I think the usual course of thought when it comes to something like Dianetics or Scientology is simply: that's crazy.
Now, I was born Mormon. A lot of people think Mormonism is crazy. The conventional view from outside Mormonism is: these people believe in multiple wives, they give 10% of their income to the church, they have temples with secret ceremonies that they don't want anyone to know the particulars of -- they're a cult.
I'm not Mormon now, but my family is, and the Mormons I know don't seem radical or crazy. From inside the LDS church, the conventional view is: we believe in God, strong family values, hard work and kindness to our fellow man.
I feel like the conventional view of Scientology is essentially the South Park episode on the subject flashing "this is what Scientologists actually believe" beneath Xenu flying DC-8-like spacecraft to Earth and killing lots of aliens here.
I am not a Scientologist, but I spoke with one today inside a building with a giant "Dianetics" sign situated right across the street from where I work.
My impression from that conversation was: we believe in finding happiness in our own lives, and bettering the human condition for everyone.
I have some confessions to make to myself about this "dianetics" post above. The purpose of this blog is to sortof lay-down what's on my mind in the most sincere form possible, because I think that's useful for myself to get my ideas, however strange, "on paper" so my mind is free to think clearly.
However, in writing the post above, I was afraid of a couple of things, and ended up revising my post due to these fears. My first fear was that people I know might read this post and think that I "take Dianetics seriously, and don't think it's bat-shit crazy, and don't think it's just a scam to pry money from people." As it turns out, I don't have a strong opinion about that. I know almost nothing about Dianetics or Scientology, even after writing this post.
Second, while talking to the Scientologist guy, I told him that I wasn't from the press, and wasn't planning to write about this or tell people one thing or another about Scientology. What I was trying to convey to him was that I wasn't a "threat", and that he didn't need to be so guarded with me for fear that I would quote him saying something that sounds crazy out of context.
However, I am writing about this, as it turns out, so I lied. I didn't mean to, but I don't think the guy would be offended, and he said he was fine with me talking about it, also.. I don't think many people read this.. so my cognitive dissonance on this issue finally shifted toward: lay it all out, and don't make such promises in the future.
So with that, here are a couple points I wanted to make that were masked by the afore mentioned fears. Each of these points is a nugget of insight that stuck out to me in hearing about scientology from this guy, and also from reading a little on wikipedia. However, note that the guy was very explicit that I shouldn't take his word as truth about Scientology, but that I should instead read a particular book. I did not read that book. So don't assume that anything I say here is "informed". These are just thoughts that went through my head.
Also don't assume I believe anything. I don't believe shit. About anything. Nothing in my mind is certain. Everything is a gradient in a vast network of related ideas and memes and insights, and I'm very liberal about entertaining wacky ideas in search of insights, and even these insights are just food for more thoughts -- my mind doesn't accept them as true.
I guess I worry that people will read stuff in this blog and assume it's what I believe, and then think I'm crazy. The truth is, I am crazy, but not because I believe anything. I am crazy specifically because I don't.
Ugg.. the inner struggle to be more open about my strange beliefs in a semi-public blog. Readers: be kind.
Point Number One: I didn't realize that the book Dianetics itself is apparently a kind of self-help book. I thought it was a sci-fi story. I still haven't read it, so I don't know, but the wikipedia page for it has no "plot" section.
Furthermore, I got the impression that Dianetics might say something I agree with. That thing is roughly this: people tend to keep stuff "bottled up inside", which is bad, and people should instead "face their fears". You might read that and ask: "did Greg learn something from Dianetics, and now he's applying it to his blog writing, by 'facing his fears' about his initial writing of this post?" The answer is "no". It's the other way around. I believe in facing my fears and being honest with myself as a way to free my mind to think about better things, and when I heard this coming from a guy talking about Dianetics, I thought: "Oh.. well I agree with that aspect. How odd."
In fact, the guy gave a pretty good analogy -- totally un-scientific, but very much in line with what I happen to believe -- which goes as follows: Imagine you buy a new computer. It's running great. Then you install some software on it, and visit some websites, and heaven forbid you install Norton anti-virus on it, and before you know it, every time you bootup the machine the quicklaunch bar has 15 icons in it, and 20 spam windows popup on the screen. I've seen this happen. This is what most people think using the computer is like, unless they have a geek in their close social network to cleanup their machine, or they're using a Mac.
Anyway, the point is that the computer is now annoying and slow, but all the stuff slowing it down is sortof "in the background" and people learn to ignore it, and live with the slowness and annoyance. This might be the case with brains. It could be that when we get into various emotional situations, but decide to ignore them and move on, that our subconscious brain does not in fact ignore them, but rather continues to run background processes festering over those emotions.
I feel like my brain works that way. I'll get emotionally hurt, and that feeling stays with me until I "deal" with it, which for me usually consists of correctly identifying exactly where the emotions is coming from. Sometimes this is tricky because a part of my brain is embarrassed to admit to itself the reason if the reason is humiliating. For instance, a previous post talks about me getting sued, and losing. My brain wanted to think "I'm feeling bad because I was screwed over by this guy." That was true, in part, but I also felt bad because I felt like I represented myself poorly in court -- I felt like I could have done better, but failed. (Note that it was small claims court, where lawyers are not allowed to represent you.) Anyway, admitting that to myself took a while, but played a big role in "getting over" that experience -- and it was hard to admit, because I really hated this guy for the pain he had caused me, and it turned out that some of that pain was in fact caused by me to myself.
So again, I don't know how much that all meshes with Dianetics, and I get the impression that there's more to Dianetics that I don't agree with, but I don't really care. I was just surprised to see a glimmer of something I thought was insightful in a place I didn't expect.
Point Number Two: I asked about Scientology's meta-physical beliefs, and whereas South Park kinda makes it sound like people are mainly concerned with alien beings doing crazy stuff, the core metaphysical meme seems more like what I associate with Buddhism -- which I also know practically nothing about. My impression of this idea is roughly:
Spirits exist in a different -- presumably "greater" -- reality than the conventional physical reality, but their attention sortof gets "wrapped up" inside of physical beings, and they forget who they are, like a reader getting lost in the character of a book. The spirit manifests itself as consciousness within a physical being. That is to say, we are spirits, but we think we're just humans. After we die, our spirit may move on to some other physical being, e.g., 'reincarnation'. The goal of religion in this case is to free the spirit from getting all wrapped up in physical beings, so it can go on to explore the presumably greater reality that it is a part of.
I also like this line from the wikipedia page on Scientology, or wherever wikipedia got it from: "The universe has no independent reality, but derives its apparent reality from the fact that most [spirits] agree it exists." I feel like this notion parallels my understanding of the Mormon notion of "faith". Some Mormons believe that God's power is faith -- that's how God makes stuff happen. He believes them. And we too could move mountains if we had enough faith -- or so I've heard.
Anyway, so it's sortof like Scientological spirits are like gods, believing our reality into existence, and then living there. It's like some higher level spirits made World of Warcraft, also known as "our universe", and started playing it, and now those spirits think they really are characters in the WoW instead of being spirits.
Now, I've had some half-baked thoughts along these lines, namely the analogy that consciousness may be similar to what we as humans impart to characters in a story. That's where I got the phrasing above "their attention sortof gets 'wrapped up' ... and they forget who they are, like a reader getting lost in the character of a book". I don't know if either Buddhism or Scientology would agree with that analogy, but that's what "caught my eye" when hearing about Scientology's beliefs, and later, the bit in wikipedia about "the universe has no independent reality" caught my eye in relation to some half-baked thoughts I've had about faith.