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Ask a Scientologist! — our feature’s archives

One of the best things about the Underground Bunker (well, maybe the best thing) is the amazing commenting community, which includes so many smart people with encyclopedic memories about their long years in Scientology. So we started a new feature in February 2019 asking readers to send in their questions for our experts at Here are some of the past questions and answers.

Sunny Pereira

Sea Org members sign billion-year contracts and then work around the clock, 365 days a year. But what do they actually do during all that time? What jobs are they actually performing that need to be done for so many hours and always on an emergency basis?

Sea Org members believe that they are running against the clock trying to save the world. They believe they are actively working against people who are deliberately trying to control us and destroy earth. In addition to this, the fight is also against the reactive mind itself.

Honestly I’ve wondered since I left what the urgency was, and how we kept on with it for decades. But Sea Org members truly believe they are making a difference with their sacrifices. In the Sea Org, the goal is to finish everything today. Resolve everything before you leave for the day. Or you don’t leave. Nothing waits until the next day


Sometimes it’s random as hell reasons we got kept up: They want to make the Central Files look good, so we have to get everything on our posts done. You can’t leave post early. So 10pm or so when post is normally over, now you go help with random extra work: cleaning the entire org for a white-glove pass, replace all CF files, reorganize treasury files, move a course room to the other side of the org. Stupid, random, pointless work.

Another example is the guy responsible for getting the auditors and preclears onto session together. Often the files of the person are not in that org and need to be gotten from another org. So this guy has to get all the files, get them moved from one person to the next in order to get everything set on what the person needs in order to get in session. This Sea Org member may have to personally take the files and/or the preclear through every single step of the way, which can take hours. And in most orgs, you can have up to 20 preclears that you have to get this done on. So it can take all day. Then this person is required to make sure each preclear is fed, has enough sleep, the files are ready and waiting for the auditor, who may be in session with someone else. The idea is that the auditor never waits for his next preclear and this is the job of this folder person (called a DTS — director of technical services). Even when the day is over, after repeating these steps getting each preclear in session, this DTS has to make sure all the files are there for whenever is coming in the next day and that they have been taken through every step for approval for sessions the next day.

It’s a lot of running around getting everything organized for planetary clearing. And it makes zero difference in the real world.

— Sunny Pereira

Do Sea Org members file taxes on their meager earnings?

I joined the Sea Org in 1991, so my experience was in the years of 1991-2005. In 1996 I was promoted to RTC, which was the first year I was required to file a tax return on my annual earnings of $2,600. In the time I was in RTC, all RTC staff were required to file annual tax returns, with the claim that it was a requirement dictated by the IRS granting Scientology tax exempt status. To my knowledge, staff in lower orgs were not required to file annual tax returns and did not do so. Also, every time I was paid, from 1991 to 2005, I was given a pay stub that showed gross earnings of $50 per week, and showed taxes deducted, resulting in the grand net of $46, which was always disbursed as two $20 bills, one $5 bill and one $1 bill. But of course that was only when staff pay did not get cut from the weekly financial planning for whichever org I was working in (note that RTC staff received half pay for a few months but otherwise were always consistently paid, not so with Gold and other orgs I worked for). While Marc and I were both working at Golden Era Productions, sometimes there were months at a time where we were not paid. Marc used to joke that if we ever needed money, we could always count on “Headley Savings & Loan,” a/k/a our “back” pay, which it was claimed would be paid to us when it could be afforded. Of course we were never paid that “back” pay.

— Claire Headley

I know Sea Org members are not allowed to have children but it would be interesting to know the difference between a Sea Org Scientologist and your everyday Scientologist. The many courses and auditing sessions should probably take a toll on a new mother. I’ve also heard that women are not allowed to make noises during birth? Is there a preferred type of birth — C-section/ vaginal/ all natural meaning no drugs at all?

Since Scientologists do not like drugs in general, most Scientologists lean toward having a natural birth experience and avoiding pain medication. Many Scientologists are likely to give birth at home with a midwife and to avoid going to the hospital altogether. Others do opt to go to the hospital to give birth there. Yes, L. Ron Hubbard did write about being silent during labor and birth in the book Dianetics. He said if there are words spoken during labor and birth they could supposedly have a negative affect on the baby and have lasting effects for life. So it depends on how literal the individual Scientologist wishes to take this information. I know of many ex-Scientologists who were not silent during labor and birth, and some that tried very hard to implement this idea. Some even educated local midwives in the community about their “silent birth” wishes so that they could be supported by their care providers to accomplish this goal. Regarding the course load and auditing sessions taking a toll on a new mother — I’m sure this has happened to some new mothers because this happens to Scientologists in general. It just depends on their dedication and involvement in Scientology, their ability to withstand the pressure of the church and how much money they have to spend on it. There are a lot of Scientologists who are not active, but still consider themselves Scientologists. Maybe they volunteer in some other Scientology activity because they can’t afford services at the moment. Remember these services are really expensive! You have to have a lot of money to burn to be on course and doing auditing sessions full time.

— Christie Collbran

When you reached OT 3 and read about Xenu, how did you react? And how did you convince yourself to stay in Scientology after reading such bizarre stuff in Hubbard’s own handwriting?

When I first saw it, I couldn’t believe it. This was what several people I revered had done and exclaimed was the best thing for me to do and go for. So there I was, reading it. I wanted to look at the guy next to me and ask him if he believed it. But this was something we were taught not to discuss with anyone, including people who had done it. I expressed my incredulity to the course supervisor. He took me out into the hallway and told me to get my auditor hat on and just apply the tech of it.
I thought I would do just that and I did that as best I could. Why I continued beyond that is up to a cult expert to explain. I was in Scientology because in the beginning I belonged to a group of young adults of like mind, and I did find its counseling to be therapeutic. By the time I did OT III, with all the rules I had wrapped my mind around, I wasn’t going anywhere until years later when it became abusive to me personally on so many levels. It broke me then but that’s what it took.

— Mary Kahn

How does someone get assigned to work for CST in one of the vaults?

The process is really weird. I had worked on several missions to “man up” orgs, and to send people to Int Base, and so I knew what it was like. You didn’t tell people why you were looking at them, you just put them through tailored sec checks and made sure they were squeaky clean. Then, that happened to me: I was sent to Los Angeles and I went through six months of auditing actions, I did the Purif again, I got sec checks. And when you’re going through those quals you feel so guilty, you feel like a criminal — they go through everything you ever said that’s in your folders. But it’s also a complete mystery: You know you’re going to be promoted to Int or somewhere ( because of the people making sure your cycle is moving), but you don’t know where you’re going until they drive you there the first day. Why did I and my (then) wife get picked for CST? Well, I know they were looking for couples. Because CST is completely separated, and they wanted caretakers who were going to be on their own. A lot of the people sent up to CST were couples. And because it was CST, we had to sign a bunch more non-disclosure agreements and we had to understand that we were technically no longer in the Sea Org — I had been a Messenger and now my Messenger status no longer applied. And then, when I got sent to CST, I just disappeared in the middle of the night.

— Dylan Gill

On what occasions do the Sea Org members wear their faux naval uniforms now days?

We were wearing a naval style uniform only one day a year — Sea Org Day (August 12, to commemorate the founding of the Sea Organization on August 12, 1967). But at Flag we were only wearing it up to 2014 or so because there simply weren’t enough uniforms for all staff. After that only the Honor Guards were wearing it for Sea Org Day and recruitment events. On the Freewinds they were still wearing it for the Sea Org Day ceremony before I left in 2016. As for Miscavige, he has a military-style uniform,and would still wear it when meeting with people like Colonel Prado, also sometimes on staff briefings. But definitely on Maiden Voyage.

— Peter Nyiri


Phil and Willie on their wedding day

Is it true that even married couples do not discuss their ‘case’ with each other? On a similar note, how common is it for one spouse to write a Knowledge Report about the other? It seems to me that trading KRs and discussing case would be unpleasant for both spouses, and bad for any relationship.

Neither Willie nor I ever wrote the other up even once in 40 years of being married while in Scientology. But, I’ve known couples who did this on a regular basis. The couples I knew about who wrote KRs on their spouse didn’t last as a married couple. As for talking about case, that wasn’t something I remember doing much of, if at all, but we didn’t hold back in discussing difficulties. There wasn’t really much talk of past lives or things like that with us. Maybe a mention here and there but not a lot. Definitely no talk of OT levels though. Once I did OT III and IV it was forbidden to talk about it so I never did. After leaving Scientology though, I showed Willie the “scoop” on BTs. Amazingly, she’s alive to this day. No pneumonia or bursting into flames at all. I think in general Scientology married couples don’t talk about their cases in-depth, or discuss past lives much if at all. Again though, I’ve known people in Scientology who just can’t help themselves. There were definitely some cringe-worthy times over the years where a Scientologist would spew out some past-life stuff. It seems to me it was more prevalent in the early days. Back in the ’70s we seemed to have more fringe types (read crazies). These days the crazies apparently have all gone over to the Freezone.

— Phil Jones

If Scientology promises its members powers to affect the material world, what is the justification for fundraising for material items like building and books? Why bother with donations if you can conjure things into existence?

I never met a Scientologist who thought they could, or expected some other Scientologist to be able to, just conjure into existence some material object like a coin, a rock, a flower, etc. I know that Hubbard made (and sold) thousands of lectures where he rambles on about all sorts of hypothetical concepts as if they are fact. I have tried to study them in detail and found them to have little to no application value in the real world. I think most Scientologists just hope that it will make sense to them when they achieve some higher level of Scientology. I think many people have had experiences where they perceived someone died or was about to call them or they were able to locate someone or something in an unexplained way. They believe that there are spiritual and mental possibilities that they don’t understand, that they would like to know more about and develop. I think it is that sort of thing, along with the promise of being able to recall past lives, operate outside one’s body, etc, that draws people further into Scientology. Someone can argue whether they actually recalled past lives. I think it is interesting that on the original released version of OT 8, Hubbard said that none of the past lives that the OT 8s had recalled were actually them. He said that now that you know who you are not, you are ready to find out who you really are. The sad joke is that there were no further OT levels. Hundreds of thousands of dollars later and it’s a dead end. The person is left with the question of who they really are, which is probably one, if not the, main question they came to Scientology to get answered. I did meet a handful of people who claimed to be able to operate outside their body. As I got to know them better, it became obvious that they were nuts. As far as Scientology helping to expand one’s spiritual and mental abilities, I would personally rate it as very disappointing. In Scientology, it’s MONEY that is god and is worshiped. That, I found to be true.

— Mat Pesch

I’m a never-in, but I am a food vendor who calls on the Fort Harrison. And even though I believe the testimonies of people who have left Scientology, whenever I go to the hotel, everyone seems so happy to be there. The guests look like they are enjoying being at this very upscale hotel. The families at the pool are swimming and laughing and act much like my family acts when on vacation. Can someone please give the details of what it’s really like to be a guest there?

In my experience many are “happy in the moment” to be there. But this is after being heavily pressured to part with money to be there. Many parishioners would rather spend less money at a local non-Scientology hotel. But they are threatened with ethics action and many cave and stay at on-site Scientology hotels. The hotel staff are faced with even greater pressure and daily threats to get the hotel rooms filled. Often times this means not being allowed to go home until rooms filled quotas are met. My ex-wife was (and may still be) responsible for Fort Harrison Hotel occupancy. I would sometimes not see her for days if she slept at her desk because she was prevented from going home with too many empty hotel rooms.

— Brendan Tighe

Is David Miscavige a believer in Scientology at this point? Or is he in on the con and just wants to keep control of the con? The way he mocked Tom Cruise’s auditing sessions, the way he oversees edits of LRH’s work, and the way he lives a lavish lifestyle in the Sea Org makes me wonder if it causes him any conflict of faith to be going against Scientology’s rules in this way.

I think Miscavige would like to believe, and I think Miscavige has to believe to a certain extent to keep his sanity. But does he actually believe? In retrospect, when I look at all the situations that I went through with him, and his reaction to things, and talking about Hubbard technology, there’s no way he can believe in it. And keep in mind, he’s the single person in Scientology who profits from it. He’s got complete control over all that money, and he has so many attorneys, and it’s all about him. I know there are a couple of things that people point to, for example installing copper rods at the base that could be used to ground mental energy when Miscavige grasped them. Yes he did install those copper rods. And you could say he’s a believer because he did that. But I think he did that as a means to make Mike Rinder and the guys he was using it against feel bad. I don’t think he actually believed in it. I asked him once about the copper rods and he freaked out on me. ‘You can’t ask me about that! You don’t know anything about that!’ And yes, it is true that he seemed frightened of small children and talked about how easy it is to catch body thetans from them. But no, I don’t think he actually believes in Scientology. That dude has never gotten any results from it whatsoever. His asthma? No, he still takes medication. He’s never seen anyone improve because of it. He hasn’t improved because of it. The organization is supposed to have superior management technology but it’s a complete supreme disaster and he knows it. But he’s got money. He’s got the power of god within the organization. He hobnobs with Tom Cruise. If he admitted to himself or anyone else that it doesn’t work, the whole thing would fall apart. It’s not about saving the planet. It’s all about him and his reputation. He can’t walk away from it now. He’s it.

— Tom DeVocht

From what I’ve read Sea Org members seem to have a very naive conception of life outside the Sea Org. To what extent are Sea Org members “disconnected” from the outside world ? Are they aware of what is going on in it beyond what the church tells them? Is an ex-member kind of a time travel refugee when they get out?

It’s a complex question. You have to ask about a particular person, did they grow up in it, or did they have a previous life? If they had a previous life, they can quickly re-adapt. But many don’t. When I first came out, I couldn’t hold a job. I had 17 jobs in seven years. I was essentially unemployable. When I started doing better I took in about 50 people in a six-year period to try and give them a softer landing than I had. When you get out you don’t know how to grocery shop, you don’t know how to write a resume. You don’t know how to perform a job. In Scientology, for example, you might have a stat like “letters out.” The quality of those letters doesn’t matter. But in the outside world, that doesn’t work. There’s a lot of lore in Scientology that makes you Homo Novis, but then when you get into the real world and it doesn’t treat you like the superhero that you’ve believed you are for decades, it’s really, really rough. There’s a huge ego thing that has to be overcome. If you believe that you’re an executive and you won’t take anything less, or you think that a job is much easier, you end up burning yourself. The first thing you have to do is learn and acknowledge where you are. What is your real skill set? And it’s shocking. I thought I was a great salesperson. I failed at four consecutive sales jobs. So I tried construction, and I got fired from that after five months. For a while I just considered myself a victim, I couldn’t get a fair shot. But then you have to realize that you have to learn. I needed to figure out how to make a living. The faster you can come to reality with what your actual skills are, the better.

— Michael Laws


Sunny Pereira

David Miscavige, in his rant about COVID-19, mentioned an LRH policy “that ill persons are isolated.” I took notice he never mentioned any care for them. How are ill or sick Sea Org members treated, and what care is given to them? Is there sick time in the Sea Org? If not, how is that legal?

There is no sick time in the Sea Org. Its members are expected to work to the maximum amount of ability (and then some). If a person does become ill, they are sent to the medical liaison officer, who decides if the person is too ill to work. Determining if a person is too ill to work is based on Hubbard bulletins and advises. For the most part, most Sea Org members are expected to work if a “breath on a mirror” test shows they are still breathing. In the case of fever, yes, they are normally sent to isolation. But isolation is a room where sick people are piled in. They stay until given permission from the medical liaison officer to leave. Often, isolation can have a mix of different illnesses, only separated by gender. People in isolation are expected to help each other, no matter how ill they are. So your strep person and flu person, high fevers and all, trade off touch assists on each other all day. There are no safety measures for the MLO (medical liaison officer). They are expected not to get sick because they are not PTS. It’ll be a grand shitshow if someone gets infected with coronavirus. Imagine if a health official demands to come on property That’s going to drive them insane dealing with government officials.

— Sunny Pereira

The 1998 episode of The Simpsons about a cult called the ‘Movementarians’ (titled ‘The Joy of Sect’) is obviously a parody of Scientology, complete with a trillion-year contract and orientation film. What astonishes me is that Nancy Cartwright voiced Bart as always, and her dialogue even referred to brainwashing and cults. How could Cartwright not realize what the episode was mocking?

In 1998 scientology had cachet in Hollywood and the Simpsons was getting great ratings. No way Nancy was going to walk away from six figures per episode. I did know her to some degree at that time and I was in the president’s office quite a bit. I always felt she had no real confront for anything that might be controversial. She was treated like royalty and didn’t want to change that. And Scientology was vigilant for misbehavior at that time. I got lambasted for promoting Steve Martin’s film ‘Bowfinger’ (which also parodied Scientology) because I had a song in the movie. They tried to put pressure on Steve to change his script. And Tommy Davis put pressure on me to stop sending out promotion on the film. What an asshole. As for Nancy, animation takes quite a while to complete. So she may have walked into the studio, read her lines and walked out without a finished copy of the script or an understanding of the complete story. And if she had refused to do her part she would have been fired. I know David Mirkin, the executive producer of the show, and he would have been furious. So I think she did not want to make waves. And the president’s office most likely decided to not make any noise about it. Most Scientologists did not even know the show aired. If they did it would have been “entheta” to talk about it. It would have been really terrible PR for the organization. So Nancy walked away unscathed. And I’m guessing if she did get any flack from OSA, she made up for it with some mighty big donations.

— Geoff Levin

When a Scientologist sheds themselves of Body Thetans, where do they go?

In the OT 3 materials, if I recall correctly, Hubbard said that a freed body thetan goes and picks up a body or goes to ‘admire daisies.’ Hubbard also said that when a body thetan gets audited during the OT 3 procedure, they might become Clear. This occurs, as covered in other writings, when the being realizes that he or she or it is creating their own reactive mind. The OT 3 writings were mainly from the late 60s. Later, when the NOTs material came out, more was said about body thetans going Clear. This was mostly in the late 70s and early 80s. There was a particular paragraph in one of those technical bulletins that talked about the sociological impact from releasing a torrent of cleared beings into the world. This meant that these freed BTs would go and get bodies, and then grow up in society as Clears, which means that they would be sane and healthy and better and all that. On OT 3, according to Hubbard, one should find hundreds of BTs. But on NOTs that number is way bigger, though I don’t remember a specific number being given. Certainly in the tens of thousands in most cases. And that estimate is on the low end, because often BTs are grouped together into “clusters,” which can blow all at once freeing some unknown number of individual BTs. Plus, one can encounter a large, but indeterminate, number of BTs and clusters blowing in one session in a kind of chain reaction. For many years, there has been a campaign within the Scientology organization to get 10,000 people onto and through Solo NOTs (New OT 7). That goal still has not been achieved, even though Solo NOTs first came out almost 40 years ago. The idea is that this would create enough freed beings who would then permeate society in their new bodies to make a significant impact on the world. I don’t know how that number was calculated or who (Hubbard or Miscavige or someone else) came up with it. It would mean, though, that we would then have enough free theta in the world to unenturbulate all the entheta. And we would have a cleared planet, or at least one that would be much easier to clear. I knew a woman who believed that she had been a body thetan on Hubbard before she took on her current body in this lifetime. (To think that I once bought into all that…)

— Bruce Hines

Do Scientologists only socialize with other Scientologists? Do any of them actually have ‘wog’ friends? Or do they only befriend wogs with the intention of trying to recruit them?

Six months before getting declared, Timothy and I hosted a Christmas party at our home in Clearwater. At least a hundred people showed. All Scientologists. On average we hosted three or four parties or gatherings a year. Everyone was a Scientologist. I knew people through my work (tradespeople on jobsites) who were not cult members, and I’d sometimes invite them. But only a few ever showed up. None came a second time. I have to assume it’s because they felt uncomfortable, most likely because the main topic of conversation at these events was Scientology. “Where are you on the Bridge?” was a popular phrase right after asking someone’s name. Lots of foul language floated about and no subject was taboo. I get why a stranger might feel uncomfortable. Especially later in the evening when the “amazing Ron” stories came out. Like how he could fly around the sun, walk through walls, or make a chandelier appear out of nowhere! If the non member wasn’t solicited to at the party itself, then I’d be tasked by an OT to get that new person in to the local mission to do a course! Crazy. And don’t even get me started on my events venue and the whackos coming over from Flag eager to tell me what I should be doing with my place, the Sage Events Venue on Fort Harrison.

— Sylvia DeWall


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