Going Clear by Lawrence Wright tells you more than you'd ever thought you'd learn about the pseudo-science beliefs of Scientology and the enforcement of its secrets by its creepy hierarchy. Stranger than Science Fiction!
What a fascinating topic! There were 8 of us at our Lakeview Book Club Meeting in August to discuss Going Clear by Lawrence Wright. Most had read it all. Some read most parts or didn't quite finish. Two were new to our group. One of the new people came, because of the topic, while not having had the opportunity to read the book.
Lawrence Wright, an investigative reporter, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, screenwriter, staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, and fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. He is from Dallas, Texas and is a graduate of Tulane University and English in at the American University in Cairo in Egypt and received his MA in applied linguistics in 1969.
Going Clear was based on extensive research and over 200 interviews of current and former Scientologists. It covers the history of founder L. Ron Hubbard and David Miscovich, the current leader of Scientology. Wright gives an in depth report of the involvement of Toms Cruise and John Travolta in Scientology.
The pace of the writing was swift and intense like the muckraking books of Upton Sinclair. We thought there was a little repetition toward the end of the expose that distracted us just when the book should have finished with a symbol crash!
Most of us had only little knowledge of the inner workings of this group, based on articles we have read and acquaintances who dabbled briefly in it. The book was a disturbing revelation of the mish-mash of mythology, science fiction and megalomania upon which this world view was based.
We all agreed that Scientology is not a religion, but a very successful business, based on the emotional manipulation, fear, slave mentality, crazed dictatorship and legal maneuvering which finally got it classified as a religion by the government. It is a billion dollar in cash organization with frightening power over most of the people who have gotten deeply involved. It took over Clearwater, Florida and brings in $1.5 million a week.
Most of us thought that Scientology founder, L. R. Hubbard, was a charlatan, snake oil type salesman, who was emotionally very unstable and dangerous. His science fiction was less than stellar, yet prolific. He was a failed screen writer, who was living out one of his science fiction plots and moving the people around like chess pieces on a board. We thought he must have believed that there is "A Sucker Born Every Minute."
In addition to the inner core, which punishes members with isolation and depravation of food and basic comforts of life, there was outright criminal activity where files were stolen from the FBI.
The group lionizes celebrities and milks them for the branding of the group. Tom Cruise has been treated like a biblical visiting potentate, complete with the hosts providing him with a woman/women for his use and possible marriage. John Travolta has been blackmailed with exposure over his sexual orientation. Recently the group has lost some celebrities.
We compared L. Ron Hubbard to Jim Jones, in his ability to get people to believe his strange philosophies and manipulate government powers. For some, his beliefs were mesmerizing and his personality charismatic. We agreed that many religions are based on strange beliefs and started by charismatic people.
There are some elements in Scientology that have worked for some people. The process of getting rid of past hurts has given people some confidence. Some have been able to rid themselves of drug and alcohol addiction, but there is a price, a very substantial one. As people are trained in the processes, they confess to transgressions. A record is made of everything said and then used against the person, should he or she try to leave. People who wish to leave are billed bankrupting amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to achieve their freedom.
Some people who have wished to leave have had to actually escape from a prison environment and are currently living in hiding and in fear. There was one case where medical care was denied to a woman, who died as a result.
Some people really do not know how to leave. The life is all they know. One common denominator for many of the members is a previous broken life with no real attachments. Many are really smart, but uneducated and are easily sucked in by the pseudo-science and comparative religion studies the group does. The group has given them a sense of belonging even if the conditions become unbearable. An analogy might be the dilemma of the abused housewife who never leaves, i.e. where would she go? She has no friends in the outside world and the evil batterer will come find her and do worse. Many have no skills, because they have spent their entire lives in the organization.
Speaking of violence, Miscovich, whose parents were Scientologists, was groomed to take over from Hubbard. Miscovich has been noted for his violence, as was Hubbard, beating their wives. Requiring abortions has been another destructive element in the group's practice.
We discussed that power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts completely. Hubbard and Miscovich have had ultimate power and used it! Hubbard was able to insulate himself from all legal liability. Others would take the fall, if action was made against Scientology. Though Hubbard is deceased, there is a special home for his return from the other dimension where is resides in outer space. There is speculation that Hubbard committed suicide. One of his last statements was, "I failed." Is his failure that he didn't get to live forever or actually achieve world domination?
The story of Scientology is not over. You may see a center opening in a location near you. We believed that the best defense against it is a solid family, education and discernment. Unfortunately many, many people never have any of these elements in their lives.
Be aware! Ultimately faith is a choice!
Lakeview Branch Library