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Jon Atack: Why it takes so long to recover from Scientology

Hubbard_SpeechJon 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.

Jon, you’ve really been on a roll lately, and this week is no different. You’ve talked about the difficulties that people face when they leave Scientology, but this week you give us more detail about your own journey, and what convinced you to try to help others.

JON: I came back to the fray because I was concerned at the lack of recovery among so many former members. Conway and Siegelman, in their best-selling text, Snapping, reckoned that where people snap out (sorry) of most cults within months, Scientology remains embedded for about 12.5 years. They based this, so I am fairly reliably informed, on a study of three ex-Scientologists, so it is not a gold standard survey. [Conway and Siegelman respond, below.] Even so, I think they were nearly right. The majority of former Scientologists don’t actually recover in 12.5 years, though. They don’t recover at all, because they have to participate in their recovery, and Scientology is a self-perpetuating trap.

I was lucky. Soon after I left, I applied the Data Series to the Org and found it wanting. Then I applied the Data Series to itself and found it wanting. Which determined me to abandon every scrap of Scientology and reincorporate anything that made sense, piecemeal. Very little actually did, once I’d stepped away. A chap who’d been in since 1954 told me that he’d laughed out loud when he read OT 3, but had done the level, just the same. I asked him why, and he told me that it “read” on the e-meter. I asked him if he’d ever doubted the e-meter. He had not. I thought that OT 3 was crazy when I first read it, but I’d spent seven years getting there. I held on for just over a year after that, until the silliness of demon possession as a leading edge therapy technique finally became unbelievable.

The first year after I cast off L. Ron Hubbard’s “Tech” was a great year. I hadn’t realized just how much I was having to conform to the straitjacket of Ronthink. After so many years of diminished thinking, it was a tremendous pleasure to rediscover my self-determinism and draw my own conclusions.

ScientologyMythbustingI understood that the language holds the whole ramshackle construction together, so I deliberately journeyed back to wog-speak. This was easy, as I’d never been a live-in member, and had never been tempted to spray non-believers with Hub’s vast hoard of misunderstood words. Putting down the locked-on eye contact was more difficult. It was curious that when I finally achieved it, I was able to see better — visual fixation not only induces a hypnoid state, it also reduces perception, perhaps because we naturally scan our environment. I realized that Scientology had made me ever more self-conscious, and it was with a great feeling of liberty that I walked away from it.

Whatever was good in Scientology seemed trivial — I liked the recent comment that only the advice to use alcohol when cleaning tape heads was sound (and even there, he doesn’t tell you to use isopropyl alcohol, rather than rubbing alcohol). I wrote a paper called Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology, following the lead of the estimable Jeff Jacobson, and pinned down 120 plagiarisms where Hubbard had reason to have known the source of his thefts. In the end, apart from the advice not to knock the vase against the faucet, there isn’t much substance, just a great deal of pseudoscience, which is fitting because that was the original definition of Scientology, before Hubbard stole the word. OT 3 is about the only original concept, and it violates the Auditor’s Code, where we are told that we must “never” evaluate for the preclear (an idea borrowed from client-centred therapy, by the way).

I did come to realize that there is often a paralysis of thinking among Scientologists. Given the mix of euphoric states caused by the hypnotic procedures and the vicious internal policeman installed into the heads of all believers, it is no wonder that Scientologists take so much longer to recover, when they do, indeed, recover.

Even after the language is gone, the concepts generally remain, simply translated into New Age. So, the overt-motivator becomes karma, without any study of the Hindu or Buddhist texts. The SP becomes the sociopath, but without reading Cleckley (from whom Hub stole the idea) or any of the hundreds of professional texts subsequently (I used DSM for my diagnosis in Blue Sky). The concepts function in the background as unquestionable assumptions about life, the universe and everything.

How do you dig your way out of this morass? Jeff Hawkins and a few others have traveled this route and made their journey public. Instead of remaining under the covers, they dare to break the taboo and discuss the Tech. Now this is the strongest injunction: Don’t communicate about the Tech. And there is a good reason for this. When we talk about things, we have to think. Parroting requires no cognitive abilities. As soon as you do talk about it, as Jeff has recently with Introduction to Scientology Ethics, the whole mess starts to fall apart.

So, this is just to say how much I admire those people who dare to challenge Hub’s taboos and speak out. For those still locked into Hubthink, I suggest this statement from the man himself: “In learning, study what you want to know, think what you want to think about it, recognize institutionalism for the bogus straw man it is, and keep the analyzer whirring.” (Research & Discovery, volume 3, p.247). And don’t take any wooden nickels.

THE BUNKER: We received this response from authors Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, authors of Snapping

We were pleased to see Atack’s citation of our study of the long-term effects of Scientology and other cults in your recent blog. But we would like to correct one point: he got his numbers wrong by an order of magnitude. Our correlations of time spent in Scientology’s ritual practices and long-term effects among ex-Scientologists afterwards were based on 33 former Scientologists, not 3 as Atack claimed to have been so “fairly reliably informed.”

Atack’s a good man and very good on Scientology. But his reference to our work mirrors those of many ex-Scientologists and critics of the group who have never read, let alone studied, our findings. In fact, many are still quoting our first summary of preliminary findings that appeared in Science Digest in 1982, “Information Disease: Have Cults Created a New Mental Illness?” After that article, which won an award from the National Mental Health Association, we took all our data to the University of Oregon Communication Research Center and spent a year analyzing it with a team of top methodologists and statisticians in the field. The full findings were presented in a special “theme panel” presentation at the International Communication Association annual meeting in Hawaii in 1985, and then published in the international journal Update, out of Aarhus, Denmark.

We present an expanded report on that research in Chapter 13 of the fully updated second edition of Snapping (see especially pp.176-178 re CoS) and the entire data analysis in an all new Appendix. But, to our knowledge, no one in the ex-Scientology community, not the cult’s critics or former members, has read those findings thoroughly or presented them accurately in their real significance for Scientology’s present and former members.

You can read about the second edition of Snapping at The book is available there and at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.


ASHOFlierIt’s a party on L. Ron Hubbard Way!

So today’s the day for the re-re-re-scheduled grand re-re-re-opening of ASHO and AOLA at Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters. The American Saint Hill Organization (ASHO) and Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (AOLA) are being rededicated at the “Big Blue” complex on Fountain Avenue — centered by the former Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and also known as PAC Base (for Pacific Area Command).

Several of our correspondents should be on the scene as various festivities happen from noon to 2 pm and beyond. No doubt photos and videos will pop up here and at the usual places — WWP and ESMB.

As for the other big opening in LA — the Hollywood Test Center on Hollywood Boulevard — there’s still no new date that we’ve heard about. We only got the one communication which said recent construction at the facility required a new Certificate of Occupancy, and that might take a while.

But for today, the party is on for Big Blue. Take care if you go by not to tangle with the locals. Just take pictures and smile.


Litigation update

We’re adding TX Lawyer’s observation here before it gets buried in comments later in the day. Thanks for the update, TX

The Austin Court of Appeals has set oral argument in the Miscavige mandamus for April 9 at 1:30 pm. 20 minutes of argument per side, in front of Justices David Puryear, Melissa Goodwin, and Scott Field. All three are Republicans. Fell free to google them, but I’m not a fan of any of them.

It is, in my experience, unusual to have an appellate court set argument before the responding party’s brief has even been filed.Looking back over the opinions released by the court in the last couple months, I see that the same panel has granted mandamus relief at least twice, and Puryear and Goodwin were on another panel that also granted mandamus. Notably, one of those mandamus cases rejected the plaintiffs’ attempt to take two “apex depositions” on the grounds that they had not shown the execs had any special knowledge of the case (which alleged a company was responsible for wildfires that occurred in Bastrop a few years back).

Hopefully, Team Monique has sufficient evidence to get past this, but I wouldn’t be happy with either the quick setting or the panel.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 8, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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

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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


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  • Last post of the evening Bunker Lurkers and Bunkerties.Help us RED X RED X REd X thos CL ads.

    Thanks for the help! Gnite.

    “The Freeloader Debt is legally unenforceable. Call 1-866-XSEAORG”

    “Your doubts are valid. Call 1-866-XSEAORG”

    • Pierrot

      credits to The Hole Does Not Exist

  • DodoTheLaser

    Real time twits on scientology = lolz:

    • DodoTheLaser

      Another subtle ad. Tom or Cruise alike?

      • Baby

        Yeah Tommy boy has all the Answers to Life..hahahahah…

        If it’s NOT Cruise it is someone who is representin him.. God only knows Do

      • Phil McKraken

        Searching for answers to life? We’ll put a stop to that.

  • DodoTheLaser

    Yes even You, Bunker’s rascal!

    • DodoTheLaser

      I hope she will read my reply:

    • valshifter

      do you mean Leah Remini? too.

      • DodoTheLaser


        May be even Jason Beghe, Paul Haggis, Lisa Marie Presley,
        Michael Fairman, Larry Anderson, Christian Stolte, Nicole Kidman…

  • DodoTheLaser

    Meanwhile, Katie Holmes is tanning in NYC (outside the spiky fence, thank god).

    • valshifter

      The sun probably feels a lot better when you free. She probably still thinking “I can’t believe I did it, and I did it right”

      • DodoTheLaser

        Yep. You and I would know.

  • I guess everyone’s journey is different. I found it a lot easier to say, “The ‘tech’ is bs.” Rather than discuss it with anyone at all. I guess that’s because I had built a life far and away from Scientology by the time I had left. I realized that there is no “tech” to life. I realized that forming reciprocating love-based bonds with people is a lot happier way to live life than following some prescribed formula.

    • DodoTheLaser

      Many attempted to define and pitch the “prescribed formula” to others, but the format itself is off-putting.
      And not just because there was so much betrayal and monetizing off of this concept, but it is a big part.
      Friendly, peaceful environment is probably all one needs to figure things out and live a happy life.

    • Mooser

      And you had the advantage also, of not having made an investment of your own choice in Scientology, since it was imposed on you?

      • I would hesitate to say that anyone can ever have an “advantage” when it comes to Scientology.

  • Great White Clam

    See ya!

  • valshifter

    did anybody see any big stars at todays festivities? Like Tom Cruise with no wife, John Tramolto etc etc?

    • DodoTheLaser

      No reports so far. Perhaps they were already “booked” for some movies production. I would be.
      Besides, either one showing up at this “event” would create even more scrutiny and bad PR.

      Beck and Elizabeth Moss are the only relevant scientology celebs that people
      still talk about without making too many jokes, but they never show up somehow.

      • DodoTheLaser

        And speaking of Juliette (she will be next out probably):

        • Charlotte

          I hope so.

          • DodoTheLaser

            Hubbard wasn’t a big fan of rock music.He actually bitched about rock in his “Art Series”. Juliette started a rock band. So, yeah, I hope so too.

            • Charlotte

              I can’t help but love her (and she’s in one of my favourite movies, From Dusk Till Dawn), and I always loved Leah Remini too. I was so disappointed to discover they were both Scientologists, but now Leah is out, so maybe…. You can do it, Juliette!

              BTW, following you now on Twitter. Very cute profile pic!

            • DodoTheLaser

              Yes and thank you, Charlotte! Following you too.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox

          Apparently she asked Leah Remini about leaving the cult (I don’t know how true this is; I read it on here). Another rumor doing the rounds is that she’s already out, but not talking (for now).

        • Seannie5

          I don’t know why people are so optimistic about Juliette. Do you not read her twitter? She is best buddies with Kirstie Alley and they were lovebombing each other on twitter not too long ago, I think Kirstie mentioned Juliette coming over or something. I think it’s safe to say that if someone is besties with kirstie then they are not close to leaving.
          She also retweeted pictures of the big blue building that somebody sent her just a couple months ago.

  • Graham

    “That” $camatology wedding ruling causes rare outbreak of common sense amongst British politicos

  • D.Y.G.

    Alfreddie Johnson attested to the state of clear on March 6. (Still wondering how much money he’s getting out of this)

    • DodoTheLaser

      Damm. He was a scilon forever. Took him a minute to go Clear.

      • D.Y.G.

        In all fairness to Alfreddie, he is a busy guy with his pseudo-science health quackery and pseudo-education “literacy crusade” going on. There’s no way he’s on course every day.

        • DodoTheLaser

          Good point. Who would want to be on course every day when you can collect all the commissions/IAS grants for years. I’m just speculating, of course. KSW, ARC, BSM!

      • DodoTheLaser

        ‘Cause Chill E.B. is probably OT 15 and Isaac Hayes was at least OT 3, but he died.

      • Jimmy3
    • Sydjazz

      And apparently kenny rogers says congrats?! Oh say it aint so! Not the kenny

      • Sydjazz


  • Sydjazz

    Ashoaola. Was i the only one that had the word assh@le come to mind?

    • Charlotte


    • Ardent

      Me too! I was going to post something about the ‘Asshole opening the Ashola’. It begs to be mocked.

      • Sydjazz

        Like the assh@le opens the ashoala

    • richelieu jr

      They’re the most ethical ASHOs in the world. THe biggest ASHOs by far.

  • Mooser

    I’m still gobsmacked by the fact that belief in the e-meter is the last thing to go! To me, the e-meter is the thing which tells me that I need look no further, it’s all crap.
    There must be vast, vast differences between how people organize their minds.

  • Mooser

    Just saw it again at Rinder’s. What is it with that thing? People think that because there’s a meter, and it moves back and forth, it must be measuring something! I’ve never seen anything like it.

  • Nancy Law

    All I know is that around 6PM in the midst of chipping paint off of the basement floor of the org with a screwdriver, under the demon eye of the ethics officer, I just started to giggle and then I started to laugh, got up walked upstairs to the Guardian who was my boss in the job I had in $cientology, told him, “this is fucking nuts”, he laughed, I laughed, I gathered up my things, left the bldg and at 3AM my family arrived to get myself and my child and our possessions and removed us … that was 40 yrs ago … of course, my husband didn’t know I was gone because he was off banging someone because a chaplain’s court I was not allowed to attend told him he was divorced and I was an unfit mother. I also find it embarrassing because when I do tell someone I was in a cult, not always do I say it was $cientology because I’m afraid it will lower their opinion of me. I still haven’t recovered myself but I’ve come to the conclusion that I accept that I am a good person and go forward from there. The Bunker helps and Tory and all of the books I’ve read and all of you help. Thank you for being here. The old bugger was a bully and the little twerp is a bully and I just want to know when will the riot start and just end it all … surely for all that is good they have to be brought down!

    • grundoon

      So glad you woke up and escaped! That must have been one of your best decisions ever. It’s the people who stayed who should be embarrassed.

    • Missionary Kid

      I think that the more you reveal that it was Co$, you’ll find that, instead of lowering their opinion, they’ll be glad you got out of it – and the fact that you did it so long ago is a measure of how smart you were at the time.

      Is your ex still in? He wasn’t as smart as you were, was he?

      • Nancy Law

        he’s not in but has carried forth certain attitudes and positions on certain subjects that essentially reek of $cientology. I was no doubt smart to leave the org and $cientology but I’m not smarter than him. He is, in fact, bloody brilliant in business; however he is totally incapable of empathy and for that I feel bad for him. The only thing I hold against him and it is a big one is that he is unable in any way to offer emotional support to our child. He is artificial which serves him well in business because he can sell anything but he is not real. Fortunately, our child is also brilliant and is able to recognize that he is totally stuck in $cientology even tho he may think his ideas are his own. In the ’80’s he was still going down to Clearwater and pouring out great pots of money to those buggers. How a person can be at one time head of the org and at another leave $cientology without ever being declared an SP is totally beyond me.

        • Missionary Kid

          There are different types of intelligence. Yours is obviously in understanding the human condition.

          Being a salesman is right down the alley of the $cientology scam. That’s what they do.

          He’s probably still giving money, so they leave him alone. In $cientology, it’s all about the money.

    • MaxSpaceman

      “I still haven’t recovered myself…”
      N Law, that is 1974, 40 years ago. I hope you’re nearly recovered, in all ways, for always.

    • richelieu jr

      My dear, the proof they never really destroyed your ‘self’ is that you found it ridiculous, laughed, and got out of there.. Only when they can spook you with how deadly ultra-serious they are and only they can save the world and your ‘eternity’ can they get to you.

      Laughter is freedom and I’m sorry they still get you down sometimes.

      We’ll have the last laugh.