1. The world outside Scientology is not a dangerous or degraded or hostile place. You’ll find that on the whole, people are pretty nice, and you’re likely to encounter more kindness, empathy and friendliness – and less judgment – than you did inside Scientology.
2. You have your own ideas and opinions separate from those of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. Learn to differentiate. Ask yourself, “is this really what I personally think or believe, or is this just what I was taught in Scientology?” Stop putting everything through a Scientology filter to determine if it is good or bad, true or false. Make your own decisions. And it’s OK to disagree with Hubbard and Scientology.
3. You have the right to privacy and to your own personal space. Your private life, your activities, your lifestyle are your own choice and no one has the right to pry or invade your space or pass judgment. You do not have to reveal or confess everything about your life to anyone. People in general do not care or judge you.
4. Learn to relax and live your life. You don’t have to be “productive” every moment. Take the time to relax, go for long walks, daydream, read a book, hang out with friends and family. You are not on the clock and you don’t have to measure every minute of your life against some arbitrary standard of “production.”
5. Make an effort to overcome any prejudices instilled by Scientology. Gays are not “covertly hostile.” Psychiatrists are not evil. Journalists are not “merchants of chaos.” “Wogs” are not degraded or out-ethics. And they are not “wogs.” Try to re-examine generalities like this and see people and institutions for who they actually are, not what Scientology told you they are.
6. People who disagree with you are not “enemies.” People who challenge your opinions are not “attacking” you. Loosen up. Try to see other viewpoints. Re-examine your own opinions and conclusions. You will never learn anything if you only reactively defend your own position and demonize those who disagree.
7. It’s important to take care of yourself. See a doctor regularly. Get a checkup. See the dentist. Take needed medication. Get over any preconception that doctors, dentists or medicine are bad, scary, invalid, or unnecessary.
8. Emotion is a good thing. It is not a sign of a weak person or a “lesser being.” Emotions are a part of life, and everyone feels them. It is not shameful to feel anger, grief or depression, and it does not make you less of a person. If you try to suppress your so-called “lower” emotions, you may end up being unable to feel anything.
9. Whatever wins you have had, remember that nothing in Scientology has made you superior to others. Get over any sense of superiority or entitlement. Realize that Scientologists have the same hang-ups, problems, foibles, and faults as anyone else. They make the same mistakes and commit the same sins. Scientologists have not reached a “higher state” where they have super powers or are morally or intellectually or spiritually superior to others. Try to see yourself objectively and with humility. Do not approach others with arrogance or condescension.
10. Get over the idea that your life only has meaning if you are “serving a higher purpose.” Just living your life with love, tolerance, kindness and charity is what gives it meaning. If the world is to be improved, it will be through individual acts of kindness, friendship and generosity, not some organized international movement to “save the planet.”
11. You don’t need to follow someone else on your life’s journey. You don’t need a leader or a guru or a “source.” You don’t need an “ism” or “ology.” Get over the idea that Scientology – or anyone for that matter – has all the answers. Broaden your horizons. If you are interested in learning more about the mind and spirit, read or study broadly. You don’t need someone else to define truth for you. You are fully capable of coming up with your own ideas, opinions and conclusions. Blaze your own trail to your own truth.
12. You don’t need to be constantly “fixed” or corrected. You don’t need constant auditing or interviews or therapy to survive. Scientology only exists by constantly “finding people’s ruins” and convincing them of their failings and imperfections all the way up the line. In all likelihood, there is not as much wrong with you as you might have been led to believe and you are pretty much fine just as you are.
I’m changing the format of Leaving Scientology a bit to put more emphasis on information and less on discussion. The truth is, I have little time for a Scientology blog these days: my business is booming and requires a lot of my attention, and I have many other interests that I would rather be spending my time on.
Scientology, in my opinion, has many ways to trap you, and one of them is to mire you in endless blog discussions after you have left. The discussions on this blog have been good, even therapeutic, but more and more I feel like I am simply repeating myself, and listening to others repeat themselves. At one time I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions, but of late maintaining the blog has become a tedious chore, one that I do not enjoy and have no time for. I am not one to continue doing things I have lost interest in.
And I have little to no interest in Scientology these days. I have written extensive critiques, I have said what I want to say about it. Those essays are preserved here for anyone to read. As to further discussion, I have little interest in it. I have much more exciting things to do with my time than to continue to discuss Scientology.
Scientology, to me, is a dead issue. The Church may be able to prop up a facade for some years to come, but it is gone. It is a minor oppressive cult scrabbling to control its shrinking membership. Others may want to try to revive the subject in the independent field. Good luck with that, but I have no interest in it. I have little interest in commenting on the Church’s desperate antics. For me, Scientology is, to quote from Macbeth, “but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
I will, of course, continue to speak out against the Church’s abuses when needed. And I continue to be available to anyone who needs help or advice in leaving the Church.
And I am always here for my friends.
But lets talk about other things, shall we?
OK, let’s see how this goes.
A few notes:
1. This is not scientific in any way – it is an informal poll of people who read this blog. There is no attempt to screen participants or collect any information about respondents or cross-tabulate answers.
2. Please don’t try to “game” the system. Feel free to tell your friends about this poll or link to it, but don’t tell them what to say. The system only allows one response per person/ IP address.
3. Try to set aside any bias you have, pro or con. See if you can just honestly answer these questions from your own experience. That is, don’t try to artificially skew your answers high or low to make a point. Just give your honest assessment. My own answers are all over the place.
It should be interesting!
As a tribute to my years spent as Editor of Advance Magazine, I thought I’d publish a column of “OT Phenomena” Success Stories. See what you think of these:
“I went from a single mom at home trying to work part time as self employed without much success, to having a part time job, and within a few short weeks I had gained a second part time job. I was over the moon. I then decided one day in a session…that I really wanted a full time job. To my surprise the very next day my manager at the dental surgery I worked in offered me a full time job…This stuff really does work. I live each and every day positively happy.”
“I was at a house rebuilding a porch and I lost my balance and fell backwards and landed on a concrete step on my left arm. The bone in my arm immediately snapped completely in half, right above my elbow. My elbow twisted and was pointing towards my stomach and the back of my hand hit me in the face. My arm was completely broken and mangled, and I screamed out for my employee to call 911. …When I got to the hospital…I decided to try to heal my arm. A doctor came in shortly and took x-rays. Later he came back and said they needed to do a CAT scan. They did that and I waited for a couple more hours before they came back in again looking kind of perplexed and they told me that my arm was not broken. I exclaimed ‘What? I saw the bone break and it was bulging out of the back of my arm!’ The doctor leaned over me and whispered to me: ‘We don’t know what happened, but your bone is not broken anymore.'”
“I was so energized, that I could not stop myself from working on creative projects because I was so inspired… It’s as though all of my barriers have come down and I’m filled with this new enthusiasm and confidence to achieve my full potential…I was able to increase my business sales and double my income in less than 8 months! … I had no idea that I would experience such tremendous results so quickly. I was zapped into action and I haven’t stopped since!”
“I am a lady truck driver and I deal with bad motorists 10 to 15 hours every day. Anyway, I have this ability to tell if another driver is going to pull out in front of me or make some other kind of wild maneuver. Many times I have started braking and my husband (who is my team partner on the truck) has asked me why I was slowing down–only to stop mid-sentence because a car suddenly swerved in front of us.”
“Several months ago the remote to the television went missing…My mother taught me that when something is lost, the best way to find it is START CLEANING! So shortly after their disappearance, I scheduled a full day to clean the living room….It took me 12 hours to clean the place, and by the end of it, I was convinced the dog had buried the remote in the back yard. There is nowhere else it could have possibly disappeared to. …Today I was sitting on the couch reading, I set my book down to rest my eyes a few minutes…when POOF it hit me, there must be a small crevice in the frame of the couch that runs the length of the couch. What’s more, I knew exactly where the remote was- I knew it was underneath where I was sitting. I stuck my hand in and immediately felt it. Amazing!”
“When I retired as a schoolteacher and moved to Florida, I decided I didn’t want to sit at home all day and watch TV, so I hired myself out as a part time nanny and babysitter…As I walked up the steps of a house to introduce myself to a new family, I could feel my sensations becoming more acute.… As I approached the front door, I had the strangest feeling I knew this house. Yet, I was new to the area… As [the wife] gave me a tour of the house, I started telling her in advance what each room looked like. We were both amazed when I described not only the layout of the master bedroom, but the individual pieces of furniture as well as the various things she had strewn around the room. Then I realized…I was simply picking up bits of information from her mind.”
Impressive, aren’t they? As Advance Editor, I would have been proud to publish these. And I’m sure that there are those who would say that these stories prove that Scientology works.
The only problem? They’re not from Scientology. They are from many different sources – The Secret website, an “Academy of Remote Viewing” site, a “Soul Success Coach” blog, a “female intuition” website, a “psychic consultant” website, and an astrology website. In about a half an hour on Google, I found these and hundreds upon hundreds more.
Do these stories “prove” that these subjects work? No of course not. What do they tell us?
1. People have strange, unexplained experiences and like to write about them.
2. They tend to attribute them to whatever they are into: hypnotherapy, Christian prayer, astrology, channeling, whatever, and
3. The purveyors of those subjects or beliefs love to carefully select these out and display them as “proof” that their particular subject “works.”
Now, this isn’t to say that hypnotherapy, astrology, The Secret, magic healing crystals and so forth don’t work. But stories like this don’t prove it.
Let’s look at something called the anecdotal fallacy, sometimes referred to as the “person who” fallacy, as in “I know a person who…” or “I heard of a case where…”
We’ve all heard examples: “Smoking doesn’t cause cancer! My grandfather chain-smoked all his life and lived to be 100.” The person generalizes from a single anecdote. This is called hasty generalization or generalization from the particular. “My aunt started eating blueberries and her arthritis went away. See? Blueberries cure arthritis.”
Confirmation bias also enters in. This is the tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or beliefs. People gather evidence and recall information from memory selectively, and interpret it in a way that conforms to their established beliefs. Let’s say a person believes that they can perceive available parking places from miles away. One day they are driving downtown and find a parking place right in front of their destination. This proves that they have this ability. Never mind the dozens of times they didn’t find a parking place, this is the story they will remember and retell (and get published in Advance Magazine).
Anecdotal evidence usually lacks documentation. Such stories can get exaggerated (in the interest of telling a good story), and are often passed from person to person, sometimes embellished as they go. “Urban myths” are an example of this.
Anecdotal evidence is often given more importance than is warranted, due to something called the availability heuristic, a phenomenon whereby people overestimate the frequency of a phenomenon in a group based on how easily they can think of an example. “OT stories” are memorable and startling and so come easily to mind. So people tend to generalize: “All OTs can do that.” Memorable anecdotes are often about the exception, not the rule. Examples where the person couldn’t do that tend to be forgotten.
And of course the companies or movements using these stories cherry pick the best ones to showcase as “the wins everyone is getting.”
Anecdotes, “success stories,” testimonials, can be fun to read. They can be entertaining. They can sell things. But using them to prove something can lead to logical absurdities:
“I know a Scientologist who is a millionaire. Therefore Scientology creates millionaires.”
“I know an OT who mysteriously recovered from cancer. Therefore, OTs can cure cancer. “
“I heard of an OT in the 1970s who could leave his body at will. Therefore OTs can leave their bodies at will.”
“I thought about my grandmother and a few minutes later she called. That proves telepathy is a fact.”
“I heard of a boy on the news who remembered a past life, Therefore that proves LRH was right and Scientology can help you recover your past lives.”
I could give more examples, but I think you get the idea.
Wow, that’s a hot topic! Over 500 comments.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed their opinions and viewpoints. And I mean that sincerely. And thanks even to those of you who have contributed your viewpoint over and over and over again! (LOL) Please, keep posting, either on the earlier thread or on this one.
People sometimes give me grief for allowing anyone to post any opinion here, including (gasp!) “entheta.” But as I believe and have said many times, you only learn from people who disagree with you. And I’ve personally learned a lot from this thread.
There are also those who believe that Scientologists, particularly those newly out of the Church, should be shielded from certain opinions, that they should have “safe” places to go where they won’t be subjected to the rough-and-tumble of open discourse. I guess I have more faith in people’s ability to reason and in their ability to tolerate those with different opinions, communicate with them, and hold their own.
The discussion has been amazingly civil. I may have let a few ad hominem posts through – with the volume of replies, I haven’t been able to check everything. So if you got your feathers ruffled, my apologies.
A couple of points:
1. Religion vs. Business: One of the most interesting comments was made not on the blog but in a private phone conversation with a friend. He pointed out that Scientology has to decide which model it is going to operate on, as a gnostic religion or as a business.
The word gnostic refers to inner spiritual knowledge. It’s a different kind of knowledge than, for instance, “I know there’s a Pizza Hut down on 82nd Street.” A Scientologist who exteriorizes, or, for that matter, a native American shaman who “sends his spirit over the plains,” or an Indian guru who “leaves his body and visits the spirit world” are all forms of inner spiritual knowledge, or gnosis. You can’t prove it happened, you can’t prove it didn’t happen. You can believe them, you can disbelieve them, you can say they are crazy, deluded, inspired or whatever.
I mentioned in my first post some of my own somewhat supernatural experiences. I couldn’t prove those things happened. But then I am not really trying to convince anyone of anything, so it really does not matter to me if people believe it or not – it is of no consequence to me. It’s simply something I experienced.
Now if you move into the world of business, that’s different. If the shaman says “pay me for this special training course or session and I will teach you how you can send your spirit soaring over the plains.” That’s a different thing entirely. In that case, caveat emptor applies. The prospective customer, before they plunk down their hard-earned cash, would be well within their rights to say “prove it.” “Fly over the prairie and tell me what’s there and I’ll go verify it, and if it’s accurate, or even close, I’ll take your course.”
So when I hear the individual gnostic spiritual experiences of individual Scientologists (or anyone else for that matter), I say “good for you.” (Or “far out, man” as we used to say in the ‘60s.)
When I read these things in Church literature or magazines or books or lectures, I say, “Where’s the beef.” Because they are selling something. They are selling a series of levels, with an “ability gained” at each level. Well then, whether or not they can actually observably produce these abilities becomes very, very pertinent.
2. Redefining OT Abilities: A few posters tried to redefine “OT Ability” as any ability. Composing a symphony is an “OT Ability.” Painting a work of art is an “OT Ability.” Someone even suggested that picking up a cup of coffee with your hand is an “OT Ability” – I guess because the thetan controls the brain which sends the signals to the hand and so on.
Sure, we can celebrate ability. We can marvel at what great artists or writers can produce. We can marvel at the miracle of everyday things – someone cooking a great dinner or telling a good story.
But as I said in my original post, when you start calling anything and everything an “OT Ability,” then any discussion of whether or not “OT Abilities” exist becomes muddied. If OT Ability is defined as “any human ability,” then it’s easy to prove that “OT Abilities” exist. Duh.
No, the question is specifically “do Scientology’s OT Levels produce superior spiritual abilities in those who do them?”
3. Flying Teapots and Parlor Tricks: A few other posters tried to pooh-pooh the idea that “OT Ability” implies any sort of promise of paranormal ability. “Flying teapots and parlor tricks? Ha, ha! That’s just silly!” “That’s just people’s strange hidden standards!” “I personally never thought that such crazy stuff was real! Ha, ha, ha.” No, this person insists, OT isn’t about parlor tricks, it’s about living life, building a business, raising a family, doing better in life, playing better baseball, helping the community…
Really? I thought that’s what people took Life Improvement Courses for. Or a Comm Course. I didn’t know that was what people paid up to $500,000 for, and spent decades of their time going up through the OT Levels. Frankly, I don’t think anyone ever heard the phrase “Cause over matter, energy, space, time, life and thought, subjective and objective,” and thought it meant “running my business better.”
Added Note: This isn’t a reaction, by the way, to Thoughtful’s long article of the same name at Scientology-cult.com, which I haven’t had a chance to read fully and appears to be a much more nuanced and “thoughtful” argument. But somehow this “flying teapot and parlor tricks” meme has become a shorthand way to trivialize the discussion of paranormal abilities.
4. “Poor Jeff…”: Some people had the gall to make statements like, “Poor Jeff, he spent all that time in Scientology and never made it. He never made it to OT like the rest of us did. How sad. Too bad he had such strange hidden standards. Too bad he only wanted to levitate teapots. Poor guy.”
You don’t often see me lose my temper. I’m usually pretty easy going, so this is a rarity. My reply to this is as follows: “You can take all your condescending, sanctimonious ‘pity’ and shove it.”
OK, I’m over it.
But really. Number one, I didn’t have any “hidden standards.” What I expected from Scientology was exactly what Scientology said, in its books, in its lectures, in its magazines. Like most people coming in to Scientology, I read, I listened, I studied, and I got an idea from Scientology what they were offering. There was nothing “hidden” about it. Like most Scientologists, I expected what I was told to expect, nothing more, and nothing less. I expected what they promoted.
Did I get what was promised? Some of it. As Marty mentioned, I was promised a full glass and got half a glass. I would say my experience in Scientology was pretty typical, even above average. My experience was very much like the experience of many Scientologists. Some gains I got, some I didn’t. I’m not going to PR or hype my own experience, I have no reason to. I’ll level with you: I got half a glass. So did a lot of people. Some people only got a quarter of a glass. Some just got a bit of condensation.
Well, some people say, “you should be happy with the water you got.” Maybe so. But if you’re running a business (see point #1), and promising people a full glass of water, and you deliver half a glass, you’re going to have horrible PR, dissatisfied customers, high turnover, bad word of mouth, few new customers and legal troubles. Sound familiar?
5. You have to believe before you can see OT Abilities. Some have made the statement that you can only perceive OT Abilities if you believe in them. Those who are too spiritually unaware or low toned or dead-in-the-head just can’t see them. Therefore, if you can’t perceive them, you must be low toned or unaware or dead-in-the-head.
The only comment I’ll make about that is it sounds like a certain Emperor’s new wardrobe.
Interesting subject. One I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. A subject that I’m sure will elicit strong opinions.
The promise of OT Abilities was one which first attracted me to Scientology. I avidly read the “OT Phenomena” stories from OTs in Advance Magazine. Then in the 1970s, I became the Editor of Advance Magazine, and eagerly collected and published these stories. In some ways I was the perfect candidate for Editor – I was not yet OT myself and held an eager fascination for the subject. My sense of awe and anticipation translated itself into the magazine and helped to create a sense of mystery and wonder surrounding the OT Levels.
And the stories certainly were amazing. Stories about communicating over long distances through the mind (telepathy), remote viewing (extrasensory perception or clairvoyance), influencing matter, energy, space and time as a spirit (telekinesis or psychokinesis), supernatural healing, predicting future events (precognition), remembering past lives, dealing with ghosts and haunting, and more. Exciting, heady stuff. Exhilarating and empowering.
And the LRH articles reinforced the sense of wonder. Hubbard told us that we could become a super-being: “A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends interested in existence.” (Scientology 8-8008)
When I actually did go OT, I was looking forward to beginning to exercise these types of abilities. I eagerly tried out my remote viewing abilities, my mind-reading abilities, my abilities to move or effect matter from a distance. The results were, well, disappointing. Oh well, I thought, maybe it will happen on the next OT level. Or the next one after that.
I told this story to a doctrinaire Scientologist one time, a Freezoner, and got an interesting reaction. This person implied that I was the odd man out – that everyone else had achieved these abilities and that there was something wrong with me that I hadn’t. Well maybe so. Maybe I was the only person who hadn’t reached these types of abilities due to some personal flaw, but everyone else was happily levitating objects, reading minds, viewing far-away events and so on. But somehow I don’t think so. In fact, in my 35 years in Scientology, I never met a single Scientologist who could actually demonstrate these types of abilities. I never met a super-being. Sure, I met a lot of wonderful people, intelligent people, dedicated people. But no one who could demonstrate what the Church promoted as “OT Abilities.” (I would be happy to hear from anyone who has a different experience.)
But before we go any further in the discussion, let’s define a few terms:
Psychic Abitilies vs. OT Abilities
Scientologists tend to collapse these two terms. But let’s be clear: the general term used in society to refer to these things is “psychic abilities” or “paranormal phenomena,” or similar terms. OT Abilities should be used to refer specifically to those abilities gained by Scientologists as a result of going up the Bridge to OT.
If you don’t clarify these definitions, then you get into this kind of a discussion: A skeptic questions the validity of Scientology’s “OT Abilities.” The Scientologist then argues that “psychic phenomena DO exist, and accuses the skeptic of being a materialist who negates any sort of spiritual ability. The Scientologist may then quote selectively from the many, many studies that have been done over the last 100 years on paranormal phenomena to demonstrate that such things as telekinesis or remote viewing DO actually exist. The skeptic is put on the defensive and the discussion becomes all about “do these phenomena exist?”
No, let’s keep on track here. The point is not “do paranormal phenomena exist?” That discussion could go on and on endlessly. The question is “does Scientology produce these abilities?”
Phenomenon vs Ability
The other thing to differentiate is phenomenon versus ability.
A phenomenon is something that happens, an observable event. I have personally experienced what could be termed paranormal phenomena – and this was before Scientology. In one case, I was in a strange city and somehow remembered being there before, and in fact I was able to find my way around without a map. On another occasion I was able to accurately see something without using my eyes. If you talk to a dozen people, non-Scientologists, you’ll probably get a dozen such stories. Many people have strange, unexplained things like this that have happened to them. These are phenomena – strange, odd or bizarre observed events.
An ability, on the other hand, is something one has learned to do. Playing piano or programming a computer are abilities. One can do them any time. If asked to demonstrate these abilities, one could do so without hesitation.
Ability also contains the idea of permanence. They are not fleeting. One does not play the piano one day and then forget how the next. One doesn’t suddenly become unable to play the piano because someone looked at them wrong or invalidated their performance. It might upset them – but they can still play the piano.
It’s no accident that the stories in Advance Magazine were called “OT Phenomena.” They were singular occurrences. Sure, they sounded amazing, like my finding my way around a strange city. But they were not something the story teller could necessarily repeat at will. I recall one story about magically finding a parking place in a crowded city. Fine, but can you find a parking place every time you go to the city? Or “I thought of my aunt Martha and she called me.” Great, but can you get anyone to call you at will just by thinking of them?
So a valid challenge to someone claiming OT Abilities would be to ask them to demonstrate those abilities. That isn’t unreasonable or “entheta.” If someone says they have an ability, then demonstrate it. If you have the ability to view things remotely, then tell me what’s in the next room. If you have the ability to move objects, then move one. If you can read minds, then tell me what I’m thinking.
Of course, the minute you suggest this, you tend to get things like “Asking for proof is an invalidation of an OT,”or “I don’t do parlor tricks,” or “that’s a hidden standard.” (No, it’s not hidden. It’s in scores of Advance Magazines and LRH references. It’s not hidden when you’re promoting it. It’s only hidden when you’re asked to prove it.)
And another added one I hadn’t thought of: “People who demand physical universe proof of OT abilities are down tone brain dead skeptics and cannot perceive spiritual things anyway. Why waste my precious time tossing pearls to swine.” Really? I’m sorry, but I don’t see how asking for proof of these claims is either downtone or spiritually unaware. What, it’s “uptone” or “spiritually enlightened” to take these things on faith and not ask for some kind of proof??
And of course, you hear that OTs that cannot demonstrate these abilities “have out-tech on their case” or “are PTS” or “are the effect of David Miscavige.” Sure, they could play the piano if only it weren’t for all these SPs!
Or people will begin citing paranormal research that has nothing to do with Scientology. Like quoting Ian Stevenson’s research on reincarnation to prove “past lives exist.” To repeat, the point is not “do these phenomena exist?” The question is “Does Scientology processing actually reliably produce or create these abilities in people?”
Well, maybe my Freezoner friend was right. Maybe I’m the odd man out, the only one who didn’t get these kinds of paranormal abilities from the OT Levels. Maybe everyone else got these things and kept it a secret from me.
But what are your experiences? What abilities did you gain or not gain from the OT Levels? And remember, we are not talking about phenomena you have experienced, we are talking about abilities you gained. Can you knowingly and at will perform the sorts of paranormal feats that were hinted at in the “OT Phenomena” stories?
I yield the floor…