June 4, 1997
Interview with Reverend Wolf about dangerous Psycho-Organizations
The word "Scientology" has become a modern-day bogey-man. With revulsion you read reports about refined methods of exploitation and about penal camps. One of the determined researchers of the machinations of the organization, which according to the the decision of a Munster superior court judge may be designated as a "cartel of suppression with no regard for humankind", is the Reverend Bernhard Wolf from Rehau, representative of the Evangelical Church in Bavaria for new religious and spiritual trends. In an interview with our newspaper Reverend Wolf speaks about the background and goals of Scientology - and about his concerns that other, not less threatening, groups can spread unchecked in the slipstream of these confrontations.
What is Scientology?
Wolf: One of the most dangerous psycho-organizations, which was founded in the 50's in the USA by the partly successful fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard. Source and center was and is "Dianetics", a crude psycho-technique, which has consistently - and incorrectly - been designated by the Scientologists as a type of "psychoanalysis." The goal is to create a "clear", a new, perfect person, who shall have control over matter and energy, over space and time.
What is the difference from psychanalysis?
Wolf: Psychoanalysis has to do with empathizing with other people and their problems, building trust, and using this to lead people to psychic stability and health. The "auditing" process of the Scientologists (from Latin "audire", listen) is exactly the opposite. An auditor is trained to have no feelings such as sympathy, rather to use an overblown method of questioning with the help of a so-called "e-meter" to make other people dependent and turn them into creatures with no will of their own. Human emotions such as compassion are only destroyed. According to Hubbard, people who cause problems can even be rendered physically and psychically harmless.
What makes Scientology so dangerous?
Wolf: Scientology is a refined mixture of delusions of omnipotence, progressive ideology, positive thinking ("all problems are solvable"), a pinch of religious exoticism such as reincarnation, some occult, scientism and a pseudo-scientific technology. The whole results in a bombastic structure in which a fascistoid, strongly hierarchically ordered system is molded. This explosive mixture is streamlined to fit into our day and age and appeals to many people who believe they have received short shrift. Along with that is methodical cynicism; an exploitative system with a claim of world domination which is supposed to be brought about by any means.
In the Slipstream
What effects does this method have upon society?
Wolf: Many former Scientologists and those fascinated by psycho-technologies currently work independently using methods similar to those of Scientology. They offer management and communication training - a wide-open market in which the same spirit is at work as is in Scientology. The danger is that our society will fixate on Scientology, while it basically is a straw man war. Many organizations sail in the slipstream which - if also in smaller number - are similarly problematic to society, because they are able to use their activities to change the foundation of our democracy.
You speak of former Scientologists. Is it possible then, to separate oneself from the organization in a peaceful agreement?
Wolf: Departure is possible, but as a rule is made difficult by corresponding financial, psychological or other dependencies (extortion). People who leave count as enemies who must be fought with all means.
How many members does Scientology have in Germany?
Wolf: We don't know that exactly. The Scientologists themselves speak of more that 30,000.
Do we know how active Scientology is in Oberfranken?
Wolf: We don't have verified information. The real estate sector is being converted to a large extent by Scientologists in the new German states, most of all in Sachsen and Thuringen. In Oberfranken we know of no company which has a clear association with Scientology. But I am convinced that the area had become very interesting after the border opening. According to the labor exchange (Firma masterselect, Nurnberg), there is a direct connection in Hof to the President of Scientology Bavaria and leader of the Nurnberg center, Gerhard Boehm, who has a business address there. You have to count on increased activity in Oberfranken, because of the high unemployment rate. Fields in which Scientology is particularly active are construction, real estate, employment agencies, management and communications training.
Can you recognize Scientologists by their choice of words or their appearance?
Wolf: There are small signs. Scientologists train themselves to look at each other for extended periods without blinking. They repeatedly use certain concepts such as ethics or havingness or communication. In written communications a Scientologist will sign out "with high ARC", which stands for affinity, reality and communication. Scientologists in management are often recognized in that they urge workers to take specific courses. Other signs: a person changes very quickly and begins to say in a feverish tone of voice that you can achieve anything. On the other hand you should be careful of suspecting someone. One example: a man called me up and said that his neighbor was surely in Scientology - because it was funny that he left the house so early. I warned against sect hysteria. Rumors spread quickly, and they are hard for a company to shake. It is dangerous for the value system of a society when people turn into covert informants, as they do in connection with Scientology.
In the news the concept of a penal camp comes up. How can such a camp be envisioned?
Wolf: For that we must depend upon reports from ex-Scientologists who were there. There is basically [garbled words], whether that is now in Copenhagen or in Clearwater in the USA. The people have work up to 16 hours per day, performing demeaning tasks. Any contact to the outside is broken, everything is inspected. On top of that sleep deprivation and brainwashing are used to heavily influence people.
Disciplinary? Surely nobody goes there voluntarily?
Wolf: No. They are ordered there. That does not mean that force was used in each case, but that the person in such a system goes because he knows he has done something which merits discipline in the eyes of Scientology.
Some time ago Scientology threatened to expose "criminal and moral transgressions" of Bonn's politicians...
Wolf: ...yes, that goes with the system. Hubbard has said to exploit the weak points of your opponent in accordance with the slogan, "everybody has a skeleton in his closet." Find something in the past of your opponent and expose it. We know about the time as the discussion was taking place with Scientology in Munich that Gauweiler was being tailed, along with my deceased colleague Friedrich Haack, who ***. In the value system of Scientology that [tailing] is an indispensable measure used to bring an individual under control.
You spoke previously of a straw man war, in whose slipstream many organizations who want basically the same thing ride. What can state and society do against exploitative gurus and dangerous psycho-groups without harming the fundamentals of religious freedom?
Wolf: Rule number one: enlightenment and information. In practice that means that whoever takes a course or undertakes some kind of psychotherapy for himself should quite pointedly ask who or what stands behind the offer.
Where can one get information about this?
Wolf: For companies there is the Information Education Campaign in Stuttgart, Alte Poststrasse 5, telephone 0711/299335, where you can receive information. For the psycho-market the Professional Association of German Psychologists in Bonn provides a source of information, but will often refuse ecclesiastical counselling. That is a certain weak point: the state has to have an interest in making an arrangement which gathers information, sorts it and lets their judgment be influenced in the advisement.
The Munich judge Juergen Keltsch, member of the Federal Assembly's Enquete Commission's "So-called Sects and Psycho-Groups", demanded - similar to the long since maintained product test foundation - a psycho-test foundation for businesses in the psycho-spiritual area, outside of state counselors which are philosophically neutral.
Wolf: An entirely new market has developed with these alternative psycho-methods which the present legal system cannot get a handle on. The direction is going more for therapy for society in general, combined with areas such as life counselling, life arts or life assistance. This spectrum is close to the estimated one thousand therapeutic methods. In addition there are entirely new hybrid forms from which elements of various methods have been assembled, which in turn is offered as therapy. This is referred to as spiritual therapy, a combination of religion and therapy, so that on the basis of religious freedom it is very difficult for the state to interfere. A psycho-test foundation would not be a bad idea, because we have so many psychotherapies. As to what length legal protection would extend, that has not yet been determined.
The problem is to separate the religious systems and methods whose concept identifies the sect from those which have nothing to do with religion. We have to get away from the idea of a sect, or else we are immediately identifying with a religion. We have to bring up a new issue whose point is: what is totalitarian, what is a totalitarian organization, in order to define how the individual citizen can be better protected.
Does the state do too little to protect the citizens from the expanding psycho-market?
Wolf: The state would be able to more strongly support existing counselling agencies as well as create new ones. People concerned occasionally get the impression that the government on the one side leads a welcome struggle against the Scientologists, but the other hand the necessity for counselling - with other problematic organizations - are not yet extensively recognized and would seem to be hidden under ecclesiastical auspices.
In the USA
Why is Scientology apparently seen as harmless in the USA?
Wolf: In the beginning Scientology also amounted to a dangerous organization in the USA, before gaining tax free status from the American government under peculiar circumstances. Since then they have emphasized their religion status and have had a certain success on the American public. This has to do with history. In the 17th century many emigrants, who had been persecuted in Europe on religious grounds, experienced a new freedom in America. Religious freedom has been confirmed by the American constitution since then as a valuable commodity, as it should be. On the other hand one must ask whether the American government is sufficiently aware of organizations such as Scientology, which merely hangs a cloak of religion around itself but pursues entirely unreligious goals which introduce a serious threat to the free democratic social structure.
We in Germany have a regrettable history of totalitarianism and fascism behind us. Both sides could learn from each other. Sometimes a shot of religious tolerance towards those who believe differently from us would do us Germans good. And the Americans would be able to learn something worthwhile from us about the danger of totalitarianism, which often conceals itself today in unsuspected ways behind a pseudo-religious cloak. Worldwide it would pay for itself if democracy, and the freedom which it brings to the individual, could step in and limit all attempts to undermine this freedom.
Report about a state assembly hearing on the subject of sects in the Zeitspiegel "Mirror of the times"
The questions were asked by Elfriede Schneider