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Review // The soul washers

Title: Review // The soul washers
Date: Thursday, 19 July 1973
Publisher: New Scientist
Author: Donald Gould
Main source:

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Inside Scientology
by Robert Kaufman
Olympia Press, pp 279, £2.25

An American musician called Robert Kaufman spent several years dallying with Scientology, finally submitting himself to a period of full time indoctrination at this strange cult's international headquarters at Saint Hill Manor, Sussex, before recovering from the experience in an American psychiatric hospital. Now he has written a book telling of his experiences.

Inside Scientology, or How I Joined Scientology and Became Superhuman, describes in a lambent fashion the basic metaphysics of Hubbard's quasi-scientific "religion" (L. Ron Hubbard is the ex-science fiction writer who founded the sect). Scientology is squarely based on Freudian psychology. Where Freud spoke of the conscious and subconscious minds, Hubbard talks of the analytical and the reactive minds.

According to Hubbard, the analytical mind is that part of the brain machinery which harbours consciousness, adds, subtracts, refers, compares, and calculates the proper answer to every problem on the basis of the information presented to it. It is a faultless computer. If it gives the wrong answer, this is because it was wrongly programmed.

By contrast the "reactive mind" is a rag bag of the debris of our past. Everything that ever happened to us is held in its archives, as if on the tape of a recorder which was switched on from the moment of our first creation (this part of the theory is derived from Wilder Penfield's classic work — Hubbard is a generous borrower).

The reactive mind (says Hubbard) keeps feeding beastly and disruptive ideas into the input terminals of the analytical mind, and that's the root cause of all the ills of mortal man. Hubbard calls these subversive memory traces "engrams", and the whole purpose of the so-called processing which the disciples of L. Ron Hubbard must undergo is to clear the reactive mind of these poisonous elements by dragging them out into the bright light of consciousness, where they will evaporate. This is straightforward psycho-analysis, except that Hubbard employs a good many frills and props of a kind Freud never dreamed of. During "processing" the victim grasps two tin cans connected to a primitive lie detector — he then goes through a bizarre question and answer routine with his analyst or "auditor". Here's an example from the many sessions Kaufman describes:

Q What are you willing to tell me about?

A I like to play with a girl's ass.

Q Thank you. What are you willing to tell me about it?

A I have this eternal obsession to examine girl's asses.

And so on, and so on. When a question disturbs a sleeping engram, this is supposed to be revealed by an oscillation of the meter needle. In this way, and after he has spent a long time and a great deal of money on being processed, the neophyte hopes finally to reach a state of grace, when all his engrams will have been identified and erased. At this stage, promises Hubbard, he will have achieved superhuman powers, and will be free from all the frailties which ordinary souls are heir to.

All this can be found in the voluminous writings of L. Ron Hubbard, which can be bought by anybody. However, omni-potent though Hubbard claims to be, he has yet to learn the art of good writing, and his works are so tortuous and jargon-ridden that it is a labour of love to attempt to extract any message or understanding from them. Kaufman's book does describe the rites and mysteries of the Church of Scientology in words which ordinary people can understand.

Nevertheless, the Scientologists tried to suppress the book by taking author and publisher to court on grounds of breach of copyright and confidence, and they did succeed in delaying publication for a year. They strongly disapprove of any unofficial writings on their sect, so that even an honest attempt by an admirer to translate the mind of Hubbard for the common man would earn their wrath. But Kaufman does more than this, for as well as describing Scientology's peculiar brand of psychotherapy, he also has vivid tales to tell of the sadistic manner in which the sect punishes backsliders, and attempts to harass those it imagines to be its enemies. And he also has hilarious accounts of the cant and bombast which characterise the days and doings of this curious sect.

His book shows plainly what Scientology owes, not only to Freud, and Wilder Penfield, and Nietzsche, but also to the Church of Rome, Adolf Hitler, and Phineas T. Barnum.