27 February 2012


You know, I've been interested in Scientology for more than 20 years now, even while knowing that it's an abject failure and probably a 100% scam from start to finish, because part of me - a rather childish part - wishes it were otherwise. Who wouldn't want a precisely mapped-out set of procedures and rules which, if followed, give you awesome superpowers? Even Catholic priests can only turn a biscuit and a goblet of wine into the living presence of the Godhead. Operating Thetans can top that any day of the week, according to popular report. (Some of the Thelemites I've known have seriously been pushing towards getting similar powers, but with the same kind of results as far as I can tell.)

Interestingly enough, that's also why I've been interested in the Spartacist League and its daughter organisations. If "building the revolutionary party" was as simple as holding inflexibly to a programme last updated in 1938, then there would be far less heartbreak and brainwork involved, and you could have all the fun of the fair exchanging polemics with the OROs (the Spart equivalent of the Scientology "squirrels"). There's a darker side to that, of course - being the Chosen Ones gives you not only the duty, but the right, and more importantly the pleasure to be assholes to other people. "Error has no rights", as the traditional Catholics say.

Which brings me to the point that sometimes I find "Scientologese" jargon quite useful as shorthand. Like "ARC break" for pissing someone off, because it emphasises that such things happen when two people come to a serious disagreement on how they see the world and thus can't talk to each other properly. Here I am going to use the phrase "dramatization of case". I'm sure there's an equivalent for that in proper psychological language, though I can't think of it right now. The Marxist definition of "ideology" is "an imaginary solution to a real problem"; "dramatization of case" means "acting out past trauma or conflict in a completely different present situation". Like yelling at your girlfriend because she did something, quite innocently, which reminded you of your horrible mother.

So someone suggested on Tony Ortega's blog that Scientology is the dramatization of L. Ron Hubbard's case. This is not an original insight, but it is a good one. To give just one example, the insane bureaucratic internal structure of the Co$ is a "dramatization" of the US Navy of World War II, an organisation which Elron pretty much flunked out of. So he mocked up a facsimile of it in which he could be Commodore.

Could we also say that the Fourth International was the dramatization of Trotsky's case? After the trauma of going from Leader of the Revolution to Worst Scumbag on the Planet as far as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was concerned, was he only trying to mock up a facsimile of the old-school Bolsheviks, this time one where he was on the winning side instead? Because let's face it, and sorry to the Trots out there because I have great love and sympathy for Lev Davidovitch, but the 4Int was always kind of a Potemkin village - the great guru, one mass party (the American SWP) and a bunch of loonies, sects, and Stalinist secret agents. Not in any way the same kind of mass forces as the first 3. And of course without Lev around the whole thing kind of crashed and burned.

Hmmm. Hubbard and Trotsky were both called "The Old Man" by their followers towards the end of their lives. I don't want to push this analogy too far because the former was a conman whose only skill was lying and he wasn't even good at that, and the other was a real revolutionary and hero howsoever flawed, but you get what I mean. In any group with an unchallenged, universally acknowledged leader, the group will more and more become a dramatization of the internal psychological conflicts of that leader. And in any group, no matter how democratic, which isolates itself from "the real world", the real fuel of the group will become its own internal conflicts.