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Jon Atack on Why It’s So Hard To Recover From Scientology

Jon_Atack_Blue_Sky2Jon 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 something special. We had been discussing the way former Scientologists seem to need years away from the church before they can shake off their conditioning. That prompted Jon to write for us this remarkable essay about what motivated him to come back into the public eye after many years under the radar.

JON: My concern has always been for those who have been involved in Scientology. My opposition is to Scientology, not to those who have been infected with it. After many years away, licking my wounds, recovering my health and making a deep study of fanaticism in its many forms, I have come back because I am concerned that Scientologists do not recover quickly enough. Indeed, they often don’t recover at all, and continue to live in a dream world.

In Snapping, Conway and Siegelman talked about ‘information disease’ and say that Scientologists take far longer to recover than other cult members. They reckoned twelve and a half years. While their investigation was far too small to confirm this, I can say, after talking to more than 500 former Scientologists, that it often takes much longer.

Back in the nineties, I was approached by a man who had been housebound for twenty years. His wife had persuaded him that they must return to Saint Hill, in England, to see if that would help. They stayed with a friend of mine, who gave the chap a copy of A Piece of Blue Sky. He read the book, came to see me for an afternoon and went home. A few weeks later, I received a post card, saying that he had found a job. If I’d seen him twenty years before, he would have returned to the world then. The thought scared me.

More recently, a second generation member, who left over a decade ago, told me, after one of our conversations, that she’d used scented fabric conditioner in her laundry for the first time. She had realized that scent may not be a psychiatric plot for world domination after all.


These ideas stick around, if uninspected. And some of the ideas are far more devastating than Hubbard’s infantile fear of perfume. Many former members spend the rest of their lives believing that people ‘pull it in’ and that we are surrounded by psychopaths. They think that illness is caused by connection to such psychopaths, though some strange psychic effect on the immune system. One former member even told me that I shouldn’t waste time helping Scientologists, because they have ‘pulled it in.’ I asked her if I should allow a child to go under a bus, based on the same reasoning, and suggested that it is only our compassion for others that makes us human. But compassion is not a major element of Scientology.

We all suffer from confirmation bias — pushing aside evidence which falsifies our beliefs, and grabbing at whatever seems to confirm it — and this can be deadly in former members. There are so many taboos to overcome. For instance, I felt quite guilty when I first read about the brain, but it reminded me of a Christadelphian meeting I went to as a teenager, where the congregation laughed uproariously whenever Darwin was mentioned. I realized that I’d been conditioned to feel disgust, which is a standard manipulation, used by all demagogues.

Scientologists steer clear of many taboo words. Very few will say ‘victim’ or talk about ‘sympathy,’ for instance, and there is often confusion about the real meaning of words such as ‘reasonable’ and ‘affinity.’ Hubbard alerted followers to ‘propaganda by redefinition of words,’ and then filled two 500-page dictionaries with his own complex and often contradictory examples (e.g., ‘it’s a tough universe, and only the tigers survive’, but a ‘tiger’ is a bad staff member. Maybe he had a point).

I encourage discussion of the principles of Scientology. It claims to be a science, so it should be susceptible to analysis and evidence-based investigation. Of course, Scientologists are discouraged from talking about the techniques (‘verbal tech’ is a ‘high crime’) or their ‘cases.’ They are also forbidden any complaint about fellow believers, unless it is in the form of a ‘knowledge report.’ So, talking about the principles can be difficult, but I believe that it is the only way to escape Hubbard’s implanting,

For instance, Hubbard said that affinity always rises alongside communication. The more you communicate with someone, the more they’ll like you. This sounds lovely, but it isn’t true, because, as he also pointed out, bullets are a form of communication. I won’t like you more for shooting me, or for shouting at me. Then take a long hard look at the notion that reality is an agreement (an ‘agreed upon apparency’). The only place where this really applies is in hypnotic trance, where the world is distorted according to the hypnotist’s command. And that sums up Scientology: once you agree with Hubbard, you will see the world through his ideas, and conform your behavior to those ideas.

A friend of mine once challenged an OT, who had told him that she wasn’t worried if WWIII broke out, because she would just ‘audit off the incident.’ She said that she would ‘mock up’ an e-meter to do this. My friend suggested that she mock it up then and there, but she said that her ‘necessity level’ wasn’t high enough. Such are the fantasies of long term believers. It’s time to audit off Scientology and to break the agreement. Let’s face it, there are tens of thousands of former members out there, but, even with the Internet and anonymity, most are staying quiet. There is a reason for that. And, if we are to cure Scientologists, then it will only happen after we start talking.

THE BUNKER: Thank you, Jon.


Saucers Over Saint Hill?

There are more holes in this story than we can count, but we figured you still might get a kick out of it. The Sun is reporting that some airline pilots last December 30 spotted several saucer-like objects over Sussex, but we’re not sure how they were pinpointed exactly over Scientology’s headquarters at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead. The silliness gets even thicker when the writer suggests that “oddly,” it “emerged” only a day later that Scientologists had “carved a message to aliens” in New Mexico.

FLUNK! The symbol in the New Mexico desert has been known about for many years. In 2012 we published a rare interview with a former worker at the secretive compound, Dylan Gill, who told us that the symbol was meant to guide L. Ron Hubbard, not “aliens,” to the location.

Well, whatever. This is The Sun, after all.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 8, 2013 at 07:00

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