Why do I love cults? Why are the Hubbard, Rand, and Erhard organizations so damn fun for me? I mean, walking into Scientology is like walking into a brightly lit (sex) toy store. Or an incense and penis-candle filled occult book store. Promises of power and happiness everywhere!
Nothing is more enticing (and disappointing after opening) than a Scientology book or module.
The best thing about Scientology is the luscious candy striped appearance of its products and, sometimes, buildings. Scientology publications look like they’re packed with MDMA and ready for a rave.
But for me, the best thing about Scientology has always been the smell of the Austin org. It is, in my view, the best smelling volume in Austin, perhaps the world. The second-best smelling building in Austin is Dragon’s Lair.
Hubbard. Ayn Rand. Werner Erhard. Leaders of hope. When you buy their books or take their classes and you buy spiritually happiness. Why waste money on temporary material goods when you can buy happiness itself? When you buy material goods, you do so to be happy. Buying a book or course does the same thing but without the middleman. you get that pure concentrated goodness directly, like drinking a dense, nutritious smoothie.
Why do I love self-improvement cults?
- Because I like to be a know-it-all. When I figure out how the cult works, when I see how everything inside of it hangs together, when I uncover its axioms and clearly see how they are false—I feel happy. It’s like playing a game and realizing that it’s just a game at the same time. Which may be part of why people like games.
- Because I like to be above the very culture that I am inhabiting. To be in an artificial world that I am also above it is one of the highest pleasures in life. The meanings are real by agreement, but false by being only agreement. Landmark even brings this up in its seminars: “Listen to what I am saying and apply it to your life. Also, it’s just bullshit.”
- Because my favorite prank as a kid was the Successful Infiltration game. You can only play it as a kid. Go with your best telepath-friend to his house for dinner. Your friends has already told you about the weird peeves, projections, rules, and ignorances that make his family weird. Now, at long last, you get to feel and taste the calcified adult seriousness that he’s been describing. You get to test your skills and see if you can figure out the weird agreement-reality that they live in, the fake mores and assumptions that make up the lens that fabricates the artificial reality of that family, and play along yourself.
- Because when you see the flaw in Separate Power—in a parent, teacher, cop, politician, news anchor, televangelist—you want to laugh out loud with glee with the relief you feel when you wake from a nightmare. Doing this with a friend makes it all the more enjoyable because your penetrating perception gains the reality of agreement.
- And because the in-group/out-group mentality makes for a cozy community. As Jason Beghe admits, the best friends you could ever have are (low level) Scientologists. They have very high standards of ethics—loyal, generous, selfless, and will do anything to help you. It may be drilled into them through their training and Sec Checks, but that’s not a bad thing. Outside of Scientology it’s called child rearing and a lot of people haven’t had enough of it. The only problem is their lack of critical intelligence. First, most of the Scientologists I know haven’t had any education beyond high school. Second, loyalty to the cult is strongly aligned with uncritical acceptance of LRH’s mythology and rules of conduct. If you question anything, you are called a Potential Trouble Source. If you question anything important enough, you are called a Suppressive Person and are ostracized from the group, including family members. That’s a strong incentive to suppress critical examination of anything you read. Reading Scientology material, then, has the same aura of holy obedience as reading the Bible for Fundamentalists and most Protestant Christians. It’s a great idea for enhancing the placebo effect, which is all that Scientology, or any cult for that matter, is. The stability, unity, warmth, intimacy, and family feeling that you get from being inside Scientology derives from the prohibition on questioning. But it’s a bad thing for understanding and enlightenment. But while making critical inquiry forbidden lowers the intelligence of the Scientology family is also heightens its social warmth.
Nothing is funner than seeing the ridiculous and then voluntarily playing along. In fact, the funnest moments of my childhood were times of shared infiltration. And the more concerted and proud the adults were, the more joy I felt. Shared infiltration, with a friend, where you both scorn and snigger and also method act the very disease you have so cleverly distinguished and named, is gleeful. The more concerted and proud the adults were about their reality, the more joy I felt. And the more convincingly I went along with it—the historicity of the virgin birth, the evil nature of contraception, the evil nature of “drugs” (except those the parents worshipped)—the more joy I felt.
Kids can see that adults have given up and conformed to ready-made societies and their various sub-identities. As a kid you do see it—the fakery, the pain disguised as some esteemed meme or air. There is joy in seeing the fakery of a living fact, in seeing the fake motivator for believing in that fact, in seeing the whole life and culture that has grown around this artificial dictum. But there is even greater joy in seeing all this and then playing along. These were the peak experiences in my life from ages 6–15.
Doing scary, dark, sexy, rock-out-ing, skateboarding fun things with Dodger were the funnest times of my youth. He was radical and being with him was massively liberating.
I miss evil Dodger-type fun.
Dodger is gone now. So now I have to prank-join these cults by myself. There is no co-prankster to laugh along with me. Even worse, now I am becoming one of those fake adults who wants to surround his pain-adaptions with social agreement. Clubs and cults are for lonely people who have lost are truest childhood friends.
Why do I love cults? Because I have lost my truest friends. Friends who made me deeply happy. By which I mean we had lots of fun and laughed a lot. I mean a lot. Holy fuck—I used to laugh a lot! Holy fucking fuck! That might be the Biggest Thing I Am Missing from my current fake life and low level of happiness. Laughter. Laughter and the evil fun of playing along with imprisoned personae.