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Atack: What David Mayo told me about L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology, and the upper levels

[David Mayo]

After we brought the news that prominent Scientology figure David Mayo had died last year in New Zealand, there was a pretty huge reaction from many former Scientologists, as well as a lot of discussion of his legacy. One person who had lengthy talks with Mayo after he left the church was historian Jon Atack, who tells us what he learned in those discussions.

David Mayo was an icon for many of us. His courage and resilience inspired us. He was a highly intelligent and kindly man. There is no doubt that he was once presented as Hubbard’s successor, so the vicious attacks upon him from 1982 onward were the flash point for the departure of about half the membership of Scientology after his Suppressive Person declare and the bizarre publication “Story of a Squirrel,” in which Hubbard alleged that David had been the “bird-dog in the control room” of Scientology.

My mum was on the Class II course when this propaganda piece arrived, and, as with many others, she could not fathom how Hubbard – the great expert – had been blind to David’s “suppressive” nature for over two decades. I spent time with David in 1986 and 1988 interviewing him extensively. He was generous with his time, and candid in his responses. I particularly liked his apparent unease at the adulation of so many towards him.

When I returned to the fray, in 2013, he reached out to me and we had a long conversation. He was intelligent and, as many people have said at the Bunker, good-hearted. I’ve kept some parts of our conversation to myself, but it seems like a good time to share, now that he is no longer with us, and beyond the reach of Scientology’s fair game attacks.

Scientology sells a series of “upper levels” that supposedly (though not in real life) lead to the state of “Operating Thetan”: someone who can “operate totally independently of his body.” In 1980-81, the original Operating Thetan levels from four to seven were replaced with the New “OT” levels.


After Mayo was forced out of Scientology in 1983, he formed a rival organization — the Church of the New Civilization, and its Advanced Ability Center in Santa Barbara. By the time I first interviewed David Mayo, in September 1986, he was at Frank ‘Sarge’ Gerbode’s AAC Palo Alto, where he would remain for a couple of years. I saw him often, and dined with him a few times. My interview yielded interesting material that I thought should not see the light of day while there was any chance that it might be used against him.

The legend runs that David saved Hubbard’s life in 1978, during one of his annual outbreaks of severe illness (generally bronchial, and caused either by his advanced “OT” research, or the 100+ cigarettes a day). David discovered that Dianetic ”auditing” or counselling is dangerous to those who have achieved the elevated states of Operating Thetan. Not only Dianetics, but the “evil purpose” chasing Expanded Dianetics (“XDn”). And Hubbard had received hundreds of hours of XDn, because he had a host of evil purposes – more than a hundred E-meter “rock slams” indicating such evil purposes according to his former “case supervisor” Otto Roos.

The legend continues that Mayo’s techniques became known as New Era Dianetics for OTs or NOTs and soon afterwards New OT V, and the procedures were also applied to the “OT Drug Rundown” – New
OT IV – and the solo-auditing section taught as New OT VI and practiced as New OT VII – which until 1988 would be the highest level of the Scientology Bridge to Total Freedom. The old OT levels – which had explicitly promised super-powers, including “exteriorization”’ at will – were cast aside.

After David Mayo was ejected from Scientology, he determined to provide an affordable form of Scientology – including the OT levels – in a friendly, coercion-free atmosphere. Scientology then sued him for using its trade secrets, claiming he had no right, because, they contended, Mayo had been working for hire and was bound by confidentiality agreements. The “religious scriptures” of Scientology were litigated as business property. Probably a first for a religion. If only the Orthodox Church had thought to trademark the Gospels!

In our three-hour interview in 1986, Mayo candidly told me that he had spent very little time attending to Hubbard’s “body thetans” – the little spirits exorcised on every OT level from III-VII – but rather had concentrated on ‘“misownership.” One of the fundamental Scientology notions is that emotional “charge” (or upset) will only dissipate if the exact “time, place, form and event” is recollected. So, Hubbard had misidentified emotional “charge” from his body thetans which had made him the victim of recurrent illness.

As the top secret OT V bulletin “Why you can’t run engrams after Clear” puts this: “A Dianetic or Scientology Clear has erased his own bank [“reactive mind”] and has no pictures. Any attempt to run a Dn [Dianetic] or Scn [Scientology] Clear on Dianetics, NED [New Era Dianetics], XDN [Expanded Dianetics] or any R3R [Routine 3 Revised – Dianetics], causes restimulation of BTs [body thetans] and clusters, and it is their pictures he sees and tries to run as his own, which is a “misownership” of the incident/picture. As he thinks it’s his picture he “misidentifies” himself with the BT or cluster whose picture it is. Now if this is compounded by a wrong or misassessed item (uncharged), these BTs and clusters have a wrong item resulting in further restimulation.”

I felt that David’s statements conflicted with the claim that he was the author of the New OT V materials, so I quizzed him further. He said that after he’d restored Hubbard to health, Hubbard had reverted to his usual research method: at some point in an auditing session, Hubbard would order Mayo to write down some thought that had popped into his head which might have little or nothing to do with the counselling procedure they were engaged in.

The NOTs or New OT V bulletins were almost all dictated to Mayo. He only wrote six of the 55. So, the core idea out of which New OT V grew was David Mayo’s, but the materials used deviated from that idea and were largely authored by Hubbard with Mayo as his transcriber.

Many OT Vs escaped the “Church” between 1982 and 1984 (myself among them). The story was put about that we had been corrupted because some of the New OT V bulletins were the work of the “bird-dog in the control room,” David Mayo, but I can assure readers that the six bulletins attributed to Mayo in the original pack were only changed in one detail: they were no longer signed “David Mayo” but “L. Ron Hubbard.” I know this, because Ron Lawley brought both versions back from Copenhagen in 1983, so I was able to compare them.

For those who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in the “Church” to dismiss their “body thetans,” it will come as a shock that according to Mayo’s original, they should have been paying attention to the ideas, “mental image pictures” and emotions of those body thetans, but the emphasis had shifted from the “misownership,” and even sending the body thetans on their merry way would not necessarily do anything to the misowned items (Luckily for me, I finished the level by realizing that I’d never had such a thing as a “body thetan,” let alone misowned any of their property).

In 1981, Hubbard announced Mayo as his successor, and even issued a cheesy “tech” video, where Mayo, dressed up as a film noir character, gave a short soliloquy about “out-tech,” warning that we should be careful if this video disappeared. It did, and David Mayo along with it. To use George Orwell’s phrase in 1984, the cult pitched him down the “memory hole.”

I spoke to David again in 1988, by which time Gerbode wanted to cut him loose. Gerbode’s deputy, Gerry French, was complaining that David had become autocratic. I had heard David giving him a dressing down. Gerbode followed my suggestion that he put Mayo on a sabbatical, then quietly sever their connection.

I think by this time David was in an agony about the workability of Scientology. Julia can tell us if this was really so. But, I had pestered Gerbode and Mayo to drop OT III back in 1986 – I’d dealt with several cases of damage caused on that level, and found that the mental asylum nearest to Saint Hill expected about two cases of acute psychosis a year caused by OT III (I advised them not to use any drugs, and allow the psychosis to die down – they were surprisingly receptive and very concerned, contrary to Hubbard’s position about “psychs”). To my relief, by 1988 the OT levels were gone, and Traumatic Incident Reduction (aka New Era Dianetics) was the center of the new Institute for Research into Metapsychology’s “bridge.”

That same visit, I suggested a strategy and found the documents that won a $2.9 million payment to David Mayo’s lawyers (I charged only a thousand dollars for the strategy, because I am a halfwit when it comes to business!).

David had claimed that he was deliberately infected with a rare tropical disease soon after he left Scientology, and that several years later a hitman had approached him to say that he was not going to carry out the contract on his life, because he seemed to be a decent sort. He suffered constant and traumatic harassment, but continued in his quest to help people.

By 1993, David and Julia Mayo were offering their own therapeutic ideas, which were no longer the “Tech” of Scientology. They had set up in the Dominican Republic with their Causality Program. The “Advanced Ability Center” had become the “Ability Advancement Center.” I don’t think it bore much resemblance to the Scientology Bridge – I’m sure Julia can tell us – but Miscavige still viewed David Mayo as his most significant target for the scriptural policy of Fair Game.

That same year, Gerbode’s Institute for Research into Metapsychology (IRM) sued Scientology for asserting that its techniques had been plagiarized from Hubbard – the American Psychological Association had allowed students to claim degree credits for training with the IRM, until made that complaint.

I worked on the IRM’s case, and brought Robert Vaughn and Stacy Young along for their first public stand against Scientology (and was totally charmed and delighted by them both). I prepared the paper “Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology” for that case, and the IRM’s lawyer agreed that demonstrating that Hubbard had himself plagiarized Scientology in the first place was the only viable option.

Gerbode lost his nerve – as most people do under pressure from Scientology. He called me and asked if Miscavige had ever reneged on his word. I remonstrated with him that we could win – there was no way that Miscavige would allow the Youngs on the witness stand, and the right document list had always made them back away on the court steps (which was how we won the Lawley-Scott case and the amazing Woods’ decision: allowing them to say whatever they please about Scientology by court order). Gerbode said that he was interested in only that one question: had Miscavige ever reneged on a deal? Was his word good? I argued that although I knew of no such breach of contract, Miscavige’s word was as good as his ethical foundations, and those were built on sand.

Gerbode made a deal: the suit would be withdrawn. Miscavige agreed to waive the scripturally-mandated harassment of the Institutes for Research into Metapsychology – giving them a perpetual licence to “squirrel” – and, in return, Gerbode would give him all of the bonds he had collected from Mayo while he was paying his legal bills. Those bonds, I was told, amounted to four million dollars. After eleven years of outright war, Scientology now had the material it needed to silence David, or at least to chase him away from practicing any of their techniques.

Many years passed before I spoke to David again. In 2013, after a 17-year hiatus, I determined to speak out again – because I could see that so many believers were unable to escape the intellectual prison that is Scientology. I wanted to at least offer the choice to reconsider the fundamental notions of Scientology. I accept that for some it is a way of life, and they have the right to their beliefs and their practice, but there is important information in Hubbard’s writings that points to a sinister undercurrent that runs through both the Light Side of the Tech and its Dark Side. The evidence shows that they are both in the service of the Dark Side. Hubbard successfully enslaved many people and lived an opulent life-style while those slaves were worked to death. But I digress!

When I spoke to David in 2013 – again for about three hours – he told me a tale I hadn’t heard before. He said that he had realized that Hubbard was insane, just as soon as he read OT III back in 1968 (he was at the Edinburgh Advanced Organization that first delivered the course to paying members in that year). He told me from that time onward, his intention had been to liberate people from Scientology, and that he believed he had been responsible for 2,000 people leaving.

It seemed impolite to remind him that I’d pleaded with him and Gerbode to drop OT III in 1986 – 18 years after Mayo had decided it was deluded and dangerous. By the time of this conversation, in 2013, David told me that Scientology and Dianetics had nothing whatsoever to offer. He told me that his deconstruction of the traumatic incident reduction method (a/k/a, Routine 3 revised, ‘R3R’, or New Era Dianetics) had been praised by a psychology professor. He said he could no longer lay his hands on a copy of that paper, unfortunately.

In answer to some of the statements at the Bunker: Did Hubbard know about Mayo’s ill-treatment and dismissal? Yes, Hubbard was very much in charge during 1982 – although his grip was slipping mentally, he continued to review all Org stats and order harassment campaigns. I’m fairly sure that he did utter that ridiculous phrase, saying that David was “the bird-dog in the control room.”

Miscavige was still an underling at that time, but was gaining power by being Hubbard’s notary public (I have been told that every document he witnessed is fraudulent, because he was never in Hubbard’s presence in those last years – so the last will and the registrations of CSI, CST, ASI, RTC and so on are all contestable in court – the last genuine will, in 1981, left everything to his granddaughter, Roanne Horwich-Hubbard.)

Miscavige’s rise to power would come soon after, but in October 1982, he spat at Barnes and Azcel on direct order from Hubbard. Only when he rebelled against the late Hubbard’s wish to promote his drinking buddy Pat Broeker to “first loyal officer” did Miscavige finally rebel – with Hubbard gone, and Broeker incapable, Miscavige took over.

The point was made by a commentator at the Bunker that if David Mayo had taken over, Scientology might have become a genuine force for good. I remember Cyril Vosper’s first words to me, when as a callow departee I spoke of a new Scientology outside the mother cult. He said, “I don’t think it will work outside of the fascist environment.” David lost faith, so would probably have given the money back – as Krishnamurti did with Theosophy.

So many empathetic people have been caught up in Hubbard’s enchantment, and David Mayo was no exception. He was a bright spirit whose only urge was to help people, and, judging by the testimonials, he was successful. His good work will live on.

— Jon Atack


Looking good in Clearwater

Hey, look who’s looking healthy. It’s Phil Jones on the mend, with his lovely wife Willie, and they ran into Lucky Anchor owner Clay Irwin in downtown Clearwater. Says Phil: “We had a bunch of security guys circling shortly after we arrived. Nothing new!”



Bonus items from our tipsters

Here’s a fairly rare thing — a photo of David Miscavige in the wild. It was snapped by someone who ran into the Scientology leader as he was leaving the Four Seasons Hotel in Palo Alto as he was on his way to the Ideal Org opening in Mountain View. The photographer said he had spoken with Miscavige and shook his hand. See, Dave, it’s good to be out in public pressing the flesh!



Make your plans now!

Head over to our HowdyCon 2018 website to start making your travel plans!



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,030 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,633 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 176 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,239 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,013 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,787 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,133 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,627 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,667 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,379 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 905 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,994 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,134 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,454 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,429 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 785 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,087 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,193 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,596 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,468 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,050 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,555 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,799 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,908 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on February 19, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | 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


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