Who’s Still Doing Close Reading? Scientology, That’s Who!

Reading (in my copious spare time) Lawrence Wright’s history of Scientology, Going Clear, I’m struck by this theoretical gem:

Wright is speaking here of Scientology’s educational principles:

“The ‘Undefined Word’—the third and most important principle—occurs when the student tries to absorb material while bypassing the definition of the words employed. “THE ONLY REASON A PERSON GIVES UP A STUDY OR BECOMES CONFUSED OR UNABLE TO LEARN IS BECAUSE HE HAS GONE PAST A WORD THAT WAS NOT UNDERSTOOD,” Hubbard emphasizes in one of his chiding technical bulletins. “WORDS SOMETIMES HAVE DIFFERENT OR MORE THAN ONE MEANING.” […] The solution is to have a large dictionary at hand, preferably one with lots of pictures in it. […] The need to understand the meaning of words, Hubbard writes, “is a sweepingly fantastic discovery in the field of education and don’t neglect it. [my emphasis; Kindle loc. 3810—hey, sue me, I haven’t got the shelf space!]

You better pay close attention here: words may mean different things, and often more than one. I’m not sure it requires access to the mysteries of the universe, really, but it’s true nonetheless, and that’s a useful start. And because it’s true, you should read carefully, elsewise you may not understand things—and then, you should go back, and re-read. It’s not exactly close reading, but it’s certainly closer reading than some people are doing.

So there, folks. Not only does close(r) reading help you understand literature, but it’ll also help you become an Operating Thetan. Not too shabby. Though I suppose that getting at a useful interpretation of William Faulkner is going to be more helpful than going clear…