Scientology Makes You More Capable – Except When it Doesn’t

2015-11-23 14.16.05I recently read a book by the US TV actress and ex-Scientologist Leah Remini entitled “Troublemaker.” It discusses her experience in Scientology.

In her book, she describes how Scientologists live in an isolated social world which is dedicated to the pursuit of an apparently endless series of ‘courses’ (she says she was expected to ‘study’ for two-and-a-half hours every day, regardless of other commitments).

Whenever a course is completed great pains are taken to insure a sense of achievement –  gaudy ‘certificates’ are issued and the student makes a formal speech (called a “success story”) to admiring comrades, who applaud and congratulate them. Almost immediately, they pay for, and move on to, the next course.

Consequently, as long as you stay within an exclusively Scientology environment(and you don’t have much time for anything else) it is easy to feel that you are making constant progress in life, and becoming (as promised) a more capable person. However, Remini also notes that Scientologists often struggle to maintain this illusion when they try to  apply Scientology to problems in the wider word – only to find that they still encounter the same difficulties as anyone else. All that have really learned is how to be a better Scientologist.

I decided to illustrate this conflict by taking a close look at the visible progress of my local Scientology Org in Plymouth, England (image above) towards its stated goals. Does this show that trained Scientologists really are  “more capable”, as they claim?

After Nearly Six Years of Fund-raising, Plymouth Ideal Org Still Isn’t Happening

DSC_0186Back in June 2015, I captured the image to the left. If you click on it, a larger version will open in a new tab.

A T-shirt is hung on the wall. Printed on it is a Union Flag bearing the legend ‘Go Ideal’. It appears to be a ‘prize’, given to people who make a donation towards the costs of opening the new, improved, home of Scientology in Plymouth –  Plymouth Ideal Org.

Beside the wall-hung T-shirt there is a list of the 16 local Scientologists who have made a donation towards the “Launch of an Ideal Civilisation” in the area. Some of them appear in more than one category.

There is another T-shirt draped over the signing-in book on the desk below – so Scientologists can’t enter the org without being reminded that money is being raised and you are expected to make a donation like everyone else.

So far, so unremarkable. After all, Churches raise money all the time, don’t they? To see why Scientology is different, we need a little more background information.

ideal org heraldIn 2010, The Church of Scientology bought a redundant hotel in a area of Plymouth now dominated by social housing. It was supposed to become Plymouth’s new ‘Ideal Org’. This building allegedly cost £1,000,000 ($1,680,187) –  a sum paid by a well-off donor.

It boasts fifty bedrooms,  two ballrooms,  a residents lounge, a restaurant and several bars. To provide all of these services there is also a maze of kitchens, storage areas, staffrooms and plant rooms. In 2010 a statement by the Church of Scientology to a local newspaper claimed that,

“Scientology, especially in the South West, is growing and that is why we need such a large premises” […] “There are about 12,000 scientologists in the region.”

Scientology is known for exaggerating its membership figures, and their estimate is a stark contrast to  the 26 Scientologists recorded in the area by the UK census in the following year (2011).

In 2014, another Church of Scientology statement printed in the local newspaper was a little more realistic, claiming that “Sunday Services” at the present org (which I have never seen take place) attracted “between 30 and 40 people”. Nevertheless, they were still planning,

[…] a library, chapel, information centre, book store, course and lecture rooms, offices and a cafe. […] scientologists also said they were hoping to employ 150 staff to run the site, which they believe will be attended by “tens of thousands” of people every year.

The cost of renovations is estimated by the Church of Scientology £2,500,000. They are raising money for this from less than 20 Plymouth Scientologists who are already struggling to pay the rent on the present premises while also paying a substantial fixed fee for every Scientology course they complete.

Critics note that fund-raising for ‘Ideal Org’ projects often continue for years. Often, the building is deemed to be unsuitable and sold. At this point, the money from the sale goes into the coffers of the Church of Scientology and the process starts all over again.

Those Ideal Orgs that are occasionally completed are PR exercises paid for by the Church of Scientology from its substantial reserves.  They typically stand empty. Considering the proposals for Plymouth, it’s not hard to see why.

It’s now nearly 2016. After almost six years, Plymouth Ideal Org  is untouched and I am still occasionally documenting the building’s steady decay. It will never open. I wonder how Plymouth’s Scientologists rationalise this failure.

“Dianetics” (First Published in 1950) Is Still “The Modern Science of Mental Health”

wThe window display at Plymouth’s Org exclusively features books by L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. No other literature has ever appeared there.

They have recently been celebrating the 65th anniversary of Hubbard’s first published book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”.

“Dianetics” was a pseudo-scientific ‘treatment’ and subject of a brief fad in the 1950’s before the organisation formed to promote it (headed by Hubbard) finally went bankrupt.

Hubbard learned from the mistakes he made with dianetics when he created its successor, Scientology. However, he could not completely abandon his first, unsuccessful creation. The book “Dianetics” is still revered by Scientologists and referred to as “Book One”.

vIts content isn’t hard to summarise.

Hubbard asserts that you posses total recall, and your mind is divided between an “Analytical” part (which is perfectly accurate and logical) and a more primitive “Reactive” part. During traumatic events, the analytical mind is often ‘knocked out’. Your perfect memory of events is then only accessible to the primitive ‘reactive mind’ which stores the trauma in the form of an ‘engram’.

Engrams can have consequences for your mental health. For example, if you are beaten up by someone who melodramatically exclaims “take that”you may become a kleptomaniac. It can also affect your physical health – if your are unconscious after an injury and overhear someone say “it turns my blood to water” you could develop leukaemia (these are actual examples from Hubbard’s writing).

Dianetic therapy consists of recovering this kind of memory in a light trance, at which point your symptoms are supposed to disappear. Hubbard claimed it could cure all mental illnesses and more than 70% of physical ones.

If you remove all of your engrams you become ‘clear’. This is a state that Scientologists still work towards today and receive certificates for achieving. According to Hubbard, ‘Clears’ should:

  • Be able to correct faulty eyesight
  • Develop a perfect memory
  • Posses significantly enhanced intelligence
  • Grow new teeth
  • Be totally immune to mental illnesses
  • Be immune to more than 70% of physical illnesses

It’s all there, in black and white, in the book which dominates the window display in Plymouth Org: “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health”.

Only Scientologists have ever taken this nonsense seriously. It seems they still do, 65 years after publication. Nevertheless,  many of Plymouth’s Scientologists (including ‘Clears’) still wear glasses.

The Real Achievements of Scientologists Are Not Superior

zCurrently Plymouth’s Scientologists are taking a chance. This painting is featured in their window, above copies of “Dianetics”.

As far back as 1983 all books about Scientology not written by L Ron Hubbard were banned from Orgs (WDC ED 133 of 21 February 1921/02/83, Withdrawal of non LRH books being sold in Orgs and Missions).

If The Church of Scientology could not tolerate Hubbard’s books being sold alongside those of other authors, they might also consider it presumptuous for a “Local Artist” (presumably a Scientologist) to set his work up in a more prominent position than “Dianetics”.

The note in the lower left-hand corner reads:

By Mike Nance (Local Artist)y

I donated my painting of the tiger for this window display because it helps to emphasise the urgent need to communicate the personal and worldwide importance of Dianetics for Health, Happiness and Survival.

TIGERS ARE NOT THE ONLY ENDANGERED SPECIES, WE ARE!

History has become a race between Dianetics and catastrophe. Dianetics will win if enough people are challenged in time to understand it. Dr Fredrick L Schuman in the New York Times

I thought it was remarkable that such a passage should appear in the New Your Times, so I looked into this. It turns out that it is taken from the letters page, from a letter sent to the paper by a Scientologist. Either Mr Nance doesn’t know this, or he’s being deliberately misleading. Neither possibility inspires confidence.

I can’t paint as well as Mike Nance. However, I would point out that better paintings are available from the  students at Plymouth College of Art, just down the road from the Org. Scientology does not seem to provide artists with any significant advantage either.

Scientologists Can’t Even Prevent Large Parts of their ‘Church’ Dropping Off

2015-11-23 08.05.00The old-fashioned shop, that has been rented by 2015-11-23 08.04.49Scientologists in Plymouth for years, used to possess two substantial wooden decorative features (which I now know, thanks to a comment below are called ‘Corbels’ – thanks Mark).

One used to stand at each end of the “Church of Scientology” sign.

Apparently as a result of water escaping a nearby drainpipe, on or about the 23rd of November 2015, the one to the right became so rotten that it dropped off.

As you can see from the images below (click to open a larger version in a new tab) the pavement (US sidewalk) in front of the org is exceptionally narrow. The fall of a substantial chunk of timber (however rotten) could have resulted in  serious injury to passers-by.

 

This event apparently took Org staff completely by surprise.

Click on any of the images. A larger version will open in a new tab, and you can see the details.

before

Before (June 2014)

2015-11-23 14.16.05

After (November 2015)

 

Conclusion

I didn’t write this post to ridicule local Scientologists. I wrote it to contrast their aspirations (ultimately to control reality by force of will) with their actual performance.

If you go into the Scientology Org in Plymouth they will tell you that their mission is to “make the capable more capable”. Look around. You have to ask, if they can really achieve this:

  • Why isn’t their Org prospering?
  • Why is their membership so small, after so many years?
  • Why has their Ideal Org not opened, six years after they bought the building?
  • Why can they show no evidence for the claims made in “Dianetics”?
  • Why can’t they master basic building maintenance?
  • Why is it so cold in the Org in winter?

Their answer will likely be to retire back into the closed social world of Scientology, ‘earn’ another impressive-looking certificate, and accept the admiration of other Scientologists. They don’t want to face the fact that, when you apply it to the real world, Scientology simply does not work. They prefer a comforting illusion.

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9 thoughts on “Scientology Makes You More Capable – Except When it Doesn’t

    • You’re welcome.

      Actually, I find it the place than a little sad – when you walk past the place there are usually one or two people in there, and some of them have a genuinely professional-looking demeanour. They are taking such arrant nonsense so seriously despite the fact that their own everyday experience is clearly showing them that it does’nt work as advertised.

    • Thank you – I know there had to a name for it…
      Although, if it landed on your head when it fell off, you would be calling it a variety of other, less formal, names.

    • It’s my thesis that very few people actually ‘believe in’ Scientology. Instead, many Scientologists are making a constant effort to suspend disbelief.

      The Church of Scientology implicitly acknowledges this by isolating members socially (e.g. by requiring they spend so much time ‘on course’ and demonising outsiders) and applying repressive ‘discipline’ in the form of Scientology ‘ethics’.

      It’s this social isolation and social pressure that motivates Scientologists to wilfully ignore the obvious.

      As Scientologists ‘advance’ though their ‘training’ this tension becomes greater – the doctrines become less credible and substantial sums of money are required to learn about them. It’s interesting that way the Church of Scientology treats its students also becomes progressively more repressive as they move ‘up the Bridge’.

      OT3 seems to be a deal-breaker for many because, as presented, it’s neither credible not altogether coherent, but once a Scientologist overcomes their doubts, and ‘achieves’ this level they are ripe for the rest of programme. OT3 functions to weed out those who retain the slightest scepticism.

      It follows that, if you want to persuade someone to leave Scientology, the best way to do this is not to criticize the ‘Church’ but to engage them so that they participate in wider society and gain a wider perspective on their life and the activities of the Org. The Church of Scientology works so hard to keep members isolated so as to shut off this best option.

  1. This is a wonderful article. There is just nothing quite like the obvious. Thank you for putting the obvious facts together in such a well written manner!

    PS: That quote from the NY Times? It seems to have come from a Letter to the editor sent in by Schumer, which was later included in 1950 edition of the book “New York Times Book Review”.

    I found a snippet of it on search Google. It’s in their Google Books, coming from one of presumably multiple ‘Letters to the Editor’ included with books reviewed in 1950. I found it searching that quote you mentioned trying to find. I guess that Scientology, in all it’s many uses of that quote over the years, failed to mention that a reader made that comment. Not a NYT book reviewer, lol! It was difficult to find it because it’s not fully highlighted within the snippet. But it’s there. Schuman is just someone with an opinion who wrote a letter to the editor praising the book DMSMH

    If you want, you can locate the snippet with Schuman’s name by first searching Google Books with the following, using quote marks:

    “History has become a race between Dianetics and catastrophe. Dianetics will win if enough people are challenged in time to understand it.”

    Then, once on the page of the New York Times Book Review 1950 edition, look for the search within this book box. Reduce the quote to just these 23 words: Dianetics and catastrophe

    What you get is “1 page matching “Dianetics and catastrophe in this book Page 22”

    What will show up is a snippet which is best to save it as an png image and open it to magnify in order to see better.

    What you will see is a partial row of columns from the Letters to The Editor about the book, which are clipped halfway down the columns. In the first column, you’ll see sentences that mention Rollo May, and highlighted, words including Dianetics ( the book title). Then, in the middle column is the balance of the letter from the first, where the name May is again mentioned, where Schuman wraps up his letter, leaving his name and location beneath it.

    Scientlogy: certainly lying Liars who lie!

    • Thank you for your trouble – when I get back to my computer, I will revise accordingly.

      In Scientology (as on Babylon 5) nothing is ever quite what is seems. Unlike B5 it’s always… disappointing, too.

      I wonder if that letter was published in order to provide ‘balance’ to a negative book review, or if Scientologists just kept writing to the editor until they got something published, so that they could misrepresent it.

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