From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 52- May 2001
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org/
IVy on the Wall
by Ken Urquhart, USA
Outside 'Inside Scientology'
Chapter Five in a consideration of ' A Piece of Blue Sky' by Jon Atack
Outside 'Inside Scientology'
WE HAVE SO FAR considered the externals, the Acknowledgments, the Preface, and the essay What is Scientology, which introduce and begin Jon Atack's book, A Piece of Blue Sky. We come now to Part One of the book which bears the title: 'Inside Scientology, 1974-1983'. It has four chapters headed, respectively: My Beginnings; Saint Hill; On to OT; The Seeds of Dissent.
These chapters outline Jon's introduction to and involvement with the subject and his departure from it. They include fair summaries of Dianetic engram running, of the basic Training Routines (but here the summary betrays misunderstanding of their purpose), and of the OT Levels. In these chapters we also get some of Jon's experiences with and observations of the people and practices. They are sharply drawn, interesting, and valuable.
In the early days of the organization, or movement as it was more then, it had an energy and a hope one could personally and freely respond to. I first came into contact with Scientology through a family friend in 1956. Over time the energy and hope became force and franticness. One no longer responded freely and personally either as staff or public; the force and franticness pulled one in or spat one out. The Scientology world had changed completely over the years.
Jon's Scientology world
The picture Jon paints of the Scientology world he became a loyal member of, starting in 1974, is mostly negative, of course. This is, after all, an expose. And there is plenty to be negative about. The picture is entirely credible as well as pitiful. Just about everything that Jon says about the Scientology world he experienced rings very true. For example:
1. Jon went to an official Scientology organization in the North of England to buy training courses so he could get a job at the Birmingham Mission. The registrar at the org was 'insistent and belligerent'. And, 'he seemed to take an immediate dislike to me'. I have come across such org welcomes myself.
2.A Saint Hill staff member who lived in the same house as Jon had done OT levels and claimed OT powers - such as being able to pick the winning horse (while living in poverty). Another ate only bananas because he had 'heard' that L.Ron Hubbard was researching carbohydrate diets. These are behaviours characteristic of some Scientologists, as I have observed.
3. Due to a mix-up in court paperwork, Jon received a summons for nonpayment of a court fine, a matter apparently easily resolved. He needed the Ethics Officer's permission to take time off his Saint Hill training course to go take care of it. The Ethics Officer, an 'intense and overweight' woman, 'wore knee-length boots with her disheveled Sea Org uniform'. She told him she was removing him from the course because he was a 'criminal' and explained that even for a parking ticket, she would bar the offender from Scientology courses until it was paid. I remember the person as Jon describes her. I can hear her voice and its tones. I can accept his account of her reaction to his request as authentic.
4. At Saint Hill, the Ethics Officers were daunting, overworked, and unsmiling. Saint Hill registrars were a little too sugary and it was obvious they wanted money. The constant and unavoidable discussions with Sea Org recruiters at SH were wearing. Virtually everyone there was too busy trying to save the world to create any genuine friendships.' All this is true.
5. Jon writes that he had 'serious reservations about the increasingly high prices and the incompetence of the organization. I [Jon] simply could not understand how Hubbard's research into administration had created such a bumbling and autocratic bureaucracy. Although staff worked themselves to a frazzle, they seemed to achieve very little. Then there were the little Hitlers who used their positions to harass anyone who did not fit neatly into their picture of normality.' The monthly price increases were an insanity that LRH originated all by himself. I don't think LRH had any idea of how bumbling and autocratic was the bureaucracy which infected the organizations; had he been on the site to experience it he would have exploded in fury and shaken everyone up very drastically. Yes, we did work ourselves to a frazzle and usually achieved very little. And Yes, 'little Hitler' is a good name for such nuisances, of whom there were far too many.
LRH viewed as Source of All
Jon was not alone in not understanding how someone whom he accepted as being exceptional, LRH, could create such a bumbling, autocratic bureaucracy. It seems to have been a fairly common delusion that everything any staff member did was at the express instigation of LRH himself, and that LRH was aware of all that was being done all the time. The truth was that he had little awareness of what was being done in his name, and that staff had great freedom to impress on others that the source of their bumbling was LRH himself. From my personal experience of LRH in his dealings with subordinates on the ship, and earlier at SH, I am certain that had he been on the ground and seen for himself what people were doing in his name and claiming that he was responsible for he would have been unrestrainedly outraged. He would have torn into those bumblers like a tornado; they wouldn't have known what had hit them. Unfortunately, he didn't go there and he didn't do that.
However, the bumbling was not altogether the bumblers' fault. A great deal of LRH's `research into administration' was valid and valuable. Some of it was nonsense. Likewise, some of his management style was valid and admirable, and some of it was nonsense. The nonsense enabled the bumbling and autocratic bureaucracy; it empowered the little Hitlers; it institutionalized the bureaucracy and the Hitlers; it gave them ammunition for self-protection.
[NB. Lest it appear that I lay all blame on LRH for the way in which his organizations developed - or deformed, one might say - I should clarify here my opinion that the evolution (or deformation) was a cooperative effort. The sanity in what LRH set out to do in itself triggered people; any nonsense in his behaviour would have triggered further material. The activity triggered people in the environment. People working closely trigger each other. These crosscurrents and interactions triggered everybody, including LRH; he responded with some sanity and some further nonsense. And so it went, around and around, up and down, in and out, across, over, under, amongst, and through. He coined two words for it later: over-restimulation and cross-restimulation. The presence and influence of these two factors throughout Scientology - and throughout Planet Earth, indeed - affect all manifestations of sanity within Scientology (and over all of Planet Earth) but reduce or alter any underlying sanity only when we agree that they do. It is a great sadness that people like Jon Atack see something of the sanity within Scientology and then come to agree that the insanity within the subject utterly overrules the sanity.]
Validity vs Nonsense
I can't undertake a review here of the policy he issued as to what is valid and what is nonsense, and I don't know that I would be qualified to do that anyway. But as a bumbling insider who had a position both central to but paradoxically mostly external to the nonsense I have opinions about what was the nonsense in LRH's management style and how the nonsense helped to pervert what was valid.
1. LRH seemed to know and trust no other organizational structure than that of the military model - with its rigid verticalities of authority and consequent horizontal infighting over practice and performance. At the top of the structure is the Commander-in-Chief whose word is law throughout the structure. The structure owes him instant and exact compliance, without exception. Any disagreement with, or opposition to, or non-compliance with, the Commander's word is treasonous.
LRH's words as commander were many - very many - but not well prioritized. He had a very bad habit of originating one high-priority project after another, so that few could come to completion - the resources allocated to the last urgent handling would soon be ripped off to man up the latest new one. Over the years, a new policy would contradict an older one that would remain in force but perhaps not actively. He created volumes of policy that anyone could explore; the bureaucrat could always find in those volumes a line or page or two that supported his/her position and attacked a rival's; bullying personalities could set themselves up as mirror-image copies of the commander and few would dare to give them the lie. The game in a bureaucracy becomes survival within the structure at others' expense and with minimal expenditure of energy in only the absolutely unavoidable change. The professionals working at the public level, those who knew their jobs and why they were doing them fought a losing battle with their own side.
The higher up, the more intense this confusion and the infighting which 'resolves' it. At the Staff levels, close to the commander, the professionals had to do their jobs despite the elbowing for attention and favour, the jealousy, the manipulations and intrigues, the stabs in the back, the propitiation, of the dedicated courtiers. Perhaps this phenomenon took place at all levels, in parallel.
All the same, the core of professionals, the ones who had seen in Scientology something of real value to real life, wanted that real value to reach out into the world. They wanted that for the world's sake. They worked very, very hard to bring it about. Had LRH remained true to his earlier intentions, the result of their work would have been a proud and effective, helpful organization.
2. As he aged, LRH could not tolerate the idea that anyone else could do a good enough job to actually take over from him, despite the obvious fact that he could not go on forever. He overloaded himself in denying others responsible authority to act. He prevented the most able around him from developing into future leaders. He kept his management levels in constant frustration and turmoil. And he ruled them by fear of his wrath. He created incompetence around himself - as regards leadership; we all got very competent as courtiers and bureaucrats.
3. LRH always knew best, even when the size and scale of the organization removed him from contact with the realities of life in the organizations delivering to the public. The people on the front lines never knew what radical changes would hit them next. They were constantly ordered this way and that as though what they had been doing beforehand was wrong and their fault. He created incompetence in his remote offices and centers.
4. LRH encouraged staff, despite all the above, to feel that they were part of an elite group with an elite purpose. That the world they dedicated themselves to saving insisted on being uncooperative and ungrateful reinforced their self-perception as elites. It could not occur to them that the world had any right to not want to be saved, or need to be saved, or that they could do nothing to save it without developing real affinity, agreement, communication, and understanding with that world. As elite, they scorned any such affinity, agreement, communication, or understanding.
5. LRH shamelessly and shamefully pushed what he thought were panic buttons to hopefully get people to flood into the orgs to buy lots of services. First it was the Communists, then atomic war, then World War III. With regard to people's cases, it was the horrors of not getting to OT III and doing it right
6. His paranoia has often been remarked on, and sometimes documented. It coloured his view of the world as it related to himself and to the organization he created. He used the Guardian's Office to protect against his perceived attackers. He gave the GO seniority in the organization and its activities influenced every aspect of the organization's life; all staff and public Scientologists were subject to the movements and requirements of the GO. The paranoia and the supremacy of the GO had to be justified by the size and extent of dangers within and without the organization. LRH was at times obsessed with his perceived 'opposition' - the SPs, PTSes, R/Sers, and, above all, the associated ogres of government and the psychs. To this extent he reacted with unnecessary force to real barriers, and unnecessarily created many enemies for himself and for Scientology - both within and without.
7. LRH treated his Sea Org followers as slaves for economic exploitation. He never paid anyone who joined him more than a pittance (exception: some forceful salespeople). From the 70s he demanded that his people work for money that could not house and feed them decently - let alone their families. For some, this was all part of the exciting game, a proof of an elitism whose rewards would come later. But it made others bitter and resentful because it abused them and they knew it.
8. LRH brought great confusion to the organization's major product delivery and income activity, the delivery of Scientology technology. There are arguments today that the technology and its delivery are severely flawed at best. Some say it is all based on LRH's own case alone and has nothing to do with anyone else's. Be this as it may, I argue neither for nor against these points. Things change; technology good yesterday may not apply today. No matter what the reason, technology that doesn't help a person is not the right technology for the person, and that's that. Nonetheless, when someone complains that Scientology didn't or doesn't work, we don't know the truth of the matter until we know what was done, why it didn't work, and whether it was Scientology or something else.
Nonetheless, the technology was what it was and the organizations had to deliver it. In the late seventies, the philosophical and technical underpinnings of the State of Clear, the Excalibur by which Scientology lived or died, started to unravel. Hubbard issued more than one 'clarification',each of which confused the issue further. Now the whole organization was operating over uncertainty as to its own integrity; I don't think it has ever regained its integrity. In losing its integrity, a group loses its soul.
Whose wants are we focusing on?
It was during the late seventies and early eighties that Jon Atack entered the quicksands of Scientology as practiced by its organizations as they existed then. In this period, all of the above nonsense factors were raging in full dramatization.
Into this mess came Jon. What did he want? For himself, he says: 'What I wanted from Scientology was emotional equilibrium so I could win my girlfriend back, make a successful career in the Arts, and concentrate on achieving Enlightenment.'
I don't see anything wrong or difficult or strange about this. I couldn't have guaranteed Jon that his ex-girl-friend would agree to be won back. But I could have happily committed to helping him to achieve emotional equilibrium, to make a successful career, and to achieve Enlightenment. So could any practicing Scientologist then who actually practiced Scientology - or does so today. So could have - and would have L.Ron Hubbard himself if Jon had asked him personally and directly.
We would all have said, or say today, 'Sure, Jon, no problem! That's what we're here for! This is my fee. When do you want to start?' And we could be doing something for Jon whether using 'standard' Scientology or something derived from it or from something else.
The Scientologists Jon involved himself with were too busy being good Scientologists to pay any attention to his real needs and wants. They made him cooperate with their needs and wants. That was their way of pleasing their bosses and the little Hitlers - and what they perceived LRH to be. Everyone leaned on everyone else to produce their 'statistics'. Jon was statistics fodder. His actual needs and wants were not important as long as he could be made to subjugate them 'for the greatest good of the greatest number', a nebulous but vital component of Scientology life which manifests itself in 'up statistics'.
Who is Friend to Whom?
Unfortunately, Jon allowed himself to be swept up into the nonsense. LRH's self-promotion had dazzled him as it has so many. He compromised his own integrity enough to achieve disappointment and frustration but not enough to suppress his own feelings in the end. The Scientologists took him up the OT levels unprepared for any of them, and they took him for a lot of his money. It is no surprise he wrote his expose. In their own ethics terms, they were in Enemy to him and they created an enemy out of him. Worse, having invited him to trust them and then by behaving as enemy to him, they betrayed his trust: this they themselves call Treason.
What might have been...
Jon had felt that, as a therapy, Scientology might have a world-changing impact. So did we all! Even though we didn't regard it as a 'therapy', I don't think Jon or we were wrong about its potential.
LRH, and we, all together, forced Scientology to become something other than it really is. Perhaps the Axioms of Scientology are the purest summation of what it really is.
We don't know what Scientology's impact would have been had we let Scientology agree with its own axioms.
That we couldn't let it be what it is, was probably inevitable. No single human intelligence could envision and design something as revolutionary as Scientology claimed to be [especially here on Planet Earth], and made serious attempts to be - without including fatal flaws in the vision and design.
That a person on Earth, L.Ron Hubbard, conceived of the possibility of such a vision and such a design and did so much to make it a reality in spite of its and his own flaws is in itself a triumph, and a worthy one. He did his best to make it be real and he fell foul of his own imperfections. But he tried. He tried! His trying embraced things he was right to do, and things he should never have tried to do.
He tried, and he failed. He 'failed' in that he didn't fully succeed. But in trying he achieved more than the victims of the failure will be able to understand - for a while. And in failing, he caused a lot of damage.
One day, at Saint Hill, in 1965, as he was C/Sing the first Power Processing sessions and training the Power auditors, he got up from his desk which was loaded with case folders. He had had a tough day: some auditors were misbehaving in the chair, some cases were being difficult. At that time many of the pcs receiving Power were executives from large Scientology organizations. He was learning things about the ways in which they regarded themselves and life. I had gone into his office to tell him it was time for his dinner. He seemed tired, almost dispirited. As I helped him on with his jacket, he looked at me wryly, and said quietly, with a little grin, 'I am mending the world with broken tools'.
Poor fellow; he could never publicly acknowledge that a part of himself was broken. Broken or not, he was never little or cowardly. His size and his courage lent terrible power to his weakness.
Has anyone come close to opening a door so wide, such as the one LRH opened for us in his strength and courage?
What does it take to heal the wounds he caused in his broken way of opening that door?
© 2001 Kenneth G. Urquhart.