The Search for Release From the Mind: Scientology
(from the original 1972 edition of The Knee Of Listening)
Baba had all but told me to abandon my work with Rudi. For my own part, that whole motivation had already passed. I felt no need to condemn Rudi, and the Ashram gossip that opposed him seemed only a manifestation of particular Indian predilections for certain ways of life. I needed very much to be free of Rudi but I was certain that his way was appropriate for him and anyone else who felt a genuine urge in the direction he could lead them.
Even so, the path of life had simply emerged as a totally different matter. I was convinced that the way of effort was simply a further manifestation of life lived as a problem, a motivated search. Yet, the mind and the whole habitual pattern of life appeared to me to be a source of difficulty, which in fact prevented the continuous assumption of life on a radically free basis.
Baba's way was peculiarly tied to Indian notions and methods. Although he suggested these to me, he did not seek to enforce any kind of method in my case. It all seemed a suggestive communication that should lead me to my own truth. He even told me that I would eventually teach the ways of spiritual life, in perhaps a year or more. But he did not tell me what to teach. I took his teaching and my experience on the broadest level, to be freely and meaningfully adapted to my own case.
Thus, when the old problems began to arise, and I saw no immediate way to use the specific methods Baba described or even to enforce the vision of my particular experience, I felt moved to find a solution to the dilemma by any means available to me. The history of my own development led me to be open to any form of solution, whether or not it involved the specific means or mentality of yoga.
While I was established in this mood, Julio Delatorre, an old friend from my days at Stanford, came to dinner. He was animatedly involved in an organization called Scientology, which was headed and exclusively developed by a man named L. Ron Hubbard.
After I had worn out the conversation about my years of yoga and my experiences in India, my friend became more enthusiastically involved in describing his experiences in Scientology. I began instead to listen to him.
Scientology made use of a peculiar technique called "auditing." A trained person sat with you and, by careful use of a pattern of direct questioning, sought to remove the force which certain key experiences in your past had on your daily life. My friend had experienced great benefits from this method, and he had even been led to re-experience his birth, the violence of which he felt had determined a kind of nervous and aloof quality in him all his life. Now he felt peculiarly "cleared" of the force of that experience and all kinds of other reactions that he had retained as unconscious controls on his behavior.
Scientology sought by these means to relieve a person from the machinery of memory and unconscious reactivity so that he could eventually attain a state called "clear." In the state of "clear" the reactive or unconscious mind was supposed to be entirely eliminated as a force.
The more I listened the more this method seemed perfectly suited to what I now considered to be the essential problem of life. I knew that our essential nature, the Self or Divine Consciousness or Soul, was not something that needed to be created or recovered by effort. It was always already the case. But we are usually identified with an unconscious pattern of mentality that enforces a life of seeking and trouble and prevents a direct awareness of our true state. If a man could only reduce the power of this subliminal mechanism he would stand free, in his original nature.
I determined to investigate Scientology for myself. The next day I went to the Scientology organization, near 34th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. The atmosphere of the place was one of constant activity. It was filled mainly with young people, who seemed very open and communicative. I was constantly greeted with what later became known as the "Scientology stare." The people approached me with a wide smile and fixed on me with their eyes, with the same sense of necessity that Rudi had demonstrated whenever he shook my hand.
I was shown around the organization by one of its enthusiastic members, named Sal Lucania, who would later become a close friend. He kept insisting on how I had finally come "home." I saw an impressive array of books, an expanse of highly organized departments, and a huge classroom where many people sat with headphones listening to tapes. Some sat in groups on opposite sides of a long table. They stared at one another or made efforts to distract one another into laughter. I was shown a young girl, about ten years old, who was the "world's youngest auditor." And another young man who was having difficulty staring at his partner without breaking up. He would have to do this very well before he could qualify as an auditor.
The place had all of that strange air of an ingrown organization, but there was a certain freedom and freshness to the place that was a nice change from my cloistering in seminaries and yoga.
I was taken to a "registrar," whose charge, very obviously, was to get me to buy as much auditing as she could. We discussed the process, and it continued to interest me. She said that results were guaranteed or I, by contract, would be free to get a refund within a reasonable period. If I paid somewhere between a thousand and twelve hundred dollars I could get all of my auditing and training up to "grade IV release", the highest grade offered in New York. To get the higher grades toward "clear" you had to go to England. And there were also higher levels called "O.T." ("operating thetan"), now being given in Spain, that brought a person who was already "clear" up to the state where he could leave his physical body at will and perform certain higher functions in the environment without having to inhabit the body.
It was all presented as a revolutionary new tool for spiritual advancement, one that had been planned scientifically and found to be 100% effective in all cases. It seemed to be an absolutely irresistible opportunity.
Another young man came and demonstrated to me the basic apparatus of auditing. The auditor not only used the questions appropriate to each grade of "release." He used an instrument called an E-meter, a device patterned after the Wheatstone Bridge, which indicates changes in body resistance. These changes could be interpreted by a trained auditor as he watched the moving needle on his meter. By these reactions he could determine what areas of questioning were vital, or, by a peculiar manifestation called a "floating needle," he could tell that a state of "release" had been attained in a particular area.
The "grades" themselves were patterns of questioning that moved in a gradient of depth up the scale of difficulties that the individual could confront. Thus, by a scientifically graduated approach to the clear state, a person would never pass "over his head" or bypass problems that would prevent his higher and stable realization.
The whole matter seemed to be highly sophisticated, and the people I met seemed so firmly convinced of its effectiveness in their case, that I was persuaded to buy some auditing. The price was quite high, but I considered that it would be worth it if the process worked. If I paid the full price I would not only get the total amount of auditing but also the training necessary to reproduce these same states in others. This seemed a valuable addition to me. I thought perhaps this would be an opportunity for a career in actual and effective spiritual work. Perhaps it was in Scientology that Baba saw I was to become a teacher.
I immediately set about finding some way to get enough money for auditing. I sold my library, took my savings, and got a small loan from Pan American. Within a day or two I appeared for my auditing. Six days later I was a "grade IV release".
My experience of auditing did not produce any radical changes in my awareness. It was largely a recollection and reassessment of memories, thoughts and bits of certainty that I had already recovered, less formally but also more exhaustively, in my years of writing. It produced no remarkable or sudden knowledge such as I had experienced in college or seminary.
But neither did it contradict anything I knew as a result of my own experiments.
The auditing I experienced at this level dealt mainly with memories and reactions of a clinical nature. It was the same body of experience that one might bring to a psychiatrist or any other socially-oriented therapy. Even so, it verified my previous estimations of my life. I did not gain any new advantage in self-knowledge, except that I did have the opportunity to communicate what I knew and what I had suffered. This had a certain value. It had a socializing effect. Just as my work with Rudi drew me out of solitude to the world of present experience, the Scientology processes drew me even further out of the cloister of yoga and effort.
I thought that auditing had a certain logic and value that could be useful to others in the same way my private researches had served me. Perhaps as an "auditor" I could act as a medium for the communication of self-knowledge in others. Perhaps the upper levels of "clearing" and O.T." would indeed provide sources of transformation in my own case that would penetrate the untouched barriers of my mind. The world of Scientology was attractive, youthful and public. The value it held most dear was communication. It was a form of society, and this seemed important. To be present with others was a healing opportunity. Thus, I decided to leave Pan American and go to work for Scientology.
I convinced Nina to get auditing too, and within a few weeks we had both become working members of the Scientology staff. At about that time I received a letter from Baba. It was a long letter with lots of poetic maxims on yoga and Self realization, and there were some practical indications on how to meditate. I sat down with Nina to discuss our relation to these things, when suddenly I felt the space of the room expand in a curious way, and I felt Baba's actual Presence. The Shakti moved up my back and produced that peculiar bliss in the mind, and I sat for a long time enjoying his Presence, waiting for some kind of message or advice.
After a while the experience subsided. Nina and I both had felt it. But it seemed to us both that it was not an experience radically opposed to our use of Scientology. I felt that it only demonstrated a reality that I would hope to attain in a more stable form as a result of the process called "clearing".
I didn't feel at the time that meditation or the attitude of yoga was necessarily useful in permanently removing the obstacles of the mind that now seemed to me to be the point of my practical investigation. We decided to continue in Scientology until it should outlive its usefulness or prove to be a detriment to real knowledge.
We were told that Scientology demanded the radical abandonment of other practices as long as auditing was being used. Thus, we had already abandoned our usual practice of meditation meditation The methods of Scientology seemed to reproduce the same condition of openness and well-being, and I could in any case make use of the knowledge gained by spiritual practice over the years even without the practice of meditation.
I also broke off with Rudi at this time. At one point in my auditing I was led to consider my relation to him, and it was causing me difficulty. I was sent to the "Ethics Officer", who was supposed to help a person relieve himself of influences that tended to suppress his awareness or his freedom. It was determined that Rudi functioned in this way in my case. It was true that I had begun to feel that relationship as a burden, and he seemed to have no sympathy with the point of view that had begun to guide me since seminary. He would certainly not approve of my work in Scientology, and this itself would require a break between us.
Thus, I agreed to write a "disconnect letter" to Rudi. It was a letter in which I ungratefully severed my connection to him and said I would make no further effort to communicate with him. The form and motive for the letter were not really my own. It was a traditional Scientology practice at that time. However, I felt greatly relieved to be so easily free of a relationship I didn't otherwise know how to end.
Rudi's reaction to the letter was as you may imagine, and it would be two and one half years before we would be on speaking terms again. But with this letter I brought another phase of my life to a summary end.
Nina and I worked for the Scientology organization for more than a year. During that time we became painfully familiar with the fanatical politics of that organization and suffered a great deal of humiliation by its seemingly endless internal purges. But these politics will not be my subject here. I am only interested in detailing my experience there as an extension of my lifelong search for spiritual or conscious transformation.
I was determined to take advantage of the processes of "clearing" and "O.T." I became willing to exercise extreme patience and even self-effacement in order not to lose the opportunity. Thus, I passed through the constant internal warfare and personal chaos we created at that time while doing everything I could to prevent my being removed from the organization and so lose the opportunity to go further.
As an auditor I encountered serious problems. An auditor is supposed to be able to let his "pre-clear" or auditing subject be completely free to communicate and so enjoy the benefits of the auditing process. I was very willing to have it be this way, but the experience of Shakti that had been generated in me by years of yoga had produced a profound expression of that Force in me that also affected others.
In auditing sessions people would have experiences of Shakti and become distracted by my presence. The need to maintain direct contact with the person with the eyes or simply one's concentrated presence made it impossible for me to remove the effects of the Shakti in my auditing sessions.
I finally had to tell one of my superiors what it was that was taking place, and he was quite insistent that I manage somehow to empty myself of this Force. He thought it must be some kind of suppressive use of energy that would trap people and fix them in bodily consciousness.
Thus, I had to try very hard to draw myself out of the consciousness of Shakti. Obviously, I was in a very unusual position, and even to talk about it seems a little unreal, but it was for me a very practical difficulty. I knew I had to eliminate this effect from my auditing work or else suffer possible expulsion.
By the time I had nearly mastered the ability to empty myself of this experience, the opportunity arose for me to go on to prepare for the Clearing and O.T. levels. Thus, in March of 1969, I returned to California. The organization had since created a headquarters in Los Angeles for the upper levels of training and for the operation of its higher political organization called the "Sea Org". It was a focal point for Ron Hubbard's secret political and auditing work, and even today he controls it from a fleet of ships at sea.
He is a former science fiction writer, and the pattern of his organization as well as the pattern of philosophy and interpretations of human history that inform the higher levels of Scientology auditing, bear all the marks of a great work of the imagination.
Early in my indoctrination into Scientology I heard public lectures that described the things that were to be dealt with in the upper levels of auditing. Those processes work under the assumption that the human mind is not primarily bound to the separate experiences of the present life or even of many previous lives. Rather, what is really at work to trap us in the mind are a series of terrible betrayals far in the past in which we were subject to "implantation." These implants were akin to the methods used to "brain wash" people who are politically dangerous, particularly in Russia and other closed societies. In the distant past, when we were part of a large confederacy of galaxies and planets and operated on a very miraculous, super-human level, even without physical bodies, we were supposed to have been trapped by various politically motivated groups and subjected to implantation. These implants usually made use of electronic instruments and every kind of scientific hocus-pocus to probe the mind and remove certain of our higher abilities. Thus, we have, over millennia, degenerated into our present condition of mere humanity in constant mystery. A person who is Clear and O.T. is supposed to be entirely free of the mind and its implantations, and so able to move about freely as a spiritual entity outside a body.
When I went to California I was only tentatively aware of this basic philosophy of implantation. I had been attracted to the work on other grounds. For me, "clearing" was a matter of dealing with the fundamental mechanisms of the mind and not at last with its contents. If some considered those contents to be on a level with science fiction, that was theirs to pursue. I was interested in the mind as a present mechanism. I was not particularly interested in its contents except as they arose in my own case and needed to be handled for the sake of my own clearing.
But when I came to do the upper levels I found that the whole affair was inseparable from these assumptions about the politics of the universe. I had in my own experience quite a different awareness of cosmic reality. I had reached to dimensions of the mind and cosmos that were quite apart from anything as paltry as some kind of electronic hoax. And I knew very well that no experience, however devastating, in fact acts as a radical deterrent to the realization of higher consciousness. I had passed into those realms myself and witnessed the genuine mechanisms of ultimate reality. And there was no sign in all of that, or in the whole history of spiritual literature, of there being a fundamental structure of mind, created by historical implantation, that in fact was the primary source of unrealized existence.
Of course, there is an infinite history of cosmic events in which we all share, but the detailed analysis of them could never amount to a fundamental liberation. The structure that actually prevented real consciousness and growth was not the historical deposits in the mind but the unconsciousness of our true nature, of the Divine or real Presence of ultimate reality, and the present tendency to operate on the basis of limited awareness rather than a conscious relationship to higher reality.
Thus, I had sought the clearing processes as a means of dealing with and even eliminating the present, ongoing structure of the mind. If this could be perceived and controlled, it made no difference what it contained as memory.
But when I actually performed the Clearing and O.T. levels I found that they continued to deal only with the content of the mind. And that content was continually identified with the peculiar cosmic politics favored by Ron Hubbard. Thus, I found that these levels never dealt with the fundamental problem of the mind itself, prior to any content. In fact, they only led people deeper and deeper into a fanciful, paranoic dilemma in which they were indoctrinated into the mentality of a cosmic political holocaust.
The people with whom I worked were chronically seeking release and "exteriorization" from the contents of the mind and from the physical body. This was itself a motivation grown out of fear and very little wisdom. To be sure, the evidence for exteriorization is conclusive, as it appears in works such as those of Jung. But nowhere in spiritual literature is it offered as the goal of life. Neither is it declared to be a necessary event in every case, prior to perfect knowledge.
In Scientology, however, exteriorization is the object of constant seeking. It is the sign of a period in cosmic history when spiritual beings had great powers and mobile freedom in the physical universe. Thus, it is pursued quite apart from any kind of higher wisdom. Exteriorization and various powers are sought for their own sake. Even the phenomenon supposed to be attained at "O.T. 8," the highest stage of Scientology auditing promoted at present, is called "total power."
I had taken up Scientology for reasons of my own and allowed myself to discover in it parallels to my own motives and experience. Thus, I had failed to recognize the precise nature of the study itself. It was only on the upper levels, when the activity of auditing had degenerated into exercises of pure nonsense, that I realized what I had in fact led myself into.
While I was busy doing the O.T. levels I dropped all of my resistance to the internal operation of the Shakti and began to recover my earlier state of awareness. The phenomenon of exteriorization was not unfamiliar to me, but its importance was quite different from that in which it was conceived in Scientology. For me, it was only one of the possible phenomena encountered in the growth of real consciousness. I attached no necessity or radical importance to it, nor to any other kind of "power."
I saw that Scientology was actually a political entity created along the lines of a fanciful interpretation of history. Its goals were political, not spiritual. Thus, its leading concern was power, not wisdom or realization.
The "clearing" level was only another manipulation of mental images, and not at all a radical approach to the mind. It pointed to the O.T. levels and the creation of a certain mentality whose effects were political. In most cases those levels did not even momentarily produce such phenomena as true exteriorization. It simply indoctrinated people into the mentality of power and paranoid cosmic politics.
Even where the phenomenon of exteriorization is sought intentionally, there are many levels on which it can be produced. In spiritual literature it is sought as an entrance into the subtler planes of reality. But in Scientology it was always promoted as a way out of the physical body but into the physical universe.
After my experience of the "upper levels" of Scientology auditing I realized clearly that it did not deal with matters that were fundamentally important to me. I returned to New York with the intention to separate myself altogether from the Scientology organization. The whole experience had even served to separate Nina and me. We had become chronically unwilling and unable to understand and create our relationship. We seemed to become obstacles to one another's freedom. We became "released" and "exterior" to one another.
Thus, I returned to New York much the same as I had been year before. The year of Scientology seemed to have been a vacant space in time, a moment turned aside from the current of my life. I was ready to begin again. There were no games to be played, nothing to be sought. I saw again the fundamental relatedness that is in all things and which is the source of real love.
Scientology and The Knee Of Listening