2014 | Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous | Gabriella Coleman
This recent book is written by an anthropologist and examines the strange, virtual, tribe of people who call themselves ‘Anonymous’.
The second chapter, which is entitled “Project Chanology – I came for the lulz, but stayed for the outrage” covers one of the earliest real-world campaigns undertaken by this online collective – its attack upon the Church of Scientology. It does so in loving, accurate detail, and includes the contribution of ‘Wise Beard Man” (aka Mark Bunker) which helped to make the mass protests so effective.
The involvement of Anonymous has had a profound influence on the culture of those who campaign against the Church of Scientology. It demonstrated how a groups of like-minded individuals, using anonymity and the Internet to work together, are more than equal to a inflexible bureaucracy like Scientology. However, as the book reveals, its involvement in the campaign against Scientology changed Anonymous just as much – from a group of uber-trolls to iconoclastic social campaigners.
This is a fascinating read for both Anons and ‘Old Guard’ critics of Scientology (who must have wondered where these strange, masked people came from, and what they were up to).
Unlike some academics, the author really understands the virtual culture which gave us Anonymous, the culture of Scientology critics and the motives of the people who belong to them both. She also writes in an engaging and accessible style. If you want to understand one of the greatest influences upon the shared culture of those who oppose Scientology, this is the book to read. Continue reading
Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through
interpersonal gazing | Giovanni B. Caputo| Psychiatry Research 228 (2015) 659-663 Download Full Text as .pdf
In plain language, this scientific paper describes a series of experiments which investigate the psychological consequences of two people (a dyad) staring at each other for a period of time (in this case, no longer than 10 minutes).
The author concludes that this can bring about visual hallucinations and a dissociated state, including a feeling of being disconnected from your body.
This is highly relevant to the ‘Training Routines’ (TR’s) taught to beginners in Scientology and Narconon – especially “TR0 Confronting“which is described on the linked page. During this exercise participants (who stare at each other for two hours or more) commonly recruit strange hallucinations and a feeling of leaving their body.
Note: page numbers given are from the .pdf reader software, not the article itself. Continue reading
2001 | Stephen A Kent
From Slogans to Mantras – Social Protest and Religious Conversion in the Late Vietnam Era
Extracts on Google Books
During the 1960’s left-wing activist groups in the USA fragmented and – their activities degenerated into pointless doctrinal arguments and political impotence. In this compelling book Kent argues that it is no coincidence that new religious movements (NRMs) mushroomed (and triggered a popular moral panic) during the same period.
He argues that their disillusionment with politics made political activists vulnerable to the recruiting pitch of those NRMs who presented themselves as a fashionably counter-cultural way in which to make a difference in a troubled world. In other words, many idealistic people looking for a mission in life migrated from politics to organisations like Scientology.
Although Kent’s discussion of Scientology during this period only occupies 21 pages of the book, its central argument explains a lot about the modern Church and its opponents.
For example, disaffected members of the Church of Scientology will often argue that Scientology in ‘the early days’ was not only less restrictive, but also more exciting and fulfilling than it is today. Many Independent Scientologists strive to recapture this atmosphere by practising outside of the authority of the Church.
Kent’s thesis suggests an alternative explanation – that the spirit of the times ensured that membership of any NRM appeared to be more meaningful to the participant (especially in retrospect) than it actually was.
1983 | Psychology’s Occult Doubles: Psychology and the Problem of Pseudoscience
Thomas Hardy Leahey and Grace Evans Leahey
This site began as an attempt to compile a comprehensive and up-to-date list of books examining Scientology from an academic and critical perspective. It branched out partly because I was running out of books. However, now and again, an overlooked but very valuable text turns up – and this is one such.
The book begins by using the work of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper in the philosophy of science to clearly draw the distinction between real science (specifically psychology) and pseudoscience.
The authors then develop their thesis by examining a number of historical pseudosciences which claimed to understand the human mind – Phrenology, Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Psychical Research and finally, “Contemporary Therapeutic Cults”. Their discussion of Scientology in this section is brief, but penetrating. Continue reading
Gateshead (UK) ‘Ideal Org’ in 2011
There is a lot going on in this academic treatise.
Kent analyses the development of Scientology according to the ideas of the Sociologist Rodney Stark. Stark has constructed a theoretical model that tries to explain why new religions succeed or fail .
Kent concludes that, according to Stark’s model, Scientology in Europe and the US is in decline, and the long-term prognosis is terminal.
Kent is not the only academic to have applied this theory to Scientology. Religious scholar James R Lewis has also done so in a book simply entitled “Scientology” (which has been widely criticized as an apologist work).
In this paper, Kent also critiques Lewis’ conclusions, both on matters of fact and interpretation. Continue reading
The Church of Scientology is a difficult organisation to study. It is secretive, and typically responds to requests from academics to observe its activities with refusal, suspicion and hostility.
However, all New Religious Movements are not like this. In its early days, the Unification Church (AKA ‘the Moonies’) allowed sociologists free access to its activities.
Two classic studies of the Unification Church were made during this period. Both closely examined the process of ‘conversion’ – that is, how outsiders are persuaded to think of themselves as believers.
Both studies made interesting observations about the process of ‘conversion’ and collected reliable figures about the success rates of Unification Church Missionaries. These insights can help to make good estimates of how successful Scientology’s recruitment efforts are – something Scientology keeps strictly secret.
This series has described a number of concepts, mostly drawn from social psychology, which are exploited by the Church of Scientology to control its members.
It’s worth pointing out that people in the wider world (you and I included) share these psychological quirks.
Attribution theory reveals a bias which is both used against Scientologists when they are in the Church, and works against them after they leave. Continue reading