Sunday, November 13, 2005



Criteria for determining if a group is a dangerous and destructive cult

I have been associated with the subject matter of Scientology and its many organizations for twenty nine years. In this time, I have had extensive administrative and technical training and worked at various organizations in addition to doing some of its more advanced "Upper" levels. In this essay I have made liberal, and sometimes verbatim, use of the materials that FACTNET has developed in its research of coercive psychological systems.

This essay is limited to an analysis of Scientology as an coercive psychological system, its policies and procedures, and does NOT include independent groups or individuals using scientological materials, in whatever form, outside of the ORGANIZATION.

Anybody can unfairly accuse or attack an organization or group they disagree with or dislike by calling it a "cult" or saying that they are using coercive mind control or coercive psychological systems as you call it. FACTNET uses specific criteria to determine if a coercive psychological system has been used. It does not imply organizations or individuals are using coercive pyschological systems or are destructive or dangerous cults without careful research and determination that the evidence fits definite criteria.

The FIRST set of criteria comes from the description of "A technical overview of Psychological Coercion" derived from a report by Singer and Ofshe, Apr 1990. A summary of this report was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court as an educational Appendix on coercive psychological systems in the case of Wollersheim vs Church of Scientology 89-1367 and 89-1361. The Wollersheim case was being considered related to issues involving abuse in this area.

The SECOND set of criteria have to do with defining common elements of destructive and dangerous cults.



* The cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes and roles. There is no appeal outside of his or her system to greater systems of justice. For example, if a school teacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, appeals can be made. In a cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.

L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, was considered the "Source" of all materials published by the organization. He personally approved the appointment of all key leaders and they served at his pleasure. He hand-picked and indoctrinated his present successor, Captain David Miscavige, when Miscavige was 22 years old. Church members seeking a redress of grievances outside of the Scientology "Justice" system are automatically expelled from the organization and declared "Suppressive persons". Hubbard was the final authority on all petitions on grievances.

* The cult's leaders tend to be charismatic, determined and domineering. They persuade followers to drop their families, jobs, and careers, and friends to follow them. They (not the individual) take over control of their follower's possessions, money, and lives.

* The cult's leaders are self-appointed, messianic persons who claim to have a special mission in life.

Hubbard was a prolific writer of science fiction. In his many lectures he spoke of his adventures in para-military space organizations prior to his coming to Earth. He claimed to be Guatama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, in a previous life. He stated his mission was to create a New Civilization by the Scientologization of the Earth.

* The cult's leaders center the veneration of members upon themselves. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and leader of genuinely altruistic movements keep the veneration of adherents focused on God, abstract principles, and group purposes. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion and allegiance on themselves.

In compliance with Hubbard's directive, pictures or busts of Hubbard are in almost every room in the organizations. At the end of every staff meeting, members face an oversized picture of Hubbard and give a three-cheers chant and a rousing round of applauses to the icon. The organization built a multi-million dollar museum/shrine in memory of Hubbard after his death in 1986. All organizations maintain a unused office space for Hubbard, in anticipation of his future return.

* The cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of the behaviour of its members. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail what members wear, eat, when and where they work, sleep, and bathe - as well as what to believe, think, and say.

* The cult tends to have a double set of ethics. Members are urged to be open and honest within the group, and confess all to the leaders. On the other hand, they are encouraged to deceive and manipulate outsiders or nonmembers. Established religions teach members to be honest and truthful to all, and to abide by one set of ethics.

Organization staff members are compelled to submit to interrogations called "security checks" and to write statements detailing their transgressions against the organization and its leaders, called "Overts/Witholds Writeups". Critics of the organization and dissident former members are considered "Suppressives" and a policy called "Fair Game" exempts Church members from dealing fairly and ethically with them. "Suppressive" can be lied to, cheated, tricked, sued, or destroyed, without any consequences from the organization.

* the cult has basically only two purposes, recruiting new members and fund-raising. Established religions and altruistic movements may also recruit and raise funds. However, their sole purpose is not to grow larger; such groups have the goals to better the lives of their members and mankind in general. The cults may claim to make social contributions, but in actuality these remain claims, or gestures. Their focus is always dominated by recruiting new members and fund-raising.

The Scientology organization has developed sophisticated techniques for gaining new members. "Personality" testing and "dissemination" drills and high-pressure sales techniques are used extensively. Field Staff Members (FSMs) earn 15% commissions for new members they sign up for Church services. The weekly gross income of the organization is considered its highest priority and the organization reported a yearly worldwide annual income of about 300 million dollars in the early 1990's. The cost for members to achieve its full services and highest "Upper Levels" is over $250,000. The organization has incorporated numerous shell organization that maintain a facade of social reform groups, but they are merely a vehicle for Public Relations ploys and rabble rousing against groups the organization considers antipathetic to its activities.

* The cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the only viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. While claiming this, the cult then surreptitiously uses systems of psychological coercion on its members to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.

Scientology calls itself a "Religion" and a "Science of Life" and states as its goals the creation of a "World without War, Crime, or Insanity".


The third set of criteria has to do with defining other common elements of coercive psychological systems. If most of Robert Jay Lifton's eight point model of thought reform ("Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism" by R. Lifton, W.W. Norton & Co., 1963) is being used in a cultic organization, it is most likely a dangerous and destructive cult. These eight points are:


* Limitations of many/all forms of communication with those outside the group. Books, magazines, letters and visits with friends and family are taboo. "Come out and be separate".

At the Scientology "Flag Land Base" married staff members are only allowed one hour a day with their children. Visits or personal calls from "non-Scientologist" family members are strongly frowned on. Dependents do not attend public schools. Staff members are forbidden to have TVs in their living quarters. Private mail for staff members was frequently opened by senior staff members to check for disturbing news about the organization from friends or relatives. . Reading of newspapers or non-Scientology materials is strongly frowned on. Staff members are forbidden from reading or discussing any material critical of the organization or its leaders. Members are forbidden communication with disaffected members.


* The potential convert to the group becomes convinced of the higher purpose and special calling of the group through a profound encounter/experience, for example, through an alleged miracle or prophetic word of those in the group.

In 1968, Hubbard announced to all the organizations that he had traversed the "Wall of Fire" and discovered the long buried secret reasons for the degradation of the Earth and 76 nearby planets. This discovery is commonly called the "OT3" materials. Hubbard claimed the mystery had been buried for 76 million years and he was the first to discover the secret without dying. Hubbard developed a methodology which he claimed would liberate the planet and create a New Civilization. He formed a elite organization of devoted members called the "Sea Organization" to carry out this personal mission. He bought a fleet of ships and called himself the "Commodore" of the flotilla and Sea Organization members dressed in naval uniforms and formed a para-military, quasi-religious organization and started a massive world-wide recruitment effort to build the group that would "Clear" the planet.


* An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, whether it be on a global, social, or personal level. "Perfection is possible if one stays with the group and is committed."

Hubbard claimed that "Total Freedom" was only possible within Scientology and Sea Organization members sign ONE BILLION year contracts as a symbol of their committment to Hubbard's mission.


* The unhealthy practice of self disclosure to members in the group, often in the context of a public gathering in the group, admitting past sins and imperfections, even doubts about the group and critical thoughts about the integrity of the leaders.

Electronic interrogations, called "Security Checking" are used extensively within the organization to assure group conformity and to detect and stifle dissenting members. Members are required to write detailed descriptions of their shortcomings and dissident thoughts about the organization's leaders or policies. These writeups and security check session reports are maintained and are used by the organization to compel silence if the member becomes disaffected and leaves. "Ethics" conditions are assigned to deal with non-productive members, or members manifesting indications of disloyalty or disaffection. It is a Hubbardian maxim that members expressing criticism of the organization, leaving the organization, or failing to make "spiritual" progress are manifesting undisclosed transgressions against the organization. This insidious manipulative device remains intact in the minds of many former members and serves as a constant reminder of their "undisclosed" trangressions against the organization and their "real reason" for leaving it.


* The group's perspective is absolutely true and completly adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.

Hubbard called his ideology "The Science of Knowing How To Know". He called his essays "STANDARD TECH". NO amendments were allowed and the materials had to be LITERALLY interpreted, without ANY verbal explainations. Hubbard developed a "Study Tech" and anyone questioning or disagreeing with his essays was considered to be suffering from "Misunderstood Words". Any person who amended his procedures was labeled a "Squirrel" and expelled from the organization and branded a "Suppressive Person". The organization calls Hubbard's essays its "Sacred Scriptures" and copyrighted it and obtained "Trade Secret" status on Hubbard's mystical experiences, its "Most Sacred Scriptures", the "Upper Levels". The organization has severe sanctions for members who publically disclose the contents of its "Upper Levels".


* A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group members "think" within the very abstract and narrow parameters of the group's doctrine. The terminology sufficiently stops members from thinking critically by reinforcing a "black and white" mentality. Loaded terms and cliches prejudices thinking.

Hubbard wrote several thick volumes containing Scientology jargon and members are forbidden to use terminology from "earlier practices" before they came into the organization. The organization uses derisive terms for non-Scientologists (Wogs), and critics and dissident former members (Suppressive Persons). Hubbard was especially harsh in his vilification of mental health professionals and medical doctors, and considered them in league with a world-wide conspiracy against him and his organization.


* Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.


* Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are doomed.

The Hubbardian view that Scientology is the ONLY "Road to Total Freedom" is constantly stressed. The threat of expulsion and denial of the "Upper Levels" is an effective method in maintaining group conformity and discouraging internal dissidence. Even amongst many expelled members, the emotional distress and consideration that one has been "Condemned to Hell" by denial of access to the "Upper Levels" lingers for a long time.

From: harringtonj-smtc

Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 17:11:00 -0500