Saturday, July 25, 2009

Diary of a Scientologist

Diary Of A Scientologist

Lawrence Toomajan kindly sent me this link - a summary of his understanding on Scientology and of his experience within the group.

What follows is only my opinion after a first look, because I did not read all the site in details.

At first sight, it looks quite impressive. I like the presentation, very clear, illustrated, and running in sequence, making the whole site to read like a book. The content is detailed, yet accessible to a large public. I found the detailed summary of the upper levels particularly interesting, fascinating in fact. The site does make some effort to try to focus on facts and to present what Scientology is in a relatively objective manner.

For a while I thought that this may be a presentation I could recommend. Spot-reading certain key points, however, tempered my enthusiasm, as Lawrence's personal outlook taints the facts too much. It is still very interesting and easy to read, but, at the end, the presentation is just far more negative than, in my opinion, it deserves, so critical reading through the whole work is a necessity.

Let me take some of the key points that bothered me.

The Rehabilitation Project Force

Again, this is a series of factual information, apart for the Erlich anecdotal evidence, and the fact that people are allowed to get 2 1/2 study and training time is properly reported.

However, the whole thing is written in such a way as to give people the impression the RPF is a prison (it says that much even) to which they are put in by force and from which they can only escape by force as well. Lawrence could say that he properly reported that "a Sea Org member accepts this fate instead of being expelled from Scientology", pointing to the fact that time in the RPF is not against the person's will, but this statement is drowned in the whole that gives an impression that contradicts it, including the highly suspicious statement of Erlich that he was "locked in a cage next to a woman that was chained to a wall for several days". Such a statement, correctly reported as the testimony of Erlich rather than as a fact, is not there by chance and only serves to give people a dreadful impression of the RPF that, IMO, is way off-base.

Now obviously the RPF is not the Club Med. I am not saying that it is a pleasant place to be and that, in such a context, abuses may not or did not occur, but it just does not correspond to the impression given in these three paragraphs. I can only encourage people to compare these with the pages I webbed at, to get a more fair idea. You can't, of course, go into much details in just three paragraphs, but I personally think that such a sensible point should not be treated in such a unilateral way and with such a negative slant. As for me, it rang an alarm bell, that lead me to take a more critical look on the whole site-book. Surely, the negative aspects of the RPF could be emphasised while also taking care not to over-do it.

Reading further

I don't think, however, that Lawrence could restrain his overall negative view of Scientology through his writing, even though he may try to focus on facts and be relatively objective, because that's just how he personally seems to genuinely feel. This transpires in so many aspects, too numerous to pick, and sometimes also does distort facts.

For example, Lawrence writes that Lisa McPherson "died of a stroke brought on by dehydration". This is very far from having been established. Quite on the contrary, arguments and facts prepared by the CoS for the then upcoming criminal case, showed that Lisa died as a result of a blood clot dating back to the road accident she was victim. This lead the prosecutor to drop the case, feeling that their argument of her having died from dehydration just could not be sustained in court. See my Lisa McPherson page. The least you could say is that it is a controversial matter and certainly not a clear-cut case. Lawrence, however, present it as such, ignoring all the elements that makes such a straight-out statement doubtful, to say the least.

All in All

I still plan to read some day Lawrence's page in details, because it does look interesting, but, although I personally know enough about various aspects of the Scientology controversy to read through the lines and part facts from fictions, I am afraid it is not the case for the lay person, and I urge the reader the be very cautious when it comes to aspects that may seem too far-fetched to be true. It usually is. Far-fetched, that is.

The Between Lives Area

I read with some interest these two paragraphs, because I often sought to make for myself an idea of what is the exact belief of Scientology on this question.

Again, while an interesting read, I just wonder where did Lawrence get his information. It would be interesting to get a link to the various references used, but this is, at this stage at least, impossible, simply because there are no such links. I do recognize bits and pieces of what I read myself (implant stations, order to forget, etc) but never read anything that depicts it in such a clear-cut way.

Again, based on what I read on the site about subjects where at least I do have some knowledge, I suspect that such a summary may be an over-simplified and somewhat biased depiction of Scientology beliefs on that matter. It may be correct, though, but certainly we would need the exact references to check it out.

Now that Lawrence laid out his own basic belief/understanding of Scientology, he could spend time injecting links and references, and possibly review some of his more drastic statements.

An easy and potentially interesting read nevertheless.


Anonymous said...

Odd you chose the RPF description to disagree with.
The comments under Anonymous: "It is almost always Scientologists that erupt into violence at the location of an Anonymous rally." surely speak to this issue. If public Scientologists are unable to restrain their violence against non violent protesters, why *wouldn't* the RPF be as Erlich describes?
I agree your experience was different, but maybe you were just lucky?

Bernie said...

As I said, for lack of being able to read the whole thing in details, I just picked out a couple of key points to compare.

It annoys me a bit to be somewhat negative on a request for review and on a work about which I can also find many positive qualities but OTOH I believe I have a duty to be honest in my opinion. This should not make us lose sight of the positive aspects of that work. I hope that eventually open discussion can make a good work even better over time.

Bernie said...

About the "you just being lucky" argument.

I understand that it is difficult for an outsider to make for himself an idea of what exactly goes on within a group, so we have to rely on other people testimonies.

I shared what I knew on my web page. My website often comes up with alternative information that enable people to have "another look" at various issues.

Hopefully, putting all things together, we can make for ourselves a fairly accurate idea.

In that context, I do not think at all that Erlich's statement is representative of what the RPF is in general.

But yes, this is my opinion and I offer it just as such.

I also think that on sensitive subjects, we ought to be cautious on the way we present things. Naturally, these are the ones we, as critics, will push and maybe unconsciously exaggerate in an attempt to make our point. I just think that doing that we lose credibility and that we weaken our arguments towards the real negative aspects that deserve to be criticized.

Lawrence said...

Thank you Anonymous that is what I am thinking as I write about a group like the RPF.

And, Bernie has said "time will tell".

I am sure he will read the whole thing.

Lawrence said...

And, so the both of you know, I got an E-Mail from Paulette Cooper today, glad that I was still publishing the specific parts of her story on the web.

That was nice. A true heroin.