Leah recently reminded me of this wonderful website, and in particular, this article by my old friend Jeff Hawkins.
Jeff is one of the kindest, smartest and most decent people I know. When Miscavige blew him off, he lost one of the only real marketing geniuses in scientology. Jeff was responsible for the single successful marketing campaign in scientology — returning Dianetics to the top of the NY Times bestseller list in the 80’s.
He is a wonderful writer — I highly recommend his book Counterfeit Dreams — and a thoughtful analyst of the world of scientology. I am taking the liberty of reprinting this particular article here as I think it deserves everyone’s time to read it. It is a concise summary of all that is wrong with the institution of scientology (rather than the “technology” itself). This is a good analysis of the psychosis of the entity known as scientology.
I don’t think it is possible to “reform” scientology — Jeff talks of the DNA of the organization. The DNA of scientology would have to be changed so much in order for it to be reformed that the entity that resulted would not resemble scientology. It would be a different species.
But regardless of whether it is in fact possible to reform scientology, this list serves as a very useful summary of why the world of scientology is so unpleasant and corrosive.
Are there things in the culture of Scientology, in its DNA, so to speak, that cause Scientology organizations to fail?
Wouldn’t it be a good idea to actually isolate and examine those systemic imperfections? And maybe correct them so that there is never a recurrence?
Well, here is my stab at it. Here are the things that I experienced in Scientology that contributed to making Scientology Organizations what they have become. These are all things that are part of the Scientology culture, the organizational zeitgeist.
If one makes less of people – prisoners, minorities, outsiders – then that justifies abusing them, lying to them or deceiving them. In Scientology, this begins with the term “wog” to refer to anyone who is not a Scientologist. The law becomes “wog law,” the justice system becomes “wog justice,” the media becomes “wog press.” These things are considered inferior. A Scientologist can therefore consider himself or herself to be above these things – including “above the law.”
If you consider yourself superior to others, that justifies looking down on others as “low-toned,” “low on the Bridge,” or even “in a lower Org.” A sort of arrogance or condescension can crop up.
At the Int Base, this sort of arrogance was amplified – as all of the factors on this list were. RTC looked down on CMO Int. CMO Int looked down on Exec Strata. And everyone looked down on Gold. And you would be shocked to hear how Int Base executives talked about “lower org” staff or public. And of course that sort of arrogance led to actual abuse.
To grow up, Scientology has to rid itself of this sort of elitism, condescension and arrogance and learn to respect others.
2. Enemies and War
It’s axiomatic that if you want to control someone, give them an enemy.
One of the first things I heard about in Scientology were its “enemies.” The government was out to get Scientology. The press was out to get Scientology. The Psychs and Medicos were out to get Scientology. We were at war against the “forces of evil.” You can always ask people to sacrifice, give money, give up holidays, weekends or sleep, accept low or no pay, if you are “at war.”
If you are dealing with an “enemy,” it also justifies using any tactic to defeat them. Take a look at how OSA treats anyone who disagrees with the human rights abuses in Scientology Organizations. These are “enemies.” They are “trying to destroy Scientology.” If you label someone an “enemy” or an “SP,” anything goes.
If Scientology is to mature, I believe it has to stop its obsession with “enemies” and “wars” and start realizing that they are responsible for their own failures, negative press and bad public image, not some vast evil conspiracy that’s out to get them.
3. Collapsed Time, The Constant Emergency
It was my experience on staff and in the Sea Org that things were on a constant emergency footing. Everything had to be done now-now-now. For one thing, management was by weekly (or even daily or hourly) stats. Things had to be done immediately in order to “count.” Everything, it seemed, was a constant flap, a constant “Hill Ten” requiring late hours or all-nighters, skipped liberty days, minimal meal breaks.
This kind of think was destructive of any real long term planning or strategy. When faced with a choice between a short-term action that would get immediate stats (particularly income), and a long-term action that would result in steady expansion, which do you think got chosen 99.9% of the time?
Sure, it’s a good idea to watch statistics—but not obsessively so that your time frame is constantly collapsed down to nothing.
All of this stat obsession resulted in the cannibalizing of existing public rather than developing future public. Gimmicks like monthly price raises and special deals rather than sane pricing and marketing. Now-now stat pushes and daily phone calls rather than sane management planning and strategy.
Well, what do you expect when you put people on weekly, daily, or hourly stats and threaten them with heavy penalties if they don’t get them up now-now-now?
Scientology will get sane when it calms down, gets off the constant emergency footing and gets in honest long range planning.
4. Secrecy, Transparency and Accountability
Scientology has an obsession with “confidentiality.” No one may know what higher echelons are doing, thinking, or planning. One reason given is that “enemies” may find out the plans – see “enemies” above.
The result is that the right hand usually does not know what the left hand is doing. One insane result is events. Orgs don’t know before the event what is being released. It’s “confidential.” So no one can prepare for it, generate word of mouth or ramp up excitement. It’s silly.
But the most destructive effect of all of this secrecy is that management can pretty much do what it wants with no accountability, oversight or transparency. And they can do anything they want with the money collected. They don’t have to report back to the field what they did with the money. No one knows, no one can know. So management can do what they want.
This even extends to management personnel. When WDC was first formed, their identities were secret. As a joke, they sent an album of photos to “middle management” with bags over their heads. No one was supposed to know who they are. And it’s still that way, only more so. No one knows who is on which executive post (in fact, every executive at Int has been removed from post without the knowledge of Scientologists). Scientologists are not informed when key executives are appointed or removed. They are not told the reason for any removal. They are not able to review the qualifications of any appointee. It’s all “confidential.”
And now even the international statistics are “confidential.”
Any reform of Scientology must include complete transparency and accountability of management plans, actions, statistics, finances and personnel.
5. Information Control and Thought-Stopping
Key to any cult-like operation is strict information control. Members must get their information from approved sources only, and must never read material that is critical of the group, its doctrine, or its founder. Such thought-stopping mechanisms are deeply ingrained in Scientology.
Scientologists know that if their friends or family members express any criticism of Scientology, they will have to “handle” them (silence their criticism) or disconnect. They cannot be connected to anyone who is critical of the Church or L. Ron Hubbard. If anyone challenges Scientology, they have to stop listening as it’s “entheta.” They know they cannot look into Scientology on the internet – they have to stick with the Church-approved websites (that is, the Church websites). They cannot read negative stories in the press or watch negative stories on TV. These things might cause them to doubt – and Doubt, in Scientology, is a Lower Condition.
Scientology is full of thought-stopping phrases: “That’s entheta.” “That’s a hate site.” “They are SPs.” “He’s a religious bigot.” “She’s an LRH-hater.”
This isn’t a search for truth, it’s running away from it.
Information control isn’t a sign of strength, it’s a confession of weakness. It’s a confession that one’s beliefs are fragile, tenuous, and can be blown away by any real search for information.
If Scientology wants to be taken seriously as a subject, it has to give its members freedom to study and access any information they want, associate with anyone they want to, and make up their own minds.
6. The End Justifies the Means:
The subject of utilitarian ethics is encapsulated by Jeremy Bentham’s phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” Bentham was a proponent of utilitarianism, which holds that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. That is, “the end justifies the means.”
The fact is that the culture of Scientology is steeped in this kind of utilitarian ethics. That’s why Scientologists defend Miscavige no matter what he does. It’s why OSA carries out disgusting dirty tricks on their “enemies.” It’s how Scientologists justify what’s going on within their Church.
It’s how Miscavige justifies his constant abuse of staff.
Scientology will gain respect when it abandons its utilitarian ethics and realize, as Gandhi said, “means are, after all, everything. As the means, so the end.”
7. Authoritarianism, Intention and Counterintention:
It is my opinion that David Miscavige could never have come to power and get away with his abuses if Scientology was not already organized as a strict, top-down authoritarian system. He could bully his way into the top position and use the structure of Scientology to enforce his orders.
Sure, there have always been councils – Aides Council, Exec Strata, WDC. But the fact is, no one ever questioned the top guy – LRH. There is even a phrase for “doing what Ron says.” It’s called Command Intention. LRH was always Command. On the Apollo, his entries in the Orders of the Day were always printed under the heading “Command.”
Scientology was structured to carry out and enforce his orders. Every Sea Org Member swears to “uphold, forward and carry out Command Intention.” And the purpose of Ethics in an organization, we learned, was “to remove counter-intention from the environment.” Anyone not carrying out Command Intention was Counter Intention (“CI”).
To ensure orders were carried out, there was an “LRH Comm Correction Form” which escalated Ethics gradients automatically for any non-compliance to LRH Orders. It was soon copied by every Programs Ops as “the way to get compliance.”
So you have a system where every Sea Org Member, executive and Programs Ops is dead-set on carrying out Command Intention, and where every Ethics Officer is working full-time to “remove counter-intention.” All Miscavige had to do was establish himself as “Command,” and he had the whole system working for him.
Scientology will only truly embrace freedom when it ceases to be an authoritarian dictatorship.
8. A Culture of Confession:
Sure, confession can be beneficial. But only if it is kept in the strictest confidentiality and is not kept in files and folders for the purposes of future blackmail.
Confession, misused, is the tool of the mind controller, the cult leader. Many cults use confession as a means of controlling their members.
Scientologists “know” that if anyone leaves Scientology, it’s because they “have overts.” If anyone wants to leave, it’s because of their “crimes.” If anyone complains or “natters,” it’s because they have overts. They “know” this so thoroughly that they don’t dare complain or think about leaving.
Anyone who defies David Miscavige is immediately pulled in for Sec Checking. Anyone who complains about anything in the Church of Scientology is sent to Ethics.
Scientology will mature when it ceases using confession as a method of control.
9. “Toughness” and the Para-Military Paradigm:
Another part of the Scientology ethos is a sort of macho toughness. “We are not a ‘turn the other cheek’ religion,” they brag. No, Scientologists are tough guys.
Being “reasonable” is a bad thing in Scientology. Having sympathy for others is “low-toned. “Human emotion and reaction” is simply a “barrier to production.”
No, you have to be tough. “It’s a tough universe,” we are told. “…only the tigers survive.”
At the apex of all of this “toughness” we have the quasi-military Sea Org, with its uniforms, ranks, marching, musters, all-nighters, screaming and even physical abuse. And don’t get in their way.
What about empathy, compassion, love, caring for others? “Shut up – don’t be a pantywaist dilettante.”
Scientology only has a chance of becoming a real religion if they jettison all this quasi-military, fake-macho “toughness.”
10. Money and Greed:
As long as I was in Scientology, 35 years – executives, orgs and managers were always obsessed with money. And not money as in long-term investments or long-range financial planning. Money as in “how much can we rake in now, now, now before Thursday at 2:00?”
Anyone who has worked in Orgs, or worked in Registration, or in Management, knows how true this is. One is judged by stats, and the most attention, rightly or wrongly, went on GI.
I could point to many organizational factors, starting at the top. The stat of WDC is Int Reserves. The FBO system took any limits off how much of the org income could be grabbed and sent “uplines.” “Proportionate pay” justified not paying staff. The dateline payment system justified not paying bills. Orgs were always under terrific financial stress, all in the name of padding central reserves.
And now, of course it’s over the top, with every staff member commandeered as reges and salespeople, constant pressure for Donations, failing orgs, and central reserves being squandered.
Scientology will get a lot saner when it stops fixating on money and starts caring about people.
11. Penalizing Downstats
You get upstats of you reward upstats and penalize downstats. Sure, makes perfect sense.
But what do you mean by “penalize?” How do you “penalize” someone in an org?
Over my many years on staff, I saw executives get very inventive on this point. Having downstats scrub floors or toilets with toothbrushes was one method. Locking people in basements or chain lockers was another. Throwing people into a harbor or a lake was yet another.
At the Int Base, this reached draconian proportions with something called the “Team Share System.” One had five cards, for Social Events (which allowed one days off, or parties), Bonuses, Pay, Food, and Berthing. One could have one or more cards removed for downstats or infractions. One could lose one’s pay, food (only rice and beans), or berthing (sleep under one’s desk or out on the lawn).
And of course, downstats could be screamed at, or even hit or punched or shoved.
And if they don’t come around, RPF.
All of these things have one common name: abuse.
In any other organization, production is achieved through incentives and rewards – better pay, promotions, bonuses. The only penalty is, you might get fired.
Scientology may start to get real production when it stops abusing its staff.
12. Appearance vs. Substance, Hypocrisy:
In Scientology, unfortunately, what is important is how things look. How they appear. How they sound. Appearances over substance.
A flossy video promoting Volunteer Minister activity is more important than the actual activity.
The external appearance of an org is more important than the fact that it’s empty and failing.
Claiming that “there is no Disconnection” on national TV is more important than actually cancelling Disconnection.
Claiming “Fair Game was cancelled” is more important than ceasing to Fair Game people.
Scientology might gain some respect if it actually becomes honest.
My point is this: the abusive environment that exists in organized Scientology is not merely the errant behavior of a few bad apples. There are factors like the above that are part and parcel of the culture of Scientology. Where they came from, why they exist, who put them in place, are all matters of speculation and personal experience. But these factors do exist throughout Scientology. And most of them, while they have been taken to psychotic extremes by Miscavige, have always existed in the organization culture.
If anyone is serious about reforming Scientology, these are the sorts of things that will have to be examined, evaluated, and corrected.
By Jeff Hawkins