Rediscovering a “lost” version of OT1

I don’t doubt that New OT1, which was released in 1984, is better preparation for the following two OT sections than the earlier versions of OT Section 1. It’s a much longer level that gives a preOT some experience of solo auditing on the meter in a formal session. When I audited this level at AOSH ANZO in 1988 I noted that soloing gave gains of the same magnitude as I had got from being audited by HGC auditors, even though I had very little prior experience as an auditor.

But the 21 July 1968 release of Operating Thetan section 1 has its own value too. It addresses a different area, and consists of 13 simple processes done off the meter while observing things out in the world. Its stated end phenomenon of freedom from inability to identify self in relation to others and the physical universe has long interested me because it goes straight to a key characteristic of what might be called the autistic case. In my opinion, this is a subset of what Hubbard (1951) called the wide-open case; or what Stephens (1979) characterised as the must know personality.

Compared to most people, we have a soft-edged sense of our identities; the boundary between our selves and our world is not as obvious as it seems to be for some. Our minds have no evident boundary, but extend at least as far as we place our attention. We tend to be more aware of ourselves as thetans than as humans of a particular age, sex, nationality etc. One of the best expressions of this came from Barbara McClintock:

“The body was something you dragged around. I always wished that I could be an objective observer, and not be what is known as ‘me’ to other people.”

Since I was already far beyond OT1 on the ‘bridge’, it seemed safe to run these processes and observe any changes they could still produce. So six weeks ago I solo-audited the 1968 OT1 exactly as laid out in LRH’s handwritten instructions.

The biggest win came on the fifth process. An artificial boundary that I had been setting up between self (safe) and not-self (dangerous) vanished, and I felt relaxed about whether the people I saw were part of me or separate beings. I had been doing this action while walking around the campus where I work, and on the way back to my office was surprised to find people greeting me with smiles or approaching me as if I’d suddenly become visible to them.

The next day I ran some of the later processes of the level while waiting for a flight at Adelaide airport, and noticed that other people are not necessarily full of wrongnesses. It brought back the F/N of the previous day, and I had a marvellous flight, exterior and watching the sea below as if it was within my own mind while simultaneously feeling at ease with the other people on the plane. I continued on to Kingscote – it was an even more pleasant town than I’d remembered from previous visits, and the board meeting that I was attending was great fun. These are positive and stable gains of the kind that I had always expected from the OT levels.

I would emphasise that no-one who is not yet Clear should try to run these processes as they require an ability to look at present time without a reactive mind in the way. I’ve not found any other accounts of people who have gone back and run the “old” OT1 after doing the current lineup of OT sections, and it would be interesting to know if anyone else has had successes from doing this. Above all, these processes should not be allowed to become “lost tech”.


Classification Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates. June 1970

Hubbard, L.R. (1951) Science of Survival.

McClintock, B. Quoted in Keller, E.F. (1983) A Feeling for the Organism.

Stephens, D.H. (1979) The Resolution of Mind: A Games Manual.


I wrote the above text two months ago, but had been hesitating to post it. I don’t want to encourage anyone not yet clear to experiment with processes that may confuse them.

But after the contemptuous dismissal of this same version of OT1 yesterday by Headley and Ortega, it seems more important to make the point that no knowledge that can benefit even a minority of those who apply it should ever be discarded.


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

Nabokov’s taxonomy

Many thanks to Dieter Zimmer for making his fascinating work A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths available to all readers online. This Web Book is particularly valuable as the original publication is already out-of-print and rare.

This book identifies all the butterflies and moths mentioned in Vladimir Nabokov’s scientific papers and his fiction: not a simple cataloguing job, since their nomenclature has changed repeatedly both during and since Nabokov’s time. As well as being an illustrated taxonomic reference work, it includes a concordance of the many references to Lepidoptera in his novels, poems and stories. It also lists the species named by Nabokov, and those named after himself, his family and characters in his fiction. But in my opinion the most interesting section is the treatment of Nabokov’s concept of the species and his views on evolution.

Vladimir Nabokov had abilities that are often associated with autism. His synaesthesia was well documented and was evident in his literary style. So was his eidetic ability to recall and cross-reference large numbers of mental images. In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight he wrote convincingly of how it feels to live in ‘constant wakefulness’ with every impression provoking a multitude of associative ideas. If there were such a thing as an aspie approach to taxonomy, the works of Nabokov might contain some clues to its nature.

While most zoologists were following the Neodarwinist fashion of downplaying morphological evidence and defining biological species based on observed or supposed limits to gene flow, Nabokov defined species on morphology and regarded biological data as secondary. Since he emphasised the morphology of the insects’ genitalia, the boundaries of his morphological species tended to coincide well with the practical limits to interbreeding of sympatric species in the field. He agreed that natural selection was the cause of an organism’s adaptation to its niche and habitat. But he remained sceptical of natural selection as the sole cause of the evolution of morphology of organisms and in particular the very widespread phenomenon of homoplasy (the evolution of similar characters in different clades and species).

Convergence was the old term for one kind of homoplasy: the independent development of similar but possibly superficial characters in widely separate clades. Nabokov understood that this phenomenon must be rare due to the number of genes involved and the statistical improbability of enough mutations with phenotypic effects in the right direction becoming fixed in a taxon. He introduced the new word homopsis for a more usual form of homoplasy: the repetition of characters in related species, due to similar sets of variations appearing in species with a similar genetic basis. This concept can be compared with homologous variation as conceived by the botanist Nicolai Vavilov – a Russian contemporary of Nabokov. Ever the synaesthete, Nabokov described a pattern of variation among species that contained gaps as a syncopated or jerky variational rhythm. For example, if two closely related moths had melanic variants and a third did not, this was an anomaly that called for an explanation.

In the 18th century Linnaeus considered genera to be more real than the species (literally, ‘appearances’) into which they could be divided. But in our time the genus has become an even more slippery concept than the species in biological nomenclature. Nabokov noted the limitations of Linnaeus’ binomial system where, following Aristotle, every species must belong to a genus. A genus of several species is defined by a particular combination of morphological characters that are common to them all. But a single-species genus has no reality beyond the implication that a common character combination would be revealed if some hypothetical, related species were to be found. Genus, species, and all taxonomic categories are noumena rather than phenomena. They exist only as mental constructs by which humans try to impose order on the kaleidoscopic variety of the world.

Many of Nabokov’s novels, and above all Pale Fire, are concerned with questions of identity. I suggest this is a key aspie characteristic: we’re so aware of everything around us that we sometimes have to think twice to find the boundary between self and not-self. Taxonomy is also concerned with postulating discrete entities among the continuous variation of organisms and drawing boundaries that identify them. It’s a branch of science that might have a natural appeal to aspies, as it did to Nabokov who took his first Cambridge degree in zoology, and later while a Lecturer in comparative literature at Harvard would work for up to ten hours per day on the Lepidoptera collection.


Nabokov, V. (1944) Notes on the morphology of the genus Lycaeides (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera). Psyche 51: 104-138.

Nabokov, V. (1945) Notes on the Neotropical Plebejinae (Lycaenidae, Lepidoptera). Psyche 52: 1-61

Vavilov, N. I. (1922) The law of homologous series in variation. Journal of Genetics 12: 47-89.

Zimmer, D.E. (2001-2003) A Guide to Nabokov’s Butterflies and Moths. 438 pp. ISBN 3-00-007609-3