Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


A Scientologist murdered: Our experts try to make sense of Australia’s ‘Advanced Org’

[The Purif area at Australia’s Advanced Org, the place the teen with a knife was trying to get to]

We still have a lot of questions about the murder of Chih-Jen “Aaron” Yeh, 24, a Scientologist at the ‘Advanced Org’ in the north suburbs of Sydney that happened on Thursday afternoon there. The Australian press is doing its best to gather details about the event, but it’s clear that they don’t really seem to understand what an Advanced Org is or what happens at one.

We’ve seen it referred to as a “megachurch,” for example, which is about as incorrect as is possible to describe an AO. But over the last few days, a clearer picture has begun to emerge. If the press reports are correct, a 16-year-old boy had some kind of conflict with his Scientologist mother about her going through Scientology’s Purification Rundown or “Purif.” He apparently didn’t want her to undergo the procedure, which is an intense regimen of extended time in a sauna combined with radical vitamin intake and exercise that can take one to three months, and costs around $2,500. It’s an unscientific, quack remedy that is supposed to purify the body and soul, and Scientologists usually undergo it very early in their careers — and they can also repeat the procedure numerous times as they go up Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom” of courses.

Only when a Scientologist has spent a considerable amount of time and money can they attain the state of “Clear,” and then begin to ascend what are known as the “Operating Thetan” or OT levels. At that point, for OT levels 1 through 5, they must go to an Advanced Org.

One way to think of it is that an Advanced Org is something like graduate school for Scientologists.

(But an Advanced Org is itself only intermediary. For OT 6 and 7, Scientologists must go to the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. And then they reach the ultimate level, OT 8, only on Scientology’s private cruise ship, the Freewinds, in the Caribbean.)


There are only five Advanced Orgs in the world, in Los Angeles; East Grinstead, England; Copenhagen; Sydney; and just this week, the newest one opened in South Africa.

For years, Scientology’s membership has been dwindling, and demand for the expensive, specialized counseling (called “auditing”) at the Advanced Orgs was not high. In fact, when the new Sydney AO was being moved to the new location in Chatswood a few years ago, Scientology submitted an environmental impact report and admitted that its $50 million project would only be serving about 87 parishioners.

That’s no megachurch. But even 87 is an exaggeration, we believe. Our experts tell us only handfuls of people would have been going to the Sydney AO to take courses, and the facility would have been desperate to get more bodies — even bringing in people who weren’t really there to do the arcane OT levels at all. And that’s why, our experts tell us, they suspect that the assailant’s mother was taking the low-level Purification Rundown at such a lofty place as an Advanced Org: She may have been “raw public” recently recruited from Taiwan who was there to help make the place look busy.

Valeska Paris: When I was in the Sea Org here in Australia there were literally almost no public. They would send regges [short for ‘registrars,’ the people who push for members to sign up for courses] on mission to Taiwan to bring people in for services at the AO. So the mother could have just come to do it there because there is a Purif center.

The Bunker: Even though she might be very new to Scientology?

Valeska: I have a feeling she was relatively new to Scientology just from what I saw with the influx of Taiwanese coming there.

The Bunker: Just to be clear, an Advanced Org is where people go to audit OT 1 to 5, which is high-level, very expensive stuff. Why is there a Purification Rundown area at the AO at all?

Mat Pesch: People redo the Purification all the way up the Bridge for various reasons.

The Bunker: And in this case, she might have been doing the Purif there even though she was a relative beginner, simply because the AO is so desperate for bodies?

Mat: It is also possible she was staff, and just starting the Bridge.

The Bunker: Staff, even though she had a child? (Advanced Orgs are staffed by Sea Org members, the most hardcore of Scientologists, who sign billion-year contracts. Having children is forbidden in the Sea Org. If someone already has a child when they join, that child will often be sent to live with a relative. Sea Org members work 112-hour weeks and simply don’t have time for family.)

Mat: Yes. I wonder where the father is in all this.

Valeska: I’m not sure I agree with that idea that she was staff. She could have been a new Sea Org member, but I think it’s more likely she was just a new public Scientologist doing the Purif. In every Sea Org base I was ever at except the Freewinds, every Advanced Org delivered the Purif to public, even if it was available at a class V org. Flag included.

The Bunker: In other words, although the Advanced Org is supposed to be reserved for OTs, you regularly saw them bring in lower level people to do the Purification Rundown simply to keep their stats up, even if a lower level “Class V” or “Ideal Org” was nearby where it could have been done. In this case, the Ideal Org in downtown Sydney, which does have its own Purif center, is only about 8 miles away. Instead, she was taken to the AO after being recruited from Taiwan and bringing her son with her.


Valeska: I find it odd that he was even here unless he’s studying school or something.

The Bunker: Yes, and why uproot a family so she could do something as low-level as the Purif? There are places in Taiwan where she could get that.

Sunny Pereira: Again, we circle back to desperation.

Valeska: The Advanced Org here in Australia was dirt poor when I was in the Sea Org. Especially when the Basics books came out and no new income was really being generated. We usually got no pay or $5 to $10 a week. It was bad. There were problems with paying rent and bills, so they would get their hands on anyone they could.

The Bunker: If that’s the case, a new Scientologist in a foreign land, their lives radically changed, no wonder the kid was under a lot of stress. According to the press reports he had some kind of conflict with his mother over her doing the Purif the day before, then he showed up at the AO with a concealed knife. What did he think he was going to do? That part is very unclear.

Sunny: And if she was actively on the Purif when he showed up, they wouldn’t allow her to be disturbed, and he would have to wait. L. Ron Hubbard does not allow interruptions. It was a common frustration for children to be unable to see or talk to their family member for hours. If he then became agitated, they would have asked him to leave. That’s standard procedure.

The Bunker: Which is apparently what happened, at least according to the early reports.

Valeska: He was prevented from even seeing his mom in typical Scientology style.

The Bunker: Two Sea Org guards were asked to escort him out. At least one of them, Chih-Jen Yeh, was also Taiwanese.

Valeska: I’d say 80 percent of the Sea Org members if not more in Sydney are Taiwanese. The Aussies never want to join.

The Bunker: They were escorting him out when he allegedly pulled out a knife and attacked them, killing Chih-Jen Yeh by slashing his throat. The other guard, an unnamed 30-year-old, suffered lacerations. The police were called, pulled their tasers, and subdued the boy. But it’s pretty clear that we’re not getting a lot of information from Scientology about the incident.

Sunny: An Advanced Org would have an RTC Rep on site. [The Religious Technology Center is the nominally controlling entity of the entire Scientology movement. Its chairman is David Miscavige.] That rep would be getting minute to minute updates internally, and then giving that information to Miscavige immediately. It’s likely some people would be sent out of HGB [in Los Angeles] to deal with it as well. A team with specific instructions. There would only be one person assigned to media relations, all others specifically instructed to avoid the media. But it’s 100 percent certain that Miscavige is getting updates constantly.

Valeska: It’s pretty clear what message they want to put out. Scientology is trying to discredit the kid and pretend that the dispute with his mother has nothing to do with Scientology — which means it absolutely has everything to do with Scientology. As soon as the police said it had nothing to do with Scientology I knew the church was lying to them and trying to cover their tracks.

The Bunker: There’s still a lot more we’d like to know about the situation, and we hope the Australian police continue to ask questions. They charged the 16-year-old with murder on Saturday morning, and he will remain in custody. At this point, it appears that the boy was not a Scientologist — which is consistent with our experts’ suspecting that his mother was new to Scientology. To get some idea of what might have been going through the boy’s mind, we turned to therapist Rachel Bernstein, who has been so helpful to us in the past.

Rachel Bernstein: I don’t know how emotionally disturbed the son was so I can’t speak to that, but whether or not someone is emotionally disturbed, moving from one country to another as a teenager and being taken away from your friends and the culture and the language that you know into a totally new environment is going to make you more reliant and dependent on your parent to be there for you. It sounds like what happened was that his mother was getting very involved with the Scientology center in Sydney and was probably spending a lot of time there (especially if she was doing the Purif) and therefore spending time away from him and away from home and may have been using up the family’s resources as well to pay for services there, which may have made him nervous. I assume that he was feeling isolated, scared, and fearful that his parent and protector was going to be pulled farther away from him where he might be left without anyone. If she was a Scientologist for awhile beforehand, and if it is true that he had an emotional disturbance, it was potentially not treated as it should have been and he was not given the benefit of getting the kind of help he may have needed in order to make this huge life transition easier on him, especially if it was a monumental and potentially traumatizing change that was not of his choosing. Regarding this “domestic dispute” they had there before the incident … I find the most interesting part of the story that after the “domestic dispute” the press said that she talked to people within the Org about it and that means that she left it in their hands to deal with as opposed to her being able to speak openly with her son about it and resolve it with him directly. That is going to make any child feel resentful and angry about the fact that there is an organization that is now both physically and emotionally standing in between him and his mother. I also find it meaningful that he attacked a guard as opposed to someone just in there taking courses or doing the Purif. The guard was the symbolic barrier between him and his mother and by attacking the guard with a knife I believe he was showing how angry he was and how powerless he felt to be able to either access his mother or protect his mother from all of this and it was a way of trying to get rid of the huge barrier that was now constructed between him and his mother. Whether or not he had an emotional disturbance, he just may have been terrified being in a new country and then feeling like his mother was being kidnapped away from him and there was nothing he could do about it.


Start making your plans!


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Erika Christensen, Ethan Suplee, and Juliette Lewis]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Court magician? Scientology attorney can now affect matter with thought, levitate, read minds
[TWO years ago] Scientology cash-in! Top church attorney puts her beach bungalow on market for $2.4 million
[THREE years ago] Scientology posts the new ad that will likely be its Super Bowl entry this year
[FOUR years ago] Former spokesman Mike Rinder describes Scientology’s dismal options in 2015
[FIVE years ago] Sunday Funnies: Scientology charges into the new year!
[SIX years ago] Scientology Drug Rehab Program’s Newest Victim: A New York 15-Year-Old
[SEVEN years ago] All Scientologists Look Alike, Right? — And More in our Weekly Stats Roundup!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,320 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,451 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,953 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,433 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 496 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 384 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,691 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,559 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,333 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,107 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,453 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,019 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,939 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,106 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,687 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,947 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,987 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,699 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,225 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,314 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,454 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,774 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,630 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,749 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,105 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,407 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,513 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,916 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,787 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,370 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,865 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,119 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,228 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 5, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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 Underground Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email