Filling the Moral Vacuum Conference
There have been many, many moral codes throughout history. Indeed, there are many, many different moral codes in use today. Religious organisations may have very strict moral codes; criminal gangs like the Mafia or the Los Angeles Bloods of Grips may have an even stricter moral code.
So what is a moral code? It could be defined as a series of agreements to which a person has subscribed to guarantee the survival of a group.1 It would thus ensure, for the individual, survival as a member of the groups he or she belongs to.
What I want to do first this morning is to look at some of the forces which have attacked and are seeking to destroy traditionally held values and ideas about how we should treat each other.
My suggestion for a programme of teaching children (and adults) to lead a "good" life in which they survive well and assist the survival of those around them is based on the non-religious guide to living written by L Ron Hubbard and called "The Way To Happiness". 2
THE ATTACK ON BEING GOOD
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (or CCHR as it is known) is an organisation with branches in many countries. It was established by the Church of Scientology in 1969. Its purpose is to investigate and expose violations of human rights and civil liberties in the field of mental health. Scientologists feel very strongly that mental health has a vital connection with both spiritual health and physical health. There is abundant research data which confirms the physical, that is primarily nutritional and toxicological, basis of conditions to which psychiatrists give an ever increasing number of interesting labels.
By doing so they define and stigmatise the individual concerned. Although there is an almost traditional figure of popular myth, with a goatee beard and a white coat, who spends many thousands of hours in talking therapy with his patient (at huge expense to the patient) the reality is somewhat different. Psychiatric treatments consist almost exclusively of harmful mind altering drugs, electric shock and, formerly, lobotomies. Many of you will have seen the searing attack on psychiatric practice in the Jack Nicholson film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That is the reality.
Scientologists are only too aware of the damage that drugs and shock cause to the spiritual life of the individual and we do not distinguish between the effect of psychiatric drugs and street drugs. Drugs are not bad because they are illegal; they are inherently bad because they obscure the spiritual nature and humanity of the person who takes them. It is the spiritual nature which is the origin of the sense of responsibility.
For the past 28 years, the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights 3 has been investigating the origins and the effects of the self-serving propaganda for the psychiatric model of personality and its role in bringing about the social breakdown which we see all around us. The quotations which follow are illustrative of what they have uncovered.
In a paper written in 1945 G Brock Chisholm, a past president of the World Federation of Mental Health, wrote "The reinterpretation and eventual eradication of the concept of right and wrong which has been the basis of child training, the substitution of intelligent and rational thinking for faith in the certainties of old people, these are the belated objectives of practically all psychotherapy." 4
Chisholm continued "If the race is to be freed from its crippling burden of good and evil it must be psychiatrists that take this original responsibility 5
Chisholm then unwittingly foretold our present predicament when he wrote "The pretence is made... that to do away with right and wrong would produce uncivilised people, immorality, lawlessness and social chaos," 6
In 1946, John Rawlings Rees, the first president of the World Federation of Mental Health wrote "We must aim to make [our point of view] permeate every educational activity in our national life: primary, secondary, university and technical education are all concerned with varying stages in the development of the child and adolescent" 7
Rees continued "... we have made a useful attack on a number of professions. The two easiest of them naturally are the teaching profession and the church: the two most difficult are the law and medicine...." 8
The policy and philosophy of the mental hygienists have been increasingly dominant over the past fifty years and we can see just how wrong Brock Chisholm was in his prediction that abolishing the idea of right and wrong would not produce "uncivilized people, immorality, lawlessness and social chaos"
Following the above expressions of outright hostility to the concept of right and wrong, moral and religious values were specifically targeted by pioneers of "educational psychology" as inappropriate and "unscientific". The introduction of "personal development" or "social training", as a substitute for education, was based on the psychological idea that it is stressful and therefore wrong to educate and discipline children away from violence, promiscuity or drug taking.
The specific of danger focusing on 'feelings' and "problems" is that it introverts the pupil's attention onto him or herself, rather than extroverting it onto the world in which he or she lives. This can easily persuade children that they are victims and make them ready prey for psychological and pharmacological manipulation by unscrupulous professionals for whom "problems" equate to increased sales, research funding, papers to publish and career enhancement.
There is, of course, another ingredient in the recipe for social decline - the media. The attack on moral values and on the idea of good parental control and self-discipline by the psychiatry movement has been so successful that family and school life has become chaotic. In the UK, Channel 4, the second terrestrial commercial TV Channel seems to specialise in programmes that sow moral ambiguity and promote the idea that personal feelings should pervade work and public life. They originated from America with programmes like Ally McBeal and a current home grown series is one called Teachers. If you want a perspective on moral decline, setting a very bad example, total failure of moral leadership, and the effect all this has on the children at the fictional school, you should suffer through a couple of episodes.
"THE WAY TO HAPPINESS"
L Ron Hubbard's non-religious, common sense guide to living a better life, The Way To Happiness, was published in 1982 and is effective in many different environments.
It would, I suspect, be familiar territory to a Muslim, a Sikh, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Christian of any denomination, or a member of practically any faith community one can think of. It would also quite possibly be familiar territory to many agnostics, atheists and humanists. I want to underline that my religious beliefs as a Scientologist had brought me to a position and feeling of congruence with the non religious precepts of The Way To Happiness, even though I had never read it.
Even so, why should I offer this book, these twenty-one precepts, as a solution? Why do I consider it to be the optimum solution? The answer is simply that I have met many people who have used it and I have read many moving testimonies to its positive benefits and its workability, both for individuals and for large and small groups.
The Way To Happiness is non-religious and few people, whether they have a religious faith or whether they do not, would disagree with the precepts it advocates. This simple guide is used in many different, very practical and very effective ways to teach morals. It is used to great effect both preventatively and curatively . By this I mean that it is used to teach school children morals and it is also used as part of our very successful rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts and prisoners.
Let me give some examples. An essay writing competition in schools in the United States, based on The Way To Happiness, involves more than 300,000 school children from approximately 4,000 schools annually. The competition causes them to reflect on the 21 precepts of The Way To Happiness and select one to write about. Many of the essays are of a remarkably high standard and very moving. For the "Set a Good Example" (precept number six) Campaign schools enters practical projects, based on the precepts, in inter-school competitions and also enter carnival floats in local festivals.
Many thousands, in fact, possibly some hundreds of thousands, of copies were distributed in the run up to the South African general election of 1994. The Way To Happiness was officially credited with making a significant contribution to reducing the expected violence to a surprisingly low level.
In Greenville, Alabama, the recidivism rate among young offenders has been reduced from 80% to around 10% by using the booklet as part of a programme of basic education. As a correspondence course it is also used most effectively for rehabilitating criminals in 450 prisons in the United States and about 70 prisons in the UK. They find that studying the precepts rehabilitates their self-respect and their awareness of their responsibility towards others, and thereby changes their behaviour.
These examples demonstrate how, when they encounter The Way To Happiness, individuals spontaneously take responsibility for their behaviour towards others and for the behaviour of others in their group. This is the development of a moral outlook. It is not hard work. It does not take hundreds of thousands of pounds and thousands of hours of research by detached academics for whom a solution to the problem means the end of grant funded studies.
In Los Angeles, I visited the young offenders' institution known as Juvenile Hall and worked with imprisoned teenage murderers, rapists and carjackers who were following a similar programme. Their level of educational attainment was so low that even the simple text of The Way To Happiness had had to be further simplified. It was demanding work for the volunteers but rewarding for them and for the teenagers.
The Way To Happiness also forms part of the programme used by the World Literacy Crusade. This educational movement started following the 1992 riots in south central Los Angeles, and is now spreading to other towns and cities in the USA and abroad because of its success in persuading gang members to leave the gangs, continue with their education and become 'mentors' or tutors to their peers. (The World Literacy Crusade also uses Hubbard's learning how to learn programme known as "study technology". The Narconon drug rehabilitation programme uses both The Way To Happiness and the "study technology". )
So how does all this relate to religion? I have a file of responses to The Way To Happiness from religious leaders around the world and it is noticeable how many of them, of different faiths, comment on Mr Hubbard's ability to capture the essence of their own religion's moral teachings. There is a personal sense of recognition in these letters. Could it be that the world's major religions, and many, many others, are in basic agreement about what constitutes the right way to treat other people? The reader of The Way To Happiness must decide how well Mr Hubbard has distilled the essence of his or her own religion or belief system into a valid but digestible statement of how to live better and survive better.
This booklet always receives widespread acceptance and has achieved success in improving people's lives in some of the most dangerous and difficult human environments on earth.
The Way To Happiness is written in simple English and has been translated into over 20 other languages. It engages the mind of the reader to reflect on the consequences of being in the proximity of or otherwise involved with people who do not practise the 21 moral precepts. Readers are drawn to make inferences about their own behaviour.
By approaching the teaching of morals in this way it is possible to build a shared sense of what is ethical and right behaviour. That shared sense is a reaffirmation of the agreements, the mutual respect and the feeling of being in communication with one's fellows, in other words, of the sense of community whose decline has become one of the most pronounced, and commented upon, features of our time.
The Way To Happiness translates the moral teachings of the world's major religions into secular form and starts at a level which is real and understandable to anybody. For example, the precept "Don't be promiscuous" also contains, as a sub-heading, the admonition "Be faithful to your sexual partner". By contrast, although admirable, the command "Thou shalt not commit adultery" will not impinge to the same degree on members of a society where perhaps the majority of couples cohabit before they marry, if they marry.
The precepts given in the Way To Happiness could be seen as 'entry level' morals, a starting point or a way back in. They do, however, make it possible for one to continue to become more moral. You may ask why one should bother. My answer would be that it is more aligned to survival, and more fun. Using it, people find that the humanity of other people transcends apparent cultural or ethnic differences and provides a common basis for understanding and communication among people of all ages and of different cultures, and religions.
All public policy, even that emanating from a committee, is the result of individual decisions based on the moral judgements of each of the participating individuals. The selection of the optimum solution as a guide to individual behaviour is implicit in the precepts of The Way To Happiness. At Homerton, concern was expressed that official policy and decision making, particularly as it affected the Muslim community, was insensitive. The best way to enable all the members of the nation's constituent communities to feel included and well treated would be to make study and application of The Way To Happiness a requirement in the training of the local and national government officials. Their policies and decisions would then more readily reflect optimum solutions.
Used as the basis of moral teaching in all schools, it would create the much needed sense of community among a culturally and ethnically diverse population. It also gives the opportunity to become increasingly moral and thus ensure higher and higher levels of survival. Giving children "the language of morality" will never achieve this.
The Way To Happiness should become the common currency of how we treat each other throughout the land. The Way To Happiness does not need pilot studies or research. It is a proven tool, powerful and effective. At a school in Forest Row, East Sussex, where it is used as the basis for teaching morals, children can be heard telling their peers disapprovingly "That's not the way to happiness", a perfect example of values learnt and internalised to the extent that they have become the moral backbone of these young people.
Lord Duncan McNair
1 Hubbard, L. Ron. 1951 Science of Survival