Social Control in Scientology, by Bob Penny  -- prevToCnext

Scientology Training: Selling "Hard Sell"

Scientology's indoctrination procedure consists, on the one hand, of an official line which emphasizes respect for individual reality and experience, and includes formal prohibition against "feeding cogs" or telling the person what he will experience or what to think about his case or about Scientology (called evaluating).

Underlying that official line is an enormous flow of informal data, such as wins sessions and success stories and just plain gossip, through which one begins to learn who are the bad guys and what are acceptable ideas and statements. The new group member begins to practice voicing these ideas (including the rationale and techniques of "dissemination") as his own, in fulfillment of obligatory participation in the bonhomie of the group.

Learning How to Learn

Scientology claims to be rational, founded on observable evidence, and scientific. In fact it is strongly anti-intellectual, espousing freedom of thought publicly while in practice bringing to bear emotional group pressures and influences which systematically create the opposite of the openly stated ideals.

Scientology's Student Hat (how to study) course contains LRH tape lectures filled with easily-agreed-with material about finding out for yourself, not blindly following authority, and seeing what really is there rather than what authority or training or habit says is there.

Yet the people who take those courses, and those who supervise them, are uniformly exposed to the fictitious and deceptive biography of Mr. Hubbard published in Church materials. Not once in thirteen years did I hear anyone openly question those fictions, and never did I hear from Church sources or members the truth of the man's background and activity. Instead, socially mandatory applause was universal practice in every Scientology courseroom I ever attended, repeatedly honoring the man Judge Breckenridge, after days of testimony (Los Angeles Superior Court, May, 1984), described as virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements. When success stories and wins are given publicly, obligatory applause creates a motive to rationalize agreement. (Why am I applauding? Oh, yes....)

Pointing out the discrepancy between official and unofficial would of course be a faux pas.

These same practitioners of Scientology's Study Tech also found nothing wrong with the efficacy of auditing being proved by anecdotal testimony given routinely under the most influenced circumstances imaginable, and with total lack of verification by sources not under Church control.

On one occasion when I communicated some of these concerns to a person who I thought was a trustworthy friend, the mere fact that I was thinking such things was greeted with horror and I was told to route yourself to Ethics and get it "handled." That is the true product of Scientology's Study Tech.

How Questions are Handled

Another bulwark of Scientology's attack on thought is the tenet that knowledge is not information or understanding, but certainty. Increased certainty is commonly cited in success stories as a benefit gained from auditing and training.

This ideal is so much part of Scientology's culture that any questioning or un-certainty comes to be seen as a moral failing, not to be admitted. In practice, certainty becomes synonymous with loyalty, and to be uncertain is to fail as a group member and very possibly to betray the group.

Questions about minor points of doctrine are "handled" routinely by cramming or retraining (at the person's expense). But uncertainty on any basic matter becomes a question of ethics or disloyalty to be handled with Scientology's ethics conditions.

The ethics conditions include the Condition of Doubt, through which the wavering group member is supposed to regain certainty. In following the prescribed remedy for that Condition, a question of fact, logic, or intellectual standards will be resolved by deciding who are your friends and what group you wish to belong to. The actual issues are disposed of or rationalized away in whatever way will permit an unambiguous affirmation of loyalty. (This is an example of the distraction and misdirection which I have cited elsewhere as key words describing my own experience of Scientology.)

The Doubt Formula includes gathering information on the two sides between which one is undecided. It is always a mutually exclusive either-or choice (no mention of none of the above). I never saw a doubt formula which gathered any information about Scientology beyond its own PR claims and stated intentions, nor would it be admissible within the group to do so.

Other information, not under group control, is labeled with the sweeping generality "enthetha," which categorically outlaws its consideration or dissemination without regard to truth or fact. Thus information which has been publicly available to others for many years, such as the facts of Hubbard's actual history and qualifications, is not commonly known to Scientologists.

The ideas of working hypothesis or conditional judgment based on the best evidence to date (which imply openness to new information) are excluded in favor of categorical appeals to group loyalty which require suppression of any contrary thought or data.

A sense of something wrong with this, or disagreements on specific issues, are "handled" alike by demanding that the individual resolve it now (complete his ethics condition) and categorically re-commit to the group. This cuts short any thought process or consideration of other data and is one of the best examples of this group's totalist, anti-pluralist control process. You are either totally with the group or totally against it.

I Will Wait until You Stop Asking

Questions may arise during training about unsubstantiated claims or about the relation of this material to mainstream lines of thought. The standard handling of such questions in Scientology is to explicitly disregard them. Instead, the student is told to do it "exactly as the materials state" and then observe whether it works. That approach sounds sensible: see if it works. Yet in this group environment, the actual results are twofold.

First, the student is prevented from integrating or aligning what he is studying with other things he already knows or might learn if he investigated. The normal processes of evaluation, comparison and judgment are bypassed.

Second, evaluation of the material is deferred until a later time when he has learned it exactly as stated, which may be a very long time indeed, because it is asserted that if he has questions then he has not understood the material. This provides time for the process of socialization through which, for extraneous reasons of group loyalty, the person will come to accept what he has been taught, believe in its correctness, and stop asking questions.

The effect is to replace questions of fact and evaluation of data with questions of group loyalty, to the point where the former become forgotten and indeed unthinkable.

Study Tech is only one example of the reversal of values on a gradient, which is what happens as Scientology's official line becomes correctly understood in actual group practice.

Being able to live with such contradictions is the hallmark of a Scientologist. The trick has to do with "unmocking", or making nothing of other values, so the contradiction ceases to have meaning. Only devotion to the group remains.

Another Example of Scientology Training: "I Am Not Your Auditor"

Early in the game, on the HQS course, for example, one is familiarized with certain rules of conduct called The Auditor's Code, also referred to as rules for civilized conduct. This includes rules against invalidating another person and against telling him what to think about his case or about Scientology (called evaluating). This familiar and apparently humanitarian approach makes it easy for the new person to get into it.

Later along the gradient, one learns that such rules apply only to an auditor during an auditing session, and that apart from that context (i.e., most of the time) invalidation is a standard means of control, and evaluation is the backbone of socialization into the group. In one of my early naive encounters with a registrar, I was aghast at his disregard for what I thought were central values of the group. His reply: "I am not your auditor."

The person hooked on The Auditor's Code learns from experience with registrars and others what it is really all about. By being a good listener, for example, the Scientologist masters just one more trick of manipulating communication to obtain compliance with ethics and Hard Sell.

A Separate Realm of Thought

Through such experience, much of what winds up in the minds of Scientologists -- including children exposed to this environment -- gets there through informal indoctrination under group pressures. Additional points of the informal indoctrination include:

Lack of alignment with ordinary reality is no accident, but is a vital part of disconnecting the person from the rest of life. Scientology is not to be seen as like psychology or like anything else. The proselyte must set up a separate category of thought, suspending disbelief, maintaining politeness, granting benefit of the doubt, operating in a part of his mind as if these things were true.

This separateness is necessary to create a niche of credibility, a beachhead for the trip, to create a conceptual space within which, for example, there is room to believe that "OT" ("Operating Thetan") means something more than a status within the group.

We learn many things by setting them aside separately until enough understanding has been achieved to make integration possible with the rest of life and thought (a conditional frame of reference).

What is different about cult indoctrination is closure -- that the cult's special frame of reference behaves like a cancer, preventing integration and seeking to destroy (invalidate) any competing or non-supportive realm of thought.

For example, there is no reason in principle why recent-past-life experience contacted in auditing could not be verified historically, if valid, and integrated with other modes of thought. But Scientologists do not do that. Integration is prevented.

Reference to non-Scientology standards of evidence are invalidated as meaning the person cannot observe or has fixed ideas or is subject to (dramatizing) unseen influences or evil intentions. To be a Scientologist, one must learn to accept it as a special frame of reference. This is a key criterion of valid group membership.

This new beachhead is emotionally connected to one's own ego and vanity. You have "cognited." You know the Truth. You are special. But others don't have the tech. They don't know the real (i.e., past life) causes of what they do. You wouldn't want to be like them, would you? This is the mental space from which other values and sources of meaning in life become subject to invalidation.

These specialized images of self and others become part of the expectations of a highly visible reference group. In the busy-ness of ordinary life there is no occasion to challenge them. Making sense of it all, in any wider context, is Not Done. It would be too much trouble. It is not the easy, sociable thing to do. You would have to deal with what people would think about the nonconformity. You would risk losing all that flattery about what a good, special, and important person you are.

Unresolved questions and dissatisfactions are easier to put off when conforming activities are so readily available (busy, rush, emergency, important) and when any deviation would be a big hassle. In Scientology, any nonconformity becomes a big hassle.

Critical thought or independent evaluation of what one is doing is prevented by incessant busy-ness and rush. The hype says that Scientologists are rational, even scientific, but the atmosphere is one of continuous crisis and emergency which interrupts and prevents rational thought. One gets points for how rapidly one completes a course. Sales cycles are always Buy Now because of some asserted emergency or other (the Church is under attack, we're in a desperate race to save the planet, etc.). To step back and think it over before signing the check is a sign of case interfering with Clearing the Planet, and if you let that happen you are out ethics.

Start of the Trap: The Numbers Game

The initial come-on (the start of the gradient) may have been in terms of tools for life, it might help, see if you find it useful or it worked for me. Just try it and then decide for yourself. If you were reluctant, you may have been accused of being closed minded, fearful, unwilling to change or improve. PR buttons such as freedom, ability, education, drug rehabilitation, etc. may have been used to attract your attention and interest.

The real purpose was to get you physically into the environment described here (called "bodies in the shop"), and exposed to the influences which seek to create in you this separate realm of thought and thus to bypass your own decisions, standards of evidence and evaluation, and original purpose. Whether because of a sense of danger or just the high prices, most of those exposed to all this do not stay. There have been a lot more Dianetics books sold and free personality tests given than there are Scientologists.

It is a numbers game. If enough people are exposed, there will be some with compatible emotional needs or situations in their current life which make them vulnerable, who will swallow the bait and become captive to the group.

The Trap Continues: Gradual Erosion

One step at a time, the new proselyte gradually finds ways to suspend disbelief and develops special criteria of evaluation to use when dealing with this group's data -- much as one might do with a pushy encyclopedia salesman. Midway through the sales pitch it becomes difficult and a failure of self to confront the displacement of one's own standards which has occurred ("but I thought you cared about your children..."). So you buy a set of encyclopedias and thereby escape the awkward situation you were boxed into. The salesman leaves with a check and you soon recover from a small blow to your dignity.

In Scientology, however, the salesman does not leave (figuratively speaking). What is sold is not just a book or course or some hours of auditing, but a set of ideas and perceptions which lead to the one conclusion of total commitment to the group. This does not end with any one-time concession. The accommodation of writing a check to get rid of the salesman is merely prelude to the next round of demands.

Any Scientology activity, be it a communication course, school for children, management course, drug rehabilitation program, or other apparently laudable activity contains this covert agenda.

Even well-meaning and contributing outsiders cannot be taken seriously on their own terms because they lack the special Truth available only to insiders, which cannot be examined or questioned. Any problem or disagreement with Church activity is interpreted by the Scientologist in private terms as the influence of harmful and unseen past-life causes and not really the person's own words or desire at all. As one gains understanding, outside reality becomes dim and distorted, seen only though a peculiar filter. One's responsibility to the group always becomes more clear.

At introductory levels you might be hoping for help with some situation or condition in your life. For a while you go on, hoping that your or your family's as-yet unresolved questions and problems will be resolved on some not-yet-reached higher level. By solving problems you never even knew you had (but which were discovered in auditing) you gradually forge a more thoroughgoing and consistent group-member identity. This becomes the measure of progress and the justification for continuing.

As more inches and miles are taken, one increasingly becomes an insider who accepts this situation and logic. Gradually you come to understand that the real purpose of Scientology is to help mankind, not you the individual.

You become a real insider with the next step, of understanding that your real duty is to the group, and that your personal condition and the failure of other individuals is not important. Thus your original need is solved by distraction and misdirection ("gung ho"). Scientology worked.

Where does this lead? In my own experience, while under a siege that I felt but was unable to recognize or understand, I became withdrawn, hostile, and incompetent in dealing with the ongoing issues of life.

By comparison, since getting out of the cult I can at least deal with the actual situations around me, for better or worse. Most striking is the change in ease of dealing with people since leaving the cult. I notice this especially and joyfully with my children and with co-workers. Within the cult there was always the filter of false and preemptive explanations and importances (those validations of insider status) which distracted from the actual situation at hand. A real dealing with situations would have involved open-ended amounts of heresy, forbidden other practices, or at least failure to apply the tech.

Any other learning, growth, or change would have been very difficult to follow through intelligibly and for the most part simply did not occur. The only solutions available were the redirection of attention type described above.

Factors of life not accounted for in Scientology's pop-psychology are called complexities. Attention to complexities is said to indicate something wrong with you, an inability to understand, or having something to hide. This discouragement of thought, plus the ever-present atmosphere of rush and hurry, left nowhere to go except deeper into gung-ho as the solution to all of life's problems.

Those years in Scientology were the most extended period in my life with the least of what I would consider real personal growth. They left quite an unfinished agenda for my real life to catch up on and go forward from.

After Gradual Erosion: Hard Sell

Not surprisingly, it takes increased force to maintain such increased levels of delusion, to ignore the vacuousness of claimed results and the ordinariness of superbeing "OTs." Status within the group becomes more and more the sole and exclusive basis of self-image.

As one becomes an insider, agreement is more and more presumed. Claimed respect for integrity and individuality gives way to an environment of undisguised peremptory orders and Hard Sell salesmanship: of participation, auditing, commitments, self-conceptions, ideas, ethics, or anything Church representatives want you to believe or do. Truth comes to exist in Hard Sell salesman terms, i.e., whatever it needs to be at the moment to invalidate your objections and obtain compliance.

Hard Sell technique that I observed (and was subjected to) consisted of a fast-paced and disorienting swirl of asserted and presumed agreements, trumped-up emergencies, plays on loyalty, physical exhaustion, sophistical arguments, accusations of betrayal, guilt-trips, browbeating, physical and verbal intimidation, humiliations, attacks, threats, insults, alienations of affection, ganging-up-on, asserted and presumed commitments, promises, demands, orders, invalidations, ridicule, plays on deeply felt needs, pleas, misidentifications, misrepresentations, putting words in my mouth, telling me what I think, asserted truths, validations, praise, flattery, plays on status, "trust me's" -- anything to destroy my position, to close the sale, to get the stat, to get the check. On one occasion (personal experience) this went on day and night for three days. These words do not begin to describe it.

Hard Sell is official written Church policy. It is justified in terms of this preemptive definition: caring enough about the person to insist that he Buy Now and get the service that will rehabilitate him. Actual techniques are learned primarily from role models, but also in classes and workshops.

The effect is to undermine all meaning and value apart from Scientology. It becomes permissible to destroy anything (of someone else's) to produce a result useful to the Church. A registrar told my wife, "What have you got to lose?" when they were discussing whether I might leave if she borrowed against our fledgling business to purchase Scientology services. That same registrar explained his actions to me, "I'm just doing my job."

I tried to explain away such events as just the isolated action of lone individuals, but after my 1986 trip to Scientology's base in Florida I could no longer deny that this sort of action is typical, characteristic, and approved by the Church. I saw and experienced additional instances, and attempts were made to recruit me for similar activity. I saw that a major activity at the religious retreat is to train people in such actions and to handle their scruples.

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