‘The Compulsion to Move’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new transcription of a talk by Dennis Stephens as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 108Kb pdf file from this link.

Stephens chose the chess term Zugzwang for a situation where a player is obliged to take one of two (or more) actions knowing that either will result in a loss. There are many colloquial English terms for this situation – in a cleft stick, between a rock and hard place, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – but none of them explain how the dilemma arises.

Zugzwang happens because the game on which the person is focused exists within a broader encompassing game. For example, a businessman is playing the game of making profits, but he is within the larger game of the society where he operates and the laws of that society.

Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about being in a Zugzwang situation is that the ball is in your court. It’s your move. You’re free to choose although every option is a losing one. The player still has their self-determinism and can be held responsible for whichever losing choice they make.

Their only solution is to change their own postulates, their own aims, so that the outcome is no longer considered to be a loss.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.


‘The Unstacking Procedure’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new transcription of a talk by Dennis Stephens as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 115Kb pdf file from this link.

The title may need some explanation. Stephens was asked to comment on William Nichols’ unstacking procedure, a technique that not much is heard about now, 30 years later. In his reply he needed to foreshadow material that he would explain in detail 18 months later in the Insanity and Sensation series – because these, and Nichols’ unstacking procedure, are both developments of L. Ron Hubbard’s theory of goals problem masses (GPMs).

Hubbard’s work on GPMs was ambitious, heroic, insightful and flawed. It drove him round the bend, and caused grief to those who tried to follow him. But it had to be done. Fundamental advances in knowledge are not made by some inspired genius who pops up with all the right answers. They are the result of bold guesses that are known to be tentative; candid gathering of data to test those guesses; and a willingness to be proved wrong. Non-scientists often assume that it is a scientist’s job to be always right: it’s closer to the truth to say that science progresses by being wrong. A theory that can never be tested by attempting to disprove it is useless. Hubbard and his co-workers at Saint Hill deserve our respect and gratitude for opening up a new frontier, the postulates that form the deep structure of the mind.

In this article Stephens points out where GPM theory went wrong in the 1960s, with similar flaws in Nichols’ unstacking procedure in the 1990s, and how we can see a way ahead.

Dennis Stephens on Insanity and Sensation

Stephens regarded his discovery of insanity points, or impossibility points, as the most contentious part of his work and hesitated to publish it. But since this material has become widely available as audio files and Pete McLaughlin’s meticulous word-by-word transcriptions, I feel justified in including it in my series of edited transcriptions. Here is his Insanity Series of five recorded talks as three pdf files:

1. Insanity

This is a new transcription of two taped talks by Dennis Stephens, combined as a single article.

Insanity Point Part 1, 30 June 1994
Insanity Point Part 2, 3 July 1994

If we accept as a fundamental truth that a thing either exists or it doesn’t, then a person is insane when they believe that a thing can both exist and not exist simultaneously. To cross the line into that state is to lose all certainties. We don’t like to think about it, but everyone has experienced it at some time if only for a passing instant. The fear of going insane may be the basis of all irrational fears: no wonder it has been hard to take a clear look at the subject of insanity.

In Stephens’ view, insanity is a consequence of a compulsive game, which limits the classes remaining open to a player. They then go insane when they believe that they have no class to go into if they are overwhelmed in games play. In terms of Boolean algebra, insanity is a violation of the law that x (1 – x) = 0, in other words nothing can simultaneously exist and not exist. Stephens develops this mathematical argument to demonstrate the twin impossibility points, or IPs, in every games matrix.

There were pointers in dianetics and scientology toward the concept of an IP, but in the absence of a mathematical approach that concept was not grasped. Hubbard (1956) reconsidered dianetics in terms of games theory, stating that engrams contain something more important than the pain and unconsciousness by which he originally defined them. That something was the moment of shock at realising that one had been overwhelmed, defeated. The winner is convinced that he has overwhelmed the opposing player. The loser is convinced that he has been overwhelmed. Krause (2009) developed a form of dianetics that addressed this conviction as an incident within an incident to recover the losing postulate that the person had made at that point.

You can download the 202Kb pdf file from this link.

2. Sensation

This is a new transcription of two taped talks by Dennis Stephens, combined as a single article.

Sensations, 27 July 1994
Sensations, The E-Meter, 28 July 1994

In these talks, Stephens proposed that sensation is generated between opposing postulates (also called goals). For example, the sensation of sight is generated where the goal ‘see’ is baulked by ‘not be seen’ and inverts into ‘not see’. As Gerbode points out, if we had an unlimited power of vision that could see for an infinite distance through any obstacle in any direction, then there would be nothing to see as everything would be transparent. Our sensations are consistent because they are generated by a consistent system of postulates. From this we infer the existence of a universe of consistent objects.

The mass (resistance to movement) that we experience in this universe comes from the impossibility points where opposed goals have reached a stalemate. This stalemate may be temporary in the view of the game players, a kind of rolling stop, but Stephens realised that from the viewpoint of somebody sitting on that impossibility point time actually has stopped, because space and time are generated by game play.

Thus, an IP turns out to be something far more fundamental than a nasty mental glitch that occurs when our games become compulsive and dysfunctional. The psychological phenomenon of insanity is the clue that leads to an understanding of how virtual universes of experiences are generated, literally from nothing. If anyone wants to explore this idea further I recommend Spencer-Brown’s book Laws of Form, where he discussed imaginary Boolean values that are simultaneously ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Stephens also explains the range of phenomena that are observable with an electropsychometer in terms of his games theory and in particular the closure or expansion of distance between the person and the IP on their side of the game.

You can download the 162Kb pdf file from this link.

3. Postulates, Self and the Obsessive IP

This is a new transcription of a talk by Dennis Stephens, taped in August 1994. A person involved in a game comes to associate the sensation of winning, or the thrill of the game, with their opponent’s IP. On the other hand they avoid looking at their own IP, which is just a dead spot of defeat. In playing a game we are actually trying to overwhelm the opponent, or drive them through their IP. Such phenomena as near-suicidal risk taking and sexual kinks become understandable in the light of this insight.

You can download the 90Kb pdf file from this link.

The original audio recordings of these five talks can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.



Gerbode, F.A. (2013) Beyond Psychology: An Introduction to Metapsychology. 4th edition (Applied Metapsychology International Press).

Hubbard, L.R. (1956) Scientology’s Most Workable Process. Professional Auditors Bulletin 80, 17 April 1956.

Krause, R. (2009) Routine Three Expanded, a “new” form of Dianetics. International Viewpoints 103: 27-35.

Spencer-Brown, G. (1969) Laws of Form. (Allen & Unwin: London).

‘Level 6 – Bonding’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new edited transcription as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 125Kb pdf file from this link

Stephens initially called this material the sixth level of TROM and suggested that it would only be fully understood by those who had completed the other five levels. However, he later restated that completion of level five really is the end of a person’s ‘case’, and resolving bondings is a separate matter to the TROM levels. Because he defined the concepts of single and double bondings in this lecture, it’s useful to read it before reading the material on Insanity and Sensation, which build on the concept of double bondings.

A relationship between two things is created by a bonding postulate such as “if A then B”.

A class can be defined as a group whose members all have one or more things in common, such as “all red objects”. The component parts that make up a machine are a class defined by a common purpose.

A common class is the conjunction of two or more classes, its members have the common features of both these classes. A null class is an empty class with no members.

No matter how complex logical propositions may be, they can be broken down into a series of “if A then B” propositions. A computer program can be analysed into a series of sequential “if A then B” relationships, or constructed by combining “if A then B” relationships.

The basic form of a relational postulate in the field of logic is called Implication or single bonding “if A then B”, i.e. if A exists then B exists. However, it does not say whether A actually exists or not. It is called bonding because A is bonded to B and cannot be found without B. The postulate makes the class of A, not-B null. There are three possible common classes left – A,B; not-A, not-B; and B, not-A.

The converse is not true, as long as this is a single bonding of A to B. For example, if A stands for penguins and B stands for birds, “if A then B” means that any penguin must be a bird, but not that every bird is a penguin. Taxonomy – the scientific classification of plants and animals – is structured from this kind of nested single bondings, species within genus and so on.

Any bonding is a limitation of freedom of choice. Every relationship that is made represents a loss of some freedom. A single bonding of A to B restricts A but it does not restrict B. The trouble with bonding is that having made an “if A then B” postulate one may get trapped within it. It’s easier to justify the postulate than to walk back out of it again.

A double bonding is a single bonding plus its reverse. In formal logic this is called the biconditional relationship. The reverse of “if A then B” is “if B then A” so if we have a situation where if A then B maintains and coupled with if B then A then that is a double bonding. We now have A bonded to B, and B bonded to A. The possible common classes are reduced to two: A,B and not-A, not-B. This double bonding restricts both A and B. Logically the effect of the two postulates is to make A equivalent to B in the mind. This is fine if they really are identical or synonymous; but in the example above, an ornithologist who thought all birds were penguins would be mad (at least on the subject of penguins).

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

‘The Game Strategy’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new transcription of a talk by Dennis Stephens as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 79Kb pdf file from this link.

Following on from Stephens’ previous talk on Dissociation, a game strategy is a method of winning a game below the level of a direct postulate.

A game strategy is a more fundamental and inclusive definition of what Hubbard called the service facsimile. Like the service facsimile it is generated by the person themself; but it becomes more than just a concept. Stephens identifies its four essential parts:

  1. It is a fixed solution to a problem, just as the form of an organism a solution to the problem of its survival versus the environment. So it’s a ‘thing’, not an idea or a process.
  2. It generates game sensation, gives a hope of winning, as it’s what one has to be in order to win the game.
  3. It must be kept secret from the opponent in the game, or they will easily counter it. So there is a Must Not Be Known postulate that acts as the boundary around it.
  4. It has been proven to work – most often picked up from one’s parents by observation in early childhood.

It is what Eric Berne called a ‘game’ in his special sense that term (Berne, E. 1961 Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy. Grove: New York.) One of Berne’s examples was the schlemil, someone who pretends to be clumsy or stupid as an excuse for imposing on others. The complementary role to the schlemil is the schlimazel, a person who allows schlemils to take advantage of them. Both are Yiddish words; the schlemil is always spilling his soup, and the schlimazel is the man he spills it on. Another related pair of complementary game strategies might be adulterer and cuckold; you might discover that games strategies are as varied and contradictory as the games themselves.

The service facsimile or game strategy also appears in another derivative of scientology, Werner Erhard’s Landmark, as the Racket – a contra-survival way of being that is reinforced by a secret payoff.

I’m beginning to think that many (perhaps all) identities have their origin in game strategies. As it accumulates charge and gets fleshed out with additional postulates the strategy becomes a mask, a persona, a valence that one adopts and eventually comes to believe is oneself. We are basically individuals: individuality is a whole, an identity is a part. Assuming an identity narrows down our beingness because an identity is a package of postulates. And each postulate limits the possible. On the other hand, an identity is a player, a winning package that can beat the game; it has characteristics that entitle it to reach the goal. There could be a tie-in with the Must Not Be Known postulate that surrounds the strategy, too. Privacy is essential to the maintenance of a self, which tend to dissolve if fully known. So people are sensitively protective of their privacy.

Furthermore, using a game strategy is an overt act; its exposure produces shame. Does this suggest there is something culpable about having an identity? From the other side, the possession of an identity is enforced on us by society because it is a way of keeping track of us and holding us to account for our actions.

L. Ron Hubbard said that a service facsimile is basically a device to make another consider that they had committed an overt, i.e. making them wrong. “that facsimile most used to make other people realise they are guilty of overt acts. So therefore, a service facsimile is totally itself an overt act.” (5911C26 The Handling of Cases – Greatest Overt. 1st Melbourne ACC-28). It sets one up as an non-attackable valence (6204C03 The Overt-Motivator Sequence. SHSBC-135). Now, a game strategy might be defined more broadly than a service facsimile but they are closely related. The game strategy isn’t solely a way of making the opponent guilty or wrong; more generally it’s a way of convincing them that they have failed in their current game postulate. This might be by deception, bluff, creating a misconception of their own failings, or undermining their confidence.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

‘The Surprise Game’ by Dennis Stephens

Here’s a new transcription of a talk by Dennis Stephens as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 119Kb pdf file from this link.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

The Surprise Game is additional background to Stephens’ previous talk on dissociation. He describes what was, and remains, the simplest game of creating surprises for oneself by not-knowing part of something that you’re creating. It leads into the game of having an imaginary playmate, and Stephens discusses the ramifications of this in Dissociation.

The postulate structure of a surprise is a not know followed by a sudden know. The breaking of a delusion is a special case of surprise.

Here on Earth in the 21st century many people have lost the ability to surprise themselves, and even fallen below the level of creating imaginary playmates; they’re now dependent on other human beings in the material universe to provide them with surprises or randomity.

‘Delusions’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new transcription of a short talk by Dennis Stephens, as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 52Kb pdf file from this link.

The term delusion may suggest some heavy mental issue, but we all have them. A delusion is a misconception, a false impression. It may persist for a lifetime, or it may vanish in laughter when we look at it closely. In fact, laughter is the explosive rejection of a delusion. The essence of humour is the creation of a delusion, followed by the surprising revelation of its falsity.

There are two basic types of delusion in this universe: to believe that a thing exists when in fact it doesn’t, or to believe it doesn’t exist when in fact it does. However complex a delusion appears, it can always be broken down into one or the other, or both, of those types.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

‘Dissociation’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new transcription as discussed in a previous post, edited from a taped letter that Stephens sent to Greg Pickering in reply to his letter about the upper level Scientology tech.

You can download the 120Kb pdf file from this link.

Dissociation occurs when a person shuts off part of their mind and considers that it is in the class of not-self, in other words that is a separate living entity. It’s a very common phenomenon and may be as trivial as a mental circuit that imposes a command on the person, or as serious as schizophrenia. Perhaps the majority of humankind are dissociatives, who experience alternative personalities, inner voices, ghosts, daemons, ids, superegos, gods, ancestral spirits, entities and what-not. But some of us never find these things in our minds however hard we look. In this essay, Stephens provides an explanation of why dissociation occurs and why some people are prone to it.

Dissociation is remedied by practice in the creation of postulates in the classes of self and not-self, as we do in Level Five of TROM. As always in TROM, it’s a matter of doing deliberately what the mind has been doing automatically and so bringing the automaticity under control.

I can create an apparent entity any time by making a postulate in the class of self, and a conflicting postulate in the class of not-self in another location. Sensation appears at the boundary between these postulates and it might be easy to assume that “someone else” is there – but spot the postulates and the boundary vanishes without trace.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

‘Vengeance’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new edited transcription as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 96Kb pdf file from this link

In this essay Stephens addresses the question of why we are motivated to pay others back for the nasty things we consider they have done to us. The payback urge sometimes hides behind a dignified mask named Justice or Honour, yet at heart it’s a mechanical phenomenon with no rational basis.

In scientology it was called the overt/motivator sequence; the cycle of alternately committing harmful acts (overts) against others, and receiving similar acts (motivators) from them. As with the proverbial chicken and egg, it’s never clear which came first, although we all like to claim that “He started it!” Many philosophers beginning with the Buddha Shakyamuni have explained that overt and motivator are a complementary pair, two sides of the same coin. In fact, they are the same action seen from opposite viewpoints. If we want to stop receiving motivators, we have to stop committing overts. This is easier said than done. It takes something more than an exhortation to be good; it requires an understanding of the mechanism behind the cycle.

Stephens analyses this using his games theory. Firstly, vengeance can only occur in a game that has become compulsive so that the participants cannot agree to give and receive the action – exchanging punches in a friendly boxing match, for example – or to refrain from it altogether. They are stuck in opposition, one trying to do what the other tries to prevent.

Secondly, vengeance actually appears when a person is limited to a single position in the game, such as “I gotta punch this guy, and not be punched by him.” Then if he receives a punch anyway his only option is to swap roles with his opponent and become the one who does the punching. He is dramatising (literally acting out) the motivator that he has received and now uses as an overt. This is a special case of what Stephens called the exclusion postulate, which keeps a compulsive player out of the games class into which he is trying to drive his opponent; in this case, the class of people who receive punches.

A possible limitation of this theory is that it does not explain why some conflicts escalate. Instead of returning the motivator exactly as Stephens predicts, a person might pay it back with interest: Joe jostles Jim, Jim hits Joe, Joe draws a knife… and so on. Perhaps this is due to a bias in the way each person perceives the actions, overestimating what is done to them and underestimating what they are doing.

The original audio can be found online at Tromology and TROM World.

‘Level Two of TROM’ by Dennis Stephens

This is a new edited transcription as discussed in a previous post.

You can download the 110Kb pdf file from this link

Level Two of Dennis Stephens’ The Resolution of Mind or TROM is an exercise in differentiating an object in present time from a comparable object in the past. We do this by finding differences between them. A difference is a quality that one object has but the other lacks. For example, I started Level Two by comparing pencils on the desk where I was doing the exercise with the pencils I had used in primary school.  There are complete instructions for Level Two in the book The Resolution of Mind; Stephens later taped this essay to explain the theory further.

Elsewhere, he took the view that all relationships between things can be expressed as implications, postulates of the form ‘if a then b’.   So if we decide “if object A then quality X” and “if object B then not quality X”, then the presence or absence of X is the difference between A and B. Conversely, a similarity between A and B would be some other quality that they have in common.

Of course, any two objects in the universe have differences and similarities.  If they had no differences, not even different locations in space, they would not be two but the same identical object. Level Two breaks the command power of the mind over a person by separating past from present.