There are those who dismiss L. Ron Hubbard as the consummate con man. They insist that with conscious aforethought he created and operated dianetics and scientology as a fraudulent bait and switch operation fooling and fleecing tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of relatively intelligent adults. So cunning was Hubbard according to some anti-scientologists that if you were to take their words for granted you would have to rank Hubbard as one of the more able and intelligent minds of the twentieth century. The complexity, the breadth, and the duration of Hubbard’s alleged fraudulent scheme would be a virtual impossibility for any mere mortal to accomplish.
At the opposite extreme pole hard core scientologists truly believe that L. Ron Hubbard was ‘Source’, a sort of God from which nothing but ultimate truth was issued. They have trained their own minds to reject any information even tangentially relating to mind or spirit that does not come from Hubbard’s mouth or pen.
The anti-scientologist with his name-calling, absolutist statements and lampooning serves to reinforce the scientologist believer’s conviction that Hubbard and scientology deserve undaunting and vigilant defense. Likewise, the Ron-quoting scientologist’s aggressive certitude serves to reinforce the anti-scientologists’ views that Hubbard’s work is good for nothing more than creating unthinking, conformist zealots.
Members of either side of the scientology extremes demonstrate as severe a case of denialism as the other. As with any hotly contested, complex issue denialists cling hard to simple answers that make them comfortable with putting difficult questions out of sight and out of mind. It seems that in the scientology world L. Ron Hubbard is either God or Satan. One won’t find much truth on either side of a passionate debate between denialists, whether the subject is politics, science, philosophy or scientology. But, if one listens without embracing one side or the other the minute it seems to agree with one’s prejudices and intelligently looks for oneself, one will generally find that the truth lies somewhere between the polar extremes.
We will explore the reasons why those affected by scientology in the long-term continue to act out scientology’s patented us vs. them drama behavior and why that holds true even for those who become virulent critics of the subject.
It is quite easy to understand why someone gets involved in scientology in the first place. Scientology includes features that play well to those going through the adolescent stage of human development. That stage was well summed up by James W. Fowler in his book Stages of Faith:
New expectations, qualitatively different disciplines and a host of difficult decisions are the requirements with which societies greet the now more womanly or manly adolescent. In trying to meet and fulfill these requisites youth will call on the available and personally resonant ideological resources of their environments, particularly those that are embodied in charismatic and convincing leaders. They will seek sponsoring groups and figures and will appoint otherwise well-meaning persons as temporary enemies over against whom their identities may be clarified. They may band together in tight cliques, overemphasizing some relatively trivial commonality as a symbol of shared identity. In this cliquishness they can be quite cruel as they exclude those who do not share this common element.
What is so unique about scientology is not that it at first capitalizes on this adolescent growth stage and its needs. Instead, it is that scientology manages to implant within the scientologist’s sub conscious that this stage is as far as development goes. By continually communicating constructs as reality with a convincing combination of charisma and certainty, Hubbard manages to make scientologists buy into a universe view that is completely encompassed within Fowler’s adolescent development perspective.
That scientologists receive what they consider adequate solutions to their immediate needs from those constructs and related practices reinforces the indoctrinated universe view. The closed culture of scientology makes stage growth stunting inevitable. That culture convinces the individual to assign any and every personal development along the Fowler schema — or by any other standard — to the brilliance of Hubbard and scientology. Likewise, it includes sophisticated and complex analyses for blaming any regression or depression on perceived enemies of scientology, directly or indirectly. All of these dichotomy creating mis-assignment of causation devices serve to reinforce the adolescent, denialist universe view taught in scientology.
The adolescent stage of faith universe view is so thoroughly ingrained in the sub conscious of the scientologist that even when an individual manages to disconnect from the scientology organization he or she often continues to act with the adopted us vs. them, misassignment of cause, and blame mentality. The former cult member can gravitate toward groups of independent, former, and even anti-scientologists who act in the same cliquish and cruel manner that they did while actively participating in scientology.
In the scientology milieu – organizational, independent, former, and anti – reason holds little currency. It is replaced by the adolescent, denialist language of absolutism and condemnation. It is a culture of facile appointment of enemies and easy bandwagon riding with those perceived to share trivial commonalities.
Getting out of the scientology sandbox begins with one simple, liberating step. But, for the reasons outlined thus far, it is a step those involved in scientology culture find difficult to navigate.