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Hubbard first introduced the concept of THETA in his book Science of Survival which, in common terms, can be understood as CONSCIOUSNESS – as that form of intelligence which creates various life forms and their activities.
Out of the word THETA Hubbard then coined a word THETAN – to symbolize a unit of consciousness that is an individual him or herself, as separate from the body. Another term for theta or a thetan is a LIFE STATIC or simply STATIC to differentiate it from KINETIC which is a term in Dianetics to denote any form of material existence.
The basic “truths” of Scientology are laid out in its Axioms. Let’s take a look at some of them:
(April 1955) The Creation of Human Ability
Note, how in axiom 45 it states that once theta is “placed,” meaning once it considers itself to occupy some specific location, it becomes a PROBLEM. This is easy to see that once something becomes a point in space then it has an immediate problem of being only in one place and not being in other places hence it somehow has to move if it wants to be in a different location. Of course problems begin to multiply and increase in complexity when you add matter and other things.
Now, The Creation of Human Ability was said to be “the primary text” when it came out in 1955 but since then was superseded with a much more complex web of materials and practice. In addition to the axioms and a general theory, this book also included specific processes one could engage in to start moving in the direction of increased spiritual awareness and ability. The primary route of processing was called ROUTE 1 and it started as follows:
R1-4: BE THREE FEET BACK OF YOUR HEAD
This command was supposed to “locate” and “exteriorize” a thetan (spiritual being, that unit of consciousness that is the individual) out of being in a body. The only issue is that according to Scientology’s own axioms, a spiritual being inherently has no location (except by consideration) and assigning one leads to a “problem” according to axiom 45 cited above:
44. THETA (THE STATIC) HAS NO LOCATION IN MATTER, ENERGY, SPACE, OR TIME. IT IS CAPABLE OF CONSIDERATION.
45. THETA CAN CONSIDER ITSELF TO BE PLACED, AT WHICH MOMENT IT BECOMES PLACED, AND TO THAT DEGREE A PROBLEM.
In fact, Hubbard includes a note where this first command was described in more detail:
NOTE: A thetan located in a space is less than theta itself, but a thetan located is greater than homo sapiens.
So we should all be good and no misunderstanding should arise that a spirit is not in fact some identifiable entity hovering at a distance from a body or being “trapped” inside of it, right? Not quite… In fact, even though conceptually incorrect the “three feet back of your head” mantra became a colloquial standard among Scientologists by which to judge exteriorization. To make matters worse, this concept of a thetan as being some entity identifiable in space actually gets reinforced over and over again all throughout Scientology materials and artwork seemingly in direct contradiction to its own basic axioms. Let’s take a look at some examples:
In The Fundamentals of Thought, a thetan is assigned a location – “residence” – right after stating that it has NO LOCATION (except by consideration) in the preceding paragraph:
The Fundamentals of Thought (1956)
The thetan (spirit) is described in Scientology as having no mass, no wave-length, no energy and NO TIME OR LOCATION IN SPACE except by consideration or postulate. The spirit, then, is not a thing. It is the creator of things.
The usual RESIDENCE of the thetan is in the skull or near the body. A thetan can be in ONE OF FOUR CONDITIONS. The first would be entirely separate from a body or bodies, or even from this universe. The second would be near a body and knowingly controlling the body. The third would be in the body (the skull) and the fourth would be an inverted condition whereby he was compulsively away from the body and could not approach it. There are degrees (subdivisions) of each one of these four states (conditions). The most optimum of these conditions, from the standpoint of man, is the second.
[bolding and capitalization added for emphasis]
It does not exactly say what it means by “entirely separate” but by the meaning of the entire paragraph we can conclude that “separate” means not being somewhere in or near a body or even in the universe. Saying that something is NOT somewhere also implies location meaning that it is somewhere else, but regardless, it is clear from this paragraph that it in actual fact reverses on the definition in the preceding paragraph and now postulates the spirit as some identifiable entity in space. Note, it says ONE OF FOUR CONDITIONS meaning that it is EITHER “near” the body OR “in the skull” if we compare the second and third conditions. And why “in the skull” and not occupying the whole body? Are you feeling your hands, your arms and legs… your abdomen? So there must be some of “you” there as well, no?
Next we have some Scientology videos for the public reaffirming the vision of a spirit as some identifiable entity hovering in space. Take a look:
Despite of apparent simplicity in the axioms, Hubbard progressed into building up a lot of complexity around the supposed nature of a thetan as some mysterious entity that needs to use complex system of energy beams and “ridges” to control a body and things in the environment.
This just sounds kind of disturbing. Has anyone in Scientology actually tried this? Does this even work? If Hubbard was so smart and truly knew what he was talking about, why didn’t HE make a device that could create a “rectractor wave?” As can be seen from the dates, these publicly available lectures were delivered in the early 50’s meaning that it has been SIXTY some years since this data was known in Scientology. Is there or has there ever been a Scientologist who could demonstrate a “retractor wave” in action? Hubbard said that “a human being can do this” and gave instructions on how to run (i.e. process through application of Scientology procedures) these beams so any well trained Scientologist should be able to do it, right?
Rationally thinking, why would a thetan even need to control a body through some complex system of “energy beams” if a thetan could simply BE a body and could simply create body motions according to the very definition of a thetan as a “creator of things?” Instead, “being a body” is used as a rather derogatory term in Scientology.
Also, suggesting that a thetan uses “energy beams” to control a body and establishing procedures to MOVE a thetan from INSIDE the head OUT of the head again envisions a thetan as an entity of some kind with a location inside or outside of the body that has to use some strange energy mechanisms to control it, yet again according to its very definition in the axioms of Scientology a thetan has NO LOCATION and no “wavelength” and so can be both inside and outside the body as a pervading beingness which is exactly how almost any person can experience themselves with enough practice – as a pervading field of awareness with forms and motions in it as opposed to being in a form (body) and perceiving other forms and motions through it.
In the same wise, being “three feet back of your head” is also a misnomer for exteriorization as again a thetan is not a point in space and so can be the space and a body in it all at the same time.
Perhaps “exteriorization” or “being exterior” could themselves be somewhat misleading since “exterior” means “outside” and a thetan, inherently having no location, does not have to be limited to being inside (interior) or outside (exterior) of the body but can simply pervade THROUGH the body and the environment all at the same time.
If we view a thetan (or theta, static, spirit) as a pervading awareness in its basic form, then it is easy to see how a spirit could occupy some point in space according to its own considerations of itself or it could fill the space itself. You could, for example, perceive yourself as occupying a body and operating through it or you could perceive yourself as an expanded field of awareness with your body and some aspects of your environment in it, and this, in effect, would be complete or partial “exteriorization.”
To perceive that you, as a unit of awareness, is “outside” of the body, it seems that you would simply need to either:
1) Be aware of something else and not be aware of your body, at least not as far as awareness of inside of your body goes, or
2) Be able to perceive your body from some point in space external to the body.
Theoretically, both of these could give someone a sense that they are “outside” of the body. Descriptions of experiences with regards to the first point can be found in literature on mediation that usually have to do with intense and prolonged concentration on some object to the point where the observer loses awareness of one’s own body and instead “blends in” with the object of observation.
Descriptions with regards to the second point are not as widespread outside of Scientology community and usually have to do with descriptions of near death experiences or experiences while under influence of psychedelic drugs. There is also a growing community of people practicing OBE (out-of-body experiences), but these usually have to do with a certain type of dream state as opposed to experiencing being outside of one’s body in a waking state so the two phenomena may not be exactly the same.
Hubbard himself confirms the idea of changes in awareness in a different lecture that is more in line with Scientology axioms and common sense:
[19 MAY 1952] Route to Infinity: Outline of Technique 80
You could be aware of the body. What you want to be on the First Dynamic is to be so aware of the body that you then rise up, pass through that and become never aware of the body.
Did you ever see a ballet dancer who was aware of his feet? No, not a good one. Nor have you ever seen a tennis player who was aware of his racket.
[First Dynamic is a term for oneself as an individual.]
In this same lecture Hubbard also gives an idea on how objects could be moved without a body – no “tractor waves” required:
In the first place, evidently, a human being can look at an object and move it if he is high on the Tone Scale. He can look at an object and move it. Poltergeist, you call it. All you do is put a few more ergs of energy on one side of it than you put on the other side of it and it’ll move. Like an airfoil, it goes up, because it has got less air on the top than the bottom. That’s the way you move things when you don’t have a body.
Why Hubbard needed to go off and conceptualize a spiritual being as some entity that supposedly uses energy beams to even gather communication from the body is not very clear. The truth is basically simple but with over three thousand (3,000+) lectures, volumes of bulletins, and a complex organizational structure Hubbard made it seem so complex and overwhelming as to make Scientology virtually useless and counter-productive from the viewpoint of a genuine spiritual practice.
The above analysis was performed using Hubbard’s own definition as evaluation criteria, but now…
LET’S GET REAL
To put it simply, Scientology axioms serve to deny or negate the factor of existence to reality, including the reality of consciousness itself.
First, Hubbard defines a Thetan in terms of what it is not (no mass, no motion, no location, no wavelength) but highlights its supposed ability (to postulate and perceive). This is like defining an “apple” by saying that “it is not a pear, and it can produce a tree when planted in the ground.” Saying that something is not something else does not exactly provide a descriptive definition. This is why on this website a definition for Consciousness started with attempting to identify what it actually is – a form of intelligence – rather than elaborating on what it is not.
From defining a Thetan in terms of “non-existence,” Hubbard then proceeds to invalidate the factor of existence to the physical reality itself by asserting that “space, energy, objects, form and time” are all “the result of considerations.” Of course someone can argue that saying that something is a “result of” considerations is not the same as saying that something “is” a consideration. As an analogy, a clay figure could be seen as a “result” of sculptor’s vision, but it is not itself a vision. However, Axiom 48 further clarifies Hubbard’s view that all is thought or that thought is the underlying nature of all that exists:
48. Life is a game wherein Theta as the Static solves the problems of Theta as MEST.
So Theta is all that exists, but ultimately Theta itself is defined as a form of non-existence that can produce postulates and considerations. So ultimately considerations is all that exists, and there is no actual existence outside of considerations?
Perhaps the most direct statement along this line can be found in The Creation of Human Ability:
(1955) The Creation of Human Ability
Considerations take rank over the mechanics of space, energy, and time. By this it is meant that an idea or opinion is, fundamentally, superior to space, energy, and time, or organizations of form, since it is conceived that space, energy, and time are themselves broadly agreed-upon considerations. That so many minds agree brings about Reality in the form of space, energy, and time. These mechanics, then, of space, energy, and time are the product of agreed-upon considerations mutually held by life.
So in Scientology’s view established by Hubbard, CONSIDERATIONS are the fundamental building blocks of reality meaning there is no actual reality with existence of its own apart from “considerations,” but since even consciousness or theta itself has been defined as a form of non-existence, then there is no actual existence at all. How can this view be supported by any real observations or experience?
Even with respect to Consciousness itself, if we actually look at it – such as consciousness of a selected individual or group or some living form – we can see that Consciousness does have a factor of existence to it: Consciousness has “volume” (or capacity); it can be enhanced or inhibited; it can expand or become limited in scope. Consciousness can be trapped and manipulated or liberated and empowered; it can have greater freedom and capacity or it can in some way be blocked or restricted. Consciousness can definitely occupy space – it can be concentrated in some narrow area or pervade through and cover large areas of existence and reality…
If actual existence of reality is acknowledged in line with common experience, then the nature of Consciousness also becomes more clear as a sort of “ethereal substance” of intelligence that can pervade through and interact with the various existences in reality. It seems like this was Hubbard’s initial understanding under the Theta-MEST Theory in Science of Survival, but then it got sidetracked into the sphere of non-existence for both MEST and Theta alike with Scientology Axioms.