In many posts in the year and a half since I left the Scientology cult after twenty five years in I have explored in entries at this blog- hypnosis (Insidious Enslavement: Study Technology, Basic Introduction to Hypnosis in Scientology, The Secret of Scientology part 1 Control via Contradiction, Burning Down Hell - How commands are hidden , varied and repeated in Scientology to control you as hypnotic implants), the language Hubbard used to influence Scientologists (Propaganda by Reversal of Meaning in Scientology) and Hubbard's twisted mind as the foundation of Scientology even down to the current ideal org program
(Scientology's parallel in nature - malignant narcissism).
In exploring the subject of social psychology I read the books True Believer by Eric Hoffer, Social Psychology for Dummies, Age of Propaganda (Pulling Back The Curtain part 1-7), and Robert Cialdini's Influence.
But I knew eventually I would have to read certain books to seriously research aspects of Scientology. A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger is one of those books. In social psychology you can't run with the big dogs without reading this book.
In social psychology the idea of cognitive dissonance is perhaps the most researched and influential idea in the entire field. It might honestly be a hypothesis that needs greater scientific research, but is well worth examining in my opinion.
So now I am reading that book and writing this very post and series of posts on that. I will quote from the book and try to interpret my experience through that information to see if it makes the Scientology experience more understandable.
I will start with some quotes from chapter one An Introduction to the Theory of Dissonance.
First I will replace the word"inconsistency" with a term which has less of a logical connotation, namely, dissonance. I will likewise replace the word "consistency" with a more neutral term, namely, consonance. (Page 2)
The basic hypothesis I wish to state are as follows:
1. The existence of dissonance, being psychologically uncomfortable, will motivate the person to try to reduce the dissonance and achieve consonance.
2. When dissonance is present, in addition to trying to reduce it, the person will likely avoid situations and information which would likely increase the dissonance. (Page 3)
Festinger here explained that he considered inconsistencies ( dissonance ) in beliefs, behaviors or knowledge within a person to be a motivating factor in its own right.
He uses the term cognition to mean any knowledge, opinion, or belief about the environment, about oneself or one's behavior. The fact that Hubbard used the term is interesting and worth comparing to see if he stole it from Festinger or psychology in my opinion.
Festinger goes on to describe dissonance as being caused by experiencing new events or gaining new information that creates a particular phenomena.
He describes "dissonance" and "consonance" as being relations between pairs of "elements". His use of elements means just pieces of information or knowledge. He describes elements as irrelevant to each other if they don't affect each other. Like if you like ice cream and think Scooby Doo is cool. Neither supports or contradicts the other.
Now based on other ideas two ideas can be or become relevant. If you had the two irrelevant ideas I just listed and then discovered Scooby Doo fans aren't supposed to like ice cream, that could become a dissonance.
Relevant elements can support or contradict each other. If they are inconsistent or contradictory, or culture or group standards dictate they don't fit then dissonance occurs.
This is particularly relevant considering Scientology's value that Hubbard is both always to be taken literally and he is considered to be always correct. Any disagreement with that, no matter how slight, is seen as wrong, always wrapped in Scientology.
There is a quote that is very notable for its striking similarity to Hubbard's own choice of words.
The reality which impinges on a person will exert pressures in the direction of bringing the appropriate cognitive elements into correspondence with that reality. (Page 11)
Hubbard used "impinge" and "reality" in his methods and may have borrowed ideas from this book in forming his own regarding ARC.
Hubbard may have plagiarized ideas from this very book or earlier studies or papers on cognitive dissonance and altered them significantly to fit his intentions. The terms and some ideas are so similar it seems like it cannot be a coincidence. I now think he discouraged people going to psychs not because they were competition but instead because he plagiarized and warped their ideas. He didn't want his con exposed.
I am going to use a series of excerpts to show how dissonance can be created.
1. Dissonance could arise from logical inconsistency...because of cultural mores...because one specific opinion is sometimes included, by definition, in a more general opinion...because of past experience. (Page 14)
All these ideas bear extensive examination in Scientology.
Obviously in Hubbard's doctrine logical inconsistency occurs, he defined terms at different times with contradictory definitions and contradicted his own methods numerous times. His cultural mores strongly contradict mainstream society quite often, particularly for staff and Sea Org members. Certainly the GO and OSA criminal wings qualify.
He included opinions in other statements constantly. He used phrases repetitively which within them have his terms. Those terms contain and link numerous ideas which can contradict mainstream beliefs and accepted science. They also contradict observable evidence quite often.
This particular reoccurring phenomena leads to increasing separation from mainstream beliefs. He intentionally did this to combine the habit of thinking in his ideas via the terms without critical examination and to by repetition have this thinking become conditioned to be habitual and routine. Then through his phrases only agreeing with his statements is left to his victims, with the simulation of free will and choice being provided by having many of his doctrine to "choose" from. But no matter which a victim chooses all demand obedience to Hubbard's unquestionable authority.
And past experience comes up as experiences from outside the cult environment often contradict the cult ideology while direct observations contradict cult doctrine. Opportunities abound for dissonance.
But quite relevant is another idea:
Remember also that two cognitive elements may be dissonant for a person living in one culture and not for a person living in another, or for a person with one set of experiences and not for a person with another. (Page 15)
That in plain English means two ideas, behaviors, opinions or beliefs can be in contradiction for a person in one group or having a set of life experiences but not for a different person.
That is crucial to examining Scientology. In Scientology a relationship with Hubbard wherein his authority and wisdom is seen as far superior to all other ideas is a core belief. It is quite similar to the mindset of a young child who unconditionally trusts their parents and knows that even if they don't understand what their parents reasons are for doing or asking for something, the important thing is to obey. Certainly the image of a confused little child endlessly asking "why" and being pleaded with to just listen comes to mind. The child is encouraged to brush aside confusion and dissonance and just obey authority. That is exactly the state of mind Hubbard desired.