The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 17

The Secret Scientology Sessions

In Dianetics, today's obvious nervous breakdown is tomorrow's most cheerful being.
-- L. Ron Hubbard{1}

Scientology is perhaps a religion, is probably a philosophy, is definitely a business, is potentially a political force, and is also a form of therapy, or as they call it now, pastoral counseling. Most people do not realize this, since the Scientologists draw attention only to the idea that they are a religion and a philosophy. Thus, they have been able to keep the public in the dark about what is happening -- and they have also been largely able to avoid public outcry.

Scientologists have devised a series of methods that they believe can and will save this "enturbulated" world. Some of their practices -- those that have been widely criticized, such as disconnecting, suppressives, investigations -- are based on their belief that anyone who questions, criticizes or tries to stop Scientology from utilizing these methods is harming not only themselves but the world.

Scientologists try to keep their methods of pastoral counseling a very strict secret. While this shields them from criticism, it also makes doctors doubtful as to its efficacy. "Suppose Newton had founded a Church of Newtonian physics and refused to show his formula to anyone who doubted the tenets of Newtonian physics?" wrote William Burroughs.{2} (In an earlier stage, when Burroughs was apparently more enchanted with Scientology, he wrote "There is nothing secret about Scientology, no talk of initiates, secret doctrines or hidden knowledge."{3}) But only someone who takes advanced Scientology courses or "grades" can find out what Scientology methods are.

If any Scientologist divulges these secrets after he takes the courses, he is subject to expulsion. But even though he doesn't know what the courses are until he takes them, he must agree that they are correct in advance and cannot question them. "It's like a physicist saying `you can't see my formulae unless you first agree that they are correct sight unseen,' " said Burroughs.{4}

Some of these secret sessions are done with the E-meter, although other sessions consist of a series of exercises to "raise the preclear's ability." When working with the meter, the auditor may first show the preclear the auditing room and ask if there is anything about it that upsets him.{5} The preclear may also be told to remove his watch and wedding ring to prevent interference by outside metals.{6} Then the auditor and preclear face each other in chairs, with the E-meter on a table between them.

The auditor watches the needle of the meter, and if it reacts in a manner that he believes indicates that an engram is present, the auditor repeats the question until the needle "floats," which presumably means that the engram has been "erased."{7} The preclear, who cannot see the dials, does not have to accept the word of the auditor to determine whether an engram is really gone. Hubbard stated that when a patient succeeds in erasing an engram, he will feel a sense of wild elation -- which explains, perhaps, why when one Scientologist got rid of an engram, he laughed for two days without stopping.{8}

During these sessions, the auditor does not tell the preclear to free associate, as is done in psychoanalysis, but rather he is told to return to a specific incident, say one that caused grief, anger, fear, humiliation. The preclear then tries to determine the date of the incident, and if he cannot, picks an approximate date and keeps reeling off dates until the E-meter reacts.{9}

Once the preclear has found the date, he must then go to the beginning of the incident and tell the entire story, repeating it many times until all the details become clear.{10} By the end of that time, the story supposedly loses its emotional charge and is no longer a source of problems or pain.

At the end of each session, the preclear may be made to focus his attention on five or six objects in the room, presumably to bring him back to reality, before he is permitted to leave.{11} Some sessions end more formally with the auditor saying, "Tell me I am no longer auditing you," at which point the preclear says, "You are no longer auditing me."{12}

If during these sessions a preclear has a particular problem he wishes to discuss, he is permitted to talk about it but only briefly. Then, instead of working on it, he may be told to invent a problem of comparable magnitude, to lie about the problem he has,{13} or even to invent a worse problem.{14}

There is a strong tendency during these sessions not to talk about present problems at all. For example, Hubbard wrote the following to show auditors what to do if the preclear had what they call a "present-time" problem.

AUDITOR: What do you think is wrong with you?
PRECLEAR: I'm impatient.
AUDITOR: Can you think of someone who's impatient?
PRECLEAR: My father.
AUDITOR: O.K. We'll run a father.

But most of these sessions are devoted to past-time incidents or even past-life incidents. The preclear, while holding onto the cans of the E-meter, will be made to answer two or three questions asked repeatedly during the auditing session. For example, several sessions may be devoted to alternating commands, like "recall something real," "recall a communication," and "recall an emotion."

In other sessions they may be told to "recall a loss," "recall a misemotion," "tell me a problem," "tell me a solution," or "What have you said?", "What have you done?", "What are you willing to tell me about?", "What are you willing to tell me about it?", "What is the problem?", "What is the solution?", "What have you done?", and "What haven't you said?"{16}

In other sessions, the person has been asked questions or ordered to do things that to an outsider seem to make far less sense, for example to "not know" something, to put things in the wrong time and place, and even to deny the existence of objects around him, so that portions of the environment, such as the walls or the door have disappeared in his mind.{17} The preclear has also had to answer such questions as "Who isn't here?", "What aren't you thinking?", "Where don't you have a headache?", "Have you a headache in last week?", "Was your body in 1210 while you were going to college in 1940?"

Many Scientology sessions are devoted entirely to exercises guaranteed to raise the preclear's "ability."

One series of exercises may be done outside of the auditing room. For example, Scientologists have ordered an unconscious person, or a new born baby to "Lie in bed. Thank you."{18} They once reported doing this for several hours to an unconscious Scientologist, until they were kicked out of the hospital.{19} (The patient later died.)

The reason for this seemingly strange exercise is twofold. While it may seem odd to be telling something to an unconscious person, they believe the thetan is always conscious and the person is thus able to hear it. Secondly, one of the principles of auditing is to find something a preclear can do and then better that ability -- and obviously an unconscious person or baby is able to lie in a bed. Hubbard also wrote that he once cured a drunk on this principle -- he had him invent new ways to get drunk!{20}

The first Scientology course for $15 consists of two days or four evenings of the following exercises or "Training Routines" or T.R.'s, as they call them there. In the first T.R., "Confrontation," two Scientologists sit a few feet apart and simply stare in each others' eyes without moving, twitching, blinking, giggling, sighing, fidgeting, for a minimum of an hour.{21} (It is this exercise that helps Scientologists learn how to stare intensely at others.)

The second T.R. is called "Bull Baiting" and it is somewhat similar; one Scientologist again stares directly at the other without moving, only this time the other partner tries to make the immobile one "flinch" or react by insulting him, humoring him, taunting him, or leading him on -- usually about his physical flaws or sexual problems.

In a third T.R., called "Dear Alice" one Scientologist keeps repeating lines from Alice in Wonderland while his partner "acknowledges him."

For example, one asks "Do cats eat bats?", or says "Imperial Fiddlesticks" and the other says "thank you" or "groovy." (It is said that in one eastern city, they decided to send an undercover policeman to investigate Scientology. The policeman spent several days repeating lines from Alice in Wonderland and being thanked for it.{22})

In two other T.R's, one Scientologist keeps asking his partner "Do fish swim?" or "Do birds fly?" while the partner tries to make him "flinch" or become distracted as he did in the "Bull Baiting." For example:

Student: Do fish swim?
Coach: Yes.
Student: Good.
Coach: Do fish swim?
Student: Aren't you hungry?
Coach: Yes.
Student: [You] flunk[ed]

While the purpose of these exercises may be elusive, they are actually supposed to teach someone to get commands across naturally, to get the answer to the question that he wants, to ask questions in a fresh manner, and not to start a second question until the first has been answered, etc.{23}

During a weekend I spent researching Scientology, I did these five exercises. I certainly admire the amazing perseverance of Scientologists who do these Training Routines since they are unbelievably tiring and boring. "Confrontation," for example is a nightmare. If done correctly, without blinking or thinking or anything, it induces hallucinations.

When I had to do it, my first reaction upon staring at my partner was to laugh, but within a few minutes I really wanted to cry. Everything was itching everyplace. My muscles kept twitching while the rest of my body felt stiffer than the wooden chair I was on. After a while, my eyes started to blur, and then so did my mind, and I watched in horror as my partner turned into a breathing Rorschach card. His eyes, eyelashes and brows met, his nostrils merged and became a cruel, flaring cavern in the center of his face, and the shadows cast by this disfigured nose gave his entire face a sinister and terrifying quality.

"Bull Baiting" was not much better. I was first assisted to make someone else "flinch," but I was the one who flinched the minute I laid my eyes on him. There was nothing I couldn't insult him about -- from the top of his too-tiny head to the bottom of his hundred pound five-foot frame. He had a Pinocchio-type nose, closely set black beady eyes, parched thin lips, large red ears, a scattering of post-adolescent pimples, and a chin like a slightly used rapier.

I couldn't bear to insult someone as unattractive as he, who must have been hurt often throughout his life. But the Scientology leader and the assistant of the group both put me down for this. They also showed me how to do it: the leader described each of the boy's faults in what must have been agonizing detail; the assistant, however, told him how handsome, tall, clear-skinned etc. he was.

When it was my turn to be baited, I was naturally braced for the worst. But to my surprise, instead of picking on my faults or flaws, or "buttons" as they called it there, my male partners tried to make me "flinch" by talking about sex, and their incredible obscenities and explicit descriptions of the amazing variety of perversions they wanted to practice with me made them sound disgustingly similar to an obscene telephone caller without the benefit of a telephone.

The Scientologists also used the bull baiting exercise to find out if I was a writer. They sent an advanced Scientologist to bull-bait me. While at first he chatted aimlessly, all of a sudden, he thrust his face a quarter of an inch from mine, looked directly into my eyes, and said, ominously, "We've been watching you since you first came in here. We think you're really a writer." He kept questioning me repeatedly, while all the color drained my face. So I purposely threw my eyes slightly out of focus, fixed my gaze an inch above his eyes, and concentrated intently on what it would be like to kiss him, hoping this would imbue my features with an acceptable amount of disgust and despair and I wouldn't "flinch."

It worked and he finally changed the subject, like the others, to sex. He was so filthy, he made the obscenities of the earlier "bull baiters" sound as if they'd come from pre-pubescent children. His final statement was to ask me whether I'd like to join the Scientologists "in some of the great orgies we have over here on Tuesday [or Thursday, I forget] night." I'm sorry I can't report to you whether that last statement is true or not, because I wanted to get out of that world as fast as I could, and had no desire to attend an "org-y" at the org.

In all fairness, however, I must say that these TRs, however tedious (I mean how often can you ask someone "do birds fly?" without feeling that you're about ready to also?) did have some benefit for me. They helped teach me to talk with my voice and not with my hands, to acknowledge somebody's statements before I rambled on with my own, to look people straight in the eye, and to be more persistent with someone when I wanted to get an answer from him. And it is probably not the fault of Scientology but my own incorrigibility that none of these effects lasted five minutes past that Scientology weekend.

The relation between the exercise and its purpose is a bit more obscure in other sessions.

In one exercise called "Holding Corners," the person is supposed to visualize the two corners of the room and then "hold them" there, thinking of nothing else.{24} For some reason, this is supposed to make you act younger. Another exercise consists of "confronting" various parts of the body:

Auditor: What part of that body can you confront?
Preclear: The elbow.
Auditor: What part of that elbow can you confront?
Preclear: The wrist.
Auditor: Thank you.

Many Scientology exercises consist of hours and hours of repetitive commands, not only like the above, but like the following. The auditor says to the preclear:

Do you see that book?
Walk over to it.
Pick it up.
Not know something about its color.
Not know something about its temperature.
Not know something about its weight.
Do you see that bottle?
Walk over to it.
Pick it up.
Not know something about its color.
Not know something about its temperature.
Not know something about its weight.
Do you see that book? Etc.

Hubbard said the above should be done "without ... lag, without protest, without apathy, but only cheerfulness, each time seeing the items newly."{27} He also said it was better to run this consecutively for several hours, rather than run it a short time for several days. One preclear was run for nine hours on the above without any breaks!{28}

Another Scientology exercise is called "S.C.S." (Stop, Change, Start). Most Scientology courses are given on levels, and in the beginning of S.C.S., the preclear must move small objects around a table, stop them, change their direction, etc., "quickly and accurately without protest" at the auditor's command.{29} On higher levels, a person is commanded to get out of his body, since Scientologists believe that the thetan or spirit can function apart from the body.

To accomplish this, the preclear is first told to "be three feet in back of your head" and then told to be in more and more difficult places "until he can sit in the center of the sun."{30} This exercise was severely criticized by the Australian Inquiry, and in 1965, the Scientologists told them that it was no longer being run. (However, in 1970, a book was for sale at the Washington D.C. Org telling auditors about S.C.S.)

It has been criticized because its effects can be devastating. Hubbard wrote that "If a preclear is about to fly out of his head he'll fly out of his head on S.C.S. If he does fly out of his head on S.C.S. or on any other process, you, of course, continue the process."{31} He also wrote of S.C.S. that if a preclear suddenly "flies to pieces," started "flip flopping" and had to be picked up off the floor, etc., that the auditor should immediately get him back on to his feet and into the session. "This is no time for you to be changing processes simply because a preclear collapses," he wrote.

All these exercises, and even E-meter sessions for recounting incidents in the real or imagined past, can be extremely tiring and difficult. Some people even think it is dangerous. The Australian Report commented on this as follows:

... during this, the preclear is very frequently experiencing mental torture, which shows itself in contorted and flushed features, tears, moaning, inability to speak, apparent deafness, nausea, dizziness, sensations of pain, coma and unconsciousness. One witness said that he almost killed his auditor, a close personal friend, who was questioning him about withholds [non-disclosed items] he had as to "sexy thoughts" concerning a female staff member.... Sometimes preclears are so distraught that they scream, develop murderous feelings, have bouts of anger, grief and morbid feelings and thoughts; their sexual passions are aroused, they act insanely, laugh hysterically and engage in other hysterical behavior; they become violent and try to escape and have to be restrained.... In Scientology parlance, when such manifestations as these occur, the preclear is being "restimulated"; in fact, he is being debased and mentally crippled.{32}

Hubbard was aware that a preclear might have these reactions, but warned auditors to continue nonetheless. Hubbard said that if a preclear begged his auditor not to make him talk about someone's death "that is the first engram he should get."{33} Hubbard wrote:

... when the preclear is apparently in the most intense pain ... you must calmly continue to run the incident, asking for any phrases connected with the incident, and picking up all sounds, sense of touch, and kinesthesia as they appear.... And then, when the incident seems to be over, and the pain has subsided, command the somatic strip to go to the beginning of the incident and roll it again! ... Pay no attention to any efforts he may make to avoid going through a second or third time.{34}

Perhaps it is not surprising that S.C.S. has sometimes been given as punishment -- and one person said he had been "sentenced" to S.C.S. for twenty-five hours for some infraction.{35}

The Australian Report devoted an entire chapter to another danger they saw in these sessions -- hypnosis. They concluded that these various exercises were a type of hypnosis. To support their hypothesis, they listed every aspect of the Scientology auditing session along with its hypnotic counterpart. They also mentioned the fact that Hubbard admits he was "schooled in hypnotism and mysticism" although Hubbard claims he doesn't use hypnotic techniques.

The Australian Report concluded that Hubbard does use hypnotic techniques but that he has simply changed the name of various hypnotic phenomena to names of his own invention. The report pointed out that it was a common practice for Scientology auditors to ask the preclear at the end of the session whether he had achieved his goals and was satisfied with that session.

Since they believed that the auditor was asking these questions when the preclear was coming out of a "hypnotic trance," while the "hypnotic rapport" with the auditor was in effect, the post hypnotic suggestions helped the preclear to believe that the goals had been obtained and that the session was successful. After the session was over, the "suggestion" that the session was a success could still persist. The Scientologists believe these exercises have helped them, while the Australian Inquiry concluded they've been used to hypnotize them.{36}

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Citations & Notes

{1} first quote [6]
{2} quote by Burroughs on secrecy & Newton [187]
{3} quote by Burroughs on nonsecrecy [130a]
{4} must be Scientologist to know what happens, etc.; quote on physicist [187]
{5} showing preclear room [130a, 261]
{6} removing ring [130a, 139]
{7} needle floats [130a]
{8} man who laughed for two days [6]
{9} remember grief anger; get date [130a]
{10} repeat story from beginning [6, 103a]
{11} focus on objects [261]
{12} "tell me I am no longer auditing you" [261]
{13} problems of comparable magnitude or lie about it [158]
{14} invent worse problem [16]
{15} running a father [20]
{16} Scientology questions [14, 139]
{17} putting things in wrong time or place [252]
{18} Lie in bed; raise abilities [16]
{19} kicked out of hospital [36]
{20} drunk helped [16]
{21} exercises in first course [111, 178]
{22} policeman in Scientology [142]
{23} purpose of exercises [111, 277]
{24} holding corners [142]
{25} confronting elbow [14]
{26} book and bottle [261]
{27} Hubbard quote on book and bottle [272]
{28} persons run for 9 hours [261]
{29} SCS move objects [158]
{30} get in back of head and sun [261]
{31} Hubbard quotes on SCS [16]
{32} Australian Report opinion of treatment [261]
{33} Hubbard says talk about death [6]
{34} Hubbard quote on intense pain [4]
{35} person sentenced to SCS [261]
{36} Hubbard studied hypnotism; Scientology is hypnotism & post hypnotic suggestion [261]
Extraneous citation notes:
{37} able more able [102]
{38} raise abilities [255]
{39} lit claims to cure [261]
{40} Vitamin E [229]