News and discussion about the Church of Scientology is dominated by big issues – for example the activities of “Narconon”, a front group for the Church of Scientology.
Narconon claims to rehabilitate drug users, but actually offers a completely unscientific programme based on the writings of L Ron Hubbard and is presently under siege from a growing number of legal actions in the US (more than 22 as of September 2014).
Many of these suits allege that their clients are subjected to an ineffective and potentially dangerous regime of saunas and vitamin/mineral overdoses and “training routines” – which turn out to be identical to the programme undertaken by novice Scientologists.
Few sites explain exactly what the ‘training’ that novice Scientologists undertake actually consists of. This leaves observers like me, who have never been members of the Church, unable to judge whether or not it is worthwhile.
Fortunately, two ex-Scientologists, Jesse Prince and Stacy Brooks have made two videos which show, by demonstration, the basic “Training Routines” (or “TRs”) that novice Scientologists are expected not only to complete but also constantly practice for as long as they are members of the Church.
Read on, and play embedded versions of the videos after the break.
The early TRs as demonstrated here, seem banal and boring. However, as Prince and Brooks point out, they have to be done for hours at a time.
This can bring about altered states of consciousness with consequences that include vivid hallucinations and increased suggestibility (I will discuss these phenomenon in my next post).
There it is – when you sign up for a introductory Scientology course, you will be expected to pay to stare at another person for hours on end. They will tell you that this will improve your ability to communicate.
In this part, the student first learns to immediately and uncritically ‘acknowledge’ anything that is said to them regardless of the content (random passages from “Alice in Wonderland”) and without even being given time to think about what it said.
Scientology presents this as learning how to communicate clearly. To critics, it looks like a way of preparing to accept instructions immediately, without examining them critically.
In a later TR, they prepare for the next stage of their Scientology involvement – auditing. They are ‘trained’ to resist all temptation to deviate from the limited range of interactions that are allowed in that situation.
Scientology would present this as learning how to ignore irrelevant distractions. To critics, it seems to be a way to suppress any discussion about the practice of auditing during the session.
This is just the novice training. There are more TRs, which are detailed here. TRs grow increasingly bizarre, and include “TR8 – Tone 40 on an object”. In this, the student commands an ashtray to stand up and sit down, acknowledging each ‘action’ with a “thank you”. After issuing a command, they move the object themselves.
The stated goal of the exercise is to learn how to move the ashtray by sheer force of will (or “intention”). It is even possible that, due to the altered mental state brought about by the repetition and constant shouting, some people believe that they have really achieved this.