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Scientology wonderland

Title: Scientology wonderland
Date: Wednesday, 5 August 1964
Publisher: The Age (Australia)
Main source:

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"ALICE IN WONDERLAND" is a prescribed text book for use in a training drill for scientologists. Everyone is equipped with a hat, and then has to read sections of the book aloud to others.

This was one of the most recent reports from Melbourne's longest-running and most bizarre story of the year—the State Government's board of inquiry into scientology.

The inquiry is well on the way to breaking all records even for such an inquiry-conscious State. It has now sat on 80 days, heard nearly as many witnesses, and recorded well over two million words.

The participants have become very familiar with the National Herbarium — an appropriate venue in its way. Plants can feel, too, says scientology.

The original Government allocation of £5100 has already been more than doubled to £12,500, intended to last until the end of the financial year.

In contrast with the usual royal commission or board of inquiry, there is no great battery of highly paid counsel adding to the cost.

The scientologists, or more precisely, the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, have been represented by counsel throughout, although their original barrister (Mr. J. O'Shea) has passed on his brief to Mr. I. G. Abraham.

The scientologists made two applications to the Government for legal funds, but were turned down.

The Committee for Mental Health and National Security is also present at the Bar table, represented by two members — neither lawyers—Mr. W. C. Fagan, then Mr. P. Wearne. The latter has also played a starring role as a key witness.

The wide terms of reference require the board, Mr. Kevin Anderson, Q.C., to determine:

* Whether scientologists have indulged in any unlawful, improper, harmful or prejudicial practices or activities.

* Whether treatment given was effective, harmful or benelicial.

* And what kind of fees were charged.

Scientology advertising and such devices as the much-discussed E-meter were also to be examined.

Mr. Anderson has said himself he has allowed a great amount or latitude, but even he recently expressed concern that "red herrings" were taking up too much time and lengthening the whole business unnecessarily.

The first thing seemed to be to find out just what scientology is.

Mr. Peter Rogers Williams, who bears the impressive title of continental director for Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, came up with a definition on his first day as witness.

"To some degree, scientology is based on scepticism. The individual should not accept things without thinking them over."

Ironically, this has been the basis of the scientologists' defence, particularly against the strong debunking of the cult, fad, religion, or what you will by the community's eminent psychiatrists, psychologists and scientists.

This has been carried to such an extent that people like Mental Health Authority director (Dr. E. Cunningham Dax) have been called upon in cross-examination to defend their science and its methods.

Many pages of evidence in the past month or two read like a potted university course in psychology and psychiatry.

Much of Mr. Williams's evidence about the content of scientology was startling, and to understate it, puzzling.

One suspected that even Mr. Anderson was having difficult time maintaining the correct dead-pan expression.

Occasionally he permitted himself an irresistible quip. "Get thee behind me, thetan," became part of the language after we had heard about people's thetans, or spirits spending their time a few feet behind their heads.

WE heard about clears, pre-clears, previous lives, events which happened millions of years ago pinpointed down to the half-second. We rather envied the reported ability of thetans to knock off hats at 50 yards.

"Nobody as an acting thetan has yet moved the Empire State building?" asked Mr. Anderson.

"I think it is still firmly in place," responded Mr. Williams, unruffled as befits someone in the state of well-being and calm that a good scientologist aspires to.

The most discussed personality has been a witness in absentia. Mr. Lafayette Ron Hubbard, American scientology founder, has made his presence felt throughout, and a strange presence it is.

Mr. Hubbard's claims for scientology, as proclaimed in text books read to the inquiry, range far and wide. It can cure 70 per cent. of mankind's ills, he says, Including burns from atomic radiation.

Mr. Hubbard makes it clear he extremely dislikes the way doctors and psychiatrists treat people, particularly the mentally ill.

Mr. Hubbard has no time for Communists, which does not make him an extraordinary citizen perhaps, but he also saya Communists include just about everyone who does not like scientology.

His journeyings through space and time sound more and more like Superman comics, although there has been no specific evidence that Mr. Hubbard is Superman.

Two of his most interesting trips were to the Van Allen belt and to Heaven. He found the latter rather a dull place and, on his second trip, definitely down-at-heel.

Mr. Williams made it dear he regarded some of his leader's claims as "racy and dramatic."

Scientology methods of "auditing" a person were described in detail. Words like "brainwashing" were raised in cross-examination. Rather unpleasant stories told of people blacking out, breaking down.

Mr. Gordon Just, counsel assisting the board, told us about 50 witnesses would appear to support scientology as having beneficial effects.

These took a variety of forms. Nervous girls had been taught to type. Heavy smokers to cut their consumption of cigarettes.

A salesman said he came to see that door-to-door selling methods were "just plain deceit" — hardly a beneficial point of view for him to arrive at, from a business aspect.

Others found they had more confidence in themselves, more business ability, could mix better.

Some of the witnesses had had quite extraordinary experiences.

ONE had felt like Rasputin for a moment during a "session." A taxi driver recalled an incident in a past life thousands of years ago in which he was killed.

A painter discovered he was a "space jockey" or spaceship pilot on a