Only one thing happened

This is a reminiscence about Ian Tampion, who worked with L. Ron Hubbard at Saint Hill in the mid-1960s. Ian and his wife Judy had been among the first to complete the Clearing Course and OT sections 1 to 4, and they returned to Melbourne in late 1968 to re-establish a Scientology organisation there. At first they held regular Sunday evening meetings with a presentation and/or a tape play at their home in Hawthorn.

One of Ian’s talks that I remember from that period was entitled Only One Thing Happened.

He said that when several people observe the same incident, each one has their own perception and understanding of what happened. They all saw this incident from different viewpoints, they noticed different details, and they may have differed widely in their background knowledge and ability to observe. To hear their accounts you might even wonder if they were talking about different incidents.

They may consult together and arrive at a consensus, the kind of broad agreement glossing over contradictory details that we call reality. A consensus can be workable, it may give an adequate understanding of the actual incident. But it will never be the same thing as that original incident.

Consensus approximates truth, but it's not the same thing

Consensus approximates truth, but it’s not the same thing

For example, several witnesses to a car crash might have differing accounts of it when they give evidence in court. The court may make a reasonable decision based on consensus and balance of probabilities; but it cannot know with certainty and precision what actually occurred.

Ian made the point that an objective reality exists out there in the world before anyone observes it and generates their own mental image of it. There can be many views, but only one thing happened. This can be a stable datum if others try to shake your reality and convince you that their view is the only correct one. Or, ‘truth is the exact time, place form and event’, as Hubbard wrote.

Watsonia hysterantha

Watsonia hysterantha Mathews & L.Bolus is endemic to granite outcrops on a small section of the western Cape coast, South Africa.

It is winter growing and summer dormant like many other South African irids, but unusual in flowering in autumn at the beginning of the growing season. This not hysteranthy in the strict sense of producing pre-formed flowers direct from a bulb before the leaves like Amaryllis and Nerine. Instead, corms that have reached a critical size in the previous year “bolt” when they start growth, producing a flowering stem with about 4 short sheathing leaves. Smaller corms produce a vegetative shoot with about 6 leaves to 70 cm long and no stem above the ground.. As in all the watsonias, growth is sympodial – meaning that growth is terminated by the inflorescence. Each corm therefore dies after flowering, but not before producing offsets below ground as well as seed.

A practical consequence in a warm autumn like we had in Adelaide this year is that, while the hysteranthous amaryllids were all late in coming into leaf and many missed flowering this year, Watsonia hysterantha did not wait for low soil temperatures but started growth in early March as normal.

Per the Royal Horticultural Society colour charts, the flower colour is RHS 40B; it’s quite literally miniate, or the colour of red lead oxide.


This watsonia can be grown in the open garden but to keep track of the corms I grow it in 300 cm pots, lifting and dividing each summer. It multiplies vegetatively, and the only difficulty I have found with its management is in maintaining a high proportion of flowering-size corms. My stock came from Bruce Knight of Sydney, who imported seed in about 1995. As it is endangered in its natural habitat and further importations may no longer be possible, it’s important that existing stocks in Australia are maintained. Another Watsonia species, W. humilis, is even more critically endangered but at least one strain of it has been passed between gardeners in this country since its importation in the 1830s.


Goldblatt, P. (1989) The genus Watsonia. (National Botanic Gardens: Kirstenbosch) ISBN 062012517

Sensory overload and Unimportances

Axiom 58 of Scientology states:

Intelligence and judgment are measured by the ability to evaluate relative importances.
Corollary: The ability to evaluate importances and unimportances is the highest faculty of logic.

One application of this axiom that L. Ron Hubbard developed is the objective process of Education by Unimportances, which used to be on the Student Hat course.

“To teach someone a subject just have him select out the unimportances of the subject. He will start to think everything is important but coax him on with affinity, reality, communication and good control and he will eventually come up with something unimportant, that is, you are teaching him how to drive a tractor. He will find the coat of paint on the crank unimportant. You acknowledge and ask him to find something else unimportant. Keep at this, repeating it and repeating it, and eventually “allness” will start to disintegrate. He will select down to the most important controls of the tractor and the next thing you know he can drive a tractor! He won’t have a craving to know anxiety and won’t be nervous at all. You are teaching by de-evaluation of importance”.

As well as its use in education, this little process could be of use to autistic people in dealing with the sensory overload that can occur in environments with many confusing sights and sounds competing for attention. This is because we don’t automatically filter or ‘censor’ perceptions – if someone is speaking within earshot, we can’t avoid hearing them, for example. The reason may be an attitude of fearfulness: as if it might be risky to dismiss any incoming sensory data as unimportant. Sensory overload can lead to mental confusion, mistakes and even extreme misemotion such as anger or tears, sometimes called a ‘meltdown’.

I wondered if the process of Unimportances might be a remedy, at least for some people. It’s many years since I’ve had any problem with sensory overload but I can easily turn on the phenomenon if I want. Would spotting unimportances in present time turn it off?

I tried this out one day in a shopping mall, a place as autism-unfriendly as its designers could make it. To begin with it was a cavernous space in which sounds reverberated from all directions. Hard shiny surfaces were all around. And worse, it was filled with multicoloured signs and shop windows all competing to call attention to themselves, and with people all moving in different directions and talking at once.

So I sat down on a bench and passively opened up to all the sights and sounds until they made me feel uncomfortable and disoriented. Then I began running ‘spot something unimportant’, conceptually rather than verbally, as a repetitive process.

This remedied the disorientation and discomfort in a few minutes. A few more minutes and I was starting to get some theta perceptics. I was looking through the thin painted or laminated colours of the shop fronts and signs to the unfinished concrete and steel, dirt and cabling behind. The mall owners expected customers to consider this tawdriness as unimportant, and so pretend not to be able to see it. But now I was just fascinated to be seeing through (in both meanings of the phrase) their game.

Maybe this would be workable for others, maybe not. It’s just a suggestion for further consideration.

As a sidelight, it might also be pointed out that for many years the Church of Scientology has been running this process in reverse on its students and staff. To force them under threat of punishment to treat all LRH writings as equally (and infinitely) important stymies their ability to think with the data and apply it intelligently.

“It is interesting that a person who has never selected out the importances of Scientology, or any subject… has a history of being punished within an inch of his life.”


Hubbard, L. Ron (1975) Dianetics Today (Publications Organization: Los Angeles). ISBN 0884040364