“It Works” by RHJ – Wishful Thinking in Fringe Ideas and its Influence on Scientology

CoverIt Works | RH Jarret | Download as .pdf (Click on ‘Download in Browser’ button)

In my previous post, I discussed a book by Ron Miscavige, entitled “Ruthless”. Ron, the father of David Miscavige, the present ‘leader’ of Scientology, wrote about his son’s rise to power and his own career in Scientology, which culminated in an escape from a guarded compound.

Despite this experience the text reveals that Ron:

  • Still believes that the practice of Scientology itself has some value.
  • Committed himself and his family to the organisation almost on a whim – his understanding of  his own ‘philosophy’ seems to me to be extremely superficial

Some reviewers have blamed Dan Koon, his ghost writer, for Miscavige Sr’s apparently sympathetic attitude toward the teachings of L Ron Hubbard.  Koon is an ‘Independent Scientologist’, who rejects the ‘official’ Church, but continues to practice his conception of Scientology, so he might have influenced the text.

I think it more likely that Ron is simply the kind of person who accepts such fringe ideas uncritically, especially if they are persuasively presented.

The ‘further reading’ list at the back of Ron’s book provides support for this view. It recommends a pamphlet called “It Works” (which you can download from the link a the top of the page). This text has no connection with Scientology, but shares many of its basic ideas and promotional tricks.

How I Came to Own a Copy of “It Works”

I was working as a volunteer for a local chain of Charity Shops (US: Thrift Stores) sorting books, when I came across this pamphlet. Its basic propositions reminded me of Scientology’s idea of ‘postulation’. That is:

  • You can have anything you want as long as you wish for it hard enough
  • If your efforts fail, this is due to your inadequate will-power – the method always works when properly applied.

As I quickly read through it, I saw more similarities between this pamphlet and the promotional tactics used by Hubbard for Dianetics and Scientology(which I will examine in another post). I bought it, thinking I might be able to write something about these similarities. It sat on my desk for weeks.

Ron Miscavige Suggests Reading “It Works”

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Click on the image to open a larger version in a new tab

One day, I finished reading Ron Miscavige’s, “Ruthless” and was surprised to see “It Works” same text referenced in the suggested reading Section at the end of the book (image right).

It wasn’t just me who saw a similarity between Scientology and the largely forgotten text”It Works”, then. Ron Miscavige, a man who spent much of his adult life immersed in Scientology had seen it, too.  The difference between us is that he still takes both seriously, and I don’t (nor ever have done).

Here’s how he Ron describes “It Worlk” and other texts.

Suggested Reading

Some readers may have had their curiosity piqued by my mention in the story of certain authors and their works. Following is a list of books that I think may satisfy that interest, some by L Ron Hubbard, others by Writers who were part of the New Thought Movement. The Scientology books by Hubbard are pretty fundamental and don’t contain any of the organizational concepts that I feel have made the Church so reviled. Any of the following titles can be found online, others for free or at low cost, and contain, in my opinion, some valuable information.

L Ron Hubbard, Self Analysis
L Ron Hubbard, A New Slant on Life
L Ron Hubbard, The Fundamentals of Thought
Willaim Walker Atkinson (Writing as Theron Q Dumont), How to Heal Oneself and Others: Mental Theraputics
Charles F Haanel, The Master Key System
Prentice Mulford, The Pretice Mulford Collection
R. H. Jarrett, It Works

“It Works” by RHJ

Like Hubbard’s writings, the core concepts of this pamphlet are embedded in a lot of filler, including multiple examples. I have tried to extract the central argument below.

You have within you a mighty power anxious and willing to serve you, a power capable of giving you that which you earnestly desire. The power is capable and willing to carry to a complete and perfect conclusion every earnest desire of your objective mind, but you must be really in earnest about what you want. (pg 10)

Your objective mind and will are so vacillating that you usually only WISH for things and the wonderful, capable power within you does not function (pg 11)

If you are earnest about changing your present condition, here is a concise, definite, resultful [sic] plan, with rules, explanations and suggestions (pg 12)

You may see more similarities to Hubbard’s writings – e.g. wild claims made by assertion and the use of made-up words like ‘resultful’. RHJ’s tech was shorter and simpler.

Write down on paper in order of their  importance the things and conditions you really want. Do not be afraid of wanting too much. Go the limit in writing down your wants. Change the list daily, adding to it or taking away from it. Do not be discouraged on account of changes. There will always be changes and additions with accomplishments and increasing desires.

Three positive rules of Accomplishment

  1.  Read the list of what you want three times each day,: morning, noon and night.
  2. Think of what you want as often as possible
  3. Do not talk to anyone about your plan except to the great power within you which will unfold to you your Objective Mind the method of accomplishment (pp13 – 14)

The similarities to the Scientology practice of  ‘postulating’  are plain to see.

Training Routine 8 – Magical Thinking in Scientology

The proposition that you can change reality by an effort of will (which Scientologists call ‘postulating’) is  an integral part of Scientology doctrine. However, the appeal to magical thinking is less direct than that presented by RHJ, and is only seriously presented in the secret OT (operating Thetan) levels.

A “Thetan” is supposed to be the immortal omnipotent being who animates your body, and these levels are a kind of magical ‘operation’ which enables it to work upon the world. ‘Success stories’ ( an endorsement which Scientologists make at the end of every course) contain claims of miraculous events which they achieved by ‘postulating’.

Scientologists are prepared  for the proposition that they will develop ‘super powers’ when they reach the higher levels from an early stage of their ‘training’. This is first explicitly stated in the eighth ‘training routine’ they are taught, know as  TR8.

The description below is drawn from materials used in the Scientology ‘drug rehabilitation’ front, Narconon. However, the ‘Training’ described is, for all practical purposes,  identical to that given to Scientologists

ashtray 2

During TR8 two Scientologists (who have done the previous levels as a team) sit facing a chair which has had an empty ashtray on it.

The ‘students’ are required to take turns telling the ashtray to “Stand up” in a way that projects their will. The student is required to, “command the object  in the loudest possible voice he can muster.”

If the ashtray declines to stand up by itself, they are required to lift it into the air and tell it,”thank you”. Then, they command the ashtray to “Sit down on that chair”. If it fails to comply, they put back on the chair and say “thank you” again. This is all they are allowed to say or do for hours.

This leads to some surreal scenes (and sore throats).

Next, the students must,

[…] do the drill silently, putting the intention into the object without even thinking the words of the command or the acknowledgement.

The purpose of this is tointention:

Start student on the road to handling objects and people with postulates.

Scientologists do not believe that projecting a firm ‘intention’ at the ashtray will actually raise it up and lower it at this stage.

They do believe that, after they have completed the  OT levels they will develop powers that would enable them to not only control  objects by an effort of will, but also people.

Affecting the world by force of will in this way is called ‘postulating’.

The Get-out Clause – And Confirmation Bias

Of course, there is a get-out clause in Scientology (and all the other fringe beliefs that make the same kind of claim). If you fail to control reality in this way, it’s your fault for not projecting your will with sufficient force or correct technique.

Confirmation bias also plays a part here – when a ‘postulation’ fails, the practitioner forgets about it. When it appears to succeed, this event is noted as a great success. For example, if you looking for a parking space in a crowded city and fail to find one, this event quietly forgotten. However, if you do find one, you put it down to a successful postulation.  Fundamentally, some people want to believe, and cherry-pick their experience for anecdotal evidence to use in support.

Similarly, if readers of “It Works” don’t get what they ask for, they may still think that ‘there is something in it’ if they do get something that appeared on their list at some time – this is why LHJ encourages them to change their wants on a regular basis – so that they are more likely to achieve one of things just by chance.

Other Examples of ‘Postulation’ in Fringe Belief Systems

Chanting for a New Car – ichantNam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo

Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is named after a mantra which is chanted in Nichiren Buddhism to help the practitioner achieve enlightenment.

A Western group have re-interpreted this doctrine in consumerist terms. They teach that anything that you want or need can be acquired by chanting while concentrating on the desired object.

‘Students’ pay a fee to and learn the mantra and chant together.

Sincere Nichiren Buddhists would doubtless find the focus on acquiring material things (e.g. a new car, or high-definition television) rather than enlightenment appalling.

This is wishful thinking dressed up in Buddhist robes.

Once again, confirmation bias operates here. If you are chanting for a car, but win some money from a lottery ticket instead, this is likely  taken as evidence that the technique is effective.

Cosmic Ordering

220px-Noel_Edmonds_2006This is a modern re-invention of the ideas in “It Works” by one Barbel Mohr – you write down a wish list and wait for it to become reality. It is described in a book “The Cosmic Ordering Service: a guide to realising you dreams.”

This version of wishful thinking had a brief vogue in UK show-business after Noel Edmonds (Radio DJ turned  TV entertainer) credited it with getting him a job as a game show host.

Cosmic ordering  (AKA”Space-star ordering) and Scientology (AKA “Spaceology”) are satirised in a episode of UK TV comedy series “The IT Crowd”.

Edmonds has written his own book “Positively Happy: Cosmic Ways to Change Your Life”.

However, His long running show “Deal or No Deal” has been “taking a break” since April 2016, and may not return. I wonder how he will rationalise this failure and, if his career enters another slump, whether he will still practice ‘Cosmic Ordering”.

And Many More…

Once you start looking for this idea, you find that it underlies many fringe beliefs system. A quick survey of Wikipedia produces the following references.

Affirmations (New Age) | Elmer Gantry | Law of attraction (New Thought) | Synchronicity | Word of Faith

Conclusion

L Ron Hubbard drew the materials for Dianetics and Scientology from many sources – Pulp science fiction, ‘magical’ ritual (as practised with Jack Parsons and the whole ‘cultic milleu’ of the time when Hubbard was activly creating Scientology.

The idea that wishful thinking and ritual can effect changes upon the world through nothing more than a sustained effort of will is an incredibly common one. You can find it in almost all fringe beliefs. Only the justifications vary.

This is essentially magical thinking. However, it appeals to people who are powerless, frustrated and not particularly critical.

Scientology appears to be original and distinctive because of its use of science fiction themes, and Hubbard elaborated the doctrine surrounding it to an unprecedented degree. However, at bottom, Scientology is based on the same idea as “It Works” – as is almost every other fringe belief group that you care to mention. Postulation is an old idea, constantly dressed up in new clothes, and resold.

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2 thoughts on ““It Works” by RHJ – Wishful Thinking in Fringe Ideas and its Influence on Scientology

  1. when I was just a little girl (no not starting to sing the fabulous Doris Day’s famous song) I used to wish upon the first star I saw. (Pinocchio influence I guess.) This is the same stuff. I think the book The Secret had the same teachings.
    Thank you again for a great incite into the coo coo magical world of people desiring power

    • “The Secret” wasn’t big in the UK, but it’s yet another example of the way in which a wish-fulfilment fantasy can be monetised – and the more you look the more you find.

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