The Advertising Standards Authority Versus The Church of Scientology Plymouth

self-analysis-frontOn the 5th of December 2016, I published a video showing members of  the Church of Scientology Plymouth (UK)  distributing leaflets outside of Charles Cross Police station. This is just around the corner from their modest Org in Ebrington Street.

In the process, I was given a flier, and carefully read it. It seemed to me that the text made two highly questionable claims.

According to the rules of the UK advertising regulator (the Advertising Standards Authority) advertisers who make specific, testable claims must be in possession of objective evidence which supports their case. If the advertiser cannot present such evidence when asked to do so by the  ASA the claims made are deemed to be misleading, and must not be repeated.

I duly submitted a complaint online. Yesterday, I was informed that it has been upheld.

This kind of decision could severely limit Scientology’s ability to make similar claims in future – and could ultimately force them to submit whole classes of promotional material to the ASA for pre-approval.

All that is required is for more people to collect Scientology advertising containing potentially misleading claims.

Details of the offending leaflet, my complaint, the ASA response and the likely consequences appear after the break.

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Plymouth Ideal Org – Fantasies and Lies

fantasy-fleet-clubA few days ago, I came across a Facebook page for “Scientology Plymouth“which contained the remarkable image at the right (there is a larger version below, after the break).

At first glance, it looks rather like a building decorated to celebrate a Nazi rally. It is, in fact, a rendering representing the old Royal Fleet Club / Hotel in Plymouth (UK)  – a old building with 50 rooms, two ballrooms and a number of kitchens.

If you follow this blog, you will know that this place was bought by The Church of Scientology  for £1,000,000 in 2010. Over the intervening years they have claimed, time and again, that it is going to be renovated to a high standard, and become an ‘Ideal Org’ serving the South-West of England.

Presumably, this image represents what they hope to achieve – however,  many of the renovations presented in it are simply not possible.

To illustrate this, I went to the building to take a picture of the real thing for comparison purposes – and discovered some interesting developments. It is possible that the Ideal Org project in Plymouth (the only one in the UK which is self-financing) is on the move again.

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The Codes of Scientology – Moral Commandments for Auditors, or an Assertion That ‘The Ends Justify the Means’? (Pt 1)

a-1The Codes of Scientology | L Ron Hubbard | Certainty: The Official Periodical of Scientology in the British Isles | Volume 6 No 8 | 1959 | Download as .pdf (A new tab will open – click on the grey ‘download through your browser’ button)

In this post we examine an issue of the  British periodical “Certainty”, published by the Church of Scientology in 1959. It was in this year that L Ron Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor in England, moved in, and made it the world HQ of his organisation.

The download above contains a scan of an original copy. As far as I know, this is not available anywhere else online.

This issue was aimed at people who were ‘training’ to be ‘Auditors’ – that is Scientologists  who investigate the supposed past-life traumas of ‘ordinary’ members, in a private room, on a one-to-one basis, using the e-meter. At this stage of the operation, auditors were not under the absolute control of the Church of Scientology, as they are now, and freelance ‘practice’ could be quite lucrative.

In this  issue L Ron Hubbard presents a number of ‘moral codes’ for auditors. The double-edged nature of these ‘commandments’  is unsettling. Far from protecting the public, they can be read as requiring auditors

  • To conform to orders given by the Church of Scientology and force their clients to do so.
  • Do whatever it takes to advance the cause of Scientology, placing this above the welfare of both their clients and the general public

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Scientology and Visual Imagery – Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 14

Face DiskI have never been involved in Scientology. This  blog is an attempt to understand why clever, capable people accept its doctrines (which are, in the face of it, bizarre and incoherent) and follow its practices.

One approach that I have taken is to examine Scientology training and assess whether or not this has an influence. It seems to me that Scientology’s nine ‘training routines’ do, beginning with TR0 (AKA Training Routine Zero).

In TR0 two people are requited to sit close together and stare fixedly at each other for prolonged periods of time. Research shows that unchanging sensory input can lead to a form of sensory deprivation, which has strange effects – including a dissociated state (you feel detached from you body) and ‘strange face’ hallucinations.

Scientologists constantly practice their Training Routines, so they are soon able to slip into altered states of consciousness almost at will (the likely reason for the strange, unsettling ‘thousand yard stare’ they apply to protesters).

It has seemed to me that such compelling experiences, interpreted according to Scientology doctrine – for example as evidence of a ‘previous life’ – which could be a powerful incentive towards conversion.

First, I have to reconcile the fact that, during online discussions I am occasionally told by some  ex-Scientologists that they had no hallucinatory experiences during the TRs, and by others that had compelling, life-changing experiences.

I think I can do that now, thanks to something I have recently learned about myself. Continue reading

Why People Believe that (L Ron Hubbard’s) Bullshit is Actually Profound

bullshitOn the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit | Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr Derek J. Koehler, Jonathan A. Fugelsan | Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015

View Online | Download as .pdf (click on Grey button ‘Download through your browser’ in new tab)

Anyone who has read “Dianetics”, let alone the material which makes up ‘advanced’ Scientology courses, will have come across many passages that make them ask, “what is that supposed to mean“?

This leads to the question of why people read nonsense and ascribe deep meaning to such passages – even when they cannot actually articulate what that meaning is?

There are several explanations for this. This paper describes an experiment which possibly provides another. It not only demonstrates how some people uncritically ascribe meaning to a nonsense passage which ‘sounds profound’, but also provides a means of identifying individuals who are most vulnerable to this kind of confusion. Continue reading

“This is Life: An Introduction to Scientology” by Reg Sharpe – The Church of Scientology Bans Its Own Books (Pt3)

aThis is Life: an Introduction to Scientology  | Reg Sharpe | Graphis Press Ltd | 1961
Download as .pdf (click on text link ‘Download in Browser’).

As I have described in a previous post the Church of Scientology not only has a list of banned books, but this list consists of works written by Scientologists in good standing which were once published with official approval and sold through orgs.

In 1983 (three years before Hubbards death)  all of these texts were withdrawn, and only books by L Ron Hubbard were permitted. Scientologists are not allowed to read them, now. Only books by Hubbard himself are deemed to contain ‘true Scientology’.

“This is Life” is a book about Scientology  published in 1961. It has been written by a very prominent Scientologist of the period.  Reg Sharpe was the personal assistant of L Ron Hubbard and the book was clearly endorsed by Hubbard himself, so it was quite influential among Scientologists.

The full text can be downloaded from the link above. This is a direct scan of an original copy of the book which, as far as I know, is available nowhere else online.

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“Blown”: A Novel Set in the World of the Sea Org

BlownBlown| Lauren Halsted Burroughs | 2016 | ISBN 978–0-692-68160-2 | Read Online

There is currently only one other novel (that I know of) set in the closed social world of Scientology, “The Symphony of Lief“, by Paul Y Csige. “Blown” is a welcome addition to this tiny sub-genre.

“Blown” is written by an outsider who is acting as a ghost writer for an ex-Scientologist. The content is based on her principal’s experience as a young, female, second generation Scientologist, who joined the Sea Org at an early age.

The Sea Org presents itself as equivalent to a monastic order, where the most dedicated Scientologists dedicate themselves to the cause. They wear pseudo-naval uniforms because the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard served in the US Navy. Although his career was actually undistinguished, Scientologist are told that he was a war hero.

The reality of Sea Org ‘service’ is equally disappointing. Many members are children of Scientologists who are pressured to join, or recruited straight out of Scientology schools (Download Evening Standard article about the UK’s “Greenfields School”). Having had no meaningful education they are consigned to a life of manual labour, for example restoring buildings bought by the Church of Scientology.

At the same time, they are required to ‘study’ Scientology and are subject to direct control over every aspect of their lives. This occurs both indirectly (through the requirements of Scientology and practice) and directly (though the application of military-style ‘discipline’ that is indistinguishable from abuse).

“Blown” principally follows the lives of two sisters (Amory and Riley) and their friend Daisy through their early careers in the Sea Org, and shows how destructive this kind of total institution is to human relationships and welfare. Continue reading