Marc and Claire Headley are two of the most well known people to leave the Church of Scientology in the last decade. Marc’s 2009 book, Blown for Good, is an exciting escape narrative of their time working at Scientology’s “Gold Base,” the secretive International Headquarters of the church in the California desert.
When Marc was growing up in the church, he was friends with Giovanni Ribisi, another child of Scientologists who lived in Los Angeles. We learned about this last night after we called up Marc to tell him we had heard Ribisi interviewed by comedian Marc Maron, during which the Avatar actor had said some surprising things about Scientology. We asked Marc Headley to give us his thoughts on the interview, and to tell us about his memories of Ribisi…
I like both of these guys. I grew up with Giovanni Ribisi — or “Vonni,” as we used to call him when we were kids. Vonni and I both went to Delphi, which is a Scientology school, and I used to hang out at his house on occasion. He lived on Cumpston St in North Hollywood, right around the corner from Mrs. Gooches Market. They had a pool and we would hang out and skateboard and do all that sort of kid stuff.
Vonni wasn’t fazed by anything. I don’t ever remember him getting upset or ever getting into fights at school. He was just sort of content, though he could see the negative side of things without really getting too riled up about any of it.
We were decent friends — I even dated his twin sister Marissa for a bit. She and I broke up on a Valentine’s Day.
When Vonni did Highway to Heaven with Michael Landon, he had to shave his head to play a kid with cancer on the show. That was pretty cool. I was an extra on a few episodes of The Wonder Years, which Vonni also had a bit part on a few years later. Vonni was always taking off from school to do acting roles, and at one point he just stopped going to Delphi altogether.
After I went off to work at Golden Era Productions, I ran into Vonni a few times over the years and we even shot some scenes for a film at Golden Era with Marissa. Vonni was never in any of the films or videos we shot for Scientology. One of the reasons was that he really wasn’t considered an “active” Scientologist. He wasn’t doing courses and auditing. Which brings us around to why I am even writing about him.
I watch Marc Maron’s TV show Maron, I listen to his podcast, and Claire and I even went to see him at a comedy joint here in Denver last year.
I like Marc Maron and his comedy. This last week he interviewed Giovanni, as he calls himself now. It started out as a pretty standard interview about Giovanni’s upbringing in LA and his acting roles over the years.
Then, about 43 minutes into the recording, Maron began asking Giovanni about Scientology. The first thing that surprised me was that Giovanni said Scientologists are generally under attack. He also said he didn’t think the negative things people say about Scientology are true because he hasn’t experienced them himself. This is standard Scientology training: If you haven’t seen it –- it did not happen. Maron picked up on that and said Giovanni just might not be aware of what’s going on.
Ribisi told him to read a book on it and said it was too complicated to sum up. This is not by accident.
About 50 minutes into the interview, Giovanni showed his true colors and admitted that he doesn’t do Scientology regularly enough to get to a point where he feels he needs to quit it. Maron even calls him a “passive” Scientologist as opposed to a fanatic. Then comes this exchange…
Maron: What you’re saying is that there are practical tools but then there is the mythology of aliens, right?
Ribisi: OK, I, This is another thing, that whole ten percent thing, the whole thing — I have never ever heard of aliens in Scientology, and I’ve been a Scientologist all my life. And I’ve done a lot of courses and a lot…I have never heard of aliens in Scientology. Never, no please.
Maron: No thetans?
Ribisi: Well, that’s not an alien. The concept of a thetan comes from this notion of what’s called theta, right? And the idea of a thetan is essentially the person. It’s the Scientology term for a spirit.
Maron: OK. So it’s just different language, really, about some of the same things all religions deal with.
Maron: I get it.
Ribisi: Ah, you got it.
Maron: I’m all set! You’ve demystified the whole thing for me.
I’ve told people this myself. After growing up in the church and then working for Scientology for 15 years, I had never heard about aliens either. But I had done very little Scientology auditing or auditor training. I was a staff member, and a Sea Org member, for most of my time. I did not have the time or money to do much Scientology auditing or training. Many other people were in the same situation — which is why it’s possible for a longtime member of Scientology to be clueless about the stuff with the aliens.
Giovanni Ribisi doesn’t have the excuse of a staff or Sea Org job with long hours and low pay. He presumably has plenty of money and time, but I don’t see any evidence that he’s reached the “OT” levels or the high levels of training.
After I left Scientology in 2005, I read everything from Clear to OT 8 (the highest level) in one sitting on the Internet — and then I learned about the aliens and the body thetans for free.
But presumably, Giovanni hasn’t learned about that, which is why he apparently doesn’t know that he’s not just a thetan, but he’s got lots of body thetans attached to him, which are essentially aliens.
At the end of the interview, Maron asked Giovanni about Scientology’s hate for psychiatry. At this point, Giovanni goes way off script and says that Scientology only dislikes the drug treatment side of psychiatry. (No, Vonni. Scientology hates every part of psychiatry with a passion.)
Marc Maron didn’t sound like he knew very much about Scientology, but what struck me is that he may still know more about Scientology’s stranger elements than Giovanni, who has been in it for 40 years. But that’s entirely possible, because Scientology maintains strict secrecy with its lower-level members.
I can imagine that Ribisi might get pulled aside after this interview, and be given a talk about getting up the Bridge. In Scientology, a member who was only part way up the Bridge after as many years as he’s been in would be called a “dilettante,” and he’d be under intense pressure to get in gear. But as a celebrity, he’s been allowed to slide.
I plan on sending Marc Maron a copy of my book. He will find out a lot more about Scientologists than he could with one sitting right next to him.
Thanks very much, Marc.
And for Ribisi, we’ll make sure he has a chance to learn at least a little about Scientology’s space opera and L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas about invading alien forces that rule our solar system. He was quite open about this in a lecture he gave in 1952. (This was more than a decade before he would write the notorious “Xenu” material of “OT 3” which was satirized so well in a 2005 episode of South Park.) In this lecture, Hubbard explains that these invader forces rule Venus and Mars to this day, and that’s where you are whisked to be “implanted” between your lives on Earth.
It’s fun stuff, Ribisi, and it’s central to Scientology’s philosophy of life and death. You really ought to know it by now.
UPDATE: We want to point out something about the word “aliens” which others have brought to our attention. Scientologists are very good at word games, and if Ribisi does know more than Headley assumes, the actor may be playing a word game here.
In Scientology, we are thetans — immortal spirits that have lived countless lives going back trillions of years. Part of Scientology is recovering your memories of living millions and billions of years ago on other planets in other parts of the universe. (Headley’s theory is that Ribisi didn’t bother getting far enough into Scientology counseling to experience that, which may be the case.)
Because they assume they have lived in other parts of the galaxy, Scientologists don’t technically consider those beings from other places “aliens.” We’re all just thetans, living at other times and places in the universe.
So even a longtime Scientologist who had completed OT 3 and learned the Xenu story and then spent years removing “body thetans” from themselves could still say with a straight face that there are no “aliens” in Scientology.
Just one more reason why it would be nice for someone with some actual Scientology knowledge to ask these celebrities questions.
Second Update: Now this is an interesting development…
Posted by Tony Ortega on June 13, 2014 at 07:00
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