Regardless of how Scientology started, what it has become at the present is a total con job which promises potential converts a toolkit to solve the problems of their life and eventually a path to spiritual enlightenment and understanding. I say “con job” because over the past few years, it’s become more and more obvious to the world at large that Scientology is not everything it claims to be and it cannot fulfill any of the lofty promises it makes.
What’s even worse is that once someone joins its ranks, it is very hard to get out. For some who have broken away, they’ve found only pain and tragedy because Scientology has enforced its policy of disconnection on their friends and family, taking away their most precious loved ones simply because they exercised their right to think and act for themselves. Let’s not even talk about the really nasty stuff, when Scientology tries to publicly smear you and starts stalking and harassing you if you speak out against it.
With all the exposure in documentaries, the media and on channels such as this, we have certainly learned that Scientology is something to stay the hell away from. But have we learned anything else? Are there any other lessons we can take away from this which apply to the big wide world? You bet there are. Because the methods that Scientology uses to manipulate new recruits and existing members are not unique to Scientology. Not by a long way. And if we recognize that, we can learn to watch for some of them in other places and not get drawn into situations we don’t want to be in. Here are five harsh lessons I think we could all learn from Scientology:
(1) There’s no such thing as being too smart to fall for bullshit.
In living our lives, we tend to think of ourselves as the hero of our story, but let’s be honest, we often give ourselves far too much credit. If you take an honest assessment of times you have screwed up and why it happened, odds are you will find instances where you leaped before you looked or acted on an impulse which did not turn out to be a good one. Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember these because the way our minds work, we tend to forget those misses and only remember the hits, the times we made right decisions or chose the correct path.
We also tend to enjoy gloating or laughing at the mistakes of others. When it’s all in good fun or just comedy, then that’s fine. No harm, no foul. But when we tell ourselves that we are better than those people we are laughing at, when we think that we have never made stupid mistakes or that we couldn’t be fooled because we’re so smart – well, I’ll just tell you right now that when I was in Scientology it was those people I wanted to talk to first because they were the easiest marks.
In the best cons, the mark is not even aware he’s been scammed. The truth is that there is no one who can’t be deceived given the right ingredients. Even you. Maybe Scientology didn’t have the right mix to pull the wool over your eyes, but someone pulled a lottery ticket scam on you or one of many other cons like the mustard dip, the flop or the fake workmen. Just remember this: no one would be running the Nigerian prince scam if it didn’t work sometimes.
(2) Never ever give up the right to think for yourself.
Probably the most dangerous aspect of destructive cults is how their members give over the right to think for themselves. You’d think no one would willingly or knowingly do this and that’s the trick. Usually it’s done so smoothly that the person doesn’t realize it’s happening.
In Scientology, one of the methods used is to tell someone that if they don’t agree with something L. Ron Hubbard said or wrote, that it’s simply because they don’t understand it. Well, that could certainly be true in certain cases, but it could also be that Hubbard is simply wrong. Rather than admit to anything like that, Scientologists will spend literally hours plowing through dictionaries and encyclopedias trying to cure their lack of understanding of the words and phrases Hubbard uses to explain himself. It’s actually quite ridiculous and that’s the point. If you are being run through a series of hoops like that, you have to step back and say “Wait a minute. Is it okay if I simply disagree with this guy about this?” If the answer is “No, it’s not ok” than this is a group you should run, not walk, away from.
(3) Don’t excuse hypocrisy. It’s always a sign of corruption.
If you join a group and see the leaders are excused from the same rules as the ruled, you should have a problem with that. If the rules don’t apply to everyone, then they are really just ways for the leaders to control and take advantage of the members. In Scientology this occurs at many levels, especially within the Sea Organization where certain executives who toe the party line are given special advantages that others don’t get. Of course, those same executives could be scrubbing pots or sweeping floors the next day if they fall out of favor. The only one who consistently benefits from the money and power of Scientology is David Miscavige but Scientology is not alone in this kind of hypocrisy.
When corporations advertise themselves as caring and consumer-friendly but their store managers treat the employees like total crap, it’s hard to get behind their message. Employees of most retail outfits know this all too well.
As the late author Stephen Covey once said “What you do has far greater impact than what you say.” Rules and guidelines exist in groups to define what the groups values are, what is considered acceptable behavior and how the group should conduct itself. Whether it’s a work, play, sports or club environment, the rules should apply equally to everyone there.
(4) When you are making important decisions, park your ego.
This is related to the first point but deserves its own look.
We are emotion-driven creatures. We go with what feels good all the time over what we know we should be doing, whether it’s eating fast food, wasting time playing video games or having “just one more” before we leave the bar. Most of the time we get away with this and don’t think too much about it. What fun would any of this be if we didn’t do things we enjoy and which make us feel good?
However, when it comes to important decisions, being ruled by emotion often leaves us ignoring the facts and not thinking about the consequences. Advertisers, salesmen and con men know this about human nature and take advantage of it every single day.
Love bombing is a common tactic used to pump up our ego, showering us with praise or affection to get us to decide to go with whatever it is that we are being presented with. This is a blatant appeal to our emotions but it can come in so many different forms and usually feels so damn good that we sometimes don’t recognize it when it’s happening. In many cases, flattery will get people everywhere.
There’s a very easy way to tell if you are being put in a potentially compromising or dangerous position when someone is trying to convince you to do something. Simply tell them that you want to take some time to think about it, that you need to collect some more facts or talk it over with a friend or whatever. The degree that they try to stop you from doing that is a direct measure of how much they are trying to fool you. Because the truth is that there are very few big decisions you are ever going to have to make in life that require your immediate answer.
(5) Having special knowledge or secret wisdom does not make anyone better than anyone else.
Because we live in a somewhat dog-eat-dog world where it is advantageous for us to be better, faster, stronger or richer than people around us, our survival instincts tell us that it’s a good thing for us to gain any advantage we can. This includes gaining wisdom or knowledge that we think sets us above others, but this is actually just another ego trap, and one that cult leaders take special advantage of.
The way this works is someone claims to have special insight or knowledge which they are willing to share with only their chosen flock and that knowledge always comes for a price. This is not just religious knowledge. I’ve seen destructive cults of special knowledge involving politics, sales, medicine, martial arts and even acting. And the price members have to pay to gain this knowledge is not always just money. It also includes devotion or pledges of allegiance, unwarranted amounts of time and sacrificing interests in anything other than the group itself.
Here’s the thing: people who have gained real insight or wisdom are amongst the most humble and soft-spoken people you’ll ever meet and they are usually all to happy to share what they have learned for little or no price at all. Great intellectual leaders almost universally say that they are not smart and feel that they know hardly anything. We all know what braggarts and egotists look and sound like. While they may claim to be at the top of their field, they are actually the most insecure because they know they are not the best or brightest. So always take anyone who makes such claims with a grain of salt and don’t fall into the trap that thinking you’re something special just because you know some secret knowledge that no one else does. All it takes for you to not be so special is for them to learn it too and then where are you at?
What makes great people great is not what they know, it’s what they do with their knowledge.
I hope these tips can help extend our look beyond just Scientology and the nonsense it engages in with its members. It’s easy to watch and point fingers and think how stupid people must be to fall for such nonsense. Well, my advice is before doing that, take a good hard look at any nonsense you may be falling for yourself, because none of us are immune to it. If we can learn these lessons from Scientology and live better lives ourselves as a result, maybe it can do some good after all.
Thank you for watching.