The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 19

The High Cost of Scientology

It's the only Church I've ever seen with a cashier's booth.
-- a woman who quit after one session. -- Time{1}

When people first enter this exciting world of the totally free, they rarely realize just how expensive it is going to be. After all, the first course costs only $15, and for that price one gets close to sixteen hours of Scientology. What people usually don't realize is that they will never see this $1-an-hour rate again. Later it'll be more like $25, and sometimes more. One man who paid $1,200 in advance for a 50 hour course completed it in 20 minutes, which meant he spent about $1 a second for auditing.{2}

Scientology has two goals, and two types of courses to match: "auditing" people or "processing"; and teaching people to audit others or "training." The first series on the Hubbard hierarchy, auditing or processing, consists of several courses or grades, which enable a "preclear" to become a "clear." If each course is taken separately, it costs approximately (the prices are always changing) $750 just to go from O-IV grade, $500 for the next one, $1,200 for Grade V ("Power Processes"), $775 for Grade VI, $600 for "Solo" (in which you audit yourself) and finally $800 for the final "clear" or a total of approximately $4,625, although package deals bring the price down a bit lower.

But that's not all, since one can also go eight levels beyond "clear"to achieve the state of "Operating Thetan VIII" -- for only $2,850 more.{3} An Operating Thetan, by the way, is someone who can function apart from his body,{4} and OTs (Operating Thetans) are said to be able to lift telephones off the hook in another room and read books while some distance away from them.{5} The value of this accomplishment may not be readily apparent, but one practical Scientologist claimed she could visit her parents in Texas while her body remained in Washington, D.C.{6} Fortunately for the travel industry, not too many Scientologists can do this.

But processing or auditing is only half the story. Scientology also trains its followers to audit others.To qualify for this doesn't even require a high school education -- just another prescribed series of Scientology courses.{7} Scientologists generally suggest people start with this series, and, in fact, unless specifically asked, they don't even tell them about the prices of the other group until later.

This second group starts at a modest $15 for the first course, $30 for the next, $45 for the third, and then suddenly leaps to their more typical rate of $1,300.{8} It generally takes at least a couple of months to become an auditor, although Scientologists have boasted that they can train some people to become auditors "in less than twenty minutes."{9} Those who wish to take more courses must go to the special Scientology academies in Los Angeles, Scotland or Saint Hill and pay additional expenses for room, board, books, equipment and transportation besides.{10}

In addition to the price of the courses, there are many other expenses. A Scientologist must buy many of Hubbard's books, and often attend special lectures or Congresses, which usually run tapes of Hubbard, or speeches by top Scientologists. In addition, a Scientologist may take extra auditing (at about $25 a session) or additional courses that are outside of the prescribed levels of treatment or training.{11}

For example a number of the Orgs used to offer a special "Money Processing Course" which was supposed to increase the Scientologist's "money making potential."{12} (This course consisted of having the person think of a number of ways in which he could waste money, probably under the principle that one must find what a preclear can do and then "better that ability.")

If a preclear complained that he couldn't afford the Scientology rates, he was told to take this course for only $35 to help him learn how to earn more.[*] The "Money Making Potential" course may have helped many Scientologists but one wonders how. One man who took it said it was so worthwhile, he "made $5,000" a few days after completing it. When he was pressured to tell how he had done this, he finally admitted that after the course was completed he had gone to a bank and taken the money out on loan.{13}

[*] Footnote:
At one of the Scientology lectures I attended, someone asked "If the goal of Scientology is to help the world, why is it so expensive that very few people in the world can afford to be helped by it?" The person was told that "nothing is expensive when your happiness is at stake," which, of course, did not answer the question.

Usually, the Scientologists will refer to their free "Personal Efficiency Course" as an example of their altruism and proof that they provide Scientology for free for those who can't afford it. They admitted in their United States tax case that the purpose of this course or lecture, however, was to get people to take paying courses.

This becomes painfully apparent in Hubbard's HCO Bulletin of September 29, 1959. "NEVER let anyone simply walk out. Convince him he's loony if he doesn't gain on it because that's the truth ... get the people in fast ... and boot them through to their HAS [Hubbard Apprentice Scientologist course].... And never let a student leave or quit.... If he walks in that door for a free PE, that's it. He doesn't get out except into an individual auditor's hand in the real tough cases, until he's an HAS." This PE "course," by the way, is the first night lecture, film of Hubbard and personality test.{14}

If a Scientologist decides he doesn't want to spend extra money on additional auditing or courses, he may not have a choice in the matter. Scientologists progress at their own speed and are not permitted to continue until the Student Examiner is satisfied that he's mastered the previous lessons.

Thus a Scientologist can be made to take and pay for more hours than he originally signed up for at the discretion of the leaders.{15} These extra courses are sometimes given as punishment, and it was said in Parliament that a Scientologist could be made to take additional courses if he tried to leave Scientology or if he questioned the accepted doctrines of the group.{16}

A Scientologist may also discover that Scientology is costing him more money than his original calculations indicated because the courses themselves may change. Hubbard often redefines the levels,{17} and while the motivation is probably sincere, some on the way to a certain level have discovered that they've had to sign up for a whole new series of courses in order to reach their goal.

In addition, after a person has reached a certain level, say clear, the HCO (Hubbard Communications Office) Board of Review can call for a retest at its own discretion after a lapse of time.{18} Whether the person who fails has to take any courses again, or even new ones, is not known.

It's not surprising that a really dedicated Scientologist can easily spend $15,000{19} in this "world of the totally free," and one wealthy Floridian, who had complained of "nervousness" but was told he was in good health at the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins, spent $28,000 in Scientology.{20} But most people who join it don't have that kind of money to spend. Many pay for their courses by leaving their jobs{21} and going to work for Scientology in exchange for training units -- often for a small salary besides ($40 a week for about 40 hours of work in New York).

Those who didn't wish to break completely from their outside contacts, were able to get credit at one time,{22} which the Church extended at six percent interest with a twenty-five percent surcharge returned if the note was paid on time. One person who wrote the Church and said he couldn't pay his bill, was written back not to feel that way because "there's nothing a thetan can't do."{23}

But they haven't always been that kind to debtors. Unpaid notes have been turned over to collection agencies, legal action has been threatened,{24} and debtors and their family have been harassed and intimidated, sometimes quite cruelly as shown in the letter below. This letter was received by a man in the mid-west whose son took $550 worth of courses but only paid for $200 of them. The father was then billed for the balance in a letter saying he had "agreed" to pay the other $350. The father wrote back saying he hadn't "agreed" to any such thing, and reported the Scientologists. On October 13, he received the following threats and accusations from a Scientology Reverend.

Rather than let my lawyers have all the fun, I will write to you this once and straighten you out. I have a great urge to beggar you to your last pair of socks, but I will curb the desire a little longer. If you had the wit of a demented swineherd you would have read those pieces of literature I so graciously had sent to you ... do not judge people by yourself. Not everyone is a mass murderer like yourself. Yes, I know quite a bit about you and your various projects during the war. And how do you sleep at night? I hope tis ill.... I am expert at harassment, try me and find out. You are not strong enough. You are not smart enough. You haven't the funds to go through long lengthy court battles. We have. Bigger men than you have done their best to stop us. They failed. So will you because you are a blatant moron in comparison. We joust only with our peers, others -- like you -- we will simply gobble up ... one more word out of you and I'll have you investigated. I might anyway. I have never seen one person yet that resisted Scientology who didn't have a great deal to hide. And you evidently won't look at free books sent to you, so you must, perforce have a great deal to conceal.{25}

The letter continued with more accusations of guilt on the part of the father, along with praise of Scientology and concluded on this ominous note.

If you want to start a Donnybrook, Buddy, wail away; to use the argot of the streets I'll just start my people to work on you and then before long you will be broke, and out of a job and broken in health. Then I can have my nasty little chuckle about you and get back to work.... You won't take long to finish off. I would estimate three weeks. Remember: I am not a mealy mouthed psalm [sic] canting preacher. I am a minister of the Church of Scientology! I am able to heal the sick and I do. But I have other abilities which include a knowledge of men's minds that I will use to crush you to your knees. You or any other wretch that stands in our way. Cause the list is long, but their careers are very short of those that have jousted with us.

The letter, written on the Church of Scientology letterhead, was signed "with the utmost sincerity possible" by the Reverend Andrew Bagley, Organizational Secretary. There was a short P.S. appended: "Don't reply to this letter. If I want to get in touch with you, I'll be able to find you. Anywhere." P.S. The father paid the bill. P.P.S. His son took approximately $4,500 worth more courses in Scientology, paying for them himself the next time from a $5,000 inheritance.{26}

Scientologists get people to pay substantial fees by promising to refund their money if they are dissatisfied with Scientology -- and they are quick to point out that no psychotherapist returns money if therapy proves unsuccessful (although they are just as quick to point out that they are not a form of therapy).{27} In fact, the Scientologists haven't always returned the money either, and have sometimes set up certain conditions that have made it difficult for people to collect.

The person must usually ask for his money within thirty (sometimes ninety) days after the course is completed.{28} Some people have also been made to take the security test before they can get a refund.{29} Others have signed a contract that obligates them to obey their Ethics Officer "in advice given me to facilitate my case progress and that any failure to do so renders this contract null and void without rebate." (The Ethics Officer can, of course, tell them not to ask for their money back, because that would be hindering their progress, and tell them to facilitate it by signing up for more courses instead.{30})

In one case, an Australian woman signed up for three hundred hours of auditing, took 175, and then asked for her money back. The register wrote her back that "the only way out is the way through," in other words, that she would have to take all 300 hours before she could leave Scientology and ask for her money back. This could cost her another $600 which she didn't have, so she wrote them back again. Again they wrote her "I repeat, the only way out is the way through."

The following is a portion of her extremely pathetic reply, listing the emotional and financial difficulties that she felt Scientology was responsible for.

... my situation has in every way worsened under the influence of Scientology.... I have to struggle to even stay awake, and as a consequence, I fear to lose my job and the little security that gives me. It takes a frightful effort not to go to sleep.... I am slow in my work and make mistakes.... I am always exhausted and sometimes can hardly walk along. This is the result I have obtained from spending all my money on something that is claimed to increase alertness and intelligence and generally benefit people....

Under these circumstances it is no help to be told "the way out is the way through." I have no money left for further auditing and no chance of saving any since I barely make ends meet.{31}

When nothing happened, she wrote directly to Hubbard, as do many Scientologists, putting letters in special boxes in the Orgs that say "You can always communicate with Ron."

At the commencement I had a job I liked, which paid me fairly well, and enough money put away to feel reasonably secure. Now I have a job I don't care for, which does not pay so well, my money is largely gone, and instead of being reasonably content I feel that nothing is worth doing, having periods of absolute exhaustion, and look forward to the remaining years of my life with complete hopelessness, as just a dreary round of work, work, work at something I don't care for to earn enough to exist to go on working.

Hubbard referred this letter to the Melbourne Org, where it was diagnosed as a case of "Missed W/H."{32} She was persuaded to undergo twenty-five hours of free processing for her "Missed withholds." Two years later she was still a Scientologist -- and paying for it.

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Citations & Notes

{1} first quote [156]
{2} man who paid $1200 [141a]
{3} cost of auditing [126, 277]
{4} thetan function apart from body [254, 261]
{5} lifting phones; reading books [261]
{6} girl with family in Texas [256]
{7} no high school degree [255]
{8} cost of courses [277, 126]
{9} time to become auditor [255, 261, 277]
{10} go to St. Hill [277, 261]
{11} extra auditing [255]
{12} Money Processing [277, 278]
{13} man who took course and borrowed money [277]
{14} (31) PE course quote [79]
{15} (14) pay for more courses than planned [97, 255]
{16} (15) England if he tries to leave [257]
{17} (16) Hubbard changing courses [255]
{18} (17) clear can be retested [38]
{19} (18) $15,000 [139]
{20} (19) $28,000 [142]
{21} (20) leave jobs [255, 278]
{22} (21) credit [255]
{23} (22) nothing a thetan can't do [124]
{24} (23) collection agencies; legal action [255]
{25} (24) Bagley letter [123]
{26} (25) end of story [273]
{27} (26) psychiatrists don't refund [277]
{28} (27) money within 30-90 days [254, 255, 278]
{29} (28) sec test {before money is refunded} [25]
{30} (29) ethics officer [141a]
{31} (30) woman who signed up for 300 hours [261]
{32} missed W/H [10]