Day 4 (June 2): Scientology's Purification Rundown – combining exercise, sauna sessions and massive doses of vitamins – is not just a religious ritual but can also cure radiation, one defendant told the court.
Before calling the next defendant, Judge Sophie-Hélène Château summarised the investigation to date into Scientology’s Purification Rundown.
The programme, devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, involves large doses of vitamins, periods of running and hours in the sauna.
Many of those who signed up for it had been directed by Scientologists at the centre to buy the vitamins required from G&G, which imported them from the Netherlands, said the judge.
Yet the same products could have been bought more cheaply at a Paris pharmacy.
Referring to court papers, Judge Château noted that during the investigation many of those questioned about G&G had been evasive about the links the business had with the Celebrity Centre in Paris.
Investigating magistrate Jean-Christophe Hullin had tried to find out more about G&G from the Dutch authorities, but having received no response to his inquiries had abandoned that line of investigation.1
Judge Château called defendant Aline Fabre to the stand. Fabre, dressed plainly, seemed tense and nervous. She spoke quickly when she answered the questions put to her.
Fabre’s work at the Celebrity Centre had included acting as the supervisor of the Purification Rundown. That was why she was on trial for illegal exercise of pharmacy.
When questioned by investigators, she had described the programme as a religious ritual comparable to fasting in other religions. And she had argued that under European Union law the vitamins and other products required were available on open sale as food supplements.
She had also denied any suggestion that the Purification Rundown was dangerous. In any case, she argued, a medical certificate was required before anyone started do the programme.
As for her personal experience of the programme, she credited the Purification Rundown with having cleared away a kind of “mental fog” that had prevented her from thinking clearly.
She had supervised hundreds of people through the programme who had emerged perfectly satisfied, she added: she had only known two complaints about it.
Fabre had stressed that her job was to ensure that Rundown participants followed the instructions set out in the book Clear Body, Clear Mind, by Hubbard.
But Judge Château recalled the problems that plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton had experienced during the Rundown, including stomach cramps and perpetual fatigue.
She mentioned too, Malton’s reservations concerning the rather home-made packaging in which the G&G products had come and their unpleasant smell, which had made her reluctant to take them.
Did the medical check-up for participants include tests to see if they had any vitamin deficiencies, Judge Château asked Fabre?
“Before taking the programme, each person has to read the details of the programme, including the doses,” said Fabre.
Participants also had to ensure that they had eaten and slept well before starting the programme, she added.
And of the doctor's visit, she said: “The person goes to see him and explains what he is going to do. The doctor must determine if there could be contra-indications.”
'Nobody ever spoke of hallucinations'
When Judge Château asked about any training Fabre might have had to carry out her duties, Fabre said that she had read Clear Body, Clear Mind. (She had also been trained in animal biology, she added – but that had nothing to do with this work.)
Were the doses taken during the Rundown the same for everyone, asked Judge Château?
She did not decide the doses to be handed out, said Fabre: it was all in the table in Hubbard’s book: “You follow the table.”
But what happened when people reported feeling uncomfortable, the judge asked?
“If someone has a cramp because they didn’t eat enough then obviously you will correct that,” said Fabre.
“Nobody ever spoke of hallucinations.”
Judge Château went over the issue of the medical clearance.
Scientologists provided participants with a questionnaire, a list of possible conditions, to take to their doctor. The doctor was then expected to tick off any relevant conditions such as diabetes or liver problems.
“I am a bit surprised,” the judge confessed. How was the doctor supposed to know about the large doses of vitamins involved?
The person could show the doctor the doses as set out in the table in Hubbard’s book, said Fabre.
“But what is there in the certificate to show that the doctor knows about it?” asked the judge.
“I think the doctor had already seen several people who had done the programme,” said Fabre.
And what happened if the doctor said the patient had a vitamin deficiency, asked Judge Château? Did you change the dose?
“No,” said Fabre. “It is not me who decides the dose.”
“Could it not be dangerous to give these vitamins at a fixed level, as you yourself said, and without any knowledge of pharmacology?” asked the judge.
That was for the doctor to decide, said Fabre.
Judge Château mentioned the experience of Eric Aubry. (Aubry was one of the plaintiffs who had settled with Scientology and withdrawn his complaint before the case came to trial. But his testimony remained on file.)
During the initial investigation, Aubry had described how he had become delirious and experienced hallucinations during the Rundown.
What concerned the judge was that the instructions in Hubbard’s book appeared to be that participants should keep going to the end of the programme.
Had Fabre ever had to deal with these kinds of hallucinatory states in participants?
“I have never known that,” said Fabre. “M. Aubry never spoke of hallucinations. Nobody ever spoke of hallucinations. But if anyone ever had a problem with that, I would advise them to go and see a doctor.”
And what about the difficulties that Aude-Claire Malton had experienced: the stomach cramps, the flushing, the extreme fatique, asked the judge?
“I remember Mme Malton as being very happy,” said Fabre. “She stopped when she felt liberated. I remember that she was very happy, she felt very light.”
Fabre stressed that the five hours daily in the sauna was a maximum figure. And in any case, she said: “They don’t stay there all the time.” Participants were free to leave the sauna for breaks of up to 30 minutes and to take drinks to re-hydrate themselves.
Of her personal experience of the programme, she said: “I felt a great sense of liberation.”
But the judge persisted. Aude-Claire Malton had spoken of feeling completely washed out: “Are there not risks of negative effects if you persist?”
“This fatigue I never observed at the time,” said Fabre. “It is not at all what Mme Malton and M. Aubry talked about at the time. They talked about an immense energy at the end – which is in fact what people feel.”
A cure for radiation
For the plaintiffs, Maître Olivier Morice wanted to know why Fabre had sent Aude-Claire Malton to Marie-Anne Pasturel, the French intermediary for G&G – and another of the plaintiffs.
She had done so simply because that was to whom she had gone when she herself bought the ingredients for her Rundown, said Fabre. “So I just got out my address book.”
And if all the instructions were all in Hubbard’s book, what was her role during the Rundown, asked Morice?
To maintain the premises and to provide drinks when requested, said Fabre. “Sometimes people have things to communicate… because it is a spiritual programme,” she added.
Morice, exasperated, noted that every time the defendants were asked about the vitamins they started talking about spirituality.
Maud Morel-Coujard, one of the two prosecutors, asked Fabre about Aude-Claire Malton’s account of the Rundown. Malton had described how participants were handed their doses of red, blue and yellow pills by the supervisor.
No, said Fabre. “They prepare the doses themselves.” She just made sure that they had everything they needed, that they took breaks from the sauna when they needed to and kept drinking so they did not dehydrate.
Malton had also spoken about how, during her experience of the Rundown, there were at times as many as six people in the sauna.
“It didn’t go well because the atmosphere was not good,” Malton had said.
Fabre disagreed. “For me, there is a very good atmosphere,” she said. While there might sometimes be the odd dispute, that was very rare, she added.
Morel-Coujard also asked her about reports that children had done the Rundown.
“It is very rare that a child does it,” said Fabre. But if a child wanted to do the Rundown and the parents agreed, then they could.
And was that indicated in the book, asked Morel-Coujard? No, said Fabre.
Had people ever come back from their doctor saying they had been refused clearance to do the programme or the programme had been criticised, asked Morel-Coujard? Yes, said Fabre.
“Contra-indications are very rare,” she added – though doctors did sometimes raise objections to the running part of the programme.
And what margin of manoeuvre was there on how many vitamins were taken?
“If a person has a problem with the dose of vitamins, they can be carried over to the next day,” said Fabre.
The prosecutor pressed her on how much discretion she had as supervisor, how much of an active role she played during the programme.
“If someone has a problem, I will look at the book with them,” she replied.
“You never interpret?” asked Morel-Coujard. No, said Fabre: that was forbidden.
And did Hubbard deal with the different tolerances that people might have to vitamins, asked the prosecutor?
“The doctors determine that,” said Fabre. “If ever there is a problem the person goes back to the doctor. It is not me who changes anything at all.”
Morel-Coujard asked Fabre about claims that Hubbard had made that the Rundown could eliminate radiation from the body.2
Yes, said Fabre. “It can also eliminate radiation from the body.”
She said she had seen signs of toxins coming out of the body, when the marks of somebody’s swimming costume had appeared on their body during the sweating process in the sauna.
For the defence, Maître François Jacquot reminded the court that Fabre was being questioned about what was a religious rite, but that in any case, the Rundown did require a medical certificate.
And while some of the programme’s participants had ordered the necessary products from G&G others, at least eight people interviewed during the investigation, had got their products elsewhere.
Questioned by Jacquot, Fabre confirmed that she had been supervising the programme for 15 years; that she had done it herself and had experienced its benefits.
She only wanted other people to share those benefits, said Fabre. “I really want people to experience this… to have the stable state I have had since I did it.”
People had real breakthroughs during the Rundown, she said: they became aware of things they had not previously understood.
She described the sauna itself as being about 11 or 12 square metres (130 square feet), with different levels to sit, depending on how much heat you could take.
Earlier, Morice had asked if his client Aude-Claire Malton could be allowed to speak again and now Judge Château recalled her to the stand.
Morice asked her about the table that Fabre had mentioned listing the vitamin doses to take.
“I don’t remember a table for taking these vitamins,” said Malton.
Judge Château asked her about what literature she had consulted for the Rundown.
“The book I had was an illustrated book showing how the Purification Rundown went, but I don’t remember a book with a table,” Malton replied.
“Mme Fabre gave you the vitamins – and I don’t remember taking a book to the doctor,” she added.
So how could they make a proper assessment, the judge wondered?
At this point it emerged that although candidates for the Rundown were free to go to their own doctor, there was a doctor to whom many were sent who was perfectly familiar with the programme.
Fabre returned to the stand and Maître Olivier Saumon, the lawyer for the National Council for the Order of Pharmacists, asked her if the medical tests for candidates involved blood or urine tests. No, said Malton: they did not.
Now Judge Château called Marie-Anne Pasturel, another of the defendants, to the stand. Pasturel, a well-groomed woman in her mid-to-late 40s, seemed a little bemused at her presence in court.
“I don’t really see what I’m doing here,” she said. G&G had proposed that she act as their intermediary and she had agreed. People would phone her or leave a message on her answering machine and she would pass on the orders.
“It was a part-time job,” she explained, a supplement to her regular job selling advertising. All she earned from it was between 500 and 2,000 francs (75-300 euros) a month.
Pasturel confirmed that she had done the Purification Rundown herself and that she knew Fabre.
Did she have any training concerning vitamins, asked the judge? No, said Pasturel.
“Nobody ever asked questions,” she said. “People just placed orders.”
“So you thought you could sell vitamins like you could sell potatoes?” asked Judge Château.
“I just passed on the orders,” Pasturel replied. And you never asked any questions, asked the judge? No, she said.
Judge Château, referring to the case files, noted that some of the advertising for G&G said they could cure illness, that they constituted an “effective treatment”.
That was legal in the Netherlands, said Pasturel.
“But we are in France,” said the judge. “In the Netherlands, you can buy hashish in the coffee shops. You should bear that in mind.”
Pasturel replied that she had had no idea at the time that what she had been doing might be illegal.
Maître Saumon, for the Order of Pharmacists, asked her if she had not checked with anybody about the situation in France, she asked?
She had put a few questions, said Pasturel. But she added: “For me, it was just a favour I was doing for friends.”
“But it was a paid service,” said Saumon.
Yes, said Pasturel, but she explained: “A lot of people didn’t want to phone to the Netherlands.”
Having a French phone number to call reassured them that there would not be any language problems, she said. “A lot of people think that they can’t speak French (in the Netherlands).”
Questioned further however, she said that she had been able to place the orders in French.
Questioned by Maître Morice, she confirmed that she had stopped the work in 1999 because she had thought it might be a problem.
“French law seemed confused and I didn’t want to take the risk,” she said.
Following up on this point, prosecutor Nicolas Baïetto asked Pasturel why, after having acted for G&G between 1993 and 1999, she had suddenly changed her mind.
“What happened to make you make you realise there might be a problem?” he asked.
“Nothing in particular,” said Pasturel.
Potentially dangerous doses
Later in the trial, at the start of the fifth day, Dr Véronique Brion, a specialist in clinical pharmacology, appeared as a witness for the two plaintiffs, Aude-Claire Malton and Nelly Reziga.
She had been asked to examine the vitamins that Malton had been given for the Purification Rundown. Her view was that the doses were far too high to be described as food supplements.
Taken at high doses, she said, Vitamin A could be toxic. She also thought the doses of calcium taken together with the vitamins were potentially dangerous.
She could not see how taking vitamins at the levels required by the Rundown could be justified – especially given that the one’s daily vitamin needs could be obtained from a normal diet.
Aude-Claire Malton had reported problems during her 13 days on the Purification Rundown, a programme combining running, high doses of vitamins and hours in a sauna.
Malton’s account of stomach cramps, a skin rash and sleeping difficulties leading to constant fatigue seemed perfectly coherent with what she had been through on the programme, said Dr Brion.
Maître Olivier Saumon, asked her opinion of an account of a purification programme set up for New York fire fighters in following the 9/11 attacks, identical to the one used in Scientology.
The defence had supplied dramatic details of fire fighters’ experiences on the programme, which was devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Their sweat had turned black, blue, violet and yellow, said Saumon. One account had spoken of particles of sand emerging from a subject’s eyes.
Saumon, representing the National Council for the Order of Pharmacists, plaintiffs in the case, was clearly not looking for an enthusiastic endorsement.
What did Dr Brion make of such accounts, he asked?
Dr Brion looked uncomfortable. As a scientist, it was difficult for her to judge or analyse a phenomenon that she could not check, she said. She had never heard of the phenomena as described.
But then it was true that vitamins could change the colour of one’s urine, so perhaps the accounts were not so astonishing, she added.
Next in the series: “A Man of the Church”
1 From subsequent testimony, it emerged G&G is an English company, based at East Grinstead, the nearest town to Scientology’s Saint Hill base. It was set up by veteran Scientologists David and Sheila Gaiman. (http://www.gandginfo.com/en/)
2 If the prosecutor cited a reference here, I missed it. But Hubbard made these claims in a 1957 book All About Radiation. He provided a formula for a vitamin mix called Dianazene, of which he said:
Dianazene runs out radiation – or what appears to be radiation. It also proofs a person up against radiation in some degree. I have seen it run out skin cancer. A man who didn’t have much liability to skin cancer (only had a few moles) took Dianazene. His whole jaw turned into a raw mass of cancer. He kept on taking Dianazene and it disappeared after a while. I was looking at a case of cancer that might have happened.
There is another instance of somebody who had a little bit of colitis which worried him slightly from time to time. After taking Dianazene he started to bleed from the intestines. He kept on taking this formula and came out without colitis. He may have been facing an eventual colitis of a fatal nature — hemorrhages. The whole point in taking Dianazene is to keep taking it until bad effects vanish.
All About Radiation, pp. 123-124
It was on the strength of such claims that the US Food and Drugs Administration raided Scientology premises and confiscated 21,000 Dianazene tablets (see Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky, Part Three, Chapter Five, “The Religion Angle”).
As more than one commentator has pointed out, you cannot “run” radiation out of the border, nor cure cancer with vitamins. But not only is the science wrong, the above passage shows another disturbing tendency. He insists on pushing on with the treatment, despite whatever symptoms appear. He had a term for this, in the context of auditing, Scientology's version of therapy: “The way out is the way through.” For the Purification Rundown, a programme run by people with no medical qualifications, this is clearly a recipe for disaster.