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The Dangerous New Cult of Scientology

Title: The Dangerous New Cult of Scientology
Date: Sunday, 1 June 1969
Publisher: Parents' Magazine
Authors: Arlene Eisenberg, Howard Eisenberg
Main source: link (945 KiB)

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When ministers of the Founding Church of Scientology told a Falls Church, Virginia couple that could teach the couple's defective son to talk and raise his IQ at same time, the man and wife, understandably in search of a miracle, willingly paid—in advance—the sum of $3,000 as a "contribution for spiritual guidance."

The husband cashed a life insurance policy, sold some bonds, added the proceeds of a small bequest and "scraped around in various places." And then his son Paul's "processing" began.

What happened next is simply but dramatically stated in testimony given by the boy's mother in response to questions by U.S. Justice department attorney Michael I. Sanders:

Q. At the end of the 12-week period, was Paul speaking?

A. No, he was not.

Q. What did the church tell you?

A. They said that they felt he was near a breakthrough and if he could continue that he would be able to speak.

Q. Did you allow your son to receive additional processing at the church?

A. Yes, we did.

Q. Did you pay for this additional processing?

A. Yes, we did.

Q. Was Paul speaking at the end of this additional processing?

A. No, he was not.

Scientology, a crude—and very expensive—kind of psychological manipulation, claims to ultimately endow those of its subjects who go through its entire "Processing" system, thereby becoming "clear," with "a condition of unlimited happiness and power" and "high intelligence above genius." According to L. Ron Hubbard, the creator and head of the Church of Scientology, all people who have not undergone Scientology's treatment are burdened with "engrams"—traces in the mind, as it were—produced by unhappy experiences in childhood that cause them to behave irrationally. When these engrams are erased through processing, according to scientology's credo, the person has become clear and will no longer feel or behave irrationally.

Why does Hubbard call his concept and method of treatment of psychological disorders a religion rather than a psychological theory and therapy? As a self-styled religion, scientology is protected by the "freedom of worship" clause in the first amendment to the Constitution. Scientology is thus saved from paying taxes, from living up to the licensing standards required of a profession, and from meeting the demands made on a commercial enterprise.

Unimpressed, in 1963 the Federal Internal Revenue Service claimed that the Church of Scientology was, in fact, a commercial enterprise and therefore owed back income tax on nearly $800,000 of earnings over the four year period from 1956 through 1959. That year Hubbard moved the central headquarters of his organization from Washington, D.C. to Saint Hill Manor, a palatial establishment in England. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration moved against scientology practitioners, maintaining that their devices were being used to give medical treatment and were therefore subject to—and violating—FDA labeling regulations.

Scientology appealed the FDA case on the grounds that it was not a system of therapy but a religion, and only a few months ago, the United States Court of Appeals found, in a split decision, that since it has not been proved, thus far, that scientology is not a religion, the FDA has no jurisdiction over the claims made for the devices scientology processors use. Nevertheless, many government and private organizations, among them the Fraud Division of the United States Post Office and the New York Attorney General's Office, are continuing to conduct investigations of the expanding Church of Scientology. Meanwhile, headquarters remain in England, and a number of additional centers (21 are claimed in all) have been established in other countries, nearly half of them in the United States.

In order to find out something about the appeal of scientology and what it demands of its members—not only in attitudes and behavior, but in dollars and cents—we accepted the invitation to "step into the exciting world of the totally free" as proclaimed on one of scientology's advertising posters. And that is how we found ourselves one Sunday afternoon not long ago in the shabby ballroom of a midtown hotel in New York City. The "services" began with a young performer in night-club garb singing pop and jazz songs. Then we heard a speech from "the World's First Clear."

Following services and a personality test to determine our fitness for membership, we received a free sample auditing on a Hubbard Mark V E-Meter—the device that the FDA judged to be a gadget used in medical treatment. The E-Meter, which our young auditor pressed into our hands, consists of two tin cans from which wires run to a black box on the auditor's desk. On the face of the box is a control device and a needle to register the subject's responses. The meter was, he emphasized, a truth, not a lie, detector. In fact, the E-Meter is nothing more elaborate than a simple electrical circuit—a device well known since the late 19th century—that merely measures the body's resistance to the current produced by a small battery. Scientologists use E-Meters not only to audit prospective followers but as an essential part of the processing which is supposed to detect and erase a person's engrams. When the E-Meter's needle wiggles in response to a question by the examiner, a whole barrage of questions on the subject under discussion is fired at the person being processed until the needle remains motionless. The person is then said to be "clear" for this matter; the engram presumably causing his responses to a question is said to be erased forever.

We could, we learned later, buy the meter for $140 (in 1963 the government determined the manufacturing cost to be $12.50) at the book counter inside, and audit our friends and family at leisure. After several minutes of questioning and dial-reading, the auditors announced that the swings of the needle had established that our thoughts about scientology were properly sympathetic—a conclusion that could not but cause us to lose faith in the E-Meter's judgment—and we were shepherded swiftly to the desk of a registrar to sign up for further processing.

Though we hadn't agreed to anything, our names were filled in on contracts which were then passed across the table for our signatures. Suddenly, "the exciting world of the totally free" was no longer free at all. The next step would cost us $900 each—$750 on a "special package plan."

Thousands and thousands of people have taken that next step—and many more—to the tune of thousands and thousands of dollars paid by persons hoping to benefit from the promises of scientology, among them that it "brings about a condition of high intelligence, above genius, and . . . freedom from physical illness . . . one's ability to handle his problems is markedly bettered . . . friendships thrive, marriages bloom, businesses succeed and problems resolve." Many of the people who annually seek the fulfillment of such promises are quickly disillusioned, but many others remain to become part of the Hubbard world-wide organization, detached from the affairs of the familiar, outside world.

THAT scientology leads its followers away from the outside world, away from reality, is perhaps not surprising, for its creator is a former science-fiction writer, and it has been observed that the trappings of the religious science he has developed read like one of his own "Astounding Science-Fiction" tales.

Nebraska-born Hubbard's first attempt to set down his philosophy resulted in a manuscript he titled Excalibur. But it wasn't until 1950, when he published Dianetics (which made the best-seller lists), that his ideas became well known. Dianetics propounds substantially the same notions, minus the religion, that are currently held by scientologists. However popular the ideas of dianetics may have been, they have all along been strongly opposed by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and other medical groups who reject Hubbard's claim to have found in dianetics the solution to world problems.

In spite of the widespread, responsible criticism of dianetic theory, Hubbard was not deterred from promulgating his notions. Faced in 1951 with legal difficulties, he proceeded, as his ex-associate, science-fiction writer and editor John Campbell, Jr. put it, "to get religion"—and the tax advantages inherent in church status.

Hubbard's decision came as no shock to Sam Moscowitz, science-fiction editor and author. "Three years earlier," he recalls, "Hubbard spoke before the Eastern Science-Fiction Association in Newark, New Jersey. I don't recall his exact words. But, in effect, he told us that writing science-fiction for about a penny a word was no way to make a living. If you really want to make a million, he said, the quickest way is to start your own religion."

Hubbard named his religion scientology and gave it spirituality by adding the notion of an immortal soul, or thetan. But scientology's central core remained dianetic processing: the clearing of engrams through the use of the E-Meter which Hubbard claims to have invented.

Hubbard has now increased his writings by millions of largely incomprehensible words. For example, Axiom 71, from Axioms and Logics: "The cycle of randomity is from statis, through optimum, through randomity sufficiently repetitious or similar to constitute another static." Or consider this declaration, made only a few months ago in an official scientology press release:

"Of course we can talk about honor, truth and all these things . . . these esoteric terms. But I think they'd all be covered very well if what we really observed was what we were observing, that we always observed to observe. And not necessarily maintaining a skeptical attitude, a critical attitude or an open mind. But certainly maintaining sufficient Personal Integrity and sufficient personal belief and confidence in self, and courage that we observe what we observe and weigh what we have observed."

FAILURE to communicate intelligibly is only one of many defects in scientology. Scientology guarantees freedom to its members, but domination by the Ethics Officer is so rigid that one ex-scientologist called his experience "like Orwell's 1984 arriving 20 years ahead of time." A complex book of Ethics lists page after page of misdemeanors (refusing an E-Meter check), crimes (heckling a scientology supervisor or lecturer), and high crimes (yielding up, without protest, a fellow scientologist to the demands of civil or criminal law).

The sign of a good Security Checker—a person who evaluates the desirability of friends and colleagues of scientologists—says Hubbard in a handbook on E-Meters, is "thorough, swinish suspicion and no belief in mankind or the devil—only the meter." And punishments for advanced students at World Headquarters in Saint Hill Mansion in England include the wearing of a dirty gray rag on the arm, cleaning latrines, or being publicly humiliated. Thought control during auditing with an E-Meter is total. "They keep after you, asking the same question over and over again," reports one ex-scientologist, "until you tell them what they want to hear. You can't keep back anything. Later, you realize you've spilled all kinds of secrets to an almost total stranger, whose character or integrity you know nothing whatever about."

The Ethics Officer's controls extend beyond the auditing table, as witness contract agreements with the Church of Scientology, which include the sentence : "I understand that I must cooperate fully with the Ethics Officer in advice given me to facilitate my case progress and that any failure to do so renders this contract null and void without rebate." That financial escape clause allows the officer to impose commands like these on scientologists in training: quit your job; leave your wife; stay away from your physician. An all-points bulletin is sent out when any scientologist is declared "suppressive." This requires all other scientologists to "disconnect" from the person totally, and to consider him "fair game," unprotected by "ethics" of any kind. A debt, for example, can be cancelled and go unrepaid. When one man's wife and 10-year-old son refused to leave him as ordered, they were ostracized by a written notice which was sent to scientologists—the world over.

As parents, we were particularly appalled by this rule: "The child's possessions must remain under his exclusive control. So he tears up his shirt, wrecks his bed, breaks his fire engine. IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS." "Care for the child?—nonsense! He's probably got a better grasp of immediate situations than you have. Only when he's almost psychotic with aberrations will a child be accident-prone." Further, scientology doctrine proclaims that it is urgent that children be separated from their parents if they are "restimulating his engram bank."

SCIENTOLOGY's "case histories" about the reincarnation of thetans who lived eons ago are patently ridiculous. For example, there's the one about the man who fell out of a space ship 55,000,000,000,000,000,000 years ago, was killed by and became a manta ray.

Who are the people attracted to this kind of religion? Says Dr. Donald Klein, director of research at New York's Hillside Hospital, "Scientologists seem to be largely high school graduates who have become skeptical of religion. Intrigued with the trappings of science they are very vulnerable to pseudo-science. Furthermore, the discontent and affluence among the young today make them ready for this sort of thing. They look at a frightening wand that could be destroyed tomorrow . . . and they seek another system to cling to. Scientology gives them some place to belong, some place to be in."

The Org is the clubhouse for scientology's followers. There they can feel they are among kindred spirits who speak their own private jargon spiced with references to engrams and E-Meters. They take inspiration from the success stories pinned to the bulletin board: "I went up one level today, and I really blew my mind." "I know who I am, at last." "I've found myself." One notice enthusiastically declaimed how great the person felt the moment he paid his bill.

Best of all for scientology believers is the opportunity to pour out one's thoughts and problems. A tall young man sat opposite an auditor and confessed he was unhappy. He had flunked out of law school and needed direction; he wanted to prove himself. "I'm groping," he explained. Two tables away, an attractive dark-haired girl, complaining about her job, expressed the same feeling in different words. "I'm searching," she said.

Groping. Searching. These are the words that express the pull of scientology. It draws the discontented, the fearful, the worried. For a while, new converts are likely to feel wonderful. 'But," as one man put it, "they make you feel great, tell you you're wonderful and can climb any mountain, swim any river. Then when you emerge into the real world, you find their magic only works indoors."

THUS, many scientologists stay inside the organization for a year, two, or three—working hard and with dedication for their church, receiving a small salary or being paid in further training units, and often suspending creative careers or even destroying them. A young sculptor told us cheerfully, "I haven't worked in a year—but I know I'm getting more and more creative every day."

Even more dramatic is the case of a gifted singing starlet who had made it big on Broadway in "Fiddler on the Roof," was steered into scientology by a girlfriend, and then one afternoon walked into the apartment of her singing coach and personal manager Ray Buckingham to say simply, "I can't see you any more." Buckingham, who had invested close to $30,000 in her career, had just been declared a "suppressive personality" by the New York org, because he'd refused to disconnect from his partner with whom he'd written a show that seemed about to be optioned for Broadway. Even worse, he had dared to criticize scientology on a radio show. The singer disconnected from Buckingham, and, being a thorough girl, disconnected as well from two summer stock contracts he had arranged for her in the mid-West. She was fined $1,000 by Actors Equity, and may well have wrecked what seemed on the way to becoming one of the brightest careers in show business.

Although scientologists do claim that "never has one person been shown to have been injured by scientology," they nevertheless include a waiver in their contracts, which reads: "I . . . do hereby fully, without reservation or duress, release each and all of the above-named organizations . . . and any and all directors and employees . . . from all liability from any consequences resulting from training processing practices or from ethics used by said organizations. . . ."

Early on in his dianetics period, Hubbard claimed that his treatments could cure almost anything. A friend remembers phoning his office and being casually told by an associate that Hubbard was on his way back from Washington, where he had "turned off 25 cases of cancer yesterday." Although today scientology disclaims being a system of physical treatment, no one has yet bothered to edit the claims out of the books scientology centers sell—statements like, "There are a number of reasons to suppose that these [cancer and diabetes] may be engramic in cause, particularly malignant cancer." Tuberculosis is "predisposed and perpetuated by engrams;" the common cold "has been found to be engramic; clears do not get colds." Dianetic cures have been claimed as well for arthritis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, ulcers, and more. This may account for one letter recently received by the A.M.A.'s investigative department. A teacher in California wrote that she had invited a scientologist to her class for a panel discussion on religion, and that he had spent the hour discussing the medical cures his faith made possible. She asked, "Can't you do something about these people practicing medicine without a license?"

PERHAPS the most dangerous aspect of scientology processing is its effect on children. To erase painful engrams, scientologists maintain that children should be processed early in life—at five or even younger. There are other requirements for rearing youngsters. For example, "Grandparents should not be permitted into the home of their grandchildren until they have learned to behave themselves dianetically. . . ."

Although other educational approaches are not forbidden, they are certainly challenged. "No words bitter enough or strong enough," writes Hubbard, who dropped out of George Washington University before his junior year, "could be leveled at authoritarian educational systems . . ." He ends, however, on a note of hope: "Fortunately, a college education can be picked out of a pre-clear . . . in ten or fifteen hours."

Although Hubbard promises a "well, a happy, a careful, a beautiful, an intelligent child" through scientology, reports of some children reared his way indicate that his system is far from perfect. Two lads at Saint Hill for advanced auditing were virtual terrors, constantly battling with each other or against others. "The older boy was the youngest clear at that time," reports an observer. "When his mother tried to assert proper parental control, he screamed that she was interfering with his Total Freedom. He and his brother, like two throwbacks to the Hitler Jugend, promptly reported her to the Ethics Officer, and she was taken away for special auditing and interrogation, Gestapo-style.''

Scientology claims tremendous growth during the past several years, but judging by the number of complaints pending against it, there is some doubt about its holding power. Currently, it may be the most investigated organization in the world. In England, the Health Minister declares "its authoritarian principles and practices are a potential menace to the personality of those so deluded as to become followers." In Victoria, Australia, the government banned scientology as an "organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy."

In the United States, the Justice Department, on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service, has won a case against scientology (which is, of course, appealing the decision in an effort to regain tax exempt status). The trial commissioner of the U.S. Court of Claims refused to order tax exemption for scientology because "by advertising and promoting its processing and training services in the same manner as would a commercial enterprise . . . plaintiff derived over 90 per cent of its income from the sale of these services." A star witness against scientology was the son of the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., who testified that scientology was more interested in saving money than souls.

Saint Hill has been known to take in as much as $150,000 in fees in one week. One man who went there for power-processing was checked out in 20 minutes instead of the 50 hours he had expected. He didn't know whether to be happy or heartbroken. His fee for the course was $1,200 in advance. He had, therefore, paid for his processing at the fantastic rate of $60 per minute.

Money, however, may not be Hubbard's only driving force these days. "There is," says an ex-scientologist, a very scary atmosphere of complete control there under the surface at Saint Hill. You hear rumors of military-like activities, and talk of Ron's three ships—combination yachts and training vessels for his Sea Org—and the uniforms his advanced students wear aboard them."

A recent mailing from Hubbard reinforces this judgment, claiming that, "L. Ron Hubbard, flanked by the powerful, highly-trained O.T.'s of the Sea Org, has forged through gigantic barriers in 1968—has identified the true enemy of Mankind on this planet." It goes on to say that Hubbard will soon compare the 1968 accomplishments of the U.S., the USSR, and the U.K. with the achievements of scientology in 1968.

Though it may seem ridiculous to think that Hubbard really wants to control our planet, as former associates have speculated, he does use characteristic phrases of the demagogue, the would-be dictator. Consider this statement: "Man is sick and nations have gone mad . . . We are the only group on earth that does have a workable solution . . . No threat of ridicule or punishment must be let stand in our way!" These are the tones we associate with the fanatic, the paranoid megalomaniac. It's worth noting that Hubbard's former wife, Sara Northrup Hubbard, declared in a statement quoted by the United Press on April 24, 1951 that "competent medical advisers" had pronounced her husband "hopelessly insane."

Whether or not L. Ron Hubbard's science-fiction dream could become a world nightmare, it can surely be seen that it is not the world's greatest religion, not the world's greatest science. In fact, it may well be judged to be the world's greatest put-on.