Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He now has a new edition of the book out, and on Saturdays he’s helping us sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
This week, Jon sent us some thoughts about books written by people who had left Scientology and then described their experiences. We were pleased to see him single out for praise a book that we’ve also held in high esteem.
JON: There have been several excellent first-hand accounts of life in Scientology, starting in 1951, with Dr. Joseph Winter’s balanced (and exasperated) Doctor’s Report on Dianetics, which was commissioned by Art Ceppos, after he stopped publication of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, having realized that it was fraudulent (who ever heard of a publisher canning a best-seller?). Helen O’Brien’s Dianetics in Limbo is heart-rending. She headed the Hubbard organization during the Philadelphia ‘Doctorate’ Course, but only managed to find 38 people keen enough on Hubbard to attend. The description of her partner’s descent into suicide, because Hubbard’s ‘Tech’ failed to help him, is particularly disturbing.
In 1971, Cyril Vosper wrote his best-seller, The Mindbenders. Cyril became a good friend, after I left the cult, and he was consistently amusing and insightful. Robert Kaufman’s Inside Scientology gave the first account of OT III, back in 1972. I liked Margery Wakefield’s touching Road to Xenu, and I liked Margery too, when I met her, back in the 90s. She was about the most compassionate “Suppressive Person” I’ve ever met, and that is saying something, because so many are. Jenna Miscavige Hill’s Beyond Belief is a poignant account, which will surely melt most hearts — a seven-year-old girl abandoned in the Sea Org. It shows just how far off the wall the whole scam has become since her uncle, David Miscavige took over.
There is a strangely consistent theme to these, and other, accounts — from 1951 to 2013, Dianetics and Scientology have offered the moon and stars, but delivered misery and humiliation, interspersed with the occasional euphoric high. I’ve just finished Jefferson Hawkins’ excellent Counterfeit Dreams, and, yes, I have heard it all before, but Jeff tells the story so well that even my jaded interest was piqued. It is the tale of a young hippie graphic artist who gave up the freewheeling lifestyle of the Summer of Love to join Hubbard’s navy, and ended up a cog in the dysfunctional Miscavige machine.
Jeff gives insight into the early Pubs Org in Edinburgh back in 1968, through its move to Copenhagen, and then his times building the only successful book campaign since Dianetics. It becomes clear that the reason for that success was avoiding the statpush management methods espoused by Hubbard. In fact, Jeff also had to ignore Hubbard’s marketing strategies almost entirely, and hire professionals who were untainted by the Management Technology.
It’s amusing to know that Jack Trout’s proposed campaign was shelved (he suspected the ‘religion angle’). Even though he co-authored Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind, which is the basic text of Hubbard’s own marketing system.
Without Jeff Hawkins, the boom of the 90s would probably never have occurred, and the rot that is now collapsing the cult would have started earlier. Jeff drove Hubbard books onto the New York Times’ best-seller list. It is no surprise to see that his endeavors were soon sabotaged, so the Ideal Orgs now bob like great empty ghost ships, because Miscavige cut the inflow of new public with his musical-chairs style of management. Add to that South Park (2005) and Anonymous (2008), and public recruiting is surely at a thirty year low.
The sadly usual tales of broken families, catastrophic marriages, insane punishments, and daily humiliation are all there, too. There are new and cruel punishments devised for the sadistic amusement of the new boss, including variants on Hubbard’s awful overboarding.
When Russell Miller returned from his first interview tour, he told me that he couldn’t believe that such intelligent people could become ensnared in such foolish ideas (he’d forgotten that he was talking to an ex-member!). Jeff Hawkins is yet another educated and well-informed spiritual seeker caught up in the vampiric clutch of Scientology. He gives an uncluttered and articulate account, which has the great benefit of being easy to read. By the end of the book, I really liked Jeff (he was also nice about my book, when I contacted him, so quid pro quo), and my heart was bleeding for the many victims of this crazy system. Hawkins, thankfully, understands that the 35 years he spent in the cult were not wasted, and that is heartening. He has digested the negative experience and turned it to good use, showing that even the most advanced system of zombification of all time can be overcome.
Jeff emphasizes the isolation that a departee feels, and goes on to thank the marvellous Chuck Beatty, who has helped so many former members to find their feet, and realize that rather than losing their immortality, they’ve actually gained their freedom. Best of all was his reconnection with his brother, which led to his brother escaping, too. This is an excellent account of life in the crazy nightmare that is Scientology. And there is yet more evidence of Miscavige’s chronic blame and his addiction to power, and, of course, his contempt for others, and his dreadful and cowardly violence. If you haven’t already read it, pick it up and you will be well rewarded.
JEFFERSON: Jon’s words are very kind and I’m glad he enjoyed Counterfeit Dreams and found it valuable in throwing some light on Scientology’s descent into madness. His Piece of Blue Sky was one of the first of the “forbidden” books that I read after leaving Scientology, and was instrumental in my beginning to peel off the onion layers of indoctrination. The question he raises, “how can good, intelligent people buy into this,” is central not only to the Scientology experience, but to any totalitarian fanaticism that believes that their “glorious” ends justify the most violent and abusive of means. Counterfeit Dreams was my effort to answer that question, and I think every one of the autobiographical books about the Scientology experience is another step towards understanding.
Scott Campbell and Big Blue
Part 3 of Karen de la Carriere’s interview with Scott Campbell — this time, he makes a run for it from Big Blue!
Posted by Tony Ortega on July 6, 2013 at 06:00
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