I 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
The image to the left shows Braco Ivica, a 48-year-old Croatian man known to his followers as “The Gazer”.
They believe that, if they return his gaze, he will somehow be able to ‘absorb’ their mental and physical ailments, and heal them. They make a variety of claims to this effect.
When Braco appears in public (for his followers to gaze upon him) he protects his mystique by a policy of enigmatic silence – he never, ever speaks a word. He hardly even moves. He also provides regular video feeds, enabling followers to experience his virtual gaze.
On the surface, there appears to be no similarity between Braco and Scientology. However, one of Scientology’s ‘training routines’ is actually very similar indeed to ‘gazing’. I suspect that both Braco and the TR exploit the same compelling psychological phenomenon. After that, the parallels come thick and fast. 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
Download ‘Narconon Theraputic TR Course’ as .pdf
In the first part of this series I proposed to examine all of the nine workbooks use by clients in residential drug rehabilitation facilities run by Narconon (a Scientology front group) and demonstrate that Narconon training was simply Scientology in disguise.
The title of the first Narconon workbook is “Narconon Therapeutic TR Course”. It ‘teaches’ the same exercises as the “Success through Communications course”, which covers TR’s 0-4 is required of beginning Scientologists, and the “Hubbard Qualified Scientologist course” which covers the remaining 9 exercises.
In Scientology terminology, ‘TR’ stands for ‘Training Routine’. TRs are an escalating series of psychologically gruelling exercises performed with a partner. Exactly the same TRs are taught in Narconon (and in other Scientology front groups, such as Criminon and WISE) as in Scientology.
The workbook promises that TRs will “[…] help you increase and improve your ability to confront control and communicate, and to help you come off drugs”. These aims are identical to those of the corresponding course for new Scientologists – except for the tacked-on “[..] and to help you come off drugs”.
As always, I would be very grateful to any ex-scientologists who could provide links to the Scientology training literature which corresponds to the material in each Narconon workbook. I will add these to each post to drive the message home: Narconon = Scientology in disguise. Please use the comments section below or the feedback page to suggest links.
In the previous part of this series we examined the evidence and arguments that L Ron Hubbard presented to support the claims he made for Dianetics in the May 1950 issue of “Astounding Science Fiction” (download the whole issue here as a /pdf file).
We have not yet discussed the last part of the article, in which Hubbard describes how Dianetics will supposedly change the world. I’m saving that for the next part of this series. In this part, I would like to examine an interesting aspect of Dianetics – Hubbard’s comparison of the operation of healthy human mind with a perfect computer – the ‘analytical mind’.
In the Dianetics article, Hubbard compares the typical human mind to a mechanical calculator with a stuck key – a “held down 7”. It is capable of accurate computation but is failing because of a simple fault. Hubbard presents Dianetics as a means to restore the functioning of a person’s faulty ‘analytical mind’ and realise their potential for superhuman power .
This imagery owes a lot to contemporary stories about ‘mechanical brains’ (and, incidentally, represents a classic pulp fiction power fantasy). Robbie the Robot (from the film “Forbidden Planet) is a perfect example. When Robbie ‘thought’ the moving parts inside his transparent head clattered like a mechanical adding machine.
All unknown to Hubbard, in the period before, during and after the publication of Dianetics the theoretical foundations of computer science were being laid. The development of electronic computers led greater intellects than his to wonder about the relationship between computing and the human mind. Their speculations and conclusions led to modern computers and,years later, contributed an important thread to the new discipline of cognitive psychology. This perspective enables us to understand why Hubbard’s ideas about the ‘analytical mind’ are so hopelessly shallow and naive.
A few people who have commented on what I have posted here over the past year have asked what my personal philosophy is and whether I have ever been involved in Scientology.
These both strike me as fair questions, since they influence my writing on the subject so, after the break, I will start the New Year with a presentation of my eccentric perspective on the subjects of Scientology and belief in general.
In passing, I would like to point out that this blog had its first birthday on Christmas Eve. I would have celebrated, but my Internet connection had failed the day before, and it has taken me this long to catch up. Please be assured that normal service has now resumed.
Also, I extend my (belated) best wishes for 2015 to all the people who have visited this site – including present members of the Church of Scientology, Independent Scientologists, ex-members and interested outsiders.
Peace on Earth, among men [and women] of good will!
The first thing that new Scientologists do is a series of ‘Training Routines’ (TRs), and in an earlier post, we saw video demonstrations of ‘TRs’ by two ex-Scientologists.
In one Training Routine (TR-0) two people sit and stare at each other until they can do this without moving for more than two hours. ‘Learning’ how to do this can take much longer.
Unsurprising, this practice has strange psychological consequences – for example, participants commonly experience vivid hallucinations, and there is good evidence to suspect that they also enter a state of elevated suggestibility.
Early critics of Scientology viewed this practices as a form of hypnotic induction, and L Ron Hubbard claimed, in his ‘lectures’ and elsewhere, to be an expert hypnotist. Over the years, this explanation has been used (not always coherently) to explain the altered states of consciousness experienced during TRs (and many other aspects of Scientology practice).
This idea has its points – but I would like to propose an concept which I think is a much better fit (at least for the TRs) – the Ganzfeld Effect. In this post, I will try to explain what it is, and show how it explains the experiences people have when doing their TRs.
2005 | Education and Re-Education in Ideological Organizations and Their Implications for Children
Stephen A Kent Phd professor of sociology at the University of Alberta at Edmonton, Canada
Originally published in Cultic Studies Review Vol. 4, No. 2,
View Online | Download as .pdf
In this paper, Kent examines the attitudes of a number of “high control groups” (including Scientology) towards children. In all of these organisations he finds that:
- The overwhelming majority of the second generation abandon their parent’s ‘faith’, leaving as soon as they are old enough
- The reason for this is that group membership made such demands on the time and attention of parents that they did not have any time to spend with their kids – let alone time to indoctrinate them into a ramshackle belief system that was being made up as it went along.
In a previous post we discussed Stanley Milgram’s famous experiment investigating obedience to Authority, and suggested that it helped to explain why good people, when they become Scientologists, comply with orders that have bad consequences for others.
Milgram created a machine that administered convincing, but phoney electric shocks to an actor who pretended to be in pain. Nobody was at any risk.
His experimental subjects were ordinary people who were required to administer shocks in the course of an ‘experiment into learning’. The experimental procedure manipulated them into gradually increase the intensity of those shocks until they (apparently) reached a dangerous level.
When the experimental subjects began to doubt the morality of what they were doing, an ‘authority figure’ (the scientist in charge of the experiment) insisted that the procedure must continue.
Incredibly, 68% of continued to administer shocks all the way up a potentially lethal 450V.
There is an crucial feature of this experiment that is strongly enphasised by Scientology, and it explains a lot about its power to persuade members to comply to demands that go against their basic personality. Continue reading
We have all experienced the frustration of speaking to a conspiracy theorist whose belief in extraterrestrial visitors, cold fusion, or a connection between brain cancer and mobile ‘phones is utterly unshakeable.
One of the ways people maintain this kind of belief is by seeking out evidence which confirms their belief and rejecting or ignoring anything which does not.
Although conspiracy theorists take this to the extreme, a tendency to think in this way (called confirmation bias) is wired into human beings.
Because it is easier to process information that we are already familiar with, once we have formulated an belief, we tend to stick with it, looking for ways to make it work in every situation.
The problem is that sometimes our cherished idea simply wrong, and confirmation bias prevents us rejecting it so that we can start to formulate a better explanation. Confirmation bias is illustrated perfectly in the video below. See if you can solve the puzzle (without reading the answer first). Continue reading