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The Scientology Handbook

Scientology fundamentals for daily use in every part of life. Encompassing 19 separate bodies of technology, here is the most comprehensive manual ever published on the basics of life.

Barriers to Study

The Second Barrier: Too Steep a Gradient

A gradient is a gradual approach to something taken step by step, level by level, each step or level being, of itself, easily attainable – so that finally, complicated and difficult activities can be achieved with relative ease. The term gradient also applies to each of the steps taken in such an approach.

When one hits too steep a gradient in studying a subject, a sort of confusion or reelingness (a state of mental swaying or unsteadiness) results. This is the second barrier to study.

The remedy for too steep a gradient is to cut back the gradient. Find out when the person was not confused about what he was studying and then find out what new action he undertook. Find out what he felt he understood well just before he got all confused.


Child fallen from bike Child with training wheels, riding bike
Learning to ride a bicycle is often too steep a gradient for a child. But a set of training wheels makes it possible for him to progress. This is a proper gradient.


You will discover that there is something in this area – the part he’d felt he understood well – which he did not really understand. When this is cleared up, the student will be able to progress again.

When a person is found to be terribly confused on the second action he was supposed to know or do, it is safe to assume that he never really understood the first action.

This barrier is most recognizable and most applicable when engaged in doingness – performing some action or activity – as opposed to just academic or intellectual study.


The Third – and Most Important – Barrier: The Misunderstood Word

The third and most important barrier to study is the misunderstood word. A misunderstood word is a word which is not understood or wrongly understood.

An entirely different set of physical reactions can occur when one reads past words he does not understand. Going on past a word that was not understood gives one a distinctly blank feeling or a washed-out feeling.

A “not-there” feeling and a sort of nervous hysteria (excessive anxiety) can follow that.

The confusion or inability to grasp or learn comes after a word that the person did not have defined and understood.

The misunderstood word is much more important than the other two barriers. The misunderstood word establishes aptitude and lack of aptitude; this is what psychologists have been trying to test for years without recognizing what it was.

This is all that many study difficulties go back to. Studying past misunderstood words produces such a vast range of mental effects that it itself is the prime factor involved with stupidity and many other unwanted conditions.

If a person didn’t have misunderstood words, his talent might or might not be present, but his doingness in that subject would be present.

There are two specific phenomena which stem from misunderstood words.


First Phenomenon

When a student misses understanding a word, the section right after that word is a blank in his memory.

You can always trace back to the word just before the blank, get it understood and find miraculously that the former blank area is not now blank in the material you are studying.


Man reading
When a person is reading down a page. . .

Man not understanding 'fuel'

. . . and goes past a word for which he has no definition. . .

Man reading more but page is blank
. . . the section after the misunderstood word will be blank in his memory. The misunderstood word is the most important barrier to successful study.


It is pure magic.

Have you ever had the experience of coming to the end of a page and realizing you didn’t know what you had read? Somewhere earlier on that page you went past a word that you had no definition for or an incorrect definition for.

Here is an example: “It was found that when the crepuscule arrived the children were quieter and when it was not present, they were much livelier.” What happens is you think you do not understand the whole idea, but the inability to understand comes entirely from the one word you could not define, crepuscule, which means twilight or darkness.


Second Phenomenon

A misunderstood definition or a not-comprehended definition or an undefined word can even cause a person to give up studying a subject and leave a course or class. Leaving in this way is called a blow.

We have all known people who enthusiastically started on a course of study only to find out some time later that the person dropped the study because it was “boring” or “it wasn’t what they thought it would be.” They were going to learn a skill or go to night school and get their degree but never followed through. No matter how reasonable their excuses, the fact is they dropped the subject or left the course. This is a blow. A person blows for only one primary reason – the misunderstood word.

A person does not necessarily blow because of the other barriers to study – lack of mass or too steep a gradient. These simply produce physical phenomena. But the misunderstood word can cause a student to blow.

There is a definite sequence of actions following a misunderstood word:

When a word is not grasped, the student then goes into a noncomprehension (blankness) of things immediately after. This is followed by the student’s solution for the blank condition which is to individuate from it – meaning to separate himself from it and withdraw from involvement with it.

Now that the student is separated from the area he was studying, he does not really care what he does with regard to the subject or related things or activities. This is the attitude – being separate or different from – which precedes doing something harmful to something or someone.

For example, a student in school who has gone past misunderstood words in a course will not care about what happens in class, will probably bad-mouth the subject to his friends and may even damage class equipment or lose his textbook.

However, people are basically good. When an individual commits a harmful act, he then makes an effort to restrain himself from committing more harmful acts. This is followed by his finding ways he has been “wronged” by others, in order to justify his actions, and by complaints, faultfinding and a “look-what-you-did-to-me” attitude. These factors justify, in the student’s mind, a departure or blow.


Man reading book on airplanes
A person often starts study of a new subject with great eagerness

Man not understanding all the words
However, if he accumulates misunderstood words, his interest wanes.

Man leaving and throwing book in trash can
If he does not find these and get them defined, he will lose interest entirely and abandon the subject. This is called a blow.


But most educational systems, frowning on blows as they do, cause the student to really withdraw himself from the study subject (whatever he was studying) and set up in its place mental machinery which can receive and give back sentences and phrases. A person can set up mental machinery when he becomes disinterested in what he is doing but feels he has to continue doing it.

We now have “the quick student who somehow never applies what he learns,” also called a glib student.

The specific phenomenon then is that a student can study some words and give them back and yet be no participant to the action. The student gets A+ on exams but can’t apply the data.

The thoroughly dull (stupid) student is just stuck in the noncomprehend blankness following some misunderstood word. He won’t be able to demonstrate his materials with a demo kit or in clay, and such difficulties are a sure sign that a misunderstood word exists.

The “very bright” student who yet can’t use the data is not there at all. He has long since ceased to confront (face without flinching or avoiding) the subject matter or the subject.

The cure for either of these conditions of “bright noncomprehension” or “dull” is to find the missing word.

This discovery of the importance of the misunderstood word actually opens the door to education. And although this barrier to study has been given last, it is the most important one.


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