inside scientology-janet reitman

a few years ago, i had a theory that lil’ wayne was a scientologist. he calls himself an alien, he’s loaded (literally and literally). really, it was because i didn’t understand either of them. now, i’m coming around to both, or at least the fact that they both seem to have mass appeal, and that fascination is what i want to know more about. this book sheds a lot of light on the entity that nobody really knows, and the efforts that have been made to make sure that things stay that way. like other movements that are insular in their definition (mormons, AA), it faces challenges and offers community. the financial piece is pretty interesting, as well as the recent opening to african americans. farakhan’s cosign is something to think about, like his violin playing for wyclef. i wish there was more about paul haggis and the mysterious death of isaac hayes just after he got into it with south park.

“Try to define Scientology, and even those who understand its basic concepts will inevitably come up with a multiplicity of descriptions: alternative to psychotherapy, social movement, transnational corporation, cult, religion. One of its essential characteristics is its aggressive response to challenges, whether they arise from within the movement or outside it. Some journalists have referred to Scientology as a hydra for this uncanny ability to restore itself despite numerous blows to the head. This power to reinvent itself lies at the heart of the church’s business plan.

Scientology means different things to different people; simultaneously its essential qualities remain hidden from public view. This combination of flexibility and mystery has allowed church leaders to turn Scientology into whatever they want it to be, depending on time period and need. In the sixty-plus years since it was founded, Scientology has changed its image over and over through a savvy marketing strategy that has presented the church as forever new and improved and, in some cases, as transformed altogether. At no time was this more obvious, or necessary, than during the late 1970s and early 1980s when, fresh from the ignominy of Operation Snow White, Scientology needed to rebrand itself almost entirely. (175)

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4 thoughts on “inside scientology-janet reitman

  1. the man, the legend, the clone:

    “He would discard all that was fuzzy and imprecise about religion. He would discard all that was cold and inhuman about science. And he’d sell the results like soap. Some people think he was the greatest con man of his time. Others believe he was a savior.” (3)

    “He had a sponge-like ability to absorb facts and details about the places he’d visited, no matter how briefly, and he wrote breezily, “as if he was a well-traveled man of the world,” Miller noted, and “a carefree, two-fisted, knockabout adventurer,” not the gawky, freckled teenager he actually was.” (5)

    “The ability to spin a setback as a triumph was a quality that would define Hubbard throughout his life. He was an immensely charming young man whose stories, while sometimes dubious, were often, by virtue of his own salesmanship, utterly convincing. Garrulous, with self-deprecating humor and a ready wit, he attracted people like a magnet and made them believe in his dreams. What’s more, he seemed to believe in them himself.” (6)

    “The book would be so powerful, Hubbard joked, that a reader would be able to “rape women without their knowing it, communicate suicide messages to [their] enemies as they sleep…evolve the best way of protecting or destroying communism, and other handy household hints.” (22)

    sounds like The Game to me. Neil Strauss claims that Cruise took him under the Scientology wing first…

    “In his prime, L. Ron Hubbard was a tall, robust, larger-than-life character: a Pied Piper who drew followers through the force of his own charisma. Miscavige was short, boyish-looking, and abrasive. Hubbard was a dreamer with great persuasive skill; Miscavige was a tactician who accomplished many of his goals through pure intimidation. “To call David pugnacious would be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about him,” said one former associate. “You will never be as intimidated in your life as you are when you are confronted by David Miscavige.”
    Hubbard seemed to crave approval; Miscavige kept his own counsel-he was not interested in Scientologists’ love, but in their dedication and obedience. His role would not be the visionary but rather the steward who would consolidate Hubbard’s movement, cleanse and repackage its image, sell it aggressively, and guide it into a new age.” (156)

    “Just as Hubbard before him, Miscavige understood the power religion had in the culture and its effectiveness in bringing in cash. The 1980s were not unlike the 1950s in their conservatism and materialism, and churches that embraced those values flourished in this era. With the patronage of Ronald Reagan, and later George H. Bush, the Reverend Jerry Falwell became the most prominent religious leader in America, and his group, the Moral Majority, became a national political movement in which faith-fundamentalist Christian faith-was linked with upstanding social, economic, and religious values for the first time in decades.” (159-60)

  2. ideal-ology:

    “Had the sixties never happened-which is to say, had a tremendous number of young people not become convinced of the moral and spiritual bankruptcy of their parents, the church, the Republican party, and other people and institutions collectively known as the establishment-Scientology might have gone the way of other fringe movements and died a quiet death. Instead, repositioned as a mystical quest rather than an alternative mental health therapy or religious movement, Scientology rode the countercultural wave, and by the late 1960s, a whole new generation of spiritual seekers had caught on to the renegade vision of L. Ron Hubbard.” (70)

    “To avoid this fate, one option was to become a Scientology minister and thus get a ministerial deferment. It was a bit of a ruse: being a Scientologist minister only meant that you /could/ audit and perform Hubbard-approved birth and marriage ceremonies; actually doing ministerial duties was wholly voluntary. But the Scientology minister’s course, which cost only around $15, was being sold to hundreds, if not thousands, of young men as a way to avoid the draft. Should he be ordained? Jeff considered it.” (76)

    “Bolstad, who’d joined Scientology in 1979 as a thirteen-year-old, had been recruited for the Sea Organization with the promise of help in finishing her high school education and paying for college. Instead, she’d been given a Scientology education, which consisted solely of learning how to serve L. Ron Hubbard. “I learned how to hold an ashtray and follow him around. Then I learned how to hold the ashtray and also hold a tape recorder at the same time.” Messengers recorded his every word and then transcribed it later. “I was trained to carry his bag filled with sunscreen and stuff, to look after his every need.” (121)

    “Fannie McPherson, widowed in 1985, worried deeply about her daughter’s growing involvement with Scientology. A lifelong Baptist, Fannie, who’d stopped drinking and had joined Alcoholics Anonymous in the late 1970s, had initially been thrilled when Lisa came home in 1982 and announced that she’d joined a church. But as she watched Lisa spend less and less time with her friends and family and more and more money on Scientology, her anxiety grew.” (183)

    “But many others in Hollywood were curious. Scientology, a fundamentally narcissistic philosophy that demonizes doubt and insecurity as products of the “reactive mind,” is a belief system tailor-made for actors.” (255)

    “Scientology too had become more insular. And this, noted Steve Hall, made it even harder to promote Scientology to mainstream Americans. ‘That has got to be the hardest assignment in the world,’ he said. ‘By this point, Scientology is a culture. Inside the church you can go completely aware, really ignorant of how to connect to people, because you live and breathe Scientology twenty-four hours a day. But outside of the church, people know all about the lawsuits, they’ve heard it called a ‘mafia’ or a cult, they’ve gone on the Internet to read the OT materials…so how do you sell Scientology to new people? You don’t.’” (293-4)

    “Because study technology is based on the idea that it’s possible to teach oneself anything simply by following Hubbard’s core precepts, there is often no actual ‘teaching’ in Scientology schools; indeed, many teachers at Delphi, as at similar schools have earned no accreditation outside the Church of Scientology. There is also no classroom discussion. Instead, students work alone, following individualized ‘check sheets’ that list the books or tasks required to finish the course. Maggie Reinhart, the former director of the Delphi Academy, told me that this technique forces a student to take an active role in his or her education.” (307)

    “The Scientologists who have left the church since the mid-2000s, a group from all strata of the organization, form part of what some have called the Second Great Exodus. This is a significant difference between this generation and those who were part of the exodus of the 1980s, largely thanks to the Internet, which has enabled former members, both Sea Org and public, to find one another and unite over their shared experience. “You don’t tend to blame yourself when you see that others went through the same thing,” commented Jeff Hawkins, who has become an outspoken critic of Scientology’s current management. ‘It’s made for a strong, well-informed, and coordinated group of ex-members, which the church has never had to face before.’” (346)

  3. hollyweird:

    “For the ascendant David Miscavige, John Travolta, if not quite heretical for his unscripted comments, was dramatically ‘off-Source’-the most severe judgement the hierarchy could make against an individual, just short of declaring a person suppressive. And yet, losing Travolta would have been profoundly embarrassing for Scientology, particularly since the church had used the actor as part of its internal promotion machine (sometimes without Travolta’s full cooperation) for years: reproducing his photograph on posters and quoting from his ‘success stories’ in various pamphlets and other publications.” (263)

    “To the Sea Org, it seemed obvious that Miscavige hoped to make Cruise an ‘ideal’ Scientologist-not a ‘floundering’ Scientologist, as he’d often perceived Travolta to be, with his years of disaffection in the 1980s. One step in this directions was to teach Cruise to audit. Many Scientologists, including celebrities, never bother to pursue this route on the Bridge to Total Freedom. But a ‘true’ Scientologist, in both L. Ron Hubbard’s and David Miscavige’s estimation, was a person who had received and given counseling: indeed, Hubbard had maintained that 50 percent of the gains one got through Scientology were achieved through training as an auditor.” (277)

    “But Miscavige was even more upset with Kidman, whom he blamed for Cruise’s growing detachment from Scientology. Miscavige had initially put aside the fact that Kidman’s father, Dr. Antony Kidman, was a psychologist-a hated SP-but he’d become dismayed that Kidman, who’d refused to move on to OT3 after finishing OT2, remained extremely close to her father. Now Kidman and Cruise had purchased a house in her hometown of Sydney, where they began to spend an increasing amount of time.” (283)

  4. bottom lines:

    “And, unique among modern religions, Scientology charges members for every service, book, and course offered, promising greater and greater spiritual enlightenment with every dollar spent. People don’t “believe” in Scientology; they buy into it.” (xiv)

    “Cloaking Sceintology in religious garb was practical on numerous levels. Certainly it would make the organization seem more respectable-”in my opinion, we couldn’t get worse public opinion than what we have had, or less customers with what we’ve got to sell,” Hubbard noted in his letter-it would also allow auditors to sidestep the rules regarding certification for psychological counseling. As practitioners of “mental science,” Dianetics and Scientology auditors had been scrutinized for lacking the appropriate medical or psychological licenses; as clergy, they could counsel whomever they wanted, under the protection of a church. The could also claim tax-exempt status, which Hubbard would later explain to his flock was a fundamental reason for taking the religious route.” (43-4)

    “While this might have been an off-the-cuff statement, Scientology did, in fact, mimic certain features of the Coca-Cola Company. Its orgs functioned as processing plants, churning out an identical product at every site worldwide. As the years went by, some of its core doctrine would be referred to not as sacred teachings but as “trade secrets.” The Church of Scientology would go to court to protect its proprietary rights over this material: litigation, in fact, would become its hallmark.” (48)

    “Leaving the Sea Organization, or any staff position, is called ‘blowing’. It came with its own cost, an onerous one: ‘blown’ staff members receive a ‘freeloader’s bill,’ charging them the full price for all the courses or auditing services they had taken, for free, while in the church’s employ. Therefore when Lisa returned to Dallas in the spring of 1989, she found herself $45,000 in debt, and, in accordance with church policy, she was barred from receiving any Scientology services until the money was repaid and she had gone through the appropriate ‘amends’ process to show that she could once again be trusted.” (187)

    “One answer is Scientology’s real estate portfolio. Since the early 2000s, Scientology has been running what former church executives say is a very profitable building and renovation scheme called the Ideal Org program. Indeed, according to numerous reports from within and outside of the church, real estate may now be Scientology’s principle cash cow.
    A comparable model for the Ideal Org program would be one used by another franchise-based operation, McDonald’s, which is also one of the most successful real estate corporations in the country. McDonald’s earns most of its income not from the sale of Big Macs, but from the money its franchise owners pay in rent on their properties. Scientology too has used this formula, assigning a special division of church management, the International Landlord Office, to purchase choice buildings around the world, often through third-party corporations, and paying for them in cash, with IAS money raised from Scientology’s parishioners.
    In some cases, these buildings have reportedly been leased to the local orgs, which are expected to raise the money for rent, and for renovations, from their congregation. This buys the Church of Scientology, as a business enterprise, significant autonomy. No longer is the church dependent on services-sales of auditing and course packages-for income; the onus now is on the local organizations to succeed, and if they don’t, the Church of Scientology, whose investment in the Ideal Org was minimal, is none the poorer.” (347)

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