By now you’ve probably seen Danny Masterson’s interview with Paper magazine, which was posted online Wednesday evening. The piece is getting a lot of attention because Scientology’s celebrities are usually very reluctant to talk publicly about the secretive organization.
The last time an actor said so much about his involvement in Scientology, and as aggressively, it was Tom Cruise in 2005, and it backfired on him rather spectacularly. But now, with Alex Gibney’s Scientology documentary, based on Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear, airing on HBO on March 16 after its successful premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Masterson has been set loose, and with pretty remarkable results.
He trashed both Wright’s book and Gibney’s film version of it, and we’re not going to say much about that. The people who have read the book and the many people who will see the movie starting next month will be able to judge Masterson’s criticisms for themselves.
We’d rather look at how the interviewer and Masterson discuss the details of Dianetics and Scientology. According to Paper, the interview took place in Park City at the Sundance Festival, which is disappointing — we were there at the time, and we would love to have taken part and helped the writer ask some better questions about Scientology. Masterson is allowed to get away with a lot of vague, and even nonsensical responses, and a really good opportunity was missed here. But let’s take a look at the actual facts and compare them to what was said.
Masterson, who was a regular on That 70’s Show, is a second-generation Scientologist — he was born to Carol and Peter Masterson, who later divorced, and Carol then married former Australian rugby player Joe Reaiche, who talked to us about raising his children in Scientology for a story in 2013.
“At that time we were living in one room that didn’t measure more than 20 feet by 15 feet and I was working all the hours under the sun for $20 a month, the roof over our heads, and dinners that were just beans and rice,” Reaiche said. “I paid for my kids to go to private Scientology school but it’s a total fraud — just endless looking through dictionaries,” he added. “My kids have taken courses on the Scientology mega yacht called the Freewinds that cost $650 an hour — and recently Alanna gave them $35,000 because they told her they could give her superpowers. That’s on top of the normal 50- to 100-grand a year she pays in fees.”
But if Danny’s half-sister Alanna Masterson paid for upper level courses, we don’t see signs that Danny did as well.
It took us only a few seconds to look up Masterson’s Scientology record online. (Something it would have been nice for Paper to have done.) Unless Masterson has done a lot more studying recently, he doesn’t appear to be very high up on the “Bridge to Total Freedom.” Some in the church might even call him a “dilettante.” (It’s one of the things they do to motivate people to buy more courses.)
Danny was raised in Scientology but it doesn’t look like he’s even “Clear.” So he’s not qualified to talk about the upper levels of Scientology, which involve people like Tom Cruise paying about $1,000 an hour to have unseen alien entities removed from their bodies with the help of an E-meter.
But let’s stick to what Masterson would know, or has already experienced. According to an online completions database — which is drawn from Scientology’s own publications — Danny has completed a course called Grade II Expanded, for example.
Grade II Expanded is a mid-level course that a Scientologist would normally take on their way to Clear. And it’s not cheap.
“Most of the courses cost 20, 50 bucks,” Masterson said in his interview, but here’s an actual Scientology price list from 2001 which was entered as evidence in a federal lawsuit. The prices have risen since then, but it gives you an idea of what Danny paid for going through Grade II Expanded…
What the list indicates is that Masterson paid $8,470 per 12.5 hours of auditing (Scientology’s version of counseling) while he was on Grade II Expanded (or $6,776 per 12.5 hours if he qualified for a discount).
Claire Headley helped us go step by step through Scientology’s courses in our “Up the Bridge” series, and she told us that a typical case would take longer than 12.5 hours of auditing. She estimated that a normal outcome on Grade II would cost about $30,000.
And we want to emphasize, this is not top secret stuff. For decades, such price lists have been available, and hundreds, even thousands of former Scientologists have attested to the contents of courses like Grade II Expanded.
So what’s in Grade II Expanded? Claire explained to us that it is during Grade II that a Scientologist first encounters the dreaded “Joburg Sec Check.”
This is an intense interrogation — a “security check” — that was first issued in Johannesburg in 1961. Here are some sample questions that Danny Masterson would have been asked while paying thousands of dollars for the privilege…
6. Have you ever blackmailed anybody?
16. Have you ever told lies in Court?
20. Have you ever peddled Dope?
23. Have you ever raped anyone?
24. Have you ever been involved in an abortion?
27. Have you ever practised Homosexuality?
28. Have you ever had intercourse with a member of your family?
32. Have you ever slept with a member of a race of another colour?
37. Have you ever done any illicit Diamond buying?
38. Have you ever betrayed anyone for money?
43. Have you ever been a spy for an Organization?
44. Have you ever had anything to do with Communism or been a Communist?
45. Have you ever been a newspaper reporter?
46. Have you ever had intercourse while under the influence of drugs?
52. Have you ever had anything to do with a baby farm?
53. Have you ever been a spy for the Police?
57. Have you ever done anything your Mother would be ashamed to find out?
78. Do you feel Communism has some good points?
81. Do you know any Communist personally?
82. Have you ever injured Dianetics or Scientology?
86. Have you ever had unkind thoughts about LRH? [L. Ron Hubbard[
88. Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about Mary Sue? [Hubbard’s third wife]
94. Have you ever used Dianetics or Scientology to force sex upon someone?
95. Do you know of any plans to injure a Scientology Organization?
96. Are you upset about this Security Check?
And here’s a portion of our conversation with Claire about this interrogation…
THE BUNKER: What happens when you admit to something during the sec check?
CLAIRE: For the sake of an example, let’s say the answer to one of the questions is “I stole an apple.” The next questions will be: When was it? Where was it? Is that all of the overt? [“Overt” meaning an immoral or unethical act.] Have you justified the overt? Over and over again until you have no more answers. Then, you’ll be asked, Who missed it? What did he or she do to make you wonder whether or not they know? Those two questions are asked over and over again until no more answers. If you have a floating needle you’re done. If not, you’ll be asked: Is there an earlier similar time you committed an overt? And you’re back at it. And then when you’re done with all that, the original question will be checked again until you have a floating needle on it.
THE BUNKER: So let us make sure we’re understanding you. What you seem to be saying is that the questions of the Joburg are just the beginning. If the needle reacts to any of the questions, then it could have you chasing down whatever it is the interrogator thinks is there, even if it means tracking down a transgression in a past life (an “earlier similar”)?
CLAIRE: Yes, you are understanding this correctly. And the Joburg is just one sec check that is done on Grade 2. There can be a number of others added, as programmed by your case supervisor.
Claire also told us, “This would be most people’s first experience with sec checking. And it will be one of many. Any time they get in trouble of any kind — admit to wanting to leave, or don’t desire further auditing, just to name a couple — you will be sec checked.”
Danny Masterson didn’t say anything about Scientology’s intense interrogations. He also didn’t talk about its high-pressure snitching culture that has children turning in their own parents if they express any doubts about the organization.
When Joe Reaiche had doubts about Scientology in 2005, his entire family turned away from him, including his stepson. Danny followed orders and “disconnected” from Reaiche as Scientologists are instructed to do. Reaiche has heard from none of his children in the last nine years.
Paper didn’t ask Danny about disconnection, which is a shame. It’s disconnection that is tearing apart so many Scientology families and helping to drive down the church’s membership.
Those who remain inside are well-drilled on what to say to outsiders, and Masterson followed the script dutifully.
Masterson: “In Scientology, there’s no belief system or anyone who’s worshipped or whatnot; it’s all sort of like college of the mind.”
Scientologists will tell you that they consider themselves “skeptics,” and that what interested them about Scientology to begin with was that it was not a belief system but an “exact science.” But Claire showed us how nearly every course, particularly the “Keep Scientology Working” dogma that members have to repeat countless times, burns into their psyche that only Scientology has the answers. If your life is going great, it’s because of Scientology. If it’s not, it’s your own fault for not applying Scientology correctly. Belief that L. Ron Hubbard unlocked all the secrets of the human mind, the nature of reality, and the fabric of the universe itself is not only closely held, it’s ruthlessly enforced. We’d like to have asked Masterson, name one thing that L. Ron Hubbard got wrong or that you disagree with.
Masterson: “[At 15] I finally was old enough to read Dianetics, which is an unbelievably not-easy book to read because it was written by somebody with a much bigger vocabulary than most of us, in 1950. It just blew my mind…It would be hard for me to explain to you, having not read that book.”
Yes, it’s a shame that so few journalists who interview Scientology’s celebrities are familiar with the organization’s bible, L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics. We blogged it from cover to cover, and we can tell you that it’s filled with completely ludicrous and misogynistic ideas that we would have loved to ask Masterson about. Did he really believe, for example, that the most impactful, traumatic memories that he still carries around with him (if he really hasn’t reached “Clear”) are from his time as a sperm and a zygote?
Masterson: “There’s no religious holiday of LRH’s birthday.”
Masterson: “You will not find a Scientologist who does not fucking hate psychiatrists. Because their solution for mental and spiritual problems is drugs…Scientology handles those things, those mental problems that people have. It gets rid of them. It gets rid of them by that person doing it for themselves. That’s the solution to depression.”
As we showed recently, Scientology’s attempts to handle mental illness have produced disastrous results.
Masterson: “I mean, dude, there’s a fucking ton of gay Scientologists.”
Masterson can’t change the fact that officially, Scientology is wired as a gay cure. Homosexuals are “1.1” on L. Ron Hubbard’s “tone scale” — which means they’re “covertly hostile,” and not to be trusted. (In Dianetics, Hubbard calls homosexuality a “perversion.”) So gay Scientologists not only have to stay closeted, they must pay for auditing in order to raise their “tone level” above 1.1 — in effect, curing them of their homosexuality. We told the story of Keith Relkin, a gay Scientologist who tried, and failed, to make the organization more gay-friendly.
Masterson: “I haven’t had a conversation like this about my philosophy — I don’t think ever. But I love doing it and have no problem doing it.”
Hey, if that’s the case, Danny, then let’s have a real conversation about Scientology and the issues that are brought up in Going Clear. We’ve read Dianetics, we’ve read the materials in the Grades that you completed, and we’d love to ask you some real questions about KSW, shattering suppression, and disconnection. We think it would also be fun to ask you what you know about the Sea Organization and the conditions people in it work under. You also seemed to resist the idea that Scientology is actually a religion (and good for you for being honest) — so why do you think Scientology should qualify for religious tax exemption?
See, there’s a lot to talk about, and we’re glad you’re suddenly being so open. Let’s have a chat. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Mexico United for Ideal Orgs! With this many people on board, clearing the country of 122 million people will happen in no time!
Drug Free Pakistan continues to push its School Awareness Program…
Hey, a mission is going ideal, which tells you that “ideal” jumped the shark a long time ago…
Speaking of Grade II Expanded, another survivor of the Joburg Sec Check in London!
What the Scientology Media Production center says its TV news set is going to look like. Start the programming already!
Youth for Human Rights in Scotland! Where’s Fearless Leader?
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 12, 2015 at 07:00
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Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts