Saturday, June 12, 2021



the path

 Speaking of Hulu-series which indirectly deal with Scientology, I'd recommend checking out "The Path". It is a series about a fictional religion known as Meyerism which is  basically like Scientology except with more of a hippie liberal vibe. The followers progress through different levels called "The Ladder" and there is a hierarchy within the organization which depends on what level you are at. It is also like Scientology in that there is a disconnection policy  which is applied when family members reject Meyerism. 

The hippie liberal vibe comes in with the group's pro-environment, pro-immigrant 's rights activity, Also in contrast to Scientology's anti-drug stance, the practitioners of Meyerism seem to frequently use  marijuana and ayahuasca to achieve higher states of consciousness.

Meyerism also reminded me of The Celestine Prophecy  The book is a fictional story about secret scriptures which were discovered in Peru with nine, then ultimately twelve special "insights" which seem reminiscent of Meyerism's Ladder.  Also on the show, the founder Stephen Meyer and his group had a retreat in Peru where some of the most loyal disciples were based. Actually, I think there is a religious community of people inspired by the The Celestine Prophecy (with mostly an online presence) but my impression is that it is not intense enough to attract accusations of being a cult. 


I'm at an age where I have been thinking alot about the "road not taken". What would my life be like if I had zigged instead of zagged? So while we are on the subject of Scientology and mental health, I feel like mentioning that in another life I might have been some flavor of shrink. (I've been facinated with psychology as far back as 8th grade when I had to do a huge  school project about Sigmund Freud. And my interest continued enough that I majored in psychology in college). 

Honestly, if I had had a vocation in mental health, I would probably be some kind of "anti-psychiatrist". To be clear, I'm definitely NOT an advocate for the extreme beliefs of Scientology which are categorically opposed to pretty much all forms of psychological or psychiatric treatment.  But many of the thinkers who appealed to me tended to be critical of the mental health field and were trying to push it in a new direction.

I was intrigued by Thomas Szasz  and his ideas about  The Myth of Mental Illness ("mental illness" is less a disease and more a metaphor for people who have some kinds of problems with living). For the record I do NOT believe mental illness is just a metaphor. There are certainly people with chemical imbalances in the brain or people who are neurodivergent. But I'd still think it is worth exploring other counter-points (like R.D. Laing's approach to schizophrenia or the implications of the Rosenhan Experiment). 

Another influence / source for me would be  Frantz Fanon and his ideas about how racism and colonialism lead to certain neuroses, and how poltical resistance can lead to healing (along with the publication  The Radical Therapist which looked at the social dimension of mental health, as opposed to just the individual component).

I'm also a fan of Na'im Akbar and the way he fused Afrocentricity in a natural way with Quranic ideas (In contrast to how other Afrocentrists framed Islam as an anti-African religon).  I also liked Laleh Bakhtiar and the idea of moral healing. And in general I'd think Sufism has some valuable insights in terms of mental states and personal development.

For another chunk of my teenage years I was really into existentialism.  And was really drawn to Existential Therapy along with Viktor Frankl and Logotherapy. I was especially impressed with Frankl's ideas about the need for meaning, and the capacity to find it, even in the most extreme of circumstances. 

And while it might seem contradictory to the above, I've also tended to like B.F. Skinner. While I would not follow the extremes of his radical behaviorism, I think he offered a valuable corrective to the way some psychologists tended to invent and multiply concepts, structures, diseases, etc. There is something useful in trying to focus on visible behaviors and minimizing the assumptions that we make.

Friday, June 11, 2021

shill / why i hate saturn

So I'm starting to watch "Shrill" and it is reminding me of the brilliant and hilarious graphic novel, "Why I Hate Saturn" by Kyle Baker. Both are about a white woman who writes for some kind of magazine / periodical and goes on zany adventures. Both have black friends who are not just the sidekick but have their own independent voices and perspectives. Both are full of social and political commentary. 

I wonder if Netflix / Hulu / Amazon would turn "Why I Hate Saturn" into a movie or series? It is over 30 years old at this point so it might have to be updated. 

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

the handmaid's tale and scientology (part three)

This is actually an older link but I'm honestly a bit late thinking about this so I'm going to post it anyway. This is actually about a scene from the first season of The Handmaid's Tale. So apparently other people out there are are drawing connections between the content of the show and the faith and practice of Scientology.

Tony Ortega: Elisabeth Moss in this week’s ‘Handmaid’ sure sounded like FBI testimony about Scientology

Sunday, June 06, 2021

another possible scientology connection to the handmaid's tale

 At the end of season 3 episode 2 there is an odd sequence. Emily is an ex-Handmaid who has spent years trapped in Gilead while her Canadian wife and son managed to escape across the border. At the end of season 2 she manages to escape across the border but she is still too traumatized to reconnect with family so she's living with June's husband and her friend Moira. At the end of the episode in question, the show spends several minutes showing us Emily going to an optometrist.

We don't really see her have any particular emotional breakthrough except after she is fitted with glasses she finally summons the courage to call her wife. 

What possible connection might there be between Scientology and eyesight? Is correcting one's eyesight symbolically connected to being "spiritually" clear? Perhaps.

Tony Ortega: Scientology and Eyesight

Friday, June 04, 2021

scientology and the handmaid's tale

I have been a fan of The Handmaid's Tale for a while. I read the novel when I was in high school. I saw the film a few years after that. And I have been really excited and intrigued by the way the Hulu series expands and fleshes out, and also slightly modifies,  the world Margaret Atwood created. (I haven't yet read the sequel novel called The Testaments) 

The Hulu series' first season covers roughly the same ground as the novel and film, supplemented by flashbacks and more detailed characterizations. The subsequent seasons move into uncharted territory. One of the most welcome changes: in the novel and the film, the Republic of Gilead was blatantly racist and essentially sends all Black people off to labor in the colonies as the cursed Children of Ham.  On the show, on the other hand, the regime is not so exclusive, and so we see people of color at multiple levels of society, as Commanders, Marthas, Handmaids, Wives, Econopeople (which means more jobs for  black actors, more representation, etc.) This also creates space for interesting kinds of intersectional analysis of June's character and the world of Gilead.

More recently, I've started to explore another way in which the show seems distinct based on the fact that its star, Elisabeth Moss (also producer, executive producer and occasional director) is a Scientologist. This season especially I've started to wonder if Scientology is influencing the way the story is told. 

In this current season (Season 4), after serving many years as a Handmaid in Gilead, the main character June Osborne (played by Elisabeth Moss) finally manages to escape and reunite with her husband in Canada. As a result, instead of being focused on really basic needs like survival, escape and not getting mutilated or raped (which is basically what the first three seasons were about), June finally has time to focus on less basic issues like dealing with severe psychological trauma and her relationship with her husband. June has some clear symptoms of PTSD.  The catch is that is that the Church of Scientology is famous for its stances against psychology and psychiatry. So its not likely that any show run by a Scientologist would ever depict characters benefitting from conventional therapy. And, Lo and Behold, that's pretty much what we see on the show.

See: Scientology and Psychiatry
Vice: Scientologists Really, Really Hate Psychiatrists

It would be really interesting if someone more familiar with Scientology could thoroughly unpack what is going on this season (and in earlier seasons) . We see numerous traumatized Gilead refugees in Canada, but they don't seem to be getting any professional mental health help. There is a kind of peer support / group therapy (?) lead  by June's friend Moira (who is a computer programmer, not an actual therapist).  But even so, June doesn't seem to quite fit into, or get much benefit from the group.  In fact, June seems to subvert the norms of the group. Instead of being interested in healing she seems to be all about promoting angry confrontations. 

For example, in episode seven of season four (called "Home") June spends most of the episode in a kind of trance, but does manage get noticeably "better" after she has a scene angrily  confronting Serena:

In a similar way, we see another ex-Handmaid named Emily also  confront Aunt Irene (a character we've never seen before but who turns out to be primarily responsible for much of the trauma Emily experienced in Gilead) and she  is also reduced to a sobbing kneeling mess on the floor.

In Scientology there is a whole course called "How to Confront and Shatter Suppression". (A "suppressive person" is a Scientology term for the ultimate anti-social type)  and I wonder if this "shattering" is what we are seeing in how June and Emily treat their  opponents. 

Another basic Scientology concept is the Silent Birth 

Silent birth, sometimes known as quiet birth, is a birthing procedure advised by L. Ron Hubbard and advocated by Scientologists in which "everyone attending the birth should refrain from spoken words as much as possible" and where "... chatty doctors and nurses, shouts to 'PUSH, PUSH' and loud or laughing remarks to 'encourage' are avoided". According to Scientology doctrine, this is because "any words spoken are recorded in the reactive mind and can have an aberrative effect on the mother and the child." Hubbard believed that breaking the silence during childbirth with words could adversely affect the child later in life
I mentioned it here because it occurs to me that on the show when June has her second baby  she managed to run off and have the baby alone. And then in the eighth episode of season three "Unfit" I noticed that there are two main childbirth scenes, and in both of them we see all the other handmaids telling the expectant mother to "push" and "breathe" while Moss' character stands noticeably apart from the group, silent (except for a voiceover) with her arms crossed (pictured above). Almost as if she were silently protesting the non-silent birth. 

One last possible connection between the show and Scientology (even if only tangential) which I'd like to consider is the notion of the Scientology stare. 

Tony Ortega: Scientology's fundamental feature: the thousand-year stare
Tony Ortega: Scientology Starts Out as Staring Contests
Wikipedia: Training Routines (Scientology)

A large chunk of Scientology training is apparently related to staring and maintaining eye-contact.  I imagine that some of the skills developed in their courses is probably legitimately good for actors.  And apparently Elisabeth Moss gets a lot of mileage out of this training since many episodes, especially the first and last scenes tend to feature intense close-ups of Moss staring into the camera. 

Post Apocalyptic Media:
Fans Can’t Stop Joking About Those June Close-Up Scenes on The Handmaid’s Tale

Well, those are my thoughts for now. I really do think it would be fruitful for others better versed in Scientology to further explore ways that Scientology concepts might percolate through the Hulu series. Are there other examples of Silent Birth? Are there other ways in which Scientology perspectives on mental health show up? Are the forces of Gilead not just generically "evil" but do they exemplify specific Scientology claims about "suppressive persons" ? Does character development on the show make sense in terms of the heroes overcoming the reactive mind and going clear? Anything else?

ADDENDUM: Another possibility which came to me after posting: I have not yet read the sequel novel The Testaments, but I've read some summaries. One of the interesting developments is that the character of Aunt Lydia in the books is revealed to have been a secret dissident opposed to the regime from the beginning. She lost her job as a judge when Gilead was created and quietly did what she could to destroy the regime from within. From what I remember of the first novel, that revelation is surprising but not inconsistent with the character. She did her job and mouthed platitudes but I didn't have the impression that she was extremely cruel.

On the other hand, the tv show's version of Aunt Lydia  (played by the amazing actress Ann Dowd) is pretty clearly a dyed-in-the-wool Gilead loyalist.  She's not just maintaining a cover. She sadistically enjoys using her cattle prod to punish the disobedient Handmaids and gleefully supports punishing dissidents. Now it would be interesting  if the show had gone in a direction more like the book where Aunt Lydia's loyalties were more ambiguous; where she cared for the Handmaids while serving the regime, but without being so sadistic.  (In Harry Potter terms, More Severus Snape, less Dolores Umbridge). 

Now, where could Scientology come into this? Well, it seems to me that the Scientology view is somewhat dualistic and unforgiving, especially when it comes to what is called a suppressive person.   And if Gilead is supposed to represent a regime of SPs, then perhaps Moss would be less inclined to have Aunt Lydia show as much moral complexity as suggested by the books. 

Ok, I'd like to reiterate, I'm not claiming that the above examples are evidence that Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale is some kind of Scientology-propaganda. But I would say that there are some interesting points of contact between Scientology doctrines and what we see on the show (especially when it comes to those elements where the show differs from the novels). And is intriguing to think about how Moss' personal views are being reflected in the show.  

Sunday, May 16, 2021

"if the camel once gets his nose in the tent, his body will soon follow."

For a while I've been aware that Christian missionaries have targeted Jews and have put in great effort towards presenting "the gospel" in a way which is targeted towards disarming Jews by making the Christian message seem more "Jewish". (Using Hebrew, emphasizing cultural practices like yarmulkes, Hanukah, Passover, keeping kosher, etc.) Jews for Jesus is well known for this.

More recently, I've become more aware of Christian attempts to engage in similar strategies against Muslims.

But now, missionaries are engaging in something called The Camel Method. The method involves selectively emphasizing all of the positive things the Quran has to say about Jesus (as), the Injeel, the Torah, Christianity, Judaism and the Biblical prophets (while ignoring all of the negative and critical things the Quran has to say about the mistakes of Christians and Jews) and somehow leveraging that in an attempt to lead Muslims to becoming Christian.

The term CAMEL is ostensibly an acronym which stands for Chosen (Mary was chosen by God for a special purpose), Announced by angels, Miracles (Jesus’ power is revealed in his miracles), and Eternal Life (Jesus is and knows the way to heaven). It is also supposedly a reference to a so-called Islamic parable about how only the camel knows the secret 100th name of Allah. Both explanations seem implausible to me. And I can't help thinking about a different Arab parable warning against letting a camel get its nose in your tent.

For a while now, I've witnessed a number of odd interactions online with a particular Christian missionary who seems to come from a Seventh Day Adventist background, but has started to adopt all sorts of "Muslim" mannerisms, even to the point of claiming to be Muslim at times (but denying it at other times), going to the masjid, claiming to believe in Muhammad (saaws) and the Quran, all with the intention of doing Christian missionary work.

When I first encountered him I was intrigued. He seemed like he was on a sincere and principled personal religious exploration, trying to read the Bible and the Quran, while trying to reconcile both. He made me think of people in a "grey area" between Islam and Christianity whom I've looked at before:

He also seemed very different from the Perenialists (like James Cutsinger), Integral Thinkers, Bahais, Universal Sufis, Theosophists, inclusivists (like Hans Kung for instance) or assorted syncretists whom I've had at least some exposure to and who give some mixture of acknowledgement to both Christianity and Islam.

But then the more I listened to him, the more I realized that he didn't seem to take the Quran or Islam seriously (For example, he argues that neither fasting in the month of Ramadan nor making salat facing the Kaaba nor Hajj is obligatory. He actually was even willing to give some credence to the whole The original qiblah was Petra nonsense which seems to be going around in evangelical Islamophobe circles). He didn't want to admit that any new binding commandments could come through Muhammad (saaws) and didn't accept Muhammad as a new messenger to humanity. Instead he seems to imagine that Muhammad was basically some sort of Torah-observant Christian pastor who was just sent to the Arabs. He wasn't "exploring" and "learning" as much as blatantly coopting and distorting.

Inshallah, I'll unpack more of my thoughts over time.

Doug Coleman's Review of The Camel


 I realize I haven't been posting with any kind of regularity. InshaAllah, I'll try to change that up, at least a little. Especially with COVID lockdowns, police shootings, now trouble in Palestine and other more personal stuff I'm way too stuck in my own head. I need some kind of healthy self-expression. And Facebook has been getting toxic and addictive lately. 

I have some novel / novella / graphic novel ideas I want to work on. Also I've been too caught up in religious arguments on other people's pages lately.  I feel like I might benefit from just putting together my own thoughts on my own terms and sharing them. Even if it is only to get them out and let them go.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

i want you back - sabrina ali jamal-eddine

I just saw this amazing spoken word artist at a tiny local open mike.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Friday, June 01, 2018

blackface in miami

I heard this on the radio today while driving... I was tempted to call-in but now I realize it wasn't a live show. WLRN: Afro-Latinos Say Miami Blackface Play Is Part Of Bigger Problem With Racism In Latino Communities The point about invisibility was really interesting to me. When I first moved to Miami I wanted to do a study on whether people(cashiers mostly) spoke to me in Spanish when they first saw me or English. Are people just assuming I don't speak Spanish? Statistically is that a reasonable assumption or not? How does it change with the race of the cashier?

Friday, May 11, 2018

things that make you go hmmmm..... ?

I've been away from the blog for a while. I'll try to post with a little more frequency. An odd observation.... I was just checking out some of the statistics for the blog and for some strange reason I'm getting alot of page views from Russia, Poland and the Ukraine.... way more than from the US... at least recently... What's up with that?

avengers: ramadhan infinity

Monday, February 13, 2017

cryin' in the streets

On my way home this story was on the radio: An Indian American Muslim singer resurrects an old civil rights anthem. It struck me as a really "Grenada-esque" story.

 The new version of the song:

The original:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

turkish soap operas in the land of the telenovela

Turkish Soap Operas, Latin America, and Emerging World Kinship By Afshin Molavi deals with some interesting cultural crossovers in the world of entertainment.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

eid mubarak y'all

Secret Muslim? Hmmmmm......?