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Jon Atack looks back at his final Scientology auditing session — and how he broke free

Jon_AtackJon 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, it’s been another great year with you here in the Underground Bunker. What better way to head into the holidays than with another deep dive from you into what challenges people face when they leave the Church of Scientology…

JON: I wanted to start this week by thanking the comments crew at the Bunker for the many stimulating remarks these last few weeks. Let me admit that when I came back to the fray, 18 months back, I was very apprehensive. So much so that I have only actually read the comments on about seven or eight of my pieces, just in case the hounds of the Thunderdome were on the prowl.

I am about the only person I know who left Scientology untraumatized, but they made up for it in the years that followed. I think that I can claim to have been the most harassed person outside the US during the next 16 years. By the time I eventually went bankrupt, in 1995, I was embroiled in litigation, my health had collapsed and my marriage was on the rocks. I was also mauled by several close friends, which was the most hurtful aspect of the whole business. But then, we all know that GO/OSA culls counseling folders for “love and hate buttons” with which to manipulate defectors, and I can only imagine that this was the case with my friends. I wish them all luck, wherever they are, and have no hard feelings.

Anyway, I had a touch of complex post traumatic stress disorder by the time I withdrew, in 1996 (the cult kept harassing me for four more years, just to make sure), and even thinking about speaking out again sent the butterflies hurtling around my stomach. The friendly and intelligent reception here at the Bunker has slowly eased those feelings. So, thank-you for your supportive and intelligent comments.

And I also thank those who have defended me on the message boards. Contrary to one unpleasant poster, I do not tread those boards, because I simply do not have time. Not because of even the slightest disdain for the people I’m risking so much to try and help, as was suggested.

I have to focus on sharing what I’ve learned with the largest number of people I can, and every piece that I write takes research. I like to check every quotation, and sometimes that takes an amount of digging. I like chattering as much as the next chap, but I’m already borrowing both time and money to do this work, so please forgive me if I don’t answer every post.

I had expected to spend a couple of days a week for a year on this project. I came back, against my own inclination, because it became obvious to me that many — perhaps most — ex-Scientologists simply do not recover without help. While the true membership of the cult has probably never reached 100,000 at any given time, I estimate that about three million people have received auditing since 1950. Of those, perhaps 250,000 have been traumatised. And of those, only a few thousand may have recovered. I once spent an afternoon with a fellow who had spent 20 years house bound after the “Saint Hill Experience.” It took only that afternoon to bring him back into the world. The case is not unique. There is a tremendous amount of upset, and rage, out there in unhealed former members. It is not their fault (though it is difficult to be on the receiving end, as I inevitably am, at times).

Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky was written for ex-Scientologists. I was highly gratified when Stacy Brooks Young said that she could not find a single fact to “dead agent” in the book. She had written the dead agent on Corydon, so knew whereof she spoke. Vaughn, her husband, and as with Stacy, my dear friend, had been the cult’s top PR in the US for 20 years, and he called Blue Sky “definitive.”

Although Janet Reitman condensed and paraphrased my book, she added very little to the history (see the footnotes to her first seven chapters which show that her “objective” research consisted mainly of reading either Blue Sky or Russell Miller’s excellent Bare-Faced Messiah, which was based upon my book, and for which I was the principal researcher. Then take a look at the lists of documents referenced in Blue Sky). So, until someone writes a real update –- The Miscavige Years — Blue Sky as supplemented by Bare Faced Messiah remains the only real history. Unless someone offers me a sizable wad of cash, I shall not be writing that book, and I intend to withdraw from public view after my 60th birthday next June (unless the cult forces me to stay, by initiating fresh litigation or harassment).

However, my objective was to pry people loose from the Hubbard-think, and although Blue Sky made strides in that direction, as we’ve seen in the last 50 or more blog entries here at the Bunker, there is further to go to undo this invidious system of exploitative persuasion, behavior modification, and psychological enslavement.

I feared that I would return and take on authority status, as a guru. I have occasionally been adulated and I hate it. That people would either angrily attack me for again questioning the revered status of Our Founder, or simply adopt my views. So, the debate at the Bunker has been utterly refreshing. So many additions, and, better yet, so many disagreements! It proves that many people had recovered their critical faculties already and that we are moving towards a much healthier view of the great Scientology hoax.

I’ve also been highly gratified by the comments of those who have never trod the Road to Total Freedom. Tony has done a great job of rendering my at times Scientologese-laden pieces into something like English. He is a fine editor, as well as being as good a journalist as I’ve encountered covering the subject of Scientology. Thank you all.

I was particularly pleased with the comments on the double bind and implant pieces. Let me add another tidbit to the double bind contradictions that make up the foundation of Scientology. On 17 April 1970, Hubbard issued a “policy letter” called An Auditor and “The Mind’s Protection,” in which he cited a statement from Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, published 20 years earlier: “The mind is a self-protecting mechanism. Short of the use of drugs as in narco-synthesis, shock, hypnotism or surgery, no mistake can be made by an Auditor which cannot be remedied either by himself or by another Auditor. Any case, no matter how serious, no matter how unskilled the auditor, is better opened than left closed.”

As auditing is a form of hypnosis, there is already a contradiction in there, but let’s put that aside and consider this statement, made in 1952, after Dianetics but 18 years before the reiteration above. In the Journal of Scientology, issues 3, 4 and 5G, there are three articles by Hubbard called Danger: Black Dianetics! “Death, insanity, aberration, or merely a slavish obedience can be efficiently effected by the use of Black Dianetics…” I invite the reader to peruse the articles, where Hubbard asserts that such techniques have been used “for centuries” and that “thousands may die because of Black Dianetics.”

It could be argued that this Black Dianetics consists of the use of “narco-synthesis” (for which see Science of Survival and Wolfe and Rosenthal’s Hypnotism Comes of Age, which Hubbard recommended), “shock, hypnotism or surgery,” but before issuing his 1970 policy, Hubbard had already restricted various auditing techniques, declaring them a danger to the uninitiated. Take for instance the restriction of all materials above Grade VI. “Issued with a small amount of R6 data in 1964, three or four persons promptly used it on pcs … The pcs became ill … A very small minority, receiving incorrect data, did use it harmfully on others ….” (HCOPL Security of Data, 11 August 1971, issue V). Another double bind.

All auditing is potentially dangerous, because it is a form of behavior modification. It is well known that by repetition it is possible to instil new behaviors, without providing any reasoning to justify such behaviors. This is evident in Scientology’s training procedures. Hubbard himself recognized the brainwashing aspect of the chanting of his principles, used every day at staff musters. He called it “Chinese school.” The idea is to subvert reasoning and induce obedience. Hardly the “self-determinism” that Scientology is supposed to enhance.

Nowhere is this behavior modification more evident than in Tone Scale drilling. One commentator pointed to this essential implant, which I have discussed elsewhere but which should be underlined in importance. The Tone Scale implant is fundamental to Scientology belief.

The original Tone Scale, given in Modern Science of Mental Health, derives from the four humors of Roman medicine, delineated by Galen around the first century AD (or CE, if you prefer). These four humors were considered so accurate that they remained in use almost into modern times. They were sanguine — the cheery part of the tone scale –- which meant the blood dominated the metabolism and temperament; choleric — the angry and resentful states — dominated by the choler or yellow bile of the digestion; melancholic — the sad states — dominated by the black bile of the digestion; and phlegmatic — the state of apathy — dominated by the phlegm or mucous.

Now, I noticed this when I first read D:MSMH, so I supposed that others did so, too. But as with other Hubbard borrowings, this is not true. (Brown McKee observed that as a physicist, he knew that Hubbard was talking nonsense about physics, but he was fascinated by his view of Buddhism. As a Buddhist, I knew Hubbard was talking nonsense about Buddhism, but was fascinated by his view of physics…)

The humors are not conceived of as a linear scale — you are born with a particular humor and that is your lot (which may well be true — though not because of blood, bile, or mucous). I was intrigued by Hubbard’s notion that you could transform from one state to another. As a side note, and after interviewing or reading testimony by about 150 people who knew Hubbard (and many of his own despairing private letters), I can safely say that he suffered from all of the humors. He was often phlegmatic, more often melancholic, frequently choleric (he had an awful temper, like a badly spoiled two year old), and only sanguine when in public, or under the influence of drugs. Emotionally, Hubbard was a mess — depressed, apathetic, and furious by turns. Not a great role model to aspire to. And certainly not a cheerful or enthusiastic man, let alone gifted with any hint of serenity of beingness.

We were drilled into the Tone Scale, so that we could shift from one emotion to another with ease. Sadly, this often disconnected us from our real emotions. I once had the pleasure of drilling a professional actor on TRs. He did not flinch or react once. Not once. No matter what I did — and I was a very experienced TR coach (he was the only person who ever did this to me). I realized that he had learned how to deliver lines in public without ever “corpsing,” as actors say.

Curiously, Peter Sellers at times remarked that he had become so used to playing roles that he didn’t know who he was anymore. I’m sure that many actors have found this. Recent work suggests that obsessive compulsive disorder begins with behavior, not with phobia. So those who wash their hands repeatedly do not start doing so because of a fear of germs. They rationalize hand-washing by believing they are afraid of infection.

This is very much like Hubbard’s analogy of the hypnotic subject who removes his jacket when the hypnotist touches his tie, and claims that it is hot, and replaces the jacket when the tie is again touched, rationalizing that it is cold. And this is why cognitive behavioral therapy has been so much more successful than any of the schemes that ransack and analyze memories (and all too often false memories — see the work of Elizabeth Loftus and Richard Ofshe). You simply learn a new behavior. In Hubbard’s terms, you become reactive rather than analytical. This is very much the case for those who live their lives saying, as Hubbard suggested, “What would Ron do?”

Drilling the tone scale does create new behaviors. Many of my friends studied hypnosis after leaving Scientology. I read a great deal, but I determined not to practice any of the techniques because I saw peculiar changes in my friends. They became almost two-dimensional; they became very self-conscious, and were too busy observing others to act spontaneously. Just as we did during our auditor training (which is of course a training in hypnosis, with an element of self-hypnosis to keep you “in session”).

Worse yet, the Tone Scale is used to move other people around temperamentally without their knowledge or consent. I’ve long felt that even if magic worked (and it palpably doesn’t) it is all “black” because it seeks to affect people without their consent. So a “love charm” is as bad as a curse.

If the tone scale were solely used to bring people up — out of the blues or from rage — that might be justifiable (at least as “white magic”), but it is used alongside the awful “dissemination drill” to upset people and reduce them. To find their “ruin” and prey on their “fear of worsening”.

In Scientology, the ends justify the means. An hour spent with the Registrar Sales Course is a needful lesson for all “Dev-OTs.” I was horrified when my wife took the course, and we found that sales rooms were bugged, interviews were taped, and a “tag-team” member might be waiting in the next room to help remove the “brick overcoat.” But, as Hubbard insisted, it is necessary to use “hard sell” because “wogs” are “dead in the head, raw meat.” Or as the Source himself expressed it: “One does not describe something, one commands something. You will find that a lot of people are in a more or less hypnotic daze … and they respond to direct commands in literature and ads. Hard Sell means insistence that people buy.” (HCO PL 26 September 1979, III) and “‘NEVER let anyone simply walk out … And never let a student leave or quit … introvert him like a bullet.” (HCOB 29 September 1959, The Organization of a PE Foundation). Or, if you will allow me to over-egg the pudding: “You have to be willing to invade privacy, very definitely … [recruits] don’t have any rights!” (13 May 1959, Second Lecture on Clearing Methodology.)

Naturally cheerful individuals — such as myself — are marked down on the OCA personality test, because only Scientologists can possibly be “above death” on the Tone Scale. So, anyone who doesn’t want to pay according to Hubbard must be deliberately introverted until they scurry to the nearest ATM and “make it go right.”

As a subject of severe and constant harassment, a few weeks after leaving, I told my doctor that I felt stressed. He remarked that I didn’t look stressed, and I realized that I had learned to present a brave and even “enthusiastic” face to the world. I was pretending. Since then, I’ve spent time with members of all manner of cults, who show the same glib cheerfulness exhibited by Scientologists. And underneath that cheer is always distress. Whether at how on earth to push the stats up by 2pm on Thursday, or how to find the money for the next course. Among those wealthy enough not to worry, there are other concerns, such as not letting on that you do not have a single OT ability.

When I first met Gerry Armstrong back in 1984 (and started to act in concert with him, as various courts insist I should not), he asserted that the tone level of Scientology staff is fear. And he was right, but the pretense is the euphoria, which is indeed the end phenomenon of all trance induction, including auditing. And what a brittle state it is — usually lasting less than three days, when the guilt of “roller coastering” kicks in, so that the poor Scientologist is once again introverted into fear of “PTSness.” The thrill is gone and the junkie’s urge for euphoria restarts the hunt for dopamine.

On that point, let me share my last auditing sessions with the assembled multitude. My last sessions at Saint Hill — with the Tech Sec UK, Richard Reiss, as my auditor — were on New OT V. In the Independents, I continued with a Flag trained auditor, under a Flag trained case supervisor.

On the first day, I suggested that I had never actually audited off a “body thetan” that was a “thetan” in the same sense as me. The next, I suggested they had been “entities.” On the third day, I asserted they were “mental mechanisms” — something like the stuck attention units in Science of Survival — and then decided that I had simply made the lot up, because of the evaluation foisted on me by the “technical” materials.” (“Never evaluate for the preclear” — now there’s a joke: “you have all of these engrams and body thetans, you see, and if you don’t find the money, your life will be ruined and your immortality will be in jeopardy.”)

To her credit, although she blanched, the auditor read her e-meter and made the proper indications. The list no longer read at all, so I was declared an Advanced Ability Level V completion. I then broke with tradition and asked if the case supervisor might allow me a PTS rundown.

In nine years, no one had ever even suggested that I might be “potential trouble source” (such a turn of phrase the man had!). I was a productive believer, with a variety of commendations and no serious Knowledge Reports. (Even my eventual SP declare supports this — I was declared for giving a single session without a “written case supervisor direction,” which admitted that I’d actually sought the permission of a C/S by phone, for an emergency session. That was it). I was used in the course rooms to demonstrate floating needles, because I was such a cheerful person.

The case supervisor decided to grant my request for a PTS Rundown. When asked who the Suppressive might be — and without prior determination — I offered up Ron Hubbard. Now this time, the auditor went very pale, indeed. Almost ghostly. She asked me to list any other possibilities, and I obliged, but no one else on the list made the needle even twitch. The “tech” is clear — she gulped before she announced, “I’d like to indicate that you are PTS to L. Ron Hubbard.”

That was the last time that I ever picked up the cans (31 years ago). I’ve never felt the urge to pick them up again, not for a moment. It was a year before I realized the poetry: I had audited out Scientology. I had spent nine years under the suppressive influence of Ron Hubbard. Now, where do I attest? And can I write a success story?


The Garcia legal team: Free Mike Rinder!

We told you a few days ago that Tampa Federal Judge James D. Whittemore asked Luis and Rocio Garcia to submit a quick response to the Church of Scientology’s reasons for wanting former church spokesman Mike Rinder kept out of a deposition of a Scientology official in their fraud lawsuit.

The church had argued that Rinder should be kept out of the deposition of Scientology’s “International Justice Chief,” Mike Ellis, because although he’s been working as a consultant for the Garcia team, he’s a witness in the case himself.

But our legal experts had pointed out that Rinder is serving as an expert witness in the case, and so they tell us Scientology might have a hard time convincing Judge Whittemore to exclude him. Now, the Garcia team gives Whittemore even more reason to reject Scientology’s motion: They point out, for example, that Rinder’s own deposition (by the church) is scheduled a day before the questioning of Ellis — so sitting in on the IJC’s depo won’t have an effect on what Rinder says in his.

Here’s the document. Whittemore will likely render a speedy order on this, because these depositions are scheduled early in January, and the big evidentiary hearing about Scientology’s arbitration motion is happening on February 18.


Garcia v. Scientology: Reply to Motion for Protective Order


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 20, 2014 at 07:00

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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 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

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

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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  • Dee Findlay-DeElizabethan

    Jon Atack, let me shake your hand, better yet, give you a thousand hugs. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article and I look forward to reading, recently bought, your book. Your first book was one of my first books to buy and read along with other authors.
    I can relate to so much of what you went through, except as a staff or SO experience, since I was a public person.
    I was spared of doing the tone scale drilling. I wasn’t good at using it, since it seemed too confusing and falsely controlling and really was just to hard to use for my simple mind and I never like it. I’m sure we all appreciate your exposing and explaining this and other stuff, so well.

    I had for years gotten it out of my system, using words and such, ignoring them and my hubby David an ex did the same. Except for the dirty little spying, (being someone else and reporting of the so called enemies) I did for the GO back in ’80. I couldn’t look at it for years and it messed up when brought up. I went back to the organization for a year, hopefully, to clear up my past, didn’t work out and I saw the smoke, mirrors and more.

    When finally I researched on the internet, read your book, it still took me 2 !/2 years to finally be fear free.
    I used to write a lot for self help and it was most beneficial, but once I wrote up the beginning of the GO experience of helping them, did it enable me to not fear them anymore.

  • richelieu jr

    I have to say that when @disqus_zBV6vaRLRB:disqus says he spends a lot of time on research, even tracking down quotes to verify exactly, that this is EXACTLY what first impressed me so much in ‘A Piece of Blue Sky’… I rmember he was using a document, hand-written IIRC, and instead of doing what most writers do (and what I l have done a number of times myself) and simply citing the phrase as it has been written many times, he went back to the original document, to see with his own eyes, apparently just on the off-chance there might have been some error… AND THERE WAS (well, at least something open to interpretation).

    It wasn’t an Earth-shattering difference, but to me it spoke volumes about the kind of man he seemed to be. I am sure he was being extra carefum becasue he know the Scilon hordes would be snarling down upon him, dragging fine-toothed combs behind their loathsome steeds (they come perched atop bloated whales pissing foutains of cash from their blowhard-holes), hopin gto uncover some tiny error with which to try and discredit the entirity of his research (see: Memos: Climate Change…)


  • Suppressive Tomato

    Question for veterans: If I wanted to cite an HCO P to a current member that would best illustrate how the current Scn management is off-policy and out-exchange (IAS regging comes to mind), what policy would that be? Exact date(s) and title(s) if possible, please.

    • Dee Findlay-DeElizabethan

      I’d like that too. Good question.

  • Great article Mr. Atack thank you so much for your knowledge and incite on the subject of L. Ron and $cientology. I wish you the best on your journey in the future and you will be missed !!!