Margaret Singer in her book Cults In Our Midst provides a tremendous amount of essential information regarding cults. I believe it is one of the finest books ever on Scientology and is by one of the greatest cult experts to have ever walked the earth. Margaret Singer has qualifications and experience second to none. I will present several quotes in an extensive analysis. I have none of her academic or professional achievements. I do however have twenty five years experience as a Scientologist to consider. For ease of understanding I will present quotes in blue and my comments in black.
First a quote that struck me instantly. It reminded me of an analysis of Scientology written by a class XII auditor. She said Hubbard's writings can seem contradictory and paradoxical. That is actually intentional.
The more complicated and filled with contradictions the new system is and the more difficult it is to learn, the more effective the conversion process will be. ( page 67 )
The contradictions serve to thoroughly confuse Hubbard's victims and help to increase their suggestibility. With hundreds or thousands of contradictions in millions of words of doctrine the effect is compounded by unimaginably immense repetition.
In cultic groups, the individual member is always wrong, and the system is always right .( page 68 )
This is a key component of cults - the individual always must submit to a position as an intellectual subordinate to the group, doctrine or leader. A relationship based on mutual respect and human rights has no place in a cult. The leader is always above any accountability and without humility or compassion. The system is always totalistic and without means of reform and progress. If it lacks these qualities it fails to be cultic.
You affirm that you accept and understand the ideology by beginning to talk in the simple catchphrases particular to the group. This "communication" has no foundation since, in reality, you have little understanding of the system beyond the catchphrases. ( page 69)
This is particularly relevant to Scientology as Hubbard used many thousands of new words. Many of which are the opposite of their original meaning or used to state something the exact opposite of the truth to hide Hubbard's intentions and crimes. He used phrases twisted and turned to fool people. Many of his terms lack clear meaning because he uses far too many new terms with reference to one another and multiple contradictory definitions. The amount of terms and definitions to attempt to learn and coordinate is simply overwhelming and often absorbs so much of the cult member's attention that clear understanding and thought are severely inhibited.
Loading the language. As members continue to formulate their ideas in the group's jargon, this language serves the purpose of constricting members' thinking and shutting down critical thinking abilities. At first, translating from their native tongue into "groupspeak" forces members to censor, edit, and slow down spontaneous bursts of criticism or oppositional ideas. ( page 70)
Of all cult methods this may be the one Hubbard focused on the most. With his extensive new language drummed into his victims' minds through extreme repetition. The beliefs within the language replace the Scientologists' own. And often nearly entirely replace critical thinking.
Getting almost complete control over cultists' minds is one of the main intentions Hubbard had in his chosen methods.
By continuosly adding new terms and concepts and redefining old ones with explicitly contradictory definitions Hubbard tried to perpetually maintain the overwhelming confusion cult members usually experience when first joining a cult . This is compounded by Scientology's extensive decades long indoctrination process. It keeps the translation process ongoing rather than temporary. This helps to heighten confusion, anxiety and suggestibility.
One international group, for example, has dictionaries for members to use. In one of these dictionaries, criticism is defined as "justification for having done an overt." Then one looks up overt and the dictionary states: "overt act: an overt act is not just injuring someone or something; an overt act is an act of omission or commission which does the least good for the least number of dynamics or the most harm to the greatest number of dynamics." Then the definition of dynamics says: There could be said to be eight urges in life...." And so, one can search from term to term trying to learn this new language. (page 70 )
Obviously to any veteran Scientologist this refers to Scientology and Hubbard's methods of defining new terms with mountains of others in never ending chains of words to look up.
Now, when you engage in cooperative activity with peers in an environment that you do not realize is artificially constructed, you do not perceive your interactions to be coerced. ( page 76 )
Hubbard knew this and used the already loyal group members habits to persuade new members that Scientology was reasonable and normal for people to participate in.
In other words, you will think that you came upon the belief and behaviors yourself. ( page 76 )
And as a key element to covert persuasion Hubbard made sure Scientologists consider the conclusions he wants drawn to be their own and to then base further and further ideas that agree with his to be independently and objectively decided. This helps to make the victims highly unwilling to examine these ideas. And the behaviors he ruthlessly demands through his doctrine are very clearly accepted or rewarded for compliance and entirely condemned for noncomformity. But in Scientology the cult member cannot admit this and so habitually denies the totalitarian nature of the cult and is caught in an almost inescapable bind of progressive submission and further behavior in compliance with Hubbard's doctrine.
Peer pressure is very important to this process:
If you say it in front of others, you'll do it.
Once you do it, you'll think it.
Once you think it (in an environment you do not perceive to be coercive ), you'll believe that you thought it yourself. ( page 76 )
This is key to Scientology. Hubbard set it up so the new cult member practices in drills, including patter drills, then does many of the desired actions of a cult member. Hundreds of drills in fact practiced for hundreds or thousands of hours. Then the cult member feels Hubbard's ideas are their own and defends them as irrefutable deeply held personal convictions.
For example, one cult member complained privately to his immediate leadership that he doubted he'd be able to kill his father if so instructed by the cult, even though that act was to signify true adherence to the cult's system. In response he was told he needed more courses to overcome his obvious weakness because by now he should be more committed to the group. ( page 68 )
The above may be describing another cult , but is indicative of the extreme degree of devotion cults demand.
In this book I will use the term cultand cultic group to refer to any one of a large number of groups that have sprung up in our society and that are similar in the way that they originate, their power structure, and their governance. Cults range from the relatively benign to those that exercise extraordinary control over members' lives and use thought-reform processes to influence and control members. While the conduct of certain cults causes nonmembers to criticize them, the term cult is not in itself pejorative but simply descriptive. It denotes a group that forms around a person who claims to have a special mission or knowledge, which they will share with those who turn over most of their decision making to that self-appointed leader. ( page 68 )
I certainly consider Scientology to be among the very worst cults in terms of the thought reform processes used and how difficult they are to overcome.
When some people think of cult recruitment, they picture a ranting wild-eyed zealot ( page 116)
Unfortunately, most cult members are not obviously unduly influenced. They don't act bizarrely and do and say extreme things while recruiting new members. They act like they are helping people with a simple mental therapy, or perhaps a philosophy similar to Buddhism. Things that seem socially acceptable and possibly not harmful.
Some cults also use dress or other external features as visible symbols in converting newcomers to the cult's ways. ( page 117 )
Sea Org members and staff wear uniforms and constantly have reinforced that they are different from others and especially non members.
On occasion, recruits are even put into brief trance states. Most people don't realize that a person can be hypnotized in simple and subtle ways, without the spectacular commands used by hypnotists who perform onstage. Someone can get you to totally concentrate on something such as an imaginary scene while he or she softly repeats subtle suggestions. Soon you will pretty much eliminate critical thinking and fall into a mild temporary trance...Through a specific, deliberate program, cult recruits and members at times can be put or fall into changed states of consciousness, which contribute to their gradually becoming restricted in their thinking. ( 118 )
In this regard Scientology is truly outstanding, perhaps unique and unrivalled. Hubbard extensively studied hypnosis and covert hypnosis in particular. Auditing is extensively taken from hypnotic methods he found in books on the subject. He even recommended several including Hypnotism Comes of Age. I read that and found it revealed several seemingly innocent auditing methods to be hypnosis repackaged. The method of using imagery through story telling or "therapies" in which a patient recalls or creates images in their mind has long been known to be vulnerable to transference phenomena that can give the therapist hypnotic influence or dominion over the unsuspecting patient. In fact the inventor of the E-meter himself Volney Mathison warned against this in his book Creative Image Therapy .
Don't be tricked by any faker, whether he claims to be holy, "illuminated", or "scientific". There are charlatans who promise--even through the U. S. mails, so stupidly reck less are they--to heal or transform you for large sums of money--some by esoteric "teachings", others by their mere presence or by their invoking some mysterious Power. The Power they claim to invoke is genuine--but it functions only within each of us. It was, is, and probably always will be here, unlimited.The faker who hypnotizes you out of your money is not himself a sane, whole, and happy man--he is usually operating, puppet-like, on some deep, uncleared set of sub conscious image patterns as brutal as those of some stray killer shark." End Quote
Hubbard additionally used his study tech indoctrination which itself includes several forms of hypnosis and trance induction including self hypnosis in using his barriers to study methods. And extensive mind altering drills on his TRs courses. The Scientology trance is intended to be automatic and to activate for the student and the recipient of auditing. As the student becomes an auditor they are intended to have the heavily drilled procedures generate a trance as well. The auditor , patient , course supervisor and other staff and Scientologists are intended to have merely thinking trigger the trance and thoughts, emotions and behaviors Hubbard laid in through his doctrine over hundreds of hours on course and in auditing.
Perhaps no other group ever has used hypnotism based methods as extensively to influence and control its own members. What is often short term and temporary in other groups is meant by Hubbard to be a frequently repeated and habitually retriggered state in Scientology.
I could write several books alone detailing methods of hypnosis in Scientology and the methods of members being conditioned to reenter the trances again and again.
Reflective, critical, evaluative thought, especially that critical of the cult, becomes aversive and avoided. The member will appear as you or I do, and will function well in ordinary tasks, but the cult lectures and procedures tend to gradually induce members to experience anxiety whenever they critically evaluate the cult. Soon they are conditioned to avoid critical thinking, especially about the cult, because doing so becomes associated with pangs of anxiety and guilt. ( page 118 )
This gradual process helps to make conformity to Hubbard's doctrine emotionally feel much more comfortable than disobeying, considering or doubting it. They don't understand the "certainty" Hubbard claims proves knowledge is in reality fool's gold. He persuades victims to hold deep faith, often blind unreasoning fanatical zealotry, which is as persuasive as deeply seated long held personal convictions despite being implanted by another. And asserting one's own judgment or observations against Hubbard's can produce tremendous anxiety, confusion and mental discomfort. Once this level of influence is attained it is usually quite difficult to overcome. But not impossible.
As new members are gradually exposed to the series of classes, events, and/or experiences that will, one step at a time, cut them off from their pasts and the world as they knew it and change them so gradually they won't notice, they are often kept awake for long periods doing their assignments, studying, listening to lectures, meditating, chanting, and so on...Before long,recruits immersed in this new environment are, without realizing it, beginning to think in a new way. ( page 116 )
These methods are used on staff members who may work eighty or more hours per week in addition to spending additional time off post studying and drilling. Many Sea Org members get very little rest, reports of four hours a day of rest or on the RPF shifts of thirty hours on three hours off are sadly common.
Even more guilt is induced as recruits are set up to believe that if they ever leave the group all their ancestors and descendants will be damned or they themselves will die a pitiful death or become losers or lost souls...Through this kind of manipulation, they are convinced that they can be saved only if they stay within the group. ( page 119 )
Again and again through repetition and variation Hubbard creates the lie and illusion of eternal spiritual degradation for all who have lived in the past, live now in the present or will live in the future if Scientology is not entirely submitted to by all of mankind.
He portrays a future of eternal unrelenting existence as a disembodied undying spirit that remains blind, deaf, in endless pain with accompanying amnesia to not even know why this state exists or to be able to even think of any other as the inescapable destiny of all without Scientology as their savior.
In contrast he promises Godhood with dominion over one's own universe, as a supreme being in a realm of equal size to the entire physical universe. This is portrayed as an eternal state of limitless power and knowledge. It is meant to exceed any desire a Scientologist can dream of and evoke absolute loyalty.
They may quit their jobs or go about them in a humdrum, distracted manner, losing all interest in prior careers or life goals. ( page 119 )
After becoming convinced they have found a compelling, worry free route to enlightenment and transcendence it is quite understandable why the mundane matters are beneath their interest. It has actually been intensely focused on Scientology as the entire outside world is simultaneously condemned. This results in emotional flatness regarding other activities. Which the Scientology trance seems to alleviate.
Bible cults and groups that offer eternal life also appeal to older persons. ( page 120 )
This is noteworthy as I have met several middle-aged and elderly Scientologists upon facing their impending mortality have entirely committed themselves and several million dollars to Scientology. Especially if they already sacrificed decades to the cult.
Although different in content, most cults resemble each other in many ways. They are especially similar in their use of powerful social and psychological pressures that include isolating individuals from their pasts, denigrating their current sense of self, and making them give up and forget their former lives in order to stay with the group. ( page 124 )
Hubbard cruelly in his doctrine and auditing focused on condemning the past as shameful, evil and full of pain as he sought to destroy all old loyalties and gain limitless submission from his victims.
In general, cult leaders combine two methods of persuasion:
Inducing predictable physiological responses by subjecting followers to certain planned experiences and exercises, and then interpreting those responses in ways favorable to the leader's interests.
Eliciting certain behavioral and emotional responses by subjecting followers to psychological pressures and manipulations, then exploiting those responses to induce further dependence on the cult. ( page 126 )
The process of positive reinterpretation, sometimes called proof through reframing, is a persuasion technique commonly used by cults. ( page 128 )
In this Scientology excels. Hubbard through redefenitions casts hypnotic phenomena as indicating "barriers to study" in his indoctrination. Signs such as a not there feeling, doping off, and not remembering what one just read actually can indicate trance states. And the confusion, reelingness, exasperation, anxiety and mental blankness Hubbard attributes to these "barriers" are signs of cognitive dissonance, as students constantly encounter contradictions in Hubbard's doctrine. Sometimes merely his statement that certain phenomena always indicate "misunderstood words" and certainty that a student actually understood the materials create this contradiction with accompanying confusion, exasperation, and mental blankness with uncertainty on how to proceed. In this moment of blankness vulnerability to suggestion is extreme and repeatedly taken advantage of and exploited by commands within Hubbard's doctrine that vary in some degree but always have one crucial common factor: they require submission to Hubbard's will. Through repetition this submission is reframed as the only acceptable response - it is "standard tech".
By consciously reframing, or relabeling, the effects, thus confounding individuals' gut-level reactions that something unpleasant has happened, leaders turn a frightening state into a supposedly positive one... ( page 129 )
The anxiety, heightened fear and confusion that accompany cognitive dissonance normally serve as a warning that something is not rightvand warrants reflection and examination using independent and critical thinking but Hubbard has made those triggers to blindly follow his directions. Additionally in auditing oneis taught "the way out is the way through" so as anxiety, fear and other negative emotions increase the auditor and their victim both have these traumatic effects from Scientology reframed as signs Scientology is working !
While in their cults, these persons had been on exhausting work routines, often going for months on three to five hours of rest a night, with occasional days of total collapse into sleep, for which they were berated because it was said to show that they were in " lower conditions, " lazy, or sinful. ( page 134 )
As I said earlier this is a common occurrence for Sea Org members who in truth are enthralled and slaves in mind and body, with many other staff and even public Scientologists serving as slaves as well.
Hypnosis is classed as a psychological rather than a physiological method because it is essentially a form of highly focused mental concentration in which one person allows another to structure the object of the concentration and simultaneously suspends critical judgment and peripheral awareness. When this method is used in a cultic environment, it becomes a form of psychological manipulation and coercion because the cult leader implants suggestions aimed at his own agenda while the person is in a vulnerable state. ( page 151)
Hypnosis is quite different than the stage magician with a swinging watch. That is only a minuscule part of what hypnosis as a subject contains.
A trance is a phenomenon in which our consciousness or awareness is modified. Our awareness seems to split as our active critical-evaluative thinking dims, and we slip from an active into a passive-receptive mode of mental processing. We listen or look without reflection or evaluation. We suspend rational analysis, independent judgment, and conscious decision making about what we are hearing or taking in. We lose the boundaries between what we wish were true and what is factual. Imagination and reality intertwine, and our self and the selves of others seem more like one self. Our mental gears shift into receptivity, leaving active mental processing in neutral. ( page 151)
This is essential to understanding Scientology.
Trancelike states can occur during hypnosis, during complete absorption in reading or hearing stories, and during marked concentration. They are sometimes referred to as altered states of consciousness. While in an altered state, for the most part we experience an absence of our generalized reality orientation (GRO)- that is, we are not actively noticing or aware of our environment and our part in it. ( page 152 )
This is why Hubbard chose methods like guided imagery in auditing and listening to stories in lectures and written materials. With vivid imagery to become absorbed in his victims become much more vulnerable. He never in my opinion intended to help anyone, his methods were always fraudulent and intended to enslave.
In normal waking life, our GRO is our frame of reference, serving as background to our ongoing conscious experiences, our awareness. Our GRO shapes a context within which we interpret what is going on. This frame of reference can fade away under certain circumstances: hypnosis, meditation, guided imagery, drug use, fatigue, and sensory deprivation. When our GRO is weakened, we become both more suggestible to outside influences and more influenced by inner fantasies. ( page 152 )
Many of Hubbard's methods are only seen as successful if they knock out the GRO and produce a deep trance state, under Hubbard's influence.
A number of cults use techniques that put people into an altered state of consciousness, making them more compliant. I am not saying that cult members walk around mesmerized, tranced out, and hypnotized for years on end. ( page 152 )
Scientology epitomizes this . And seeks to return the victims to trance again and again and via language as a trigger to reactivate the trance thousands of times in the future.
The most common procedure used is known as naturalistic trance induction, and many cults have relied on this technique. ( page 152 )
Naturalistic trance induction is also the model for some of the maneuvers used by cult leaders to change the attitudes and behaviors of their followers. ( page 153 )
Sometimes the induction method is speech filled with paradox and discrepancy-that is, the message is not logical and you are unable to follow it, but it is presented as though it were logical. Trying to follow what is being said can actually detach the listener from reality. ( page 155)
Hubbard fully understood confusion via contradiction blinds subservient minds and creates the detachment from reality which opens their minds to influence.
...words commonly lose meaning through banal repetition. ( page 156 )
Repetition of catchphrases and slogans through drilling and extreme repeated uses in doctrine reduce their meaning to virtually nothing other than cult approved sayings and word salad. Clearing the planet comes to mean anything done for the cult. Suppressive comes to mean anything disagreeing with absolute blind unyielding faith in Scientology. An entirely closed system of thought ensues.
Indirect trance induction also grows out of storytelling and other verbal experiences. Cult leaders often speak repetitively, rhythmically, in hard-to-follow ways, and combine with these features the telling of tales and parables that are highly visualizable. They use words to create mental imagery, commonly called guided imagery. ( page 156 )
This is exactly what Volney Mathison warned the world of, but unfortunately was unheeded.
For many persons, entering a trance state is pleasurable. ( page 157 )
The extreme contrast between the worry free euphoria in the Scientology trance and the immense mental discomfort with anxiety, fear, shame and confusion as cognitive dissonance is generated by leaving the trance strongly encourages submission.
Any academic who allows themselves to be manipulated to lend credence to a cult does harm to families all over the world ( page 218 )
It is worth noting that cult apologists hide the truth and take an uneducated and frankly dishonest stance that cults are always pure good and critics pure evil.
One of the most illogical positions taken by the apologists is their claim that only current cult members tell the truth. ( page 219 )
This position is simply absurd. To assume every one of thousands of ex Scientologists is always lying despite any other evidence and that Scientologists loyal to the group are always honest and correct, even when literally thousands upon leaving proclaim they were deceived and exploited while in the cult and lied to benefit the cult is true close minded bigotry.
Many of the large international cults have nearly unlimited financial resources and the power to intimidate publishers, newspapers, television producers, academic researchers, professionals, and any of the public who may speak up about cults. ( page 223 )
Obviously again Scientology with billions of dollars and billions in property and an army of attorneys that have carried out thousands of lawsuits seeks to entirely silence any and all critics.
If cults and their sympathizers block publication of scientific studies about their groups, the histories of their leaders, and fair comment from scholars, the cults become arbiters of what the world hears about them. Without a free press, scientific publications, fair comment, and the ability to express opinions, all of us are at the mercy of cult leaders who would determine what we read, what we say, and what we think. Orwell's 1984 could become a reality. ( page 223 )
This is unfortunately not an exaggeration. The propaganda technique called card stacking is simple. Only present statistics and views favourable to your cause and people won't even know there is another side to consider. And through lies and the silencing of all disagreements Scientology controls the present, and thereby the past and future.
A cult is a mirror of what is inside the cult leader. He has no restraints on him. He can make his fantasies and desires come alive in the world he creates around him. ( page 254 )
This is true time and again in cults and accounts for their differences. The leaders have similarities that make them suitable to lead cults, and differences in their education that limit or expand their options, but also personal desires and likes and dislikes that motivate personal expression. The total control a cult allows lets the leader indulge many desires and whims unchecked by normal social counters.
In Scientology Hubbard indulged his insatiable lust for power and wealth. And unfortunately his ruthless cruelty as well with measures such as fair game, the RPF and many others. Sadly, even tragically the abuses and torture Hubbard subjected victims to merits several lengthy volumes to do his victims justice.
And David Miscavige has his own very significant record of crimes and abuses to be catalogued as well. Differences in their education and personalities show in their choices on how to run the Scientology cult.
The cult leader's idiosyncratic notions permeate the system he puts into operation. There is no feedback. No criticism is allowed. When he finally gets his followers to be sufficiently obedient, he can wield unlimited power and get his followers to carry out whatever acts he directs...the cult leader moves, directs, chastises--even kills--those who disobey. ( page 255 )
Hubbard's bizarre beliefs and wicked fractured mind created an organization that mirrors his malignant narcissism. He indulged his unbridled ambition and sick bloated ego in an attempt to fulfil his dark desires. They are perhaps best revealed in his affirmations, the famous PDC tape 39 on the gamesmaker and the "Skipper" letter in which he confessed of his desire to smash his name into history.
Leaving a cult is for many one of the most difficult things they will ever do. And it's especially difficult to do alone. ( page 276 )
Leaving Scientology is often the most difficult hardship many members endure.
Between 1974 and 1976, three state legislature hearings...produced testimony..."dependence on the group and the thought structure it offers results in gradual changes in the language base in which discourse and thought are carried out. Old, emotion-laden words are given new, rigid, simplified meanings. The new vocabulary is at once literal, magical and task-oriented. Converts's speech patterns demonstrate a lack of humor and an inability to appreciate and use metaphor. Critical thinking and the asking of questions are discouraged; converts are taught to feel rather than think." ( page 278 )
This exactly describes the Scientology vocabulary. Abandoning all Scientology terms is strongly advised for recovery to occur.
Cult indoctrinee syndrome
Sudden, drastic alteration of the individual's value hierarchy, including abandonment of previous academic and career goals. These changes are sudden and catastrophic, rather than the gradual ones that result from maturation or education.
Reduction of cognitive flexibility and adaptability. The cult member substitutes stereotyped cult responses for her or his own.
Narrowing and blunting of affect. Love feelings are repressed. The cult member appears emotionally flatter and less vital than before.
Regression of behavior to childlike levels. The follower becomes dependent on the cult leader and accepts the leader's decisions uncritically.
Physical changes. These changes often include weight loss and deterioration in physical appearance and expression.
Possible pathological symptoms. Such symptoms can include altered states of consciousness. ( page 279 )
I have experienced personally and seen in others all of the above symptoms. They are so commonplace for Scientologists as to be routine.