Monday, 23 July 2012

Scientology: What is it? (Part 1)

 The Church of Scientology is one of the most controversial new religious movements to have arisen in the 20th century. It has often been described as a cult that financially defrauds and abuses its members by charging exorbitant fees for its spiritual services.  I am now going to give you part 1 of my series on Scientology.

 Scientology as a church

 Hubbard characterized Scientology as a religeon and in 1953, he incorporated the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey. However, it wasn’t until 1993 that the US federal government’s Revenue Department gave its official recognition that it was a church for the purpose of donations being given to it.

 But is it really a church? Black’s Law Dictionary, a highly respected legal dictionary in English-speaking countries defines the church to be “the religious society founded and established by Jesus Christ to receive, preserve and propagate  his doctrines and ordinances. That is hardly what Scientology does.

However, the Supreme Court of the United States has interpreted religion to mean a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons. The religion or religious concept need not include belief in the existence of God or a supreme being to be within the scope of the US First Amendment.

In the case of United States v. Ballard, which the case was heard in 1944, the Supreme Court decided that it must look to the sincerity of a person's beliefs to help decide if those beliefs constitute a religion that deserves constitutional protection. The Ballard case involved the appeal of the previous conviction of organizers of the I Am movement on grounds that they defrauded people by falsely representing that their members had supernatural powers to heal people with incurable illnesses. The Supreme Court held that the jury, in determining the line between the free exercise of religion and the punishable offense of obtaining property under false pretenses, should not decide whether the claims of the I Am members were actually true, only whether the members honestly believed them to be true, thus qualifying the group as a religion under the Supreme Court's broad definition.

 Obviously, that ruling would apply also to Scientology; hence it is quite legal for Scientologists to say that they are members of the Church of Scientology.

Scientologists’ belief in the existence of past lives

 In 1954, I was visiting my mother in Hollywood and while I was in that city, I bought a book written by Ron Hubbard called Dianetics. The book is about a set of ideas and practices regarding the metaphysical relationship between the human mind and body.

There was one interesting part of the book that caught my attention. Hubbard had written about the subconscious reactive mind of humans when they were in their mother’s womb. However the author was suggesting that our minds go further back than just prior to the moment of our births. He was suggesting that we had a previous life. I wasn’t interested in that theory at that time but the fact that our minds might be functioning while we were in our mother’s womb really got my attention and for a good reason.

I had been practicing hypnosis while serving at the Canadian naval base on Vancouver Island and just three days earlier, at the request of a Canadian Army dentist, I gave a post hypnotic suggestion to one of his patients that was to take effect once he sat in the dentist’s chair three days later. Once in the chair, he would immediately go to sleep and wouldn’t wake up until the dentist had removed all of his teeth. They had to be removed as they were all rotten and the navy was going to give him a new set of teeth. The reason why I was called upon in this case was that he couldn’t be given any anesthetic under any circumstances otherwise his heart would stop beating. The operation was a success after he fell asleep in the chair and remained so during the operation while I was in Hollywood. He later told the dentist that he felt no pain during the operation.

 Now back to the reason that Dianetics got my attention. I had previously regressed some of my friends back to their early childhoods and it never dawned on me then that I could go further back into their memories.

 After I returned to Vancouver Island a month later, one of my friends asked me to find out why he hated his mother. I regressed his memories right back to three months prior to his birth. Then I found the problem and removed it from his memory. Needless to say I was very excited. Years later, I learned that other hypnotists and psychiatrists began doing the same thing and it is quite a common practice among them nowadays. Yes, the fetus can hear voices three months prior to birth and in that particular case, my friend while he was a fetus in his mother’s womb, heard his mother tell his father that she wanted to abort him. Hence, he had this subliminal hatred for his mother until I removed that event from his memory.

 This article isn’t really about my experience as a hypnotist but I raised the ‘prior to birth memories’ event because if I hadn’t read Dianetics; I never would not have ventured that far into hypnotism.

 One purpose of Scientology, as stated by the Church of Scientology, is to become certain of one's spiritual existence and one's relationship to God, or the ‘Supreme Being’. One belief of Scientology is that a human is an immortal alien, i.e.  extraterial being, termed a thetan (which was Hubbard’s description of a spirit) that is trapped on Earth in a physical body. Hubbard described these ‘thetons’ in a 'Space Opera' cosmogony.  According to Hubbard, the thetan has had innumerable past lives and it is accepted in Scientology that lives preceding the thetan's arrival on Earth lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Descriptions of these space opera incidents are seen by Scientologists as true events.

Now I admit that accepting that view of the origins of human beings is extremely questionable in my mind as it is in the minds of millions of others around the word. It reminds me of the statement made by Ron Hubbard when he was an author of science fiction books. He is alleged to have said sometime in 1946 or 1947, after he was invited to address a science fiction group in Newark, New Jersey hosted by the writer, Sam Moskowitz. (with respect to Hubbard as an author) “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.” Well, I don’t know if he really said those words but I do know he started a new religion and he made a million or more doing it. 

 If the prenatal theories of Dianetics appear startling to some people, Scientology has something even more radical to offer such as past lives which is presented to its followers not as a matter of conjecture but as a matter of certainty.

 The vast majority of the world’s population wants to believe in reincarnation—that they will be born again and again and again. If that belief is justified, then it follows that they were born and lived in past lives, again and again.

 However, the thought of reincarnation is really not part of Scientology. Many Scientologists are certain that they have lived lives prior to their current one. These are referred to as past lives, not as reincarnation. Past lives is not a dogma in Scientology, but generally people who are in Scientology churches during their auditing procedures, experience a past life experience and then they believe for themselves that they have lived before. To believe one has had a physical or other existence prior to the identity of the current body is not a new concept. In my opinion, Scientologists don’t deal with the possibility of future lives because they make more money in advocating studies into their follower’s past lives than in what their future lives might be. 

 I for one; actually do believe that we have lived in a past life although I haven’t the faintest idea of what I was before I was conceived. In my published book The Second Appearance, I refer to an event that took place near the beginning of the last century in which a five-year-old boy in India was taken to a village by his parents, a village he and his parents had never been in before. When he arrived, he began talking to old men in the village and he knew things about them that only someone who had been in the village five years earlier would have known about these old men. Scientists who looked into this phenomenon that took place in that village concluded that when the boy was conceived, he took on the spirit of an old man who died in that village at around the same time.

 The followers of Scientology are given the tools to handle upsets and aberrations from past lives that adversely affect the individual in the present, thus freeing one to live a much happier life. Now you know why they don’t deal with reincarnation in the future since one’s upsets and aberrations could hardly be dealt with if they haven’t yet occurred.

 Now it follows that if a great many people believe in reincarnation, they also have to believe that they lived previously to their conceptions in their current lives. However, I sincerely question the Church of Scientologists doctrine that their followers can really go back in time and visit their previous lives.

 The memories of the five-year-old boy in India did go back in time but as he grew older, he forgot more and more of his past life since current memories were forming in his mind that would push back memories of his former life until he remembered nothing of his former life by the time he was ten. It is for this reason that I don’t believe that anyone can remember what their previous life was once they become adults. This is what makes me suspicious of the so-called tools that the Church of Scientologists claim helps their followers deal with problems they had in their past lives.

 Perhaps they tell their followers the story of Bridey Murphy. In 1952, Virginia Tighe of Pueblo, Colorado, was hypnotized by local businessman Morey Bernstein. Allegedly, Virginia spoke in an Irish brogue and claimed she was Bridey Murphy, a 19th-century woman from Cork, Ireland. Bernstein says he encouraged past life regression and his subject cooperated. He hypnotized Tighe many times. While under hypnosis, she sang Irish songs and told Irish stories, always as Bridey Murphy. She gave a birth date as1798, described her childhood in a Protestant family in the city of Cork, her marriage to Sean Brian Joseph McCarthy, and her burial in Belfast in 1864. Bernstein's book, The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956), became a best-seller.

 Newspapers sent reporters to Ireland to investigate. Was there a red-headed Bridey Murphy who lived in Ireland in the nineteenth century? No records were found that matched Tighe's claims for Bridey's birth, upbringing, marriage, or death.

One newspaper, however, the Chicago American, found Bridie Murphey Corkell in Wisconsin in the 20th century. She lived in the house across the street from where Virginia Tighe grew up. What Virginia reported while hypnotized were not memories of a previous life but memories from her early childhood.

Whatever else the hypnotic state is, it is a state where one's fantasies can be energetically displayed. Many people were impressed with the details of Tighe's hypnotic memories, but the details were not evidence of past life regression, reincarnation, or channeling.  They were evidence of a vivid imagination, a confused memory, fraud, or a combination of the three. It is indicative of the typical lowering of the standards of critical thinking regarding the paranormal or the supernatural that defenders of preposterous stories find easily accessible information to be incontrovertible proof of their veracity.

I know what you are thinking. Did the man I hypnotized and regressed his memories back to three months prior to his birth make up the story about his mother attempting to abort him? I don’t think so because while he was experiencing his memories of the event, he said that he heard his mother calling out to his father Jerry and when he woke up, I asked him what his father’s name was and he said it was Jerry.

 In addition to their followers remembering their life in the womb, Scientologists state that they can remember the past lives of their immortal thetan or spirit, which is said to have lived in many bodies before ours. That part of their belief I agree with. 

 However, Hubbard also said that he believed that this thetan had existed for 74 trillion years, but later he believed (or so he said) that it's longer. This obviously conflicts with the theories of astronomers who believe that our universe is only 13.75 billion years old, not 75 trillion years old. Further, where did he get the figure of 75 trillion from? Why not 76 trillion?

 Scientologists believe that the past lives and deaths of their thetans are the cause of some of their problems today. For example, Hubbard thought it possible that someone suffering from psoriasis (a skin disease) may have contracted it from the remains of the digestive fluid when the person (or his thetan) was being eaten by an animal in one of his past lives. However, an episode of psoriasis can be triggered by infection, injury or stress. The condition often runs in families that suggests that a genetic factor may be involved. It is beyond my understanding as to where Hubbard came up with his theory of the origins of Mankind.

 The real reason why there is a pain in your tooth is the enamel of your tooth has rotted away because of you not brushing away substances that you ate that gradually have dissolved the enamel and the nerve in the pulp of your tooth is now bare and accessed by air and substances that you eat—hence the pain.

  Hubbard said that if the pain in the jaw was associated with a fear of falling, then the clam might have been picked up by a bird. Psychology scientests conducted experiments on babies to determine if they fear heights. They placed heavy glass between two tables and placed something that the babies would like on the other table. The babies started to crawl towards the other table but when they reached the end of the first table and looked down through the overhanging glass, they stopped and no amount of persuasion would get them to move further. These experiments proved to the scientists that we are all prone to fearing heights or falling. And surely we were not all clams in our previous lives that were carried in the air by birds millions of years ago.

I find it interesting that Hubbard claimed that he could regress back into his memories to his life in Rome a couple thousand years ago. When I was regressing my friend’s memories back to three months prior to his birth, I had to slowly work his mind back from the present to that event in his life. I did it by hop-skipping through his early years but that took an hour. How long would it take for someone to hop-skip two thousand years?

Scientology subjects (people who pay Scientology for the treatments) spend a great deal of time during their auditing sessions reliving and resolving their past lives. One subject was said to have gone into a state of grief when she realized she had been her father's lover—before she was born. Another subject was concerned because his wife was now living with another man who had once been her husband in one of her previous lifetimes. A Boston cab driver and part-time Harvard student discovered during an auditing session that his current headaches started when he was a Roman Centurion in 216 B.C., during the Battle of Cannae. He believed that someone from the Roman Burial party, mistakenly believing him dead, tried to kick his helmet back onto his head. Despite this insight he still has his headaches, but this hasn't shaken his belief in Scientology. His faith didn't falter even when one of his Scientology friends, spent hundreds of hours in the group getting rid of all of his engrams and his problems became clear to him and yet, later committed suicide. Accounts of other past lives included one man who accidentally stabbed his pregnant wife in the stomach with shears, thereby killing his baby; another who intentionally raped and killed his wife; and one who somehow accidentally killed his twelve-year-old daughter with a pitchfork when he supposedly caught her having intercourse with another man.

I don’t know if their auditors are hinting these episodes in their subject’s minds or whether their subjects are simply in a semi-hypnotic state and imagining these events.

Most of the Scientologists who relived their past lives believed that they had once been plain people, or very often space people, and for plots, their histories read like a type of science-fiction sadomasochism. Many of the preclear practitioners believed that they had lived on other planets, and that the most unimaginably terrible things happened to them during ‘wars between worlds and celestial travel between universes’ whose existence was not even suspected before Hubbard's time according to an Australian Inquiry into Scientology as published in the Evening Standard, on May 30, 1968. 

 Auditing is a central practice in Scientology through which a practitioner is cleared of negative influences known as engrams in order to heighten spiritual awareness and access currently untapped potential. The Church of Scientology claims the procedure is 100% effective so long as the auditor properly administers it and the recipient both follows the rules and is honestly seeking change. Auditing can become immensley expensive, leading some to question the Church's ultimate motivations.

 Auditing sessions involve two people: the person (subject) being audited and an auditor.

 Eletro-psychometer (E-Meter)

 When Hubbard first wrote his book, Dianetics in 1950, no electro-psychometer (later referred to as the E-Meter) was in use by Scientologists, so no such meter was mentioned in his book. Scientologists began using a meter designed by a man called Mathison in the early 1950s, but after he refused to surrender the patent to Hubbard, the latter directed his auditors to stop using the meter. Four years later, Don Breeding and Joe Wallis developed a modified version, which was then sold as the Hubbard E-meter. Since then, Scientology has emphasized that using a meter in auditing sessions is essential for curing illnesses such as psychological problems.

 The auditor monitors the subject while the subject holds a metal cylinder in each hand, both of which are attached by wires to the E-meter. The equipment is a skin galvanometer-type, battery-operated device.

 According to Scientologists, the E-Meter measures mental mass and energy, which are affected by engrams. While the auditor asks the subject a number of questions, the E-Meter indicates what issues might be connected to harmful engrams. Once the problem spot is identified, the auditor helps the subject work through the issue while the E-Meter measures his progress. The procedure is entirely painless even though a very minute tinge of electricity might be felt by the subject. The Church stresses that the auditor never actually does anything to the subject but rather acts as a guide while the subject confronts past traumas and releases the engrams bound up within them.

 The small electric meter is housed in a wooden box measuring about 10 in. by 6 in. by 2 in. On its top side is a dial with a moving needle, some control knobs and a rheostat control termed as the ‘tone arm.’ It has two terminals, to each of which is attached, at the end of a lead, an electrode which is a steel or tin can, resembling, and sometimes actually being, an unopened soup can with its wrapping removed. Within the box are small batteries and a transistorized circuit. The circuit is simple and is appropriate for apparatus designed to record or register electrical resistance.

When used in scientology auditing, the cans are held by the preclear with one in each hand, and the auditor, sitting opposite, faces the meter and records and interprets the readings on the dial, making various adjustments with the tone arm as the general level of resistance recorded by the meter rises or falls. The auditor writes down the various readings of the meter which are said to be correlated to whatever is being discussed by the auditor and the subject. The detail of such discussions is also written down. It would appear that it is no different than a basic form of lie detector. The meter simply shows whether your body is experiencing a change in stress level. It doesn't show whether you're telling the truth or lying, and it doesn't reveal what you're thinking about.

It is claimed by Scientologists that emotions and emotionally charged thoughts can register electrically on the E-meter. When a subject is ‘in session’ and is holding the cans, questions which stir his emotions are said to produce a ‘read’ on the meter. Since the questions are put to the subject, one has to suppose that the auditor is actually directing the subject’s memories. 

In a book entitled The Hubbard Electrometer, (E-meter) said to be based on research and development by Hubbard that claims that the E-meter works on a very easily understood principle. It measures the relative density of the body. The relative density is changed as the memories of the subject change. The E-meter then measures his shift in thought. It registers in particular shifts in thought relating closely to the questions asked by the E-meter operator. The operator (auditor) asks, questions and the reproduction of the subject’s memories shift based on the kinds of questions put to him by his auditor.  The E-meter measures the shift and thus the mind is read—at least that what the Scientologists claim. Hubbard once claimed that E-Meters were sensitive enough to detect the screams of fruit being sliced. Now you know why he was a science fiction writer.

 The changes are caused by chemicals in the blood, such as adrenalin, and by nerve signals. Both of these are, to some extent, under your conscious control because you can intentionally calm yourself down or get yourself worked up. While the meter may correctly show whether a question or directive makes you feel stressed, it doesn't show the nature of that stress (whether it's fear, guilt, anger, or something else). It's possible to fool the meter by thinking pleasant thoughts or even by squeezing your hands around the cans. 

 This technique of that kind of questioning is used by good police investigators when they are questioning witnesses to a crime. They lead the witness in the right direction then let the witness tell the story to the investigator. If the investigator wants more information, he will direct his questioning in a different direction and again the witness will continue telling the story. Unfortunately, not all the stories are valid.

 In my opinion, this is the same technique that an auditor will use. But can we really be sure that what the subject is telling the auditor is fact or if it is fiction? Let me give you an example.

 I am a composer of piano music and have performed my compositions on stage, radio and television. Many years ago, I began composing a piano piece and one day when I was performing it, one of my listeners said that she had heard it performed earlier. I was confused when she said it sounded like one of Chopin’s compositions. I bought a record of that composition of Chopin and it was exactly like my composition. I then realized that I must have heard it years ago when I was a child and it remained in my memory and when I began composing music, the memory of that piece came to the fore and I ended up playing it as if it was one of my own compositions.

From what I can gather, Scientology auditing is similar to regression therapy in that people are encouraged to resolve negative experiences from their past. Only in Scientology will they believe that a person has lived in past lives for millions of years and the auditors then coax their subjects to come up with memories that stem back past their current lifetime.

 Memories of our past can be manipulated when they are drawn out by people.  For example, when someone explains to us a particular place where they have been, do we sometimes think that when we were younger we too were in that place when in fact, we never were?  The reason for this is that as a child, we may have seen a movie in which that place was shown and years later when the friend began describing the place, the memories of what we saw in the movie come to the fore and we forget that we went to that movie however, we remember the scene in the movie and then really believe that we were actually at that place as a child when in fact we were not.  

 Does the E-Meter really solve the problems of the subjects who are seeking Scientology treatment for their psychological problems? I doubt it unless merely talking about their problems helps which in some cases, it can help. That’s why people who are suffering from different degrees of mental illnesses, talk with psychiatrists or psychologists about their problems. They get their problems off their chests, so to speak. And actually discussing your problems with a close friend can also help. I remember when I was a young man and was traveling around the United States by bus, strangers would meet me and within an hour, they wanted to talk about their problems. I listened to them and on occasions, I would offer a suggestion but they all said that after talking to me that they felt better. The reason was obvious. It was easier for them to unburden their problems with a stranger they wouldn’t see again and in doing so; they got some of their problems off their chests so to speak.

 The issue of the validity of such Scientology claims in which the Scientologists say that the E-Meter cures mental illnesses was raised in a courtroom years ago.  The United States District Court of the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) ruled that E-meters and any literature describing their use must carry a disclaimer that the device has been condemned by the United States District Court on the grounds that the "literature of Dianetics and Scientology contains false and misleading claims of a medical or scientific nature and that the E-Meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease." unquote

 That makes a lot of sense when you consider that only a trained psychiatrist or psychologist is really qualified to treat various forms of mental illnesses.

I have read that the vast majority of E-meters and  Scientology literature do not carry this disclaimer, thereby putting Scientolog in contempt of this court order. Of course, the order may only apply to Washington D.C.

Action against the device began when more than 100 E-Meters were seized by U.S. marshals at the headquarters of the ‘Founding Church of Scientology’ in Washington, D.C.  The US Food and Drug Administration charged that the devices were misbranded by false claims that they effectively treated some 70 percent of all physical and mental illness.

 A jury trial resulted in a verdict that the E-Meter was misbranded by the literature put out by Scientology hence both the device and its ‘labeling’ were subject to condemnation.

The Court of Appeals however reversed the verdict on the premise that the government had done nothing to rebut Scientology's claim that it was a religion.  A new trial was ordered, and at the close of which Judge Gerhardt A. Gesell issued a fourteen-page opinion.  Regarding the practice of auditing, the judge stated:

 “Hubbard and his fellow Scientologists developed the notion of using an E-Meter to aid auditing. Substantial fees were charged for the meter and for auditing sessions using the meter. They repeatedly and explicitly represented that such auditing effectuated cures of many physical and mental illnesses.  An individual processed with the aid of the E-Meter was said to reach the intended goal of 'clear' and was led to believe that there was reliable scientific proof that once cleared many, indeed most, illnesses would successfully be cured. Auditing was guaranteed to be successful.  All this was and is false.” unquote

Upholding FDA's charges that the E-Meter was misbranded, Judge Gesell ordered that use of the E-Meter be confined to ‘bona fide religious counseling’ and that the device was to be prominently labeled with the following warning notice:

“The E-Meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.” unquote

 The court upheld the right of believers to believe even in science fiction provided that they do not violate the laws that protect the public’s health. Claiming that the use of E-meters will cure mental illnesses is against the law in the United States.

 Nevertheless, Scientologists continue to use the E-Meter in auditing, although some models are designed for use by a person, by himself presumably to help with their spiritual development. The Church is careful not to claim publicly that the E-Meter has any health benefits. Some Scientologists, such as John Travolta and Priscilla Presley, say they use the E-meter on a regular basis. Any value the device has comes from the subjective validation of the user, however, it is not difficult to see how such a device could provide comfort to people, especially if they believe that thoughts have mass and energy (but they are not talking about anything neurological) and they are very creative. For such people, the E-Meter could well be useful for self-discovery. The E-Meter readings can stimulate such folks to reflect on their thoughts and actions, which may lead to active planning for the future. The process could be an assistance to self-hypnosis or psyching oneself up with confidence and determination.

 But if you want to buy such a device, be prepared to pay more than a thousand dollars for one.

 According to Scientologists, when a person begins with ‘Scientology Auditing,’ often the first thing they do is a specific set of actions called ‘Life Repair’ which are aimed at handling the upsets and difficulties the person is encountering in their current life. On average it takes 25 hours of auditing and at the end of that time, the person's current life issues will be handled. According to Scientologists, they won't just ‘feel better’ they will feel great and the things that were bothering them won't be bothering them anymore. According to Scientologists, that's the lowest, simplest, beginning form of Scientology Auditing and in a few days the people getting this treatment  will have not only reached, but completely surpassed the ‘feeling better’ of secular therapy.

You might very well achieve those ends by going to the leader of your religious establishment or a psychologist or psychiatrist. In the Province of Ontario, the visits to a psychiatrist are free so people going to the Church of Scientology in Ontario for the same treatment and spending thousands of dollars for that treatment are obviously wasting their money.

The Scientologist’s current (and this is conservative) total cost for the whole range of treatments up to and including level OT9 readiness is estimated at between $365,000 and $380,000.

Can you believe it? There are people willing to pay that kind of money to delve into (by what they are told by their Scientology auditors) millions of years of past lives to find relief from their current psychological problems. Hey! If it works, do it but unless you are a multi-millionaire, settle with living the life of a pauper because that is what you will end up being when your money runs out after attending all those Scientology sessions.

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