In book reviews for Woke Up Lonely, Scientology is often invoked as a cultural reference for the Helix. The reasons for this are clear enough: both are worldwide organizations committed to individual and social change, both are led by one man who claims to have the secret to happiness, and both are largely suspected, by outsiders, to be cults (the Church of Scientology has been riddled with controversy with former members claiming to have been incarcerated extensively).
The primary "truth" upon which Scientology is constructed is this:
"Man is a spiritual being endowed with abilities well beyond those which he normally envisions. He is not only able to solve his own problems, accomplish his goals and gain lasting happiness, but he can achieve new states of awareness he may never have dreamed possible."
In other words, much like the Helix and other belief systems and religions, the focus is on betterment of the individual (although the methods of reaching this goal vary).
L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's charismatic leader, purports to have divine wisdom; according to the Church of Scientology:
"In July of 1952, L. Ron Hubbard became the first to scientifically isolate, measure and describe the human spirit, while objectively demonstrating spiritual potentials well in advance of scientific thought. Moreover, those potentials were found to be possessed by every human being and just as universally attainable. Thus developed his description of Scientology as accomplishing the goal of every great religion: Freeing the soul by wisdom."
In Woke Up Lonely, Thurlow Dan is a regular guy whose claim is less grandiose: he offers the belief that the only way to live through our pain is to talk about it.
Another real-life reference for the Helix could be an organization called the Landmark Education, a limited liability company that focuses on self-improvement through educational seminars. This group-awareness program, called the Landmark Forum, promises to help you "experience a positive, permanent shift in your quality of life." The flagship program takes place over three consecutive days, whereby group leaders propose topics of discussion, and attendees are encouraged to share their personal stories. This is, essentially, what Maazel's Helix is; though they identify as a "therapeutic community," the core of Helix's program is simply getting people together and sharing. The Landmark Forum promises to cultivate specific communication and life skills, while the Helix promises a more therapeutic cure for loneliness.
There are crucial distinctions between the Helix and The Landmark Forum on the one hand and the Church of Scientology on the other. For one thing, the latter promotes itself as a religion whereas the Helix and the Forum do not. Furthermore the Forum and the fictional Helix espouse the betterment that comes from the healing powers of a group. Unlike the Church of Scientology, the Forum does not purport to have the answers for life's larger questions. They are, in essence, group therapy sessions.
Picture of the founding Church of Scientology from Wikipedia
This article was originally published in June 2013, and has been updated for the
April 2014 paperback release.
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