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Inside Scientology: Is it mind control? // Exports say yes / "Ridiculous charges"

Title: Inside Scientology: Is it mind control? // Exports say yes / "Ridiculous charges"
Date: Wednesday, 30 June 1982
Publisher: News-Herald (Santa Rosa, California)
Author: Dennis Wheeler
Main source: link (561 KiB)

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The Church of Scientology (which was founded by L. Ron Hubbard and operates a mission in Santa Rosa) is often charged with using mind control techniques to obtain and maintain the loyalty and resources of its members.

Scientology officials, as well as many Scientology church members, scoff at these charges, insisting their practices and teachings are designed to liberate the mind, not enslave it.

But Ford Schwartz, a longtime Scientologist and later a "deprogrammer" for the Freedom Counseling Center in Burlingame, claims the Church's "Communications Course" (or Comm Course) is usually the first step in a process of mind control. During his own years in the organization, he says, he conversed with approximately 3,000 students either enrolled in the course or recently graduated from it. The drills, or "TRs," in the course are repeated throughout one's career as a Scientologist, he says.

According to Schwartz, recruits are urged or "crushed" — a Scientology slang term — to sign up, pay, and start the course immediately. "The registrar is trained to hurdle any objections to the above," he says in a report on the subject. "At times, checks with insufficient funds or counter checks drawn on non-existent accounts are accepted knowingly by the registrars in order to have the person start right away." The cost, he says, ranges from $10 to $50, and the course varies in length from several days to two months.

A supervisor maintains "an almost military atmosphere" during the course, Schwartz says, and students are told to read from a "course pack."

"When the student completes a page, the supervisor begins a 'checkout' by questioning to see if the material has been fully understood. If the reply is affirmative, the supervisor snaps a question at the student which is always a demand for the definition or a word contained in the text." An example of this, Schwartz says, could be, "What's the definition of the word if?" The "misunderstood" word must then be looked up in a dictionary, and the student has to read the entire page over again.

If the student disagrees with any of the material and asks the supervisor to explain or defend it, says Schwartz, "the supervisor invariably says, 'What do your materials state?' or 'What word just before that did you misunderstand?' " Students in other Scientology courses reportedly look up over 10,000 words individually so they'll "learn to study."

His own experiences in the Comm Course? "As a new Scientologist in 1972, I was extremely confused and disoriented during my initial contacts with this course. I was driven by the desire to please my supervisor and other Church staff. And I experienced a feeling of superiority over newer students once I'd learned the ropes," an experience which he says is often felt by other students.

Schwartz believes that students who are convinced they have serious problems communicating with other people (a conviction often suggested by the Church's "personality test") may feel helpless in solving the problems of life. And, he adds, confusion that arises out of being shunted from one person to another in order to start the course results in a feeling of being totally controlled by one's superiors.

"Being flunked in a checkout is demeaning," Schwartz points out. "Instant and exact definitions of common words such as if, but, or, of, the, to, or others aren't demanded in other educational forums...An awful realization occurs which goes something like this: 'I've been reading and studying all of my life and went by words like if thousands of time. I must not really understand anything!" No wonder I have problems!' " The result, says Schwartz, leaves the student feeling stupid and vulnerable, unable to trust the validity of decisions made prior to Scientology.

Schwartz compares the student's mind at this point to a blank sheet of paper. "Hubbard says that the world begins with TRO. He implies that without the ability to 'just be there' and thus achieve a 'major stable win,' one hasn't really started the process of living...Where was the person before? How valuable can any experience be if the person wasn't there to experience it? Whether designed for this purpose or not, the drills convince most students that existence and interraction have been problems for them since they weren't 'there' to participate."

The "re-education" of POWs during the Korean War, says Schwartz, dealt with political loyalties. "That was a light task compared to the revisions the Comm Course makes. TR1 involves a re-learning of how to talk; with TR2, re-learning of how to listen; with TR3, a re-learning of how to properly ask a question; and with TR4, there's re-learning of how to interract with another. The student's regression to a childlike and impressionable state is the result."

Schwartz also says a "hidden agenda" is involved in the Comm Course. Students may have only signed up for a course to help them communicate better with others, but actually, says Schwartz, they're being trained to become "auditors" and "Operating Thetans." "The certificates issued upon completion of the Comm Course doesn't mention communication," he claims. "One becomes certified as a Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist."

Often, Schwartz says, students in the drills called OTTRO and TRO experience sharp alterations of consciousness, which Scientologists call "being there," "being exterior to one's body," or having a "major stable win." It's during or after this experience that the student often adopts the definition of "Thetan," which is the Scientology concept of the soul, a reincarnated descendant of a vast galactic empire.

The problem with this, says Schwartz, is that one is then isolated from any group, philosophy, and religion which fails to address a person as a Thetan. "Where else can a Thetan go for understanding or help? What other group has paved the way for a Thetan's ultimate freedom and ability? To whom should a Thetan give gratitude, loyalty, and support?"

Schwartz's wife, Andrea, was also a Scientologist for many years. She's convinced that one of the purposes of TR1 (the "Alice in Wonderland" drill) "is to get you to say things that don't make any that you can communicate with conviction something you don't believe or that doesn't make sense to you."

TR1 through TR4, she says, "are teaching Scientologists how to control other people verbally, TRs 6 through 9 are how to control somebody physically...The whole progression is toward how to control a person totally. And guess what? — as you learn to control a person, you're going to get the idea that you, too, have to be controlled. That's why you always reverse roles in the drills. If they just wanted to teach you how to control people, there'd be no reason for you to have to do the other thing as well...It's almost inconceivable," she continues, "that this man Hubbard didn't know something about thought reform when he was doing it because it's so perfect. I can't think of how Scientology could be more of a thought reform process than it is."

Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, authors of Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, are outspoken critics of Scientology. The group, they say in Snapping, "does not lead people beyond faith to absolute certainty — it leads them to levels of increasingly realistic hallucination. The crude technology of auditing is a direct assault on human feeling and on the individual's ability to distinguish between what he is actually experiencing and what he is only imagining."

The authors quote a young man who was involved in Scientology for five years: "They have a drill to make your eyes look natural...You have someone sit three feet away from you, and you sit there and look at each other. Then one person acts as a coach and the other as the student, and he'll say, 'Start!' and if you blink your eyes in an unnatural way, he'll say, 'Flunk? You blinked in an unnatural way. Start?' He coaches you forhours like that.

"If people just took the Communications Course and then left Scientology for life, it would not be such a bad thing, because the beginning course does help you out. But then the technique itself sucks you into further and further courses. The counseling never ends."


Scientology officials and members say that charges their church engages in "brainwashing" or "mind control" are ridiculous.

The Comm Course, they insist, has no other purpose than the improvement of communication skills in the individual. The end result, according to Scientology literature, is "improved ability in the origination and handling of communication and in handling oneself in life situations and predicting and handling others."

The drills involved in the course, according to What is Scientology? (a Scientology text), "are based on the idea that if Man wished to get physically strong or stronger, no matter how strong he was, he would exercise. The same view is held as regards a person's ability to deal with life and to get even stronger, no matter how strong he is, in the game of life. The drills are simply exercises to bring about greater awareness and the ability to confront (the ability to be there comfortably and perceive) and to communicate freely with anyone."

If it doesn't upset the schedule, the public is invited to sit in on the course, although people are encouraged to try it themselves. The local Scientology mission is located at 721 Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 6:30 to 10 p.m. The number listed in the phone book has been disconnected.

Scientology files contain numerous letters and affidavits testifying to the success of the Comm Course.

And last month, a slightly adapted version of the Comm Course, called the Success Through Communication Course, was delivered to 16 women inmates at the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno over a period of two weeks. According to Scientology's report on the project, it was "delivered as a response to the need of the inmates, when released, for some basic skills to cope successfully with life outside the prison, i.e. in job interviews, employee/employer relations, family relations, etc., communication skills being key to human interaction. The course given, Success Through Communication Course, is, of course, not an end-all in basic life skills, but, rather, a first step in a series of courses which can increase an individual's ability to cope with the problems of life without resorting to crime, drugs, etc."

All the participants in the course reportedly considered it a success. They presented to "L. Ron Hubbard, author and humanitarian," an "honorary certificate for his valuable contributions to the betterment of the inmates with his Communication Technology in courses given by Scientology Community Services."

Some human potential groups reportedly have sprung directly from their founder's involvement with Scientology, or have borrowed heavily from Scientology's teachings. Thse includes est, Silva Mind Control, Lifespring, and Mind Dynamics. These movements are so prevalent, in fact, that in Scientology slang they're called "squirrel groups."

Psychiatrists have often been consulted or asked to testify in recent court cases regarding alleged mind control as practiced in "destructive cults." But Berkeley psychiatrist Dr. Lee Coleman says "mind control" is a myth.

In Psychiatry the Faithbreaker, Coleman says, "The claim of 'brainwashing' today accomplishes what the claim of 'possession by the devil' accomplished hundreds of years ago. Both offer an explanation for behavior that someone wants to invalidate. Today indeed critics can't accept the fact that many young people are finding fulfillment in some of these new churches, so they attribute their contentment to the effects of 'mind control.' "

Coleman agrees that many churches do exert a powerful influence on their members' opinions and lifestyles. "That they do is indeed one of the few points church critics and friends agree upon. Yet whatever influence they do wield is legally no different from the influence that takes place every day in established churches, high-pressure selling sessions, social clubs, and all forms of counseling."