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Jon Atack: For Scientologists, thinking outside the church can feel like breaking a taboo

ScientologyMythbustingJon 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 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.

On Thursday, Jefferson Hawkins explained to us how Scientolgy’s system of “ethics” seals church members off from outside influence. But how, ultimately, do Scientologists then break out of that bubble and escape? Jon Atack this week helps us understand that process.

JON: I left Scientology because a close friend was declared suppressive. I refused to disconnect from him — enforced disconnection had just been reintroduced — but he insisted that he would not communicate with me, in case it affected my relationship with the Organization. I spent six months “following policy.” I started with the Saint Hill Ethics Officer and then moved up to the HCO Area Secretary. Unable to get any sense out of them, I wrote to the International Justice Chief (where do they get these titles!), pointing out that we all have a right to a hearing, at least according to the policy of Scientology. There had been no “bill of particulars,” indeed no accusations of any type. No “committee of evidence” and no “findings and recommendations.” There had not even been a “Suppressive Person declare.” My friend’s name had just been put on a list, along with several hundred others.

Eventually, I wrote a letter to Ron, which read something like, “I know that L. Ron Hubbard does not receive letters written to him, but this is the last recourse in Scientology.” I received a cheery missive, with a fake Hubbard signature (for a while the actual authors initialed the signature) that assured me “Of course I receive my letters” and went on to point out simply “Your letter is on my desk.” This was the result of six months of adhering to policy. Evidently, none of the “terminals” (!) that I’d written to had the same respect for policy. They simply did as they were told. Who cares about “self-determinism” when you have an order to obey? Maybe it will be allowed in some future lifetime, once the galaxy is “cleared.” Until then, “I promise to uphold, forward and carry out Command Intention” — in the Code of a Sea Org Member — is the closest any of them can get to self-determinism. (This seems the right place cite Hubbard’s Code of Honour: “Your self-deteriminism and your honor are more important than your immediate life.”)

I wrote to my declared friend, and asked what the real cause of his declare was. He was overseas, so he suggested that I speak to two of his bosom pals, who would explain his and their own “declares.” I was a little surprised that these “Suppressives” turned out to be courteous and friendly people. They showed none of the assured signs of the Suppressive Person. Neither of them spoke in “broad generalities.” They gave the “exact time, place, form and event” (and the identities of those involved, which for some reason is missing from Scientology Axiom 38, which supposedly defines truth). Far from attacking any “betterment activity” they were highly concerned that the new management was perverting Scientology. They explained the take-over of the Organization by David Miscavige and his cohorts. Along with the restructuring of the criminal Guardian’s Office (only the intelligence staff remained at work, curiously), the attack upon the Missions Network, the only significant way of bringing in new recruits, and the formation of new and nasty departments with bizarre titles. (the International Finance Dictator showed a profound misunderstanding of the emotional effects of language, and remains a favourite of mine, along with the Inspector General of the Religious Technology Center, with its echoes of the Papal Inquisition, and peculiar masonic emblem.)

These two supposed suppressives were so helpful that I determined to talk to more people to whom I was not supposed to talk. After all, I was an OT and a qualified “auditor.” Why should I be frightened of anyone? I was not going to be turned into a coward by Scientology. Within a few months, I’d met and enjoyed the company of a range of “SPs,” including Captain Bill Robertson, who had been appointed Second Deputy Commodore by Hubbard, so with Hubbard gone and Mrs Hubbard disgraced, he was the de facto head of both the Sea Org and Scientology, but, without remit from Hubbard, Miscavige had declared him. Bill was wacky, but well meaning, and he certainly never did anything to suppress me. That his predicted invasion and take-over of Earth by the Marcabians didn’t happen in 1986 is another matter, but one that reflects on his predictive notions and personal craziness, rather than making him an “anti-Scientologist.” Indeed, there was never anyone more pro-Scientology than Bill.


I met Otto Roos, the first OT VIII and one of only five top-level Class XIIs trained by Hubbard. He has also been Hubbard’s auditor, but fell from favour for pointing out the hundreds of “rock slam” e-meter readings noted in his counseling folders. Hubbard had changed the meaning of the rock slam — originally named for “the rock,” a basic mechanism in the “reactive mind,” which all of a sudden ceased to be mentioned — the rock slam came to mean “evil intentions.” Hubbard had ten times more of them than anyone else, but Otto was put ashore for pointing this out. Otto proved to be urbane and very helpful. He too spoke very specifically, without adding any “bad news,” so according to Hubbard’s “anti-social personality” bulletin, Otto was not an “SP.”

I interviewed the “World’s First Real Clear,” John McMaster, who told me that he’d departed after been left flailing in the water for a couple of hours with a broken collar bone (not a shoulder bone, as some authors report). He did not have a kind word for Hubbard, and pointed out that running away from SPs was foolish and could only lead to trouble.

I met Cyril Vosper, who left after 14 years and many meetings with Hubbard, and wrote the amusing and best-selling Mindbenders. It was just over 14 years since he had left, and he told me that he still fell into the mindset at times, wondering, for instance, if he’d “committed an overt.” He was an utterly delightful man. He also said that he still spoke to recruiters when approached, and would tell them that he had known Hubbard. They would excitedly ask for his recollection of the Founder, and Cyril would say that he had never met anyone with such foul breath. Hubbard was scared of dentists; so let his teeth rot in his head.

Once I’d broken this taboo, I went further. My dear friend Mitch Beedie, who was my greatest supporter and a tremendous help during the first six years that I stood up against the cult, decided to question Hubbard’s views on psychiatry and, most specifically, the human brain. He read Oliver Sacks’ marvelous The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat and passed it on to me. Why had this phobia of psychiatry been stirred up in us? The film Awakenings, with Robert de Niro, is based on Sacks’ book of the same name, which describes his use of a drug (a “psychiatric drug” indeed) to wake up patients who had been asleep for years, because of a disease. How could this be considered “suppressive?”

It became painfully apparent that Hubbard had built a phobic fence around us. Although we were able to “communicate freely on any subject with anyone” (according to the Grade 0 release), there were people with whom we must not communicate, on pain of expulsion. Every psychiatrist, psychologist and counselor was part of a great conspiracy, so Hubbard claimed, but as I met psychiatrists who had been harassed by Scientology, they were quite evidently decent people who had become concerned at the difficulties encountered by some Scientologists, which included psychosis brought on by “auditing.” For their attempts to help, they were not only stigmatised, but might well have LSD put in their toothpaste (the GO did this at at least one conference, speaking of suppressive acts).

To break free from the influence of Scientology, I thoroughly recommend an encounter with a few psychiatrists and psychologists. Do this procedure until you realize that they rarely agree on anything, so the notion that they are in a conspiracy to rule the galaxy is simply bonkers. The secret given to Sea Org recruits that they are doing this through perfumes just shows how desperately delusional Ronald Hubbard was. A couple of books that make a good start in this direction are Aaron Beck’s Prisoners of Hate, a very closely reasoned argument for compassion (rather than the harassment doctrine of Scientology), and Robert Jay Lifton’s Destroying the World to Save It, a chilling account of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, which stockpiled enough sarin gas to kill millions in Japan. Much of Lifton’s reflection upon cult involvement is highly relevant to the irrational and unthinking behaviour inculcated in Scientologists by Hubbard. Here are two of the great minds of the twentieth century, and their ideas should wean anyone from the infantile notion of any great conspiracy. It takes a while to digest Scientology and get it out of your system. Why not treat yourself, and break a few taboos for your New Year’s resolution?


A Note on the Rathbun lawsuit

We were getting a lot of questions yesterday about Monique Rathbun’s lawsuit, and we understand the reason why. On December 13 we reported that Judge Dib Waldrip had ordered that Monique could depose Scientology leader David Miscavige, but upon Scientology’s request, Waldrip stayed that order for one week, until 5 pm yesterday.

Monique’s attorney, Ray Jeffrey, explained to us what Waldrip had done was ask Monique’s team to wait a week before beginning the process of scheduling Miscavige’s deposition. This would give Scientology some time to seek an appellate stay of the deposition order. However, there was no deadline last night for Scientology to get such an order, and we haven’t heard yet whether they’ve even requested one yet.

What expired last night was the period during which Monique was asked not to act. Now, today, she can begin pushing Scientology for possible dates for a deposition of Miscavige. As soon as we hear whether Scientology has filed something with the appellate courts to hold up that process, we’ll let you know.

Also, according to the docket, it appears that Scientology was able to get a hearing on its anti-SLAPP motion — which should have been heard by December 17 — set for January 8.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 21, 2013 at 07:00

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