Disconnection was cancelled by Hubbard in 1968, but reintroduced in 1983 as an expression of the “freedom to decide with whom one wants to communicate.”
by Massimo Introvigne
In 1968, disconnection was cancelled by Hubbard through a separate HCO Policy Letter dated November 15, published less than one month after the “Fair Game Law” had also been abolished. Hubbard wrote that, “Since we can now handle all types of cases, disconnection as a condition is cancelled.”
This HCO Policy Letter consists of one line only, yet it had been widely discussed in controversies about Scientology. Critics maintain that the change in policy was caused by criticism in the media and by the investigation by an official Commission of Enquiry into Scientology in New Zealand, to which in fact Hubbard wrote on March 26, 1969, that, “With regard to the practice of Disconnection, I have taken this up with the Board of Directors of the Church of Scientology, and they have no intention of re-introducing this policy, which was cancelled on 15th November 1968. For my part, I can see no reason why this policy should ever be re-introduced, as an extensive survey in the English-speaking countries found that this practice was not acceptable.”
By the way, Hubbard was not inventing the “extensive survey”: he really consulted Scientologists all over the English-speaking world through a questionnaire. But it is also true that by 1968, Hubbard believed that Scientology was able to “handle all types of cases,” without disconnection being strictly needed.
Although some critics argue otherwise, a study of the texts produced by Scientology in the following years confirm that the practice of disconnection was in fact discontinued, and several other alternative techniques were put in place to handle the PTS. This is reflected in the second edition (1970) of Hubbard’s “Introduction to Scientology Ethics,” where previous references to disconnection were substituted by a paragraph explaining that the PTS situation should be handled through “special auditing.” We read (page 48) that, “A POTENTIAL TROUBLE SOURCE is defined as a person who while active in Scientology, or while a preclear, yet remains connected to a person or group that is a Suppressive Person or Suppressive Group. Until this connection is handled by special auditing, nothing beneficial can happen. (A Potential Trouble Source is a person or preclear who ‘roller-coasters,’ i.e., gets better, then worse. This occurs only when his connection to a suppressive person or group is unhandled and he must, in order to make his gains from Scientology permanent, receive processing intended to handle such).”
In 1973, however, disconnection came back. On August 10, 1973, “disconnect” was mentioned in passing in an HCO Policy Letter about PTS: “There are two stable data which anyone has to have, understand and know are true in order to obtain results in handling the person connected to suppressives. These data are: 1. That all illness in greater or lesser degree and all foul-ups stem directly and only from a PTS condition. 2. That getting rid of the condition requires three basic actions: A. Discover. B. Handle or disconnect. Persons called upon to handle PTS people can do so very easily, far more easily than they believe. Their basic stumbling block is thinking that there are exceptions or that there is other tech or that the two above data have modifiers or are not sweeping. The moment a person who is trying to handle PTSs gets persuaded there are other conditions or reasons or tech, he is at once lost and will lose the game and not obtain results. And this is very too bad because it is not difficult and the results are there to be obtained.”
This short mention allowed Hubbard to state, one month later, that “‘Handle or disconnect’ is part of current procedure on handling Potential Trouble Sources, as per HCO B 10 August ’73, ‘PTS Handling.’” This quote is from an HCO Policy Letter of September 15, 1973. It was marked “confidential” and not published in the official collections. However, it has been repeatedly posted on the Web by critics of Scientology and, as far as I know, its authenticity has never been contested. Hubbard insisted that “the practice of publishing or writing disconnection letters to the person concerned” was still forbidden, “any misemotional or accusative disconnection letters or actions should be avoided,” and “a large percentage of cases will completely resolve” without any need to resort to disconnection.
However, disconnection was effectively reinstated, although as an exception to be used “in very few cases” and without undue publicity.
A person can simply decide to disconnect and be disconnected from that moment on, Hubbard stated. “In some cases, the item found may be dead, he explained, and the person has no other choice but to disconnect. In that event, the person simply disconnects then and there, in the Ethics Officer’s office, or in session. No other action is required. Some may wish to write up a statement of such which is simply filed in his ethics file, with no other action taken. It is not mailed to anyone.”
On September 10, 1983, Hubbard published his last word and an apology for the disconnection policy. He noted that the right to communicate also includes the right not to communicate. “If one has the right to communicate, he wrote, then one must also have the right to not receive communication from another. It is this latter corollary of the right to communicate that gives us our right to privacy […] An example of this is a marriage: In a monogamous society, the agreement is that one will be married to only one person at one time. That agreement extends to having second-dynamic relations with one’s spouse and no one else. Thus, should wife Shirley establish a 2D-type of communication line with someone other than her husband Pete, it is a violation of the agreement and postulates of the marriage. Pete has the right to insist that either this communication cease or that the marriage will cease.”
Apart from the Scientology jargon, Hubbard is effectively answering his critics by noting that, if there is the right to “disconnect” from one’s spouse through divorce for a variety of reasons, it is unclear why a Scientologist cannot “disconnect” from relatives of friend when they commit what, in his or her eyes, are the very serious crimes of trying to destroy Scientology.
Hubbard reminds Scientologists that in 1968 “disconnection as a condition was cancelled. It had been abused by a few individuals who’d failed to handle situations which could have been handled and who lazily or criminally disconnected, thereby creating situations even worse than the original because it was the wrong action.”
Time, however, according to Hubbard, proved that SP used the cancellation policy to further harm Scientology: hence, the 1983 reinstatement of disconnection. It had in fact occurred in 1973, but through a confidential Policy Letter. In 1983, Hubbard was ready to present the disconnection policy publicly, and to defend it as part not only of freedom of religion, but of basic human rights.
“We cannot afford, Hubbard argued, to deny Scientologists that basic freedom that is granted to everyone else: the right to choose whom one wishes to communicate with or not communicate with. It’s bad enough that there are governments trying, through the use of force, to prevent people from disconnecting from them (witness those who want to leave Russia but can’t!). The bare fact is that disconnection is a vital tool in handling PTSness and can be very effective when used correctly. Therefore, the tech of disconnection is hereby restored to use, in the hands of those persons thoroughly and standardly trained in PTS/SP tech.”
Hubbard also reiterated in 1983 that disconnection in most cases is not needed, as most PTS situations can be handled through auditing. Experience, however, had taught Scientology that the disconnection policy could not be eliminated completely, although it should be implemented within the strict limits of the laws of the land: “The technology of disconnection is essential in the handling of PTSes. It can and has saved lives and untold trouble and upset. It must be preserved and used correctly.”
Importantly, he reiterated that “Nothing in this HCOB shall ever or under any circumstances justify any violations of the laws of the land. Any such offense shall subject the offender to penalties described by law as well as to ethics and justice actions.”