28 January 2007

Why Scienos are nuts

Dianetics - the basis of Scientology and associated thoughtsystems - is at base an abreactive therapy. I quote from Wikipedia on "abreaction":

Abreaction is a psychoanalytical term for reliving an experience in order to purge it of its emotional excesses; a type of catharsis. Sometimes it is a method of becoming conscious of repressed traumatic events.

Early in his career, psychoanalyst Carl Jung expressed interest in abreaction, or what he referred to as "trauma theory", but later found it had limitations concerning the treatment of neurosis. Jung stated that: "though traumata of clearly aetiological significance were occasionally present, the majority of them appeared very improbable. Many traumata were so unimportant, even so normal, that they could be regarded at most as a pretext for the neurosis. But what especially aroused my criticism was the fact that not a few traumata were simply inventions of fantasy and had never happened at all".

Emphasis added above. The real problem with Dianetic therapy (apart from the fact that the E-meter is bullshit) is that the "pre-clear" (subject) is specifically told that any thought pictures which come into their mind during the therapy are "real for them". There is no attempt to distinguish something that actually happened from something they made up. It is absolutely unsurprising at that point that Dianetic patients started "remembering" insane shit from past lives in "space-opera" civilisations. I believe that Hubbard did this to himself. Through misuse of a reasonably valid psychic process (which he knocked off from Crowley via Jack Parsons) he actually started believing, for example, that he could remember his mother engramming him up by badmouthing him in the womb, or attempting to abort him with knitting needles. Eventually, it seems he quite serionsly believed in Xenu.

The sad thing is that even the "Freezone" Scientologists, some of whom are good, sincere people, have convinced themselves of cosmologies which look very much like schizophrenic ravings, because they started treating weird things they saw in their mind as real - just as Elron told them too. Case in point: one of the more famous Freezoners teaches in his "Scientology 101" book to reconstruct past lives by just making something up and then assuming that it's true. Witness where this leads - the same writer's advanced textbook contains a cosmology which reads like a combination of schizophrenic fugue and childhood nightmares. It's worth reading for the sheer "WTF?" factor - that someone who appears to be a calm, rational and pleasant person has programmed himself into believing this stuff. (A representative sample.)

In short: Dianetics and thence Scientology implants its practitioners, by repetition, with a solipsistic worldview, where images in the head are always real. If you take it far enough you do end up in a schizophrenic-style cosmology, where increasingly bizarre images are run together in a pattern which doesn't make any real-world sense. This reminds me of that scene in Voyage of the Dawn Treader with "the land where dreams come true". Not somewhere I'd want to go.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that perhaps mainstream Scientology actually *protects* its poor enslaved dupes from total insanity, by imposing an exterior limit on where someone's "research" into crazy internal universes can go. The Freezoners have no limit and often end up in places which make the Xenu story look plausible. This would of course explain why the Freezone is so schismatic - on one hand each individual is doing "research" into completely fraudulent internal universes, while on the other hand pretending to be part of a community of scientific researchers seeking reproducible results. Of course no two schizoid delusions are going to be congruent.

Hey, there's a political message in that - solipsism, and other "ideas are real" thought systems, lead to either total anarchic fragmentation of the community, or imposition from above of a True Way. No place for democracy and collective reality-tunnel-formation except in a materialist thoughtsystem.

One point where I believe UCP has kicked off its Scieno heritage is that it asks you to imagine things that *might* be real, rather than telling you they necessarily are. It probably won't cure false memories but it shouldn't impose any that weren't already there.

24 January 2007

UCP: A basic banishing process

The "Universal Conscious Process" was invented by a former Scientologist attempting to turn what he found of value on that deplorable mind-control cult into a useful, free self analysis / meditation tool. I have used it myself on and off for approximately five years and have found it extremely effective in breaking down mental inhibitions in certain areas.

The process as originally conceived is described in full (and slightly batshit) detail by its founder here. A stripped down version for those with no tolerance for residual LRonisms:

0) Visualise, in as full detail as possible, your current situation.
1) Visualise, in as full detail as possible, a different possible (or impossible) situation.
2) Compare 1) to 0).
3) Visualise, in as full detail as possible, a situation from your memory.
4) Compare 3) to 0).
5) Repeat from step 1, until you perceive "your current situation" as something different than when you started.
6) If at any stage the process begins to bring up unpleasant associations, visualise, in as full detail as possible, when you felt like that before. Compare that to your starting point. Then start again from 1).

I would be intrigued by what kind of results anyone else out there gets with this.


My schedule of "psychic exercise" for the next little while: alternate use of this ritual with a stripped down version of the Holy Guardian Angel ritual from Crowley's Liber Samekh. In other words: rooting through the garbage at the base of my existing personality, alternating with trying to short-circuit that personality altogether. I won't give details on the latter as yet until I can give some results.

As with all exercises, you get the most benefit if you do it regularly. Taking a tip from this highly successful behaviour-modification ritual society, I've created a token system to reward myself for regular effort.

A personal pop-psych manifesto

To focus my own thoughts for the next little while, and also to give some suggestions to some of our readers who feel the need to step up to the level of tinkering with their own psyche - aka "metaprogramming"...

I am a conscious body existing in a physical world.

The only sources of information which my consciousness gets about that world are electrochemical sensations produced by my body. Filters and conditioned processes in my subconscious mediate the information which comes from my five senses before it gets to my conscious mind.

My body's emotional reactions and inhibitions are in turn produced by electrochemical reactions based on these mediated signals. If I feel pain, or fear, or sorrow, it is because my subconscious mind has instructed my body to release the appropriate chemicals. (I'm pretty sure that once, in a very stressful situation, I actually physically felt my adrenal gland release the appropriate fight-or-flight chemicals.)

To survive in this world, I have developed automatic psychic processes to keep me safe and functional. Some of these are simply those which develop naturally as a result of having to live under capitalism (aka "bourgeois ideology"). Others I came up with myself in order to deal with specific problems which affected me growing up.

Mistaking the signals fed through my subconscious filters for objective reality limits my effectiveness and damages my psychic health. I can not tell what's really going on (and make appropriate plans) if my subconscious demands that I do X or Y without thinking, or insists on telling me that something in the real world is actually something else entirely, or that certain helpful kinds of behaviour are impossible or "too much work". It is very difficult to tell the difference, precisely because these functions are automatic, and are to some degree necessary for the "ego" and rational thought to be possible. (In particular, fear/avoidance procedures restrict my freedom of action and choice something terrible.)

I want to only have those automatic processes which benefit me. I want to fuse my reason and my physical instincts to eliminate conditioning which no longer benefits me. I want my subconscious filters to give me input which enables me to change physical reality, not hide from it. I want to eliminate all subconscious programming that impedes or blocks rational thought and conscious action on any level.

The big problem is that in this culture unconsciousness is more or less demanded - simply because life becomes much more difficult if you actually have to think about things, if your consciousness is not rigorously compressed into immediate questions of obeying orders, earning money, consuming, fucking, etc. In this sense, this kind of mental reprogramming is in itself a political act - or at least the precondition of effective political action.

The only way you can bring the subconscious processes into view is analysis (although many also trumpet the effectiveness of psychotropics). Rational analysis, comparing your image of the present with images of past and present. If they look too much like one another, or too different, you may well be coming up against conditioning. You can generally tell an insane idea because it doesn't change depending on circumstances.

Therefore, the process consists of taking the time to examine all my conditioned reflexes; and if they seem counterproductive, to disestablish them by counter-conditioning. This is what we call a "banishing" or an "exorcism" in magical jargon - and it will take practice, not just symbolic actions. Only by action is the subconscious reprogrammed.

The other side of the coin is to create a reality tunnel which is more appropriate for my purposes. I think you can pretty much choose to live in whatever ideology you feel like - *given that* it can cope with whatever input from the real world it comes across, either by reacting to it or censoring it out of existence. (When the real world breaks your reality tunnel, I think that's what's called a "psychotic break".) The reality tunnel I'm looking for it for myself will be one that maximises my effectiveness in causing change-in-accordance-with-will in the real, physical, material world.

(Note: I will rewrite this as and when necessary.)

23 January 2007

Mad Larry sometimes gets it right

It was, incidentally, S Club Seven who made it clear what's wrong with engineered pop: it works like Stalinism, which means it's dull by definition.

(Who's Mad Larry, I hear you ask?)

22 January 2007

Memetics 101

Consciousness is changed via practice - you are what you do. "Brainwashing" the passive brain is impossible. The most effective advertising does not say "Brand X has qualities Y and Z"; instead, it presents a meme which associates X with Y and Z and leaves it up to the recipients to connect the dots. All the best "cult" literature, art and popular narrative - the most virally infective memes, to use another metaphor - require that the readers/viewers/listeners do some work to make some sense of what they are given.

For some years I have practiced - on and off - a meditative/cognitive-self-help practice known as UCP. It can be boiled down to systematically comparing present reality to places in your memory and your imagination. Once again, the crucial part is to compare and contrast - do some mental work - rather than to just passively observe.

So, Rule One for wannabe memetic engineers: leave some holes in your propaganda. Leave it to the recipients to make the connections that you are pointing towards. This opens the possibility of misinterpretation, but it ensures that it will actually get a hook into the cognitive processes of the target audience.

Rule Two would, of course, be leave it open source - "proprietary" belief systems only work in a capitalist system where their propagators have a truckload of money to replicate their ideas via brute force. On the other hand, if you've got no money, you have to attract collaborators, not employees. Example: Lovecraft not only incorporated other's ideas (Carcosa, Hastur etc.) into his mythos, but actively encouraged others to join in - hence the Cthulhu Mythos has grown virally. (I think perhaps Larry Miles is trying to do something similar with Faction Paradox.)

Rule Three, as Uncle Al knew, is of course invoke often.

13 January 2007

More on the relation between ethics and reality

James Curcio, meet Chris Harman:

Moral concepts are not arbitrary concepts made up by or imposed on individuals. They are social products. They assert a view of what human beings should do if a society is to continue functioning so as to satisfy the needs of its members. To be ‘good’ is to behave socially in certain ways (or at least not to ‘misbehave’).In a stable, cohesive society which provides clear benefits to all its participants, what is involved is unproblematic. [...]

But things change with the move from such primitive communist societies to class societies. Then contradictory notions of what is ‘good’ arise. People are torn between contradictory moral codes. This, for instance, is where the power of the ancient Greek tragedy comes from—to abide by an old code is to infringe a new one. In the process moral codes of any sort can come to seem arbitrary as different social groups counterpose their codes to each other. Yet the very fact that they can argue over what is ‘good’ means that they all recognise, implicitly, that some code is necessary for social living to continue. Arguments over what is ‘good’ rest on arguments about reality, even if they seem not too. ‘Ought’ does rely on arguments about what ‘is’.

The central parameters within which these arguments take place are class ones. A class which fights to preserve existing society has one set of notions about what is necessary to keep society going, and attempts to impose on people the moral notions that correspond to this. It has to portray the values it propagates as the values necessary for society as a whole, what is good for itself as absolutely ‘good’. By contrast, a class which feels its needs are not met and presses for society to be reconstituted on a different basis necessarily begins to advance different interpretations of moral notions. The contradictory interpretations become most intense when society enters deep economic and social crises, in which ‘things cannot continue in the old way.’

10 January 2007

The Iraqi resistance show us how it's done

The corporate media of the Empire have no clue what to do about a fantastic display of concrete media-shamanism by (some sections of) the Iraqi resistance. The most interesting bit:

Most large-scale attacks on U.S. forces are now filmed, often from multiple camera angles, and with high-resolution cameras. The footage is slickly edited into dramatic narratives: quick-cut images of Humvees exploding or U.S. soldiers being felled by snipers are set to inspiring religious soundtracks or chanting, which lends them a triumphal feel. In some cases, U.S. officials believe, insurgents attack American forces primarily to generate fresh footage.

“Don't blame the media - become the media". Quite. No disrespect to that guy in GenHex who conducted the lovewar against Fox News, but this shit is actually working. Everyone learn - especially the bit about how they are moving from action to memetics, from the Real to the Imaginary/Symbolic. So many of we pampered western decadents seem to think that you go the other way, and - to quote Yoda - THAT IS WHY YOU FAIL.

Back from a holiday on a subtropical island with all kinds of big ideas. A reasonably mainstream academic article, applying Chomsky's "propaganda model" to popular novels of the turn of the 19th century. Also: serious thoughts about how historical shamanistic practices relate to modern media-cults. Case in point: is there really much difference between wearing the mask of Dionysus for a religious drama, or dressing up as Frank'N'Furter for a Rocky Horry Picture Show audience-participation ritual? Perhaps I show my age with that example and should have been referencing Full Metal Alchemist cosplay. Actually, that's a very good point - the cult of Dionysus lasted a thousand years and more. RHPS is considered a Methuselah among modern media cults and it's only just gone thirty. Only freakin' Star Trek is older, and don't get me going on that. (Mental note: punch Shatner.)