The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 21

Does Scientology Work?

... I would say there is no validity [to Scientology processing]. But within Scientology you find a great deal of very direct truths, but then it is sort of like a bre'r rabbit tar baby. Inside the tar is this little nugget of truth; but all this black tar is over the side of it so people reach for the truth and they get all hung up in the tar and the various organizations and the science itself becomes perverted.
-- L. Ron Hubbard Jr.{1}

Hubbard once claimed that processing could help or cure such ailments as astigmatism, arthritis, allergies, asthma, bursitis, cataracts, some coronary difficulties, colds, dermatitis, possibly diabetes, glandular imbalance, leukemia (which Hubbard said may have been caused by an engram which recorded the expression "it turns my blood to water"), migraine headaches, polio, radiation burns, sinusitis, thyroid malfunctioning, tuberculosis, ulcers, etc.{2}

In addition, Dianetics, and possibly Scientology is supposed to "turn on and run out incipient cancer,"{3} and Hubbard believed that cancer, "especially malignant cancer," may be caused by engrams.{4} One man in Scientology who was dying of a malignant growth in his stomach spent two and a half to six hours a day for several months while his auditor asked him (among other things): "What stomach can you confront?" "What stomach would you rather not confront?" "Think of a stomach you can confront?" "Think of a stomach you'd rather not confront," etc. The man died.{5}

Hubbard has also claimed that Dianetics or Scientology can alter the shape of the body and make people grow taller, make them ambidextrous, make the insane sane, cure chronic chills, impotency, manic states, laryngitis, make children more beautiful, change the personality, improve Parkinson's disease, and make large bruises disappear in forty-five minutes.{6} Scientology processing can apparently even bring the dead back to life, since Hubbard described a miracle one of his auditors performed that he said "the Pope himself would have been proud to own." Hubbard claims they brought a dead child back to life by ordering the thetan back and telling him to take over the body again.{7}

Unfortunately, many of Hubbard's claims have not been and cannot be substantiated. There isn't time to analyze all of these claims. One claim, however, is that Scientology can relieve radiation burns, and that the reaction to radiation in persons who have been given processing was "by actual tests" much lower than those who have not received it.

Hubbard considers himself to be an expert in this field, and even wrote a book as a "nuclear physicist" entitled All About Radiation. As in almost all of Hubbard's books, the dedication was more interesting than the book. That one was dedicated to Winston Churchill "who could have written and said it much better" and Dwight David Eisenhower "who could solve it if he had a little more cooperation."{8}

In All About Radiation Hubbard said they could "run out radiation" and "proof" people up against it. How can he prove such claims? He can't. So Scientologists simply say that they can cure the radiation we have in our bodies right now from our past lives.{9} One can doubt it, but it's hard to disprove. They even sold a pill, Dianezene, to be used to wipe out radiation from our current and past lives.{10}

Scientology is supposed to improve marriages,{11} but the rate of divorce at the Orgs would put Hollywood to shame.{12} Even Hubbard has been married three times. Two of the marriages were very stormy (he claims that this is because his first wives weren't Scientologists, while his current one is{13} -- he not only met her in Dianetics but she sometimes acts as his auditor{14}).

Scientology is supposed to cure frigidity. One woman who went to Scientology for that purpose was taught things that caused her husband to get a separate bed. Eventually he divorced her.{15} In another case, a man refused to have sex with his wife because he felt he was too high on Hubbard's "tone scale" and that his wife was too low to bother.{16}

Scientology is supposed to improve creativity but some Scientologists, while believing they're getting more and more creative every day, actually have stopped painting, writing, and sculpting, and spend all of their time on Scientology.{17} Scientology is supposed to improve memory, but the one time Hubbard publicly introduced a clear who was supposed to be able to remember everything, including every single moment of her past, most of the audience of 6,000 people walked out when she was unable to remember a single formula in physics -- the subject she was majoring in at the time -- or even the color of Hubbard's tie when his back was turned.{18}

Scientology claims it can increase a person's I.Q., while actually the I.Q. can't be increased substantially.{19} Nonetheless, Hubbard wrote President Kennedy that Scientology could increase the I.Q. at the rate of one point for every hour of auditing,{20} and he once told a reporter that he had raised an I.Q. from 83 to 212.{21} Like many of Hubbard's claims, however, raising the I.Q. makes for good advertising copy and helps to bring insecure people into the Orgs. Hubbard told his followers that if someone's I.Q. is low, tell him "Scientology training can raise that." If it's high, tell him "I.Q. means little unless a person knows something with it."{22}

Furthermore, afterwards, these people feel that they've been helped by Scientology because they believe that their I.Q. has been raised. What has actually improved is only the score on their I.Q. test -- and why shouldn't it? There is some evidence that the Scientologists give the same test twice.{23}

Psychologists for years have been aware of the "practice effect" which means, in effect, that someone given the same test twice will do better the second time, not because they'll cheat and look up the answers they missed, or discuss it with someone else who took the test, which is always a possibility, but because they are familiar with the surroundings, they understand the test and the directions better, they are less nervous, etc.{24} Not true, says Hubbard, "Everybody in the ... Universe is on a `mustn't happen again' and we automatically figure that a test taken twice will get a worse grade the second time."{25}

One of the reasons that many of Scientology's claims can't be substantiated is that much of Hubbard's research runs counter to common knowledge and sometimes to common sense. During the days of Dianetics, for instance, perhaps it should have been called "Diarrhetics" since Hubbard gave preclears large doses of a haphazard mixture of vitamins and glutamic acid called "guk"{26} in order to make them "run better" -- although there's little evidence elsewhere that diarrhea improves mental health.

His theory of the Boo-Hoo, or the primeval clam, is another example of his strange reasoning. He stated that his Boo-Hoo which "marked the transition from life in the sea to life on land" had a miserable life because it could get stranded or attacked by predatory birds. But if life was just emerging from the sea, where did the predatory birds come from?{27}

Another claim: In his book called the History of Man he used the example of Piltdown Man to support one of his theories.{28} Even after Piltdown Man was exposed as a scientific hoax, Hubbard didn't change his theory. In the same book, he told how Scientology could cure toothaches, a description which would surely make every dentist or even medically knowledgeable person cringe:

The Pulp of a tooth, for instance, tracks back, cell by cell, to early engrams; when these are relieved a "toothache" in that tooth becomes almost impossible, no matter how many "nerves" are exposed, a matter which brings about quite a revolution in dentistry.{29}

In his best-seller, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, he said that Dianetics could improve hearing as follows:

... calcium deposits, for example, can make the ears ring incessantly. The removal of aberrations permits the ear to readjust toward its reachable optimum, the calcium deposits disappear and the ears stop ringing.{30}
The trouble with this is that it has never been proven in the first place that calcium deposits cause ringing in the ear.

Perhaps some of these discrepancies have appeared because of the nature of Hubbard's "research" discussed in the last chapter. According to his second wife, who was married to him at the time he was supposed to be doing his research, there was no research done, no subjects run, the book was written in three months off the top of his head, and the "case studies" were the figment of his fertile imagination.{31} Furthermore, as many people have suspected, she said the 1938 supposedly stolen manuscript Excalibur did not exist. She said it was one of those books that Hubbard always said he might like to write one day.

A reading of Hubbard's case studies seems to support the notion that his Dianetic theories emerged from his own imagination. Those cases that Hubbard described "in detail," which for him meant two pages, are simply rather hard to believe.{32}

For example, he cited the case of a man who got an impacted wisdom tooth which had to be pulled, a situation that ultimately led to the man's being put in a mental institution. In the beginning of this "case history" the man met a nurse who was "sexually aberrated" and an "aberee among aberees," who pumped him for information about his life while he was unconscious.

A few years later he met someone similar to the nurse, divorced his wife and married the pseudo nurse. His teeth got worse. His cavities increased. His memory degenerated. He developed eye troubles and a strange conjunctivitis. His lungs hurt. His energy dissipated. And because the dentist leaned on his stomach and chest with a sharp elbow during the wisdom teeth operation, he had stomach pains. Naturally he started beating his wife, in this case because the dentist had been angry with the original nurse. The wife, in turn, attempted suicide. And this man ended up in a mental institution. "Only the cavalry in this one case, arrived in the form of Dianetics and cleared the patient and the wife and they are happy today. This is an actual engram and an actual case history," Hubbard added, just in case no one believed him.{33}

Ira Wallach in Hopalong Freud poked fun at Hubbard's scientific experiments. "Here is a classic example of the flex" he wrote, meaning an engram,

drawn from one of the 855 patients on whom the Diapetic Institute conducted clinical tests with maddeningly strict scientific controls. Shortly after conception the foetus in question overheard an argument between its parents. The argument, acrimonious in character, reached its climax when the mother shouted "Go ahead, you son of a bitch, hit me with that andiron...." Whenever the patient in adult life caught sight of an andiron (or a son of a bitch) he insisted upon being beaten on the head....{34}

Yet Scientologists take as gospel truth every word that Hubbard writes, even if they don't understand it. Although some of Hubbard's writing is poetic, some of it is also incomprehensible and a lot of it is just pretentious. Some of this may be a put-on; for example, he wrote an article telling his followers that it was best to use soup cans for the E-meter,{35} and titled the article "E-meter Electrodes: A Dissertation on Soup Cans."

But Hubbard also seems to try deliberately to be incomprehensible, perhaps confusing inscrutability with wisdom. He has written seven Prelogics and twenty-four Logics plus fifty-eight Scientology axioms{36} ("AFFINITY IS A SCALE OF ATTITUDES WHLCH FALLS AWAY FROM THE COEXISTENCE OF STATIC, THROUGH THE INTERPOSITIONS OF DISTANCE AND ENERGY TO CREATE IDENTITY DOWN TO CLOSE PROXIMITY BUT MYSTERY"), and one hundred-ninety-four Dianetic axioms ("THETA VIA LAMDA EFFECTS AN EVOLUTION OF MEST"). The Australian Report commented on these, saying that "as axioms they claim to be self-evident truths, but they are neither true nor self evident."{37}

And yet Hubbard, the same person who wrote the above, is always saying that Scientologists should never go past any word they don't understand,{38} and he even goes to the trouble of defining simple little words like "synonymous" for his followers.{39} Perhaps he should have also defined the following:

I think ... if what we really observed was what we were observing that we always observed to observe. And not necessarily maintaining a skeptical attitude, a critical attitude, or an open mind. But certainly maintaining sufficient Personal Integrity and sufficient personal belief and confidence in self and courage that we observe what we observe and weigh what we have observed.{40}

Still, his followers believe that every word he writes is The Truth. In fact, a group of Hubbard's admirers wrote a book comparing his statements with the Bible (along with Saint Thomas Aquinas) where they believed the meanings were parallel.{41}

It's hard to believe that Scientology or Dianetics has actually ever helped anybody. Yet the Scientologists have testimonial books in their lobby filled with "success stories" of people who have been helped by Scientology, and they even have a Director of Success at the Orgs who elicits these testimonials.{42} The testimonials delivered do not tell of long range effects, however.

Even if these testimonials are not of very much value, the fact remains that a great number of people believe that they have been helped by Scientology and Dianetics, and probably many of them have been helped. Below are two testimonials, and while there were literally hundreds to choose from, these two were very complete, listing a large number of ailments that had been cured and a variety of ways that Dianetics had helped them.

The first letter comes from a 35-year old woman who had an unbelievable host of symptoms: she used to cry all the time, couldn't see very well, was very nervous, had trouble gaining weight, was inhibited, dependent, afraid of crowds, had pains on her side, the measles she had at eleven seemed to have "settled in her left eye," was constantly talking, and had two operations during the time she was in Dianetics. She kept a diary over a period of a few months to show how processing had not only helped her relieve a large number of these symptoms but enabled her breasts and feet to grow and her hair to curl:

My hair ... in the last three weeks it curls more than ever.... I can't explain it but my feet seem to be growing! Of course I am developing more all over. I have had rather large pores around my nose for several years. In the last week I noticed that my skin has smoothed out and is more like when I was twenty ... about two months ago I noticed my feet seemed to be growing ... before starting on these sessions my breasts were unusually small. In fact, I wore a size 32A brassiere ... I am now wearing a size 34C and from all indications will wear still larger. My breasts never really developed as they should, but now, thanks to Dianetics, I am beginning to be as nature intended.{43}

Although no one in the center apparently recognized it, including Hubbard who presented this case, any doctor or psychiatrist would have immediately questioned whether she was being helped or whether a basic schizophrenic condition was being exacerbated. As she continued to be processed (and the above entry represents diary jottings from several months) she thought she was being helped, but perhaps she was actually acquiring or aggravating schizophrenic symptoms. It is a fairly common delusion among a certain type of schizophrenic that parts of the body are growing and changing.

The next letter is a testimonial to a Dianetics Center:

During the past week through Dianetics processing I have been relieved of pains in the stomach due to ulcers; have regained hearing in my right ear in which I have been deaf for three and a half years; have regained the ability to breathe through my nostrils which I had not been able to do for the past six or seven years; have been relieved of severe constipation which has been continuous for at least six years and now my stools are entirely normal; the burning sensation of my eyes of eight or nine years duration caused by electrical flashes has been relieved, and I am no longer bothered by headaches after using my eyes for reading. I had not been able to do any extensive reading at night for the past seven or eight years without getting headaches and for several years I have had cramps in my legs and feet at night until the past week....{44}

Many people would agree, however, that this letter comes from an extremely neurotic woman, whose ailments were probably psychosomatic. They couldn't have been cured in a week without medication if they had really had a physiological basis. For her, Dianetics seems to have acted as a form of faith healing, and like any form of faith healing, Dianetics and Scientology can be effective -- however they may be effective only on those who are so suggestible that they might have been helped by anything so long as they believed in it and stayed with it. But what happens when a Scientologist loses faith and stops believing? Most Scientologists never find out because they never lose faith and leave. Instead of preparing them to cope with the real world, as therapy would, Scientology prepares them to cope with the world of Scientology.

There are always new courses for them to take. When they get tired of being audited they can always audit others. When they get tired of the Org they can join the Sea Org. And when they get tired of all that, they can get a franchise -- excuse me, start a mission -- and go into the Scientology business themselves. Thus, they may be helped, but only at a tremendous cost in time and money.

For some the cost is even higher. In one case, Robert Kaufman, who wrote a fascinating book called How I Joined Scientology and Became Superhuman, was in a New York Scientology franchise at first, but then went to Saint Hill to take the advanced courses that are offered there. Not long after his arrival there, he was upset to see two Scientologists who were in an advanced state of severe emotional disturbance under twenty-four-hour watch. He was told that one had just gone clear and that the other was in the midst of the course.

In addition, he was appalled by what he describes as "the police-state type atmosphere of the place and constant punishments, like the dirty-gray armbands they forced people to wear for the most trivial mistake." He writes that he "was in a state of walking hypnotism. Part of me was repelled by what I saw, and the other part of me desperately wanted to go on to catch the Golden Fleece and go `clear.' "

He went clear after he left Saint Hill and went to Edinburgh, but he discovered that the symptoms that had started at Saint Hill were getting worse. He still couldn't sleep at night, and when he would finally collapse from exhaustion, he would wake up in the morning with an acute attack of anxiety. Fearing that his symptoms would get worse if he stopped, he continued on with the next three secret upper levels, whose description is so strange as to be almost unbelievable.

Kaufman claims that these strange exercises caused him to "undergo extreme disorientation and splitting of personality" plus a new symptom: an obsession to commit suicide. He says that all during this time "I felt rotten, but every time I reached another level, everyone would smile, pat me on the back, hand me my certificates [diplomas] -- and take my money for the next course."

By the end of this time, plus a brief stint back in America, he had spent about $8,000 in Scientology and the only thing that kept him from suicide was his fear that if he did so it would "invalidate Scientology" and his name would be put on the bulletin board. (Kaufman was the man mentioned earlier who was so upset over the notices posted on the bulletin board about the epileptic who died.) But in the end he no longer cared, and in order to save his own life, he voluntarily committed himself to a mental institution. Today he is out of the hospital and has no desire ever to return to Scientology.

Another even worse case involves a Falls Church, Virginia, couple and their two children: one was retarded and the other, while speaking early in his life, later stopped talking. The couple went to Scientology for help with the second child, and Hubbard, his wife, and several others in the Washington Church at that time all promised to increase the child's I.Q., "improve on nature whatever happened to be the defect," and cause him to speak within a specific number of hours.

At the end of the twelve-week session, when the child still couldn't speak, the distraught parents were told that the Scientologists were at a near breakthrough and that they should continue with the processing and take more courses than they had originally agreed upon. The couple could ill afford to lose this money, since they raised it by cashing in life insurance bonds and a small inheritance. Although it eventually cost them over $3,000 "as a contribution to spiritual guidance," the child was never able to speak.{45}

The Australian Report presented something worse, as they put it, a woman "processed into insanity."{46} They had set up a special two-way mirror to witness Scientology techniques so that they could judge the merits of their auditing. Such a situation would of course be a little different than a regular auditing session, since the person was aware that he was being observed, and the sessions were shorter than the usual.

They watched a woman who had already had sixty hours of Scientology processing and had signed up for a total of 300. At the beginning of the session she said her goals for the session were that she would get "wins" and feel more positive about things, that she would feel calmer, and she could handle situations at home. At the conclusion of the session, when her goals were read out to her, she claimed she had made "gains" in all of them. Nine days later she entered a mental hospital. A psychiatrist who saw the transcript of the demonstration session told the board that her behavior obviously indicated she was in a state of mania -- not ecstasy -- and that this would have been apparent to a psychiatrist.

A slightly similar case occurred in England. In March, 1967, Mr. Peter Hordern got up in Parliament to describe the case of one of his constituents, Karen Henslow, a thirty-year-old manic-depressive who had been institutionalized three times.{47} Scientologists were aware of her background. Her contact with Scientology started when she met at a dance an Australian, Murray Youdell, who was taking the highest auditing grade at Saint Hill.

He began to audit Miss Henslow, although she told him of her illness, and in January she was interviewed at Saint Hill. Karen told her mother that she had mentioned her illness to them, saying "I told her all about my illness and I cried. She [probably the Registrar] was sweet and understanding." Later, in May, she was offered a job as a "Progress and Filing Clerk" for about $18 a week, of which she had to relinquish about $10 for bed and breakfast.

After two weeks in Scientology she disconnected from her mother and wrote saying, "... I do not want to see you or hear from you again. From now on you don't exist in my life...." The same day the mother received a second letter, with no date, apologizing for the first letter and saying she wanted to "nullify it as a communication," and that it was mailed without her permission. "You are the last person I want to disconnect from" she wrote. Later, among Karen's possessions were four more letters labeling friends and relatives suppressive.

On July 27, two months after she began Scientology, Karen arrived at her mother's house dressed in only a nightgown and raincoat and shoes and "in a completely deranged condition," according to her mother. With her was Mr. Youdell, along with another Scientologist. Mrs. Henslow said the other Scientologist had processed Karen for three hours the previous night to try to get her better.{48} It apparently didn't work. Later that night, Karen went screaming from her house and was subsequently put in a mental institution. The consulting psychiatrist in charge of her case allegedly said that Scientology had "probably precipitated" her collapse.{49} Karen felt she had benefited from Scientology and stated that she wanted to return to it when she left the hospital.

During a subsequent interview on the matter, Mr. Youdell, who had gotten Karen into Scientology allegedly "answered ... questions ... with an unblinking stare and a colleague said Mr. Youdell was `in cycle' and not to be interrupted," and referred inquiries to Mr. Reg. Sharpe, Mr. Hubbard's personal assistant.

Mr. Sharpe, a man in his sixties who wears the badge of a "clear"{50} and is said to work for Hubbard for no pay,{51} said "We tried to help this girl. We did not know she had a mental history. We do not take on for processing anyone who has got a mental history."{52} That such a statement is not true seems obvious not only from this case (although the Scientologists claim that they did not know about her illness but that only Murray Youdell did), but also from another letter reported by the Daily Mail in England.

This letter was allegedly written by two Scientologists to tell the "success story" of a girl who went to Saint Hill: "At that time Hilary was completely broken down in mind and body; having spent the past four years in various mental hospitals undergoing `treatment.' "{53}

In reading Hubbard's work one comes across reference to "psychotic" people that were helped, and in his PABS (Preclear Auditor's Book) #3 Hubbard even told what procedure to use in "Processing psychotics vs. neurotics."{54} That Scientologists do occasionally take in mentally disturbed people was also revealed in court during one of the American tax cases. They admitted that they did take in mental cases because a registrar would feel sorry for someone with a problem and want to help them. Attorney Michael I. Sanders had asked:

Q: Were exceptions [i.e., people taken in who were disturbed] made in those cases where the preclear had available funds?

A: There would usually be, because the Org needed funds rather badly.{55}

In addition to working with mentally disturbed people or at least people who have been institutionalized at one time, there is also some evidence that they have worked with mentally deficient people. In Ability magazine Hubbard once described the case of a person with an I.Q. of seventy-three{56} -- which is officially classified as a "moron" -- which he raised to eighty-eight -- which, by the way, is still classified as a moron.

Despite these cases and others, Scientology claims that no one was ever harmed by Scientology or Dianetics. They may be right when they say that Dianetics and Scientology did not cause these people's difficulties. But letting an auditor, without proper medical or psychological training, work with people who may have had mental and physical disturbances would seem to be a dangerous practice{57} -- even if they claim to be treating only the spirit. And having an auditor try to help people by taking them back to the womb and their former lives might not be as beneficial as having them talk out their real problems in their real life.

There are fourteen stages of crawling before a child can actually walk; the mind, too, develops in a somewhat hierarchical manner, and each of these steps must be stabilized somewhat before the person can safely move from one to another. Scientologists, encouraged by auditors whose qualifications are questionable, may move on to the next step before they are ready to handle it. And like walking before they can crawl -- they may fall flat on their psychical faces.

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Citations & Notes

{1} first quote [255]
{2} what Scientology can cure [6]
{3} radiation burns; turn on and run out cancer [1]
{4} cancer engrammatic [6]
{5} man processed for cancer [261]
{6} other Scientology claims [254]
{7} Hubbard quote on dead child and pope [29]
{8} Scientology claims for radiation; book; dedication [1]
{9} radiation in past lives [255]
{10} Dianezene [255]
{11} Scientology improves marriages [126]
{12} divorces at org [278]
{13} wife a Scientologist [142]
{14} wife is auditor [261]
{15} frigidity case [158]
{16} tone scale [261]
{17} stop being creative [141a, 278]
{18} clear who couldn't remember [264]
{19} IQ can't be raised [261]
{20} IQ increases one pt. for one hour [24]
{21} raised IQ from 88-212 {83?} [142]
{22} Hubbard quote on what to tell people about IQ [84]
{23} same test twice [261]
{24} practice effect [261]
{25} Hubbard quote on test twice [21]
{26} guk [154]
{27} where were birds from [142]
{28} Piltdown Man [171]
{29} curing toothaches [9]
{30} ears ringing [6]
{31} inaccuracies [135]
{32} Freud {Hubbard?} discussed cases in detail [143]
{33} man with wisdom tooth [6]
{34} quote by Ira Wallach [265]
{35} Soup cans [20]
{36} axioms, etc. [2]
{37} not true or self-evident [261]
{38} don't go past word you don't understand [23]
{39} defines synonymous [10]
{40} Hubbard quote on observation [141a]
{41} parallels with Bible [11]
{42} testimonials [278]
{43} {testimonial} letter from woman whose body changed [27]
{44} other {testimonial} letter [125]
{45} Virginian couple [255]
{46} Australian woman [261]
{47} Henslow story [172, 257]
{48} drills she repeated [173] {ambiguous citation}
{49} psychiatrist said Scientology probably precipitated attack; interview with Youdell [172]
{50} (51) Sharpe a clear [171]
{51} (52) Sharpe statements [172]
{52} (53) claim they don't accept mental patients [29]
{53} (50) other girl disturbed in Scientology [172] {ambiguous citation}
{54} processing psychotics [18]
{55} take disturbed for feel sorry for them; quote on taking money [255]
{56} IQ of 77 {73?}, etc. [43]
{57} have needed hospitalization [261, 272] {ambiguous citation}
Extraneous citation notes:
{58} (60) poem [42]
{59} (61) Hubbard poem [45]