Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Project in the Works

I recently purchased a copy of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics from a used bookstore. My goal is to present a chapter-by-chapter synopsis/analysis of the book. For those of you who do not know, Dianetics is the book behind Scientology. If you don't know what Scientology is, go ask Tom Cruise. Anyway, as I opened the book, an "Important Note" caught my intention. I will quote it in full as it is quite interesting (these are pages viii and ix in my edition).

Important Note

In reading this book, be very certain you never go past a word you do not understand.

The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood.
[emphasis Hubbard's]

The confusion or inability to grasp comes after [emphasis Hubbard's] a word was not understood. Have you ever had the experience of coming to the end of a page and realizing that you didn't know what you had read? Somewhere earlier on that page, you passed a word that you didn't understand.

Here's an example. "It was found that when the crepuscule arrived the children were quieter and when it was not present, they were much livelier." You see what happens. You think you don't understand the whole idea, but the inability to understand came entirely from one word you could not define, crepuscle [emphasis Hubbard's], which means twilight or darkness.

If, in reading this book, the materials become confusing or you can't seem to grasp it, there will be a word just earlier that you haven't understood. Don't go any further, but go back to before [emphasis Hubbard's] you got into difficulty. Find the misunderstood word and get it defined.

And on the opposite page...

Footnotes and Glossary

As an aid to the reader, words that are sometimes misunderstood have been defined in footnotes where they occur in the text. Words sometimes have several meanings. The footnote definitions give in this book only give the meaning that the word has as it is used in the text. A glossary including all the footnoted definitions is included at the back of this book. Other definitions can be found in various dictionaries.

I found it interesting that the Hubbard expects the book to confuse me. Personally, I would think that it is not a fault of the readers for a fault of the book if it is incomprehensible. I guess we will see if it is as bad as the introductory note suggests.

What stood out to me, besides L. Ron's desire to provide me with about 200 definitions (just a quick estimate from looking at the glossary,) was the phrase " The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood." That is NOT the only reason a person becomes confused. Sometimes what the person is reading is nonsensical or poorly reasoned. People are unable to learn because their teachers are unable to present material in an intelligible manner, and sometimes people give up because what they are doing is no longer worth their time or effort. If life were so easy that a dictionary could cure all confusion, I would carry a copy of Webster's Dictionary in my pocket.

Personally, I think it is insulting to insist that any confusion I may arrive at in the text is because of some lack of vocabulary. I think that if I included that segment in a physics paper, I would be laughed at and rightfully so. The book begins by making sure the reader blames himself/herself for all confusion. I look forward to seeing what else is my fault.

I should note that I do not promise to be entirely unbiased while critiquing this book. After all the recent publicity revolving Scientology and especially the South Park episode, it's hard to think of L. Ron Hubbard or Scientology without going into a little bit of a laughing fit. I will try my best to maintain my composure and consider Dianetics on its own.

Next: How to Read This Book

Note: All quotes are from
Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics. Los Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, Inc, 1986, unless noted otherwise.


Flavin said...

I'm surprised you would do a Scientology post without linking . It's an excellent resource (as in: it seems well referenced) on Scientomological studies.

Flavin said...

Mother goddamned fucker. It did it again.

← Old style Project Clambake ← New, ass-looking style that is forced on me because Blogger won't let me link in comments anymore. Well, that is, if this experiment holds up.

Flavin said...

And it did. Pardon the cursing, but Piss.

Prazzie said...

An entire post devoted only to the introductory note. We're going to be here for a long time, but as long as I'm not the one having to wade through the junk, I'll stick with you.

I'm going to be very pissed off if by the end of this I still can't levitate. Just so you know. So make sure you understand every single word, just in case we miss an important step.

*To illustrate the sheer AWESOMENESS of levitation, I now have to make appropriate sounds, but I don't know what levitation sounds like, so I'm making lightsaber sounds instead...*

Ben said...

Oh it will be a long series I think. I don't expect out readers to wade through it all. I'm going through it more for myself than for you guys. I have been complaining about Scientology for a while but never bothered to look at Dianetics. I thought I should remedy that.

Thanks for the link Flavin. I have made a decision to not put too many scathing links in my posts. I really want the silliness of this to stand out on its own.

Chill said...

Dude, you are making it clear from the very start that this won't be a neutral analysis.

What about asking some real, on-the-street Scientologists what the whole "word you don't understand" thing is all about. Get the story from the results of Scientology, it's members, instead of pasty dorks who hide behind the veil of the net (of course I post this anonymously, forgive the hypocrisy there lol). But I mean it with all sincerity. Go talk to the real people and try to take an honestly neutral viewpoint. You just might surprise yourself.

Ben said...

It is my opinion that a work like Dianetics should be able to stand on its own. Hubbard clearly states I should be able to understand Dianetics with only the aide of a dictionary. Also, I don't see what opinions I am getting from "pasty dorks who hide behind the veil of the net". I'm pretty sure these are my own opinions I am expounding. I think the actions of the supposed spokespeople for Scientology and the legal actions the church itself has spoken louder than any blogger. But honestly, I have not read much on Scientology which is the reason I am going through Dianetics. I will read every word in the book and try to let them speak for themselves. I might through in a wry comment or my interpretation. If more interpretation seems wrong, go ahead and correct me. That's what comments are for. As for interviewing Scientologist, I have neither the time nor the interest. If you are a Scientologist and would like to set me straight, go right ahead. I'll listen.

Flavin said...

To be fair, Ben, you did say, "I should note that I do not promise to be entirely unbiased while critiquing this book."

So Chill is right when he or she says, "[Y]ou are making it clear from the very start that this won't be a neutral analysis."

However, talking to a Scientologist is not the way to seek neutrality. That would be "balance," which is oft substituted for, but is not, neutrality.

In the end, I agree with your position that Dianetics should stand on its own. If you let any bias affect your analysis we will let you know in the comments.

Ben said...

Right, what I had meant by that comment is that there is really no way for me to read this book without having all my preconceived notions in the back of my head. It's an obvious statement. I don't think it's possible for someone to read something so controversial without some injecting sort of bias. I was merely pointing out that I recognize I have these preconceived notions. While I will try to account for them, sometimes they're subtle. I think being honest upfront is better than pretending I have no opinion of Scientology to start. That's what I can't stand about todays news. It's always presented as "fair and unbalanced" something I think is impossible. I'd rather have my new from the "National Democrat" or "national Republican" so I can adjust for the spin as needed.

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick points: The "Note to reader" is not native to the original publication. Two: You should read the current 2007 edition, especially the Snynopsis, that would save all a host of time/trouble wading through this. Finally, since this is a 'skeptic Gateway' I would expect at least a blurb about the 'brain in vat' / matrix problem...

Anonymous said...

I think the idea that the mind is perfect is a perfect evaluation if you want to believe that evolution or mother nature or even God had us end up with our current condition. Our current condition then is the most efficient method of functioning, that is described well in Dianetics. External reality exists and our internal view of external reality is accurate and reliable - Survive is the purpose and that purpose dictates the needed structure.

Ben said...

1) I refuse to purchase a copy of Dianetics from any place other than a used book store.

2)This project is on hiatus until I have more time to waste because this book IS a waste of my time and is almost below analysis. There seems to be little in it above speculation.