Scientology's insistence that Tory Christman give up her epilepsy medication almost killed her, she says.
Tory “Magoo” Christman has first-hand experience of Scientology's off-hand attitude to epilepsy: it almost killed her.
Soon after joining the movement in 1969 Christman – better known online as Tory Magoo – signed the billion-year contract to join its elite cadre the Sea Organization.1 The Sea Org is made up of Scientology's most dedicated – and most ruthlessly exploited – members.
At the time however, as she put it one 2001 Internet post, she felt she had finally found her place in life: she was convinced she was working to save the planet.2
A few months into her time there, she had to re-order the medication she needed to control her epilepsy. They sent her to the Medical Liaison Officer: the MLO.
“We are the top 10 percent of the planet we don't do medication...,” he told her.3
“This was a young man I was told was studying nutrition. He had no actual medical training that I knew of.
“He informed me that I needed to get off of my medication, and that he would write out a program to get off of it,” said Christman. That program largely involved taking large doses of vitamins combined with Dianetics auditing, the movement's version of talking therapy.
“In Scientology if you have any illness it is considered there is something wrong with you, not just physically, but that this is a very bad thing, caused by you being connected to someone who is suppressive to you.”4
Suppressives are enemies of Scientology – and Hubbard told his followers “... all illness in greater or lesser degree and all foul-ups stem directly and only from a PTS condition.”5
PTS stands for Potential Trouble Source. A PTS condition is when a Scientologist is in contact with someone the movement considers a Suppressive Person, an enemy of Scientology – such as a parent who thinks the movement is a cult.
So the message was that she did not need medication to handle her epilepsy: she just needed to get the suppressives out of her life.
Christman's mother was not a Scientologist – and when she found out her daughter was trying to get off her medication she urged her to reconsider.
“My Mother, bless her soul, kept insisting Dianetics WASN’T going to fix this, that these people were going to kill me and that I MUST get back on my medication,” she wrote in a 2007 post to her blog.6
There's your Suppressive right there, her handlers told her.
“Scientology showed me the Policy to 'prove' she was an SP, that the cause of epilepsy was my Mom....” she wrote.
Christman was told that she either had to handle her mother – keep her from becoming a problem – or disconnect, cut off all contact. All this was applied Scientology ethics, as per Hubbard's directives.7
Despite her mother's warnings, she went ahead with her withdrawal programme, as set out by her Scientology Medical Liaison Officer.
“I began having Grand Mal seizures at home in the morning, out on the street by myself, and in the Scientology organizations. This was living Hell for me,” she recalled.
“This went on for I think three months. I was losing my short-memory due to all of the seizures. I would wake up in the morning and try to dash into the refrigerator.
“Daily I would have a petit mal (small seizure), and come to with all of the vitamins spread out all over the kitchen floor.”8
During this time, her fellow Scientologists treated her like a leper, she recalled.
Epilepsy was 'her fault'
So far as they were concerned, it was her fault: she was creating the seizures, they told her.
All she had to do, they said, was get off her medication take the massive doses of vitamins and minerals they recommended and the Scientology auditing – and she would be fine.9
“As I got worse and worse, being found on the floor in their 'Churches' – out in the street unconscious … they continued to insist I needed to 'handle this' take responsibility for it.”
For Magoo, the implication was clear: that if she could not resolve the problem, then basically she was a degraded being – which in Scientology is barely a step up from a suppressive.10
“Finally one morning in the shower I knocked my front teeth out during a Grand Mal seizure,” she recalled.
But it was another incident that finally persuaded her mother to lay down the law.
“My Mom called me daily. I told her I was going out on a date that night. The next day she called and asked: 'How was your date?' I said: 'What date?'
“My Mom then said: 'Ok THAT'S IT! Either you are back on your medication TODAY and your Doctor calls me TODAY saying you are back on your medication, or I am going to fly from Chicago out to LA. And Trust me, L Ron Hubbard and Scientology will NEVER forget your Mother'.”11
That did the trick.
“I realized no matter what these people thought, I wasn't going to live if I kept doing this. At that point I decided to go back on my medication in full, no matter what.”12
As a result, she was routed out of the Sea Org.
Despite her experience – and despite having to fight to stop them landing her with a freeloader's bill for the free services she had supposedly received while in the Sea Org – she kept faith with Scientology.
Having written directly directly to Hubbard, she got a letter back that suggested she just needed to keep auditing to solve her problem.
That letter, which she believed at the time really had come from Hubbard, was what kept her in Scientology for the next 30 years, she said.
“THAT made me believe the 'OT' levels MUST eventually help me handle Epilepsy, (which they never did.),” she added.13
Christman admits to having been a bit bemused when she was declared Clear.
A Clear is supposed to be someone who operates at “total mental capacity” wrote Hubbard: a Clear has “complete recall of everything which has ever happened to him or anything he has ever studied.”14
A Clear is also meant to be free of psychosomatic illnesses – which according to Hubbard, covered epilepsy.15 So she found it strange that she could have qualified.
“From the all the seizures, I now had horrible memory, and of course still had Epilepsy...,” she wrote.
“It wasn't just my memory that made me feel NOT Clear. Hubbard originally said a 'Clear has no somatics, no pains, a Perfect IQ and a perfect memory.' So Epilepsy was the KEY reason I felt I could not be Clear.”16
It was only later, after she had left Scientology, that she came to realize that there was no such thing as a Clear.
Why OT 3 made sense
Her new status inside Scientology meant she was eligible to make a start on the much-vaunted – and extremely expensive – Operating Thetan or OT levels. These are the secret, upper levels of Scientology that many members believe confer special powers on initiates.
At the time, Christman thought she was getting something positive out of OT 3, the much-vaunted – and much-lampooned – document in which Hubbard reveals the real reason our spiritual path is blocked.
Briefly, Hubbard told his followers that millions of years ago an evil galactic overlord trapped the spirits – or thetans – of millions of people (in volcanos), and that this is the root cause of our problems today.
“One's body is a mass of individual thetans stuck to oneself or to the body,” wrote Hubbard – and you need to rid yourself of those thetans to reacquire the powers that we all once had but lost.17
Scientology's upper levels then, as several former members have pointed out, is nothing more than a form of exorcism of these Body Thetans.
Christman acknowledges in her 2001 declaration: “To the average person this may seem like a huge leap, but in Scientology you are sort of taught or brought along early on to make these leaps.”
Hubbard's claim that he had very nearly died while researching the secrets of OT III had a special resonance for her: she knew what that felt like.
“...[F]or me a Grand Mal seizure felt like I had died. When I would return, I would have absolutely no memory of anything, and I had often wondered if I had sort of died, and then returned.
“Now I am reading the OT 3 info, and Hubbard mentioned while getting close to these incidents, HE NEARLY DIED!!”
For Magoo, everything suddenly seemed to fit.
“I realized why I had this horrible thing called Epilepsy! It wasn't just some physical condition as the doctors had tried to tell me early on. It was due to these things called Body Thetans...
“This was an amazing revelation for me and excited me greatly.
“If you have ever seen a Grand Mal Seizure you are familiar with their overwhelming power and uncontrollability.
“The force was amazing to me and I used to wonder all the time, what could POSSIBLY have caused all of this? Suddenly I had what I thought was the true answer!”
“So even though OT 3 is completely weird and a space opera story... I was so ready for ANYTHING, that this filled the bill. If it nearly killed Hubbard, the master of all everything, why not give me Epilepsy?”
For some Scientologists, the space opera cosmology is the beginning of the end of their belief in Scientology; but for Christman, because of her personal medical history, OT 3 made perfect sense – at least, at the time it did.
But her hopes that it would cure her of her fits were quickly dashed.
“After attesting to OT 3, I once again tried to get off of my medication, only to end up in a hospital with status epilepticus...” which is to say, multiple or extended seizures.
“You nearly died,” they told her at the hospital.18
Lucky to be alive
Despite this, her Scientology handlers still maintained they had the solution: “I was just told: 'You need OT 4 and OT 5 – that will handle it for sure'.”19
She went back on her medication and stayed on it – and she has never had a seizure since.
But she stayed on in Scientology for many years afterwards: she still believed that, somewhere down the line, Scientology could fix it.
“Scientology now has numerous signs all over their Churches stating Scientology does not cure people and IF you have a medical problem, to go see a Doctor.”
The movement's critics however argue that this is one of Hubbard's “acceptable truths” presented for legal purposes.20 The tech – Hubbard's writings – has not changed: and the tech says they can handle conditions such as epilepsy.
“[I]n truth they were still implying that all I needed was 'The next level' to finally 'handle' (their word for get rid of) Epilepsy.”
Christman spent years auditing on OT 7, the second-highest of the OT levels, in a vain bid to rid herself of epilepsy. But she never did find the body thetan that was harbouring her epilepsy.
Finally she realized it was a fraud.21
Finally she realized it was a fraud.21
“I have been free ever since. However I continue to speak out in hopes ANYONE with any physical problems stay miles and miles away from Scientology.”
She now realizes she was lucky to escape Scientology with her life: her increasingly severe seizures when she came off her medication could very well have killed her.
Not everyone has been as lucky, as she subsequently learned.
One incident, back in 1989, serves adespis a reminder of how her story might have ended had it not been for her mother's intervention.
In 1989, Christman tried to return to Clearwater, Florida for more auditing on the OT levels. But her entry was blocked and she had to fight hard to get that decision reversed.
It was only later she found what the problem had been: shortly before she tried to return, a Scientologist had died there – and he too, had been an epileptic.
That man was Heribert Pfaff, a German Scientologist, who died of an epileptic seizure on August 28, 1988.
His story deserves revisiting because of information that has emerged since the initial investigation of his death.
To see more of Tory Christman's story, visit her YouTube site here.
Articles in the Ignoring Epilepsy series:
1 “Magoo” is the name she used to call her father, Paul Christman, she explains. “He had small eyes and a great sense of humor – like the character Mr. Magoo, so I called him 'Magoo'.” She felt the spirit of her late father was encouraging her to leave Scientology at a time when she had no one to talk to about it, she added. “I use the 'Magoo' name online as a constant reminder of his courage.”
Her YouTube site, ToryMagoo44, is another tribute to her father: when he played as a quarterback for the Chicago Cardinals football, 44 was his number.
4 From the 2001 statement.
8 From her 2001 statement.
9 This from her 2007 blog post.
10 In one policy letter, Hubbard wrote: “A degraded being is not a suppressive as he can have case gain. But he is so PTS that he works for suppressives only.” From “Admin Know-how: Alter-Is and Degraded Beings”, HCOPL, March 22, 1967. Presumably in Tory Christman's case, this meant she had been taken in by her suppressive mother's warnings.
12 From her 2001 statement. It also helped that her mother handed her an ultimatum: either she got back on her medication or she would fly out to LA and make a lot of noise – including taking the story to the media. The final straw was when she told her mother one night she was going out on a date, then when her mother asked about it the following day, she had no recollection of it. Her latest fit and wiped her short-term memory clean. This anecdote is from her Youtube posting: “My Sea Org Story and their Medical Abuse”
13 Personal communication.
16 Personal communication.
19 Personal communication.
20 Hubbard once wrote: “Handling truth is a touchy business also... Tell an acceptable truth.” He put it even more bluntly in another internal document: “THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN CONTROL PEOPLE IS TO LIE TO THEM.” For the documented sources and more along the same lines, see Lying as a Religious Rite by Ted Mayett and Keshet.