by Lawrence Wright
Publisher: Knopf, 2013
A review by Jack Kettler
Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer price winning journalist gives L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology an extraordinarily fair hearing in this work, crediting him for being genuinely brilliant while at the same time riddled with self contradictions and shocking personal arrogance.
Wright exposes Hubbard for fabricating numerous false stories about himself which serve to give his followers an unrealistic view of who he really was. Hubbard had relentless energy, churning out countless pulp fiction adventure stories and many science fiction works such as “Battlefield Earth.”
In Wright’s book, we learn how Hubbard published his book Dianetics in 1950, which sets forth ideas and practices about the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body. Hubbard set up the Church of Scientology in Hollywood in 1954. Some of Hubbard’s more advanced Scientology levels reveal that his understanding of cosmology is definitely science fiction-esk.
Scientology has attracted numerous celebrities who gravitated to this new faith, which promises success, wealth and fame if committing to Scientology’s auditing process where one can obtain successive levels of moving up “The Bridge” to higher levels of going “Clear,” or freeing oneself from “the reactive mind,” (refers to that portion of the human mind that works on a totally stimulus-response basis, which is not under a person’s volitional control). These auditing courses can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
Once an individual has reached the “Clear” status, they claim to be more confident, cheerful, and successful in their career path and in personal relationships. Beyond the state of “Clear,” Scientologists move through several advanced auditing steps progressing to an Operating Thetan (OT) status. An OT is supposedly immortal and is in a state of special spiritual awareness in which one can control themselves, and the surrounding environment.
There is a strong network of professional celebrities in Scientology who help one another much like how members of the Masonic Lodge gives preferential business treatment and deals to its adherents. The celebrities for the most part have no idea how the full time rank and file members of Scientology live. Wright provides the reader with this important information.
Wright interviewed hundreds of members and ex members of Scientology and provides a truly tour de force analysis of this modern day anti-Christian religious phenomena. What is especially shocking, is how Scientology’s clergy (Sea Org) members are treated. The average prison inmate in California has a better diet than Sea Org members have when incarcerated under church discipline.
Many members of Sea Org, were brought into the religion as children or born within the church. Most, if not all of their friends and family are Scientologists. This makes it very difficult to leave the religion. If they leave, they run the risk of never talking to their friends or family again because of Scientology’s doctrine of “disconnection,” similar to shunning but worse.
David Miscavige, the current head of Scientology, has the traits of a narcissist and rules through terror and physical force. Former top leaders have given eye witness accounts of how Miscavige has choked by the neck and viciously hit members with his fists. Current Scientology leaders deny that Miscavige has ever hit anyone. The problem for Scientology is that Wright thoroughly documents these instances in his book with sufficient footnotes to make Scientology’s denials ring hollow.
For Scientology’s clergy who get in trouble with Miscavige, there are Stalinist like re-education camps. One one of them, Gold Base, is in Hemet, California. At Gold Base, there is a place called “the hole” comprised of two double-wide trailers hooked together where members who have transgressed the church are sent. No one is immune from being sent there for discipline, even on the slightest whim of Miscavige. Even Miscavige’s wife Shelly has not been seen in public since 2007 after she offended him. Her whereabouts are still unknown. If she is alive, she is defiantly not free. She was last seen in 2007 at her father’s funeral and accompanied and guarded by church security personnel.
Miscavige has personally attached himself to Hollywood Star, Tom Cruise. They have developed a close relationship and are considered very close friends. Miscavige was even best man at Cruise’s last wedding. Cruise’s relationship to Scientology has become rather significant. He is viewed as important spokesperson for the church. Cruise’s close relationship with Miscavige may very well make him culpable in the abuse of individuals in Scientology.
Mike Rinder, official spokesman for the church for twenty years and Marty Rathbun who was known as the fixer for the church’s most serious public relation disasters are two high profile defectors. Both Rinder and Rathbun have documented the physical abuse of church members at Gold Base. Rinder himself was even imprisoned there. Links to both of these ex-member’s web sites are provided in case the reader wants to contact them personally.
Wright has shown that Scientology is vulnerable due to famous defectors who come forward to tell of corruption and abuse within the church. One such person is Paul Haggis, a successful Hollywood screen writer, and a key figure interviewed in Wright’s book. Haggis was deeply offended when he learned the church used confidential confessions made in auditing sessions as blackmail against members thinking of leaving or questioning Scientology. This is what is known as a breach in confidentiality and is completely unethical. As a result of Haggis’ testimony, along with other ex-leaders, there seems to be some indication that Scientology may be beginning to crumble.
After reading this book, it is fair to say that Scientology is a rich, ruthlessly authoritarian and extremely vengeful religious cult, with similarities to the “Mafia.” Wright’s stature as an award winning journalist makes it more difficult for Scientology to attack him like they have to many others. This is truly an eye opening book and should be read widely.
End of review
Mr. Kettler is an ordained Presbyterian Elder and the owner of http://www.Undergroundnotes.com where his theological, philosophical and political articles can be read. He has worked in corporate America for over 30 years and is now realizing his dreams as a successful home business entrepreneur. Permission is hereby granted to reprint this article as long as my web site is retained in the biographical information.