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Clams, Xenu and the Wall of Fire
Scientology is officially a religion (according to the IRS anyway) but most call it a cult. At any rate, it is not just a religion but also pretends to be a business, and a science. Scientology is an organization (more precisely, as you will see, dozens of interconnected organizations) which sells services like classes on given topics, hires people in exchange for classes, has a definite body of knowledge, helps people on the path to enlightenment, and thru various front groups, helps society's progress. Or at least, that's what they would want you to believe.
The creator of Dianetics and Scientology is Lafayette Ron Hubbard. You may have seen infomercials promoting his first Dianetics book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. This book was published a few weeks after the publication of Hubbard's first article on Dianetics in a pulp sci-fi magazine in May 1950. You see, he used to be a science-fiction writer - he wrote a lot of pulp fiction and fantasy. As he said at a meeting in Newark, addressing fellow science-fiction writers, "writing for a penny a word is ridiculous," he told them. "If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be to start his own religion." And so he did.
The book became a huge success and Dianetics became a fad. Basically, the idea behind it was that all our mental problems are caused by a part of our mind which is called the reactive mind. This unconscious part of us contains engrams which can be reactivated when a situation or stimuli triggers the engram. These engrams are recorded anytime we have a painful experience or emotion (surprisingly, even as a foetus in the motherís womb), and mental problems are simply those engrams that are reactivated. The goal of Dianetics (the state of "clear") is to remove the person's reactive mind.
Of course, scientific studies have shown that there is no basis behind this belief, and there is no mention whatsoever of methodology in his book. That never stopped people from believing.
Two years later, the Dianetics Foundation went bankrupt and was bought out by a Wichita businessman. Hubbard then created an organization called the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, and started the first Church of Scientology. Scientology was basically an extension of the practice of Dianetics, with the basics of the organizational and doctrinal structure that we know today. In 1954, the new owner of Dianetics, tired of all the harassment and lawsuits filed against him by the Hubbard association, gave up his rights to it. The result of the re-integration of Dianetics was the new NED (New Era Dianetics) and NOTs (New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans) levels. Hubbard was in complete control and remained so to his death in 1986, when his pupil David Miscavige took control of the Church.
Like any other religion, Scientology has a really weird doctrine. Well, Scientology is not a religion, strictly speaking - there is a fundamental supernatural element present, but there are no gods or worship involved. What is interesting is that the Scientology doctrine does not consist of a set of myths or beliefs, but of pseudo-science. This pseudo-science exists largely in the form of science-fiction - that is, the followers of Scientology live in a "space opera" world, populated with galactic empires and countless souls from other galaxies.
As you already know from Dianetics, Hubbard was working under an odd view of the mind. The supernatural element comes into play in the notion of thetan. The thetan is simply your immaterial soul - that is, your identity. After getting cleared of your reactive mind, you must study in order to gain all the power of immaterial souls - god-like powers. As you see, this is the stuff that science-fiction is made of. In fact, Hubbard's stories are filled with long-past wars of thetans against men, intergalactic empires, invader forces, and such. One could say that the Scientology mythos is particularily modern, and thus, more likely to attract people.
There is a definite path, called the Bridge, to follow in order to progress in the cult, on your way to godhood. While this path is roughly composed of the following steps, although there are also other rundowns that can be done:
Before I begin on the more interesting parts of the Bridge, I believe I must explain some words, like auditing and rundown. Auditing in Scientology is not something that the IRS does, nor is it a stressful experience - it is the way that most levels are ran and completed. An auditing session (before the NOTs, which are mostly solo) usually consists of the person audited holding the "cans" (sensors, looking a bit like soup cans) of a device called the e-meter in his hands, while the auditor is sitting behind the e-meter, taking notes of the readings and giving commands to the person.
An e-meter is sort of a primitive lie-detector (which was once used by the Boy Scouts as a nice novelty, that is, until Hubbard sued them, as he was wont to do about anything). For those of you who know electric circuits, it's just a plain Wheatstone bridge - the e-meter measures skin resistance, which of course changes depending on the surface the hands present on the cans. The auditor then looks at the needle indicating resistance and deduced the "state of mind" of the person being audited by determining what kind of movement the needle makes. For example, if the needle slams rapidly downwards, this is called a "rock slam" and means that the person is hiding something, or has evil intentions.
The technique of auditing uses the e-meter to determine if the person is following the procedure correctly. One such procedure that is audited is the regression into past lives. One belief of Scientology is that, quite like reincarnation, our thetan leaves the body at death and, after a while (after being re-implanted in what is called the between-lives area), reintegrates with another body. Auditing is also the method used in most of the other levels in Scientology, and the e-meter is never far away.
The first important level is the level of Clear. A Clear, as you may recall, is someone who has no reactive mind, that is, who has no more mental problems. Of course no such thing has ever been observed in real life Clears. In the earlier stages of Scientology, Hubbard defined a Clear as, amongst other abilities, having total recall. Unfortunately, the first Clear (Sonya Bianca, in August 1950), when having been tested on the spot, couldn't even remember the colour of Hubbard's tie. It was a total fiasco, and Hubbard promptly redefined the notion of Clear.
History of Man
One of the readings required to be a Clear is the book A History of Man. In my opinion, this book is the finest piece of pseudo-science and fantasy that has ever been written. I highly recommend anyone interested in that kind of thing to read it, although it is quite rare now. I will give you here the two main ideas of the book, for your enlightenment. Remember that all Scientologists (Clear or above) believe this.
Hubbard tells us at the beginning of the book that it is "a cold-blooded and factual account of your last sixty trillion years." A bold statement indeed. In one part of the book, he talks about evolution, but not the kind of evolution you learned in school though. Hubbard really knew where humans came from.
First we were all atoms, "complete with electronic rings." The impact of cosmic rays was very traumatic for us in that form. Then we were photon converters, unicellular plants which fell inactive at night (which explains why we need sleep in our human form). Then came the helper, which was our first experience of cellular division. It was called "helper" because sometimes one of the newly formed cells was weaker than the other, and the stronger one came in to help, usually losing its own life in the process. This was also the source of many traumas (and no doubt melodramas). Then, for some time, we were seaweed, then we evolved into jellyfish (which, not being able to move by itself , was very traumatized by repeatedly hitting its head on the hard surface of underwater caves).
Then comes the part that so many critics like to laugh about: clams. Yes, Scientologists believe they evolved from clams. In fact, Hubbard said that, "your discussion of these incidents with the uninitiated in Scientology can cause havoc. Should you describe the "clam" [and all the incidents around it] to some one [sic], you may restimulate it in him to the extent of causing severe jaw pain. Once such victim, after hearing about a clam death, could not use his jaws for three days." He also said that making an opening and closing motion with your thumb and forefinger in front of someone, while asking him to imagine a clam opening and closing its shell very rapidly, would upset this person greatly. The clam had also a lot of engrams as a result of things getting inside the shell that wouldn't go away, or a conflict between one hinge that wanted to open and another that wanted to close. Smokers, note that your addiction to cigarettes comes from the time when you were a clam, during erupting volcano incidents. Go audit immediately the clam incidents on your time track; it works way better than the nicotine patch.
After the clam, we became what is called the Grim Weeper or the Boohoo, a creature which had "trillions of misadventures." Since this creature lived on beaches and breathed air, it was very anxious to gulp air before the next wave. "The inability of a pre-clear to cry," Hubbard explained, "is partly a hang-up in the Weeper. He is about to be hit by a wave, has his eyes full of sand or is frightened about opening his shell because he may be hit."
Then we were sloths, and as sloths we always fell off trees (giving us this feeling of insecurity that we have today), then apes, then... the Piltdown Man. Yes, it was a hoax, but not for Hubbard. The Piltdown Man had really big teeth - so big, in fact, were his teeth, and so careless was he, that he "was sometimes guilty of eating one's wife and other somewhat illogical activities." One year after the first edition of History of Man was published, Piltdown Man was revealed to be a fraud, but that entry in the book has never been deleted.
But there are still more absurdities in History of Man. Let me talk about one more thing - the MEST/thetan wars. Around 75 million years ago, there began a war of thetans against men. You see, men are just degraded thetans who are occupying a body. Men are always trying to invade thetan territory, and thetans fight back by throwing charges at them. MEST is an abbreviation for Matter/Energy/Space/Time, more simply, all of reality (that is, unless you believe that thetans are real).
Hubbard describes many incidents that happened during these wars, that must be audited out in order to help the PC (Pre-Clear) achieve Clear status. These incidents concern weapons used by Thetans or men during these wars, with names like jack-in-the-box, which was a thetan trap. It was composed of a box containing pictures, which depicted a box containing pictures, which depicted a box containing pictures, etc. When the thetan is trapped in the box in fascination, it explodes (Wile E. Coyote would be proud of that one). If you "are very curious about cereal boxes which have pictures of boxes of cereal which have pictures of boxes of cereal," it's because you are having this incident restimulated. Who would have thought? History of Man is still available in libraries or pawn shops, if you're lucky enough to find it.
The OT levels
After being Clear-ed of all your engrams and aberrations on the timetrack, and prepared for the OT levels, you then take the plunge. OT is an abbreviation for Operating Thetan, which is basically a thetan who has restored its full powers as a theta-being. An intermediate level is theta-clear, which is, the state where the Clear can exteriorize (leave his or her body). Too bad that no OT has ever been able to prove that he can exteriorize, because that would definitely be a nice trick to use when you play cards.
The OT level that has been the most discussed is OT3 . There we learn that we all have a great number of BTs, or body thetans attached to our body. Body thetans are simply souls, like thetans, that are attached on one's body (in the NOTs you learn that your whole body is made of BTs) and make up the reactive mind. We also learn where these body thetans come from: Incident 2. OT3 is basically a description of this incident.
Putting the entire text of OT3 here would only get me sued. This is a BAD IDEA (tm). Therefore, I will paraphrase, with relevant extracts. If you want to see the first page of OT3 in its entirety, including a scan of Hubbard's own handwriting, go to http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/OTIII/.
The first sentence of OT3 tells us that "[t]he head of the Galactic Confederation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here) (founded 95,000,000 years ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet -- 178 billion on average) by mass implanting." The name of this leader was Xenu. How he did this mass implanting was very simple: he had people taken to Earth (which was then called Teegeeack), stuffed them in volcanoes, and destroyed their bodies with H-bombs. Then their thetans were captured and implanted with "misleading data." But that is not the end of the story. When Xenu was "through with his crime, Loyal Officers (to the people) captured him after six years of battle and put him in an electronic mountain trap where he still is." The Galactic Confederation has since been a desert.
Hubbard then tells us that if you attempt to solve the implant without proper help, it will kill you by pneumonia, or by free wheeling, which makes one sleepless, with traumatic visions always recurring, and can end in death. But do not fear, for he has found the way to solve it. The good Ron tells us that in December 1967, he took the plunge, and emerged "very knocked out but alive." He also tells us that he was "the only one ever to do so in 75,000,000 years."
As you see, Hubbard said that anyone who was not prepared and read OT3 could catch pneumonia and possibly die. He called that the Wall of Fire, and said that he emerged from it knocked out but alive. It turns out that he just fell from his motorbike. And all the volcanoes, designated by Hubbard on another document as being the places where the thetans were bombed, didn't exist at the time of the alleged events.
The goal of OT3 is to audit out all those nasty body thetans out of your body by running on them Incident 1 and 2. Incident 1 is said to have taken place 4 quadrillion years ago, and consists of a cryptic series of events like "loud snap" and "waves of light."
The people were taken to Earth by spaceships looking much like DC-8s, that is why John Travolta's son Jet's bedroom is modeled after the inside of a DC-8 aeroplane. I don't know why Travolta wants to restimulate such nasty engrams in his son; maybe he's the reincarnation of Xenu.
After the people got blasted and their thetans were trapped, they were subjected to an incident called R6. There they were implanted by the means of a giant movie. Hubbard said that many things, including religion, comes from R6.
So you work hard on OT3 to get all those Body Thetans out of your body, only to learn in NOTs that there are some of them that you couldn't get out because they were incapacitated. So you work some more to remove those other thetans out of your body by talking to them and making them blow (leave the body). Then you go on to have god-like powers in the following levels. It's so easy, one can't help wondering why these incredible people have not manifested themselves yet.
In OT7, there was a couple sentences that were found very funny also. This level is no longer used by the Church, but it is interesting nonetheless to see that Scientologists believed that at some point they could talk to plants and animals:
1. Find some plants, trees, etc., and communicate to them individually until you know they received your communication.
2. Go to a zoo or a place with many types of life and communicate with each of them until you know the communication is received and, if possible, returned."
Not much is known about the subsequent levels after OT8, but we do know what is in OT8. This level is particularily infamous because of the following lines:
The Christians really hate that one. The term Marcab refers to an Invader Force which is part of the Scientology mythos.
So that's my overview of weird things on the Bridge - note that I do not think that all of Scientology's ideas are bunk, but they are so few and so exaggerated that the discipline itself is not worth the trouble. There are a lot more of interesting sutff, but I've given you the funniest ones. There is a lot more related material that I did not cover, like Hubbard's weird conception of the universe and the galactic empires that occupy it (like the empires of Helatrobus, Espinol and Arslycus), or all the god-like OT powers like intention beams that are shot from one's eyes, or a book that he has written -- called Excalibur -- that he said would make anyone who read it completely insane, or the use of clay in Scientology as a way to heighten one's intelligence, or some even weirder stuff like his "discovery" that radiation poisoning is purely mental, his exteriorized trips to Venus and other places in the galaxy, and such. To say that Scientology is entertaining science-fiction is really putting it mildly. But let me finish with one more bit of insanity.
In the Professional Auditor's Bulletin No. 123, called "THE REALITY SCALE", Hubbard says :
"Let's say somebody's afraid of a stove. Have him say 'Hello' to the stove, and have the stove say 'Okay.' Have the stove say 'Hello' to him, and have him say 'Okay' to the stove. After a while he won't have any fear of touching the stove. Oddly enough he will receive less effect from the stove even if hot. That is quite important. It tells you that the body does not naturally lend itself to injury, but injury takes place only in a highly aberrated condition. You should be able to take a body and throw it up against the wall hard enough to crush its skull in, have it drop to the floor, stand and walk away - providing you aren't holding in suspension the image picture of its hitting the wall and being injured." [eighth paragraph]
When one reads about the whole absurdity of Scientology, from its basic ideas of the e-meter, past lives or the reactive mind, to the full-blown cosmology of the OT levels, it is easy to dismiss it as absurd prattle that no rational person would believe. However, all religions are just as absurd, and people believe them also in great numbers. Think of Christianity and its inspired yet contradictory Bible, its tales of resurrection and virgin birth, angels and demons, or the silly idea that a god would kill his own son to undo rules that he made himself. What makes Scientology more interesting, however, is that it's supposed to be completely scientific, and not based on faith at all.
In fact, there are several ways in which the beliefs of Scientology correlate with Christianity. The thetan is nothing more than the old idea of "soul" and the state of "clear" is akin to being a Christian - supposedly, free from bad emotions and other such mental abberations. Body thetans are similar to demons and the whole OT3 and NOTs procedure is very similar to exorcism, down to the point where the person talks with his "demons" in a manner that is similar to the Christian practice of exorcism.
abridged version of an article by Franc (full version)
posted on 07/2002.