Cult order sought to end scientists' criticism

Toronto Globe and Mail/January 25, 1980
by John Marshall

A 1977 order from the top level of the Church of Scientology sought to silence criticism of the cult by a New York-based organization dedicated to investigating UFOs and claims of psychic wonders.

The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal was the subject of a six-page order among many thousands of documents released by a Washington court that recently convicted nine U.S. Scientology leaders of playing a part in a conspiracy to steal confidential government documents.

Dated March 24, 1977, the order was signed by Herman Brandel, an aide to Mary Sue Hubbard, wife of Scientology's founder and one of the nine sent to prison.

It was titled: "Program: Humanist Humiliation." (The CSICOP, an international group whose members include biochemist-author Isaac Asimov, grew out of the American Humanist Association.)

And it began: "Major Target-To handle terminatedly the Humanist publication Zetetic (now The Skeptical Inquirer) and the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal so that they never attack Scientology or Dianetics again."

The 23-point order told the World-Wide Guardians Office (with duties ranging from press relations to espionage) to spread rumors that the CSICOP was a front set up by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Government spy network, "to discredit any and all psychic phenomena in order to keep this subject under CIA control ... and in order to squash paranormal research outside CIA."

This would be done by forging a memo on CIA stationery and leaking it to selected people, including a few in the news media.

In the court documents was a report (FBI number 7487) that the order was carried out, and a copy of a memo under a CIA letterhead with the statement that it was sent to the New York Times, broadcaster-columnist Jack Anderson and others.

The 23-point directive also proposed that a dozen or more people "on lines" (taking Scientology courses) write letters (samples were included) as private individuals to known anti-Scientologists in the CSICOP worded so as to elicit anti-religious statements.

These would then be circulated to leaders of recognized churches to indicate that the CSICOP was working against them and that it even advocated deprogramming of their followers. (In fact, the CSICOP does not investigate theological or philosophical beliefs, unless practitioners claim they can pass the tests of science.)

The order from Mrs. Hubbard's office, like many others in the Washington court files, made it clear the actions should be done covertly so they could not be traced back to Scientology.

At an informal meeting in New York, CSICOP chairman Paul Kurtz told other members about the Scientology document.

The committee was also shown a copy of a phony letter on real CSICOP letterhead with Mr. Kurtz's signature forged to it. It purported to be a letter from him to a contributor, worded so that it would turn serious parapsychology researchers against the committee.

Mr. Kurtz, a professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, said in an interview that at least one critic of the committee has suggested in a published article that it is connected with the CIA.

Behind the Scientologists' attack on the scientific group is the fact that CSICOP members give little credence to pseudo-scientific claims made by Mr. Hubbard and his followers.

The first issue of the committee's publication came out just before the Scientology attack on the committee was ordered. It included an article by British sociologist Roy Wallis, an excerpt from a book he had written based on extensive research into Dianetics, L. Ron Hubbard's "science of mental health."

The author noted help he received from John Lee, a University of Toronto professor who was the author of a report on psychic healing for an Ontario Government inquiry into health treatment. Professor Lee was sued by the Scientologists-and some of his confidential communications, along with others that had disappeared from Health Ministry files, turned up in the U.S. court documents.

The Wallis article said that Dianetics, which Mr. Hubbard developed in the 1940s and claims is based on scientific research, was rejected by the medical, psychiatric and psychological professions "apart from numerous marginal, limited, and quasi-medical converts."

Dianetics did reach craze proportions in the United States in 1950, Mr. Wallis wrote, but by 1952 it had disappeared. A foundation set up to sell courses in the theories foundered. Mr. Hubbard broke with his colleagues, and the foundation declared bankruptcy. Mr. Hubbard expanded his theories and called the result Scientology, "organized from the outset in a highly centralized and authoritarian fashion."

Much of the Wallis article was in Mr. Hubbard's own words, relating the cult leader's belief that "engrams" (meaning subconscious memories from the womb or even past lives) could be discovered and erased. A person "cleared" of this spiritual baggage could become superior in mind and body.

He quoted Mr. Hubbard, who believed psychosomatic illnesses included at least 70 percent of all known illnesses, as writing: "Arthritis of the knee, for instance, is the accumulation of all knee injuries in the past.

"The body confuses time and environment with the time and environment where the knee was injured and so keeps the pain there. The fluids of the body avoid the pain area. Hence a deposit which is called arthritis."

Another quotation: "Migraine headaches are psychosomatic, and with the others (a long list that included coronary and eye problems, allergies, bursitis, ulcers and asthma) are uniformly cured by dianetic therapy. And the word cured is used in its fullest sense."

Some of those engrams, those past memories, that Mr. Hubbard found in subjects under his form of psychotherapy involved what he said was the ability of a fetus in the womb to not only hear the voice of its mother and others but to understand the words.

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