In getting into Scientology a very specific process of conversion and indoctrination occurs. And certain key experiences and ideas and emotions and behaviours together act as the individual bars of the prison of the mind.
It's like a person enters Scientology with a room. The room has open doorways and the person can come or go at will. Imagine the person puts a bar across one doorway limiting, but not completely stopping movements. Then they add more bars until over much time one doorway is completely blocked enough that the person can't pass through that one with the bars remaining in place. If the person recognized the bars as bars and blocking them they could remove them. They have the ability, but can't use it without understanding. The more they know about how they put the prison together and what holds it together the better they will be at taking it apart. It's like they have better tools and know which ones will work best on which bars.
The bars aren't identical. Their links to each other aren't identical. They are unique to each person.
I will give several examples from my own twenty five year journey into and ultimately out of Scientology. I had several key experiences that made me interested in Scientology and then open to it then convinced it was valid and then convinced that all criticism of it must be invalid, Hubbard's authority and doctrine were infallible and any doubts about it were always wrong.
Hubbard intentionally designed it to operate exactly as it did with me.
I had key experiences that operated as cornerstones of my close minded fanaticism and zealous support.
I met a Scientologist and was initially very antagonistic and skeptical towards Scientology. All I had heard about it was the Scientologists think you are responsible for everything that has happened to you forever, no exceptions.
It seemed to totally lack empathy or compassion. After all victims of horrific crimes including little children surely can't be responsible for the suffering they experience ? So, the first thing that was explained to me was that Scientology has a kind of eternal return to life doctrine that has a billion past lives before now and an unknown but possibly eternal amount of future lives in its belief system.
That's something that in theory could account for present injustice by saying there is a hidden past that can influence it. A person may have made their own choices that somehow led to present circumstances. It has no proof, but that wasn't the point. The idea just opened the door to a hypothetical situation that in a belief system could be internally logical, or so it seems.
That was one thing. I felt I couldn't be fooled. I didn't understand what makes influence or persuasion possible or effective. I thought that influence or hypnosis would not work on a skeptical person or an intelligent person or someone with street smarts.
I thought figuring out if Scientology was a fraud or true would be simple. I had been laying down the first bars across my own prison with those assumptions.
But just a few bars would not make an effective prison. That's part of why people who are in a short time often don't have anywhere near as hard a time getting out of Scientology or as negative an experience. They didn't build a full prison cell. They may have got halfway done and walked out before the bars completely sealed them in. So they didn't even need to remove any bars sometimes.
What does that mean ? Let me proceed with the story and I will get back to it.
So I had become overconfident, saw myself as above influence, saw Scientology basic ideas as possible if not proven then had a profound key experience - I gave over my power of choice regarding Scientology and it being merely possible and separate from me and my beliefs.
I was on staff and doing a course required for Scientology staff. It was either staff status I or staff status II. I was trying to pass a drill on course that requires verbatim instant recitation of all the departments in order on a Scientology organizing board that also includes corresponding awareness characteristics for each department. The org board had over twenty departments. They have an exact sequence that has to of course be known in perfect order.
Normally in Scientology study tech indoctrination it's set up this way on purpose. A student has to learn hundreds of definitions on most courses. Any word in a course can be spot checked.
A supervisor or another student on a checkout can ask for the definition of ANY word in a student's materials. The materials will usually have a course pack with many pages of writing. They often include taped lectures and books too.
It's not unusual for a course to have hundreds and hundreds of pages of materials. In a spot check a student is asked to define a word from their materials as it is used in the materials and will flunk for not giving the correct definition, for not giving it without hesitation or doubt, for giving no definition or for not giving it exactly as it appears in the materials.
Then the student is flunked and told to clear that word fully, then go back to where it first appears in their materials. So a word can be on the first page of a course and the student can be hundreds of pages past that. The word is asked and flunked on. The student must go all the way back and restudy EVERYTHING from that point. And use study technology including word clearing everything they come across again. It can set you back months.
So you get extremely anxious about learning every definition for every word you encounter. And being able to instantly repeat the definition forever.
Now a key thing to understand is that people usually have their own ideas, ideas they consider and ideas they know but are skeptical of.
In Scientology study a student has their own beliefs, and two other distinct sets of information too. They get hundreds and thousands of ideas in Scientology study. They learn definitions and derivations and idioms for thousands of regular English language words. They also learn thousands of definitions for Scientology terms and Scientology phrases and slogans.
Over time a key experience can occur, it certainly did for me. As a shortcut when getting information overload, being overwhelmed with too much information I took a shortcut. A fatal error in reasoning.
I stopped keeping separate the three bodies of information. It all became one. I thought the retention of all the exact ideas in Scientology doctrine and all the phrases were the important part. I thought it would be okay to lump together the new English language I learned and the new Scientology words, phrases and ideas and my own beliefs and ideas all together as one body of equally accepted information.
In attempting to memorize the long list and exact details needed I swept aside any remaining independent judgment and critical thinking regarding Scientology. I treated it like my own beliefs and values.
It was just easier and made focusing on memorization easy. I thought it was a profound experience which proved the validity of Scientology and the technology. I thought I couldn't be fooled because I was too smart, too skeptical.
Really it was a response to stress, the stress of too much information, too fast, with too many categories to easily separate. That made extreme mental discomfort in the form if cognitive dissonance. And a way to reduce or try to reduce and escape cognitive dissonance is cognitive distortions. You change your thinking to escape something - something inconsistent or undesirable in your beliefs, feelings, behaviors or information coming to you from the world around you. I gave up the tremendous anxiety of juggling hundreds and hundreds of ideas and keeping them all apart.
Imagine juggling dozens of balls at once AND simultaneously mentally keeping track of each one to see if it is one you brought, one juggler A tossed to you or one juggler B tossed to you. The balls look similar enough that they can be mistaken for each other - especially when they are moving fast and there are several being juggled at once. But if yiu just juggle them without a care where they came from or who owns them it is much more relaxed.
The moment I stopped keeping track of my beliefs, the English language I learned in clearing regular English and the thousands and thousands of ideas I learned in Scientology indoctrination and word clearing it was a tremendous relief. It felt euphoric to have so much stress gone. And how did the stress leave ? By accepting the authority Hubbard claimed as valid ! So the relief felt like the brightening up Hubbard described for his word clearing ! It's really an abandonment of understanding, but feels like a load is off your mind as it is because you don't think about it anymore. When in doubt you just let Hubbard decide.
Besides I had sat on course and considered the question of if Hubbard could have been lying all along for a con and thought it wouldn't make sense if he just wanted money, as he worked for decades long after he could have taken the money and run. He also convinced thousands and thousands of Scientologists that past lives, engrams, auditing, study technology and a hundred other things were in fact completely true. I couldn't see a conspiracy of this size as holding up. Especially since all the Scientologists I knew were not getting rich or pulling a con. They sincerely believed Scientology was valid. I mistakenly set aside everything I knew about pathological liars and scam artists but felt I couldn't be conned too. That conclusion was another thought resulting in being close minded and another bar in the prison.
I couldn't fathom Scientology being a con or Hubbard being a liar.
I remember thinking the specific thoughts I just described. Those thoughts let my guard down and put up the prison, bar by bar.
Then the prison grew stronger and stronger over decades. I had a series of events happen that filed down a bar here and there. I wasn't knowingly looking for or removing the bars.
I was doing other things that led to letting in enough light for me to finally see some of the bars.
I had been thinking in Scientology terms for many years- over twenty - and got a job that required rapid communication. I realized my translation of everything everyone said into Scientology terms then translating my thoughts into English slowed me down. I didn't realize something was lost in translation. A lot is lost really as the terms in Scientology frame everything in Scientology concepts without clearly openly affirming it. It's unconscious and unexamined. You think in Scientology so you believe in Scientology and bolster it by merely thinking.
So I started thinking in English to speed my interactions at work. I thought, after all, if I knew French and Spanish thinking in Spanish wouldn't change who I am.
So I started thinking in English all the time and that eased up the tight constriction of thought my mind was subject to. That's like taking off a straight jacket and ankle irons.
Previously I had felt being able to think in Scientology terms and fluently use them was very important. I countered that idea with the one on translation and undid that one idea myself. I made it, held it in place and years later countered it.
Over time I was opened up to other counter ideas to the ones that closed my mind and welded it shut.
I saw a TV show called Heroes. On the show people have superpowers. In one episode a hero had his mind trapped in the mind of a villain. The two had a little shared world of imagination in one mind together. They experienced years together.
The villain convinced the hero he had changed his ways and was genuinely remorseful for his many crimes.
I realized given enough access and opportunity a person could be influenced by another even if they didn't want to be through sheer repetition alone. Someone could get in a tiny bit through a crack in your defenses over time then a bit more. It could influence you to some degree then more.
That thought about a fictional and impossible situation made me feel different. It made a feeling of panic come over me but I didn't know why. Only years later did I realize it countered a cognitive distortion I had during Scientology indoctrination.
I was still too deep into the Scientology mindset to consciously face the danger it exposed in Scientology. I knew it made me uneasy about something real though.
With the combination of lessened reinforcement of Scientology through my thinking in English terms and being far away from other Scientologists and my realization that extreme repetition over time could create profound influence even on a mind in opposition to it and my realization that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own decisions and should be taught that. Assuming free will exists - we all have teachers and leaders but should face and hold the final responsibility for our decisions and actions. That idea came to me and I felt an odd shift.
I had been thinking of the political arguments people have and how some justify choices by assigning responsibility to a religion or God or religious doctrine. It was simple to me that if you see yourself as the source of your conduct then religion can be left out.
I realized slightly that it was a change in my mind regarding Scientology. I realized Hubbard and Scientology weren't the final source of my actions and choices.
I soon after that had odd feelings, they led to doubts about how I led my life, but I still dared not face Scientology itself. I ended up reading neutral then finally critical information on Scientology.
The Posse of Lunatics story at Freedom really blew things open.
I realized recently that the bars are made of assumptions and conclusions that limit or end facing the possibility I could be fooled or influenced in particular ways or my euphoric feeling in Scientology indoctrination could be something that isn't beneficial or exactly what Hubbard claimed or other specific thoughts and ideas that I had adopted.
The thoughts functioned as logical fallacies or thought stopping cliches that stopped critical and independent thinking regarding Scientology being false or Hubbard being undeserving of blind faith and obedient unquestioning obedience. They together made nearly unshakable confidence and confirmation bias regarding my ideas on Scientology.
I feel when they were well established as deeply held values it made overcoming them extremely difficult.
I feel like the long held confidence boosting ideas almost had to be countered in the sequence they actually were. It's almost like one became vulnerable to being doubted or countered by another idea and that in turn made the next in line vulnerable to doubts and so on.
The ideas that built the prison had the common denominator of boosting overconfidence and prejudices that supported shutting out criticism. The ideas that undid this were all admissions if only ever so slight that my opinion could be wrong, even slightly. By countering first the constant reinforcement of Scientology terms and phrases then I could realize influence was possible then I could see a person is responsible for their own actions then see that the idea to assume my choice to be a Scientologist could be in error. That ultimately meant Scientology and Hubbard could be wrong too. The ideas that opened my mind to the possibility Scientology could be less than perfect were all counters to specific ideas that closed my mind.
I hope this is of some use in examination of how people get in and out of cults.