‘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).

‘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.

‘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.

‘The Philosophy of TROM’ by Dennis Stephens

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

You can download the 79Kb pdf file from this link

TROM is an acronym for The Resolution of Mind, the title of Dennis Stephens’ book and the system that he presented there. The subject of scientology fits almost entirely within TROM, the two subjects are almost fully consistent. The ony exception in Stephens’ opinion was Axiom 31 of scientology, which posited that goodness and badness are only relative and subjective. Hubbard’s view in 1954 when he wrote the axioms was that we have no objective criteria to judge right from wrong – just social agreements about rules that differ between societies.

Stephens’ position was that life contains an intrinsic standard of right and wrong, or good and bad, conduct; and that this can be confirmed by experience. He explained this in terms of constructive ‘life goals’ such as know, create, enhance or love; and destructive ‘non-life goals’ such as trap, degrade, compete or exploit. And the difference between a life goal and a non-life goal is not a matter of opinion. To begin with, non-life goals oppose the basic purpose of life: To Be. And if used in the therapy of TROM they will not erase, but only generate more emotional charge, mental mass and uncomfortable sensations.

To the extent that a person bases their life on non-life goals they will suffer. And to the extent that a society adopts non-life goals it will decline.

‘The Supermarket Paradox’ by Dennis Stephens

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

You can download the 81Kb pdf file from this link

Stephens recorded this as background information to Level Three of TROM, and in particular to resolve an apparent paradox that people may encounter as they improve their ability to simultaneously view ‘then’ and ‘now’.

There are various theories about how memory works. How am I able to re-experience scenes from over sixty years ago with all perceptics in three dimensions, full colour and detail: familiar scratches and blemishes on plastic toys, pages of books, the smell of the old schoolroom, the grain of floorboards, our cat’s lank black fur, my first sight and taste of icecream while an electric clock ticked in Grandma’s kitchen, or the Queen’s coronation broadcast on BBC shortwave? These scenes represent more information than a lifetime of high-resolution DVDs. Where is it all stored, or is it stored at all?

The most naive explanation is that it’s physically stored in the brain as molecules or intercellular connections, as if a brain was a vast RAM chip. Yet no plausible mechanism for the permanent, integrated recording of multiple sense channels on this scale has been proposed. Stephens raises the further objection that this would involve an infinite recursion since a person’s own body, including their brain, is an element within each remembered scene.

Dianetics introduced a more sophisticated approach, attributing memory to mental image pictures that are automatically recorded and filed independently of the body as a linear timetrack like the tape in a Turing machine. This might be analogous to an external hard drive that everyone carries around in an invisible back-pack. Stephens shows the difficulties with this theory too. How can we see these past scenes from external viewpoints in addition to looking through our own eyes, and find things in them that we did not notice at the time?

The conclusion is that we don’t carry personal libraries of memory recordings. We just have the ability to perceive whatever we put our attention on, whether this is in present time or in the past. As C.S. Lewis wrote (in The Dark Tower, about 1938) “when we remember, we are not simply getting the result of something that goes on inside our heads. We are directly experiencing the past.”

On transcribing Dennis Stephens’ lectures – The Exclusion Postulate

This is the first of an occasional series of posts where I’m presenting some new, edited transcriptions of Dennis Stephens’ Supplementary TROM Tapes.

All that is known to exist of Stephens’ research notes consist of his published book and about 20 cassette tapes, most of which were not widely known until transcribed by Pete McLaughlin in 2012.

A few aricles by Stephens were published in 1994 and 1995 by International Viewpoints, who had his agreement to edit the spoken text into a more concise and formal style; it seems that due to fading eyesight he had to supply copy as audio and was unable to check proofs. The Supplementary TROM Tapes were recorded from late 1992 to late 1994, perhaps with a view to their eventual publication. They are mostly informal chats addressed to Greg Pickering, who had already edited The Resolution of Mind for publication, with digressions from his prepared notes. He frequently repeats statements several times and occasionally spells out a word to make sure the listener can duplicate it, corrects mistakes by leaving the incorrect phrase ahead of the corrected one or flicking the on-off button. A push-button cassette recorder didn’t provide much facility for tape editing!

Dennis grew up in the East End of London (Tottenham and later Edgware) and so his accent was basically East Ender although not Cockney. In 1957 he settled in Australia. Judging from these tapes he didn’t adopt many Australian idioms; for example, he still refers to Wellington boots instead of gum boots. But he picked up our Australian habit of flattening vowels: compared to the more musical sound of educated English, Aussie vowels tend to converge toward an indeterminate “uh”. So it may be hard for American listeners (for example) to catch all he says. Cairns might sound like ‘Cannes’, or cleft stick like ‘cliff stick’.

In these new transcriptions I’ve endeavoured to capture all the content that Stephens intended, as if editing them for hard-copy publication in a journal by:

deleting corrected phrases to leave the correction
deleting stumbles
deleting repetitions
reorganising sentences and correcting grammar where necessary

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

In a letter tape of 6 May 1993 to Greg Pickering, Stephens said that the lectures The Unstacking Procedure, The Exclusion Postulate and Dissociation should be published for use by students on Level Five. By 16 November 1993 he’d reconsidered and told Terry Scott that the Supplementary TROM tapes should not be made public, at least at that time. However, in another tape to Scott on 19 January 1994 he said they are essential for students on Level Five, and would also be valuable for scientists interested in the logical basis of TROM.


The Exclusion Postulate by Dennis Stephens

You can download the 223Kb pdf file from this link

This lecture is about much more than its title suggests, and is Stephens’ major statement about the nature of postulates. He adopted L. Ron Hubbard’s non-standard usage of ‘postulate’ for a causative thought since English lacks a precise word for this. A postulate in this sense is a mental act, a decision such as “Apples must be known” or “All crows are birds”, directed as an intention or goal to bring something into existence, take it out of existence or relate it to something else.

The first big idea he presents is that postulates limit the possible and thereby define the reasonable, with a discussion of what we really mean by “reasonable” and why games are inherently unreasonable.

Then comes the defining law of this universe, that it’s possible to know anything that has been brought into existence to be known but nothing that has not been brought into existence. Consequently it’s futile to try knowing something that doesn’t exist, or not-knowing something that does. A thing cannot both exist and not exist simultaneously.

Next (and we’re still only up to the ninth page), Stephens explains the two other laws that apply to postulates but not to perceived objects within this universe.

Then follows the definitive explanation of how games become compulsive, in terms of double-binds or false identifications. The mechanism of exclusion postulates is not introduced until near the end, in a discussion of the practicalities of running Level Five of TROM.

Force or free will

The surest way to mess up someone’s mind is to force them to do something that they already want to do. Or to forcibly prevent them doing something that they don’t want to do. Either way, they have to make an intolerable choice between submitting to force, or acting against their own will.

This is the essence of insanity, this is a double bind. As L. Ron Hubbard said in one of his better moments, fundamental aberration is the enforcement of basic truth.

But the converse is also true. If your mind is doing things outside your control, for example bringing up unwanted images or emotions, the solution is to do deliberately and consciously whatever the mind has been doing automatically. This will bring that automaticity under control so it can be used, or not, as appropriate. If someone is haunted by an unpleasant memory, they need to recall that memory by their own free will until its apparent power over them vanishes.

‘The Resolution of Mind’ by Dennis Stephens

I would like to present another public domain edition of The Resolution of Mind by Dennis Stephens.

You can download the 600Kb pdf file from this link.

Dennis Stephens (1927 – 1994) was one of the first dianetic auditors in England, where he worked with L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s and contributed to the development of scientology in that period. He later acknowledged Hubbard as “the man who took psychology out of the brain and gave it back to the people.” His other major influence was the mathematician George Boole, “the man who took logic out of the esoteric.”

Stephens developed Hubbard’s dianetic techniques for viewing the past under control of a therapist into a simpler procedure that he called timebreaking. Timebreaking is done solo because a person must take responsibility for their own mind if they are ever to become cause over it. Many of us who have found timebreaking valuable had the benefit of previous experience with dianetics and scientology, but Stephens intended this technique to also work for people with no knowledge of these sciences.

His second breakthrough was to extend Hubbard’s ideas on game theory and goals. In his opinion, research in scientology went astray in a search for the opposing goals and identities that form the core of the mind. Stephens realised that the basic goal package had been there all along in the two basic abilities of life stated in Hubbard’s first axioms of scientology: to create things to be known, and to know things that have been created. He then used Boolean algebra to analyse the structure of games that arise from opposing and complementary goals; I have found this theory to be workable and valid.

In several ways the life of Stephens was a contrast and complement to that of Hubbard. Stephens’ goal in life was to know, rather than to be known. He was passionate about learning and finding the truth, but didn’t give a shit about becoming rich or famous. His childhood in the semi-slum neighbourhood of Tottenham had taught him a disgust for capitalism and a desire to find “a better way”. He founded no group or movement, he never claimed to be the source of all wisdom, but quietly wrote up his discoveries for anyone who might find them useful. And he expected users of his system to think for themselves, take responsibility for their own progress, and make new discoveries.

Stephens’ system is known by the acronym TROM from the title of this, his only published book. It is available at several places on the web as noted below, as are his other research notes which he recorded as audio tapes in the last years of his life. I’m posting this edition as one more source of The Resolution of Mind, hoping that many others will pass it on – in any medium, in English and other languages. It began as my working copy, with typographical errors from earlier editions cleared up to make reading easier. I have also arranged the four addendum sections in chronological order, added a table of contents and used a font that I hope readers will find easy on the eyes.

Other editions of The Resolution of Mind are available as free downloads from:




Further reading

Boole, G. (1854) An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. (Macmillan: London). This is the original Boolean algebra.

Hubbard, L.R. (1956) The Fundamentals of Thought. (HASI: London). This summarises Hubbard’s version of scientology at the time when he and Stephens were working together. The discussion of postulates and games is very relevant to TROM.

Hubbard, L.R. (1957) 18th Advanced Clinical Course. A year on, and Hubbard was considering a theory of how memory works very similar to the one Stephens later adopted.