Rich: You can use your dissertation topic to devise a Universal Marketing Cookbook, which shows how certain phrases and images are correlated to certain emotions and intentions. Potentially, this could be used for mind control.
CSH: Marketing dreams of desire control. “Hunger for this.” How do we increase their sense of need, dependency, insecurity, incompleteness. How can we create incompleteness in a person’s self-experience?
Rich: You don’t really need any of that crap, to survive. But, you want to look good and you don’t want to fail. Many people think: “I don’t have an iPhone, therefore I failed, because I’m not with the bell-curve.” If you’re not meeting the bell-curve, you might feel like you’ve failed.
CSH: And you might, in fact, have actually failed—i.e., according to the standard public interpretations that we give to appearances. If other humans really believe that an iPhone gives you value, then by the very nature of public meaning, it does give you value. Value is only socially bestowed value. Value is created by agreement. Marketers are people who creatively define and invent values. The next step: get people to sign on to some proposition, such as “Has iPhone = good; lacks iPhone = bad.” Once that happens, the proposition is upgraded from marketers’ slogan to a public fact living in the attitudes of other people.
Rich: My buddy Jason thinks that collective consciousness is actually the basis of all existence.
CSH: This is the agreement theory of existence. Another LRH staple that has found its way into consensus reality. When two or more humans agree that this object is a “bottle” and not a “sex toy,” it’s a bottle.
Rich: Or that this piece of paper exists.
CSH: I think that everything is up for grabs, except the objects, properties, and relations of mathematical physics. So the meaning and value of a “piece of paper” is up for grabs, but its size, the angles of its corners, and its position in space is not.
Rich: Well, my friend believes that the Great Wall of China would not exist if the collective consciousness didn’t believe it to exist. If no one were there to see it, would it exist?
CSH: Short version: “Does exist mean exist-for-a-subject?” Is there existence outside of a consciousness’ having an experience of existence? If I stop looking at this sheet of paper (or die) will it still exist for you? Or maybe you’re referring to all consciousnesses: If nobody is looking at this piece of paper will it still exist?
This is related to Wittgenstein’s intersubjectivity definition of truth. There’s no higher standard for us. We wish we could get outside of our nervous systems and shared language and “see” what things are really like. But for us, sadly, the standard for reality is universal agreement. If everyone believes that p but one person does not, then that one person is wrong. That sounds unfair—he could be the only sane person—but we have nothing better to work with.
Rich: So what do you predict yourself doing?
CSH: I need to turn my dissertation into an article. But I’ve become sidetracked with other fun stuff—like experimenting with weird drugs and writing about Scientology, my current obsession.
Rich: Are you a Scientologist?
CSH: No, but I’m attracted to alternative social realities and I’m fascinated by the people that put themselves inside of them. What is it that’s attracting them to America’s most discredited, reviled, and debunked social club?
Rich: I don’t know much about Scientology. Can you give me a quick rundown of it?
CSH: Yes. After WWII, there was a really cheap therapy that psychologists used to help soldiers in the VA hospitals. GI Joe saw his friend’s head get blown off. Major trauma. The idea is that Joe recorded everything in this traumatic moment, so that the environmental presence of one or more of these recorded elements in the future will put him once again into a state of trauma. So the head gets blown off and there’s the small of napalm in the wind and a monkey was screeching and he saw a red tree frog just before it happened. Years later, Joe sees one or more of these stimuli, and he starts to freak out. In fact, at every moment of Joe’s life he is being pushed and pulled by such past conditioning.
The solution: erase all the emotional (somatic) content from all such traumatic past episodes by repeatedly describing the perceptual elements to a friend in a comfortable environment. So you tell the story, and then your friend says, “Thank you. Please go to the beginning of the incident and describe it again, trying to pick up any additional details.”
By going over the incident again and again, you erase the somatic element and replace it with a new one—i.e., whatever somatic-emotional sensations you’re having in the hospital, on the couch, or whatever comfortable environment you’re in while you’re doing the describing because you’re body is still recording. By describing the perceptual elements you also open them to write access—you can tie them to different somatic elements. The perceptic track remains the same, and you lay down a new somatic track.
This is Dianetics. It’s a cheap (free) psychotherapy that anyone can perform at home. Working class middle Americans in the 50s were jealous of rich New Yorkers who could pay the $100/hour necessary to receive the benefits of psychoanalysis. Now, husbands and wives could psychoanalyze each other at the kitchen table. It was a huge best-seller. LRH became a millionaire.
Then there’s the e-meter. It only measures galvanic skin response—sweat gland secretion, which is in fact correlated with adrenaline secretion, which is correlated with trauma, fear, pain, stress. This is not such a bad idea: emotional amplitude really is correlated with increased skin conductance. But this is obviously a very blunt instrument.
LRH takes the correlation and runs it to the point of identity. An ohmmeter measures resistance to an electric current, whose changes are correlated with the emotional states of the subject. The greater the trauma in a recalled incident, the greater the increase in electrical conductance. One could say, then, that there is a lot of “charge inside that incident.” LRH takes this collapsed way of speaking literally. So he makes heavy use of mechanical and electrical metaphors in his psychology: mass, charge, vector. It sounds really science-like, but these terms are really being used for their (helpful) poetic connotation.
But that’s OK. Religions are nothing but systems of interrelated pictures and metaphors. Dianetics is a system that happens to have great utility—the metaphors describing the soul and its travails are the very same metaphors we use to build machines. I am charge. I am mass.
According to Jung alchemy was really a prop-rich style of meditation. The method of alchemy is to practice dharana on the smoking, melting, color-changing transformations going on in the crucible in front of you. Focus on the process of chemical transformation in order to undergo something similar yourself. You think: “Wow, I myself am lead being transmuted into gold.” I think Dianetics is similar to alchemy. In Dianetics, you watch the needle: “Wow, I’m really releasing a lot of mental mass and charge here!” The best placebo you could ever have is biofeedback. Dianetics is a poetic, metaphorical, meter-enhanced placebo therapy.
With this claim to be a science of mental and physical health, LRH brought scrutiny on Dianetics. Since it was not a science, and did not cure anything, he got in trouble for practicing medicine without a license and was shut down by the AMA. And the APA, whom he had just embraced in hopes of getting an endorsement, criticized his system harshly. Thereafter, LRH saw psychologists—his former peer-group—as technicians of ultimate evil. They’re called “psychs” today, as in “The psychs are after our kids today, giving them Ritalin and other mind-numbing drugs, just as they fried and chopped brains with EST and lobotomies back in the old days (and during the Holocaust).”
Once Dianetics was shut down for being false science, he resurrected it as Scientology—not a science, but a religion. “I’m not practicing medicine; this is a spiritual practice.” This had two beneficial consequences: (1) he could open shop again, and (2) he was now tax free. In America, a blunt psychotherapy that dies due to lack of empirical testing and peer review can reemerge as a religion!
In the later years, he drank a lot of alcohol and took a lot of speed and came up with some really crappy science fiction stories to explain why it is that humanity is fucked up in certain ways collectively. There are certain things peculiar to your biography that explain why you are fucked up as an individual. But there are also fuck-ups that all humans share. How can these be explained? It follows from LRH’s strict adherence to the abreaction model that people have the similar neuroses to the degree that they shared the same traumatic incidents. All humans today are possessed by thousands of traumatized souls, and all of the latter underwent the same traumatic incident, i.e., Incident II. They were kidnapped during an alleged tax inspection, paralyzed, frozen in alcohol-cum-glycol, shipped in DC-8s to Earth, unloaded around volcanos, and blown up with H-bombs. Their projected souls were captured on an electronic ribbon, sucked into vacuum zones, taken to a virtual reality cinema and implanted with all the motifs of world mythology for 36 unforgettable days: God vs Devil, guilt, judgment, punishment, atonement, and crucifixion.
This is the stuff that South Park made fun of. And it’s currently a huge PR problem for the Church. They think they can overcome the embarrassing idiocy of this story. It’s implausible even by a fifth grader’s standards. An H-bomb is sufficient to kill those people. Even better—just push them out of the DC-8s, or simply open the doors. But H-bombs and volcanos? That’s so infantile it’s depressing.
So my initial question was: Why would a sane adult ever join this organization?