In Scientology, ethics is defined as "rationality toward the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics" (parts of life, such as self, family, groups, etc.). The purpose of ethics is said to be "paving the way for getting tech in."
Notice how that second sentence qualifies the first and frames how the definition of ethics is to be understood and applied in Scientology. In practice this turns out to mean getting statistics up. If a registrar brings in dollars then his ethics must be correct because dollars help Scientology survive and "get tech in," and of course the other dynamics (parts of life) will not survive without Scientology. That is ethics.
There are formulas in Scientology by which one evaluates alternative courses of action and then announces publicly and acts on what he has decided to be the more ethical action. When done inside the group context, this ensures the decision will be seen in terms of Scientology's frame of reference, and non-Scientology considerations invalidated. The action most favorable to Scientology gets decided upon because it is favorable to Scientology, and therefore by definition ethical -- since nobody else has the tech. One cannot argue otherwise within the group without losing cachet.
As the subject of ethics becomes externalized, the person's own sense of right and wrong gradually is invalidated and replaced by public procedures monitored and controlled by Scientology.
Conflicts of value are held to be illusion, with the non-Scientology side false and unreal, not really you, just your "case," something to be resolved and overcome by additional "handling." If others would be harmed by an action, then it is not really them who would be harmed, just their case. One learns to dismiss any nonconformity as aberration and achieve personal distance from any alternative source of meaning. If I wish to help you, I put my attention on Scientology, not on you.
This facile and self-serving logic isolates the Scientologist, like the Ugly American, behind a barrier of moral impenetrability, and justifies a pathetic and lonely arrogance. Eric Hoffer, in The True Believer, describes it in these words:
The fiercest fanatics are often selfish people who were forced, by innate shortcomings or external circumstances, to lose faith in their own selves. They separate the excellent instrument of their selfishness from their ineffectual selves and attach it to the service of some holy cause. And though it be a faith of love and humility they adopt, they can be neither loving nor humble.
Hubbard writes in The Auditor, No. 9, 1965: "...the only slim chance this planet has rests on a few slim shoulders, overworked, underpaid and fought -- the Scientologist." Such melodramatic imagery pervades and characterizes the writings of Scientology -- always unsubstantiated of course, except by assertion. But such assertions, and the crisis mentality they invoke, provide the short-circuit of thought necessary to override other values and sustain the anything we do is ethical modus operandi.
Success stories, those socially expected expressions of gratitude to my auditor, the C/S, and most of all to LRH, provide immediate assurance that one is doing something worthwhile, and so justify not looking further. In turn, each participant is expected to mirror similar assurances to others. Scientologists tell each other constantly that they are ethical people because they are Scientologists.
In contrast to this nobility of participation, lore about "Suppressive Persons" makes clear how one could be stigmatized as betrayer of all that is good and decent if any significant conflict with Scientology were to occur. To become or remain a valid group member, one must eventually rationalize, using such data as success stories, how the actions and viewpoints which result from Scientology involvement are ethical -- i.e., one must internalize the Church's interest as his own ethic.
Scientology's asserted but unproven relevance to the buttons it uses for public relations, such as crime, insanity and drugs, provide an easy vocabulary for talk about ethics. The actual relevance of Scientology to such issues is not open to question or discussion within the group. Instead, we find any such questions diverted by vocal attacks on others, such as psychiatrists, and by inference on any who would question. Attacks on disagreement, even attacks on non-hostile but non-Hubbard ideas, comprise much of the activity of Scientology ethics. In the late 1970's a "teach your baby to read" program, temporarily popular among Scientologists and in no way hostile to Hubbard's ideas, was suppressed merely because it wasn't Scientology.
The policy letter, "Keeping Scientology Working," a checklist for suppression of deviant thought, is included in every Scientology course and is itself the subject of a special course. One of its proscriptions is closing the door on any possibility of incorrect technology.
Correct technology consists only of that already written by Mr. Hubbard and published in official Scientology bulletins and policies.
The contrast between honest thought and Church authoritarianism is
very clear, yet to be a valid group member one must learn to
rationalize this away.
Ethics as the Destruction of Values
Scientology's inability to tolerate disagreement makes it seem an act of loyalty to label others as enemy and to discredit non-group persons and values. In this authoritarian atmosphere, the Church is always right. In taking any independent position, the individual is always wrong. In the logic of Hard Sell, a clever person can produce an infinity of reasons why the individual is wrong-for-some-reason-or-other without regard to the facts of any particular situation.
A common misdirection is to force attention off the issue and onto intentions and motives; anyone who is not gung ho must have evil intentions. Thus discourse is reduced to smearing, invalidating, or otherwise "disconnecting from" (generally: not seeing) those not of one's persuasion. For example, a Scientologist who saw a very early draft of these notes made no response at all to their content, but was horrified that I would discuss the group in non-group terms. I was told to see an ethics officer and get it "handled."
Sacrifice of non-Scientology values is the normal currency of status enhancement (or brownie points), as in I trashed my business to buy more Church services. One must produce a satisfactory list on paper of proofs of contribution to be eligible for certain services, and items such as the above are quite acceptable. I divorced my wife (or husband) because she (or he) wasn't helping me get up the Bridge was one I heard more than once.
In an ethics "handling," one is under immediate pressure from officials and/or peers to get this resolved. The group's culture provides facile justification for why it is OK to deny one's former associations and beliefs, and why what others might consider betrayal really isn't. With acute awareness of what others will approve, and under supervision from an ethics officer, the person decides how far he can go and an ethics handling is worked out. If necessary, there may be more handling until the person has appropriate realizations -- which the techniques of Hard Sell ensure that he will have.
The individual's participation prevents the required change from being more than he can justify in view of his present commitment to the group, and thus inclining him to leave. But by keeping ethics in over the course of a person's career, his former identity can be eroded piecemeal, by numerous small accommodations, in each of which the present group pressure outweighs the sacrifice of more distant values. If he did not go far enough this time, well, there is always next time.
The matters in question will be shown to work when we all agree that they did, so eventually one is going to have to assert agreement -- or leave. The social pressures involved (friendships, status, finishing what you started, validation for being a valuable being, not being wrong about something you invested so much in, the stigmas of betraying your group and "but I thought you loved your children...," etc.) encourage one to find how it could be that way and believe it and say so -- whatever the betrayals one must commit or nonsense one must find some way to believe.
Products of Scientology ethics that I saw included people convinced their most ethical action was to obtain as many credit cards as possible and max them all out buying Scientology services.
I met a woman who had gone through complex legal maneuvers to secure possession of a trust fund left by relatives to her children, and donate it to Scientology. A fellow, perhaps mentally retarded, had spent all his money on Scientology and had been sent more by his employer to get home. The registrars got it. Breaking trust and confidences with spouses, friends, or employers was a common ethical action (I saw a lot of "Liability Formulas").
I heard numerous brags about how "I got my husband to send X amount of money" or "we trashed our business to buy services" or "we sold our house", etc.
My personal impression of people I met who had done such things is that they were scared and confused, having been intimidated by high pressure sales tactics and having yielded to the invalidation of whatever else had been important to them (perhaps after a heroic struggle with "suppressive" influences). They were hanging on desperately to the one thing they had left that people would validate and praise them for. The woman with the trust fund could not look me in the eye.
Many of these were good and intelligent people for whom I felt
genuine affection. One wonders what they might have accomplished had
not their life's energy been short-circuited into this frenetic
closed-circle race to justify each other's delusions.
To complete an ethics action, the individual may be required to strike an effective blow against the enemy then make public repentance within the group and petition for readmittance. Through such repentances and the realizations used to justify them, complicity is obtained in the compromise of other values in the person's life. The resulting vacuum of meaning is filled from the surrounding high-pressure ambience of "gung ho" and "dissemination," and the person then must convince himself so as to maintain personal integrity.
The preemptive definition of personal integrity ("what is real for you is what is real in your own experience") functions as a normative injunction not to perceive or admit to coercion from within the Church. If it was coercion or trickery then it was not real for you, and of course you can never admit that.
One's own reality is said to have a kind of separate and autonomous existence apart from realities mutually agreed upon with others. Thus anything, however self-serving or illusory, could be true for you in your own universe and used to justify ethical action against others or to justify not dealing with issues raised by others. Thus ethics can defend insanity or criminality, as long as group allegiance is not compromised. In fact, a virtue is made of disagreeing with agreed-upon meanings -- except, of course, there is never any virtue in disagreeing with Scientology.
In this way, external viewpoints and standards of validity, and sometimes of legality, are defined as irrelevant. If you agree with something, or have been sold on agreeing with it, then it is true for you and any other evaluation or source of meaning should not be allowed to sway you. You are supposed to be steadfastly unreasonable and maintain your position.
The meaning in practice of your own position is illustrated by how
registrars make use if it: if you fail to allow influence by the
Church then there is something wrong with you, but if you allow
influence by non-Scientology ideas then you are compromising your
personal integrity. I never heard anyone accused of violating his
personal integrity because he gave money to a registrar.
Advanced Skills of Being In-Ethics
One knows that his actions today may come up later on "security check" questions in auditing, such as "failed to apply Policy." This could include any failure to report another person's nonconformity ("knowledge reports" are Policy). Thus any relationship always has an implicit third party present, enforcing gung-ho compliance and enforcing one's enforcement of that compliance upon others.
To prove his conformity and rightness, and to avoid appearing less than completely loyal, the experienced Scientologist learns to delicately reconcile the roles of disseminator and mark.
As mark, he can never be good enough, sacrifice enough, donate enough. Whatever he has done, more can be asked -- and will be asked. Yet he cannot rebel or refuse. He must remain able to act from the viewpoint of the registrar and insist that no conceivable resource be held back.
He is expected to demonstrate gratitude and loyalty to the group by actively cooperating with registrars, ethics officers, and others, and by accepting their viewpoints: we're both on the same team, I'm just here to help you get what you've said you want, and so on. Any other position is "ingratitude," and is undermined by the mark's own complicity.
If any other position impinges on the situation, whether as moral scruples or as sales resistance, it is invalidated as merely a problem the person has with his personal integrity or ethics.
The mark may save face if capitulation is negotiated in private, without visible representatives or reminders of any independent viewpoint or value. Thus he remains visibly in ethics. Knowing the registrar role, he knows what he must do to submit and cooperate with this invalidation. Isolated, and surrounded by a closing team (the most I personally observed was six on one), the individual is in a vulnerable position. He learns over time that he might as well concede in advance and internalize the destruction of value, so that no visible "counter-intention" need ever appear -- even, perhaps, in his or her own mind.
To avoid conflict or dissonance, the mark learns to invalidate in advance any value of his own which might compete with a registrar's demands, just as he learns to maintain distance from any insufficiently gung ho friend.
You know you are going to wind up agreeing anyway (you're used to it, good at it, proud of it), so you quickly figure how it could be that way, then proceed (rush, rush) straight ahead without looking off to either side. The special frame of reference which gives meaning to such things as "OT" misdirects attention away from the actual mechanics of the situation so one is able to believe that Scientology works every time.
With practice, this can be done unselfconsciously and sincerely, without noticing the mental gymnastics involved. Such speed of understanding is a source of actual pride for many Scientologists. It reduces costs in auditing.
This peculiar approach to evaluation of data helps preserve certainty that one is acting ethically.