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Gullibility Revisited

The following is an ex-Scientologist's reflections on a taped lecture by L. Ron Hubbard called ``Engram Running'', and more generally, on his personal experiences in Scientology. The author wishes to remain anonymous.

Gullibility revisited--Part 1

(I ``re-study'' an old LRH tape that was in the bottom of my glove compartment.)

A while ago I was in my car, about to leave a parking structure after seeing a movie at the local multiplex. I felt a pleasant, post-movie buzz of identification with the movie's hero. Then suddenly my mood crashed a few stories into something much colder and nastier. Search my pockets as I might, I couldn't find enough money to pay the parking attendant. I recalled it cost two bucks. I had seventy cents. I wondered what they did with people who couldn't pay. I started to feel around in the front seat crevice. There were some coins there but not enough. I checked under the front seat. More coins, but still not quite enough. For the first time in years I checked in the bottom of my glove compartment. There I found enough pennies and nickels to get me past the parking attendant. Relieved, I took stock of what other valuable things were there: Three probably expired double A batteries, ancient sinus tablets, old vitamin capsules, a mystery key, tail-light bulbs. And a cassette tape of a lecture by L. Ron Hubbard! I decided it would be interesting to listen to it again, comparing my reactions to it now to its effect on me years ago when I was a thrall of hubbard's ``standard tech.''

The lecture was called ``Engram Chain Running,'' originally recorded in 1963 in Saint Hill, England (copyright 1988, L. Ron Hubbard Library). I last listened to it several years ago, just before finally leaving scientology, but I had heard it many years earlier, as part of an auditor training course I did.

The lecture was ``technical.'' That is, it was not an introductory tape, but a discussion of techniques to be used by auditors, so it was intended for people who knew a bit about the basic ideas of auditing, though the subject of the lecture was definitely not 'advanced.' Let me first give a basic rundown of what the tape was about. "Trained' former and current scientologists will have an easy time following me, but those with little or no ``training'' (lucky you) may need some help. Contact your local expert or feel free to e-mail me any questions.

Lecture Summary:

It's 1963 and and 13 years after the birth of Dianetics, auditors (therapists) can't seem to get preclears (patients, clients) to run engrams successfully. (Engrams=recordings stored in the mind of traumatic events containing pain and unconsciousness. ``Running engrams'' means getting the patient by degrees to confront and recount the content of the engram until the incident's ``charge'' is ``blown'' and the person experiences release from whatever unwanted effect was supposedly coming from the engram. According to hubbard, engrams were the true source of all mental difficulties; they caused chronic psychosomatic pain, misemotion, inhibition, compulsion, stupidity, bad judgement, bad memory, you name it .) Ron himself never had any problem running engrams of course, and he's had a revelation about why other couldn't. He's been remiss in communicating a basic principle well enough: Engrams are not things in themselves; they exist as parts of ``chains'' of similar incidents in the reactive mind. These chains of similar engrams (example: being hit in the head) are arranged in date order in the reactive mind on the ``time track.'' (Time track=the consecutive record from earliest to latest of everything in the person's past. According to hubbard it stretched back at least 350 trillion years and was motion picture-like, having a ``frame'' every 1/25 of a second.) The harmful effect the preclear wants to get rid of comes not just from one incident, late on the chain, but from all the engrams on the chain, held in place by ``basic'' (a term meaning the earliest engram on a chain.) You can't just find an engram and ``run'' it over and over and expect the preclear to recover, because there are earlier similar engrams in ``restimulation'' (stirred up and making the preclear feel bad) that need to be addressed. One has to go earlier and earlier until the preclear reaches basic. Then if you have the pc confront and recount the incident a few times, basic will ``erase'' and with it the whole chain of later incidents. The preclear will recover after lots of ``chains'' have been erased. From ``examples'' given by ron, it seems that ``basics'' usually happened hundreds of trillions of years ago. Ron gives a new procedure consisting of ten or so steps that can be used to run the preclear earlier and earlier until basic is reached and the chain is erased. The key point: If the engram you're running isn't resolving, find and run earlier engrams until you get to basic on the chain.

The tape goes on for 77 minutes. That's quite a bit of talking. It wouldn't take nearly that long to say what I just said in the paragraph above, so what else did ron say? Maybe you're thinking he must have given lots of examples from case histories to illustrate how people were cured of unwanted conditions after erasing 'basics,' data on case follow-ups showing that conditions didn't return, statistics about dianetics results, that sort of thing. Well, not really. But he did talk a lot more. For fairness' sake I'll summarize some of the other points made in the tape that seemed important:

Dianetics fundamentals

The lecture is pretty much in keeping with the ideas presented in the first incarnation of dianetics in 1950: The one source of all mental, emotional and psychosomatic troubles is hubbard's great discovery, *the 'reactive mind.'* Everyone has a reactive mind. In the reactive mind are very precise recordings of all painful events in the person's history, all very correctly 'filed' in date order. The recordings can be either engrams (recordings of times of physical pain and unconsciousness), secondaries (times of severe loss and emotional upset), or locks (recordings of times when one felt some of the discomfort from an unseen engram or secondary). These recordings are subconscious, as opposed to conscious memories, which exist in a separate, 'analytical mind.' One key characterisic of the reactive mind is that it responds to the environment and not to the conscious direction of the person himself. For example, you walk by a swimming pool and get a choking feeling and want to get away. Instead of enjoying a swim, you get the hell out of there. What's happened is that the similarity of the present to a past engram has caused the past engram (say of being held under water by a bully) to 'key-in.' When the engram 'keys in,' you feel some of the pain and horror of the original incident, as well as the urge to 'get out of there.' According to hubbard, the reactive mind was originally a survival mechanism meant to generate an instantaneous 'reaction' to get the organism out of dangerous situations in which there was no time to think. Trouble is that now the mechanism has lost its survival value and creates all manner of terrible problems by overriding the operation of the analytical mind. Instead of generating instant survival impulses, it sends bad signals to the organism, makes it hard to come up with good solutions, makes us stupid and forgetful, gives us all sorts of crazy urges and inhibitions, gives us aches, pains and illnesses, makes us feel bad and do crazy things, etc. Somehow ron discovered that, without the interference of the reactive mind, the analytical mind is capable of perfect memory, judgement, logic and happiness. The solution is to 'clear' the preclear of the reactive mind by using the special techniques of auditing--essentially having the patient re-experience, confront and recount buried incidents until there is some sort of abreaction. Because the reactive mind responds to things outside of the preclear, the auditor can, by his questions and commands, selectively 'restimulate' engrams that the preclear can then confront. All of the the 'unconscious' recordings in the reactive mind needed to be 're-filed' in the conscious analytical mind, at which point the engrams would cease to have the power of command over the organism. Eventually, after lots and lots of 'processing,' the person reaches and 'erases' basic-basic, the linch-pin of the reactive mind, all reactive content is gotten rid of and all is analytically well. The preclear is now 'clear.' Early in dianetics, a clear was someone who had erased the *content* of the reactive mind. In the early days, hubbard had assumed the reactive mind mechanism was organic 'hardware' and couldn't be erased. Later, clears would actually erase the mechanism itself. How could this be done? Hubbard had discovered the great secret of reactivity: The being, who possessed vast creative abilities fully known only to hubbard, was actually 'mocking up' the reactive mind on a level below his own awareness. (Only ron knew why, but we had all started doing this trillions of years ago.) When, after much auditing, the being finally realized this, the reactive mind would vanish as the being would stop creating it.

Dazzling, but evidence has never shown the ``reactive mind'' to be other than a fictional villian.e

Much of early dianetics should seem familiar to anyone who has seriously studied psychology and computer science. I unfortunately had not when I first came in contact with Dianetics. Dianetics incorporated a number of ideas from psychology: engrams, abreaction, the subconscious, 'charge,' the value of talk therapy, some rules of therapist behavior, etc. Hubbard added in some half-understood concepts from Korzybski's General Semantics (the 'semantic reaction,' 'A=A') and Eniac-era computer technology (clear, key-in, bank, erasure, electronic files.) Also interesting was what hubbard discarded from his sources: 1) Uncertainty about the nature of the mind. According to Hubbard the mind consisted of two compartments and their natures were fully known. There was no more uncertainty about what the 'mind' was; hubbard had discovered all there was to know. 2) The need to back claims of success with actual evidence. 3) The need to prove the workability of hypotheses. 4) The value of the contributions of other thinkers. 5) Any need for dialog.

The reactive/analytical mind model would have been an elegant solution indeed, if only it could have been gotten to work. Imagine being able to 'cure' people of all unpleasant mental and emotional phenomena and achieve flawless memory and intelligence just by having an auditor ask exactly the right questions until the patient mentally erased and 'refiled' all information from the bad mind into the good mind. Had it worked, ron would surely have been the greatest man in history. But the model was wrong and it never worked.

My reactions then

An interesting fact is that I didn't pay as much attention to what hubbard was saying in the lecture when I was a scientologist as I did when I 'restudied' it recently. Then my attitude was that the lecture was one of many where ron reiterated some basic ideas, but because it wasn't the source for any procedure I would actually be using, I just tried to understand the key ideas and went on. Actually the tape was extremely boring and almost sleep-inducing. It was difficult to stay conscious. The key ideas (outlined in 'lecture summary' above) were already known to me from reading a few bulletins. The 1963 procedure had already been replaced by a more streamlined, supposedly more foolproof one, so I just sort of plowed through it, making sure I didn't nod off in front of the watchful course supervisor.

My memory of it is a bit vague, but I seem to recall that a few incipient critical thoughts did pop up. I didn't know what ron was talking about when he mentioned the helatrobis stuff. But I didn't think about it much. My job, as I saw it then was to understand what to DO, to do it, and to observe for myself what happened. Only what you observe for yourself is true for you. It occurred to me that ron might not know exactly how long ago a trillion years was, that he might not realize that 285 trillion years ago (a date mentioned) was about 20,000 times greater than the current estimated age of the universe. But maybe he was talking about an earlier universe. And again, I had to reserve judgement on it as I really hadn't yet 'observed' whether or not it was true. I also hadn't observed most of the interesting phenomena ron mentioned in the tape, despite having run quite a bit of dianetics on people by that time. I figured that in the early days ron had paid a lot of attention to things we didn't need to worry about now due to advances in the tech. There was also the tiny beginning of the thought, 'If dianetics was so effective, why did it have to be extensively reworked in 1963, and again in 1969, and again in 1978?' But this thought didn't live long. It was not my business to sit there and think. In fact, in scientology, thinking is a pretty low-level activity. On his 'know to mystery scale,' ron placed 'thinkingness' below 'knowingness,' 'lookingness,' 'emotingness' and 'effortingness,' and just above 'symbolizingness,' 'eatingness,' 'sexingness' and 'mystery.' (page 118, Scientology 0-8, originally printed in the early 50's, copyright 1976, L.Ron Hubbard) It was my job to understand, exactly apply, and eventually, observe and know. And that could take time, naturally. I was the ultimate philosophical pragmatist, at least in my own imagination.e

I accepted the idea of past life incidents and implants. I accepted their existence even though I had never 'observed' one for sure. This needs explanation. By then I had 'run' plenty of past-life stuff in session. I, unlike those pathetic 'low-level' cases, had little trouble with engrams. Early on, I decided I would just let my imagination 'run' and see what happened. Since the reactive mind was not under my control, whatever I 'saw' or sensed was probably content of the reactive mind, even though it seemed to be imagination. Smart huh? To put it simply, I was imagining things and and then considering that they were probably real. Kind of like painting a fake window on the wall and then looking 'through it' to see if it's raining. How does one do this and maintain any sense of personal integrity? Not easily, but it can certainly be done. I--we--have a profound capacity for self-delusion. Ron and other scientologists often facilitated and encouraged it, ron by speaking for thousands of hours in his taped lectures about the 'whole track' and the fantastic abilities of 'OTs,' and other scientologists in their conversations about people they had known in past lives, their superhuman experiences, etc. And people were constantly giving 'wins' they'd achieved in auditing--this or that hopeless condition gone, this or that mysterious 'thing' that had been ruining a life now 'totally handled.' No one was permitted to challenge the validity of anyone's past lives or wins in auditing. That would have been 'invalidation,' a very serious offense in scientology.

I myself had experienced a number of interesting things in auditing, but I had certainly never experienced any lasting gain in ability or personal happiness. I had had periods of feeling a lot better, but these never lasted. I had even felt 'exterior' at times, but this didn't last either, and I was no happier or more able as a result. I figured I must have some pretty bad overts in past lives that were preventing me from fully experiencing gain. At times I wondered about why ron always seemed to be coming up with something new that explained why previous tech hadn't worked, while at the same time claiming that all earlier tech had worked just fine. This must have crossed my mind as I listened to the tape long ago. But there was always something new and very promising to try. I had *faith* that things would eventually turn out well--a faith that overrode my often contradictory thoughts. Even though Scientology is supposed to be rooted in science and real results in the present, it required a great deal of faith that, somewhere in the future, the truth of dianetics and scientology would be manifest in the real world.

Next: Gullibility Revisited Part 2--My reactions now

Dave Touretzky
Last modified: Sun Jul 20 14:52:43 EDT 1997