Scientology Criticism

Information that Scientology does not want you to read

A Short Review of Academic Research into Cults

copyright 1993 by Jeff Jacobsen

        1.  Tension:  A discrepency between how one finds  oneself
     and how one wants to be.
        2.  Type of Problem-solving Perspective: psychiatric,  po-
     litical,  and religious perspectives are available,  but most
     choose the religious.
        3.   Seekership:  Conventional religious institutions seem
     inadequate, so a person sees himself as a religious seeker.
        4.   The  Turning  Point:  One feels himself to  be  at  a
     critical  stage in his life, thus enhancing the feeling  that
     an important step or change is in order.
        5.   Cult Affective Bonds:  A friendship or some  type  of
     bond with a current cult member must be established for  con-
     version  to  take place.   84.7% of the cult members  in  one
     study were first introduced to their cult by a friend or  ac-
     quaintance in a group.
        6.   Extra-Cult Affective Bonds:  affiliation with  people
     who  have  negative opinions of the cult must be weak  or  at
     least weaker than the cult bond.
        7.   Intensive Interaction:  this seperates "verbal"  con-
     verts from "total"  converts.  The interaction with  "verbal"
     converts is generally to get them to become "total"  converts
     through greater interaction with the "total" converts.

     ( from Lofland and Stark (1965) American Sociological  Review


        1. Intellectual: a person studies the organization without
     any participation in the organization.  He is basically a be-
     liever by the time he begins to participate.
        2.  Mystical:  St.  Paul's conversion is the prototype  of
     this.   This conversion comes from a power outside the  indi-
     vidual with little or no social pressure involved.
        3. Experimental: a person participates in the organization
     to see if he likes it or it is what he is looking for.
        4.  Affectional:  a relationship with a cult member is the
     main motivation for this conversion.
        5. Revivalist: a profound experience occurs within an emo-
     tionally aroused crowd sufficient to cause a conversion.
        6.  Coercive: the individual is forced either knowingly or
     not into a conversion.  Seven steps are used:
          a. total control of the person's environment.
          b.  uncertainty- for example, being praised and punished
           for doing the same thing at different times.
          c. isolation from the outside world.
          d. mental and/or physical torture.
          e. physical debilitation and exhaustion.
          f. personal humiliation.
          g. certainty of the individual's guilt.
     (from Lofland-Skonovd (1981 Journal for the Scientific  Study
     of Religion 20(4):373-385)


        The  major point of discussion currently in the  field  of
     cult research is whether a convert has an active role in  his
     conversion, or whether he is influenced from without toward a
     conversion.   But from part II we can see that both are  cor-
     rect-  it  just depends on which TYPE of  conversion  we  are
     talking about.  Mystical, revivalist, affectional,  and coer-
     cive  conversions  all have large degrees of influence  on  a
     mostly  passive  convert,  whereas the intellectual  and  ex-
     perimental conversions are mostly active events performed  by
     the convert himself.


        An important point to keep in mind is that the academician
     gets his information on cults almost exclusively from  inter-
     views with current and former members of cults.   While  this
     is beginning to change today, almost no researcher had direct
     personal experience within a cult.   Second hand  information
     is often open to misinterpretation, and this is quite notice-
     able  in the academic research being done.   For example,  on
     article  sought to find out whether Hare Krishna members  had
     any  psychological harm from involvement with the cult.   Un-
     fortunately,  the sample of members chosen was influenced  by
     the Hare Krishna movement itself,  which greatly weakens  the
     results.  The Hare Krishnas could hide those members who were
     psychologically unstable,  and in fact there is evidence that
     most cults simply kick out people who develop any mental dif-
     ficulties.   So, while the study found no harm to the sample,
     it  does  not prove anything except about  those  few  people
        Researchers, then, must be willing to either become a par-
     ticipant observer or admit that their evidence cannot  confi-
     dently  explain  what  happens inside a cult.   Even  a  par-
     ticipant  observer  has difficulties in that he  most  likely
     will  not  be convincing in trying to  show  his  commitment,
     since  he actually has none.  Using ex-members is also  prob-
     lematic  because  they may try to put a worse  light  on  the
     group than is actually the case.

                     8 METHODS OF THOUGHT REFORM *

        Involves "control of human communication."
       a. controls communication from without- news, who you speak
       b. controls what you think about internally (i.e. rejection
     of doubts,  inducing fear when thoughts of doing "wrong"  oc-

        "He is deprived of the combination of external information
     and  inner reflection which anyone requires to test  the  re-
     alities of his environment and to maintain a measure of iden-
     tity seperate from it.  Instead, he is called upon to make an
     absolute  polarization of the real (the prevailing  ideology)
     and the unreal (everything else)" (p.421).

        Designed to produce "planned spontaneity".   The followers
     create a mystique around the group and its goals- it is  por-
     trayed as an ultimate truth that comes directly from God,  or
     some  such claim.   The group and its goals are seen as  more
     important than anything else.   "any thought or action  which
     questions  the higher purpose is considered to be  stimulated
     by a lower purpose" (p.422).

        The world is sharply divided between the pure and the  im-
     pure.  Pure things are those which conform to or are included
     in group policy.  All impurity must be eliminated.   "the un-
     derlying  assumption is that absolute purity  is  attainable,
     and anything done to anyone in the name of this purity is ul-
     timately  moral"  (p.423).   Of course,  no one can  actually
     acheive  absolute  purity,  so shame and guilt  result.   The
     group is where you gain "forgiveness" from this guilt.  Guilt
     comes  from contact with the impure world,  so one  withdraws
     more and more into the group exclusively.

        Confession is the method used to get rid of impurity.
       a. you must go to the group for cleansing.
       b. you must open your mind to the group to get cleansed.
       c. your mind becomes the property of the group.
       d. confession becomes a skill after a time.
       e. one learns how to keep secrets in order to maintain some
     identity.  but this leads to tension and guilt.

        Group ideals claim absolute scientific precision- there is
     no doubt that its claims are True.  To doubt is to be "unsci-
     entific"  or crazy.  There is no need for a search for truth,
     and in fact such a search is a straying from the Truth and  a
     denial of it (one can see here why there is little regard for

        "The  most far-reaching and complex of human problems  are
     compressed into brief, highly reductive,  definitive-sounding
     phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed" (p.429).
       a.  used  to mark membership in the group-  you  "know  the
       b.  constricts thought by dismissing problems through  cli-
     ches.   For example, "John is a `lukey'"  (meaning a lukewarm
     christian)  answers  all necessary questions about  why  John
     doesn't  pay tithes,  even though he prayed fervently to  God
     about  his terminally ill daughter and believed that God  al-
     lowed him to use all his resources for a hopeful operation.

        Personal  history becomes reworked in light of group  doc-
     trine.   Everyone must fit the doctrinal mode.  If some human
     experience seems to contradict the doctrine an elaborate  ra-
     tionalization will explain the discrepancy and prove that the
     doctrine is right and the experience wrong.  An excellent ex-
     ample of this comes from 1844.   William Miller had convinced
     thousands  that Christ would return on October 22.   The  be-
     lievers  donned white robes and ascended hills to  await  His
     coming.   When Christ did not return,  Miller admitted he was
     in error, apologized, and never preached again.  But Ellen G.
     White,  a Miller follower,   declared that Christ had  indeed
     made a great move- He had gone on that day into the  Heavenly
     library  to begin the judicial inquiry into the fate  of  the
     dead.  From this rationalization sprang the 7th Day Adventist

        Outsiders are somehow not wholely people.   They are miss-
     ing some aspect in their life that the group people have.  So
     there  is hope for outsiders if they will come to the  group,
     unless they have already come and rejected the message.   The
     group decides who is a real person and who is not.

        "Ideological totalism... evokes destructive emotions, pro-
     duces intellectual and psychological constrictions,  and  de-
     prives men of all that is most subtle and imaginative-  under
     tha false promise of eliminating those very imperfections and
     ambivalences  which help to define the human  condition"  (p.

     Robert J. Lifton (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1969).