“One of the main functions of organised religion is to protect people against a direct experience of God.” – Carl Jung
What do I know about anything? Not a whole lot, depending on your definition, but then again, nobody else does either, and for several very important reasons.
As far as Scientology goes, let’s look first at what some people think they know, or at least, what one might find out from the mass media or the internet:
You find a group that believes in space aliens, past lives, and lots of other “utter nonsense” and likes to dress in strange uniforms. Their leader was a bad science fiction writer turned messianic charlatan who apparently announced one day that the way to get rich was to start one’s own religion, which he then did. These people are xenophobic and extraordinarily litigious. They break up families, friends, and businesses over matters of faith or practice. They demand huge amounts of money from their followers in the form of donations or in exchange for the bizarre and obscure services laid out as something called “The Bridge,” and this money seems to flow into buying up an ever increasing portfolio of real estate. Their seriously underpaid employees must sign a billion-year contract and, if you try to leave, you will be under a cloud for all eternity. And when you do leave, because of old age or illness, then you’re turfed out to defend yourself without a job or a résumé, health insurance or a pension.
Sum it up? Got it in a nutshell? Okay, those aren’t my words but it’s quite a bundle of fact, fiction and pure slander.
It’s a pretty good overview of what you’ll find the “experts” saying, though; it’s simple, it’s really dark, and, most importantly, it’s controversial as all get out. To be told that, even if your own life is hard, dysfunctional, and meaningless, it’s not nearly as dysfunctional and sad as those people! It is a very comforting thought. Sort of the way villagers used to think about heretics being burned at the stake back in the day, “I may be a drudge, but at least I’m not as crazy as that person!”
Okay, now let’s check the headlines: Wow, things are surely in a mess! And those Republicans/Democrats (your pick), what a bunch of losers, and that guy that shot up that school! And the rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the earthquake that vaporised 200,000 people, and Trump! And Trump! Whew! Again, at least my life isn’t that bad! Or… maybe it explains why my life is that bad.
Then, you might check out other stuff on the internet, TV, or The New York Times. What do you find usually? The planet has never been more violent or dangerous. The environment is circling the drain. Women, blacks, gays, and transgenders, in fact, all minorities have never been more suppressed. If you’re black, the chances that the cops will mow you down are a near certainty and just a matter of time. Immigration will destroy democracy; slave labour is on the rise; education is getting ever worse; China is poised to take over the world if A.I. doesn’t get us first, and Kim Jong-un, or, now, Biden, wants to start WWIII. Then you think, well, what do you think? Now you know why your life is so hard; all this chaos explains everything! Maybe. If you go to that well on a daily basis, you should at least know that you’ve got a strong stomach.
It’s all one-sided and simplistic as hell. What is all this stuff? It’s… it’s, well, entertainment for sad sacks!
Most importantly, I think, is what you can “find out” about religion:
“Religion! My oh my, don’t get me started! It’s insane that sooo many people believe in God, that Moses parted the Red Sea, Jesus raised people from the dead, Mohammed flew around on flying horses!” And so on, and so on, and so on. You are told, “What complete nonsense!” In this rational, sensible time, how is it possible that there could be so many idiots out there? And, as the pundits sanctimoniously pile it on, they, as card-carrying so-called realists (usually atheists), are, of course, the only reasonable and balanced arbiters of worldview, unlike all these other nut-jobs.
From this materialistic worldview, all religion, all cults, all anything that is not an object you can hold in your hands or a formula on a chalk board is pure idiotic superstition. If you can’t touch, taste, hear, smell, or see it (that is to say, measure it), it isn’t true, by golly by gosh!
Actual truth is so much more interesting because it is, at its core, non-material. It’s also non-dualistic, that is to say, not black and white. Things in life, politics, and economics have gotten so confused and mixed up in these modern times, that any narrative, so long as it’s simplistic and super uncomplicated (dumbed-down), can seem like quite a relief, perhaps. We are especially fond of ye olde “us vs. them” paradigm, or some arbitrarily tribalistic variation, because being firmly on one side or the other is sort of like a warm bath, as Tom Wolf put it. We can sink luxuriously in, relax, and go comfortably into a hypnotic trance.
The problem here is that life is way, way more multi-faceted.
I read somewhere once that the West, specifically these United States, is philosophically impoverished, and I think that’s true; we go to school and learn algebra and the Periodic Scale, but nobody is teaching us how to think. We see an object as an object, but however we measure or categorise it, it won’t tell us what the meaning of it is. Meaning is another dimension. Meaning is all about how to think, how to act.
The job of science is to strip all the meaning away in order to get an accurate measurement. These two things, the objective (science) and the subjective (religion), have gotten all tangled up and confused, and we don’t seem to have the tools to untie this Gordian Knot. (In the old story, Alexander was supposed to untie the knot, but being a warrior (read: knucklehead), he just cut it with his sword – probably to Aristotle’s shame. Materialists and physicalists are our modern-day Alexanders.1)
Back now to what is easily found out about Scientology.
I am not going to try and build a narrative to refute what you can find out about Scientology (although, in some cases, I will). Nor am I arguing in favour of any specific religion, or any other practise in particular. What I really want to get at is destroying the current, easily accessible story, because all these stories are, really, way, way too two-dimensional, too simplistic, and, to be perfectly honest, childish.
See, here’s the thing: what we should all really try to do is try not to adhere to any ideology that makes the world too simple (dualistic). That’s the strategy of the mass media and all the most easily accessible information and entertainment sites.2 Their reality is simple: it’s all bad, dangerous, and hopeless, so stay safe at home, watch all our ads, click on all that click-bait, and get yourself further into debt by buying lots of stuff you don’t need, and whatever else you do, DON’T THINK!3
What worries me most about the pop-media story of Scientology is its two-dimensionality. The same thing worries me about most everything in the world of infotainment: it’s designed to distract people who are tired, maybe a little discouraged, and just want some mindlessness. Therefore, it needs to be punchy, simple, and, above all, controversial. I’m not against entertainment, but if it’s being paraded around as information, then I think that’s a real problem for our society.
I’m also trying to say, let us attempt to learn a philosophy that’s not too complicated but is mostly, and most importantly, useful. That’s not an easy thing to do; nearly impossible maybe, but it’s vital that everyone eventually learn how to do that. And that, right there, is the actual and true point of Scientology. That is, Scientology version 1.0.0.
So maybe some of the stuff about Scientology is true. Was L. Ron Hubbard a bad science fiction writer? That depends on your taste in reading material, so it’s up to you, I guess. Was he a charlatan? Time will tell, but maybe it’s actually a little too early to pass that judgement, especially if one doesn’t know anything about it.4 Did he say that awful thing about creating his own religion? No.
On the other hand, is the institution litigious? Yes. Do they wear uniforms (so what if they do)? Yes, etc., etc. But why?
It’s my intention to lay out a little of what I know about these things here on this site. But I’m going to do it in little sections over time because I am not a writer, but a painter, and I spend most of my time on that, so if and when I progress, I hope to show how fascinating this subject actually is and why, in its original form, it could be so useful.
I will not try to convert anyone. I’d rather simply argue my own obvious biases, ideas, and points of view. If I can, I intend to set a few things out on the table, things you may already know, but perhaps not have considered in the particular light I might shed. Or maybe things you didn’t know. We shall see. Rather, what I hope to argue is that Scientology is not some anomaly in the world but an intrinsic part of a universe that is mind-bogglingly complicated and wonderfully weird.
At the beginning, I said I didn’t know a lot. I said that because when one ever thinks seriously about what there is to know, you quickly realise that there is an awful lot, and you’ll never know even a fraction of it. But, if you try, you can get hold of the Wonder. Such is the real story of Scientology and, as I said, the world. A story that is much more interesting, much more nuanced, and much, much older than is generally known, and contains fundamental truths so wild and dangerous that the whole pop version becomes utterly boring (unless gossip is your thing).
And by dangerous, I refer to what Jung said, “One of the main functions of organised religion is to protect people against a direct experience of God.”
Why the hell would he say that?! Because, if you’re not careful, such an experience could happen to you, and then, as they say, God help you.
1 All materialists and physicalists claim to be scientific but science is not materialistic. The new cult of scientism is, though (Hellooo Fauci).
2 A good book on this is The News: A User’s Manual by Alain de Botton.
3 By the way, whereas in the old days of TV, when you were the consumer, now, because you are giving away all your information for free on social media and all those apps, you are the product. Welcome to the zombie apocalypse!
4 Gosh. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone criticising Scientology only to find out that they’ve never read any of it. If I had a nickel….