Scientology devotes an immense fraction of its staff to fixing substandard delivery of its services. It has more people devoted to detecting and deterring “thoughtcrime” from members whose loyalty may be wavering … and even more toiling away in a complex organization designed to ferret out and punish staff incompetence and disloyalty.
To a never-in, this smacks of a poorly designed product from an incompetent organization. But more importantly, it suggests that Scientology “tech” may actually be deliberately and cynically designed to be impossible to succeed at, with the punishment of failure used as a retention mechanism to keep people in the cult.
Hana Whitfield, a prominent ex-Scientologist who worked personally for founder L. Ron Hubbard for many years, has contributed her perspective on whether Scientology is intentionally (and cynically) designed to fail, whether it was designed to help people but failed at that noble goal or whether Hubbard had a very different approach. The answer will surprise you.
About Hana Whitfield
I would like to welcome Hana Whitfield to this forum as a guest contributor. Hana is known to many in the field of Scientology activism, from her appearances in Lawrence Wright’s landmark book “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” from the award winning HBO documentary of the same name, and from her time on Leah Remini’s “Scientology the Aftermath” TV show on A&E. She’s also been profiled on Tony Ortega’s Underground Bunker on multiple occasions.
Hana spent more time interacting directly with L. Ron Hubbard than almost anyone alive today. She was the captain of the Avon River as well as the Apollo, the last flagship of Hubbard’s motley flotilla sailing around the Mediterranean trying to keep Hubbard one step ahead of the law in various countries seeking to suppress the cult. She carried the title of Deputy Commodore Flotilla. She also spent a lot of time talking with Hubbard about the “tech,” as he worked to evolve many of the higher levels. After Hubbard came ashore in Florida in 1975, Hana was put in charge of key parts of the organization for much of the time until she left in 1984. Since then, she’s been an “exit counselor,” helping hundreds of families around the world get their loved ones out of Scientology.
Hana is uniquely able to speak about Hubbard from personal experience and can interpret her experiences of the man into ways that will help us understand how best to oppose the organization.
The Spark for This Post
I was thinking recently about how Scientology traps members and keeps them stuck so effectively. Separately, I was also thinking about something that sets Scientology apart from other organizations: the staggering percentage of its staff that are involved in detecting or fixing problems with services delivered to customers or in fixing problems with employees.
There are countless personnel devoted to “repair auditing” and other artifacts from times when services are delivered improperly. And for staff and Sea Org, there are countless jobs devoted to cleaning up the incompetence of the staff in doing their jobs, and even more devoted to punishing failed staff members, like the various levels of the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), a now seemingly-disbanded internal prison system, and the infamous “Hole” at the secret “International Base” near Hemet, California.
Equally importantly, Scientology has an immense mechanism designed to detect and deter “thoughtcrime,” disloyalty and doubt about the organization and the individual’s commitment to it. Public staff have “ethics” and can face questioning on the e-meter. Those doing the high-level “OT VII” training are required to travel to Scientology’s Flag building in Clearwater, Florida twice a year to ensure that they remain loyal and aren’t cheating in their efforts to exorcise thousands of invisible dead space cooties that cling to their skin.
Staff have even more stringent sec checks and “ethics handling,” especially at the higher levels. Almost any screw-ups or expressed thoughts of disloyalty are enough to cause a lengthy round of probes and interrogations.
I was struck by how fragile Scientology “tech” is – if the product is so shoddy and is so easy to deliver improperly, and if staff are so at risk for disloyalty or cross purposes, then is it possible that there’s something at work behind the design of Scientology “tech” than incompetence or sloppiness? Could Scientology be designed intentionally so that anyone practicing it will inevitably fail, then be immediately enveloped in one of the many punitive wings of the organization, who will be adept at using everything Hubbard invented to ensure the member or the staffer erases those disloyal doubts and is desperate to do whatever it takes to climb back into the good graces of the group?
This idea seemed to fit what we know of Hubbard, an inveterate con artist who clearly sounds like he was making stuff up completely at random in his lectures. It also fit what we have heard about how members were desperate to be able to erase doubts that arose when confronting some of the most outlandish craziness Scientology could dish out.
I thought the volume of punishment bureaucracy in Scientology shows that no matter what Hubbard believed in his heart he was doing, the organization spent a huge percentage of its effort to find and punish people for either screwing up or for “thoughtcrime.” What percentage of a big company is organized around detecting and punishing wrongdoing among employees? Even in a big company like Chase Manhattan, perhaps only 1% of employees handle corporate security, internal audit and other functions designed to catch employee mistakes or dishonesty. What percentage of Scientology staff were involved in writing and processing KR’s, sec checking, and doing all the things designed to ferret out, correct, or punish mistakes? I might be wrong, but it is definitely higher than in real companies.
Hubbard may have imagined himself making Scientology work, and he was certainly conning people to believe that it would. All that thin unsubstantiated claim about his “research” and “science” etc. are evidence of that. But at the same time, the bureaucracy built into the organization with “ethics,” MAA’s, case supervisors, repair auditing, case cracking, comm ev’s, fitness boards and all the rest, suggested that Hubbard, at least subconsciously, knew that none of it came close to working. In line with his general world view, he figured that laying on increasingly draconian punishments (chain lockers, over-boarding, anyone?) would motivate people to make Scientology work. Scientology sets you up to lose, every time…
I felt that it might be valuable to reach out to someone who had actually met Hubbard, and recalled some of the stuff I had read about Hana’s career inside Scientology. She was kind enough to agree to speak with me about this and to set down her thoughts below.
Take it away, Hana!
Hana’s Take on Hubbard’s Intent
John P. certainly has some of this right.
I think most former Scientologists do not understand how vastly different Hubbard’s worldview was from the norm – if there is such a thing – and that in fact it was diametrically opposed.
I thought I knew Hubbard. I studied his writings and listened to his taped lectures seven days a week for a year. I worked in his Scientology and Sea Org organizations as an auditor, case supervisor, technical secretary, a personal aide, a captain of his two larger ships and as his deputy commodore in the United States. I worked closely with him for ten years, some of them up on the Apollo “A” Deck in a small office next to Mary Sue’s Hubbard’s office and three doors away from Hubbard’s “research room” (his office) and I saw him at some of his best and worst moments.
I thought I knew him. But I did not.
Most days, Hubbard projected a vibrant and all knowing persona that kept us in thrall. He had a charm and a kind of glow about him that attracted and mesmerized us. We all experienced it. I believe he used it to inspire our confidence in him. And to keep himself believing the arrogant claims he spun about his abilities and accomplishments. He had a way of making everything appear so balanced and ordered and so complete that we believed.
What none of us knew as we gave Hubbard our all was that he lied all the time, on a daily basis … and big time.
He was a self-trained hypnotist, a good one, and he had the “tech” of hypnosis down pat. He learned it while working with wounded veterans in Oak Knoll Hospital after World War II, using standard regression processes to try to ease their psychological and physical wounds and I believe to figure out what worked. When he saw results, he knew he’d struck gold. He called his technique Dianetics, and wrote about it in his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (DMSMH). He included his formal hypnotic induction – “When I count from 1 to 7 your eyes will close …” He even mentioned the person’s eyelids would tremble when they were in trance, a well-known indicator of trance in the mental health field. Yet he loudly and repeatedly denied he was using hypnosis.
Though DMSMH became a blockbuster, the movement was more like a fad, and was as quickly abandoned as other 1950’s fads like Hula-hoops, poodle skirts and competitions to see how many college students could stuff themselves in a telephone booth. Hubbard vowed never again to give away his moneymaking techniques, and he succeeded.
When he incorporated Scientology in 1954, Hubbard had no idea how the human mind really worked. He understood that hypnosis encouraged cooperation and decreased resistance to change, and that it brought about trance states, normal states of awareness that we all experience sometimes several times a day and that for most people are pleasurable – we feel “up,” relaxed, free, energized, and even euphoric. Trance states are temporary; they come and go. Settle down on the couch to watch a good movie with a friend and a tub of hot buttered popcorn and soda, and even before the title appears on the screen you will be in a pleasant, anticipatory trance or altered state of awareness. Your attention will be wholly focused on the movie. Your boring job, your car needing an oil change, the upcoming end-of-month bills … and your dog’s visit to the vet for its yearly shots? Well … they’re gone. That is a trance state.
While in trance, and with critical faculties suspended, people become more suggestible to outside influences. It is the best time to sell someone something he or she considers valuable. And it’s exactly what Hubbard did. He got people high on his claims and with auditing and then whisked them away at increasing expense into his own ideology to become super-powered immortal beings.
It is well known that most repetitive techniques – dancing, drumming, singing, exercising, running and jogging, meditating, and many more – bring on these trance states. It is how Hubbard set up his Bridge to Total Freedom. Every auditing process through the Grades, the Clearing Course, and the OT levels consists of repetitive questions and phrases. Back in the early days, we had to audit ourselves through lengthy OT levels ten times, chanting our contradictory phrases and visualizing symbols. And does anyone remember those over-used repetitive corrections lists auditors were required to do when something went wrong in an auditing session? Some of my poor preclears actually groaned when I started one … After a while I refused to do them – so much for “standard” tech – and resorted to the simple and much more effective technique of asking the preclear what was going on …
Hubbard’s training courses were the same, packed with repetitive routines like the Training Routines or TRs and e-meter drills. They even contained a “dating drill” in which one student had to imagine a date billions or trillions of years ago and the other poor student had to find it by using the e-meter. And the endless word chains we had to define on course all when we dared to yawn because the tape was so boring … Even Hubbard’s taped lectures, with their long detailed stories and singsong voice had the same effect … trance states.
We all went through it. We all believed the Man’s repeated promises that every step up the Bridge to Total Freedom was weakening our reactive minds and when we reached the top we would feel permanently fantastic be able to perform miracles.
To prevent people stealing his “tech,” Hubbard also devised his ethics system in which he reframed punishment as help and authorized his followers to destroy those who crossed him. Staff members never shed the fear that someone will “write them up” for doing something wrong; the tremor is visible through the organization. As the end of the week approaches, the fear of losing a precious day off and suffering through a lower ethics condition causes another shiver because one’s production statistics must be higher every week than those of the week before. There is no escape. It is an inexorable repetition week by week by steady week …
Hubbard put heads on pikes. He declared people suppressive persons, introduced “Fair Game” where retribution became official policy, and eventually created the RPF prison colony system. Hubbard doubled ethics penalties when he became stressed with something or put staff on rice and beans for even trivial mistakes. I believed, even then, that he sometimes did it simply to shake his followers out of the inevitable complacency that results from repetition and routines no matter how dire. And don’t forget the mental health profession; Hubbard had to demonize it in order to hide his secret that Scientology was a fraud.
Hubbard even indoctrinated us to keep ourselves believing. How many times did he require us to study his policy “Keeping Scientology Working?” All the time. He had us believing that we were responsible for “making things go right.” He had us hypnotizing ourselves.
This was Hubbard displaying his true colors as a narcissist and self-server. He really did not know how not to lie, exaggerate and mislead.
Hubbard understood the game he was playing, the lie he was withholding, and the consequences if the truth came out. As the threat of exposure rose over the years, so did his abuse with ethics because it was always someone else who goofed, who did the wrong thing.
He had to make his game go right and win no matter whom he destroyed in the process.
While visiting the Island of Madeira in the 70’s, Hubbard went for a walk in the mountains above the port of Funchal. A few of us accompanied him. From the hillside, we could see the Apollo, a white sliver along the dock in the glittering blue water. He stood tall, his shoulders back, chest out, head up, legs a bit apart – a favorite stance when he was being the “Commodore, “Teacher” and “Dispenser of Wisdom.” He gestured around with one arm and asked us what we saw. I think we all knew some enormous gem of wisdom was coming our way but were too timid to volunteer anything that would show how stupid we were, how limited in vision and of course, in confront. We told him what we saw – trees, plants, the path on which we stood, a stony wall alongside a road, and the unlimited sea and sky. A knowing smile appeared on Hubbard’s face, a kind of “See? I knew you wouldn’t know.” He waved his arm around again.
“What you don’t realize is that you’re seeing everything around you including yourselves through the lens of the reactive mind. It dictates everything you see. Even after your auditing wins thus far, it is still in control. When you reach OT and you can see without the bank … well! It’s a whole different story.”
He chuckled …
Hubbard had not said “When you see the world without the reactive bank like I can …” but we all got the message.
Hubbard was no God; he was as human as we all were. He had good moments and bad. And allergies, accidents, and cravings for tobacco. And he put on weight when he ate too much. And yes, he lied.
I guess he felt entitled.