There are moments in life, coincidences, which have the potential to utterly change the direction and meaning of your existence. Of these I have had several; they have all marked me in various ways, but none more so than that fateful late afternoon in Stuttgart, Germany, when an attractive and rather aggressive young woman blocked my path and accosted me with the interrogative; “Do you have a good memory”?
To the informed, Scientology evokes a visceral revulsion, and with good reason. Cruise, the empty headed fanatic, stirring up collective nausea on national TV, personifies the true core value of Scientology to the man in the street. Lisa McPherson’s emaciated corpse, the true facts of her agonizing demise hidden under a cloud of Church generated obfuscation. ‘The exhibition of death’, a C-grade horror movie set, toured around the world by the Church in a vain attempt to obliterate two hundred years worth of neuropsychiatric and psychological research and insight.
To the yellow coated Scientology Volunteer Ministers, guaranteed to appear at the site of any national disaster, like the proverbial vulture, in a hopeless endeavor to pass off recruitment and the conceited effort to gain positive media response as ‘help’; in actuality, they tend to get in the way of qualified professional rescue and emergency personnel, while wasting valuable resources that could otherwise be passed onto the victims of disaster.
A thread that runs right through all of Hubbard’s lectures and writings from the early years of the cult to his last incoherent broadcast in 1979 is that of impending doom. He paints a bleak picture of our everyday lives. Our minds are subject to our barely contained, violently irrational subconscious, and the civil cohesion we see around us is a mere shallow pretense. Hubbard gives us to believe that our social order is run by a small clique of Machiavellian, fascistic bankers, politicos and media moguls plotting to subvert our liberty and freedom.
One could be forgiven for objectively viewing his world view as an expression of severe paranoia. It would be laughable except for the fact that all cult members were gradually inculcated into this exact outlook; we viewed the world around us with mistrust and apprehension.
This deeply flawed individual failed at everything he attempted to put his hand to. His only modicum of success was his much touted brilliance as a science fiction writer. The reality was that he wrote rather garish and poorly constructed short stories for about eight years during the nineteen thirties for a cheap throwaway medium, the pulp fiction magazine. He also wrote pornographic texts; this was an aspect of his literary career his church publicity officers kept under wraps.
Hubbard signed up for the Navy in 1940. Here he found himself in vast organization, a complex bureaucracy that he could play to suit his own ends. He never saw action, most of his war being spent in training institutions, hospitals and on leave. The brief period where he was actually allowed command of a small submarine chaser ended in disaster when he ordered his crew to fire live rounds at America’s ally, Mexico. He was relieved of command and put under close supervision as a navigator on a Liberty ship; he signed himself into hospital complaining of ulcers and conjunctivitis the day before the ship left for combat in the Pacific theatre.
World War II was over, the troops had come home.
He was enough of a pragmatist to realize that the story of Xenu and the fate of the banished aliens would not entice the masses to part with hard earned cash; he needed a hook, and thanks to Freud and a few party tricks, found one. He called it Dianetics and its brief popularity rode on the back of a wave of a renewed interest the mind, mysticism and self exploration.
Dianetics was concocted from a mixture of vicious mind-control techniques and scrambled versions of both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis. It was developed and expanded upon over the years, and eventually became part of an apparently vast body of ‘research’ that Hubbard called ‘The Tech’ (as in Technology) which he made available to his followers; for a price. Trained in this lethal ‘therapy’, these unqualified mental practitioners were brainwashed into believing they were the vanguard of a new civilization, one that would eventually overwhelm the institutions of state, learning and religion with Hubbard’s brand of social obedience, and thus avert the coming apocalypse. Driven by their leaders incessant haranguing, they formed what we know today as ‘The Church’ of Scientology.
Hubbard had been practically kicked out of Washington University’s School of Engineering, where he was a sporadic attendee between 1930 and 1932. As he developed the ‘philosophy’ of Scientology, he thought it would be helpful if he acquired a Ph.D, and he did, for about $250 US. I will cite a passage from Dr. Christopher Evan’s pithy volume on the religion, ‘The Cult of Unreason’ – The Cult of Reason: “As for Hubbard’s doctorate, it was awarded, one learns, from the magnificently styled `Sequoia University of California’ – an establishment which you will search for endlessly the standard list of American universities, but which used to be well known to quacks on the West Coast as a degree mill where `qualifications’ could be bought for suitable sums.
On 8 March 1966, possibly tiring of suffering on behalf of this valueless embarrassment, but with a typically flamboyant gesture, he took an advertisement in the personal column of The Times, `resigning’ his degree in the following words:
Having considered the Founder of Scientology’s scanty academic background, we now pass on to inspect other interesting claims which have helped to bolster his image as a man of wild and far-reaching talents. The claims are many and apart from the obvious, and quite unchallengeable, one that he is a writer, he is also often referred to as an explorer, a naval war hero, a philosopher, a master mariner and, most extraordinary of all, `one of the prime movers in the US effort of getting man into space’.
What of Lord Xenu and the 1939 manuscript?
This became part of the mysterious Scientology ‘holy of holies’, the secret knowledge that would only be revealed to the follower after years of extensive conditioning and parting with large sums of money. Hubbard built various myths around this ‘level’: One would attain superhuman abilities, read minds, operate as a conscious unit outside the confines of the body, become aware of ‘past lives’ and so on. It was a hook that Hubbard used, and indeed, the ‘Church’ today, uses to keep the sycophant paying money, donating time or, in the case of Hubbard’s military, their whole lives, to the cause.
It is ironic that my subversive mission provided the key to my waking up, seeing Scientology for what it is, and escaping.
I had been more or less cut off from the real world since 1986: Access to TV, Internet and other media has always been discouraged, but since 1990, Internet use for the Sea Organization member, with the exception of those in the intelligence and policing branch, has been strictly verboten.
It was a terrifying experience to walk out into the real world, with nothing to show for my slavish devotion to the cult. Twenty years of sixteen-hour days and seven-day weeks takes its toll. I had nothing to show for myself, just the clothes on my back, I was unknown to any social services and was in a country that was not my own, this and facing up to the lies and distortions that had been drummed into me over the years was difficult.
The Scientologist describes the world outside as ‘the wog world’; the unenlightened humanoid is a ‘wog’.
In my new life outside of that psychotic cult, I have found love, encouragement, compassion, real peace and a sense of contentment that I did not think possible while moving up Hubbard’s torturous ‘Road to total freedom.’
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