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Jon Atack: When the militant Scientologist falters, you find a cowering 12-year-old inside

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, we want to thank for another lengthy and thoughtful piece which once again gets at the most fundamental effects of Scientology on its members. This one really blew us away, and considering the things you’ve already written for us, that’s saying a lot, we think. Lay it on us.

JON: I have been away from the Bunker for a while. In part, this is because I’ve said most of what I came back to say. My concern is solely for the recovery of those afflicted by Scientology, so I am ready to leave the fray, once more. I hope to contribute the occasional squib to the Bunker, because, for the most part, the response to my blogs has been encouraging. Indeed, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that an eminent psychologist approved of my piece about paralleling. Fame at last!

I’ve been busy trying to set up the five day seminar in Toronto and the attempt to bring together 30 experts – some by video or Skype, but many in real life – to deconstruct Scientology. At the same time, I’ve been helping to create a non-profit that will address the broader issues of fanaticism and exploitative persuasion in our society.

Part of this last, highly rewarding, task has been the authorship of a primer on the subject of secret influence. I finished the first draft a few days ago. We hope to publish very soon. However, today, I’ve realized that I have not emphasised one of the most important aspects of cult involvement in my Bunker blogs.

So, here goes. Anyone who talks with committed cult members notices the occasional identity shift. One minute, there is the state called ‘enthusiasm’ by Scientologists, with the glittering, locked on eye-contact, and the next, the eyes move freely again and lose that glitter. A Sea Org member’s skin can turn from grey to pink, in a moment. Gestures become less forced. The eyes smile, along with the lips, in a natural or duchenne smile. Physiological changes are unmistakably evident.


It is possible to bring about these changes, simply by reminding the person of life before the cult. Family photographs, memories of school days, the first kiss. Anything which sends the mind back before the cult identity was formed.

The cult identity? Say what? We form a personality from the strands of identity. We have many identities, none of them distinct or separate personalities (multiple personality disorder is a very different matter). We behave differently in different circumstances. We speak and act differently if talking to our mothers, our siblings, our children, the boss, our employees, to friends, to strangers and so on. We use different words and gestures. We may speak more or less politely. We may use uncouth language with friends or co-workers that we would not use with our grandmothers.

This is also affected by mood. If annoyed or satisfied, angry or sad, our communication will also change, but we still have a different way of expressing that mood to different people. These identities shift in the kaleidoscope of everyday life to form the continuum of personality.

A cult group imposes a single identity onto the personality. Rules are established for behaviour and mood. This identity will follow a strict set of behaviours towards superiors and inferiors within the cult, and, quite usually, restrict all behaviour towards non-members into a narrow range.

In Scientology, the permitted mood is “enthusiasm” – even though Hubbard said in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health that the ideal human being, or “Clear,” will have the right response to any given situation (be afraid if attacked by a bear, is, I think, one of his examples). Scientologists are meant to be enthusiastic. So they pretend, save when euphoric post-auditing.

This synthetic, parasitic, induced identity will keep all other identities in check. It is pinned in place by thought-stopping clichés, such as “make it go right” (Scientology has literally hundreds to choose from). It points towards one of the most scary aspects of fanaticism, which is called “doubling.”

Long ago, when I used to talk to committed members, I sometimes found myself talking to two quite distinct people. One would be hard “on purpose” and determined to wreck my life in any way possible, but then a baffled twelve-year old would emerge, and tell me that he could not survive in the hostile world outside Scientology. Hard to explain that life in the real world is so much easier than life in the Sea Org. But institutionalization is one of the many problems that a former Sea Org member will have to cope with.

Aware of the evils daily committed by the Guardian’s Office of Special Affairs and its agents, I have often wondered how intelligent and well-meaning people could so cheerfully commit immoral acts. Tony Ortega’s fine book about Paulette Cooper’s remarkably brave stand against Scientology shows that some of her persecutors still justify their outrageous actions, because they continue to hate her, because it is impossible for them to admit that they were wrong, and that Paulette was exposing a criminal and profoundly unethical organization.

Agents of the Guardian’s Office of Special Affairs have occasionally explained their unethical behaviour to me. “If we don’t use Fair Game, how will we stop the Suppressives?” one young woman told me. One twenty-year member explained that the perilously short time left to “save the planet” justified “fascist” behaviour. And, yes, he used the word “fascist.”

One answer is indeed found in those most extreme of fanatics, the Nazis. If I could elect just one individual for a Nobel Prize, it would definitely be Robert Jay Lifton. His compassionate analysis of Hiroshima, of the victims of the Chinese thought reform camps and of the Aum Shinrikyo cult are all classics of thinking. I have never managed to finish The Nazi Doctors, because the subject matter is simply too frightening, but I am familiar with its core concepts.

Under the T-4 programme, before Germany began the War, family doctors murdered 180,000 of their “disabled” patients. Doctors were also the profession with the highest membership of the Nazi party. So much for the caring profession and the Hippocratic Oath. But, as the philosopher Michael Jagger put it, “the gangster looks so frightening, with his luger in his hand, but when he gets home to his children, he’s a family man.”

There is a remarkable little book called Are We All Nazis. The author, Hans Ashkenazy, was in a concentration camp as a child. He became a fighter pilot in the US, and then a psychologist working with disturbed and often violent adolescents. He examined the lives of the leading Nazis, and, to his surprise, found that none of them were sadists. They were committed to a cause. They believed that the German people had fallen into hard times because of “inferior” populations – the Jews and Romanies. It was their task to eliminate the toxic effect of these “parasites.”

The Jews, Romanies, Blacks and Communists had to be exterminated as “vermin” (and, yes, I have noticed that Hubbard called rivals “squirrels” and critics “dogs”). The Slavic peoples, from whom the word “slave” comes, were to be put back in their place. And the world would be saved. The planet would be “cleared.”

Heinrich Himmler was the head of the SS, the military arm of the Nazi Party, which controlled the human extermination program. Here is his own justification for the mass killings: “I am not a bloodthirsty man and not someone who takes pleasure in difficult duties. But … I have such strong nerves and such a great sense of duty I might say that when I recognise something … essential, I execute it without compromise. Most of you will know what it means when a hundred corpses lie side by side. Whether there be 500 or 1,000. And to endure that and, apart from a few exceptions, to remain decent has made us tough but it is never mentioned and it will never appear in the glorious annals of history. We can have but one desire as to what is said about us these German officers, these German soldiers, these German generals, they were decent.” The “glorious annals of history” take a very different opinion of Himmler’s decency.


To work their horrors, the Nazis had to separate themselves emotionally from their actions. The Nazi doctors, and the concentration camp guards, were able to put aside their humanity, their compassion and their fellow feeling, because they were wedded to a higher purpose: The salvation of the Aryan race. They shifted into the Nazi identity by “doubling.” At Nuremburg, one after another claimed that they were simply following orders – befehl ist befehl.

Fortunately, most Scientologists don’t travel the path to that hideous extreme – the final stage of Lifton’s thought reform model, “dispensing of existence.” They wish me dead, but are as yet unwilling to perform the deed. However, this doubling of identity can remain a problem for many years after leaving the cult.

When I returned to the Scientology fray, in 2013, with great trepidation, it was because I was concerned that so many former members were simply trapped in the conditioning. I wanted to provoke critical thinking, and my articles at the Bunker have largely pointed in that direction.

I have no agenda to destroy Scientology, let alone to harm believers – quite the opposite. Though I’ve had to put up with some pretty savage attacks from those believers. If I could help David Miscavige, I would. I would also restrain him from committing further evil, if I could.

If someone can think through the beliefs of Scientology and make sense of them, all well and good. But I would aver that Scientology is full of inconsistencies, contradictions, simple truisms and downright deceptions. It does not achieve any of Hubbard’s promised objectives, whether the exalted ideal being, the Clear, the supernatural wonderment of OT VIII (“at cause over physical matter, energy, space and time” according to Hubbard), or the simpler guarantees of the “release grades.” They certainly cannot communicate freely with me on any subject, as any communication release is promised.

Scientology makes people feel euphoric, with “very good indicators,” but that is about it. It makes people feel superior – part of a world-saving elite – but would actually make a harsh, uncaring world, if given the chance.

When I returned to the fray, in 2013, I was presented with a new set of problems. My dealings in the 80s and 90s were almost exclusively with first generation members. During my last five years, up to my enforced retirement in 1996, everyone who was willing to speak with me left not only the mother cult, but also any devotion to Hubbard or belief in the “technology.” This never took more than a day to achieve, because once you have understood just how shaky the foundation is, you will pull it down.

Separating the “cult identity” is relatively easy, if you know how. But, in the last couple of years, I’ve come to know several second generation members, and they have no pre-cult identity. They have been brought up in an environment of “no sympathy,” which can induce a sort of Asperger’s syndrome, where they simply do not know how to react emotionally. Compassion is not a feature of Scientology. It is a learned skill, or at least a behaviour that needs to be nurtured. David Miscavige and many others lacked this advantage. They simply don’t know how to care.

So, how should a second generation member go about recovering? First of all, it is necessary to separate from Scientology. All too many people believe that they can simply walk away. One former Executive Director International when I asked him what he thought of Scientology said, “It’s shit.” He was still earning his living selling the “management technology.” Denial is always the first hurdle to overcome with any problem.

It is hard to admit that we were wrong. That we were scammed. That Scientology from the very beginning was designed to make Hubbard rich and powerful, and that it has done precisely nothing to bring about a “civilization without criminality, insanity or war.” I’ve dealt with too many people who committed crimes, went insane and would happily wage war as a consequence of their involvement to believe that. I was gullible. I was scammed. I gave my positive energy to an ultimately negative movement that has damaged hundreds of thousands of people.

Once the denial is over, and we become willing to look at the chaos induced in our thinking and our behaviour, we have some chance of unpicking the conditioning. I have argued ceaselessly that this is done by looking at the principles we were sold, and examining them in depth.

Start a study group with believers and disbelievers and analyse Problems of Work or Fundamentals of Thought. Let everyone in the group put forward their successes and failures trying to apply these ideas, and understand just how flimsy they are.

If you come away still believing you can solve problems by assigning one vote each to yourself, your family, your softball club, mankind, all matter, all spirits, all life and God, good luck to you, but I must say that it seems stupid to me to believe in God and then vote Him out, let alone to think that your personal advantage should equal that of all seven billion other people (let alone the members of 20 million or so other species).

If you think that raising communication always raises affinity, and can make an argument that yelling, beating, and shooting someone will lead to love, again, good luck to you. But if you cannot justify any of these fundamental principles, it is time to let go and accept the embarrassment.

When a first generation member lets go, they will tend to regress to age twelve, because that is the age that any cult (including consumerism) likes to keep its members. A twelve-year-old still believes that the parent is a hero and is still compliant to direction. Many former members lapse into adolescent dissent when they leave the cult. So the message boards are full of furious, inconsiderate former members (unlike the Bunker, I hasten to add, where maturity reigns), determined to rebel against anyone who disagrees with their new fixed opinions.

Etienne de la Boétie said, “all would agree that, if we led our lives according to the ways intended by nature … we should be intuitively obedient to our parents; later we should adopt reason as our guide and become slaves to nobody.” All too often, we become slaves to leaders, and do not adopt reason as our guide, but this is the necessity if we are to mature into full adulthood (personally, I shifted easily from my first to my second childhood).

First generation members leave and grow beards (mainly the men, that is) or smoke pot. They listen to the music of their adolescence and eat biscuits in bed. They have a brief honeymoon period where they regain adolescence and then grow up (well, some of them, at least). But second generation members have to discover adolescence, rather than return to it. If they were dumped into the Cadet Org, they may not have had a care-giver of any sort during childhood. They will have difficulty forming relationships, because they have not learned how. This leads to the province of attachment theory. As Scientologists have been phobically protected from any scientific development in the human sciences, it makes it especially difficult for them to consider well-established notions in psychology, and this is a very important one.

There are attachment therapists out there, but first of all it is a good idea to find out a little about how we attach. John Bowlby was the pioneer in this field, and his essays are still useful. The important message, however, is that attachment can be learned. That second generation members can learn to love and learn to enjoy society. And those of us who experienced Scientology are best-placed to help them.

Let me recommend just one book to all ex-members. Take Back Your Life is the best guidebook for recovery from cults that I have read. It was written by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias, and everyone who has been involved in a cult should read it. In fact, everyone should read it, because we live in a society of overlapping cults, where all around want to undermine our critical thinking by appealing to our emotions and selling us their products or their beliefs.

At the seminar, in Toronto, from 22-26 June, I will deconstruct the cult and its beliefs and practices thoroughly and completely, with the help of some remarkable experts. There will be some previously unseen material, including some Hubbard letters that shine a light on his true intentions. Nothing of this type has ever been attempted before with any cult. It will be an adventure for all involved, and will showcase some of the most remarkable people I have the great good fortune to know.

After the seminar in Toronto, I am withdrawing from the Scientology scene (unless the cult is stupid enough to attack me and keep me talking). I will continue to refer to the cult in my work, and do my best to help those most harmed by the cult, but most of my time will be taken up explaining the wider issues of exploitative persuasion for the new Open Minds Foundation. I hope that the support I’ve received at the Bunker will continue, as I move into this broader endeavour. I also hope that those who have survived Scientology will be a significant force in the movement to expose undue influence. We should use the experience that cost us so much to help others.

From June 22 through 26th, Tyndale University professor James Beverley and Jon Atack are hosting a course and conference on Scientology. The rather stunning list of people speaking at the conference was announced here earlier. Paulette Cooper and your proprietor will be presenting on Tuesday, June 23. Please come see us if you can. For more information visit the conference website.


Judge Whittemore rejects motion to reconsider in Garcia fraud lawsuit

We knew that when the Garcias submitted a motion to reconsider in their (ostensibly) defeated lawsuit, it was going to be a long shot. However, the grounds that they were basing it on — that they had never, as Judge Whittemore said, agreed that Scientology was a bona fide religion, was at least a very interesting document, and it was fun to see Scientology get up in a high dudgeon about it.

And now Judge Whittemore has denied the motion, saying that actually, from the beginning the Garcias were saying that their lawsuit was not about religion but about fraud, and that in saying so, they had admitted that Luis considered what he did in Scientology the stuff of religion.

Well, it was a good try, but we knew that Whittemore probably wasn’t going to reverse himself.

So what’s next? We think there’s a chance the Garcias will appeal this denial to a higher court. We also still think it’s a long shot that they will eventually submit to Scientology’s internal arbitration, which is how their suit was derailed when Whittemore granted Scientology’s motion to compel them to do so.

Either way, we’ll keep an eye on it.


Chicago Scientologists are MIA

Thanks to our tipster for forwarding this gem from OSA…

From: Church of Scientology Chicago<''>
Date: May 15, 2015, 5:58:17 PM
To: <''>

Hello to all Chicago Scientologists,

I know that several messages have gone out to you re the importance of your attending the Saturday, May 16th, 10am PsychBust of the American Psychiatric Association in Toronto.

I am having Rebecca send you this message directly from me. Although I do realize that some of you have been very helpful in attending previous APA demonstrations in NYC, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, the response for Toronto, where I am currently on-the-ground, has been disappointing to this point.

CCHR and I need you here — and you yourself need to be here — as psychiatry has intentionally hidden themselves in Canada to limit protests so they can more easily generate their agendas for the upcoming year. And yes, they are terrible beyond imagination. It is also being very craftily done on a Canadian holiday weekend as they feel this will stop people from doing the right thing by protesting.

Several leading psychiatrists from the US are headlining the APA conference in Toronto as speakers. If they can make it to destroy the planet, you can attend to help save it! Remember, these are the guys who, 24/7, are creating a world of illegal pcs — and they know it. So, it’s a Ground Zero here and you are needed to reverse the disaster that is psychiatry.

Are you in? I hope so. Please contact Rebecca at 773-348-7788 to confirm and be here promptly for tomorrow’s march to the APA convention at 10am (EDT) — 27 Front Street East, across the street from the St. Lawrence Center for the Arts in Toronto.


Tom Paquette
Social Reform Bureau
Office of Special Affairs International




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, so we’re posting them at the Underground Bunker. We’ve created a dedicated page for them, and we hope you go through them all, then come back here and tell us your thoughts!

Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly. Isn’t technology cool.

Your proprietor yesterday on Irish radio. Yes, that is a nasty cold that has your proprietor in its grips. Hoping it’s better today in Santa Barbara…


And then in the afternoon, during prime drive time, we had a great experience with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips at KABC 790.


Our appearances…

May 16: Santa Barbara Humanist Society (with Paulette Cooper) $2 for members, $5 for non-members. Here’s the schedule we’ve been given for this event…

2:30 people start arriving to socialize on the patio.
3:00 Meeting begins. President says a few words, makes announcements and then the speakers are introduced.
4:15 Move to patio while the room is set up for dinner. Wine bar. Time for book sales.
5:00 Buffet dinner.

Hey, these folks go all out. We hope some of our readers can make it. We’ll have copies of the book to sell for a discounted price, and we’ll be signing them at the event.

May 17: Center for Inquiry-West, Los Angeles, 4773 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, 11 am (with Paulette Cooper)
May 17: CFI Orange County (Costa Mesa), 4:30 pm (with Paulette Cooper) Check out this story about us from OC Weekly about this event.

May 20, San Diego: Kennedy Community Center, El Cajon, 7 pm, sponsored by the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper) Hey, San Diego readers, help us get the word out on this late addition to our tour!

May 22: San Francisco (with Jamie DeWolf and Paulette Cooper) THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT. Aye, Chihuahua.

June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper) We’re keeping the venue on the down-low at this point. If you’re interested in coming to this unique event — Paulette in New York talking about Scientology where her story began — drop us a line so we get an idea how many are coming.

June 20: Chicago, The Annoyance Theater, 5pm (with Christian Stolte) This event is free, but reserve your tickets now!

June 22 and 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper)

June 27/28: Florida (with Paulette Cooper)

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 16, 2015 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 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

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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