Asymmetric Activism 3: Occultism Drove Scientology to Be An Asymmetric Totalitarian Target

In this post, I’ll further examine how Scientology morphed from a radical, insurgent mindset, to one of totalitarian monolith, ironically becoming the target of asymmetric tactics, rather than a practitioner. It starts with Hubbard’s embrace of the occult in pursuit of methods of control over an individual or situation. However, the natural progression never stops at one; it invariably leads to an obsession with subjugation and power over an ever-increasing group, rather than simply individuals. Motivation is key in determining the intent of a foe, more so if there’s asymmetry or incoherence in their strategy, especially if their motivations appear highly ideological-based. While financial gain and ideological dominance were part of Hubbard’s motivations, occultism was a founding ethos in Scientology, indeed a vital pillar underpinning Scientology’s abhorrent world view.

In my previous installment, I looked at how the Guardian’s Office (GO) morphed from an insurgent, proto-asymmetrical mindset to one of monolithic, highly-reactive malevolence. But as long-time Scientology watchers know, malevolence was not exclusive to the GO, nor to its more current iteration, the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). Indeed, malevolence is systemic in all facets of Scientology, given its highly retributive-based, punishment-driven amoral operating philosophy. More so, this is not in organizational terms, an organically-evolved phenomenon; it is a direct reflection of the mentality of founder L. Ron Hubbard, who deliberately incorporated methods and processes that arguably ensured malevolence was a founding principle of his “religion.”

Parsons’ and Hubbard’s dalliances with the occult are well known to Scientology historians, primarily as acolytes to English mystic and neo-pagan Aleister Crowley’s Thelema religion. Much of Crowley’s Thelema religious beliefs were perverted by these two, to the point where in a letter to another follower, Crowley essentially disavowed and damned the efforts of Hubbard and Parsons’ in attempting to create a “moon child,” during a series of occult-based events undertaken in early 1946, known as the “Babalon Working” rituals. While Parsons was in communication with Crowley during these rituals, Crowley was both encouraging Parsons as well as besmirching Parsons’ reputation to other Crowley followers. Having compiled a list of Parsons’ supposed transgressions against Thelemic practice, Crowley further stated in no uncertain terms that both Parsons and Hubbard were deranged, and that he wanted no part of any of their “discoveries.”  It’s saying something when one of the most proudly louche and ethically and morally flexible individuals of the age calls you “deranged.”

Crowley’s scorn, the beliefs of Thelema and other 19th century occult practices, such as those of Theosophist  Madam Blavatsky,  pervade much of the underlying tenets of Scientology. Crucially,

“Thelema is founded upon the idea that the 20th century marked the beginning of the Aeon of Horus, in which a new ethical code would be followed; “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law”. This statement indicates that adherents, who are known as Thelemites, should seek out and follow their own true path in life, known as their True Will. The philosophy also emphasizes the ritual practice of Magick.”

In other words, as Wikipedia explains it: The fundamental principle underlying Thelema, known as the “law of Thelema”, is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”

While the emphasis here appears to be on a hedonistic self-determinism, grounded in an ethically and morally elastic worldview, Hubbard corrupted this idea of amoral self-determinism into a malevolent philosophy of control and retribution; your self-determinism is fine, as long as you do it  Hubbard’s way. Scientology is the result of this nihilistically-based rejection of traditional social, cultural, and religious beliefs and norms, such as Judeo-Christian ideas of right and wrong, free will, and Enlightenment ideals of liberty, tolerance, and reasoned self-determinism.

If one compares various mainstream religious creation myths to Scientology’s, the contrast couldn’t be starker between the predominant mainstream religious narrative of a benevolent creator and the cult’s volcano tale of Xenu, the evil galactic warlord. The message is that mankind is doomed, and we as Scientologists are mankind’s only hope; Hubbard as its head is thus the ultimate arbiter of salvation, and nothing can stand in the way of our (read: Hubbard’s) “mission.” Hubbard may have indeed been a ‘seeker’ in those early days of Dianetics, a messiah to his early adherents, but it’s clear that he went from messiah to totalitarian in a short time. The “madman” of Bent Corydon’s biography was always lurking in the background; yet there was a method to his madness, in that in one of the few instances of Hubbard appropriately scaling something, he was able to scale from localized, routine control, to a totalitarian absolutism over a multinational quasi-religious crime syndicate.

The organizational parallels and cultural metaphors between Scientology and fascistic forms of control are legion. Hubbard’s megalomania is reflected throughout his many policies, pronouncements, and inflated sense of self in all he did. More so, this “my way or the highway” mentality fostered a punishment culture driven by revenge, retribution, doctrinal inflexibility and dictatorial fiat, wherein accusations of thought crimes were the main means of control. Hubbard’s Scientology was built on totalitarianism as much as fascism, and his essentially malevolent “belief system” ridden with rampant incoherencies, false dichotomies, “alternative facts,” confirmation bias and paradoxes, creating an asymmetric mental mash-up of applied evil. Hannah Arendt, writing in “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” states that a classic attribute of the Totalitarianism of the 1920s and 30s, was to “dissolve every statement of fact into a declaration of purpose.” So in Scientology’s purview,  if psychiatry is evil, it must be “confronted and destroyed;” the same with “suppressive persons” and other members of Hubbard’s paranoid pantheon.

In viewing the motivations and subsequent operations of both the GO and OSA, it is crucial to understand their actions were/are firmly grounded in ideology, as well as in the early days, a direct reflection of Hubbard’s dictatorial caprice. More so, Hubbard in keeping with his oft-stated disdain for wog taxes, government and law, he considered Scientology to be a nation-state for all intents and purposes. Scientology was to operate as its socio-political body, complete with its own organic intelligence, policy and economic oversight, as well as an internal justice system inclusive of an extensive array of behavioral modification practices and punishments, including incarceration on the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), Scientology’s internal gulag. In contextualizing Scientology as manifestly totalitarian, Arendt’s work assumes significance as a means to better understand Hubbard’s underlying premises of control, malice, and retribution, as well as the ideological motivations, intent, and operational ethos of the GO and OSA.

Crucial to Arendt’s thesis is the concept that

“political evil could not be understood as mere extensions in scale or scope of already existing precedents, but rather that they represented a completely ‘novel form of government’, one built upon terror and ideological fiction. Where older tyrannies had used terror as an instrument for attaining or sustaining power, modern totalitarian regimes exhibited little strategic rationality in their use of terror. Rather, terror was no longer a means to a political end, but an end in itself.

Three crucial traits of Scientology are embedded in Arendt’s thesis: First is “a novel form of government,” or in the case of Scientology, “new” means of self-determinism, and “applied religious philosophy;” Second, “modern totalitarian regimes exhibited little strategic rationality;” I’ve argued in earlier segments that Hubbard never understood the difference between strategy and tactics, and this  ignorance crippled his ability to deal with criticism. Lastly, “terror was no longer a means to a political end, but an end in itself;” this describes Hubbard somewhat, but essentially describes David Miscavige incarnate.