LRH: master of sci-fi phenomenology

I keep wavering between admiration and laughter when I read LRH.

It is, all of it valid—as valid as any other metaphor-driven phenomenology.

And that is what it is. Analysis of experience into components that can be named. Choose the name wisely, for a name is also a metaphor that will determine its operational-functional role in the developing System. (And you will develop a system if you do phenomenology, since all these components and subcomponents and all their detail and subsequent technical vocabulary, are part of one unified experiencing.) LRH’s metaphors are invariably mechanical and electrical.

That is the first step—rendering some subtle, normally transparent aspect of psychological life as a workable bit of machinery. Once the function of the thing and its position in the System has been clarified (read: invented), exercises to rehabilitate your native Rousseauian powers will automatically suggest themselves. That is the second step—concocting the exercises, drills, and other “tech.” Sometimes, even picking the right metaphor can count as tech. It comprises part of the placebo insight at the heart of depth psychology.

What inspired this trivial observation is my recollection of two of LRH’s gayest(1) sci-fi jargon terms: tractor beam and pressor beam. He took these terms from Spacehounds of IPC (1947) by American writer E. E. Smith, who also happens to be the inventor of the space opera. Here is the passage that struck me as an appealing explanation

The only thing wrong with a preclear with an aged MEST body is that he has too many facsimiles of his tractors and pressors handling his own MEST body. And the rickety state of the body feeds back “slowness” so that he thinks his energy is low and, until worked with some method such as this, facsimiles do not reduce.

LRH, Scientology 8-8008, p. 151

And here are the official definitions from the COS Master Glossary

Tractor beam: an energy flow which the thetan shortens. If one placed a flashlight beam upon a wall and then, by manipulating the b e a m , brought the wall closer to him by it, he would have the action of a tractor beam. Tractor beams are used to extract perceptions from a body by a thetan. —PDC Volume 3 Approved Glossary
Pressor beam: a beam which can be put out by a thetan which acts as a stick and with which one can thrust oneself away or thrust things away. The pressor beam can be lengthened, and in lengthening, pushes things away. Pressor beams are used to direct action. —PDC 2 Approved Glossary

Version 1

It’s obvious, no?

These are the agentive subject’s fundamental powers applicable to the external. They are forces, physical forces affecting (as you would expect) motion.

But the real giveaway is that there are only two of them.

What are they? They are none other than the two fundamental forces of agentive causation in Buddhism, craving and aversion. Craving and aversion … as rendered by a wannabe engineer.

Simplifying metaphors are helpful. Scientology can be defended as “skillful means” for the flatfooted Gernsback folks.

The goal of Buddhism is liberation of the True Self, which is the generic universal Unconditioned identical with the transparent space-like Ungrund underlying all ephemera, including the unfree, cyclicly repeating, causally determined, and (especially) the pain-motivated negentropic or biological systems of physical-mechanical Becoming.

The goal of Scientology is liberation of the True Self from automaticity (the causally determined becoming of the body’s physical infrastructure) and MEST (the physical infrastructure).

These are fairly similar. The biggest difference is that orthodox Buddhism argues against the existence of a substance-like subject. In fact, the method of liberation is really the epistemic exercise of realizing, through analysis of experience into parts and careful empirical phenomenology, that there is no svabhavic self. The self (aka experience) is really five heaps of other things, none of which is a self. Buddhism works its liberating path by applying mereological nihilism to the self.

The goal of Scientology is the extraction of the True Self from all its limiting and conditioning factors. This is like the Western gnosticism; within the Indian systems, it is in this way much more similar to Samkhya than Buddhism.

Version 2

Never mind. This is what happens when I read LRH on the toilet. He is describing something else, another famous pair—in fact, the most famous fundamental pair in Western metaphysics, which Leibniz made the two root powers of the only really existing things, which are point-substances. These powers are appetition and perception. These are the powers that LRH’s silly sci-fi beams are meant to capture.