear for all the details he can supply. The event is then discussed until the preclear no longer reacts to it emotionally, and until there is no movement on the needle of the E-meter. The engram caused by the event has then be "flattened," or erased.
To anyone but a Scientologist, it need hardly be said that the E-meter cannot register, record, or assist the memory in recalling ray-gun zappings, Cleopatra's wiles, badly behaved lions, or other alleged incidents of one's past.
Far from being a triumphant product of space-age science, the E-meter is simply a Wheatstone bridge, a circuit that has been used in quack medical devices for decades. All its wiggling needle registers is the body's varying resistance to a current provided by a small battery. In its tax case against the Founding Church of Scientology, the government said that E-meters cost $12.50 to build, and were sold to Scientology auditors for prices ranging from $125 to $144.
Hubbard and his followers have claimed that the E-meter could be used to detect and treat scores of human ills, from colds to cancer. In 1963, the U.S. government seized a number of the devices from the Washington Church of Scientology, charging that they were misbranded. The Scientology group contested the seizure. In the trial, held in April 1967, the jury returned a verdict for the government. The case is being appealed.
Scientologists now seem to be making fewer claims for the E-meter's effectiveness in treating physical ills, but its use for finding engrams continues in full swing.
Scientology makes an active attempt to lure people away from psychotherapy and psychoanalysis. "A Dianetic auditor can do more permanent good for a person than every psychologist and psychiatrist in the world wrapped up together," a Scientology official told a group of persons at a lecture I attended. A necessary condition for receiving Scientology processing, says a letter addressed to preclears by the Church of Scientology of California, is "nonreceipt of any other form of guidance, counsel, or treatment."
Scientologists are amused by the notion that long preparation may be needed to deal with human emotional problems. "A psychiatrist spends 16 years in school," a Scientology auditor told me with a grin. "We train a Dianetic auditor in 30 days." Scientologists are equally amused by the idea that different kinds of problems may require different kinds of treatment. "We use exactly the same process for each person," the Scientology auditor told me. "It is a science."
In fact, such sessions with nonprofessional personnel are likely to further confuse rather than help a psychologically disturbed person. In Australia, a government board of inquiry listened with dismay in an adjoining room as a Scientology auditor processed an emotionally upset woman. She floundered her way through the nightmarish session, then feebly said she felt it had helped her. Nine days later, she was committed to a mental hospital. The investigators discovered that other Scientology clients also had been turned over to mental institutions after processing.
In my visits to Scientology centers I encountered many enthusiastic persons who claimed that they had achieved fantastic progress in short periods of time through Scientology. They evinced total belief in the system. Their attitudes toward their auditors, toward persons running the Scientology centers, and above all, toward Ron Hubbard, bordered on reverence.
Such attitudes are familiar to every psychotherapist and psychoanalyst. In the early stages of treatment, the patient usually regards his analyst as a paragon of wisdom and knowledge. He also experiences what he believes are sweeping "insight," and feels that he is making dramatic progress.
One of the many fundamental differences between Scientology and psychotherapy is that a genuine therapist or analyst knows that these feelings are illusory, and that they must be transcended by the patient on his way to real emotional health. The analyst is not a god, a lawgiver, or a great discoverer, but a fallible human being. Genuine insight comes with painful slowness, and feelings of swift progress are nearly always a chimera.
By contrast, Scientology keeps the patient in this illusory state and exploits it for profit. Instead of being totally free, a clear is a person who believes totally in Scientology and who totally reveres Ron Hubbard. The clear feels, with happy certainty, that he now relates to the world with complete success.
But this view usually is not shared by the world. To his family and friends, the person who enters ever more deeply into Scientology seems to drift further and further from reality and to live more and more in the special in-group world that Scientology has created. Communication between converts and the rest of the world lapses and fails. The Scientologist believes that he is privy to exclusive truth, while everyone else suspects that he has gone over the deep edge.
In the summer of 1968 a furor arose in Great Britain about the ever-swelling flood of Americans coming to Saint Hill to be cleared. The British Ministry of Health received some 65 letters of complaint from disillusioned former Scientologists and from relatives and friends of persons who were actively involved in the cult. Matters came to a head when the Ministry learned that the Hubbard forces at Saint Hill were preparing to process children. While the authorities had no power to close down the operation, they barred Americans from coming to Britain on student visas to study at Saint Hill.
Scientology, warned British Health Minister Kenneth Robinson, is "socially harmful . . . Its authoritarian principles and practices are a potential menace to the personality of those so deluded as to become followers."
Shortly after this condemnation, Hubbard embarked on an extended Mediterranean cruise aboard his luxurious yacht. But his organization is still active.
Unfortunately, the numbers of those "so deluded" apparently are increasing. Before it finally goes the way of all cults, Scientology may leave behind a legacy of tragedy unmatched in the annals of fads and fallacies in mental health.
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