My Assessment of Scientology
(& some related issues)
as of Aug.31, 1992
by David Palter
The most persuasive feature of any religion, regardless of their elaborate reasoning & supposed miraculous proofs, always comes down to an offering of beliefs which we find not merely reasonable, but more importantly, that we find emotionally satisfying; beliefs that we want to believe. For example, it's nice to believe in God. God is limitlessly powerful, wise, & benevolent. He is the perfect father-figure. He gives all things meaning & makes all things right. He rewards the good & punishes the bad, with perfect justice (although this justice may not come about until after death). We do not always understand His ways; often the world seems crazy, unjust, & not at all well run. But if we believe in God then we also have faith that everything He does makes sense, even if we cannot see exactly how, in some cases. Such a belief is extremely comforting, & a great many people take comfort in it.
Still, no living person has actually seen any afterlife (some have seen brilliant white lights while nearly dying, but the religious significance which they often attach to such lights remains speculative). Some people are not content to take purely on faith the promise of God's reward after death. Some want to be rewarded while they are alive. One religion promising such rewards is Scientology.
If you believe in God you can also consider yourself to be important on the grounds that God loves you. But if you believe in Scn. you can think much more highly of yourself. Rather than merely being loved by God, you can aspire to be a god in your own right. That is what Scn. promises: that you can become a god-like being, immortal, transcending the physical universe, able to control reality by thought alone, able to do anything, in short. The theory is that the present, apparently very limited condition of the human race, results from a gradual process of decline over a period of trillions of years (we have all existed far longer than our current lifetimes; we are older than the stars) caused by an accumulation of psychic trauma. Scn., supposedly, has the needed knowledge & methodology to repair this damage & restore us to a god-like state. It doesn't require a long wait, either; normally a few years should be sufficient. What an offer! It may be comforting to believe that God gives meaning to the universe, but how much better to believe that we ourselves are gods, in our own right. Everybody likes to think that they are important; this becomes the ultimate flattery. You are God. That is something I would really like to believe - if I could.
It would seem that a promise like this could be readily & speedily verified if it is true, or disproven, if false. But Scn. is a subject of nearly impenetrable complexity. To truly put it to the test is a major undertaking, requiring years of study & years of assorted exercises & processes. These will absorb all your time & money during those years. Tremendous efforts are needed to penetrate the maze of intricate & richly elaborated theory & practice developed by L. Ron Hubbard, that is Scn.
You do not, however, have to wait years to see some results. Scn. produces immediate results. The results are minor at first - superhuman power will supposedly come later - but it is immensely encouraging to see results of any kind. If Scn. produces any results at all, that lends support to the belief that Scn. embodies some kind of truth, that it is real. If you are eager to believe in Scn. you will avidly seize upon any evidence that supports such belief.
The first result is simply feeling good. Merely anticipating your glorious future as a god can make you feel good. Friendly people & exciting pep talks can make you feel good. But more than that, you can gain some real insights about your own life, & that can really make you feel good.
Such insights have two sources. First of all, giving credit where it is due, LRH actually was a rather shrewd observer of life & of human nature, & some things he explained extremely well. You can learn from him. Secondly, Scn. engages in a type of psychoanalytical therapy, highly influenced by Freud among others, & this practice does get you to closely re-examine many neglected aspects of your memories, thoughts, & experiences, & to clarify within your own mind the events of your life. Any sincere effort at self-understanding is going to achieve some result (most people have relatively little self-understanding, only because they have always avoided any serious self-examination). None of the benefits of either LRH's wisdom, or your own introspection, are available through Scn. exclusively. Plenty of other wise advisors are available, and so are plenty of other avenues of self-examination. But LRH constantly insists upon the vast superiority of Scn. to all other approaches (most of which are, according to LRH, actually designed to make you worse) & it is easy to come to believe that you have gained something that only Scn. can give.
When you achieve these initial results, you take this as proof that Scn. works - as indeed it does, up to a point. But you don't know that it works only up to a point; you assume that it must work all the way. Hence you really do have a glorious future as a god to look forward to. And that makes you even happier. And this happiness is itself taken as further proof of the great benefit that you are obtaining from Scn. And that makes you even happier. The process is self-reinforcing, once it begins. Religious ecstasy feeds on itself.
In this euphoric condition you forget to ask yourself the one most crucial question: when do you get to actually see the superhuman powers? After all, even if you have not gotten to that advanced level yourself, plenty of others have. Surely they could exhibit their power on occasion. One must exercise care, so as not to inspire mass hysteria, but there is no need to be utterly secretive either. So where are these powers? Why are they never seen?
I have been forced to conclude that the superhuman powers promised by Scn. are never seen because they don't exist. There is, in fact, plenty of evidence that Scn. possesses no special powers.
Scn. is under attack everywhere, & has suffered many serious legal defeats & public relations defeats. See, for example, the cover story of TIME magazine, May 6, 1991. In recent months Scn. has lost a major legal case here in Toronto, in which 3 Scientologists, & the Church itself, were found guilty of some serious crimes (mostly involving stolen documents & assorted espionage). The Church has argued in court that they should not be subjected to a million dollar fine, not because they are in some manner really innocent, or because of extenuating circumstances, but because they are, so they say, virtually bankrupt, & cannot afford to pay. Well, I don't know if they are really bankrupt, or are just lying to the court. But certainly their public relations are a disaster. And how could that be, if they in fact possess superhuman power? It hardly makes sense. If anything, they seem more like a gang of incompetent clowns, than beings of advanced spiritual wisdom & power.
I was deeply involved in the Church of Scn. as far back as 21 years ago, & looking at the way the Church is today, it seems to me that its membership is about the same number of people, and that all the old veterans, who were really important in the Church 20 years ago, have by now abandoned the Church. Again, this is hardly what we would expect of an organization that endows its members with superhuman power. Such an organization should grow rapidly & command absolute loyalty.
It goes beyond that. If Scn. did deliver what it promises, or even a tenth of what it promises, it would be the overwhelmingly dominant power on Earth today. It would replace all government and all other religions. It would run everything. We would all be Scientologists. I would not be writing this essay. The truth of Scn. would be obvious to everybody, and no sane person would question it for a moment. The reality is that Scn. has few members, cannot hold on to its members, and is struggling to survive in the face of a barrage of lawsuits coming from dissatisfied customers, as well as governments that take exception to many of its practices. Given this vast gulf between expectations & reality, I cannot avoid the conclusion that Scn. simply does not deliver.
Scn. is ultimately based on the old childhood hope that "wishing will make it true," that thought controls reality. Well, it certainly would be nice if that were the case. It would make things a lot easier. But experience teaches us that wishing does not make it true. Facing reality, being honest with ourselves, & working hard, seem to be the necessary ingredients to solving real problems; wishful thinking as purveyed by Scn. or anybody else, does not get us very far.
I do not believe that a supernatural ingredient is needed to add meaning to life. Life, as rationally & logically described by real science (not pseudo-sciences such as Scientology) is a wonderful thing. Let us make the most of it, & not waste any more time on mystical idiocy.