Scientologists keep insisting, “Scientology is not a cult!” OK then, if that is so, then removing all the cult characteristics from Scientology should be quite simple and certainly very desirable. After all, if you believe Scientology is not a cult, then you, of all people, would want to remove all possible doubt by eradicating as many cult characteristics as you can.
Of course, this couldn’t be done by the Church of Scientology. David Miscavige has pushed the church too far into the cult thing to change now, but one would think that the outside Scientologists would want to avoid any and all aspects of cult behavior.
Unless, of course, you think that these cult attributes of Scientology are vital to its basic functionality. Do you?
No? Good. Let’s look at how that could be done.
Most cult experts refer to Robert Lifton’s eight criteria as basic indicators of cult behavior. (Robert Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of Brainwashing in China).
Lifton details the following eight characteristics that typify a destructive group environment:
- Dictating with whom members can communicate
Boy, Scientology really does this one! You’ve got disconnection, “enemies” lists, suppressive declares, “lower conditions”, “sources of entheta” and many other ways to interfere with and control Scientologists’ communication. And, yes, this attitude is very much alive in Scientology outside of the church.
Scientology says this kind of super-control is “for your own good“. Oh, really? In no other endeavor is less information considered good. The bottom line is that the ostensible leaders of Scientology benefit from this kind of control, not the members. They don’t trust people to get all the information and make up their own minds. No, they say, you must be “protected” from other viewpoints and other ideas.
No legitimate philosophy, belief or religion requires this kind of super-control.
Get rid of it all: Disconnection, “enemies” lists, suppressive declares, “sources of entheta” and all other methods of restricting and controlling communication. Scientology is supposed to be all about “communication”, so remove all the artificial and cult-like barriers to communication.
- Convincing members they are a chosen people with a higher purpose.
The Scientology version of this is: Scientologists are Homo Novis, more advanced, superior beings who are the “only ones” who can save the universe from the “dwindling spiral”. Part of the Scientology doctrine is that “Scientologists are better, more ethical, more causative and more intelligent. They are the top 1% of the top 1%.”
While this may make Scientologists feel puffed up with self-importance, the real reason for this message is that it makes it easier for the leaders to keep asking for more commitment, more money and more effort from their followers without having to explain why or account for any funds. Scientology’s professed leaders can suppress any questions or dissent because of this “higher purpose”.
In the real world such statements of superiority are seen, quite correctly, as vain and self-serving. In the real world, the status of being better can only be bestowed by others in acknowledgement of a person’s or group’s good work or high quality results or products.
You’d best shut up about how “superior” Scientologists are. That’s obvious cult-talk, guys. It would be an excellent improvement to Scientology’s dogma if that disappeared.
- Creating an us-versus-them mentality, whereby everything in the group is right and everything outside is wrong.
This attitude is embodied in the Great Anti-Scientology Conspiracy created by L. Ron Hubbard. Such a “conspiracy” doesn’t exist. You are not surrounded and opposed by the “Enemy”. You are not engaged in a “Great Battle”. If you keep thinking like that, you will fail — as Scientology has for so long. This “conspiracy” exists only to isolate Scientologists from the real world. It’s a cult thing.
Already I see “Independent Scientology” moving in the direction of more and more us-versus-them, more and more isolation and more and more fear of contact with difficult questions, disagreements and other ideas.
You will never be accepted by society at large if you keep looking at society and non-Scientologists as either the enemy or as too stupid or evil to “see the ‘truth’ of Scientology.” If you stop fighting your imaginary “enemies”, you might just find the world is filled with some very good people doing very good things.
Drop the us-versus-them rhetoric and belief — it really screams “cult!”
- Encouraging members to share their innermost secrets and then purge whatever hinders their merging with the group.
In Scientology, whether on course or in session, any Scientologist who “disagrees with Hubbard”, “questions Hubbard”, “has doubts” or “thinks there is a better way” must be, and is, handled until they give up any disagreements, questions, doubts and such. Woe betide the student who says, “That doesn’t match my experience!”
If the disagreement persists, Scientology’s automatic accusation is that it is the Scientologist’s “out ethics” (meaning evil acts) that is causing the disagreement. The Scientologist is required to confess all their transgressions to the “Ethics Officer” or auditor until they abandon their doubts and disagreements and fully agree with Hubbard’s words.
The purpose of this is to punish disagreement and doubt. According to Scientology, the “source” of the disagreement is never Scientology, it is the person’s evil intentions. The purpose of this bit of cult indoctrination is control, not enlightenment.
Why would any legitimate philosophy, belief or religion require such suppression and punishment for disagreement? This has got to go.
- Convincing members that their philosophical belief system is “the absolute truth”.
While early Hubbard was known to have admitted his mistakes and the imperfections of Scientology, his later pronouncements have led true believers to assign Scientology technology a status of absolute perfection. They now believe that every single piece of Scientology is perfect, “works 100% of the time” and solves every single problem known to man.
And the many, many times Scientology has failed? Well Scientology has a built-in excuse for that: “It was misapplied!”
This cult attribute allows Scientology to continue to fail, when it does, while continuing to claim “absolute perfection”. Followers must continue to believe in Scientology’s “perfection” or admit to the crime of “misapplying Scientology”. It’s a control thing, not an honesty thing.
The Scientology belief system is not perfect. There are significant flaws. All you have to do is take an honest, unbiased look. Honestly review your own experiences and the results of Scientologists in general.
Be honest, admit the failures of Scientology so that any successes might stand a chance of being believed. Any truth in Scientology, any good results from Scientology, will be proven in the real world, not in rhetoric.
- Creating an “in” language of buzzwords and group speak which becomes a substitute for critical thinking.
You may have noticed that, from the cult attributes list so far, one of the overreaching themes of cults is isolation. Scientology’s insistence on its own very unique terminology, and its insistence that these strange terms have nothing to do with concepts from other philosophies and religions, works very well to isolate Scientologists’ thinking and concepts.
This is not for the benefit of members of Scientology. In truth, Scientology’s terminology does have parallels to concepts from other philosophies and religions. A minor amount of thought and study proves this to be true. The more Scientology allows parallels to be drawn and the less Scientology insists on only using its very unique terminology, the better Scientologists will get along with the rest of the world and the better Scientologists will understand universal spiritual concepts.
Scientology must change to take advantage of all the richness there is in the world. Get rid of this cult isolation technique.
- Reinterpreting human experience and emotion in terms of the group’s doctrine.
Scientology does this in how it describes the mind. Scientology’s “Reactive Mind” is, they say, the cause of all sickness, upset, problems and failures. Further, all difficulties that a person might have, every single one, has its cause in something Hubbard has described and is solved by something Scientology sells.
If a Scientologist feels good or succeeds at something, it is only “because of Scientology”. If a Scientologist feels bad or fails, it is only because they “misapplied or failed to apply Scientology”.
Nothing in this universe exists in isolation. To believe, as Scientologists now do, that all good things are due exclusively to Scientology, is ludicrous and very, very cult-like. Likewise, to believe that all bad emotions or failures are due only to a “failure to apply Scientology” is preposterous, extremely simplistic and, again, a cult thing.
What must be ignored by all Scientologists is that many in world outside of Scientology are happy and living quite well without Scientology. Quite a few are even doing much better than your average Scientologist.
To take all the complexities of life, all the factors, all the conditions and to reduce it down to just one cause and only one solution is neither logical nor sane. Cults are like that. Get rid of this cult attribute.
- Reinforcing the idea that life within the group is good and worthy, and life outside evil and pointless.
Scientology teaches that the only good being done in the world is being done by Scientology. Scientology teaches that the only worthwhile activities and goals are Scientology’s activities and goals. Scientology teaches that all other solutions in the world are worthless and pointless because Scientology has the solutions to everything.
Scientology teaches that life within Scientology is full of happiness and success, but life outside of Scientology is doomed to failure.
As with most of these attributes of a cult, this is designed to isolate members from the rest of the world. If the rest of the world is grey, pointless and doomed, why have anything to do with it?
Since the rest of the world is not grey, pointless or doomed, and is, in fact, filled with many good people doing many good things, the only purpose of this cult attribute is to further isolate the Scientologist to make them easier to control.
Get rid of this bit of indoctrination, it doesn’t benefit Scientologists, only their purported leaders.
Dear Scientologist, if you are like I was when I was first looking beyond Scientology, you will be shocked and alarmed by the fact that Scientology exhibits all the attributes of a cult. This cannot be acceptable to you.
This subject is very important to any Scientologist who wants Scientology to go forward into society. Cults cannot do that. You may insist that Scientology is not a cult, but unless you remove all the cult attributes from Scientology, it really doesn’t matter what you believe. In the real world, if it talks like a cult, acts like a cult and controls its members like a cult — it is a cult.
Can you remove the “cult” from Scientology? In truth, I’m betting Scientologists won’t even try, especially those who aspire to leadership in the “new” Scientology.
The benefits of Scientology retaining all its cult characteristics are to the leaders of the cult, not to its members. When the supposed leaders of “new” Scientology vehemently support the retention of all these cult attributes, be aware of why they do so.
Congratulations on another excellent post, Bill. You've been at it long before the other prominent bloggers came on the scene and I appreciate your continued efforts to make sense of the insane cult of Scientology.
It was a cult the minute Hubbard declared Scientology to be a religion. I don't know if it is even possible to restructure the tech in such a way so it can't be used to control people….possibly new leadership could change the crazy authoritarianism in the "religion", but then they would have to be outsiders because the poison that is Miscavage has run too deep. The Freezone replicates the mentality of the Co$ because it's the only form of Scientology it knows, so the Church's paranoia becomes the Freezone's. In the end it would be better for most Scientologists or ex-Scientologists to walk away completely from Ron and his tech, even though that might be the hardest thing they can do with their lives.
WOW, Bill! Your posting on Cult Characteristics is incredible. After I had been in Scientology and Dianetics for over 55 years I read a similar article showing the characteristics of a cult. I looked at every cult characteristic and the only rational conclusion was that every single point, and there were about 16 in this article, applied to Scientolgy. I decided I could not be a party to this kind of deception.This was the very beginning of my break with the C of $. Thank you for your accurate examples of how the Church embodies each characteristic. Great job, Bill. The Old Geezer
Excellent summary Bill, once again you've nailed it!There is one more fatal flaw to cults and that is the there is no one in a cult who would say they are.Once in the factors that you've delineated blind a convert to an obvious fact.
Seems that practically everyone makes the same mistake when calling Scientology a cult. Below is the "admin why" and a more correct statement. When broadly grasped, this then will open the door for the necessary hand-ling's."The Sea Organization: The current senior management group of the "church" lead by David Miscavige, is a rogue cult within Scientology. In every sense of the word and by any definition this group is a CULT. Public Scientologists and Staff Members not in the Sea Organization, are sort of "collateral damage" victims of the activities of this toxic cult group within Scientology and therefore exhibit cult symptoms even though they would argue vociferously to deny such." Vertley From the "The "WHY" For Scientology" article/project.
This is SO well written. Very thought provoking. Thank you.
@VertleyUmmm. That's nice, but did you even read what I wrote?It seems that practically every outside Scientologist makes the same mistake when defending Scientology. "It's all Miscavige, it's only Miscavige!"Did you read the eight characteristics that typify a cult? These are not isolated to only the Sea Org, they are practiced throughout Scientology, inside and outside the church. These were not created by Miscavige but are part of standard policies and practices of Scientology itself.I didn't make the criteria up and Lifton wasn't talking about Scientology — he was talking about the common criteria of all cults.If the shoe fits, proclaim loudly that it's not your foot.Before getting out your old, inapplicable "Scientology is not a cult" excuses and justifications, why don't you take an honest look at what actually is there.And then do something about it instead of justifying it.
@VertleyLet me expand a bit more on my previous response. I get very annoyed by this "It's all and only David Miscavige" justification and bogus "Why" that so many Scientologists assert.To put it bluntly, it's a position of total no-responsibility."He did it all! We had nothing to do with it!"Technically, that's correct — Scientologists did nothing.Who let him do it? Who saw what he was doing and applauded. Who followed him willingly? Who saw "something wrong" and didn't stop him. Who failed to stand up to him and tell him "no"? Who felt things were wrong but cowardly looked away or, worse, went along with it?The answer is Scientologists — they "had nothing to do with it" and so they in their cowardly no-responsibility let it all happen.And now you trot out your little wrong Why as another justification on why it "isn't your fault" that you all let it happen and even applauded.What was it that stopped Scientologists from being honest, courageous and decent?Try again. David Miscavige is a symptom of what is wrong in Scientology, not the cause of it.Your wrong Why guarantees that you will not be able to fix it.
Bill, my commendations to you. Your insight and reasoning are so sound it's almost hard to believe you were once a Scientologist.
There's none so blind as those who will not see. I've noticed the same thing about "The Independent Scene", they are turning into a cult and they can't see it. Every single cult characteristics was developed by Hubbard, and since they continue to worship the fat fraud, nothing will ever change. This post nails it once again, Just Bill at his finest. It should be a real eye-opener for lurking members, but when I read posts from people outside the control of the cult (like Vertley) and their "enormous confront" I have me doubts…but you should still keep'em coming, Bill, they're really inforamtive for everyone, especially non-Scientologists like me.
Some people WANT to worship a fraud and if they can't worship one they will run around until they find another. Attribute this to the plain fact that they refuse to look at their childhoods and see when and where they first decided NOT to be themselves, but to be someone acceptable to one or the other parent or both.Devotion to Scientology is pathology. Period.
Re: "Devotion to Scientology is pathology. Period."That's a theory. While you may be right about some people, it bothers me when someone states a vague, unproven theory as if it were proven fact. Inevitably they end it with "… Period".I had enough of that kind of hyperbole from Scientology.
Well, gravity is a fact. Period. I think sometimes we shy away from absolute statements too much in an effort to differentiate ourselves from the bullies. My statement was not made to bully others, but was my conclusion based in experience of Scientologists over 45 years of observation and interaction, some of it very intimate and some of it on broad levels. Just Bill, can you really come up with the case of a person who while devoted to Scientology was in his or her "right mind"? Pathology has terrible connotations, I know, but its basic meaning is just 'sickness or dysfunction.' Perhaps it sounds hyperbolic as I used it.
I certainly could agree that some Scientologists' devotion to Scientology could be pathologic but, as an absolute statement of fact, it's a bit ridiculous. One would have to have done extensive medical tests on a decent-sized, representative group of Scientologists and compared that to a control group of other believers and non-believers.And no one has ever done that.You expressed an opinion as if it were fact and I merely wanted to point out it was an unproven opinion.Given that I was and Scientologist, and have known thousands of Scientologists, I have a completely different idea of how and why people get entrapped in that belief system, which I have elaborated on quite a number of times here. Pathology does not play, in my personal opinion, a significant role.We can disagree on this point.
@ StrelnikovYou said "It was a cult the minute Hubbard declared Scientology to be a religion."I think it goes back further than that. It was in DMSMH when Hubbard declared War against the Reactive Mind, and then went on to recruit soldiers. The battle became "Homo Novis" against Homo Sapien. You can't get the War out of Dianetics OR Scientology any way you put it.Thanks Just Bill for another great article. I'm catching up on a lot of what I haven't read here. Great stuff and spot on.
Bill, you are by far the best blogger I've read. Absolutely spot on and you nail hubbard the con and his successor perfectly. Scientology is a trap and thank you for exposing it in such a sane and intelligent way. I love you for what you have done for myself and others.
@Roz CohnThank you!
Just Bill, thank you for your insightful blogs. I have stumbled upon this site while trying to research the social behaviors of scientologists around non-scientologists and I am amazed at how few google hits on the subject there are. I apologise for this being off subject, I cannot find a link to ask you a question so perhaps you could begin a new thread to help me. I attended a wedding on the weekend with my husband. The groom was a former workmate of my husband's. We encountered unusual behaviour from all the guests at the wedding apart from the groom, his parents and other workmates of my husband. I find it hard to explain other than to say that we felt ostracized and, weirdly, purposely made to feel self-conscious. The words came after great thought and pause, and it was impossible to enter into conversation beyond our introductions. It occurred to us that this was exactly like the feeling we got when we dined in a Scientology-run business in another state of Australia. I am interested to know what social behaviours are common amongst Scientologists when they are with non-Scientologists, and if there are specific guidelines they follow? Thank you, I hope you can help.
Hi. I hope I can help as well.Just so you know, I have two ways for people to ask me questions. Over on the left panel, there is "Ask a Question – Make a Suggestion" which always has a link to my most recent Ask a Question thread. For asking me questions privately, there is "Other Sections" in the left panel which contains a link to Contact me.But here is also perfectly fine.I can't say whether the people at the wedding were Scientologists but I can guess that most were involved in a cult. When you say "The words came after great thought and pause, and it was impossible to enter into conversation beyond our introductions" that nails it exactly.The reason the words come after a delay is because the cult member has to translate between cult thoughts and words into "real world" words and concepts — and it is difficult for them. They have been conditioned to think only in cult concepts and words and that these concepts are "superior" and "unique" with no real world analogues.You ask what seems to you to be a simple question and they have to translate that into cult-speak. Then they process what you asked in cult-concepts and formulate a response. Then they have to filter it all very carefully to translate all the cult words back into English — and to ensure they don't disclose any cult secrets. That is why it takes so long to respond to simple questions.They can't help it, it is part of the cult indoctrination. It is part of the cult isolation. The cult members must reject contact with "outsiders" to keep their environment "pure". It's just a cult thing. I can assure you that they were feeling quite uncomfortable around you.I hope this gives you some insight as to what happened, but feel free to ask follow-up questions or any questions. I'm always glad to help if I can.Bill
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