Xenuphobia


Of Misunderstoods

One of the things I’ve always loved about Scientology is its emphasis on words. In a sense, one might say its something we actually have in common. In my mind, words certainly do matter a great deal more than that for which people give them credit. Syntax, style, grammar–they are truly marvels of human development; not just in that we have elaborate sets of established rules by which we use them, but because we can intentionally subvert and twist them. This act can be playful just as much as it can be deceitful.

In the Scientology cult words have an even greater weight than they do out here in the “wog” world. Hubbard said that failing to fully understand even a single word of his instruction–or indeed, in any text–invariably results in a failure to fully grasp what is being read, let alone apply it. This basic tenet of Scientology is the basis of Hubbard’s “study tech,” which is pedaled by the cult to public organizations. (According to the “church,” this service is simply provided as charity, for the betterment of mankind. In fact, they take great pains to separate even the most obviously cult-linked front groups like this from the organization itself. However, when what you’re selling is called “Hubbard tech,” this can be a more difficult task than, say, running a fraudulent in-patient drug treatment program as a honey pot to draw in easily the weak, confused, and easily manipulated.)

Their love of words and their precise definitions means Scientologists are also top consumers of an important word-related product: the dictionary. Of course, they have their own dictionary as well; a voluminous tome of cult mumbo-jumbo, as well as many cleverly, deceitfully redefined words from the wog lexicon. But with any Scientology text, the key study aid is a plain old dictionary–pick your brand, choose your poison, one is largely as good as the next.

If ever a Scientologist feels like a various piece of the “tech” is not working for them, the tech is inherently insulated. Like the law of Papal Infallibility, the tech is the height of perfection. If it has not worked for someone, it is because that person has, in all likelihood, a “misunderstood.” That is, they have “skipped a gradient”–moving ahead without fully understanding a word. They are encouraged–for lack of a better word–to go back over the problem tech and search out the misunderstood. Once the little bugger has been located and singled out, a repeated application of the tech should result in the expected (a more cynical person might say “the advertised”) results.

Yet for their love of existing words, Scientologists would seem to love one thing above them: making up new ones, even when, as is almost always the case, a perfectly acceptable word existed in the first place. Read any of the cult’s literature, and you are bound to encounter head-scratchers like “havingness,” “beingness,” “thinkingness” and a host of other words with “ness” appended like an unsightly vestigial tail that–no matter how hard one might try–simply cannot be ignored.

Made-up words like this serve a number of functions. Sure, they might bill the concept as a way to some sort of universal “higher state of understanding.” But there is a much more important reason at work: the bigger the cult lexicon, the harder it becomes to relate to the outside world. In a very Orwellian sense, if one sufficiently redefines another’s vocabulary, that person will be unable to relate their existential experience in any other terms. In other words–no pun intended–once you’re in, you’re in. The subject’s environment becomes more than a bit like Don Henley’s apt description of Hotel California: you can check out any time you like, but you can’t never leave.

What is so puzzling about the case of Scientology is that the cult leadership is not so much making up new cult-only words as bizarre deformations of those already in existence, specifically those that possess, in the day-to-day humdrum world of the wog, a common currency.

Havingness? Yes, it is a state of having; just as beingness is a state of being, and thinkingness a state of thinking. But what was wrong, in those irritating little “ness” words, with the root word itself to describe that for which the cult is reaching? “Having” describes precisely that–a state of possession. Same with being and thinking. That is why we don’t say just “think” or “be.” The “ing” suffix takes care of what Scn tries to accomplish with an extra “ness,” as though for good measure. The big difference here is that “ness” is attached to nouns to describe a state or condition, whereas “ing” is attached to verbs. “Beingness,” as such, makes no more sense than “happinessing.”

One wonders how they even begin to carry out this veritable word death in languages other than English. It is enough to make your head hurt–or perhaps that’s just the odd cluster of body thetans at work.

It may serve an important mental control function for the cult; in fact it undoubtedly does just that. And perhaps such words make the cult’s members feel smart. After all, they are so esoteric. But it also has an unfortunate, and presumably latent, effect: it makes them look like a bunch of fucking retards. Still, there is one thing about this that none can take away from them: as far as fucking retards go, the degree of their fuckingness is impressively unparalleled.

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