From Dianetics to Scientology and Beyond
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood & the Prison of Belief
|From Random House.com|
The Church of Scientology doesn't like this book, but -- to the best of my knowledge -- they haven't tried to ruin the author's life with threats of legal or physical harassment, at least not yet.
Scientology, in case you've never heard of it, is a religion and church, at least for IRS purposes. Sometimes its members say that it doesn't conflict with belief in Jesus Christ or his teachings. It involves application of dianetics, “the modern science of mental health,” and denial of psychotherapy, especially the drugs used to control mental problems.
Both Scientology and dianetics were created -- or revealed, discovered, whatever word you care to use -- by L. Ron Hubbard, a writer of science fiction and other fictional genres. More than most religions, Scientology's scripture involves science fictional concepts, such as alien overlords and spaceships. Those science fictional revelations aren’t supposed to be revealed until you've reached the right spiritual level because premature knowledge of it might harm you. Attaining that spiritual level requires auditing and courses, all of which must be paid for by the acolyte. Some members who join the church’s Sea Org inner circle must sign billion year contracts. Celebrities are courted to become Scientologists because it’s believed this will generate good publicity and help spread the message of the church, which will help save and elevate humanity. Those who choose to leave the church are often visited by other members to attempt to persuade them to return. The church denies charges by critics that threats are used, or that contact with family still in the church will be denied if they don't return.
I don't remember when I next encountered Hubbard’s Bridge. Maybe it was the publication of his novel Battlefield Earth, which was followed by the 10-volume Mission Earth (all mention of which is absent from the main text of Going Clear, along with allegations that there was manipulation of the sales figures to get them on the New York Times bestseller list). Maybe it was news stories about Scientology’s attacks on its critics.
I'm not sure if Scientology was mentioned in Martin Gardner's Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, or in the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal's magazine Skeptical Inquirer, or Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by James Randi. I do know that I never found it an attractive philosophy or organization, and nothing in Going Clear made it sound more attractive.
Expanded from a New Yorker article about Academy Award-winning director Paul Haggis, who left Scientology over its apparent homophobia and support for a ban on gay marriage (Haggis’ two daughters are gay), Going Clear gives a brief biography of Hubbard and his development first of dianetics and then Scientology, based on first-person accounts, private documents and the public record. Much is based on former Scientologists’ testimony, which the church denounces as untrustworthy because they hold a grudge.
It’s true that all current and some former Scientologists quoted in the book deny most of Wright’s charges of physical and mental abuse. If true, it seems people stay and take the abuse, either because of fear, brainwashing or because they still believe Scientology is the only true path to salvation.
If even half of what the book says about Scientology is accurate, Hubbard seems to have been crazy in his later years. I’d always assumed he was just a hack sf writer and con man (he was alleged to have said something like “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion”). I guess that's progress, too.