Lunopolis — hilarious, weird, and a special treat for scientology watchers!

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There are people on the moon, and they’re watching us. They have mastered time travel, but no one knows how. Except the Church of Lunology, and their CEO Daniel Muscadine.

If you are a scientology watcher, or love clever spoofs, you will love Lunopolis. It is a funny, quirky, pointed spoof of the found-footage genre of movies and the church of scientology and their whacky cosmology. The film is built around some video shot by a group of guys who stumble on some bizarre technology in a strange underground installation in the middle of the bayou. As they attempt to understand what they have found, they become entangled in a game of cat and mouse between a mysterious man who gives them information, and a strange group belonging to the “Church of Lunology”. The church seems to be just another kooky new religion, but there is much more to it than that. A mysterious green moonstone, some crazy pseudo-science, and the unbelievable fate of Lunology founder “J Ari Hilliard” are at the center of things.

With it’s headquarters in Redwater, the COL has been safekeeping powerful secrets of time travel and immortality for decades. They are a secretive organization with a shiny logo, and security practices that will look very familiar to scientology watchers. But our heroes have something they want, which gives them leverage in their confrontation with CEO Muscadine. The ensuing struggle for control of the moonstone, resulting in an “extinction level event” and the creation of an alternate timeline, is delightfully weird and convoluted.

Overall, this is a great movie that does not deserve the ignominy of “straight to DVD”. It is funny, inventive, and fast-paced. An extra-special treat for sci-watchers, this movie is very pointed in it’s parody of the COS. I highly recommend you check it out! Look for the movie on Netflix streaming, or DVD, as well as various places on the web, including You Tube.

Trailer: here

Loaded Words

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Here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. The power of language, and what we commonly refer to as “loaded words”. What does that term mean? There are many definitions of the word “load”, incuding the most obvious one in this context: “To charge with additional meanings, implications, or emotional import”. This is what most people mean when they say a word or question is loaded. But when we look at the way we use language, another meaning becomes obvious. Words function as weapons, and they can certainly be loaded — in the ballistic sense of inserting an explosive charge.

Loaded words are words with explosive potential, or the potential to wound others. People often use loaded words or ask loaded questions as a way of waging verbal combat. In the world of blogs and comments, this is what “trolls” do. Loaded words and questions are a good way of provoking a desired reaction in others. Sexist, racist, or homophobic terms, polarizing political statements, religious judgements, personal insults, and so on. Words become ammunition, and slinging them accurately, to have the desired impact, is the point. Trolls do this as sport, with no concern for the power of language to inflict lasting damage. Think of it as a kind of target practice, aiming to provoke.

However, it is possible to use loaded words with a constructive intent. Sometimes it is even necessary. For example, in the course of waging an information war against a greedy and destructive organization. One that is doing grievous harm to people while manipulating language to hide their practices. As a scientology watcher, I find myself sometimes using loaded words in my comments and observations. When you enter the arena of belief, psychology, and the promise of spiritual growth, there is a lot of explosive potential. I try to choose my words very carefully, and there are a couple of loaded words that I use deliberately in discussions on scientology. I would like to talk a bit about those words: “cult”, and “evil”. As well as one other word I have come to recognize (thanks to Derek Bloch’s comments) as quite loaded for scientologists, “responsibility”. I am not aiming to establish definitive meanings for these words, but rather just to acknowledge their explosive potential and when it might be used for a positive purpose.

Let’s start with the word I use most often — “cult”. This is an important word for scientology watchers. One that some writers on the subject avoid using, for various reasons. I have heard many persuasive arguments against using this word. Including the simple fact that it is a loaded word, and thus can be a barrier to constructive conversation. The argument that resonates most for me is the idea that it simply reduces the victims of such groups to caricatures — robots or “kool-aid drinkers” who are too mindless to avoid their fate. When people hear that word “cult”, according to this argument, they just stop caring.

I get that. Some people will just turn away from the whole subject because it is so weird and foreign. It seems the natural human impulse is to turn away from what makes us uncomfortable. But I think it is a mistake to deal with this response by avoiding the word. A cult is a very specific type of group dynamic. There are varying definitions, but there is a point where these definitions converge — a cult is generally not a group that people want to join. No one signs up for a group that calls itself a cult. This makes the word itself a very valuable red flag. You can steer people away from a group that is doing harm by calling that group a “cult”. The word itself is ammunition in the battle against abuse by such groups. My primary objective in using the word is to indicate a danger in joining the group in question. If it feels like a bit of a slap, so much the better to get your attention.

Yes, some people are insulted when the term is applied to their group. It is true that it belittles an affinity group or belief system to call it a cult. That is the point. When I apply the word “cult” to a group, I want to reduce it’s value in the perception of others. When I use this word in reference to scientology, I intend to make sure the person I am speaking with does not seriously consider joining up as an option. When I say, “scientology is a cult and a scam”, I am saying “no matter how benign or appealing it seems, stay away”. Perhaps those who are offended by the word will be inspired to look more deeply at the reasons why some feel it is appropriate, or even necessary.

Moving on, let’s talk about a word that I use infrequently and usually with some caution: “evil”. I am generally reluctant to use the word because it is a strong word, but not clearly defined. So it tends to confuse matters more than it clarifies. But I have learned it is helpful to distinguish evil actions and evil intentions. I am reluctant to talk about evil in terms of intentions, or the internal character of a person or thing. I have no problem with talking about evil in terms of actions, or the impact someone has on others.

The word “evil” has certain religious and moral connotations. In religious discussions, the word is used as a statement on the essential nature of a person or thing. Evil things must be avoided or eradicated, because the very substance of them is corrupt or decayed, from a moralistic point of view. In the tribal sense, outsiders and their foreign aesthetics and values are often regarded as evil, because they evoke fear and confusion. In either case, labeling a thing as an evil makes it fair game for elimination, without remorse or hesitation.

So the word can be used to manipulate perception, and control group behavior. Many ugly examples of human behavior in history came to pass when someone sold people on a particular idea of evil, identified that evil in others, and then called for the elimination of that evil. Our sense of what qualifies as evil can be irrational, based in a visceral response to the unknown the identified “outsider”. It’s impact is atavistic, because in our modern conceit we feel we are beyond such simplistic dualities as good and evil. We don’t have practical criteria rooted in our modern lives. This only makes it that much more powerful as a trigger, as leverage in a manipulative process.

To avoid such abuse, a pragmatic approach is very important in confronting evil. A focus on actions and impact, as opposed to intentions or essential nature. It is very easy to make that distinction between intentions and actions as a scientology watcher, when you see accounts from the victims or witnesses of their worst practices. There are really too many horrors to enumerate in the history of scientology, but here’s a story, from Jesse Prince on a.r.s., that can stand for all:

“It was the summer of 1992 and I was desperately trying to leave the Int base any way I could. I was living with others who were also trying to leave. We were all kept in an old house known as the Old Gilman House, or OGH, which also served as the ‘isolation house’ for physically ill Sea Org members.

“A Sea Org member of ten years plus, Diane Morrison, who was approximately 30 years old, had been diagnosed with cancer. Scientology is paranoid about X-rays and gamma rays, and they refused to let Diane get chemotherapy. The two Scientology doctors, one was LRH’s personal physician, prescribed a course of vitamin therapy and auditing to cure Diane’s cancer.

“Finally, one of the doctors told her to let go so she could just die. Diane stopped eating and drinking after that, and she turned into a walking skeleton. She was in constant pain and would moan and scream day and night. Her husband, Shawn Morrison, drove her, screaming and moaning, to his mother’s house where she was laid under an air conditioner. Diane died within two days. She did not die of cancer. She died of starvation. Shawn was upset because he had to miss post time to drive Diane to his mother’s house.” {-source here}

Reading that, it becomes clear that what matters is not the beliefs or group identity of the people involved, but rather their actions. No one would argue that this is a tale of good deeds done by a good group of people. Most people would agree that the doctor, especially, did an evil thing. Believing in scientology and embracing the “tech” of LRH is not evil. But encouraging someone to kill themselves because they can’t be cured with vitamins, in order to preserve your beliefs; that is evil. A woman with potentially treatable cancer dying of starvation because she was told it was her only salvation — that is evil.

Whatever you believe, if you are inflicting suffering on others, depriving them of their well-being, sowing the seeds of this behavior in others and/or providing the means for them to do it, that is the cause for concern. These are the concrete elements of evil. The word is useful, for the purpose of designating as a society when one has crossed the boundary from narcissism to actively harming others. Be selfish or foolish in any way you must, but not at the expense of the life and liberty of others. If you cross that line, we as a society have a responsibility to stop you.

Which brings me to the final word I want to discuss today: responsibility. If you are not familiar with Derek Bloch’s story, you should be. He is an ex-sea org member, abandoned to the cult by his parents when he was a child. Shunned by most everyone he knew and loved in the cult when he told the truth about himself and his experience. If you have any doubt that the COS deserves the label of an evil cult, Derek’s story will convince you. But he got out, and has become an eloquent and powerful voice testifying to the impact of LRH’s tech on the mind and heart of a human being.

I have learned a lot from him, and in particular, I have learned that for scientologists, “responsibility” is a very loaded word. It is a word that is often used as a weapon, as a way to push your buttons attached to being a “good scientologist”, or the idealism that lead you to embrace the cult in the first place. Ethics correction often involves being verbally harangued about your responsibility, in a way that is designed to lead you to capitulate to the demands being made on you. Admit your crimes! Report on your loved ones! Give us the money! Once you recognize that you are responsible for your own problems, and for suppressing others, and for not clearing the planet, you have lost your sense of self and it is very easy for others to drive you to do things you otherwise would not.

Of course, it is not only scientologists that are vulnerable to this word. Responsibility is a confusing subject for most people, and another easy lever for manipulation. Madison avenue understands this, and many advertisements targeting parents will play on this weakness: “responsible parents use our product/service, why don’t you?” Politicians often exploit our desire to evade responsibility, by offering scapegoats or volunteering to run things for us. An effective tactic, because the word can be a heavy weight on the psyche, one we would rather not be reminded of.

Again, a pragmatic approach, as opposed to a moralistic one, is helpful. When responsibility is a moral burden, one that reveals the flaws in your character or judgement that you must answer for, it is an uncomfortable thing to be avoided. People will go a long way to avoid answering for actions of which they feel ashamed. But when responsibility is literally about the ability to respond, to make a difference or mitigate suffering or harm, it is empowering and desirable. Confronting others or ourselves on matters of responsibility should be about what we have done, and can do about a situation. This approach is the one most likely to motivate others to act in ways that make a positive difference. Isn’t that the point?

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Interesting sources:

on cults

Excellent panel discussion on BBC Big Question: Religion or Cult?

Steve Hassan mind control info site

Cult definition on Wikipedia

on evil:

Wikipedia definition of evil

General thoughts on the subject

From a criminal-case perspective

On the power of language:

Korzybski on language and perception

Bob Wilson on language and hypnosis

A very old Bob Wilson on language and liberation

…thoughts on Love

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“Self-portrait #6″
1995 – by the Author
pastel on sandpaper, 24″x36”

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Love is not something you can define; love is the thing that defines you. Love is what you are made of, and all that you can ever know. The story of creation, of this material realm, of duality, of yin and yang, is a love story. A tale of two with a passionate commitment to Union, however that may unfold.

Love is not a feeling of need or hunger or pleasure; it is not a shiny thing to chase and manipulate, to inflate your childish ego and it’s “happiness”. Love is our natural state, which we can come to know at any time. Anyone or anything you crave or chase out of “love” is evidence of your confusion, rather than your passion. What has that confusion cost you, and those around you? Count the cost, as a lesson to be careful in such matters, and move on in the knowledge that love was always yours to claim…

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, a great novel with cult themes.

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Japanese author Haruki Murakami is one of my favorite writers. His book about the Aum Shinrikyo cult and the Sarin gas attacks in Tokyo is an excellent and thorough exploration of the topic. The book, Underground, consists of two collections of interviews — with the victims of the Sarin attack, and with former and then-current members of Aum. It also includes an essay about cults and a society’s reaction to them. I highly recommend it.

His latest novel is entitled 1Q84, and it is of interest to scientology watchers because the plot revolves around a cult. One that bears some similarities to the COS, as well as Aum Shinrikyo. The story begins with Aomame, a young woman with an unusual occupation as an assassin for a just cause; and also Tengo, a young man who finds himself involved in a scheme to sell a strange teenage girl called Fuka-Eri as the “next big thing” among Japanese writers. Their stories intersect when Aomame crosses over into an alternate timeline, and in the course of her work for a woman known only as “the Dowager”, she is tasked with gaining access to the reclusive leader of a strange religious group.

Through his entanglements with the young writer, Tengo also finds himself confronting the reality of this strange group and their bizarre rituals. Rituals that involve improper relations with underage girls, and “little people” from another world. As well as punishments involving isolation and manual labor, or even confinement in a small space, and prominent leaders who have gone missing or died under questionable circumstances.

Eventually, Tengo’s own childhood memories, as well as circumstances beyond his control, drive him to a long-anticipated reunion with Aomame. She has carried the vivid memory of a brief childhood bond with Tengo, but never let herself hope to see him again. Fate draws them together, and when they are both hounded by a cult “enforcer”, she leads him to escape.

It is a strange and remarkable story, like all of Murakami’s fiction. The cult angle makes it particularly interesting for scientology watchers. You will find many moments of recognition. But be warned, Murakami is not for everyone! This is a long novel, translated from the Japanese, and it is just as bizarre and nebulous as any of Murakami’s stories. So if you are annoyed by a slow pace or stories without tidy answers, you may prefer to read a synopsis. However, if you like surreal stories, with complex storylines and amazing imagery and characters — you will enjoy this novel. I recommend it!

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Another review from IndieBound.

And one from the NY Review of Books.

An interesting article from The Atlantic, about the process of translating this novel.

I’m Back!

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Hey everyone. It has been almost two weeks since my last post. I apologize for the lapse. Being a blogger is something I squeeze in between the other things I do. My primary occupation is being a mom to two sons. My younger son has a Sensory Processing Disorder, and so I have more demands on my time and energy than the average mom.

Especially when my kid gets sick. And then I get sick. With a strep infection. Yikes. Writing cogent posts on an iPod Touch is just too much when you have a fever, and swallowing feels like eating glass. I really just wanted to punch people, a lot! It sucked. 🙂

Now that everyone in the Velvet household is well, and we are getting caught up on missed school work, I can get back to writing! I have a few posts brewing — a book review, a movie review, and some thoughts on the power of language. I spent a lot of my sick time reading about Jonestown, so I’ll have more thoughts on that tragedy, and cults in general.

Of course, scientology is always good for some laughs, or some outrage; and commenting on Tony Ortega’s blog is a lot of fun. You can always find me there.

Look for a new post from me later today…