None of this sounds exceptional today, even if it all created a sensation when Hubbard came out with Dianetics in 1950. It hit a chord, combining self-understanding with some paranoid speculations about the influence of communism that reflected Cold War anxieties, plus the promise of a kind of enlightenment when the non-reactive, floating state of consciousness of Clear was attained.
To anyone with a working familiarity in Hermetic initiatory systems, the parallels aren’t hard to discern. The first few degrees or grades of such systems, below the sephirah of Tiphereth on the Tree of Life, involve working through different facets of the personality and its psychological underpinnings. This is done through successive explorations of four elements: Earth, Air, Water and Fire, with the elusive fifth element of Spirit completing the process. All being well, initiation into Tiphereth then produces a state of being progressively more open to intuition and inspiration, plus the possible development of traditional occult powers.
Technically this state is known as opening to the Qabalistic World of Formation (Yetzirah), wherein events and situations in life are found to conform to underlying or archetypal patterns. (In the advanced order known A.A., the entry into Tiphereth occurs at the deeper of the World of Creation, or Briah; but initiates of A.A. will know this, while the majority of us are virtually certain to enter the World of Formation at this point). The initiation to Tiphereth produces a clearer awareness of human motives, in ourselves and in both the human world and non-human worlds around us. Further exploration of this ‘Yetziratic’ realm will also produce certain trances or altered states of mind, though only rarely will it result in actual samadhi, or enlightenment as most people would think of it.
Hubbard was able to develop a system of grades of ‘release’ with Dianetics, which speaks of Matter, Energy, Space and Time, or MEST – the same four ‘elements’ as our Earth (Matter), Air (Space), Water (Time) and Fire (Energy), studied and examined in the First Order, or elemental grades(degrees) of many mystery schools. In Dianetics, these are mentioned only peripherally, but ground covered is fundamentally the same as in mystery schools, albeit more precisely and comprehensively (and with consequent less breadth) in the schools. But he spent years trying to bring people to the actual state of Clear, which would correspond to the activation of the element of Spirit and essential control over MEST. He only finally named some Clears in 1969, and frequently made changes to his definition of the term, and thus to the number of people holding the grade, in the years following. What he found he had to do was create higher grades, of Operating Thetan – the word Thetan being defined as soul or spirit in Scientology glossaries – to cove the deficiencies he found in his Clears’ … clarity.
He was thus trying to create the equivalent of a Second Order, or even later on, a Third Order. And crucially, he failed to appreciate that the essential focus of the methods shifts from one Order to the next. Perhaps he left Parsons too soon to grasp this. Working through the mind and its knots is important for the First Order, and remains important in the Second Order. Enough Adepts have gone off the deep end to demonstrate the lasting need for psychological health in occultism. But the spiritual and transpersonal realms opening up at this point are no longer personal mental phenomena, and that notion scared Hubbard more than any Darth Vader-ish superbeings in some past universe ever could.
There is an actual state of Clear that, while more transitory and variable than Hubbard wanted, has been repeatedly attested, and not just by active Scientologists. Robert Kaufman, whose autobiographical classic Inside Scientology was banned in the early 1970s after a Church of Scientology lawsuit, describes it at:
“The sidewalk paving – I had never noticed before – had a texture, a grain to it. It was beautiful, and I was seeing it for the first time.
“I must have a steak to celebrate. I drifted into a restaurant, one I’d never been to before, a comfortable dining room with tablecloths, carpet, and fireplace. The act of seating myself was slow-paced, deliberate, each movement separate and distinct, with no semi-conscious fidgeting. Whenever I wished to move a part of my body the idea transmitted itself with miraculous ease into the desired action. A Clear is At Cause over MEST – Matter, Energy, Space, Time – His Own Physical Universe. I asked the waitress for a newspaper. The front-page turmoil struck me as a mildly ludicrous, poorly-played game. Each morsel of my dinner had a separated quality, each cut of the knife was detached from the other. The strands of meat were an attractive mosaic.”
But the same chapter also describes how Kaufman lost this state the next day. And since Scientology is so goals-and-accomplishments oriented, he went into a consequent panic.
What he experienced corresponds, in more traditional terms, to dharana – steady, contemplative attention on objects. But in yoga, such a state can’t be maintained indefinitely except after arduous effort. Nor would a Hermetic mystery school teach people that any attainment manifests consistently over time. Yet Hubbard makes frequent use of the word ‘stable’ in regard to Clear and Operating Thetan (OT) levels. It was always his obsession – stable data, and stable states.
There are several ways of looking at the failure of his experiment. Certainly he had a paranoid streak. It passed into the group consciousness of the entirety of his ‘Church,’ so that it became infamous for ruthless attacks on critics. His writer’s imagination, sealed off from ‘the wog world,’ or community of outsiders, became more agitated as he sought for deeper answers, only to keep churning out his own head-spinning science fiction mythos in ever broader swathes, the battle for post-Clear states becoming increasingly desperate as the contrary forces he tried to master were clearly ever more fundamental to the human condition.
And certainly we can say his ego was a major block. He explicitly disavowed Buddhist and Hindu ideas of liberation, for example.
He developed a concept he called GPM, or goals-problems-mass, supposedly originating during the famous Xenu incident millions of years ago when our thetans were (among other nasty occurrences) all dropped into a volcano. The result of this particular terrible conditioning was a tendency to create problems contrary to our own core goals, which in turn, as a result of our struggles, created a web of physical matter that still entraps us.
(See: http://www.ezlink.com/~perry/CoS/Theology/GPM.htm for a discussion of this).
And he equated nirvana or moksha with further entrapment in this state, not less. To put it Qabalistically, he mistook the final Heh of Tetragrammaton, the Earth-letter, with the first Heh, the Water-letter. In the system of the four Qabalistic Worlds, Heh-final represents Assiah, the world of Action or Manifestation, and the first Heh represents the world of Briah, or Creation, where all the different phenomena or energies manifest ‘suchness,’ and cease to appear in a state of conflict. But Scientology is adamant about not abandoning the sense of separate selfhood at any point. Actual higher consciousness, as opposed to trance-states and dharana, cannot therefore arise; of if it does, it is rejected. The terms in which a Scientologist comes to understand his own experience merely scorn where it is leading.
Was this outlook a bastardised version of “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” with no deeper sense of what that Will might entail? Maybe, but the available biographical evidence says Hubbard already had sufficient narcissism to regard abdicating his own autonomy as undesirable. He was 34 when he met Parsons, a little past absorbing formative ideas.