What Does “Braco” (a New Online Guru) Have to Teach us About Scientology?

bracoThe 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

The Compelling Effects of Simply Staring: Understanding the Scientology Mindset Part 13

stareDissociation 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

Scientology and the Presumed Fragility of Unconventional Beliefs

fragile belief1982 | On the Presumed Fragility of Unconventional Beliefs | David A Snow and Richard Machalek | Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 21 (1) 15-26
View Online | Download as .pdf

To an outsider, it is an understatement to say that the doctrines of Scientology appear implausible and lack credibility. A common question from people who encounter them for the first time (for example the Xenu story) is, ‘how can anyone believe this nonsense?’.

Scholars tend to assume that because such ideas are easily disproved, belief in them is “fragile” – this is, it may be broken or lost at any time. They have developed various theories  to explain why it often persists despite this fragility.  Most hold that fringe groups exert powerful social pressure on believers, who rationalise away their doubts in a psychological process known as cognitive dissonance.

The authors of this paper observe that scholars are (by nature and training) analytical and sceptical –  and  that this may be a form of bias. They suggest ‘true believers’ do not share these characteristics, and may have no difficulty in holding weird beliefs. In other words, scholars are over-thinking it, and inventing complex theories to solve a problem which, in fact, only exists for them.

They turn the tables on scholars and ask, “perhaps it is disbelief, rather than belief that is in need of attention”.

This is a genuine, well-argued, minority viewpoint.  I think it has some merit – but is dangerously inappropriate when applied to Scientology (which is one of their examples).

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

Scientology: Religion or Racket?

tragedy42003 | Scientology: Religion or Racket? | Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi
Read Online | Download as .pdf

This paper is an original take on the ongoing debate over whether or not The Church of Scientology is a religion or not.

In 2001, after the terrorist attack that destroyed the World Trade Centre, Fox news received an e-mail. It included a ‘hotline’ which the author claimed would provide people traumatised by this terrible event with referrals to appropriate agencies and emotional support.

In the chaos after the attack, journalists included this number in their coverage without checking into its source. For several hours, viewers of Fox news saw a telephone number scrolling across the bottom of the screen: “MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE 800-FOR-TRUTH” (see the image above).

It soon emerged that the hotline was provided by the Church of Scientology in an apparent attempt to insure that vulnerable people contacted The Church of Scientology instead of their perceived enemy, psychiatry (which they believe is engaged in a conspiracy to oppress mankind, and is responsible for many historical evils – including the Nazi Holocaust). Continue reading

Scientology: One of Psychology’s Occult Doubles

psychologys occult doubles1983 | Psychology’s Occult Doubles: Psychology and the Problem of Pseudoscience

Thomas Hardy Leahey and Grace Evans Leahey

ISBN-10: 0882297171
ISBN-13: 978-0882297170

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

The Decline of Scientology

Gateshead ideal org

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