Friday, December 14, 2007

The thing about Scientology

Is that their auditing process is totally unrealistic. There are problems with the organization, but with the ideology itself that's the main problem. Their idea, the basic idea behind Scientology in the Dianetics stage, from my reading of the literature, is that we have traumatic experiences that we keep with us that resurface unconsciously in similar situations, leading to unconscious reactions rather than reactions based on how we really want to act. The method of resolving these unconscious blocks is essentially Freudian, although they hate Freud in their literature. You're supposed to go through your past through memory in systematic ways examining experiences and identifying the ones that are causing stereotyped behaviors in the present. Once you bring those experiences to the surface of consciousness you're free of them in that you can be aware of how they effect you and not be limited by them. Once you go through all of your mental baggage you become "clear" in the sense of having cleared out your hang ups.

But when you look at how they propose you do it, go through these sorts of mental inventories or 'rundowns', for instance in the way recounted in Hubbard's book on self-treatment or therapy, you see that it's so unrealistic that people are more likely to just make stuff up, things that they think they experienced, rather than get to real material. For instance, one rundown, a preliminary one, asks you to think of a particular memory, like a time when you were happy as a kid, and identify the colors, sounds, smells, and feeling of touch that you experienced in that memory. I doubt that people really have memories so specific that they can actually extract all that information from them. Especially on command. But the mind is a wondrous thing. If you try to recall something that your mind can't come up with and you try and try eventually it will manufacture the material for you, based on what it thinks you're expecting. This is the principle behind people extracting false confessions. Sometimes they're just plain coerced, but sometimes after extended mental stress and questioning they come to believe that they're actually done what the interrogators want them to say they've done.

Besides the terrible implications of this aspect of mental life when abused by inhuman police and military personnel, the gentler implication for Scientology is that this is ultimately counter productive. If you want to eliminate people's conditioned, limiting, responses in order for them to be able to direct their lives more effectively, you don't want to manufacture false memories or fantasies that add to the pile of delusions in the subconscious mind. Unless the basic ideas of Scientology are applied in a much slower and more relaxed setting, with less unrealistic expectations in terms of memory recall, they risk doing more harm than good, spinning people into self generated delusions of "positive thinking".

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