“I have always thought it was a most valuable trait to recognize reality and not to pursue delusions. But when I now think over my life up to and including the years of imprisonment, there was no period in which I was free of delusory notions.”
That’s a quote by Albert Speer, from his 1970 publication of his memoirs, Inside the Third Reich. It took him 20 years of reflection in Spandau prison to come to that unfortunate conclusion. Not only is his account of the Hitler regime revealing, but it’s unique too, as he was the only Nazi official to admit guilt for war crimes during the Nuremberg trials.
Inside the Third Reich is a must-read for anyone seeking more understanding of the anatomy of dictatorships. For those familiar with the history of the Church of Scientology, and especially those who used to be on the inside, they will see many parallels. Speer provides us with some insight into the mindset of a totalitarian organization:
“The departure from reality, which was visibly spreading like a contagion, was no peculiarity of the National Socialist regime. But in normal circumstances people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility. In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum. On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world”
Scientologists, like many other fanatical groups, maintain and enforce their own version of reality—a pseudo-utopia that thrives independently of the outside world. This “world of Scientology” is impervious to even the most ordinary of social customs and constraints, and manages to survive largely due to the Church’s rigid enforcement of group policy. It’s a totalitarian system designed to be tamper-proof and immune to outside influence. Scientologists are obliged to operate within this closed system while at the same time forbidden to make honest critical evaluations of its operation.
Church members would no doubt dispute this assessment by arguing that their organizational structure has a built in remedy in the form of an Ethics Division and a Qualifications Division. But even these departments are subject to the rigid edicts of those at the top—executives driven by a strict adherence to Hubbard’s policies. Scientologists are never allowed to integrate outside ideas into their system. There is “standard tech,” and there’s “standard admin.” All Hubbard, all the time. When you work for the Church, Hubbard is not only the best way, it’s the only way.
When a Church staff member finds himself in disagreement with some aspect of the organization, that person immediately receives “correction.” It’s a process that I imagine might have been similar to the sort of things that went on with political dissidents in the old Soviet Union. Soviet citizens who couldn’t toe the party line always had the option of “re-education.” The Soviet Union had re-orientation camps in Siberia; Scientology has the Rehabilitation Project Force.
The RPF evolved from Hubbard’s “Mud Box Brigade.” Hubbard said, “…this group is the most downstat and one gets assigned to it by being a freeloader…” A Church staffer can get assigned to the RPF as the result of neglecting policy, insubordination to a senior, or anything that a senior executive perceives to be a security risk. It’s similar to military “KP duty,” but much more extreme. RPF staff wear gray prison-like uniforms, work long hours performing physical labor, and are forbidden to speak to anyone but their immediate senior. In addition to their grueling work schedule, they also receive “Ethics handling” in which they’re required to confess their transgressions against the Church.
Public Scientologists don’t have to go through such a severe gauntlet as the RPF, but they too have no choice but to go along with L. Ron Hubbard’s view of the world. Any student who dares question any aspect of the tech simply gets sent to “Cramming” to restudy the material for as long as it takes until the disagreement is “handled.” Even the most minor expression of dissatisfaction can cost you hours of correction lists, security checks, and days on end slugging it out with the Ethics Officer. In the end, the Scientologist must accept Church dogma without doubts or reservations.
Albert Speer gives us a look into how absolute notions can lead to grand departures from reality. He explains, “…in Hitler’s system, as in every totalitarian regime, when a man’s position rises, his isolation increases and he is therefore more sheltered from harsh reality;” Speer relates one incident in which Hermann Goering refused to accept that American fighters had finally encroached into German skies, despite the irrefutable evidence presented by one of his generals. Goering simply countered the evidence by issuing an official order stating that nobody saw any fighters. Speer describes the exchange: “. . . [Goering] acted like a bankrupt who up to the last moment wants to deceive himself along with his creditors.”
Speer eventually faced up to reality, though not soon enough to avoid a twenty-year imprisonment for war crimes. On the other hand, there were those in the Nazi regime who had become incapable of facing up to the delusional world they’d created. Hitler, along with his top officials Goering, Himmler, and Goebbels preferred to take their own lives rather than face the harsh realities of their destructive regime. How ironic that these criminal despots finally met the harshest reality of all.