Eye Magazine | April 1969 | George Malko | Is There Anything You Don’t Understand? | Download as .pdf File
in 1970, George Malko published a book entitled, “Scientology: The Now Religion” (full text here). The article that is the subject of today’s post – “Is There Anything You Don’t Understand?” – had been published in “Eye” magazine about a year before. However, it does not mention an upcoming book. It’s likely, therefore, that the book was a work in progress.
“Eye” was an obscure but literate publication, devoted to youth culture. It was mostly concerned with popular musicians, fashion and make-up. The Cover story was “Boys and the Pill”. Scientology seems to have appealed to young people with a counter-culture style in this period, so its inclusion of malko’s article isn’t as odd as it might seem.
The “Eye” article took a very sceptical view of Scientology, but emerged unscathed. In contrast, when Malko’s book “Scientology: The Now Religion” appeared, the Church of Scientology sued its publisher.
After the book had appeared in Hardback and Paperbook editions the publisher paid a settlement to Scientology and did not release it in a printed format again.
It was a common tactic of Scientology at this time to force publishers into protracted litigation without having an arguable case. The book went out of print simply because Delacorte Press could not afford to continue to uphold their freedom to publish. Scientology successfully suppressed critical texts for years in this way. It was a matter of policy, laid down by the founder.
The text of the article from “Eye” (which is transcribed in full below) is a short-form survey of Scientology back in 1969. It begins with an account of Malko’s visits to a Scientology org in New York, where he was ‘assessed’ by a young woman, and includes telling interviews and real insight into its belief and the mindset of Scientologists back in 1970.
The article continues with a description of an audience listening to a Hubbard ‘lecture’, and the author’s introduction to the e-meter – which he accurately describes as a Wheatstone Bridge. It is, in fact, remarkable how little has changed in the last 49+ years. Scienotologists are still presenting “The Pinch Test” to potential recruits as some kind of proof that this simple circuit posses miraculous properties.
There is also a potted history of Hubbard’s curious creation – but it’s the social context that’s interesting. Malko describes a very different ambience from Scientology today, with its media productions and highly organised rallies.
Malko observed that, back in 1969, there was a feeling:
[…] not so much of unity as of some kind of movement, not of being busy but of being fraternal, in it together, talking about this and that: your Grades, Straight Wire, Power Processes, ARC; and every so often a celebrity’s name: Jim Morrison, Cass Elliot, The Beatles! It all felt like movement, like action, but but when you reached out for it, it wasn’t there. Mary-Lou said she had been in Scientology for only about a month and a half and it was just wonderful. Why? I asked her. What was she getting out of it? Freedom, she said. I asked her what she had done before. She just sort of shook her head. It was the same reaction I got from everybody in the movement with whom I spoke. Before Scientology, apparently, these members felt void, an emptiness nobody would discuss.
Malko clearly saw Scientology for what it was.
Viewing the Original Article
The .pdf file contains digital images of a copy of the article as it appeared in the magazine. The copy I obtained was a little faded, and might not be easy to read, but I thought it worthwhile to publish for context.
The magazine measures measuring 340 x 280 mm, which is huge by modern standards. Consequently, it won’t fit my European standard A4 scanner lengthways or widthways, so I had to photograph each page of the article before rolling them up into a .pdf fle.
To make it easier to read, I’d advise the use of a .pdf reader application that has a ‘zoom’ function. If you install one, be warned – Adobe Acrobat tries to sneak McAffe software onto your computer when you install it. Read each screen and un-tick the boxes that offer to add this programme to your download!
To view the file, please download it here , or from the link at the top of the page.
The Text Transcribed
Alternatively, you can read the plain text below, which begins after this full-page image.
I have inserted a few links into the text, here and there. They lead to other posts on this blog which discuss the subject of the linked text – the strange visual effects experienced during Scienotlogy’s ‘Training Routines”, for example.
Scientology begins with Dianetic Release, leads up through Grade O, SOLO and eventually CLEAR. And, if you’re among the lucky few, you might even emerge an auditor… one of the most valuable beings on the planet.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND?
BY GEORGE MALKO Leonard Cohen’s in it, and so is Tennessee Williams, and William Burroughs, and Cass Elliot got her Grades down in St. Thomas, and there’s the rumor that’s been around for years that Truman or Kennedy or Nixon got some auditing, and now they say the Beatles are in it, and Jim Morrison! What everybody is so intense about, so up tight and dubious and convinced and protective about, is Scientology, a heady philosophy which promises man infallible liberation from his past as well as his present, so that he can achieve a self-enlightenment that is nothing less than Total Freedom. Its message is being shouted from Day-Glo subway posters and Dial-a-Message telephone recordings, through direct-mail pamphlets, and by good-looking young people on street corners handing out cards in the form of tickets which read: “Admit One to Total Freedom—Film and Talk, What Scientology Is.” Every evening of every day introductory sessions are held in cities all over the world, In the prosaic lingo of the uninitiated and as yet unliberated, Scientology is hot.
One of the first persons I tried to talk to about ScientoIogy was a girl named Mary-Lou. She was tall and slender, quite attractive, very much like many of the young girls deeply involved with the movement. She had long hair and wore long false eyelashes, which she tried not to flutter as she stared into my eyes; being slightly nearsighted, her stare seemed even more intense.
We were in the main ballroom of the Hotel Martinique on West 32nd Street in New York, permanent headquarters in the city for The Church of Scientology. (Yes, it qualifies as a church under the Religious Corporations Law of New York, which states: “an ‘incorporated church’ is a religious corporation created to enable its members to meet for divine worship or other religious observance.”) The ballroom, a large, high-ceilinged dull-yellow room that had something old and a little shabby about it, was the scene of the Second Annual Eastern Scientology Congress. It was presumably a festive occasion because a few balloons had been Scotch-taped to the ceiling, several strands of wide crepe paper festooned from corner to corner, and a large banner across the front or the room proclaimed: WELCOME CLASS VIII. Behind me I heard somebody say, “There are only thirty-flve Class VIII’s on the planet.” Most of the people there were young, good-looking, smartly dressed, the girls in mini-skirts, with good long legs and bright, open faces. The guys looked healthy, composed, some of them leaning to hippie-type open shirts and beads and long hair; others in smart semi-Edwardian suits. There were also quite a few older people, men in sport jackets and sport shirts that were buttoned at the neck, elderly women sitting on the wooden folding chairs as if to rest their tired feet, professional types with their overcoats still on and expressions of concentrated involvement, retired types with tired faces and slight smiles.
There was this feeling in that room, not so much of unity as of some kind of movement, not of being busy but of being fraternal, in it together, talking about this and that: your Grades, Straight Wire, Power Processes, ARC; and every so often a celebrity’s name: Jim Morrison, Cass Elliot, The Beatles! It all felt like movement, like action, but but when you reached out for it, it wasn’t there.
Mary-Lou said she had been in Scientology for only about a month and a half and it was just wonderful. Why? I asked her. What was she getting out of it? Freedom, she said. I asked her what she had done before. She just sort of shook her head. It was the same reaction I got from everybody in the movement with whom I spoke. Before Scientology, apparently, these members felt void, an emptiness nobody would discuss. So I said, “Freedom?” to get her back to why she was in it. She smiled and nodded. “It brings out what what’s really me,” she said with great sincerity. But, I pressed, didn’t she know what she really was before? “Scientology tells you what you really are,” she insisted, “and then shows you how to be it.”
I thanked her and turned to find myself looking up at an enormous black-and-white photograph of L. Ron Hubbard, the man who had given the world Dianetics, had evolved it into Scientology, and had created and developed all of the techniques. It was a head shot, three-quarter face, chin resting on the thumbs of clasped hands, his white hair smoothly combed back from a high forehead, the eyes slightly narrowed to give him something of a vulpine look. Behind me a young and tapped on the microphone and as people found seats and sat down, he explained that instead of the scheduled lecture, we would hear a brand-new tape from “Ron.”
As the tape was switched on, there was some continued shuffling in and out of the ballroom and I began to wonder if everybody might not make a slow, unobtrusive exodus during the speech, since the tape recorder could not possibly feel offended. I was wrong. Though there was a steady in-and-out at the door, more people came in than left, and by the time somebody on the tape finished introducing Hubbard to what was obviously an audience somewhere, the taped applause, which met him wherever he was, was joined by warm applause where I was. And that was spooky. It was certainly a sign of respect for Hubbard, who at the moment, was only a somewhat mellow disembodied voice coming out of a tape recorder. His topic was Scientology, The Future of Western Civilization. He touched on history, economics, warfare, a little bit of everything. At one point he said, “You get the idea?” and behind me a voice quickly answered, “Yeah!” He tossed off a couple of jokes that sent chuckles rippling through our audience while the taped audience laughed openly. He explained that we were taught to believe the world had begun in chaos and man had introduced order. The truth, he said, was chaos, and it was man who was responsible for the chaos. Then he paused, and said, almost as a directive, “So introduce a little order, OK?” Two seats away from me, Mary-Lou and several other people said softly, almost in unison, “OK.” Ron had spoken.
I finally saw Hubbard on film, the only way most people in Scientology ever see him. It was one of the introductory lectures. He looked sleek and sure, wearing an open-necked shirt, sitting behind a desk and patiently answering questions fed to him by an interviewer. He gave an impression of immense self-confidence, given to homeyness, snatching at random for simple analogies by which to prove a point, unexpectedly somber at the thought of man’s inability to see what existence is all about.
L. Ron Hubbard was born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard in Tilden, Nebraska, on March 13, 1911, a self-styled swashbuckler claiming membership in the Explorer’s Club (which is true) and a degree from George Washington University, the latter disproved some years ago when university officials testified Hubbard had taken and flunked freshman physics, had been placed on probation, and had not returned after his sophomore year. He wrote science fiction and novels, and used pen names such as Winchester Remington Colt. Hubbard served in the Navy during World War II, and after his discharge worked to expand ideas which had first appeared in a book he wrote in 1938 called Excalibur. The ideas finally reached print in 1950, in an article published by the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction. It was called “Evolution of a Science” and introduced Dianetics to the world. It created such a stir that when his book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, appeared shortly after the article, it hit the best-seller lists immediately and, according to Newsweek Magazine, was the first runaway best-seller in America since Thomas Merton’s The Seven-Storey Mountain.
“Dianetics” comes from the Greek word for thought—dianona—science of the mind. Hubbard had, after what he said was years of research and study, postulated that the mind consists of two parts, the analytical (Freud’s “conscious”), which perceives, remembers and reasons, and the reactive (Freud’s “unconscious”), which neither remembers nor perceives but simply records. Normally, the analytical (conscious) mind is dominant. But, according to Hubbard, injury or anesthesia or, more important, acute emotional shock or physical pain, can “switch off” the analytical mind. And then the reactive mind goes into operation. This reactive mind does not record memories, but what Hubbard labeled “engrams,” complete sound impressions on protoplasm itself, “a complete recording,” as he described it, “down to the last accurate detail, of every perception present in a moment of . . . unconsciousness.” Unhappiness, emotional upsets, even illnesses, could be traced to the existence of engrams. Dianetics was the discovery, study, and technique for dredging up these troublesome engrams and getting rid of them.
Scientology followed, first as an extension of Dianetics, and then quickly taking over, as Hubbard developed his techniques which further plumbed the extent to which one could cleanse the reactive mind, free the analytical, and achieve a state he called “Clear.” The heart of his extensive methods is called “auditing” and its basic tool is the E-Meter, originally called the electro-psychometer. Every introductory Scientology lecture ends with a demonstration of the E-Meter and some auditing.
Despite the monotony and unemotional pretentiousness of the Hubbard film and lecture, the idea that you are finally going to have it happen to you becomes heavy with meaning, as if now, having survived the film and lecture, you are going to find out something. I was led to a small room by a Miss Adler, a pleasant-looking, large lady who insisted on glaring at me from beneath lowered brows, in the Scientologist’s “eye-lock.” The room we entered was small and I was told to sit down in a straight chair on one side of a small table. Miss Adler the auditor, sat opposite me. For a long moment she continued to stare at me, and then turned the E-Meter around so that I could look at it. There it was, a small, folding box which opens up to stand on the desk in front of an auditor much the way a book would stand if you opened it in the middle and set it up like a small tent. A large meter faces the auditor, with a large dial on the upper left of the panel, a small On-Off switch below it, and three knobs along the bottom: a sensitivity booster, a test-set transit-knob and a trim knob. Two wires run from either side of the whole thing and are clamped onto two tin cans. These cans are held by a “Preclear” (in this case, me), which is what they call a person on his way to Clear, and as the auditor asks various questions, some general, some more specific, the needle is carefully observed. And if it jumps . . . an engram! Wrote Hubbard: “The meter tells you what the Preclear’s mind is doing when the Preclear is made to think of something. If they’re emotionally disturbed about cats, and they’re talking about cats, the needle flies about. If they’re not disturbed about cats, the needle doesn’t fly about. So you let them talk about cats until they’re no longer disturbed about cats, and then the needle no longer flies about.” The needle is at rest because the disturbance is gone. Or it is at rest because the battery in the E-Meter has run down.
The E-Meter is actually a simple Wheatstone bridge, an electrical device invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone for measuring electric resistances. In the E-Meter, a small battery provides the power to pass a very small charge through the leads and through your body. Scientology believes that the body’s response, as indicated by the needle, is a sign that something basic is crouching, hidden, in what they call the “engram bank.” While Scientology today strives to be extremely circumspect about the E-Meter and its application, in 1963 the Food & Drug Administration raided Scientology’s Washington, D.C., headquarters and seized a hundred E-Meters and copies of publications. The government charged at the time that the meters were “misbranded” devices which claimed “diagnosis, prevention, treatment, detection and elimination of the causes of all mental and nervous disorders such as neuroses, psychoses, schizophrenia, and all psychosomatic ailments,” including “most of the physical ailments of mankind such as arthritis, cancer, stomach ulcers, radiation burns from atomic bombs, polio, the common cold . . .” Trial was held in April of 1967, and a jury returned a verdict for the government. Scientology appealed, claiming the E-Meters had been seized illegally. No decision has as yet been handed down. But the E-Meter Miss Adler asked me to look at had a small message on it. “The E-Meter is not intended or effective for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease.”
We were going to start with the Pinch Test, Miss Adler explained, and indicated I should pick up the two tin cans. She waited until I seemed to be holding them firmly, and then reached over to pinch my left forearm. She was wearing a very large orangestone ring on her right hand and I watched it, and as her hand got closer she watched the needle, and it sprang for the sky and she said, “Ahhh. Anticipation.” Yes ma’am. True. Anticipation. You’re going to pinch me, lady. And she did. Then she asked me to see if I could re-create the sensation. I screwed up my face a bit and sought for my best Stanislavskian resources, and I thought about that pinch. I tried to make it happen again and found myself evaluating its quality instead. A good pinch. Decent. Well executed. The needle, meanwhile, was doing precious little. Miss Adler said, “Good,” several times. Which meant to me, Good, the needle isn’t moving, or Good! the needle moved. You see, it meant something either way.
Once that was over, she turned the E-Meter away from my view and said she would now do some simple auditing. I had put down the cans, which had gotten clammy in my fists. I picked them up again, quickly, wondering if she might be mad at me for dawdling. She looked at me. “What do you think of Scientology ?”
“Well . . .” What was I going to say? I liked it, I didn’t like it, it frightened me, it didn’t frighten me “. . . I’m confused by it. There seem to be so many things to learn about it.” I stopped.
She saw I was finished and said, “Thank you,” slowly, almost formally, and I realized the politesse was part of the procedure, integral to the consistency of demand and acknowledgment of answer. So she asked me again, just as naturally as before, her eyes dropping to the meter, which I couldn’t see at all now. “What do you think of Scientology?”
I didn’t want to start with another “Well—” so I looked off to the side, at a copy of the Classification Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates, which was on the wall. There it was, Scientology from bottom to top, a living monument to the enterprise and imagination of L. Ron Hubbard. At the very bottom, now merely the beginning, were the first three stages which lead to Dianetic Release: Awareness of Truth—Scientology is the only way to Personal Freedom; Straight Wire Release—improving your memory and ability to recall; and Dianetic Release—erasing moments of loss, those fabled engrams. By the second level, Straight Wire Release, the indelible pattern of auditing has already established itself. The auditor has prompted you to recall a communication, then something real, then an emotion, then a communication, something real, another emotion, and the linkages are being established so that what represents either of those elements, something real, an emotion, a communication, will be readily available in advanced auditing stages. Beyond Dianetic Release, stretching seemingly to infinity, lay the Grades of Release, beginning with Grade O: the ability to communicate freely with anyone on any subject—a definition of communication having already established itself in your mind. Next comes Grade I, Problems—learning to recognize the “actual” source of problems; then Grade II, Relief—from the hostilities and sufferings of life; then Grade III, Freedom—true freedom from the upsets of the past; and then Grade IV, Ability—moving out of “fixed conditions” and gaining the ability to do new things. Then Grade V, Power—the ability to have it and handle it; Grade VI, referred to as Solo, because you audit yourself to achieve Whole Track Release—freedom from your “time track,” which is everything that represents your existence along the track of time. And then, finally . . . Clear, Grade VII, being at cause over mental matter, energy, space and time.
I felt Miss Adler watching me, waiting, so I said, still looking at the chart, at the top beyond Clear where the letters O.T. designated “Operating Thetan”—the emergence of man in his pure spirit, his “theta,” with the ability to be at cause knowingly and at will over matter, energy, space, time, life and thought—I said, “I think Scientology is interesting . . . I want to know more about it, but I’m hot sure yet what it has to offer for me.”
Interesting was an inadequate word. Overwhelming would have been more accurate. This world of its own, this separate universe, with its own vocabulary, its own syntax, its own rhetoric; with terminology which is intentionally complicated so that everything must be ultimately understood according to their definitions. When somebody outside Scientology asks, “But; what does that mean?” and gets a double-dose jargon answer, the implication is simple: You must be in Scientology to know what we are all talking about. For example, what do they actually mean when they use the phrases at cause and at effect. Quite simply, if something is bothering you, you should not let its effect bother you, but go back and find out where it began, its cause. In Scientology, everybody wants to be at cause.
Miss Adler’s eyes were down on the E-Meter when I looked back at her. She said, “Thank you.” And then she asked me the same question again:
“What do you think of Scientology?”
“Nothing,” I said evenly, taking the plunge, wondering if that might not be the right answer.
“Good,” she said just as evenly. “Thank you.”
She went on to ask me the following questions, each two or three times, each acknowledged with a “Thank you.”
“Do you have any problems with people?”
“Do you have any problems with your work?”
“Do you have any problems with the world at large?”
With that last one, after answering all the others humbly and with slight hesitations and mumblings, I allowed myself a small note of wry bitterness. “Who doesn’t these days?” I replied. But it was obvious from all three questions that anything I might have felt the least bit worried about, concerned about, guilty about, would have eventually come out, if not then, then later, when I would be asked in advanced auditing sessions, to recall communications, or emotions, or something real. People, I realized, don’t normally lie. And the truth, I felt in this instance, would not necessarily make them free.
After a final “Thank you,” Miss Adler was finished. She looked me in the eyes with one of those eye-locks and asserted, very quietly, that I needed the HAS (Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist) Communications Course, that I put myself down a great deal and she saw that I could use the reinforcement of the Communications Course. I said I’d think about it.
A few days later I was at another Scientology branch office, trying to find out why the Communications Course was so important. A young girl explained that the reason everyone is encouraged to take the course is that it “helps establish the reality of Scientology.” I must have looked puzzled, because she said it helps you understand the definition of things around you. You mean, I asked her, things we may have been seeing the wrong way? Her face lit up. “Yes,” she said. “That’s it!”
Bud Lee, a young free-lance photographer who was assigned to take some pictures of Scientology in action, took the Communications Course. The first lesson was called Confrontation, and involved sitting motionless for one hour opposite a partner. “I really believed in that,” Bud says. “After a while. I began to see a corona around the girl’s head, kind of a yellowish-green halo, and I thought this was great.” Along with the Confrontation, somebody lectured on Scientology’s aims, on the state of the world, on chaos and order, on discovering your true self, your spirit, your theta.
The next night, the lesson was called Bull-Baiting: confrontation with insults hurled back and forth to make your partner lose composure and respond. That, Bud says, “is where they really break you down. You’re supposed to overcome your subliminal mind and your body and you reach your optimum. When you’ve reached that, you’ve overcome all your prejudices and handicaps; your shortcomings, in other words. The idea being that you can be happy, there’s no need for any kind of neurosis. Students had to sit with hands on knees, upright, relaxed, and must not move anything. If you move—like I have a tendency of dropping my shoulder—they yell ‘Flunk!’ and then ‘Start!’ Your partner will tell you what you moved. Well, the instructress started working on my bald head, and my pot belly.” Bud is not bald. His hair is thinning and he is concerned about it and quite openly vulnerable to the notion that somebody would criticize him for that. Also he does not have a pot belly. He is a large-framed person, with a kind young face, unexpected small lines of concern around his eyes, and a manner that is a trifle hesitant, but ultimately honest and quite unafraid. “She looked at me and said, ‘One day you bought some cream and you started working with this cream and it said on the package that it would grow hair.’ ” Bud smiles and says, “She really wasn’t that insulting because she really didn’t get that far.”
The Bull-Baiting continued a while longer, and then the instructress called a break and a girl named Nina Jones came in, went over to Bud, and asked if he wouldn’t mind coming to the office. “The moment she came into the room I knew she was in there for my benefit.” He had openly been taking photographs both evenings. He went with Nina to her office and there, after lengthy interrogation, first by Nina and then by a man, with each question being repeated over and over and over again, all in a calm, reasonable voice, Bud not only found himself apologizing, but also turned over all his film, exposed and unused, to his two questioners. The intense reason with which they talked to him finally created enough guilt to make him feel he had been unfair somehow in trying to take his photographs. There had been no threats, no warnings, simply incessant questions such as: “What were you doing on the third floor? What were you doing on the third floor? What were you doing on the third floor?” Bud had done nothing on the third floor, but was finally convinced he must have done something.
Bud pauses in his narrative and looks back on the whole experience, and then says, slowly, “I really did believe. I believed right until the moment they came and took me out of the class, in everything they were doing. I really did. I was convinced. I was like one of those lonely souls, I felt just like the other people in the class. . . .” He tries to laugh, but it goes dry. “There are really beautiful people in this, and I was really upset when they asked me to leave. I really was. I was more upset than they were. They really fed me the bait, and I bit!” He starts to laugh again but instead stops himself and says wistfully, “The girl who gave the first lecture, Bobbie, was really beautiful. She sat on the edge of this desk, and crossed these long legs of hers, and these big eyes, and she was very soft-spoken, and she said, ‘Now is there anything you don’t understand?’ ”
Bud Lee had been fed the definitions of Scientology’s reality, had accepted the dimensions of its universe, and had been expelled. In only two sessions, using a technique which draws on a principle of “Confession” similar to one developed by Frank Nathan Daniel Buchman, father of the Moral Re-Armament movement, and Emile [?] self-improvewent teachings (“Every day and in every way, I am becoming better and better”), with elements of sensitivity training and T-sessions, sixty-five-hour group encounters where exhaustion finally leaves you with shredded nerve-ends ready to absorb anything, Bud Lee was well on the way to finding anything in himself that Scientology might suggest had to be there.
L. Ron Hubbard himself acknowledges that in gathering the various ideas which he synthesized into Scientology, he drew on Anaxagoras, Charcot, Euclid, Jesus of Nazareth, Lao Tse, Lucretius, Plato and countless other philosophers and thinkers whose teachings examined actual and abstract systems of defining and then achieving knowledge. But finding out exactly what goes on in Scientology sessions, how Scientology inculcates its techniques through auditing, what questions are actually asked of a subject, is impossible. Such disclosure to outsiders is forbidden, as is being critical of Scientology to the press, or listening to criticism. Anyone found “knowingly to suppress, reduce, or impede Scientology or Scientologists,” may be tagged a P.T.S.—potential trouble source—and charged with “high crimes,” and dismissed from Scientology or, until recently, to be “disconnected” from friends and/or relatives still in Scientology. What any Scientologist is only too eager to talk about are the various levels of “Release” and how they now feel “Marvelous!” and “Free!” And they will advise you on the best ways to meet Scientology’s high costs, which can start at only $20 for the Communications Course, but can run as high as $4,025 to achieve Clear. What they strongly urge you to do is go The Professional Route, taking courses that train you to become an auditor, so that you not only emerge a Clear but also, as a Scientology brochure put it, “an auditor, one of the most valuable beings on the planet.”
While this may explain why so many people are involved in Scientology full-time, it does nothing to clarify the still-elusive inner mechanics. I went to see Bob Thomas, a Minister of the Church of Scientology, with his own offices, Scientology East, at 122 East 76th Street. Thomas is a very large, fleshy man, with a high forehead, and long, fine brown hair worn thickly combed back. His office is tastefully decorated, with a handsome red wall-to-wall carpet, paintings on the walls, and well-chosen, comfortable furniture. His large desk has a white push-button telephone on one side, a cassette tape-recorder the other, and as he speaks, he often leans back to put his alligator loafers up on the desk. To the front of the desk, right in front of the leather armchair I was sitting in, was an E-Meter with his name Dymo-taped on it. Behind the desk, to the right as I faced him, books were lined up on top of a radiator which was under an air-conditioner which, though the weather had turned brisk, was turned on. Thomas chain-smoked menthol cigarettes during our talk, and over my right shoulder, on a dresser, a color television set was on, Walter Cronkite drumming Vietnam casualty figures into my ear as we talked. I looked at the hooks on the radiator and noticed Adam Smith’s The Money Game, and next to it, on its side, a paperback copy of Norman O. Brown’s Loves Body.
Today, Thomas told me, Scientology embraces “probably well over a million people.” In New York alone from one to two hundred persons encounter it for the first time very week. Between 50 to 75 percent go on to take at least the Communications Course, he claimed. While all course and auditing costs are established by the Central Organization, the flubbard College of Scientology, registered in England, and are covered by a strict money-back guarantee, private practitioners like himself have the right to charge more, mildly based, he was not loathe to suggest, on what the traffic might bear. “The charge is for a particular result,” Thomas explained almost loftily. “In my career I’ve only had one person who asked for his money back, and I gave it to him.” Most Scientology branches are franchised by the Central Organization and pay headquarters 10 percent of all monies they take in. It goes, Thomas explained, for “research, communications, and other expenses.”
In all he told me, Thomas was frank, direct, using Scientology’s vocabulary sparingly, patiently redefining concepts which were becoming familiar to me. But why, I wondered, can’t I put my finger on the key to this whole thing. Is it because he isn’t telling me exactly what goes on in auditing sessions? Or would that, in fact, explain anything? So I asked about the definition given for “Operating Thetan,” that state when man is finally, as Thomas said it for me once more, “at cause over matter, energy, space, and time, in the physical, total, sense.” Doesn’t that imply, I said, that when you are an Operating Thetan you could levitate, rise up into the air and hang there? “Right,” Thomas said and sat forward in his chair, his eyes calmly meeting my gaze. Then he qualified what he had said. “These are the ultimate goals that are envisioned. I’m saying that these are the ultimate things it is hoped man is capable of; if he really has those potentials, which we assume he has. Beyond the state of Clear, there are these Grades of Operating Thetans. When you’re Clear, you’re free in the mental sense, but you want to extend your influence and power as a spiritual being. And that road is a higher road which Mr. Hubbard is researching at this moment.” Much more simply, Thomas was explaining, Scientology merely tries to increase a person’s confidence in being able to remember what he wants to remember and not remember what he doesn’t want to remember, to increase a person’s confidence in being able to control memories. And why, I wanted to know, was Scientology attracting so many young people. “Because,” Thomas said still very patient, “Scientology has the answers these kids are looking for, plus all the ingredients of novelty, freshness and depth. It doesn’t have the old pat answers, and it validates creativity.” And, I thought to myself, every young Scientologist I had spoken to was totally convinced it does what it promises to do. And then I understood why.
Somewhere in all the millions of words written and spoken about Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard tells us exactly what Scientology’s intentions and goals are and how it plans to achieve them. The various techniques may be hidden from outside view because of Scientology’s ultrastrict code of internal ethics, but the entire phenomenon is never more clearly defined as when Bob Thomas says Scientology strives to help a person control his memories. And it succeeds in doing so because L. Ron Hubbard defines all life for us, tells us what is wrong with it (chaos), and tells us how he will re-create genuine order, within us and around us (the techniques of Scientology).
If you believe yourself to be a bundle of chaotic distortions and spiritual contradictions which Hubbard’s system can salvage and enshrine in the universe as a truly free-floating spirit, then Scientology obviously succeeds. The only question you have to ask yourself is whether or not L. Ron Hubbard’s vision of life is one you fundamentally agree with. Everything else, the accusations that he tampers with people’s minds, is secondary. That may sound outrageous to you, but every step of Scientology evolves from the several declarations he makes about what he claims life really is. And if you agree with his basic assumptions, then whatever tampering is done to your psyche is precisely what you want done so that you, too, can achieve that perfect state of emptiness which he defines as Clear. It is a cruel truth, but if and when people believe the carefully defined goals of what is quite simply a complicated system of brainwashing, they are totally within their rights to let themselves be brainwashed. That, as they say, is the American Way. And that, because it does work, is why so many young people who have grown disillusioned with social structures that do not work at all, who refuse to accept the notion that life is an impossible struggle that cannot be made absolutely simple, find some kind of solace and welcome within a totally forgiving system promising spiritual eternity, identifying and locating all guilt, then—mirabile dicta—hopefully making it all go away.
Is there still anything you don’t understand?
George Malko is a free-lance writer who has contributed to numerous magazines. He has also written for NBC, CBS and the Public Broadcast Laboratory. Born in Denmark thirty-three years ago, he hoes on New York’s upper East Side with his Australian-born wife.