Think for Yourself
Of course, that’s one of the slogans of the Church of Scientology. I ought to know – I was very much involved in its development and implementation.
Here’s some of the back story. In the late 1980s and early 1990’s, we did a lot of surveys on the subject of Scientology, in preparation for the launch of a major campaign. Our surveys showed that Scientology was vastly unpopular. In order to handle this negative public image, I started digging in with more surveys. I found that people considered Scientology to be a cult. And so I had further surveys done to find out what people thought a cult was. The top “cult” item was that one could not disagree with the cult leader or the cult doctrine.
In this, public perception of what constitutes a cult was pretty accurate. In a cult, one may never, never, never challenge the cult doctrines or the cult leader (guru, prophet, founder). Here’s Steve Hassan again, from Combatting Cult Mind Control:
“Thought-stopping is the most direct way to short circuit a person’s ability to test reality. Indeed, if someone is able to think only positive thoughts about his involvement with the group, he is most certainly stuck. Since the doctrine is perfect and the leader is perfect, any problem that crops up is assumed to be the fault of the individual member. He learns always to blame himself and work harder.”
So, we knew that public thought Scientology was a cult, and we knew what they thought a cult was, so how do we handle? About this time, I came across a memo Hubbard had written in the 1950s about using the slogan “Think for Yourself” to promote Dianetics. Perfect, I thought. It’s directly counter to the number one cult button. So it should be effective in changing public perception.
I should have taken it one step further. I should have asked, is it true? Can one actually think for oneself in Scientology?
A Scientologist would argue – and I would have argued, as a Scientologist – that yes, of course, Scientologists do think for themselves. And one might pull out some LRH quotes to prove it. Quotes like these:
From “How to Study Scientology” (Ability Magazine, Feb 1959)
“You are asked to examine the subject of Scientology on a critical basis—a very critical basis.“
“So then we ask you to look at Scientology, study it, question it, and use it as we present it and you will have discovered something for yourself. And in so doing you might well discover a lot more.”
“When you have applied it as it should be, and applied as it is taught at the school, and still find it unworkable, it is your privilege to question it and, if you like, reject it.“
Or this one, from the 1960 lecture, Differences Between Scientology & Other Philosophies:
“If it is true for you, it’s true. And if it’s not true for you, it still isn’t true. Not even if Ron told you is it true. It’s just not true, that’s all.”
But a former Scientologist might argue that it is not actually true that one can disagree with Hubbard or disagree with Scientology doctrines. In fact, there are many, many procedures and remedies to handle people who disagree with the tech: word clearing, Study Tech, cramming, Ethics, Keeping Scientology Working, Keeping Admin Working, and so forth. Just think of voicing a disagreement with LRH inside a Scientology Org and imagine what happens.
So we could argue this back and forth. “Yes, Scientologists think for themselves.” “No, they don’t.” We could have one of those black-and-white arguments I talked about in the last post.
But there is a way to test this out.
Let’s envision a Scientologist going through the process described in the Hubbard quote, above. He picks up each bit of technology, looks at it, compares it to his own experience, tries using it and either accepts it (decides it’s true for him) or rejects it (decides it isn’t true for him). And let’s say he has three bins: Uninspected Data, Accepted Data, and Rejected Data. (He could have an “Undecided” bin, but for simplicity, let’s just say he throws any undecided bits back into Bin #1.) So it would look like this:
Inspect the contents of his Bin #3.
Just ask a Scientologist this one question: “Is there anything L. Ron Hubbard has said that you disagree with?” Watch his or her reaction. I’ve actually done this. Some people just respond with confusion, they hem and haw and stall. Some are just outraged at the idea of disagreeing with Hubbard. And some will actually tell you the things they personally disagree with or found not to be true.
And some will say, “I inspected everything and I agree with everything Hubbard says.”
No, the bottom line is this: If your Bin 3 is empty, then you are not thinking for yourself.