Sunday, July 1, 2012
My spiritual journey has taken me down a number of dead-ends and detours before finally bringing me home. Last time, I discussed my experiences with the Silva Method. Before that, I mentioned my time with Buddhism. Today I would like to tell you about my brief encounter with Scientology.
It actually happened completely by accident. I was desperate for work in order to pursue my university studies. My friend Trevor spotted an advert in the local paper. It looked hopeful and so we both went along to apply for the job. They said that, in order to work there, we needed to complete a personality test. This was basically a large and very detailed multiple-choice questionnaire designed to tell them what kind of people we were.
An hour later, we handed in the completed forms and they were whisked away to be scored. A little while later, we were presented with the results and informed that we were both suitable candidates. We could, we were told, start as volunteer workers for the Church of Scientology.
Hold on a second. The Church of What? And....voluntary? As in, work for free? Naturally, I was a little bit disappointed. It said nothing about churches or voluntary work in the advert. We politely declined because, as much as I agree with the whole concept of work-experience, this was not what I had in mind, and it certainly was not going to help me pay for my studies. Before we left, however, they offered us a free Dianetics session. The first session, they told us, is always free. I looked at Trevor and he shrugged. Free was good. At least the day would not be completely wasted, even if we had no idea what Dianetics was.
We were assigned an "auditor" and led into separate rooms. I was asked to sit in a comfortable reclining chair, close my eyes, and relax. The audtor then asked me to try to remember a particularly painful experience from my past. I recalled an event involving the death of a family pet. I was told to describe it in as much detail as I could remember. I did this over and over again. I was told to try to remember the emotional pain. The idea was to relive the event as closely as possible. I must have described the whole scenario a dozen times. I could remember the heartache as if were happening all over again.
Then, suddenly, it was as if dark clouds had parted and the sun had burst through into my mind. I could no longer recall the pain. I told the auditor and he said I should open my eyes. He asked how I felt and I said I felt really good. I will never forget the strange smile on his face. It was only when I caught my reflection in the window that I realized whay he was smiling. Even though I felt relaxed, I had this big grin on my face. I asked why I was grinning and he said that this was a normal reaction to a Dianetics session.
I met up with Trevor and he too was smiling. We were presented with free copies of the Dianetics book and informed that the next session would cost $200. So, not only were they looking for someone to work for free. They were also expecting us to fork out $200 a pop to revisit old memories. For a pair of broke students, that was a no-brainer.
We drove home in silence, probably both trying to figure out what we had just experienced. I read the book, even though I had no intention of ever going back. The experience had been powerful, but $200 was just too expensive. According to the book, the idea behind Dianetics is to cleanse the "auditee" of painful memories, thereby removing what Hubbard called the "reactive mind". According to Hubbard, the human brain is made up of three parts.
1) The subconscious "reactive mind".
2) The conscious "analytical mind".
3) The conscious somatic mind, which seeks to satisfy the analytial and reactive minds at a physical level.
By purging the reactive mind, Hubbard believed that people could free themselves of unwanted subconscious urges and become "clear". I met a number of Scientologists in the years following my encounter with Dianetics and they all had one aim in mind: to become "clear". I met ony lady who, whenever she made a mistake or dropped something, would get visibly angry and curse her "reactive mind". She was working towards one goal: to pay for her next Dianetics session.
Over the following two years, I started studying towarda a degree in psychology. In my second year, I studied Freud and his theory of Psychoanalysis. I was immediately struck by the similarities with Dianetics.
Function Dianetics Psychoanalysis
Basic urges (subconscious) Reactive mind Id
Reasoning (conscious) Analytical mind Superego
Referee (conscious) Somatic mind Ego
The only difference between Dianetics and Psychoanalysis is that Hubbard claimed to know the physcial location of memory within the brain, whereas Freud did not.
So what exactly did I experience during that Dianetics session? Personally, I believe that Hubbard hit upon a method of applying the principles of psychoanalysis combined with mild hypnosis in a way that allows the subject to experience immediate, almost euphoric, results. By digging away at painful memories, forcing people to relive events they have buried away in their subconscious, they induce a sense of release similar to that experienced after a period of mourning. This feeling of release is something that I could imagine is quite additive. I can undertsand why people with money to burn would return over and over again until someone announced them "clear".
L.Ron Hubbard was quoted on more than one occasion as saying that, in order to become "really wealthy", you need to start a religion. He achieved this by persuading people to work for nothing while paying exhorbitant fees for what is little more than a series of psychoanalysis sessions. Not too long ago, Scientology was actually recognized as a religion by the US, although many other countries do not recognize it as such. The religious aspect seems to stem, not from a belief in God, but from the idea postulated by Hubbard that humans are actually immortal beings who have fallen from their true status. Presumably then, Scientology sees us as gods with the aim of Dianetics being to help us rediscover our godly nature. The "auditors", then, are the priests.
So the Church of Scientology is a religion of self, conceived by a science-fiction writer with the confessed aim of making a lot of money, and whose main means of spiritual advancement is a theory of psychology no longer taken seriously by anyone except those with a vested interest.
The Bible has a lot to say about self-worship, about the potential evils of "filthy lucre", and it offers sage advice to anyone seeking mental health. At its very core, Dianetics is really nothing more than belated grieving for painful events from the past. I can't help wonder if perhaps Hubbard was familiar with Ecclesiastes 3, especially verse 4:
Ecclesiastes 3 (KJV)
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
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