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Getting Into and Getting Out of Scientology - The Lies That Bind

Discussion in 'Evaluating and Criticising Scientology' started by mockingbird, Apr 18, 2019.

  1. mockingbird

    mockingbird Silver Meritorious Patron

    I was in Scientology for twenty five years and got out about five years ago. I often get asked what this was like, particularly by people who were never in a cult or who want to understand what were the key events that created this outcome.

    I will try to explain this in a couple ways here. First, I will try to explain what were the key beliefs I adopted and their causes and effects on myself and the influences and effects that eventually countered or removed the longstanding results of the earlier events. In plain terms I will describe a few lies regarding Scientology I fell for in my initial indoctrination and how they were so effective and the events that happened over twenty three to twenty five years later that have undone the the lies and removed their influence.

    I will also try to describe the way I got the information that helped me that I think served to help me and how I have tried to duplicate that style in terms of the most helpful aspects and I will try to explain this clearly here.

    Some people are fortunate in life. They get support and help from other people and it is useful and even may be wise. It can be apt for the situation a person finds themself in.

    Maybe it is just a personal quirk of mine because of how I got out of Scientology and was able to take tiny bits of information, the name of a book, subject or even concept in a subject, and use that to find the right ideas to make learning more possible. It could have been the phrase that knocked loose my thinking on a previously unexamined assumption or the troubling revelation that a whole subject existed to address a feeling or doubt that had plagued me.

    When I was first looking outside of Scientology and needed answers to what it was, how it worked and why I had genuinely believed in it for decades I was able to get bite sized bits of information, let them percolate under the hood for a while and see what felt important or like it needed clarification.

    I had seen the Posse of Lunatics story at Freedom magazine (published by Scientology) and knew something seemed wrong. The story contradicts the image Scientology founder Ron Hubbard created. He described the Sea Org as a bunch of, well demigods, after all - what should you call people who are supposed to have telekinesis, telepathy, precognitive powers, perfect memory and super genius minds that never make an error ?

    That was how Hubbard repeatedly and thoroughly praised the Sea Org as the elite of the elite in Scientology. He made it seem like they were untouchable and unbeatable. But then Scientology came out with a story saying the Sea Org upper echelon had been infiltrated by incompetent and bumbling, well idiots and criminals, who were the Keystone Kops or the gang that couldn't shoot straight.

    It made no sense.

    So I looked around. Wikipedia was too cluttered and incoherent. ESMB was way over my head, people there quote the affirmations of Ron Hubbard routinely and have hundreds of inside jokes that require understanding Scientology both as a Scientologist AND as someone who knows what crimes and abuses have been reported for decades.

    I was lucky enough to end up at The Underground Bunker blog by Tony Ortega. What initially was most crucial for me was the Scientology Mythbusting articles by Jon Atack.

    They often had simple ideas and referred to who said what, in what context and from which book or subject. THAT was exactly what I needed.

    Jon Atack often would give just a taste of something, perhaps a few words to a couple paragraphs and he was sure to say where ideas came from - it's the author, book and subject being laid out and the context that makes this information relevant to Scientology.

    He gave us food for thought and at the risk of mixing metaphors sparked the curiosity or awareness that more of this information is important. Important for me personally in the moment I am currently in. This phenomena of someone being willing, even driven, to examine COUNTEREVIDENCE to their own beliefs, behavior and emotions is very well explained in the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger. I also ended up writing a series of blog posts entitled Cognitive Dissonance Theory in Scientology at Mockingbird's Nest.

    But the point is that a person can enter a state of mind in which they tolerate, listen to or even actively seek out evidence AGAINST their own beliefs. And if they do then you want to not overwhelm them, not be too unreal for them, and not give some helpful information but leave them hanging, with no idea that more resources even exist, which you already went to the trouble of checking out.

    So, Jon Atack has been very influential in my approach. He was not too over informative, limiting his articles to brief points, and he was concise. He was approachable, whether you just left Scientology, had been out for years or never were in Scientology at all.

    And he left a sort of trail of breadcrumbs that a person could think on, come back to and pursue and the whole journey wouldn't be too long, expensive or difficult. In the Hansel and Gretel story the children left breadcrumbs to find their way but unfortunately the breadcrumbs were eaten by birds. I try to leave pieces of information to help people to find what resonates for THEM as individuals. A point or idea that is of minor significance to me might be exactly what someone else needs at a particular moment. Or it might sit in their mind until the right moment and gain significance for someone when they are ready or another relevant moment has just occurred.

    So, it takes discipline to remember I do not know what you need at any moment, what you already know at any moment or what will reach you at any moment. So, I need to know anything can be the right idea, term, subject or quote to prime you so you are ready right then and there for more. And the moment of doubt, questioning or awareness may pass. So, I need to make the route to pull a string on something, no matter how minor, immediately available.

    It may require a description of a subject, a definition or explanation of some phenomena, an explanation of what a cult practice is or how it is defined and framed in another subject like the practice of hypnosis or the eight criteria for thought reform by Robert Jay Lifton (available free online) or another model from cultic studies or psychology or psychotherapy or critical thinking or rhetoric.

    If I provide one of those I should ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS follow up with a name of an expert who is good and concise and approachable by anyone, whether they were in a cult or not, and a reference, like a particular book or film. Telling someone that an author who wrote twenty books has explored a topic is not useful, that is too much. Telling someone a particular book by that author is on a topic IS useful. Telling them about short articles that are by the author is also useful as they can read the articles, get more information and then decide if they want to stay on this path.

    You can say that the birds of misfortune, efforts to silence, censor and discourage are like the birds eating up the breadcrumbs, making it so people who need information will never find it are a problem. And they do those things and ARE a problem. But I am still going to keep leaving the breadcrumbs out there, if you don't then no one will find any of them.

    I want to give a bit of the path I took so it might help people who want to either try to take a similar route or who want to help others. I should never claim to be a good writer, but despite my limitations I try to help people by telling them what has helped me.

    As I described before the big thing that held me to Scientology was primarily three things: My experiences on Scientology indoctrination courses and the loaded language and my treating Scientology as infallible, Hubbard as above criticism and this attitude has two components - assuming the subject has perfect logic and flawless science within it and additionally that it is sacrilege to even question, doubt or Criticize Hubbard, the Sea Org or Scientology technology. This is the sacred science Lifton described in the eight criteria for thought reform.

    I had taken a job with a need for rapid and clear communication between coworkers and realized I was thinking everything in Scientology terms and then changing it to regular English and this was slowing me down. So I figured just thinking in English while at work would just speed things up and would be no big deal. After all, a person who knows French and Spanish should be able to think in either one and it should not affect the truth.

    I didn't realize that thinking in Scientology terms had become first nature over decades in the cult and I did it almost as a shield against the world. I was constantly asserting the "correctness" of Scientology in my mind by using the terms and phrases as though thinking them meant that they are true and the fact that they agree with each other (to a degree) meant that they are supported by each other and therefore "logical."

    In truth they are not true, they have internal contradictions in that many are terms with the opposite meaning from their true nature in Scientology. They are what George Orwell described as doublethink. In Scientology Ethics you remove your morals, in Scientology auditing you are described as removing content without evaluation but get many, many suggestions as to what to find and how to feel, in Scientology study technology you have your ability to use critical and independent thinking obliterated in a high authority indoctrination. The contradictory statements and terms in Scientology actually strengthen the hold as the cognitive dissonance they inspire encourages people to deny evidence against Scientology habitually and to project negative emotions outwards onto acceptable targets as scapegoats.

    The definitions one must memorize verbatim for Scientology terms often are contradictory as Hubbard changed his ideas many times and the definitions from many different times and references are kept together in the two huge dictionaries of Scientology terms one uses on course. They have definitions from the fifties through the eighties for many terms. Often a Scientology term can have a half dozen or more very specific and contradictory definitions. Denying that they contradict one another becomes a habit and after doing it thousands and thousands of times a Scientologist does it automatically without realizing it. They also get used to denying the evidence against Scientology and the factual errors and grammar mistakes in Scientology doctrine.

    So, thinking in Scientology terms and believing they are reality leads one to constantly be defending them as true and attacking anyone or anything that disagrees with Scientology. A self reinforcing system of mental enslavement.

    So, by forcing myself to think in regular English terms some remarkable things happened. I wasn't always defensive about Scientology. I was able to be more at ease, less anxious and was open to new ideas. At first these were ideas unrelated to Scientology.

    But just considering some ideas as possible further loosened the iron grip Scientology had held on my mind for decades. Over about two years at my new job I slowly had a few thoughts that seemed trivial but have had effects that have echoed throughout my whole mind and led me to previously unimaginable conclusions and changes.

    I am going to describe some ideas that may seem insignificant but with the context laid out their relevance becomes crystal clear.

    I saw a T.V. show one night after work. The show Heroes which had characters with super powers. One character created a sort of world in his imagination and he could bring the mind of another person in there to experience it with him, like a shared dream. So, the two guys end up together.

    They had been mortal enemies. The character Sylar had been the villain and Peter had been a hero. But Sylar had had his mind altered and his personality seemed different. Peter at first refused to consider it as possible. Sylar had lost his memories and was trying to go on a different path from the past.

    Peter and Sylar experienced a long time together, maybe a year, and needed to work together to escape from being trapped as they were. Peter and Sylar did work together and Sylar was able to persuade him, not by using any powers but by sheer repetition. As they were alone Peter had no other options for communication or escape.

    Now to be clear - I do not believe in super powers. I watched that, thought about it and something clicked for me - I realized that under some circumstances a person could strongly influence another through repetition, even if the person, Peter in this case, was in complete disagreement with the other person and didn't like or trust him at all, Sylar in this case.

    It felt factually correct to conclude this but emotionally it unleashed extreme discomfort, anxiety, confusion and a sense of gut wrenching wrongness. It exposed cognitive dissonance that I had long buried under denial and dissociation from my conscious mind for decades. But I didn't realize it at first. In fact I didn't realize it for many months.

    What gave this seemingly minor conclusion about fictional situations that will never occur in real life such power ?

    I have to go back to when I first encountered Scientology. I foolishly decided to join Scientology staff and find out if it was a con or was really helping people as it claimed. I was arrogant enough to think I was too smart to get fooled. That was the opening Scientology needed. I thought if it is genuine I will help it and if it is a fraud I will expose it.

    I was too certain that giving it my attention and allowing it to shape what communication I received could not influence me. I just assumed that given unlimited time and opportunity it was impossible for me to get fooled. I thought I was too smart. But I didn't know what I was getting into and what I know now -deception actually works.

    I recall at first being nervous on course as I wasn't really a Scientologist but was investigating it. I remember one day within my first two or three months in Scientology I was on course, probably reading KSW Keeping Scientology Working - the most frequently used policy in Scientology indoctrination. If you are in Scientology for years you may read it hundreds of times and get asked to define terms in it and explain concepts thousands of times.

    Anyway, I was thinking to myself that either Hubbard had fooled millions of people (I assumed his claim of Scientology having million members was true) or he was genuine.

    I thought about the certainty that the Scientologists I had met had and felt that Hubbard had either truly helped them or fooled them into believing in a reality that was, well, delusional.

    After all, they recalled past lives and believed the E Meter could find their thoughts and secrets and believed Scientology study technology made them geniuses. Scientology was either incredibly effective or incredibly persuasive in my mind. I could see no other explanation.

    I sat and thought - could Ron Hubbard be controlling their minds through his books and lectures ? He had no direct contact with everyone I knew. If he was influencing people it was via media, not direct contact.

    I thought about it and decided that he couldn't be influencing them. The only explanation that remained in my mind was that Scientology really worked. And that decision was reinforced over and over by many other decisions. Thousands and thousands of decisions.

    I think a few days after that, about three months into my Scientology indoctrination, I was doing a drill in which I needed to memorize in order over twenty departments in Scientology and their corresponding awareness characteristics. Suffice it to say that is a lot to recall verbatim.

    I was in Scientology and trying to maintain independent thinking. In Scientology indoctrination one is taught over and over thousands of times that difficulties on study and disagreement come from deficiency in the student, NEVER EVER EVER in Scientology methods, or doctrine of the especially the conduct or character of Ron Hubbard.

    The student has to be able to instantly rattle off the exact right definition for any word in their materials which they have studied on a course or they get flunked and sent to clear the word and RESTUDY EVERYTHING from that point forward. Some courses involve hundreds of pages of materials and having to go back is crushing. So Scientologists learn to have a haunted look and extreme anxiety.

    Scientology also is jam packed with thousands of terms and phrases Hubbard created which must be learned and he loved to use many unusual and difficult English words too. And Scientologists ask for definitions for small common words like "of, such, as, the, an, over, upon" and many, many others.

    So, a Scientologist must learn hundreds of English words AND thousands of Scientology terms SIMULTANEOUSLY. This left me as a person carefully investigating Scientology with a terrible burden.

    I had to keep straight three giant and rapidly growing categories. I had the Scientology terms, ideas and phrases I had to know verbatim. I had the English definitions I was learning which I had to know perfectly. And I had my own ideas and beliefs from before Scientology which I had to keep separate.

    I was so confused and overwhelmed I didn't know if I was coming or going. Scientology had given me far too much information to keep comparmentalized and memorized like that. So, I gave in and STOPPED keeping three categories. I just let it all come together as one. One "truth" I believed in.

    And that decision was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I pushed aside my doubts and critical and independent judgement, my delineation of my beliefs from the English terms I learned from the Scientology terms and ideas I learned was dropped. And my confusion left my conscious mind. Many would say that I had become dissociated in response to being overwhelmed.

    And in that moment I had enough relief to complete my drill and I decided that given my certainty I was now a Scientologist. After all, I no longer made any distinction between my beliefs, the English definitions I learned and Scientology definitions and ideas. To me the ideas in my Scientology materials were as true as my own beliefs which I had spent a lifetime forming.

    And that decision was supported, sanctioned by my earlier decisions regarding the "fact" that Hubbard "couldn't have fooled all these people" and "since he couldn't persuade them that Scientology worked the only remaining explanation for their certainty that it actually worked must be that it actually does work ", I also had thought of all the years and thousands of hours it must have taken to simply come up with the thousands of lectures and bulletins in Scientology and thought "if Hubbard was a conman he could have made millions, left for anywhere in the world and simply quit, so he must have believed to stick with Scientology for so long."

    So, I convinced myself that Scientology must really work because people cannot be persuaded that it does if it really doesn't, Hubbard must have been sincere in his efforts and I convinced myself that my moment of surrender of my own independence was a moment of transcendent enlightenment, that in accepting Scientology as being as true as anything I ever knew I had achieved profound wisdom. That moment was my embrace of the sacred science Lifton described. I accepted Scientology as beyond doubt or criticism.

    One little problem, I was wrong about every one of these things.

    It would take decades for me to free myself, bit by bit, gradually from these false assumptions and regain freedom of thought. Some mistakes are built to last.

    So, those catastrophic errors in judgement all occurred in my first three months of Scientology indoctrination. I should point out that I joined staff to see if Scientology was on the up and up and new staff at the time were encouraged to spend five hours per day on course, SEVEN days a week in addition to working a minimum of forty more hours a week, but far more was strongly encouraged. So, I got intensive indoctrination in Scientology for months.

    Then we fast forward to me about twenty three years later at my job using only English terms in both thought and speech. I realized my deeply held assumption regarding people being incapable of influencing each other via repetition was wrong. I had conceded it could happen. Okay, my belief that it couldn't happen was the foundation underpinning my belief that Scientologists couldn't be fooled by Hubbard.

    My faulty logic was that since they were not fooled then they must really get the results Scientology claims. And that Hubbard must in turn have been honest and correct. And everything in Scientology must be true.

    But, by pulling out the first brick on the road I had taken something had happened, something that had not happened for a very long time - doubt, just a smidge of it, far too little for me to even notice, had entered my mind. It was Jenga of the house of lies I had built and it was like a house of cards getting ready to all tumble down, if I haven't mixed too many metaphors.

    I within a few months was thinking differently. Someone at work brought up something about what people do because of religion, it involved Christians and Muslims and some issue and I said that a person should be responsible for whatever they do and admit it is their choice and never put it on a religion. Just thinking that and saying it shook me, but I didn't know why. I wasn't particularly interested in the issue the person had brought up and again didn't know why I was having a strong emotional reaction.

    A few months after the first two incidents of realizing that persuasion via repetition is possible then realizing that people need to have responsibility for their decisions regardless of religion another realization occurred. This was a big one and affected me profoundly.

    I realized I had a good job, a great wife, two great kids, was in good health, was doing good financially and was truly unhappy and even unsettled regarding something...something I couldn't quite put my finger on.

    So I decided to look at all the parts of my life, sweeping aside bias and rumor, and to see what could be wrong. I initially thought Scientology only contributes positive things and went to move onto something else but then I felt conflicted.

    Remember, I had stopped thinking in Scientology terms for two years at this point. I could be around Scientologists but I had been working sixty hours a week and was not really around Scientologists much. So, the effects of constantly thinking in Scientology terms had diminished.

    I realized that I was about to consider Scientology as above all doubt and further that I had been doing this as a habit for a very, very long time. That made me feel very uncomfortable, to see that I was automatically seeing Scientology as all good no matter what made me wonder if I had made an error.

    My previous certainty that Hubbard couldn't have fooled people was gone. But I still thought my experience on course was life changing and a miracle...but...still a doubt was gnawing at me.

    So, I focused in on Scientology and was looking at the internet but I still dismissed critics as liars and the misinformed. So, I was sort of in unfamiliar territory for me.

    For anyone interested Leon Festinger described this phenomena in his book A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance.

    I wrote on this in depth in

    Scientology And Cognitive Dissonance Theory

    Festinger went on to say:
    The presence or absence of dissonance in some particular content area will have important effects on the degree of information seeking and on the selectivity of such information seeking. (Page 126)
    Relative absence of dissonance. If little or no dissonance exists, there would be no motivation ( considering this source of motivation alone ) to seek out new and additional information. (Page 127)
    The presence of moderate amounts of dissonance. The existence of appreciable dissonance and the consequent pressure to reduce it will lead to the seeking out of information which will introduce consonances and to the avoidance of information which will increase the already existing dissonance. (Page 128)
    The presence of extremely large amounts of dissonance. Under such circumstances a person may actively seek out, and expose himself to, dissonance-increasing information. If he can increase the dissonance to the point where it is greater than the resistance to change of one or another cluster of cognitions, he will then change the cognitive elements involved, thus markedly reducing or perhaps even wholly eliminating the dissonance which now is so great. (Page 129) from A Theory Of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger

    So, Festinger described extremely large amounts of dissonance in an individual as prompting a reversal from avoiding dissonant information to seeking it out because it can prompt a reversal of position which could alleviate dissonance.

    This is kind of like when a creationist becomes conflicted over the abundance of disconfirming scientific evidence regarding creationism and they reverse gears and seriously examine evolution and the big bang theory and related ideas. Then they are relieved to have resolved the internal conflict if they reverse their opinions.

    I was prompted to look outside Scientology after the two years at that job and this was nearly twenty five years after I got into Scientology.

    So that brought me to the Posse of Lunatics story and that brought me to Jon Atack.

    I was convinced that somehow Scientology had no OTs but didn't understand how my experiences had occurred.

    Certain key ideas helped me to work out the truth about Scientology. Here are some key points from Jon Atack and his article Scientology is an implant.

    "The four basic forms of hypnosis or trance induction or heightening of suggestibility seem to be repetition, fixation, paradox (or confusion) and mimicry. "

    Of paramount importance also for seeing that Hubbard used hypnosis was the article by Jon Atack entitled Never Believe a Hypnotist. It exposed the crucial combination of two facts: Hubbard had a tremendous amount of information regarding hypnosis and he alternated back and forth between admitting that auditing was based on hypnosis and laying in suggestions no matter what the auditor did AND entirely denying the use of hypnosis in auditing.

    I was able to realize that the confusion on study in Scientology is from contradictions and cognitive dissonance it instills and the relief of this in word clearing comes from setting aside the confusion and accepting the ideas and definitions Hubbard guides you to.

    I dug deep into the issue in the blog post Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology. Here are a few quotes:

    Quotes from Ron Hubbard on the Confusion Technique: