“I don’t know why I couldn’t see it”
One of the most telling comments by Paul Haggis in the recent New Yorker article was this one: “Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.”
It’s a question a lot of us have asked once we leave Scientology. “Why didn’t I see what was going on?”
In an interview today with NPR’s Terry Gross, Larry Wright was asked what impact he thought his article would have on Scientologists. His reply was very perceptive:
“It’s hard to measure, because we’re dealing with a religion,” he said, “and people are drawn to it because of faith. And if it were simply a matter of reason, then one could put this [document about Hubbard's service] down in front of you and say, ‘Here is conclusive proof that the founder of Scientology lied about his military record and lied about his injuries and lied about the fundamental principles out of which he created the Church of Scientology.’ But that may not matter to people who are involved in it, who may feel they are gaining something from their experience — either because they feel like the truths of Scientology enhance their lives or because the community of Scientologists that they live among is something like their family. So they intentionally shield themselves from knowing these types of things.”
They intentionally shield themselves. It’s an interesting way to put it. It really is a willful blindness.
As Orwell pointed out in his novel 1984, “mind control” isn’t really someone else controlling your thoughts, it’s you learning to control your own thoughts according to the group’s dictates. Members are expected to filter their perceptions, thoughts and attitudes through an ideological framework. And they do. Why? Because, as Wright points out, they value the community. They value the professed ideals of Scientology, the stated goals, the promised gains.
So if anything challenges their faith, their religion, they just won’t listen. They won’t look. And they have plenty of ready-made mechanisms that help them to do that:
If information comes from the Church or its leadership, for instance, it’s always true and good.
If it comes from those labeled by the Church as “enemies,” it’s always false and bad.
Anything critical of the Church is “entheta.”
Anyone critical of the Church “has overts.”
And those mechanisms snap into place as soon as they sniff anything that might challenge their beliefs, their faith, their protected bubble.
In can be frustrating. Because they simply will not look. They will not listen.
But more and more are looking.
And discovering the facts. And once they actually look at the information and confront the facts, they usually have the same thing to say:
“I don’t know why I couldn’t see it.”