Many years ago when I started taking Scientology courses, I was referred to LRH study tech and was admonished to never go by a word I did not fully understand. It did not look quite right to me then. However, as I was becoming more and more “prisoner of the mind” I forgot about my doubts and disagreements. Today, I have not been practicing Scientology for over two years. On the other hand, I am back to conducting scientific research as my main line of work. Thus, my critical thinking is functional again. I am therefore sharing with you my thoughts about Scientology Study Technology.
What is LRH study technology? It boils down to three points that LRH refers to as “barriers to study”. The whole theory and application centers around these points. The points are:
Skipped Gradient – a situation by which the student has missed some data, and has gone past it. LRH described a whole set of physical manifestations that supposedly occur when a student experience a skipped gradient .
Lack of mass – here he describes a situation where a student learns about something without a reality on what that something is. For example he learns about tractors but has never seen one. Here too, LRH describes a range of physical manifestations pointing to that feature.
Misunderstood Words – according to LRH, even if there is one word you did not understand in a text, it inhibits your ability to understand that text. According to him this is the biggest barrier to study.
Before I delve into an analysis of these so called “barriers,” I would like to convey my subjective feeling about LRH study technology. After all, the study and assimilation of information is a very subjective issue. My feeling was that when I adhered to this technology, my ability to understand data was actually reduced. A great part of learning is intuition. I feel that trying to avoid these barriers actually reduces intuition. You are reduced to a stage were everything is presented to you in a digested form. You are no longer required to exert any mental effort to understand the material. Thus you do not develop intellectually. The mind is like a muscle. If you make it work hard, it becomes more powerful. Give it everything on a “silver plate” and it deteriorates. Another problem is that when you study there is a flow of information. If you stop every few seconds to look up a word in a dictionary, that flow is interrupted, and you find yourself losing the context.
I will now analyze each of the barriers starting from the last to the first.
To counter the argument about misunderstood words I quote from LRH himself:
A datum can be evaluated only by a datum of comparable magnitude.
Problems are resolved by compartmenting them into areas of similar magnitude and data, comparing them to data already known or partially known, and resolving each area. Data which cannot be known immediately may be resolved by addressing what is known and using its solution to resolve the remainder.”
The more I learn about LRH, the more I reach the conclusion that his work is a hodgepodge of bits and pieces copied from other people’s work, and some “invented” research conclusions. This is no different. John Atack in Tony Ortega’s blog did a great job in tracking down the real sources for “LRH’s” technology. These logics make a lot of sense. Hence, they, most likely, were copied from someone else.
One of the fastest processes of learning language is that of a baby learning his first language. He does not have dictionaries at hand, and even if he did, he would not be able to use them. Yet, he is able to learn many new words a day. He learns syntax incredibly fast. How does he do it? He does it using logic 8 and logic 13. He compares every datum to what he knows already. He is able to pick up the key words from every sentence. By using the context in which the words were said he is able to assume the meaning of the words. He knows and trusts that the adults around him will correct him when he makes a mistake. By using this method, not only does he learn the language (or languages), but he also develops his learning skills and intelligence. An example of the process would be the one year old son of my niece. We served him quiche which he really liked. He tried several times to grab it, but since it was hot his mother stopped him and said “hot”. Pretty soon he started saying “hot” pointing to the quiche, and it became apparent that he linked the word ‘hot’ to quiche. I took his hand and held it over the quiche where he could feel the heat. I said “hot”. Than I pointed to the quiche and said “quiche”. He immediately understood it.
What happens when you are required to open the dictionary for every word you did not understand and clear all the definitions, derivations, synonyms, etc.? For one, you stop your study for a long time and lose the context. You also lose your ability to grasp a concept from the context. It is my feeling that the concept on not going past misunderstood words is not only false, it is insidious. I feel that LRH wanted people to follow him blindly. Thus, he set study tech to be a “mind killer” and made sure everybody in Scientology learns and follows it. I must admit that while I was an adherent of study tech, my deduction ability was impaired. Indeed, not understanding enough words in a text will eventually stop you from learning. Obviously, if you attempt to study a Chinese text when you do not know Chinese you will fail, but there is a certain percentage of misunderstood words that you should able to overcome without referring to a dictionary. More over, LRH method of clearing a word require that you read every definition, make sentences, read the derivation, and synonym study. Of course, if you encounter a word somewhere in the dictionary that you did not understand, you must clear that word before you continue. I have seen students in Scientology get stuck for weeks on a single word. That is not fast study. When I was in High school, I did a computer science project. My math teacher gave me a math book so I can educate myself on the math I needed. There was one problem, the book was written in Rumanian, and I had no knowledge of that language. I was able to learn what I needed from following the math without the text. This for me, disproves completely the thesis that the misunderstood word is an insurmountable barrier to study.
Immanuel Kant defined a scientific thesis as one that can be easily contradicted. In other words you may have many evidences to a theory. However, one evidence against it is enough to disprove it. I believe that in the previous paragraph I have provided all that is needed to disprove the theory of the misunderstood word.
LRH has written his text in a very cumbersome, boring, and unclear manner. His text contains contradictories, sometimes within a single sentence. Without having proof, I would venture to write that this was done on purpose. That way he protected himself from criticism. He could always claim that a critic had misunderstood words, and did not really understand the text.
To conclude, I feel that the misunderstood word is not an insurmountable barrier to study. I found out from my experience and from the experience of others that the correct approach is that of education scientists today: use a dictionary, but only as a last resort.
Lack of Mass
It is indeed more pleasant to be able to touch and feel the subject of your study than to just read a text. But is it absolutely necessary? Let us look at a certain subject, namely cryptography. Modern cryptography is the art and science of obscuring a communication so it looks like a random sequence, or sound like noise. The subject stems from a brunch of mathematics called “number theory”. In this math there is no mass, no pictures, no objects – only numbers. Nevertheless, people are studying this subject and using it. It is argued that one of the main reasons the allies won World War II was the successful deciphering of German and Japanese codes.
Good old Kant strikes again; lack of mass is not a complete barrier to study. I believe that one could use mass in his study, but he should also use his imagination to create the mass in his mind.
A superficial examination of study would support the concept that study needs be done on an easy gradient. This would have been true if the purpose of study was only to assimilate information. This is indeed the case when you study Scientology. LRH was not interested in students bringing original thinking to the table. God forbid should the student develop a good critical thinking. He might find the holes and contradictions in Scientology theory and logic. Hence, the student must become a data assimilation robot. For that he needs an easy gradient.
Again, I turn to good old Kant. Anybody who has ever taken a degree in science or engineering knows that in the first year you study Physics before you study the mathematical tools needed for this course. These you get only in the second semester. This is a steep gradient if I have ever seen done. It is not done so by mistake. Centuries of students proved that it is a way to hone and sharpen young minds. They learn to solve problems without having enough tools. If they do not, they are not skilled enough for that type of profession.
Despite what I have written here. LRH study technology is not completely without merit. Yet, it is far from the absolute truth it is presented as. If you are involved in education, you could do much better by looking at modern education science.