What do New Scientologists Actually *Do*?

do fish swim2012 | Jessie Prince and Stacy Brooks Demonstrate the Basic Scientology TRs [Training Routines] | YouTube

Part One:   View Online | Download as .mp4
Part Two:   View Online | Download as .mp4

News and discussion about the Church of Scientology is dominated by big issues – for example the activities of  “Narconon”, a front group for the Church of Scientology.

Narconon claims to rehabilitate drug users, but actually offers a completely unscientific programme based on the writings of L Ron Hubbard and  is presently under siege from a growing number of legal actions in the US (more than 22 as of  September 2014).

Many of these suits allege that their clients are subjected to an ineffective and potentially dangerous regime of saunas and vitamin/mineral overdoses and “training routines”  – which turn out to be identical to the programme undertaken by novice Scientologists.

Few sites explain exactly what the ‘training’ that novice Scientologists undertake actually consists of. This leaves observers like me, who have never been members of the Church, unable to judge whether or not it is worthwhile.

Fortunately, two ex-Scientologists, Jesse Prince and Stacy Brooks have made two videos which show, by demonstration, the basic “Training Routines” (or “TRs”) that novice Scientologists are expected not only to complete but also constantly practice for as long as they are members of the Church.

Read on, and  play embedded versions of the videos after the break. Continue reading

The History of Credibility Attacks Against Former Cult Members (Scientology Spies)

credibility2011 | The History of Credibility Attacks Against Former Cult Members | Stephen A Kent Phd

Download as .pdf

This paper discusses the controversy within social science (Kent is a sociologist) regarding the value of the testimony of ex-members of “high-control groups” – including the odd reference to Scientology.

In it, a prominent academic who has worked extensively with ex-members of these groups (and is an expert on Scientology) discusses,

[the problems] that have arisen with cult critics attempting to work with some former members, or at least people claiming to have left various groups.

and notes that,

A brief history of those problems, therefore, provides a cautionary tale worth telling in anti-cult
or counter-cult circles.

It is by keeping half an eye on the possibility that some few ex-members are not completely reliable that Kent has developed his formidable reputation as an accurate and objective scholar. This makes his criticisms of “high control groups” all the more effective – for example, his condemnation of Scientology’s labour camps (the RPF) for human rights abuses.

This is a good lesson for activists, who may find their own long-term credibility damaged by an encounter with any of the six types of unreliable potentially unreliable informants that Kent Describes. Continue reading

Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 11 – ‘Brainwashing’

brainwashingIn the previous 10 parts of this series I have explored some of the insights that post-war psychology provides into the extraordinary power which the Church of Scientology  holds over its members.

These  theories did not exist in the early days of the Church of Scientology. The only psychological framework that seemed to offer an explanation for the strange behaviour of converts then, was ‘brainwashing’.

Unfortunately,  Cold War ideology got in the way of science, and the result was a very questionable theory.

Since then, there has been almost half a century of progress in psychology and social psychology (and intensive study of a variety of ‘cults’). This progress has both discredited the brainwashing thesis, and provided much better explanations for ‘mind control’. This new understanding is more subtle and complicated… but that’s life.

I will try to explain below why I believe that ‘brainwashing’, as an explanation for the behaviour of Scientologists,  should be abandoned, why it has persisted for so long,  and why this matters. Continue reading

Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force

german flagTitle: Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force

Author: Stephen A Kent

Full Text Online: HTML

Published by: German InteriorMinistry Behörde für Inneres — Arbeitsgruppe Scientology und Landeszentrale fuür politische Bildung

Abstract: This study examines the confinement programs and camps that Scientology operates as supposedly rehabilitative facilities for “deviant” members of its “elite” Sea Organization. These programs, known collectively as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), put coerced participants through regimes of harsh physical punishment, forced self-confessions, social isolation, hard labour, and intense doctrinal study, all as part of leadership-designed efforts to regain members’ ideological commitment. The confinement that participants experience, combined with forms of physical maltreatment, intensive ideological study, and forced confessions, allows social scientists to speak of the RPF as a “brainwashing” program.

Missing in Happy Valley?

RPF_Los_Angeles1999 Missing in Happy Valley?
Ina Brockmann and Peter Reichelt | German Television

Revised 1st April 2014 (Original You tube video removed)
Download video file in .flv format

A documentary about Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force (the RPF) produced by Peter Reichelt and Ina Brockmann for German television. It is dubbed into English.

Scientologists in the Sea Org who have offended the organisation are required to do manual labour for long hours with minimal nutrition in order to make amends.  Normally this takes place within Scientology organisations. The ironically named “Happy Valley” is a dedicated RPF site in California – a combination prison and labour camp which houses not only adults but also children.

Scientology claims that working in these camps is a free choice on the part of members who seek redemption for ‘religious’ failings. Critics observe that there is, in fact, not only a coercive element (people are “assigned” to the RPF and have no choice between participating or leaving Scientology) but the number of those ‘assigned’ increases whenever cheap labour is required for a Scientology project.

The subject of the RPF is covered in the sociologist Stephen A Kent’s paper ” Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation project force (RPF)“.

There is a full written transcript of this programme after the cut. Continue reading

Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

Thought_Reform_LiftonTitle: Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism

Author: Robert Jay Lifton

ASIN: B006M9RZQA

Description:

Lifton (a qualified psychiatrist) based this book on interviews with US servicemen who had been subjected to coercive ‘thought reform’ as POWs during the Korean war, and Chinese Citizens who fled their country after experiencing similar treatment during the cultural revolution.

It is significant that almost all of the POWs, although often traumatised, resumed their pre-war personalities when they returned home, and the Chinese interviewed managed the difficult feat of escaping a closed country while actually being ‘brainwashed’.

The techniques identified by Lifton, on their own, seem to be ineffective in ‘ideal’ circumstances, and rely on having the victim under complete physical control. Consequently, ‘brainwashing’ does not explain personality change among Cult members who are rarely imprisoned, and never during the early stages of involvement. Continue reading

Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements

comprehending cultsTitle: Comprehending Cults: The Sociology of New Religious Movements

Author: Lorne L Dawson

ISBN: 0195411544

Description:

An excellent easy-to-read text about New Religious Movements, notable for the 125 page discussion in Chapter Four: “Are Converts to new Religious Movements ‘Brainwashed’? which contains a 12-point critique of  the concept of brainwashing’.

The rest of the book is well worth the effort for Scientology-watchers, as it provides background information about general features of New Religious Movements.