Psychology and Religion
Scientology 1.0.0 – Part 10
Psychology – Who’s who
Actually, I just sort of shoehorned this into the list of the kinds of mentation that I think had to be a part of Man’s development, as he moved on into his civilisation phase.
The study proper of human behaviour starts, sort of, in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries with Leibniz (1646 – 1716). Psychology, though, doesn’t actually become a subject until the 1870s. Of course, this is long, long after the advent of Western Civilisation. As such, modern psychology is an extremely recent discipline, is generally rooted in materialism (less so lately) and traditionally has attempted to study human behaviour mostly from the stimulus-response perspective.
(In Scientology much is made of the fact that psychology today means “study of the mind” whereas before “psyche” originally meant “soul”. This distinction is made and given emphasis because of the current battle between the ideas that assist Mankind and those that harm. The distinction is materialism.
Materialism: the philosophical theory that regards matter and its motions as constituting the whole of reality (emphasis mine), and all phenomena, including those of mind, as due to material agencies. This is opposed to Scientology’s metaphysical view that ultimate reality isn’t material. This idea of a transcendent reality has been, actually, most of the planet’s view for almost all of history; only in the West and only in the past couple hundred years did certain people start to formulate an idea that the Universe is an infinity of (mostly dead) matter.
This definitional transformation from soul into mind is important mainly because it’s a grave prepositional error: the mind is something you can look at, use, it’s a tool, and it’s the soul does the looking; you are the soul, you own a mind; making them the same thing gets rid of the soul and now you have what is, in effect, a machine, a profaneness. In addition to that construct, materialists define mind as brain; defining “mind” as “brain” is a little like defining the internet as your laptop; these are, in fact, dangerous conflations and too reductionist as they tend to shut the door on asking more questions and it’s more questions that are needed.
As for the Ancients, there was no distinction between mind and soul. Mind became a distinct idea from soul with the advent of the Enlightenment because of its emphasis on Reason; thus was brought to light, at long last, the Sovereign Individual. This fundamental distinction was key to the following boom in technologies including Scientology 1.0.0. Because in materialism mind and soul are the same thing, materialism sets the clock back and dashes Man’s hope of going forward.
This thing, materialism, will be mentioned a lot because it is a key concept related to the confusions I am attempting to, if not dispel, at least somewhat clarify.)
As far as the kind of “psychology” I’m referring to here in this article, though, it is simply the observations Man is going to have to have made about his fellow Man as to motivation in order to develop the level of cooperation necessary for any sort of society to exist.
Psychology had to be a major factor in Man’s thinking a considerable time before what I guess we refer to as “religion”, the advanced sort that goes with civilisation, which is the next rung. If you don’t know, can’t predict, the quirks (and everybody is peculiar) of the other guy (or gal), even in a group as small as two people, then you’re not going to work well together. Because that’s about as tough a problem as there is, you’re going to do a better job at it if you know the general behaviours of individuals and groups: you’re going to need to work out some sort of pattern recognition in order to figure out quickly who’s who. Luckily though, general behaviours do fall into patterns and that would be psychology.
I have this laid out this way because one of the previous rungs on my “ladder” (The Wild Mind – part I) was myth and the next one up is religion. Many myths seem to be all about general behaviour, often using what Jung called archetypes, whilst religion appears to be the principles and behaviours grounded in good versus evil.
Psychology runs deeply all the way through many myths (and folk tales) and through all religions. I see myth, psychology and religion as intimately and inextricably intertwined; part of the blueprint for the advanced level of human cooperation that results eventually in complex civilisations and the concomitant rise of the technologies, specialisation and social institutions necessary to build them.
That’s all about that. For now.
Religion – good versus evil (order vs. disorder)
Note: This next subject is as vast and complicated and confused as almost any other I can think of (I’d guess that there’s been more written on religion and religious matters, both pro and con, than just about any other subject). I’m afraid, as a result, I’ll be skipping around a fair bit, more than usual, and may possibly even mangle the subject hopelessly. Therefore, as a reminder (and disclaimer), because so many people will know a lot about this stuff anyway, these articles are my thoughts about all these subjects: magic, religion, philosophy and so on, rather than attempts at learned descriptions. What you are reading is my endeavour to paint a background as I build an argument for a world in which Scientology becomes possible, even inevitable. So, I hope you’ll have patience with me as I muddle my way through and, perhaps, even find it a little interesting.
As I was growing up, Scientology was never a “thing” and things like God and religion were never discussed as if they were “other things”. These subjects were all of a piece, for me anyway, and were a little like that joke: two fish are swimming along and a bigger fish comes by, says to the little fish, “How’s the water?”. The little fish swim on for a minute, then one of them, puzzled, asks the other, “What’s ‘water’?”. I suspect religion must have been this way for most people through most of history.
When I turned five I was shuffled off to school and was introduced to the Anglican Church, praying and singing hymns, full participation; I thought it was fine; there was no conflict, Christianity wasn’t “something else”, it was water. By the late 1960s, as Scientology 2.0 was slowly coming into existence and the Church of Scientology was assuming a more obvious religious image, there was still no discussion or issue that Scientology and other religions were distinctly different things, it simply wasn’t talked about that way. Only by the time the Sea Organisation1 was coming into existence did one begin to hear that there were important differences between ourselves and other practices. This was partly because the world was becoming increasingly irreligious and so more and more of the people who were getting involved in Scientology were agnostic, many even atheistic, and therefore importing the fundamentalism (black and white thinking) that often goes with that. And partly because there was becoming a generally more strident effort within our ranks to differentiate from all the growing confusion (read: hostility) around religion (more on all this later).
In the mid 1970s I went to college briefly and came into full contact with hard core atheism and the generally anti-religious culture prevalent amongst the world weary twenty-somethings of southern California. At that school I was surrounded by people, faculty as well as students, that found any whiff of religion to be at best naive, at worst, proof one was dangerously maladjusted. And forget anything like a fringe “cult”, as they thought of Scientology, now that was really going off the freaky deaky deep end. Because there was awareness of this specific fear, fanned by the press as it was (and still is), I matriculated under the name Conway, but despite that precaution, my actual identity leaked out and by the end of the first semester you would have thought I was carrying the plague2.
These were the experiences that finally got me thinking about religion a lot and the role it plays in foundational thinking. That contemporary art, too, seemed to have devolved into a culture of cynicism and resentment masquerading as irony, was, for me, the biggest mystery of all; perhaps there was a connexion?
On quite a few occasions during the short time I got to spend with my father after leaving college, this issue was discussed. He felt the rising tide of confusion about religion was catastrophic and said it was his hope that religion got back into Western culture and society before it was too late. This idea went straight over my head at the time (because of that “we are better” thing atheists and fundamentalists are so into) but eventually became a further catalyst in my thinking.
I’ve been working on trying to figure all this out ever since and a few of the thoughts I’ve had about this stuff are put forward here.
Religion and infinity
Awe, art, rituals, magic, myth, mysticism and psychology are all embraced by and incorporated into the next rung up in the ladder: religion.
Okay. So the rare mystic joins with the absolute, sees reality as it actually is and is joyful. And wise. But what about the rest of us? Is there no way forward and upward?
Each of us (anti-socials not so much) want basically two things: to survive as long as possible (with the least amount of pain and the most pleasure that may be our due) and to expand. Our culture today shows us the most obvious path for expansion (besides having children): more stuff. However, anybody who is going to be perfectly honest, after they accumulate a certain amount of stuff, will admit to eventually hitting some sort of invisible ceiling and then things begin to wane, become dull, even painful.
So. There is the infinite.
Now, physicists seemingly know this in spades but the way some of them describe it has the rest of us thinking about slitting our own throats: infinity is a cold and indifferent vastness of mostly empty nothingness; what few billions of galaxies it contains are spinning away from one another, eventually to such distances that no light will reach anything leaving behind a frozen blackness that cannot be conceived. Or something equally cheerful. Bottom line: life is meaningless.
This grim vision is perhaps the result of the formula for infinity they’re using without realising: that has a 1 followed by an infinite number of 0s – which would actually be a misconception. The actual formula would be: ∞ No 0s, no 1s. Sometimes the way something is (∞) is confused by how we think/feel and therefore behave. We can accidentally “think” of ∞ as lots and lots, overwhelming lots of stuff. At least, that’s what I think the physicists who prop up the meaninglessness of life theory are “thinking”, poor chaps.
Now, any mathematician will begin objecting. No, no, they’ll say, of course we don’t think infinity is a 1 followed by an infinite number of 0s. Sure, sure, I say, but it is exactly that formulation that produces such a dark and depressing portrait of ultimate reality so therefore that’s the way many of them are actually thinking about it. Thinking about things assumes that you can know analytically about something. Infinity is something no one can know about in that way. The trick is not to think about it, the trick is to know it without thinking about it.
And this is where religion comes into the picture.
Here’s my synopsis:
The Universe is magnificent and beautiful and therefore good. Something authored it, made it. It contains Force. This author is intelligent, so intelligent life in this universe is inevitable (boy, can that be energetically argued by some people). Life is magnificent and beautiful… and therefore good. Man, standing between Heaven and the Earth, is this intelligence embodied and personified: the Logos. But for Man Force has an “upside”: pleasure – and a “downside”: pain. Pain is actually necessary and therefore good as well but too much pain makes some people unreasonable. Unreason3 is evil.
Religion and emotion
So. The universe is good, the Earth is good. Man? Maybe not so much – this guy has to be guided to the good, apparently.
Maybe because most men can be guided and actually get better and better, that makes Man good as well.
This ability for men to be good might, perhaps, be found in some sort of universal desire for ethical unity. Even so, there is evil and it’s in the world by the boatload.
In an earlier article I wrote (Space, Emotion and Well-being) I mention what in Scientology 1.0.0 is called the Tone Scale. This scale not only postulates how anything in the world looks to a person, depending on what emotion they may be momentarily captured by or permanently stuck in, but also what they are thusly inclined to do about anything as a result.
For instance, at the top end of the scale a person will discover that ∞ is the way forward for personal growth. To them ∞ is ultimate love, something to know, something, perhaps one day, even to experience in full. To a person lower on the scale, ∞ is meaningless. This is partly because as you go down the scale you begin to “know about everything” (hubris) and partly because anything that is not material, that cannot be measured, is nonsense. Meanwhile, for such a person, all things are starting to look like everything else anyway and all morality, like things, are therefore relative (a word that has come to mean, subjective). And since everything is relative, including love, then nothing really matters so it might as well be a dog eat dog world: may the most cunning and ruthless among us win, preferably themselves. Simplistic explanation, perhaps, but that’s the concept.
The Tone Scale (the limited one I described in that article, there’s a lot more scale actually) is also a scale of analytical thinking versus stimulus-response behaviour: at the top end is reason, as you go down the scale, reason gives way to stimulus-response – because, when emergencies crop up, you need to act rather than think about it. And below that, stimulus-response becomes apathetic (opossum tactics – a wise calculation when you are met by overwhelming odds). Stimulus-response isn’t unreason, you want and need it, it’s only unreason if one gets “stuck” in it after the emergency is over.
Religion is a tool. In the hands of a reasoning individual, it’s an organising principle around ∞ that shapes, edifies, coheres and beautifies. In the hands of an unreasoning individual it is oppressive, divisive and ugly, even violent.
Think of all the things in the world that can be used for both good and evil. Well, heck, that’s pretty much everything. But “religion”, became “triggering”4 over the years because, unlike most other things, it is sacred. To weaponise the sacred is a great blasphemy, probably the greatest of all crimes5.
Religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman (as in above or beyond human) agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
The derivation is: Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence’, perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind’. To bind – very interesting.
Besides the fact that today one hears the word religion constantly uttered as if synonymous with superstition, hive-mind behaviours, or some other kind of nonsense, religion is variously redefined.
Here’s the definition for religion as used by the mainstream media: the belief in and worship (co-dependency) of a superhuman (Marvel comics), totally controlling and all “seeing” (as with actual eyes), especially as in a personal God or gods (narcissistic conceit). Oops!
In religion one is acknowledging God: the Great Mystery and Power of existence itself and offering thanks; gratitude plays an enormous role in a fulfilling and successful life, just being thankful for the personal miracle of being alive is Big Medicine; unless one is a colossal screw-up, the opportunity to be alive is a wonderful thing.
Religion also sets forth the ideals of existence, the ideals that each person must try to live up to, the ideals by which each person must necessarily be judged.
It’s this strong organising and civilising principle in religion that coheres groups and societies. To guide people towards these ideals you must have a concept of the sacred, the observation that there are actually things in the universe that are so senior to all other things that messing with them is just plain suicidal.
As for the word sacred: it comes from the Latin sacrare, from sacer, ‘holy’. Definitions tend to get circular on this one, as you can guess, so straight to the derivation: Holy, from German heilig, heil, ‘healthy’ and Old English hǣlth, of Germanic origin; related to ‘whole’. Hmm.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Yisra’el: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. – Genesis 32:28 (Yisra’el, or Israel, means, one who struggles with God.)
Well, who or what is God anyway? Well, I surely can’t tell you, but I do know that there’s no way most of us have not given this serious thought.
Maybe God is the big idea, the idea that transcends time and space, exists beyond consciousness, the Prime Mover Unmoved, First Cause, the Ground Of All Being and so on. Or maybe God is the Supreme Being or Sublime Consciousness, maybe something even bigger yet. (The problem with discussing the ineffable is: it’s ineffable. If you discuss the ineffable then it’s effable and the ineffable isn’t. Effable, I mean.)
One thing is for sure, whatever God is, it is something so profound, so fundamental to reality, that there’s no wishing it away. So much so that once you’ve killed Him off you end up “worshiping” instead, in the most nauseating way, the State or some defunct ideology.
Moving along. God, although a deep mystery, yet can be glimpsed as an experience by either the individual or the group: as awe and its corollary, terror.
Awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. From, Old English ege ‘terror, dread, awe’, replaced in Middle English by forms related to Old Norse agi.
Fear, here, is not only the usual sort but a sublime form of fear. This possible misconception gives us the two-dimensional god of the bible thumpers, the god of vengeance and retribution; get out of that mindset and you have an experience of fear that’s thrilling. On the other hand, disobey God and His Codes and know the other kind (maybe those guys have a point).
Struggles with God, indeed.
They say history is written by the victors and I’d say this is quite true, especially in the case of religion. The past hundred years or so the loudest commentators on religion in the West have been the materialists – and their weak-tea sister, the New Atheists (a strange hybrid of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment intellectuals). These are the guys playing the loudest anti-religious tune today. As a result of all this, it is hard now to figure out what the previous two and a half thousand years of “organised religions”6 were all about, and why they may still, in fact, be relevant today.
The materialists are so hell bent on rejecting religion that it’s not worth arguing with them; they’ve got it all figured out (they’re intellectuals, after all). Their main tool they claim, interestingly, is reason, but some sort of absolutist version. True reason recognises no absolutes within material bounds but rather gradient scales (see article, Infinity-Valued Logic). Still, such superciliousness keeps more social refutations in check, usually; one doesn’t want to appear to be a rube.
The atheists of the New Atheist movement (the late 20th century manifestation of the earlier rationalist atheists) and the agnostics, on the other hand, when they are not also materialists, are more rational so might be argued with.
For instance, on the subject of good behaviour, they say that you don’t need religion, or gods, a god or God, or anything “supernatural”, to give you a moral code, that such codes can be readily arrived at through reason and logic. My response is, how would you know? Where, by all that is holy, does reason and logic come from? I think they’ve sort of reversed engineered this without realising, and with this omission think they find no gods, god or God was necessary. No, no, God is not a proposition for which there is no evidence, God is the principle that underlies all propositions.
People who are anti-religious, set a trap, observing as “religious” certain irresponsible political movements (totalitarianism), illogical conspiracy groups and so on, because they either all believe things with no evidence or appear like some kind of ritual is involved (“taking a knee” at BLM riots and such like). This practice is unfortunate as it seeks to render frivolous and invalid religion in the same way that calling everybody who isn’t a Democrat a Nazi makes a mockery of all the millions of dead who died at their hands. This is dangerous stuff, my friends, thoroughly Orwellian in the transfer of meaning and needs to be guarded against at any cost.
My opinion: the reason that there is any upset at all between the religious and the atheists, and the reason it goes on and on ad nauseam, is because both sides are discussing the wrong things and in the wrong way.
Religion should be discussed as good vs. evil.
Good versus evil
Evil is not in the universe in any form whatsoever. Deadly viruses and parasites, predatory animals, radioactive rocks, earthquakes and volcanoes, weapons and technology; none of this stuff is evil in the least. All the evil in the world, in the entire universe, is done by Man and Man alone7.
Remember Original Sin? Original Sin is not a fact because Adam and Eve “knew” each other (or some other such Freudian misadventure or mediaeval prudery) and thus Man is forever imperfect, fundamentally flawed. Man is forever imperfect and fundamentally flawed because he ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
This is the tree of Reason, the ability to think, to figure things out. Adam and Eve, like little babies, were innocent of all their ignorance because they didn’t know any better (that’s the innocence of Paradise). But when you grow up, when you “eat of the fruit” of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, well, that’s it! you’re forever a sinner because even though now you know better, you still won’t get it right all of the time (sin) and you’ll know it: it’s called conscience and violating one’s conscience causes pain8.
So. Why won’t we always get it right? Why shall we be forever condemned to sin? Because we’ll never know enough of the picture to see all we’d need to see to be perfect; each individual can only know a teeny tiny fraction of what there is to know; only God “sees” the big picture (that’s faith, by the way). This is one of the many things where, as far as I can tell anyway, Judaism and Christianity really nails it.
Sin: an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law. What’s divine law? Those rules that, when broken, always result in failure and pain.
To sin is to miss the mark and missing the mark is what we so often do. Because religions like Judaism and Christianity understand this, they allow for it by observing that life’s bullseye is, in fact, always just big enough that we don’t have to fail miserably too much or too often (forgiveness) but always just small enough that there’s always room for improvement (perfection).
If you want the “religion” that anti-religious people are always trumpeting on about, then join their ideology, Materialism, where utopia9 is the goal and perfection is the only measure; and then watch as the pits fill with the murdered dead.
In Judaism, you get away with your folly as long as you correct yourself in time, before God gets angry. In Christian tradition you get forgiven your folly so long as it doesn’t become malevolent (and then God gets angry). This room for error is utterly vital for building anything that won’t break catastrophically; that it actually is, in fact, an anti-fragile10 universe of rather forgiving amounts of wiggle room.
Another reason why we shall forever be sinners is because with no possibility of a fail (or choice) there is no game. Life is a game so there must perforce be penalties for not playing it well. (In Scientology 1.0.0, the penalties are not a broken body or a burned down life or even death but getting stuck down the Tone Scale.)
In all heavily anti-religious political ideologies, such as Socialism and Communism, the idea is that, because Man is born tabula rasae11, he can be “programmed” by society (whatever that means) to be perfect. But then, so much force has to be brought to bear upon people to make this idiocy come true that it inevitably results in murder.
Christianity, on the other hand, takes into account the fact that individuals, though extremely limited in their perceptions, can yet be trusted (“oh shudder”, goes the modern State) to see to their own households, businesses and small sector of society. God is the organising principle of the myriad distributed networks that make up the “whole” system. This is formulated in the Bible: “Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). The limited State: a vital condition for advanced civilisation (the sort that we’ve been working on trying to build, especially since about 1500 A.D).
This is why all functioning groups, civilisations and their economies must be allowed to run as distributed networks: lots and lots of separate households12 and companies. Huge “all knowing” governments and many kinds of central planning are all products of Socialism (early stage materialism), and even more so with Communism (late stage materialism), and are always seeking to destroy these distributed networks and are thus always, actually, anti-religion (although some versions of socialism may feign religious affiliations such as the Nazis did with the Landeskirchen – regional Protestant churches).
“With eyes all around” God “sees” everything. Let it be and you can take care of what is yours.
So, in the days before the Great Cities and Civilisation it was perfectly reasonable to put every unpredictable circumstance in the hands of the gods for they were the arbiters of fate, nothing Man could do about it (except propitiate, usually).
But with complex city systems, Man is beginning to achieve a sophisticated level of control over the environment. This makes life a wee bit more predictable; leaving everything to the gods of fate and fortune is just a bit too fatalistic. You now need a religion that allows for more participation by people but yet reminds them ceaselessly of their limits, individually as well as collectively, and that can also somehow unify the thousands and thousands of separate eyes and minds into something far more complex and useful without becoming a mindless blob.
When things are working well, the State is never allowed to get the idea it can know more than God and it’s the responsibility of the Church or the Temple or what have you, to make sure the King (State), and the individual, stays humble: “in the Face of God, we are all sinners”.
The beauty of this is Man gets to be Man, people see to themselves and God takes care of the Universe; then you can let it be, have faith that things’ll work out – most of the time. Which it does.
Today, with the loss of this paradigm we are living with record levels of stress (stuck down the Tone Scale). This sort of stress comes from basically two things: failing to control what is yours and trying to control what isn’t.
Religion helps sort this problem out.
Next: Religion continued (moral codes and so on).
1 The Sea Organisation is the key management instrument of the Church of Scientology and is characterised by its paramilitary culture. As such it tends to hold very strong, intransigent views.
2 To be perfectly frank, that I was my father’s son wasn’t the only complicating factor. I also didn’t do drugs whilst everybody else did (anyone who has had this experience knows what I’m talking about) and I was obnoxiously specific about definitions and differences, favouring ideas over emotions, something that inspires general ire everywhere.
3 I’m using “Logos” and “reason” interchangeably. It takes awhile, though, to formulate reason the way we understand it today. Even so, Man has been pretty good at it from the get go or else we’d have gone extinct.
4 Triggering is the relatively new pop-culture word for the scientological term, “restimulative” – re and stimulate from “stimulous-response.
5 In fact, this kind of blasphemy is the point of the first of the Ten commandments, I am the Lord thy God; arguably even, the first four. Why? Because to weaponise religion, one is putting oneself before God, something all narcissists, such as dictators and tv news anchors, do.
6 The term “organised religion” has come to be code for “mean authoritarian ecclesiastical dictatorship“, or some such idea. The presupposition is actually that, somehow, religion shouldn’t be organised but should be more organic, amorphous and cuddly. Being organic and cuddly is all very well for New Agers but no civilisations will ever be fostered by them.
7 Saint Augustine distinguished between two forms of evil: “moral evil”, the evil humans do through choice, knowing that they are doing wrong; and “natural evil”, the bad things that just happen – the storm, the flood, volcanic eruptions, fatal disease. I think natural evil is only evil if you think it so and thinking it so is unreasonable because for evil to be evil (immoral, wicked) there must be human agency. Natural calamity is tragic, not evil.
8 This means all pain, emotional as well as physical. And, of course, little babies feel pain too, they just haven’t yet worked out what causes it.
9 Utopia: mid 16th century: based on Greek ou ‘not’ + topos ‘place’. “No place”. You got to laugh.
10 Anti-fragile is a term coined by the writer Nassim Taleb as there is no word in the English language that covers the concept. The concept is that there are things that are fragile, when they break they break. Then there are things that are resilient or robust, they are hard to break or resist breaking. And then there is anti-fragile, a thing gets broken but mends better than it was. The Universe is fundamentally anti-fragile.
11 This tabula rasa thing is a fantastically stupid idea as any parent knows and, besides, has been proven wrong again and again thanks to psychology (modern psychology despite being founded on materialism, does yet sometimes apply the scientific method.)
12 Students of economics (which means, household management, after all, from oikos ‘house’ + nemein ‘manage’) will recognise Adam Smith here; who was raised in the Church of Scotland, by the way.