Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped 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. He was kind enough to send us a new post.
Jon, tell us about your recent trip to Russia.
JON: I was in St Petersburg, last week, as a guest of the Irenaeus Centre for Religious Studies, which hosted a conference for priests and bishops from the Orthodox Church and various other interested individuals and organizations. The conference was largely dedicated to Scientology, and I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker.
First let me assign a condition of Sharkbait to the Russian OSA. This condition was initiated by L. Ron Hubbard in 1968, as a way of overcoming study difficulties on the new Class VIII course. To create the best atmosphere for learning, Hubbard added “Sharkbait” to his “ethics conditions,” whereby erring students would be quickly rehabilitated by a quick dip in the Mediterranean. It has more usually been called “overboarding.” Apart from a phone call posing as a TV company interested in interviewing me, OSA Russia were inactive. So, into the pond with the lot of you!
I had the great good fortune to stay in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, which was founded by Tsar Peter in 1710 and is in the Russian baroque style. A “lavra” is a monastery where bishops are trained. The monastery compound houses a splendid cathedral. It adjoins three cemeteries, one of which has the graves of Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin. Another, immediately in front of the cathedral, has Soviet graves, featuring the red star instead of the cross. The most unusual has a model of an electricity pylon, as a monument to the workers who died bringing electricity to the Soviet Union.
The conference began with a solemn ceremony. Very unlike the atmosphere of the talk I gave last month to a group of former Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Hendon. A robed bishop intoned a baritone prayer. Heads are bowed, and, all around me, attendees make the sign of the cross. It is a solemnity I haven’t witnessed since childhood, but it is somehow more profound than the Anglican church that I attended those many years ago.
We next heard endorsements from almost every country in the Orthodox sphere of influence. From Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Jerusalem and even the Lebanon. The focus is very much on Scientology and, for my sins, I am the uneasy star of the show.
My paper is twice as long as the allotted time, and I have to divide it over two days. The paper is called “Scientology: The Cult of Greed” and is an introduction to the subject. I have a power point presentation of about a hundred slides. At Hendon, my talk verged on stand up (it will be available on YouTube soon, I’m told). Here, I’m flying blind, with absolutely no audience response, as they listen attentively to the simultaneous translation into either Greek or Russian. It is a tad unnerving, but at the end of part one, there is applause, thankfully. I gave the second part in another hall in this beautiful, and recently renovated, monastery. Afterwards, there is a procession of people wanting to be photographed with me. The talk has significantly alarmed the attendees, who will take it back to their respective countries for translation and broad distribution.
The Orthodox Church has about 220 million parishioners, making it second only to the Roman Catholic Church in size, so it is the second largest organization in the world, by my reckoning. But where the Catholic Church has lost influence because of scandal, the Orthodox retains its authority, so the truth about Scientology will be spread far and wide in the next few weeks.
In the refectory, after part two of my talk, the Archbishop of Crete signals for me to join him. I noticed him the moment he arrived, because he exudes serenity. I’ve honestly never met anyone with such a calm heart. He tells me how important it is for the world to know about the dreadful Scientology organization. His English is perfect — he studied and worked in England as a young man, in the 1950s. He will ensure that my book, Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky, is translated into Greek (a Russian translation is already underway). We spent much of the evening together, and I was very impressed by this delightful man. It is hard to accept that a man with such a weight of responsibility is so calm and has such humility.
I hope to make my talk –- “Scientology: The Cult of Greed” — available on Kindle in the near future. Meanwhile, I would like to thank Professor Dvorkin of the Iranaeus Centre for his invitation and Victor, Darina, and Sotia for making sure that my stay was very pleasant indeed! And let me recommend the wonderful Hermitage Museum. Packed with three million artefacts, including some of the finest Rembrandts, two of the world’s 14 da Vinci’s and a room of Tahitian Gauguins.
And here’s video of last month’s press conference in London. Jon’s part comes on about 43 minutes in…
And another thing…
The proprietor wishes to express his deep gratitude for all of the humbling things that were said about the Bunker yesterday on its second anniversary. We read them all, and we’re grateful to hear from so many of you for whom this modest website has become a daily habit. We hope to continue to earn your attention.
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 29, 2014 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49