20 April 2015

The enemy is textual fundamentalism

I've have to explain to people over the years that I am not nor have I ever been a member of the Church of Scientology. So why have I been fascinated with it for so long? Obviously there was a bit of disavowed desire in there, and I think I've pinpointed it.

I began reading about and becoming interested in Scientology (in 1991, the time of the TIME magazine exposé) because - even though it was clear that Hubbard was a cynical scam artist - there was something in his gobbledegook that I "wanted to believe". (In fact, that's precisely how LRH invites you into his mind-control circle. "Read the book until you find something you actually can believe, then go with that." They shove the rest into your brain "on a gradient", aka like a frog boiling as you slowly turn the heat up.)

What really resonated with me was the concept of the reactive mind: that my negative emotions and triggers were a bad, worthless part of me that could and should be expunged to turn me into an Adrian Veidt-like superhero. With crippling self-doubt and self-esteem issues, anyone with certainty sounded good - and, of course, is also the appeal of such movements as Objectivism and orthodox Trotskyism.

Of course I never became a believer because, no matter how much I read on the subject, written by Freezoners/Independent Scientologists who were much better writers than their guru, (a) I could identify that the basis of belief was exactly the kind of "collective solipsism" described in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, so I was held back by my determined materialism; (b) it never quite made sense. The pieces never "fit" in logical order. My brain kept yelling "citation needed".

And of course that was a feature rather than a bug. I've mentioned before how accepting texts as authoritative is in itself authoritarian, because only a dictatorial Reader can impose a single interpretation. You can see how the Bible, the Qur'an and the Complete Works of Lenin are internally contradictory and can be used to justify any damn thing, given enough ingenuity. The same is true of the Scientology Tech, and LRH did it that way on purpose. Confusion, as Jon Atack notes, is a hypnotic technique.  Make the logic centres shut down so the childlike mirror neurons kick in.

But after years going from textually-based belief-system to textually-based belief system, I learned to spot the similarities between all of them. Case in point: the Spartacist League wrote an article on their splinter group, the IBT, titled "Garbage Doesn't Walk By Itself". The argument made that any sensible person who leaves a group which wasn't right for them gets on with their lives; therefore, the way the IBT continued to try to politically engage the Sparts only proved that they were motivated by ulterior forces, possibly COINTELPRO. Change COINTELPRO for "the psychiatrists", and that's exactly the same accusations that the "orthodox Hubbardian" group Milestone Two make against other ex-Scientologists who make the gentle suggestion that M2 are exhibiting exactly the same paranoid authoritarianism as the official Church.

Liberation must be based on praxis, theory put into practice and refined by practice, not the authority of texts. The works of Karl Marx are only as much use as his method is of use in helping us work out solutions to the problems of today. Past that, they are historical documents and literature; past that, they are nothing. Nothing at all. Just bits of paper, or electrons.