The Lands

dead trees along american river
…This being background data on a new writing project and WordPress site…here…

Scientology in the context of the New Age

For years I had been following various “New Age” personalities and “alternative” websites with the hope that a familiarity with their subjects matter would assist my purpose of influencing them to expand their areas of awareness to include Scientology. Not Scientology as an organization necessarily, but certainly Scientology as a subject.

This strategy has not yielded fruit. I was – very loosely speaking – a member of this “community” before I got involved in Scientology. However, the “community” appears to more closely resemble a house of cards.

During the age of industrialization, followed by an age of computerization which is what I grew up in, many of us have been disturbed about how things have been going. Blacks now have civil rights, yet they are incarcerated at a rate of 10% or more (depending on their age) versus 2% (roughly) for whites. (This is from Pew Research, 2013). And that is a marked increase over the years 1960 to 2010. Loan money for college tuition and housing purchase has become more and more available, yet real wealth continues to concentrate amongst a tiny minority of the population. The old futurists told us technology advances would make life easier, but instead it has become more hectic and (for many) more stressful. We fought wars to “make the world safe for democracy,” but instead seem to have become one of the world’s most vicious warmongers.

Many of us who saw these problems were also presented with various alternative paths for handling them that seemed more or less promising. There was the “drop out” path, famously expressed by the psychologist Timothy Leary. Behind that whole movement – we have since learned – were individuals from the CIA, and perhaps other oddball agencies. They seemed particularly interested in testing LSD on the population. Another offering – made by many, and interestingly including Leary’s Harvard associate Ram Dass – was to meditate. Of course meditation is just the most obvious aspect of an array of teachings loosely based on Hindu and Buddhist ideas and amplified by various Europeans and Americans dabbling into the realms of spiritualism, channelling, etc. Another path offered was to “solve it with technology.” Perhaps the epitome of this idea today is “Transhumanism,” the concept that technology might at some point make the human body passé. And then there was Scientology.

When I was a teenager, “New Age” ideas were getting quite a bit of exposure, but not with that label. The choice of this particular term by more modern writers is most likely an expediency; it is simple and sounds catchy. However, Theosophist Alice Bailey used this expression in at least two book titles, as did many other and diverse writers of earlier times. According to Wikipedia, the movement as we know it now started in the UK in the 1970s. Again, rumors of CIA interest in these ideas and the personalities that promote them do not abate.

In those days, the media was more involved with New Age topics than they are today. You could hear reports on NPR about “magic” healers in the Philippines. In 1972 NBC aired an edited version of the 1970 German film “Chariots of the Gods” about theories of ancient ET visitations, based on a book by Erich von Däniken. The TV sitcom “My Favorite Martian” had already enjoyed a long run from 1963 to 1966. It was followed later by “Mork and Mindy,” with spooky shows like “Time Tunnel” and “Bewitched” filling in between.

The New Age mixed allusions to modern scientific discoveries and ET visitation with an Eastern-style spiritual approach to come up with a narrative that captured the attention of many young people of those years who might have otherwise found more effective avenues (such as Scientology) for acting on their outrage over the crime, war and pollution which continued to plague their “modern” world.

I was peripherally involved in several groups: The Henry George School promoted the work of a late 1800s intellectual who also had interests in spiritualism. Planetary Citizens – led by visionary Donald F. Keys – told us about channelled messages that could save our planet. Planet Drum Foundation – an ecology education group promoting the ideas of devolutionist Peter Berg – used memes from aboriginal cultures mixed with the concept of “bioregionalism.”

A commonality among all these groups was some attempt to interweave politics with spiritual knowledge and values – the most basic being long-term (as opposed to short-term, one lifetime) concepts of ethics. The realization that after death one will return to continue living on this planet is considered crucial to appreciating the validity of longer-term ethical principles. However, these groups largely failed in their goals because they had no way to bring about this fundamental realization. Scientology does have ways to do this. However, in developing those processes, Hubbard came to understand that a much fuller recovery of spiritual abilities would be needed to enable people to confront the task of cleaning up Earth, to say nothing of all the other inhabited planets.

I remain a Scientologist because I agree with Ron’s conclusions, and because we have an organization that could achieve our vision of a planet free of war, crime and insanity…and after that, other planets.

Adverse Reactions

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to get some of the New Agers I had run across to at least look in the direction of L. Ron Hubbard’s work. But they don’t seem to want to. This is a clear sign that someone has been actively working to frighten them off. The movement is well aware that there have been campaigns (often blamed on CIA or similar operatives) to sow divisiveness in the community. If we can take that as a given, then we can only assume that those efforts have included badmouthing Scientology. As these efforts are obvious on the internet, they must come from somewhere. And those persons could be imagined to be interested in seeing that New Agers don’t connect up with Scientology, just as they are obviously interested in keeping away the general public.

Thus, my colleagues at the church have suggested that I might be happier if I were less connected to the New Age world and more connected to some activity involving less outside interference from secret antagonists. One idea I had was to greatly increase my writing output. It’s a low-cost activity that I am familiar with.

Inspirations from odd places

I had recently been exposed to a film story called “Blade Runner 4049.” Though I found the story overly complex, its vision of our future is not that unusual in contemporary fiction. I particularly recall from the movie an area called “San Diego” that had become a huge dump and salvage yard for the Los Angeles metropolis. The piles of junk went on for miles and miles in all directions. It was also pointed out that there were no living trees in the environment. It was noted that at a “rebel” outpost, a dead tree had been kept standing using steel cables.

The Blade Runner story is a “loose adaptation” of a story by writer Philip K. Dick. Philip is considered an important science fiction writer. Born in 1928, he was influenced by the somewhat older sci-fi writers of the pulp days, such as Hubbard and Heinlein, but also the “beat” writers like Jack Kerouac. He died at only 53 under circumstances that remain poorly understood. He was a drug user, that is for sure.

In Dick’s book, the dystopia evident on the West Coast was brought about by war. In the movie this is not mentioned, except for a reference to a “high radiation” area near Las Vegas. In both stories, androids apparently designed for robotic tasks (I don’t believe it) acquire their own sense of humanity and wish to have equal rights with humans and an end to the control programming. Science fiction writers who have gone down this road seem to be of a mind that something like this could happen. They don’t try to understand why. The difference for me is that I now know why. The design and manufacture of human-like androids would be seen as a dangerous and stupid activity by anyone who understood the likely spiritual outcome of it. The androids in the film, called “replicants,” would be even more susceptible to this problem, as they are almost totally biological.

Bicycling downtown through the riverside park, I noticed a large stand of dead trees that has always been there, but seemed unusually gloomy with no spring foliage to offset the grayness. And I thought, “this is the Land of the Dead Trees.” And so I began to formulate the starting point of a story.

I am incapable – even if I wanted to – of writing an ordinary fiction story. I have been exposed to too much actuality that is much stranger than most “fiction” written these days. The trick would be to start with how things are now and somehow show how the situation could be improved.

That leads to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” which employed a similar technique. But I have no use for his time traveler. I can simply assume a viewpoint of some future time and “look back” to now.

phto with added effects

The photo above with two effects added to it: “oil” and “sepia.”

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One Response to “The Lands”

  1. A New Leaf | The Life Force Blog Says:

    […] Contrasts: the force of truth – the force of technology « The Lands […]

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