I was recently at Barnes & Noble to, incidentally, pick up book 12 of Fruits Basket, but it figures, they didn’t have it again. Determined to buy at least one book, I was torn between two – a beautiful copy of the Tanakh, which had loads of footnotes and the Hebrew on one side with the translation on the other, or the widely-discussed Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. In the end, the Tanakh was $45 and Dianetics was $20, so swearing to dive into Judaism another day, I brought home the nearly 700-page intro to one of the most controversial ‘religions’ of the age.
Let me put this forward now – I am not a Scientologist. I have not read more than six pages of this book. I am not by any means qualified to give you accurate information about the tenets of Scientology – I am only, in this post, responding to the small amount I have read in Hubbard’s book. I do not claim to know anything about the higher levels of Scientology or even any more than the average layperson, and I have tried, in my reading, to remain objective and uncorrupted by the wealth of negative information about the Church from pop culture sources like South Park. I do have opinions about Scientology, but for the sake of good scholarship, I pushed them aside and read the beginning of Dianetics as if I had never heard of any of this before.
So I opened the book and flipped briefly through the pages before I started reading. Immediately a small postcard-sized leaflet fell out, asking me to mail them my name and address so they could send me a free copy of the ‘Classification, Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates,’ which is designed, by the principals of Scientology, to show you the steps you need to take to become what Dianetics calls a ‘Clear.’
The beginning of the book explained that everyone has things going on in their bodies that are keeping them from being a truly happy, fulfilled person. It postulates that, beyond our conscious mind, we have something called a ‘reactive mind,’ which is always on – even while we are asleep, unconscious, and yes, even in utero. It’s a part of our mind that doesn’t remember, persay, and we’re not aware of it – it’s like a tape player, that records and stores information without our knowledge or consent. The theory is that these painful experiences that occur while we are unconscious are not only being recorded, but they can come back and affect us in negative ways, keeping us from achieving total happiness. These recordings are called engrams, and they’re the cause of every ‘aberration’ and mental illness we as human beings experience.
So how do you get rid of the engrams, then, and become a mentally stable person? With Dianetics!
With the help of an auditor, the individual accesses his or her unconscious, or reactive mind, and comes into contact with those engrams that, before, he didn’t even know were there. The act of going back and encountering those unconscious engrams is called ‘returning.’ By encountering your engrams, you’re making it so they’re not unconscious anymore -you know they’re there! This causes them to be ‘refiled.’ as Hubbard put it, into your conscious memory banks, rendering them harmless. Once all your engrams are refiled, you’re Clear, having no aberrations or mental illnesses to speak of. Sounds awesome, let’s do it!
I’m not finished.
The very first thing I noticed was the abundance of absolutes in the Synopsis, the only section I’ve actually read so far in its entirety. What I mean are statements such as: “The various axioms [in Dianetics] are not assumptions or theories…but are laws which can be subjected to the most vigorous laboratory and clinical tests,” “That is now an estblished scientific fact, not an opinion,” and “The discoveries and developments which made the formulation of Dianetics possible occupied many years of exact research and careful testing.” That the first two statements are self-aggrandizing isn’t up for debate – the third shows you why. In the entirety of this enormous book, not a single source has been cited – not one footnote relating to where and by whom these world-shaking studies and discoveries were made. Not a single outside source that a Dianetic scientist might have turned to when developing this incredible psychology hailed as “greater than the wheel or fire.”
The fact that no sources for these studies, no information as to who or where they were performed, is listed, renders every one of these statements meaningless. Let’s remind ourselves that gravity itself is a theory, not a law. Clearly Mr. Hubbard hasn’t the slightest clue what theories and laws actually are or what they do – something you learn in a half-decent fifth grade science class.
The synopsis itself was enough to convince me that, on the list of ‘examples of embarrassingly bad science,’ Dianetics is very, very close to the top. Tack on the price tag and you get an obvious scam – although auditing sessions are required in order to free yourself of aberrations and become Clear, they cost more money than most of us who blog from a bedroom in our parents’ house will ever see at once in our lifetimes. Operation Clambake, a website devoted to debunking Scientology as a scam, postulated that it could cost up to $380,000 to reach OT9, the highest level offered in the Church of Scientology. It isn’t a cheap journey.
I won’t go into the famous OT3 materials here – the supposed point at which Scientologists learn about Xenu and all that. I don’t have proof that it’s true, but many sources do, so you could find them just by Googling ‘OT3 materials.’ I think it’s true- that is, I wouldn’t put it past the world today – but the whole idea of an organization the size of Scientology actually handing out information about a galactic alien overlord is so absurd I’d have to personally reach OT3 and read it myself in order to believe it. And I don’t have that kind of money.
If you’re interested, pick up a copy of Dianetics or visit http://www.scientology.org, their main website, for more information. Another great website for the skeptics out there is http://www.xenu.net, the homepage of Operation Clambake. I don’t recommend only visiting OC, though, even though it’s a very interesting site, nor do I recommend only visiting the CoS homepage. Look for neutral sources too, learn more, and formulate opinions of your own, rather than letting others convince you one way or another. I did, and I think I made my opinion quite clear. Get informed! Your kid might convert to this one day.