Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Cult by any other name...

Infinite Complacency presents a new essay from Jon Atack, author of A Piece of Blue Sky. (Happy fifth birthday, Project Chanology.)

A cult by any other name, or propaganda by redefinition of words

Philologists, who devote their lives to the study of words, tell us that there are both ‘purr’ and ‘snarl’ words.

The word ‘democracy’, for example, is a purr word, which has a raft of happy associations. The word ‘fascist’ is a snarl word, which makes hackles rise.

Scientologists are upset by the word ‘cult’, and would rather that we call their organization a ‘church’, so I am told. It is evident that the word ‘cult’ is a snarl word, while ‘church’ is a purr word.

Believers say that everything Hubbard wrote about Dianetics and Scientology is ‘scriptural’. That ‘scripture’ dictates that they must understand the true meanings of words, right down to their etymologies.

I would also add that it is a ‘scripture’ of Scientology that the teachings of Ron Hubbard are inviolable, and must be rigidly adhered to. Not a single word can be changed or removed, and not a single jot or tittle can be added (actually, the books have been majorly edited since Miscavige came to power, but that really isn’t my problem).

Any attempt to alter doctrine is treasonable within the ‘ethics’ codes of Scientology. And every word must be interpreted solely through its dictionary definition, otherwise the Scientologist will unwittingly be driven to commit crimes (‘overts’).

Hubbard well understood the power words have to woo or repulse. In his 1971 scripture, Propaganda by Redefinition of Words, he said:


Now, as Hubbard also said, ‘the criminal accuses others of things he himself is doing.’ And this is certainly true when it comes to the redefinition of words.

The two dictionaries of Scientology comprise about a thousand pages of mainly redefined words. Quite literally thousands of redefinitions.

Some of them slip past the ‘raw meat, dead-in-the-head wogs’ (some of the scriptural terms for we non-believers). For instance, the term reasonable – a positive purr word to the rest of humanity – is a snarl word to Scientologists.

Hubbard insisted that his followers should waste no time in listening to reason, but simply do as they were told. Given the chance, Hubbard would have burned John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty.

And there is no time to be reasonable when it comes to the Technology of Scientology. Believers are forbidden to even discuss it, which is considered ‘verbal tech.’ Once again, a ‘crime’ in the codes of Scientology.

So, Buddha’s insistence that his followers believe nothing without vigorous argument, to test its truthfulness, becomes ‘What’s true for Ron Hubbard, is true.’ And you cannot even discuss it, let alone question its accuracy or truthfulness.

In his scripture on deception by shifting meanings, Hubbard continued: ‘Given enough repetition of the redefinition, public opinion can be altered by altering the meaning of a word.’

And further, ‘The technique is good or bad depending on the ultimate objective of the propagandist.’ Hubbard goes on to recommend that ‘psychiatry’ be redefined to do just this (‘an anti-social enemy of the people,’ in his words – which to me sounds rather like Scientology).

When it came to compassion and those other elements basic to more pro-social religions, Hubbard showed neither interest nor expertise, but when it came to manipulation, he shone: ‘The redefinition of words is done by associating different emotions and symbols with the word than were intended.’

Now, let’s look at the word ‘church.’ I admit that I fell into this trap when writing A Piece of Blue Sky and politely spoke of the ‘Church’ throughout. The upper case is to show that I mean ‘the Church of Scientology.’ But I have to accept that readers may believe that I think of the cult as a church. I don’t, and I never did, not even when I was a member in the heady summers of my youth.2

There is another Scientology ‘scripture’ that tells us that the ‘misunderstood word’ is the single and sole cause of failures in study (there are of course other causes, which Hubbard peddles elsewhere, but contradiction is fundamental to his method). In keeping with this, take a look at the word ‘church’ in a dictionary.

You may be surprised to find that a church is generally a Christian organization. Hubbard was among the first to slip it from its moorings and sail it away from its etymology. Just think, ‘Synagogue of Scientology’ to see just how strange the transformation is.

There was one rather obvious precedent to Hubbard’s use of the word ‘church’, and that is Crowley’s adoption of the Rabelesian ‘Church of Thelema’.

Thelema is the will, in Crowleyite ‘magick’, and along with the Church, Crowley also borrowed Rabelais’s motto: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law; love is the law, love under will.

This is the thought expressed in Hubbard’s favourite book, William Bolitho’s Twelve Against the Gods. Along with the title ‘church’, Hubbard also borrowed the eight pointed cross.

He claimed to have seen it on an old Mission, down in Arizona, but he certainly saw it on the tarot pack designed for Crowley, and doubtless read about the cards in The Book of Thoth.

Stepping stones

Hubbard was rather chary of admitting anything to do with the spiritual. So, in Science of Survival, he blamed ‘past lives’ on others (he had the idea from Crowley, years before he introduced it to the following. Then, Hubbard was a past master at sock-puppetry – see the introductions to his books, for instance).

To see if there was an outcry, Hubbard insisted that Burton Farber had decided to incorporate the first church, in February 1954. Hubbard had actually secretly incorporated three churches, in Camden, New Jersey, in December 1953. The documents bear his signature.

The three new ventures were to be the Church of Scientology, the Church of Spiritual Engineering and the Church of American Science. These churches give us the clue to the use of the word ‘church’, because this last, the Church of American Science, was supposedly a Christian organization.

With his usual casual cynicism, Hubbard explained the purpose of this church, and the compilers of his Modern Management Defined foolishly repeated an idea that should have been kept very quiet. Luckily, amid the welter of words that poured from the Founder, almost no one took notice:

There is a difference between the Church of American Science and the Church of Scientology. The Church of American Science is a Christian religion. It believes in the Holy Bible, Jesus is [sic]the Savior of man and everything that's necessary to be a Christian religion. People who belong to that church are expected to be Christians. These two churches fit together. We take somebody in as a Church of American Science [sic]. It doesn't disagree with his baptism or other things like that, and he could gradually slide over into some sort of better, wider activity such as the Church of Scientology and a little more wisdom and come a little more close to optimum. Then if he was good and one of the people that we would like to have around he would eventually slide into the HASI. So we have provided stepping stones to Scn with these organizations. (tape 5410C04) [underlined emphases added]

So, this church is simply a ‘stepping stone’ to ‘something better’, something more ‘wise’ than Christianity.

If you want your redefinition to take root, you have only to use the basic three r’s of exploitative persuasion – repetition, repetition and repetition:

The way to redefine a word is to get the new definition repeated as often as possible. Thus it is necessary to redefine medicine, psychiatry and psychology downward and define Dianetics and Scientology upwards. This, so far as words are concerned, is the public-opinion battle for belief in your definitions, and not those of the opposition. A consistent, repeated effort is the key to any success with this technique of propaganda... (Propaganda by Redefinition of Words)

Turning to the word ‘cult’, the Oxford Dictionary has this to say: ‘a particular form of religious worship ... Devotion to a particular person or thing.’ Its root word means simply ‘worship’.

I accept that the word ‘cult’ has become a snarl word, because of its redefinition by the media, however, Hubbard insisted that his followers stick to the true meaning of words.

Luminaries of the counter-cult world have tried to keep this simple and effective word alive by accurately labelling some cults ‘destructive’ or ‘totalist’. Just as the word ‘church’ and the word ‘synagogue’ are useful in providing a fuller meaning, so the word ‘cult’ still has its usefulness, because it is lethally accurate.

Two highly educated gentlemen gave this definition of a totalist cult:

A group or movement exhibiting a great or excessive devotion or dedication to some person, idea, or thing and employing unethically manipulative techniques of persuasion and control (e.g., isolation from former friends and family, debilitation, use of special methods to heighten suggestibility and subservience, powerful group pressures, information management, suspension of individuality or critical judgment, promotion of dependency on the group and fear of leaving it, etc.), designed to advance the goals of the group's leaders to the actual or possible detriment of members, their families, or the community. (Professors Louis J West and Michael Langone, 1986).

So, even if we take the word in this expanded, pejorative sense, it still applies to Scientology.

The author of a recent book told me that because some people feel they’ve benefited from Scientology, we shouldn’t call it a ‘cult’. You could just as well say that there were many Nazis who felt they’d benefited from their membership in the party, so we shouldn’t call them ‘Nazis’ (a term never used by believers).

Scientology is an intensely destructive cult, which lays out in its inviolable scriptures a teaching of hatred and aggression to all who refuse to submit to its doctrines. And I can now admit that I’m not in the least bothered that members feel aggrieved at this accurate use of a word.

In short, if you have to call the cult something, but you feel bashful about calling a cult a cult, please don’t make the mistake of calling it a church. It is no more a church than any other fanatical organization bent upon harming disbelievers and preying on the unwary.

If cult is too much for you, try Gerry Armstrong’s ‘the Org’ or simply call it Scientology. Don’t help Hubbard implant the notion that this is a sociable, friendly, compassionate movement. History very clearly shows that it is not.

1    HCOPL 5 Oct 71 Propaganda by Redefinition of Words.
2   Atack has more to say on this in Saturday's dialogue with Tony Ortega at The Underground Bunker.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Hassan on 'A Piece of Blue Sky'

Among the new material in the revised edition of Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky is an introduction from Steven Hassan, an acknowledged expert on mind control issues. Infinite Complacency is pleased to be able to reprint his tribute to Atack and Blue Sky.

Must read! This book is the definitive, factual, all-inclusive exposé on the real L. Ron Hubbard and the true story behind Scientology. If you read one book on Scientology, make it this one.

Jon Atack has an extraordinary, razor-like mind and indefatigable memory. In my opinion, he is by far the greatest expert on L. Ron Hubbard, having digested every idea Hubbard ever had and everything written about Hubbard, as well as his countless interviews of former officials. He is my “go-to” man when I have a factual question concerning anything Scientology.

Jon is truly a rare human being. Yes, he was in Scientology nine years and was OT-5. Unlike most former members, he went on to research in such extraordinary depth and detail that he became the resource for governments around the world wanting to understand what Hubbard and Scientology were all about.

He was mercilessly harassed for sixteen years harming his personal life tremendously to the point that he “retired” from speaking publicly about Scientology, and spent the next sixteen years developing his exceptional talents as an artist, drummer and novelist.

In 2012, I visited Jon and we talked in great depth about all of the positive developments around Scientology, the flood of top officials and other long-term operatives writing books and exposés, and I urged him to consider coming out of retirement.

I was delighted to find that he had reconstructed the unexpurgated, never before published original Piece of Blue Sky. We sat down and did a video interview together in the hope that he might re-release A Piece of Blue Sky.

Scientology did everything within its power to stop the publication of A Piece of Blue Sky the first time, making it only the second book to be banned in the US.1 The manuscript was published without alteration, because it was factually accurate.

This new release includes 60 direct Hubbard quotations that are the essential heart of Scientology. These statements from Hubbard’s journals and letters, and his secret orders to his intelligence agency, the Guardian’s Office reveal Hubbard’s true intentions and his insane delusions.

Scientology is the quintessential destructive mind-control cult. It’s an authoritarian, pyramid-structured group that uses deception and mind control to make its followers dependent and obedient.

I define mind control as four overlapping components known as the BITE model which stands for control of behavior, information, thoughts and emotions. Hubbard was a master manipulator who employed all four components to reduce followers to an almost childlike devotion.

Hubbard was a stage hypnotist, and in my professional opinion, Hubbard’s “technology” is a series of hypnotic methods. Hubbard openly called his system “indoctrination”. Even though Scientologists are taught to believe that the technology de-hypnotizes people, the opposite is true. 

Critical faculties are dismantled, thought-stopping techniques taught, phobias installed. Indeed, the whole “study technology” is designed to install the Scientology belief system of Hubbard, the self-styled “commodore” of this paramilitary organization.

Since leaving the Moonies in 1976, I have worked with numerous people from hundreds of different cults. I can confidently say that Scientology ranks as one of the worst of the worst. I remember talking with Paulette Cooper who wrote the book, The Scandal of Scientology.

Fair Game

Paulette was harassed herself, falsely accused of a terrorist bomb plot and spied on by a scientologist “best friend”. She was indicted by a grand jury. Then the largest FBI raid in history revealed internal documents, vindicating Paulette completely and sending eleven senior Scientology officials, including Hubbard’s wife, to prison.2

I have frequently been subjected to Scientology harassment. For expressing my considered opinion of the group, I have become “fair game”, to use Hubbard’s expression. Under this doctrine, scientologists are encouraged to harass opponents.

I have been followed. I have been threatened. I have been sued. I have had complaints against my license filed by Scientology. They have gone through my trash. They have told neighbors that I am a criminal. They have picketed my office in Nazi uniforms inviting people to “Join Steve Hassan’s crusade against religions”.

In all of these decades, it is so heartening to read book after book and exposé after exposé of former officials who either ordered these dirty tricks or have performed them and who now wish to expose the organization.

Douglas Frantz wrote a two-part story in the New York Times about how Scientology hired private investigators to dig up dirt on IRS Commissioners and through back-door legal wranglings was able to end a 25-year fight with the IRS to gain tax exemption, which they have used ever since to claim that they are now a religion.3

Scientology even lobbied the U.S. Government to censure Germany for not recognizing it as a religion but labeling it as a dangerous “psycho-sect”. Scientologists cannot work in government organizations in Germany, because they have many times infiltrated governments for the purpose of spying.

There are many who leave the Church of Scientology who continue to believe in Hubbard and the “technology.” There is a whole independent Scientology movement with tens of thousands of former Scientologists who continue, in my opinion, to be detrimentally affected by their indoctrination.

Many believe they have benefited greatly, but I would strongly advise them to read this book and break the taboo on discussing Hubbard’s ideas. Because close scrutiny reveals fatal contradictions, the common denominator of dangerous cultic ideologies.

Be honest about any benefit you received, but understand Hubbard’s intentions. Jon Atack’s papers are very useful for this purpose. No one can continue to believe in Hubbard after reading Never Believe a Hypnotist!

The recent movie The Master, attempted to give insight into Hubbard during the early days. I thought it was way too kind, even with its portrayal of Hubbard as a grandiose, narcissistic sociopath.4 In A Piece of Blue Sky, Atack has captured the true essence of Scientology, using Hubbard’s real words.

Every good book about Scientology starts with this as its foundation. None have yet equaled this exacting examination of the history of scientology and its creator, because it leaves little to say.

This is the first objective history of the group, because Jon’s own previous membership never gets in the way of his objectivity. As I said at the beginning: a must read!

— Steven Hassan, January 2013

For more information on Steven Hassan and his latest book, Freedom of Mindsee his website.
1   For more on the battle to publish Blue Sky first time around, see my January entry, “Atack Unchained”.
2   For Paulette Cooper's own account of what happened, see “The Scandal behind 'The Scandal of Scientology'” at her website.
3   “Scientology's Puzzling Journey From Tax Rebel to Tax Exempt” by Douglas Frantz, New York Times, March 9, 1997.
4   See the film's official site for a selection of clips. Unless my memory is playing tricks on me, the excerpts featured there include scenes that didn't make it into the final film.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Growing up in the Sea Org

Hard labour, harsh discipline and scarely any time with her parents: the niece of Scientology's leader David Miscavige has just published a memoir on her childhood inside the movement.

When Jenna Miscavige Hill first broke cover in 2008, growing numbers of former members were beginning to talk about their experience inside the Sea Organization, Scientology's elite cadre.

For the most part however, they were talking in the chat rooms, on the message boards – and they were using pseudonyms. Even those of them who had spoken to journalists and academics were not yet ready to be identified: they feared the backlash from Scientology.

Hill's open letter, initially published on the Internet then picked up by the mainstream news media, helped change all that.

Jenna Miscavige Hill is the niece of Scientology's current leader David Miscavige. Her father, Ronald Miscavige, is the Chairman of the Board's older brother.

So when she spoke up, she was difficult to ignore.

In January 2008 Karin Pouw, Scientology's PR flak, had launched a withering attack on Andrew Morton's recently published biography book Tom Cruise: an Unauthorized Biography.1

At one point in her 15-page denunciation, she dismissed any suggestion that Scientology “encouraged” – as she put it – disconnection.

“This allegation is not only false,” Pouw insisted, “it is the opposite of what the Church believes and practices...”

Disconnection is the movement's policy obliging members to cut off all contact with anyone declared an enemy of the movement: friends, family – anyone.2

Pouw's blanket denial was too much for Hill. In her response, she pointed out she had personal experience of disconnection, for when her parents had quit the movement and she, at first, had stayed behind.

Not only that, she added:

I can name at least five friends off the top of my head whose family members are not allowed to speak to them without being themselves ousted from the Church and prevented from communicating with other members of their family and even their children still involved in the Church lest THEY too be ousted!...

This is a widespread practice and if you dare deny it I have a list of all of their names together – these people's families are crying every day because they can't speak to their children who did nothing but leave the Church of their own free will.3

Following Hill's broadside, the floodgates opened and other former Sea Org members started speaking out on the record.

I covered Hill's open letter at the time and soon afterwards she provided me with more details of her childhood inside Scientology. At the time, I did not have an outlet for that material (it was a year before the 2009 launch of this website).

Now however Infinite Complacency is happy to be able to run some extracts of her account – a beta version, if you like, of her new book, Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape.

Happy Valley

Hill wrote that while in her letter to Pouw she had focussed on the issue of disconnection, “...the real issue goes far beyond that.

“Even when I was not 'disconnected' my interaction with my family was blighted to say the least. From the age of five, I was only allowed to see my parents once a week,” she wrote.

Hill's parents were in the Sea Organization, Scientology's elite cadre.

As Sea Org members, they had signed a billion-year contract to serve the movement in this life and for countless generations thereafter. Nor was this in any way symbolic.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard taught that we all have immortal souls that travel from one “meat body” to the next. So once you were done with one life you would be expected to report for duty in the next.

And her parents were not the only ones to have signed up.

“I signed a billion-year contract when I was seven years old – and again when I was 12,” wrote Jenna.

“There was a Ranch about 20 miles away from the Scientology Headquarters in Hemet. This was known as 'Happy Valley' or later renamed as 'Castile Canyon Ranch School'.

“The property was many acres, it just had a couple of building when I first got there, no roads even, just a dirt road. The children of all of the members went there. It was a boarding school. We all lived there in adjoining dormitories.

“There were seven girls in my dorm and it was adjoined to another dormitory of seven girls by a communal sink and single shower. We shared these facilities. The children who were there ranged from age 5-18.

“We wore uniforms with red shirts and khaki pants. We were there all week and all weekend aside from the few hours on Sunday morning where we were allowed to spend time with our parents...”

Ethics and ice water

This was their daily schedule, wrote Jenna:

6:30 – Wake up time. Clean berthing, get dressed.

7:00 – Muster.

We would all stand in lines according to what unit we were in. Each unit had an in-charge whom we would call “sir”. They would take roll.

Taking roll consisted of someone at the front of the group going to each unit and saluting the unit in-charge and saying, "Unit ____ report!" to which the other child would salute back and say, "all present and accounted for sir" and then they would move on to the next line.

Bear in mind that some of the kids here were as young as five years old.

During the muster, wrote Jenna, they would have to stand at “attention”, unless it was “parade rest”.

Their uniforms would be inspected. Their dormitories would be inspected. And if you were late, if you failed an inspection, you would be hauled up in front of the group.

“Sometimes if you were late for the muster you would be dumped with a five-gallon bucket of ice water. You would also get a chit in your ethics folder – everyone had an ethics folder.”

An ethics folder in Scientology, is a little more than the gold-star/black-mark report card in a regular school.

In Scientology, your ethical standing inside the movement is crucial because there are severe penalties if you slip too low down the scale.

Another former Sea Org member John Peeler recalls that during his childhood inside Scientology, when he attended a Scientology-approved school, they had an ethics officer keeping them in line.

Not only that, the children themselves were enouraged to write Knowledge Reports denouncing any of their peers they thought had broken Scientology's rules.

“These are children being taught at a very young age to write knowledge reports on other students and keep a ‘watchful’ eye on others,” Peeler told Infinite Complacency. “Kids would even be heard saying, ‘Ohhhh, you’re going to Ethics!’.”4

And all of this was set out in Hubbard's writings, said Peeler.

Drill time

7:00 -7:30 – Drill time.

We would literally do military drills during this time, known as "close-order training", where we would stand in lines, march, salute and stand in different military positions, do "right face!", "left face", "march!", "company halt!".

There were also fire drills, for which everyone had an assigned duty: evacuate the buildings, operate the fire hoses, roll the hose back up again afterwards.

“We were required to do this within certain time limits, or we had to do it over and over again. Sometimes we were told to line up by age, height, shoes size, etc., and we were timed.”

7:30-8:30 - Post. Everyone had a different post. Mine consisted of making a list of every illness anyone had whether is was a cold or the flu. Then I was supposed to hand out vitamins to everyone.

8:30 - Breakfast. We ate in a mess hall and everyone had assigned seating and your table was called a mess.

Each mess has a mess president and a treasurer. Each week someone at the mess would be the steward, which means that you would show up early to set up the table and were responsible for making sure all the food was at the table.

8:30-8:45 - Clean up, we all had assigned cleaning stations for the dining hall. Some people were responsible for cleaning dishes - I was responsible for sweeping the floor in one of the halls. These cleaning stations frequently changed, but everyone had one.

If all of this sounds little more than Hogwarts without the spells, wait up.

Hard labour

8:45-9:00 - Another muster with roll. At this muster we were assigned labor projects in units.

9:00-12:45 - Projects. These projects consisted of such things as rock hauling from the creek in order to make rock walls, weeding large fields, planting ice plant, digging rows for large fields, irrigating large fields, raking the horse coral for the horse manure, etc.

“This is how the Ranch became a very beautiful place,” wrote Jenna.

“But we did all the work.

“From lacquering our own dressers and beds, to planting the gardens and trees, harvesting the crops, building the green houses, etc.

“About once a week these projects included going to the main Scientology headquarters and helping out in the crew galley or the bakery and at one point even helping in the manufacturing of the electropsychometers... [the devices Scientologists use during their auditing, or therapy sessions].

“Each project was assigned an in-charge and was written out in exact steps that had to be completed.

“We responded to the project in-charge as "sir" or "Mr….." even if it was a female and even if they were 9 years old.”

12:45-1:00 - Muster. We then met up in our lines in our units and took roll and everyone announced where they stood on their projects.

1:00-1:30 - Lunch.

1:30-1:45 - Dining room clean-up time.

1:45 - Class roll call. Our names were all called out here to which we were to respond “Aye Sir!” or else we would be screamed at. "Here Sir" was also acceptable.

Study Tech

“We had several adult teachers who were not certified teachers, they were just members of the Church who had been assigned to the Ranch...,” wrote Hill.

“We all had a curriculum that we had to complete before we would graduate and join the organization as members with our parents.”

But they used Hubbard's own system of learning: Study Technology, or Study Tech, which was geared more to Scientology's needs rather than those of the children.

“We had what were called 'checksheets': these are lists of materials to study and practical exercises we had to, in order to complete a certain grade, so to speak,” wrote Jenna.

“These were such checksheets as – 'How to make a bed course'; 'How to ride a bike course' (you had to pass a driving test with all hand signals before you were allowed to ride one); 'Shakespeare Course'; then of course Math, Geography and so on.

“There were no grades.”

And like any good Scientologist, they never went past a misunderstood word. For one of the golden rules in the Hubbard's system of learning, which he called Study Tech, is the following axiom.

The only reason a person gives up a study or becomes confused or unable to learn is because he or she has gone past a word that was not understood.5

And that applied just as much to the kids, Jenna recalled.

“After we read some material, we had to get a checkout which meant another child would ask us what the definitions of various words were in our textbook or material including small common words such as 'it', 'the', etc.

“If we so much as hesitated one second or about the meaning of the work, we had to look up the word, definition by definition – use it in several sentences to improve our understanding and then look up the derivation of the word.

“Then we would have to re-read the entire book or article again and receive another checkout.”

The trouble with this kind of mind-numbing rote learning is it is just that: mind-numbing.

Dave Touretzky and Chris Owen, veteran critics of Scientology, put it best in their critique of Hubbard's Study Technology.

Study Tech’s focus on misunderstood words is not just some arbitrary bit of educational dogma. It is an intentional and effective device for suppressing critical thought. In effect, it atomizes language, divorcing words from concepts.

The same words might appear in a Shakespearean sonnet or an L. Ron Hubbard bulletin but their collective meaning might be very different. The words themselves may be perfectly comprehensible but their meaning may not be. The context is stripped away, leaving the words to be studied in isolation.

But a student cannot ascertain context from isolated words, any more than she could ascertain the design of a house from individual bricks. The most outlandish concepts can thereby be presented in a way that compels word-by-word acceptance.6

A good example of this jumps off the page at the end of Chapter 1 of Going Clear, Lawrence Wright's new book on Scientology.

Wright explains Paul Haggis bewildered reaction when he finally got to study OT III: when he broke through the Wall of Fire to discover the space opera at the heart of Scientology.

After a few minutes, Haggis returned to the supervisor.

I don't understand,” Haggis said.

Do you know the words?”

I know the words, I just don't understand.”

Go back and read it again,” the supervisor suggested.

Haggis did so. In a moment, he returned. “Is this a metaphor?” he asked.

No,” the supervisor responded. “It is what it is. Do the actions that are required.”

Maybe it's an insanity test, Haggis thought – if you believe it, you're automatically kicked out...7

If only.

Clay models

As part of their education, Jenna and her fellow Sea Org children also employed another feature of Hubbard's Study Technology: the use of clay models.

“Someone would have to come over and guess what it was – and if they could not guess then we would do it again,” Jenna wrote.

Here again, Hubbard manages to reduce a common-sense idea to absurdity: Owen and Touretzky put their finger on the problem.

“In secular terminology we would call this 'making a model',” they write.

And while such activities are certainly beneficial at times, the authors of the Study Tech books [approved Scientology texts drawing on Hubbard's writings] seem to have no clue about when models are appropriate and when they’re not...

Whether religious or not, the use of a clay table is a clearly a simple-minded approach to understanding abstract concepts. Rather than promoting understanding, it seems much more likely that clay tables work – assuming that they work at all – as a visual memory aid...

That is fine if the only goal is the accurate recitation of rote-learned facts. This is, in fact, the only goal that Hubbard was interested in with his Scientology students.

But it is useless in developing the critical skills that are so necessary in the non-Scientology world, and that Hubbard was so conspicuously uninterested in encouraging.8

And on into the night...

If the morning's labours had not been enough to keep them in shape, the Sea Org kids also had physical education in the afternoon, Jenna recalled.

4:00-4:45 – PE, This was where somedays we played sports, but twice a week we were all required to run a mile and pass a physical fitness test by doing a certain amount of push-ups and pull ups, etc.

4:45-5:00 – Break. This is where we could go to the canteen and get food. But no sugar was allowed, so everything there was 100% sugar free, even the chewing gum. We would have to pay for the food out of our allowance which was $5 per week. But they also gave out oranges, etc for free.

5:00-6:00 – Class continues.

6:00-6:30 – Dinner.

6:30-6:45 – Clean up dining room.

6:45 – Class roll.

6:45-9:00- Scientology studies. Here we would take the communications course and other such courses that taught us about Scientology and how to do volunteer minister assists, etc., and we would practice these on stuffed animals, etc.

Jenna took care to underline this point: “We would study until 9:00 at night when we were under 12!”

9:00-9:30  Take showers, get ready for bed.

9:30  Lights out!

“This was every single day of the week, with the exception of Saturday and Sunday,” wrote Jenna.


So what did they do on their time off?

“On Saturday we had no class and instead in the morning we were required to, 'white glove' our rooms, which meant that we were to do such a thorough cleaning that we had to pass an inspection with one of the adults going over all surfaces with a white glove – literally.

“We had to pass this inspection by one of the teachers before we could have breakfast.”

In the afternoon, it was back doing hard labour instead of study (such as it was), wrote Jenna.

“Then in the evening instead of scientology studies we would have to white-glove all of the other buildings on the property such as the mess hall, the offices, the school house, the maintenance shed, etc.

“They would have to pass an inspection before we could go to sleep.”

The white-glove inspections were an echo of the early days of the Sea Org, when it was actually at sea under Hubbard's command. It also reflects what became Hubbard's increasing obsession with cleanliness.9

And then there was family time.

“On Sunday morning until noon we were allowed to see our parents,” wrote Jenna.

“During this time we were allowed to wear civilian clothes or 'civvies' as we called them. We had to change back into our uniforms at noon and the rest of that day continues as usual.

“We all had assigned jobs and assigned 'seniors' who were also children. We were required to keep exact specifics of our completed jobs as a statistic and mark it on a graph.

“We were also required to write down all transgressions and withholds which is basically any time we did something bad or similar to a sin in the Catholic religion.

“After writing them all down we would receive a meter check (on the electropsychometer) to make sure we weren't hiding anything and you would have to keep writing until you came up clean.

“This is from the age of 5 until I was 12,” she wrote.

“What happened after that is equally unbelievable.”

And doubtless that's all in the book.

Other voices

The sad thing about the details Jenna related here is that former members have been denouncing these practices – and worse – for years now.

In a March 22, 1994 affidavit, former Scientologist Stacy Brooks Young had this to say about what she had witnessed.

“Children are being kept at camps, away from their parents for weeks at a time. Parents who ask to see their children more than this are frowned upon; children are considered 'distractions' to production.”10

But nobody in authority was listening.

Former members who grew up in the movement such as John Peeler have had similar stories to tell about their youth inside the movement.

So too has Astra Woodcraft, who with Hill and Kendra Wiseman set up the Ex-Scientology Kids website.

In a statement there, she summed up what she and many other children had had to endure.

“My experience as a child growing up in the world of Scientology is not something that I would wish on anyone,” wrote Woodcraft.11

No child should be subject to sleep deprivation, grueling physical labor and intense psychological abuse. No child should be denied an education or denied contact with their family.

Unfortunately, all of these things were the norm for me and other kids who grow up in Scientology's military like organization called the Sea Organization.

I was forced to work 80+ hours a week. I was regularly yelled at and threatened. I was not allowed to make phone calls or leave the building without permission. I was not allowed to see my family.

I was married at 15 and ran away, pregnant with my daughter at the age of 19. Scientology officials chased me down and attempted to convince me to have an abortion.

My own family, as well as many others has been torn apart due to Scientology's practice of disconnection.

My daughter's father who remains in Scientology has never been a part of her life because of his beliefs. She... has grown up without a father because of Scientology.

My mother and grandmother have refused contact with me since I left the organization.12

Which brings us full circle back to disconnection, the practice that Scientology Pouw denied existed inside the movement.

Old souls in young bodies

Why would any parent accept this kind of life for their children?

Partly because of what Hubbard taught about the nature of children – and how to treat them.

Hubbard said that children should be treated like adults because they are old souls in young bodies. And one way he put this into practice was setting up children over adults.13

Hubbard's Messengers, teenage acolytes who ran his errands, were trained to deliver his orders – and other Scientologists were expected to behave as if Hubbard in person had commanded them.

But the flipside of letting children act like tyrants, was robbing them of their childhood.

To date, the authorities in the United States have taken no action to stop what, on the face of it, looks like the criminal neglect of children inside Scientology.

Jenna's book will at least make it that little bit harder to ignore.
2Note Pouw's use of the word “encourage”. In fact, Scientology forces its members to disconnect from anyone declared an enemy, or “suppressive person”, in the movement's parlance – if they disobey they face being declared suppressive themselves. For details, see my summary of this policy in Disconnection: an Introducion, elsewhere on this site. And for a particularly egregious example of disconnection, see “The Hendersons' Story”.
3I gave more details of this in a previous post announcing her book project, “And Jenna makes Three”, in which I showed how her open letter encouraged others to go on the record. (As it turned out, there were more than three books in the pipeline: as well as Lawrence Wright's book Going Clear and Tony Ortega's project, there was John Sweeney's book The Church of Fear, published last month; and the new edition of Jon Atack's A Piece of Blue Sky, due out any day now. And I know of at least one more book in the works).
4See “John Peeler's Story”, elsewhere on this site.
5This sentence is set out in italics for emphasis in most of the Scientology books I have. According to Dave Touretzky and Chris Owen, in their critique of Hubbard's system (see following note) it was originally printed in BLOCK CAPITALS on page 282 of Hubbard's How to Use a Dictionary.
6From Chris Owen and Professor Dave Touretzky's Scientology’s Study Technology: The Hidden Message in L. Ron Hubbard’s “Study Tech”. Owen had already distinguished himself with his dissection of Hubbard's false claims to war heroism (see his online study “Ron the War Hero”, which you can find at this invaluable resource page). Touretzky, a research professor in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, has a particularly low tolerance of Hubbard's pseudo-scientific charlatanism. His critiques of the Hubbard's Study Tech; the Narconon centres running Hubbard's dangerous addiction treatment system; and of the e-meter itself, an essential prop in Scientology auditing, repay careful reading.
7From Chapter One, The Convert, page 19 of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright. (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).
8From Scientology’s Study Technology: The Hidden Message in L. Ron Hubbard’s “Study Tech” by Chris Owen and Professor Dave Touretzky. Jenna added: “We also were "meter checked" on an electropsychometer once a day being asked if we went past any words we didn't understand in our materials.” But let's not get started on the problems of the e-meter or we'll be here all day.
9Here is how Scientology's Modern Management Technology Defined puts it: “White Glove Inspection, consists of putting on white gloves and running them over surfaces, ladders, bulkheads, shelves, etc. If the gloves get dirt the inspection is not passed...”
Tonja Burden served as one of Hubbard's personal servants, or Messengers, on board the Apollo in the early 1970s. In a January 25, 1980 affidavit, she explained what that meant in practice.
“Cabins had to meet white glove inspection. This meant a white glove or Q-tip was used to check corners and shelves of each cabin for dust. If the cabins were not cleaned to white-glove perfection, I had to run a lap around the boat before recleaning the room. A lap was equivalent to about one-fifth of a mile. My day would end about 12:00 midnight.”
10The fact that Stacy Brooks Young has gone back on some of her previous testimony is neither here nor there. The accounts given by Hill and several other former children of Sea Org members corroborate this account.
12Astra Woodcraft describes in more detail her experiences growing up inside Scientology in this January 2007 affidavit.
13One Scientology website puts it this way: “Children are thetans occupying small bodies, a crucial datum that provides the only perspective from which they can be understood.” From New Era Publication's page advertising Hubbard's Child Scientology. My thanks to Caroline Letkeman for drawing this to my attention.