Understanding Scientology, by Margery Wakefield - Next - Previous

Chapter 4

TRs the Hard Way -- "Flunk for Blinking! Start!"

Public courses on TR's are NOT "softened" because they are for the Public. Absolutely no standards are lowered. THE PUBLIC ARE GIVEN REAL TR'S -- ROUGH, TOUGH AND HARD. Comm Courses Are Not a Tea Party.
-- L. Ron Hubbard, Training Drills Modernized

The re-education process begins with a person's most basic and important dealings -- the interaction with other humans and the relationship to oneself. This undercuts any re-education of American prisoners of war in North Korean concentration camps. Their re-education was in terms of political loyalties. That was a light task compared to the revisions the Comm Course makes. TR1 involves a re-learning of how to talk; with TR2, a re-learning of how to listen; with TR3, a relearning of how to properly ask a question; and with TR4, there is a re-learning of how to interact with another. The student's regression to a childlike and impressionable state is the result.
-- Ford Schwartz, ex-Scientologist

One of the questions frequently asked of ex-Scientologists, usually by well-meaning but uninformed friends, goes something like this: "How could a smart person like you get into something as bizarre as Scientology?" Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. Involvement in Scientology comes about as a result of a complex interplay of several ill-defined and esoteric factors, such as mind control, thought reform and social conditioning.

The process of indoctrination in Scientology is both ingenious and subtle; the initiate, believing himself to be on "the Road to Total Freedom," is drawn further and further into the trap.

Yet a close examination of the "process" of Scientology reveals that there are within this carefully designed system of manipulation and control some characteristics common to all cults and other forms of mind control.

How does the mind control within Scientology work? Let us take a look....

Within Scientology, a new person walking through the front door for the first time is known as "raw meat." In other words, he is food for the sharks.

Usually a person comes into Scientology for one of three reasons: he has heard the testimony of a (Scientologist) friend or family member, he has read the Dianetics book and become intrigued by its global promises; or he has come in for a free personality test offered by many Scientology organizations as a means of attracting "raw meat."

Once inside the front door, the person may take the free personality test, see a movie or sit through an introductory lecture, but the end result of all three is the same. After the test, movie or lecture, the newcomer will be interviewed by a Scientology "Registrar," whose job it is to get the person registered (signed up and paid for) for his first "course" in Scientology. For most people, the first course and point of entry into Scientology is called the "Communication Course."

The way that the Registrar is trained to accomplish this task is very interesting. He knows that he must "find the ruin" of the newcomer seated across from him. The ruin can be anything from shyness and inability to communicate, to marital problems, to addiction to a substance (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes), to a chronic physical problem such as asthma, or even cancer.

The Registrar knows that once he has succeeded in finding this ruin, he has the magic ticket to getting the person into Scientology.

If the person has taken the personality test, finding the ruin is easy -- just take the lowest score on the test and indicate to the person that this is their ruin, then get their agreement that this item, whatever it is, is a problem in their life.

No matter what the ruin, the prescription is the same: the Communication Course. Through this course the person is told that he will learn to communicate better, become happier, more confident, more responsible, and more "able." Communication, the universal solvent, contains the key for overcoming any problem in life. It is not unusual, the Registrar confides, for people who have taken this course to double or even triple their income.

Promises are made, anything is said or done to get the person to sign up for the Communication Course.

There is a reason for this pressure, for the hard sell. It is because, as the Registrar well knows, once the person begins this seemingly innocuous introductory course, he will be well on his way to becoming a Scientologist.

The cost of the course is nominal in comparison with other Scientology courses. It might be fifty or a hundred dollars. The length of the course is approximately two weeks, depending on frequency of attendance.

What the new person does not know is that this introductory course is booby-trapped; it is a literal mind-control mine-field. It is designed to convert the newcomer to Scientology so smoothly that he or she won't even be aware of the process.

How does it work?

We'll take an imaginary person named Mary. Mary stopped by the local Scientology center after a friend at work told her what a difference Scientology had made in her marriage. She gave Mary a copy of the Dianetics book, which Mary did her best to read, although she found Hubbard's rambling writing style somewhat difficult to understand.

Mary sat through a lecture on Scientology which left her even more confused. The lecturer says that Scientology can be used to "handle" any problem in life, but how, Mary wonders, does it work?

After the lecture, Mary is introduced to the Scientology Registrar. During a long and friendly interview, in which she is asked about areas in her life she would like to see improved, Mary discloses to the Registrar that she and her husband are having marital problems.

Now the Registrar has the vital key -- Mary's "ruin." That one area in her life that Mary would pay almost any price to see improved, or "handled."

"What you need," the Registrar assures Mary, "is the Communication Course. This is what is going to help your marriage. On this course you will learn vital communication techniques that you can use to improve your relationship with your husband."

"Don't you agree," he asks her, "that by improving your communication skills, you would be able to improve the quality of your marriage?"

"Yes, I suppose so," Mary answers tentatively.

The Registrar, having been trained and drilled in hard-sell sales techniques, begins to move toward the "close." He gives examples of other people who have been helped in their marriages by the course. He may even call someone over to his desk to "double-team" with him in closing Mary for the course.

"What have you got to lose?" he reasons with her. "If at the end of the course you're not 100% satisfied that the course has helped you, we'll give you your money back." He smiles as he hands her a pen and the enrollment form.

So she signs.

"Wonderful," says the Registrar. "You're going to love the course. And I just can't wait to hear about your `wins'."

It is not so different from buying a used car. Scientology is probably the only church in the world in which the first meaningful transactions are with the Registrar and the Cashier.

Mary is immediately given a "Routing Form," a list of "terminals" or people she must see in order to get started on the course. One of the first people she must see is the Cashier. Mary will also be interviewed by the "Ethics Officer," the "Director of Processing," and various other people, all of whom will assure her that she has just made one of the best decisions of her life.

Finally, Mary arrives in the courseroom where she is introduced to the "Course Supervisor," who in many cases will be wearing a military-appearing uniform, similar to a naval uniform, with shoulder epaulets, gold braid trim and a lanyard around the neck.

The Supervisor hands Mary her "course pack," a bound collection of "bulletins," printed articles written by Hubbard to be read on the course. At the beginning of the course pack is a checksheet, listing every item to be completed on the course, with a space for the student to initial that each item has been completed. Each completed item is assigned a certain number of points.

Mary is given a seat on the course.

Feeling slightly disoriented and somewhat overwhelmed, Mary begins to look through her course pack.

The first few bulletins in the pack are of an introductory nature, welcoming the student to Scientology. The bulletins are printed in different colors of ink, some in red, some in green and some in black. There seems to be some logic behind this, but Mary isn't sure what it is.

Mary looks around the courseroom. This is certainly different from any class I have ever taken before, she thinks to herself. Mary is seated at a table with several other students. There is no talking at the table except for one student who is checking out another student on a bulletin. Everyone else at the table is studying silently.

There is no teacher on this course. The Course Supervisor walks quietly around the room, making notes on a clipboard, occasionally stopping to watch a particular student or to hand a "pink-sheet" to a student needing correction. There seems to be an almost military atmosphere in the room. No talking except for checkouts is allowed.

In one of the first bulletins, Mary reads a set of rules for students on the course, called Students' Guide to Acceptable Behavior. All students must be on time for course. Breaks must be strictly observed. No drugs or alcohol may be consumed within twenty four hours of the course. Students are not allowed to discuss their "case" (problems) with each other, and they are not avowed to "evaluate" for or "invalidate" each other.

On one wall a large, smiling picture of Hubbard looks out over the room. There is also a life-sized bronze bust of Hubbard near the entrance to the room.

In the back of the room, Mary observes students sitting in pairs, facing each other and staring silently into each other's eyes. Another pair of students are staring at each other in the same way, but one of the students is saying obscene things to the other. Mary feels uncomfortable about this, but she doesn't want to say anything because she is new on the course and she thinks that although some things in this class seem strange, she must make an effort to understand what is happening. Besides, it doesn't seem to be bothering anyone else.

Mary, like all of us at times, has a tendency to devalue her own perceptions and feelings in favor of the perceptions and feelings of others. She doesn't want to cause trouble or make a scene.

At 10:30pm (this is an evening course), the Supervisor calls out in a loud voice, "That's it. End of course. Gather up your materials and prepare for after-class muster."

There is a flurry of noise and activity as books are closed and the students in the back of the room pull their chairs up to the tables in the center of the room.

Mary is given a piece of graph paper and she is shown how to graph her "stats" (statistics) for the night. She adds up the points of all the items she has completed on the checksheet and marks the total on her graph.

Then the Supervisor asks the students to share their "wins." Various students volunteer to give their testimonies about what they have learned this night on the course.

The Supervisor announces that there is a new student on the course. She introduces Mary. Everyone claps as Mary blushes. Mary has never been applauded before for anything she has done. The Supervisor asks Mary to share her "wins" from her first night on the course.

"Well," Mary begins, "it's all very new to me. I hope I'm going to learn a lot here. It just seems different at first. But everyone has been very friendly, and I'm looking forward to learning what this is all about."

There is more applause. The student on Mary's right puts his hand on Mary's shoulder. "Welcome," he says approvingly, looking directly into her eyes and smiling.

On the way out of the building, several students stop Mary and tell her how glad they are that she is on the course. "You'll really like it," they assure her. "And this stuff really works, you'll see!"

In her car on the way home, Mary feels some stirring of hope as she thinks about her husband. Maybe this will help us, she thinks wistfully. Certainly nothing else has. As she thinks back over the events of the night, one thing seems to stick in her mind. Everyone in Scientology seems so friendly. And happy. They seemed genuinely happy. Maybe there is something to Scientology after all....

Mary has just taken her first step toward becoming a Scientologist.

As the newcomer to Scientology begins the Communication Course, he or she learns that in addition to the bulletins, the course consists of a series of drills, called "training routines," designed to train a person to "communicate better." What the person does not know, or even suspect, is that these drills are actually a sophisticated set of mind control processes designed to convert the newcomer into a confirmed Scientologist.

In the first training routine, called "TR-0" for Training Routine Zero, two students sit in chairs facing each other, knees almost touching, and they look into each other's eyes without blinking for a prolonged period of time. If either student blinks, moves, twitches, or has tearing of the eyes, etc., he or she will be flunked and told to restart the drill.

During TR-0, a student may hallucinate, and will almost certainly experience some sort of dissociation; however, the drill is continued until the student can effortlessly maintain an unblinking stare with his partner.

In the second training routine, called TR-0 "bullbaited," the students do TR-0 as in the first drill, but one of the two students must "bullbait" the other and "flatten his buttons." In other words, the student is to say or do anything at all to make the other student react, and then flunk the student for reacting. This drill is continued until each student can confront anything the partner says or does without reacting.

In doing TR-0 "bullbaited," students commonly use explicitly sexual material to provoke a reaction. This can include physically touching the student. Verbal abuse is also condoned in this drill, with the justification that such abuse occurs in life and in "auditing," and the student must be prepared to "handle" it.

Aha! Suddenly a hidden agenda has appeared on this course, and it is surprising that so few students on the Communication Course recognize it when it does occur.

The person coming into Scientology has been sold the Communication Course to solve problems in his life. Yet, the wording in the instructions for the TRs, or training routines, suddenly makes reference to the fact that the new student is doing these drills to become more effective as an "auditor" ("auditor" being the name for a Scientology counselor). For example, in the instructions for TR-0, Hubbard states:

To train student to confront a preclear (someone not yet a Clear) with auditing only or with nothing.

In other words, the student comes to accept the fact that one of the reasons for this course is to train him to be an "auditor." It is amazing that students on this course accept this subtle transition without question.

One analyst of the Communication Course, Ford Schwartz, wryly observes in an unpublished paper that the certificate for completing the Communication Course does not even mention the word "communication." The certificate for completing the Communication Course certifies the student as a "Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist", or "H.A.S." Whether he likes it or not, upon completing the Communication Course, the new student has become a Scientologist. Pretty slick!

In TR-1, the student is taught to give a command "newly and in a new unit of time," by picking phrases out of the book Alice in Wonderland and reading them to another student. Phrases such as:

"Would you please tell me why you are painting those roses?"

"Oh, please mind what you're doing!"

"Off with her head!"

"Curiouser and curiouser!"

"You shouldn't make jokes if it makes you so unhappy."

"Call the next witness!"

"Oh, you wicked, wicked little thing."

"Oh, you can't help that, we're all mad here!"

are used in this drill.

In TR-2, a student is trained to control the communication of the other person by the use of acknowledgements. So for each phrase read to him out of Alice, he will respond with a firm: "Thank you!" or "All right!" or "I got that!"

In the third and fourth drills, a person is trained to get an answer to a question asked despite all efforts of the other person to distract him. The questions used in these drills are: "Do fish swim?" and "Do birds fly?" The drill is not passed until the person doing the drill gets a satisfactory answer to his question. By the time this drill is passed, the student has learned to manipulate the communication of another person.

On one of the four "advanced TRs," the student learns to control the movements of another by shouting commands at him or her, such as:

"Walk over to that wall!" (Then when it is done:) "Thank you!"

"Touch that wall!" "Thank you!"

"Walk over to that chair!" "Thank you!"

"Touch that chair!" "Thank you!" Etc.

When the student has learned to control another person, then he learns to control objects as well. He is seated facing a chair with an ashtray on it, and he must shout commands at the ashtray with such intensity that the ashtray will rise up off the chair on its own. Of course it never does, but this does not deter the Scientologist from continuing to try! The commands used on the ashtray are:

"Stand up!" (The person doing the drill then raises the ashtray with his hands and shouts:) "Thank you!"

"Sit down on that chair!" (He lowers the ashtray to the chair.) "Thank you!"

"Stand up!" "Thank you!" Etc.

What do these drills have to do with communication? Perhaps not as much as they have to do with the subject of control -- specifically, learning to control and to be controlled by others.

In her book, Cults in America, Willa Appel outlines the three stages in any thought reform conversion process. First the person is isolated, physically and symbolically, from his past. Second, he is stripped of his identity through the mechanisms of humiliation and guilt. Third, the person is converted to a new identity and world view, the world view of the cult. (1)

This process is clearly evident in the Communication Course in Scientology, and this process exists in Scientology not by accident, but by careful design.

The process of isolation from the past is both subtle and overt. The propaganda of Scientology overtly degrades many of the institutions in which the recruit has previously placed his trust: family, friends, the government, educational institutions, and the established healing professions, to name a few.

Some of the ways in which this process of devaluation take place are more subtle, for example the use of the term "wog," a derogatory term used in Scientology to refer to all non-Scientologists. Through the use of this word, the new Scientologist soon comes to understand that he, by virtue of being in Scientology, is now superior to everyone not in Scientology,

Another technique used to separate the individual from his past is the renaming of everyday objects and experiences to new names unique to Scientology, and understood only by Scientologists. For example, "reality" becomes "agreement"; "love" is renamed "ARC"; the marital relationship is called the "second dynamic"; the soul becomes the "thetan"; an argument becomes an "ARC break"; a problem becomes a "PTP"; a secret becomes a "withhold"; even God is renamed the "eighth dynamic."

Before he has been in Scientology very long, the initiate has become versed in a language known only inside the cult, creating a very real barrier between himself and friends or family outside the cult. As he increasingly adopts the jargon of the cult, he can only be understood by other cult members.

For example, if a new Scientologist were to approach his college professor and tell him that the reason he doesn't have his homework done is that he had a "PTP because of a missed withhold on the second dynamic," chances are that he will get a blank stare from the professor. Yet every Scientologist understands what this means.

The second stage of cult conversion is the stripping away of the old identity, and this is accomplished in many ways in Scientology.

The depersonalization of the individual in Scientology begins the moment he first walks in the front door. The person learns from the beginning to doubt and disregard his own perceptions.

For example, what kind of church offers free personality tests to lure people in the front door? Why are hard-sell sales techniques used to market a class in communication? Why are the church members in uniform? Why are there so many odd new words? Why are people doing these bizarre drills? What is really going on here???

But instead of being allowed to question, the person is led to believe that all these things are a part of the status quo of the "church" and that they are to be accepted without question.

Even during the initial sales presentation, the person's normal thinking process is bypassed, as he is pressured into taking a course he knows very little about, except for the glowing promises made by the Registrar.

In his book, Deprogramming for Do-it-Yourselfers, R.K. Heller points out that "highly orchestrated sales presentations may have the same effect as chanting; a person cannot hear his own thoughts. Questioning is postponed; then the question, forgotten." (2)

The result of the sales presentation in Scientology is that the person becomes convinced that he has a problem, and that Scientology provides the only answer to his problem. Before he gets to the classroom, the student is subjected to a "routing form" in which he must submit to (be interviewed by) several authority figures in the organization before being allowed "on course" -- the gauntlet approach to education.

Once on the course, the person suddenly finds himself in a quasi-military situation, again within a "church," and this seems to be accepted by everyone as the normal course of affairs. Because of social conditioning, the person avoids asking an obvious or embarrassing question for fear of social rejection. This same social conditioning, the desire to please others and not question, together with carefully planned group reinforcement, provide incentive for the new person to gradually surrender his old identity and accept the new identity of "Scientologist."

When the new student is introduced, he or she is greeted with applause, decreasing the odds that he will raise any objections while on the course. To do so would be to bite the hand that feeds him.

In studying the Scientology materials, the new student quickly learns that to question any of the writings of Hubbard is expressly forbidden. Any disagreement with the contents of the materials of the course are considered to be a misunderstanding on the part of the student. He is advised to "look up his misunderstood word," to see what it was that he has not properly understood. Doubting the materials is not permitted, as "doubt" is a "lower condition," punishable within Scientology.

A student in Scientology is forbidden to ask questions, to think or to doubt.

The new person in Scientology is "love bombed," i.e., given much attention and approbation for simply being there. The honeymoon, however, is short-lived. The new Scientologist soon learns that continued love and acceptance is conditional upon his giving time or money on a continuing basis to the organization.

A student is not considered a "completion" on the Communication Course until he is ready and eager to sign up for the next course in Scientology. So the real result of the Communication Course is that the person has become a Scientologist (it says so on his certificate), and that he is motivated to continue further indoctrination in Scientology in the form of "his next course."

The conclusion, according to Ford Schwartz, is that the Communication Course of Scientology is a "manipulative, systematic process, an integral part of which is the conversion of new members. It is the subtlety with which the transformation takes place which makes it a threat to unsuspecting people."

And, as Schwartz describes, the new member is being subjected to a hidden agenda of which he is totally unaware:

Slowly and subconsciously, the student soon comes to identify him or herself with the group and with the new identity of being a Scientologist.

The student is no longer free to think, question or doubt.

What is remarkable is the smoothness with which the transition to the new paradigm of Scientology is made by most people who take this course. Social conditioning, learned behavior assimilated throughout life, becomes a liability in dealing with the sinister manipulation of a cult like Scientology. The student walks, unthinking, into the trap.

In the greatest redefinition of all, the new Scientologist, believing himself to be on the "Road to Total Freedom," is instead on the road to becoming a willing slave.


  1. Appel, p. 77
  2. Heller, p. 91

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