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I, William Burroughs, challenge you, L. Ron Hubbard

Title: I, William Burroughs, challenge you, L. Ron Hubbard
Date: Sunday, 1 March 1970
Publisher: Mayfair (magazine)
Author: William S. Burroughs
Main source: link (588 KiB)

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'You claim Scientology is the universal road to freedom. Well I've taken your course and I say: prove it to all of us. Come out country simple and prove it'

In view of the fact that my articles and statements on Scientology may have influenced young people to associate themselves with the so-called Church of Scientology, I feel an obligation to make my present views on the subject quite clear.

'Some of the techniques are highly valuable and warrant further study and experimentation. The E Meter is a useful device (many variations of this instrument are possible).

'On the other hand I am in flat disagreement with the organisational policy. No body of knowledge needs an organisational policy. Organisational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organisation and freedom of thought. Suppose Newton had founded a Church of Newtonian Physics and refused to show his formulae to anyone who doubted the tenets of Newtonian Physics?

'All organisations create organisational necessities. It is precisely the organisational necessities of Scientology that have prevented Scientology from obtaining the serious consideration merited by the importance of Mr Hubbard's discoveries. They demand acceptance.

'Mr Hubbard's utterances . . . China is the real threat to world peace, Scientology is protecting the home, the church, the family, decent morals (positively no wife-swapping), national boundaries, the concepts of RIGHT and WRONG against evil free-thinking psychiatrists . . . can hardly endear him to the militant students. Certainly it is time for the Scientologists to come out in plain English on one side or the other if they expect the trust and support or young people. Which side are you on Hubbard which side are you on?'

This statement, which appears in my forthcoming book The Job needs considerable amplification. I quote from Freedom Scientology, the Scientologists' news-sheet, Number 11 (no date).

Copyright laws do not permit us to reproduce the article in full, as Mr Burroughs wished. All material in the news-sheet is copyright L. Ron Hubbard, all rights reserved.

The essence of the article, however, is that 'the weird cult of psychiatry' is infringing on the rights of the individual. The Scientologists quote Dr Brock Chisholm, who suggested in 1945 that world governments would be a solution to future wars. The world would then be peopled by citizens in 'a state of emotional maturity', achieved by 'the re-interpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child-training.'

The Scientologists further say of Chisholm that he knew this couldn't be done overnight. We hang on to 'prejudices about national patriotism, individualism, loyalty to family and friends and their devotion to "narrow" religious dogmas.'

Chisholm is quoted as having said: 'If the race is to be freed from its crippling burden of good and evil it must be the psychiatrists who take the original responsibility.'

The Scientologists quote Julian Huxley as saying: 'The advance of natural science has brought us to a stage at which God is no longer a useful hypothesis.'

They then turn to Kinsey, and particularly attack him with allegations that he has for years been trying to have an 'Alaska Mental Health Bill' implemented – under which prisoners requiring mental treatment should be sent to a rehabilitation centre in Alaska without normal processes of commitment hearings. 'It is the most undemocratic suggestion to appear so far from the cult of psychiatry,' the Scientologists say.

Finally they quote from Dr H. A. Overstreet, who wrote: 'A man may be angrily against racial equality, public housing, financial and technical aid to backward countries, organised labour and the preaching of social rather than salvational religion. Such people may appear "normal" in the sense that they are able to maintain their status as members of society: but they are well along the road to mental illness.' 'There we have it,' say the Scientologists. 'Modern "psychiatry" and "mental health", as promoted by the Chisholms, the Overstreets and the Huxleys is completely anti-Christ and subversive.'

They sum up psychiatry as denying God, ridiculing the Bible, advocating promiscuity and perversion, attacking national sovereignty and personal loyalties, and committing patients without fair hearing. They add: 'not all psychiatrists are bad.'

Now what is all this flap about psychiatrists? At worst psychiatrists are the defendants of the establishment, 'adjusting' or coercing deviants into socially accepted mores. At best they urge a more liberal and humane approach to human problems and may even clash with the Establishment. The Mental Health psychiatrists for example put a block in Nixon's stiffer drug laws.

Doctor Chisholm seems to me to be making very good sense. The concept of national boundaries, of NATIONS is of course the war formula. Dogmatic RIGHT and WRONG is the tool of psychological enslavement used by all establishments.

I did not know that Julian Huxley had taken up the study of medicine, and obtained a licence to practise psychiatry. When I last visited his home he was a Darwinian biologist and not at all subversive. I am quite sure the Special Branch does not keep a man on him.

Kinsey, when I knew him, was a statistical psychologist with no pretensions of psychiatric qualifications.

'A man may be angrily against racial equality, financial and technical aid to backward countries, organised labour, etc.' Translate: 'A man can be a decent church-going cop-loving creep doesn't want any Niggers in his union. . . . Why are we giving away good American dollars to a lot of immoral foreigners? . . . As for hippies, dope-freaks and long-hairs I say shoot them so who cares? Well a decent Wallace folk like that could be suddenly kidnapped off to Alaska brainwashed and castrated by international Communistic psychiatrists.'

'Most of them psychiatrist fellers is Jews aint they Clem?'

'Sure are. Them Jews don't believe in Christ, Luke.'

Now we can read and appreciate Ezra Pound's poetry without sharing his political views. Can we make a similar distinction between Mr Hubbard's publicly-expressed opinions and the technology and practice of Scientology? No we cannot.

A separation between Mr Hubbard's work and his opinions is ruled out by Mr Hubbard's grandiose claims . . . 'Galaxy upon galaxy billions of light years away have no bridge no route to freedom. Scientology is the one and only road to total freedom and total power. . . . Scientology has the answers to all the problems of the universe including the method of solution.'

When the Founder, Controller and Guardian of the 'road to total freedom' begins to talk in a reactionary way his road is called in question and we have every right to ask precisely what his 'method of solution' is. If Mr Hubbard were content to be a technician who has made some important discoveries we could afford to ignore his personal opinions. When he sets himself up as the saviour of all possible universes we cannot.

Should anyone wish to make an objective evaluation he would find it difficult to do so owing to the structure of the Scientology Organisation. To begin with the techniques actually in use are not described in Mr Hubbard's books. To learn these techniques one must take courses at a Scientology Centre. And one does not simply pay the tuitions, obtain the materials and study. Oh no. One must JOIN. One must 'sign up for the duration of the universe' (Sea Org members are required to sign a billion-year contract).

The advanced courses are not only unpublished but 'confidential' and any student revealing this material is subject to expulsion and exclusion from further training. These materials can only be obtained by undergoing the training and the conditions for training laid down by Mr Hubbard.

In order to gain access to the materials of the Clearing Course I had to undergo a series of Security Checks (at my own expense of course) carried out on a lie detector. ('Do you have any doubts about Scientology? Do you have any unkind thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard? Do you know any Communists personally? Are you connected to a Suppressive Person . . . a Suppressive Person is anyone in disagreement with Scientology. . . . Are you here for any other reason than what you say you are? Do you consider these security measures unnecessary?' etc. for 23 hours.)

You have to swear and believe that the organisational policy is correct and that the materials are as Mr Hubbard says they are before you can see them. It's like a physicist saying 'you can't see my formulae unless you first agree that they are correct sight unseen.'

The practice of Security Checks has been discontinued. However, anyone expressing doubts about Scientology would find himself excluded from the advanced courses. And the practice of assigning 'conditions' is still in effect.

These 'conditions', non-existence, liability, treason, doubt, are assigned for misdemeanours and crimes against Scientology. A student assigned to an advanced condition must wear a dirty grey rag around his arm, may not bathe, shave or change his clothes, must remain on the premises, must perform manual work, deliver 'a paralysing blow to the enemy', admit his errors and petition every member of the centre for forgiveness. Does Mr Hubbard seriously expect mature scientists, artists and professional men who have distinguished themselves in their respective fields to submit to this prep school nonsense?

Furthermore whole categories of people are automatically excluded from training and processing and may never see Mr Hubbard's confidential materials: Suppressive Persons, that is anyone who has ever publicly attacked Scientology together with their families and connections. Anyone 'sitting in judgement on Scientology'. Anyone who has come to find out 'if Scientology works.'

No one who has used cannabis within the last three weeks, or LSD within the last six weeks may be processed.

Such are the unique difficulties encountered by anyone who wishes to inform himself on the subject of Scientology.

As to my personal evaluation after six months of study, I would not be writing this article unless I was convinced that Scientology is worth serious consideration. I feel that I have benefited greatly from Scientology processing. In an earlier article in Mayfair I said that Scientology can do more in ten hours than psychoanalysis can do in ten years. For what that is worth I still think so.

Scientology is incomparably more precise and efficient than any method of psychotherapy now in use. But unfortunately Scientology has duplicated some of the basic errors of conventional psychotherapy.

Any aberration that affects the human mind must have a three-dimensional co-ordinate point in the human nervous system. Otherwise it could not produce an effect any more than a television or radio broadcast could be seen or heard without a receiving set. When Western psychiatrists turned away from Pavlov's lead and postulated Super Egos, Ids and Complexes without locating these entities in the human nervous system they foundered in mystical unworkable abstractions.

And where for that matter is Mr Hubbard's Reactive Mind? (When I suggested that the Reactive Mind must be located in the hypothalamus my suggestion fell on unresponsive ears.)

The Reactive Mind, as set forth by Mr Hubbard in the Clearing Course, is a model control instrument well worth the attention of anyone who is looking for inner freedom. Familiarity with this artefact gives one a considerable emancipation from crippling automatic reactions. Mr Hubbard places the Reactive Mind in unimaginable antiquity, thus making any examination of its origins impossible. I cannot go along with this. My guess is that this control artefact was set up around the turn of the century. That it was largely the work of one man. As long as anyone reacts to the Reactive Mind HE is there. I have in fact an identikit picture of this man. He was neither very famous nor completely obscure. He was neither very rich nor very poor. He was probably a mathematician, perhaps a composer of music, almost certainly a Mayan scholar. The tipoff came from the Mayan codices.

To summarise my personal impressions: I feel that Scientology has scratched some surfaces and turned up some leads. Experimentation and research carried out by workers in the fields of electronics, virology, cybernetics, biology and operant conditioning could result in revolutionary advances. Mr Hubbard says that the mere sight of his confidential materials would make any WOG (his revealing term to designate those unversed in Scientology) violently sick. I can claim some experience and skill in the scrivener's trade but I could not undertake to write a few words guaranteed to make any appreciable number of readers physically sick.

So if this claim is justified it is certainly a matter for investigation. I am sure that volunteers in abundance would step forward. Who would pass up the opportunity to read such potent prose? A headache or the loss of the last supper is a small price to pay. This is not a frivolous suggestion. If words can make people vomit, how are these particular words affecting the vomiting centres in the hypothalamus? Only an actual test can give us the answer. If the Scientologists persist in self-imposed isolation and in withholding their materials from those best qualified to evaluate and use them, they may well find themselves bypassed.

Mr Hubbard says he wants recognition for his discoveries. Well let him then show his confidential materials free of charge and without any restrictions to qualified workers in other fields.

He says he has the road to freedom. Others have been a long time on that road. At the Edinburgh Writers' Conference in 1962 Alex Trocchi coined the phrase 'astronauts of inner space'. Let Mr Hubbard show his confidential materials to the astronauts of inner space: Alex Trocchi, Brion Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary; to anthropologists like Julian Huxley and Castaneda; to psychiatrists like Ronnie Laing; to political leaders like Mao Tse Tung, who said 'the real battle is inside our skulls.' Let him show his materials to mathematicians, physicists, computer programmers, biologists, film directors and virologists, to students of language like Marshall MacLuhan and Noam Chompsky. Let him show his materials to those who have fought for freedom in the streets: Eldridge Cleaver, Stokeley Carmichael, Abe Hoffman, Dick Gregory, to the veterans of Chicago, Paris and Mexico City. Above all young people have a right to see his materials. So let him set up a centre and give his processing and materials free of charge and without any restrictions of any kind to anyone under the age of 25. If he has what he says he has, the results should be cataclysmic.

And the mass application of other techniques now available should produce even more interesting results. In my forthcoming book The Job I describe the experiments of Dr Neal E. Miller who taught rats to lower blood pressure, reduce the rate of heart-beats, control digestion and breathing and brainwaves.

He has taught rats in one hour what yogis take 20 years to learn. Anything a rat can do you can do better as subsequent experiments with humans have demonstrated.

Quote from Time, July 18, 1969: 'Through the cerebrospinal nervous system, the body is able to dominate much of the body, how a man walks, talks etc. But the body's glandular and visceral processes, run by what scientists call the autonomic nervous system, have long been considered beyond the reach of conscious control. Now though, experimental psychologists have proved that autonomic system can be taught.

'The results of such experiments tends to support the theory of mind over matter so long ridiculed by modern science. "People are re-examining old concepts like mind-body dualism," says Dr Bernard Engel of the National Institute of Child Health in Baltimore. Engel's work in "autonomic shaping" has enabled him to alter heart rates, any rhythms to alleviate irregular heartbeats and high blood pressure. Other researches have proved that man can learn to control even such functions as sweating, blood pressure, intestinal contractions and brain waves.

'The vistas are staggering. Dr Joe Kamiya of the Langley Porter Neurological Institute in San Francisco, who has experimented with conscious regulation of brain waves, looks forward to the day when man will have "an internal vocabulary, a language he can use to explain more effectively and completely how he feels inside. In time we should be able to talk fluently about feelings such as brain wave production, blood pressure and so on."

'In one test, eight of ten subjects were able to control the tone, emitting or suppressing brain waves as requested.

'Dr Peter Lang has applied autonomic learning to control the human heart rate. The subject becomes able, as Lang puts it, "to drive his own heart."

'Man may be able to control his internal processes, to relieve insomnia, regulate digestion and improve sexual response.

"But," warns Dr Miller of the Rockefeller Institute . . . "The question now is whether autonomic learning can be effective enough. We don't know." '

Well why not find out? Let's condition people on an assembly line to control brain waves and bodily processes. This could lead to complete mood control.

Both psychiatric and Scientology processing are based on the assumption that a conflict brought into conscious focus loses power. Undoubtedly it does lose power temporarily. This method is rather like mending an interminable fence that keeps falling down behind you.

So instead of directing attention to the brain waves that accompany conflict why not direct attention to the brain waves that accompany calm and relaxation? Millions of people emitting alpha brain waves could cool the whole scene. Instead of going where trouble is, why not go where trouble isn't? It is time to get down to the bio-electronics of the actual brain mechanism and tune conflicts out. In his book The Teachings of Don Juan, Castaneda describes a hallucinogenic drug of devastating potency, a drug unknown to modern science. These drugs should be investigated and made available.

Unimaginable extensions of awareness are now possible in terms of existing techniques. Let's set up a centre where all these techniques are pooled and interchanged. Let's explore and chart inner space. Your inner space belongs to you. It is time to demand what is yours and to challenge anyone who claims to have knowledge of inner space to come out and show what he has.