The Transcendental Future
Reading an interesting book: The Time Paradox by Phillip Zimbardo and John Boyd. It’s an in-depth examination of how our attitudes towards time – past, present and future – affect how we live our lives. It is a worthwhile read. Doesn’t have much to do with our discussion of the Church of Scientology – however…
I was reading a chapter on something called the transcendental future. Simply put, it has to do with people’s beliefs about what will happen to them and the world after they die. For instance, Christians believe they will go to Heaven if they are good, devout, and pious. So this affects how they live their lives. Transcendent futures are usually unprovable, often improbable. But they are believed, and that is what matters. And no one reports back as to whether it’s really true or not.
Belief in a transcendental future can have both good and evil results. Certainly, the Christian belief in an afterlife has inspired great works of art and architecture, great acts of charity and compassion and courage.
But a transcendental future can also be used to manipulate people. “If you contribute money to the Church, you’ll go to heaven,” and so forth.
The most notorious example is suicide bombers. Most people think that they are either crazy or ignorant. No, they have been convinced that if they detonate themselves, before the first drop of their martyr blood hits the ground, they will be seated at the right hand of Allah. And they will have secured a place there for their entire family. Powerful imagery. Powerful motivation.
People’s Temple, Heaven’s Gate, Solar Temple, Kamikaze pilots, Christian martyrs – people can literally be convinced to off themselves for a transcendental future.
But short of suicide, people can be convinced to endure hardship, crushing poverty and degradation, oppression, exorbitant tithing, enormous self-sacrifice, all for the sake of their transcendent future.
Scientology, of course, has its own version of “transcendental future.”
Scientologists believe that somehow, somewhere in the future, they will achieve complete freedom and ability as a spiritual being. The Church uses this endlessly – talking about “your Eternity.” If you continue in the Church and do what they say, and continue your “Bridge progress,” and make the sacrifices they demand, then somewhere up the line, somewhere in a vague future time, your “Eternity” will be secured. Reminds me of the Tom Cruise bit in the Knight and Day trailer: “With us, your survival will be up here; without us, down here. With us, here – without us, here. With us – without us.”
Add to this, particularly for staff and Sea Org members, “a Cleared Planet.” People will endure a lot of sleepless nights, long hours, arduous work, poverty, threats and even abuse if they buy the dream.
And Scientologists don’t want to give this up. Even Scientologists who have given up on the Bridge still sadly talk about “going OT next lifetime.” One of the worst, most unforgivable things you can do to a Scientologist is to challenge that transcendental future in any way. They cling to it desperately.
And that’s a key reason they don’t listen to you. Oh, they’re listening all right, but they block out anything that challenges that transcendental future. They carefully remember and hoard any gains or wins they have had, and stack them up as proof that the transcendental future is real. They forget the losses, the failures. They don’t listen to naysayers. They carefully block out any contrary information from the Church itself, and invent reasons why the Church actions and announcements are “OK’ and “make sense.”
They strive to convince themselves that they and their fellow Scientologists and OTs really are superior, that they really do have spiritual ability no one else has, that their lives are not as mundane and confused and ordinary as everyone else’s. They shut out any reports of OTs committing criminal acts, going crazy or even committing suicide, or explain it all away. They try to convince themselves that contributing to Ideal Orgs really does move us closer to a Clear Planet. They try to convince themselves that Scientology really is expanding, and shut out anything they actually observe to the contrary. Like the number of Clears actually being produced. Or the total Clears since 1950.
Because to doubt the transcendental future is to doubt all the self sacrifice, all the time spent, all the money spent, the fractured families, the abuse.
And this is why the Church hammers you about “your Eternity.” While doing nothing to deliver any real spiritual ability to anyone or take any actions that would make even the slightest concrete progress towards a “Clear Planet.”
Because they know the power of a transcendental future.