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


The Tragi-Farce of Scientology

This article, captioned "Paulette Cooper reports from America," was published in the December 1969 issue of the British magazine Queen (page 109).

If you think you have problems with Scientology in England, you should see what's happening in the States. Here, they pass out their leaflets on the street corners of some of the most pukka neighbourhoods, urging innocent bystanders to try out Scientology. Those who have accepted the invitation have found themselves in one of their many dingy headquarters, listening to a dull lecture on Scientology, followed by a film of equal merit on its leader, L. Ron Hubbard. Those who didn't walk out then may have submitted to the American Personality Test (in England, it's the Oxford Capacity Analysis), probably not realising that the B.Scn, D.Scn, DD, and BA degrees of the girl who wrote the test stood for Bachelor of Scientology, Doctor of Scientology, and Doctor of Divinity in the "Church" of Scientology only. And who knows what that BA stood for? Maybe in her case it was legitimate, although one Scientologist in Australia admitted that her "BA" stood for "Basic Administrator" and "Book Auditor" -- the latter meaning she had bought a book on how to apply Scientology to others.

But people come to the headquarters anyway, take the test, accept the results, and sign up for Scientology. At least 150,000 people in the United States have taken that final irrevocable step, and the Scientologists claim that at least 100,000 British people are also members of the cult in England.

But it's true that we in America are to blame for starting it all. Scientology sprang like a phoenix from the dirt of "Dianetics", one of the typical crazy fads that sweeps our country periodically. Dianetics hit like a hurricane in 1950, attracting thousands of people, mostly on the West Coast, by promising to cure them of their mental and physical problems without all those tedious hours required by psycho-analysis. Dianetics even had some attraction for those people who had always secretly wanted to play doctor, because it allowed them to analyse others without all those tedious years required to train for it. But a few critics had to come along and spoil the fun. Dianetics, and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, were discredited by the real doctors, and the country deserted Dianetics to search for Bridey Murphy (an Irish woman who believed she had been reincarnated).

But Dianetics was also quietly undergoing a rebirth, changing its name -- to Scientology -- and adding a new element -- "religion" -- which enabled it to avoid paying American income taxes. Today, this "Church of Scientology", as it is called, says it is people's "spiritual" problems that it is concerned with now.

The method, which resembles a combination of psychotherapy and the Catholic confession, is still basically the same: the Scientology "patient", or "preclear", as a newcomer is called, reveals intimate details of his past to a "reverend" in the Church of Scientology. Unfortunately, the similarities seem to end there. First, the confessional material is not kept completely confidential, since a preclear's records are available to all of his reverends, or "auditors" as they are called -- who may eventually number as many as five or six -- and unbeknown to the preclear, intimate portions of his records have sometimes been sent to the main Scientology headquarters, which are now in Saint Hill, East Grinstead, Sussex. (This can be compared to a priest's sending copies of the confession -- with names -- to the Vatican.)

Second, these auditors, some only in their teens or early twenties, who listen to problems that are often sexual, do not always maintain a proper relationship with their preclears. One male auditor wrote on a preclear's file that she was "sexy as hell", and another auditor, called Reverend Fisk, was not only sleeping with his preclear, but revealed the fact to her husband. The case would probably never have come to light except that the husband killed the Scientology reverend.

And finally, other ethical difficulties may arise because the auditors, whose medical and psychological qualifications are certainly questionable, are not always examined too carefully for their background either. One auditor here agreed to practise Scientology on a couple with three young daughters if he could move into their house with them. Later, after he disappeared, the parents learned that this Scientology auditor had tried to track down their daughters in Girl Scout camp and grammar-school, and was in trouble in another state for showing sexual interest towards very young girls.

This "confession", "therapy", or to use their word, "auditing", that Scientologists perform, is done by having the preclear hold two tin cans, which are connected to a crude galvanometer they call an "E-meter". Although a US spokesman stated that the E-meter is subject to "uncontrollable variations in skin contact and current", the preclear believes the E-meter works like a lie-detector, or a "truth-detector" as he prefers to call it, and he tells his auditor intimate details of his life -- while his auditor takes notes.

Not all of the personal information Scientologists reveal has been voluntary either, since some preclears have been made to take what Scientologists call a "security check", at which time, the preclear, while holding on to the E-meter (which, remember, he thinks works like a lie-detector), was asked by his interrogator or auditor whether he had ever been insane, a communist, a spy, or had a police record, raped anyone or been raped, had an abortion or performed one, practised cannibalism, adultery, sex with animals, exhibitionism, incest, miscegenation, pederasty, prostitution, voyeurism, masturbation etc.

The purpose of this auditing is to help a preclear get rid of his "engrams", which Scientologists believe are a type of impression imprinted on the protoplasm itself and are the root of all mental aberrations. L. Ron Hubbard, who devised these theories, believes that these "engrams" can be incurred when the person is still in the womb, and even at conception -- although he has never made it clear exactly how an engram could have been implanted before a foetus had developed a nervous system or the sense organs with which to register an impression. Scientologists simply accept his theory that if a husband beats his pregnant wife and shouts "take that" as he hits her, an engram is planted, and when Junior is born he might grow up to take this literally, and become a thief whose goal is to "take that".

But the fathers aren't the only villains. Most of the mothers Hubbard depicted make Medea look like the Madonna. They were giving their unborn children engrams with AA -- attempted abortion (and there are so many abortions in Hubbard's case histories that it's a miracle that any of us got here at all), and when they weren't being knocked down or knocked up by their husbands, they were usually having affairs. This situation could also lead to engrams, especially if the child in the womb was ultimately to be named after the father. Hubbard believed that many of these unfaithful wives made unpleasant remarks about their husbands to their lovers during coitus, and that Junior, who was being knocked unconscious in the womb by the sex act, would hear these remarks aimed at his father and think that they applied to him, because he had been given the same name (don't ask how the child knew what his name was going to be). If it seems amazing that these engrams could hear and pun, there are even stranger cases, where they were said to misrecord as well. One auditor reported that a rash on the backside of his preclear started when the preclear was in the womb and his mother frequently asked for an "aspirin". The engram was said to have mistakenly registered this as "ass burn".

While undergoing this auditing, or erasing of engrams, the preclear begins to hallucinate not only about life in the womb, but also about his many past lives, since Scientologists believe that we, or our "thetans" (ie "spirits") have been around in some form or another for seventy-four trillion years. One Scientologist is said to have gone into a state of grief when she realised she had been her father's lover -- before she was born. Another Scientologist "discovered" during his auditing sessions that his current headaches started when he was a Roman centurion during the Battle of Cannae in 216 BC. He believes that someone from the Roman Burial party, mistakenly believing him dead, tried to kick his helmet back on to his head.

Scientologists are relentless in their attempts to get others to share their "religious" beliefs, and while some of their proselytising is probably based on their sincere desire to spread the joy of Scientology, there's another motive they never admit to: Scientologists in America receive a ten per cent cash rebate on any money spent by a convert they've brought in. Once a potential convert does show up, he may find it very hard to escape, since Scientologists immediately register every person who comes into their headquarters, or "org" as they call it (short for organisation), and from that moment on, the potential convert will receive a relentless mountain of mail urging him to join Scientology. One actor from Greenwich Village, who went to the "org" out of curiosity, tried to make it immediately clear to the Scientologists that he did not want to receive the incessant phone calls and letters to which a Scientology friend of his had been subjected. They agreed to take this actor's name off their mailing list, but they then hounded him to reveal the name of his friend who had complained about the phone calls, so that they could "call him and talk with him about it". And oh yes, today, one year later, the actor still receives mail from Scientology.

Those who do join Scientology must take one of two series of prescribed courses. The first group, auditing, consists of several levels which enable a Scientology "preclear" to become a "clear", ie, a person who is supposedly free from ailments that range from colds to cancer, and who has an IQ of over 135, etc. While everything is expensive in America, the price of these courses is ridiculous. In order to "go clear", a preclear must take courses that begin at £311, then £208, £499, £322, £250, and finally £333! Those who wish to rise above "clear" to reach the highest Scientology level of "Operating Thetan VIII" (defined as someone who can function without the aid of their body) must pay a whopping £1,185 more.

But that's just half the story, since Scientology also trains people to become auditors. Auditors don't even need a high-school education -- just more Scientology courses. These courses generally take a couple of months, although Scientologists sometimes boast that they can train some people to treat others in "less than twenty minutes". Training, which is much cheaper than auditing, is used to introduce people to Scientology here, perhaps because it starts at a modest £6, £13, and £19 before suddenly leaping to their more typical rate of £541.

Scientologists get people to pay these incredible fees by promising to return money to anyone who is dissatisfied. Unfortunately, however, they have occasionally set up certain conditions that have made this difficult. One Australian woman signed up for 300 hours of Scientology but decided soon afterwards that it was aggravating rather than alleviating her problems. When she tried to get her money back, however, she claims they wrote her that she would have to take and pay for all 300 hours before she could ask for a refund.

Scientology is so expensive that most Scientologists leave their jobs and go to work for the org, sometimes for no pay but just training units, sometimes at a salary that is less than a quarter of what they would receive on a regular job in the States. Some Scientologists choose credit instead, and unpaid notes have been turned over to collection agencies, legal action has been threatened, and people have been harassed and intimidated, like the American father who received the following letter when he protested a £145 bill for fifteen hours of audition for his son.

"... I am expert at harassment, try me and find out ... one more word out of you and I'll have you investigated ... I'll just start my people to work on you and before long, you will be broke, and out of a job, and broken in health ... you won't take long to finish off. I would estimate 3 weeks. Remember: I am not a mealy mouthed psalm 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."

The letter, signed by a Reverend Andrew Bagley, Organisation Secretary, had a short PS appended: "Don't reply to this letter. If I want to get in touch with you, I'll be able to find you. Anywhere." PS. The father paid the bill.

Scientologists repeatedly emphasise that the leader, L. Ron Hubbard, or "Ron" as the believers call him, makes no money from all this, although he receives a standard ten per cent tithe and sometimes more from the gross income of the twenty-one Scientology orgs (throughout the world) and their hundreds of franchises (a strange structure for a supposed Church!). He also makes money from books he's written on Scientology, and in America, he requires that all orgs buy more than £4,160 worth of them -- fifty per cent off for cash -- or he declares the Executive Secretary, whose job it is to purchase these books, "non-existent".

Another source of his income is a booklet called Expand, whose title unfortunately doesn't refer to any potential of the mind. Expand pushes almost £2,080 worth of films and tapes of Hubbard, certificates for marriages, funerals and christenings in the Scientology Church (which is legal in many US states), Old Father Hubbard's cupboard of E-meters (which auditors must purchase for £351 each, although they cost only £5 to build), and pictures of Hubbard himself for only £2 10s apiece.

Perhaps Hubbard's imagination as a businessman stems from his earlier days as a science-fiction writer, who apparently took his work rather seriously, since he claimed to have visited Heaven twice, the planet Venus, and the Van Allen radiation belt. In fact, Scientology was first presented (as Dianetics) in the American Astounding Science Fiction magazines, and later expanded into a best-seller called Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

Although many of his statements do sound as if he's from out of this world, Hubbard has stated that he does not wish to be deified by his followers. Nonetheless, he has revised the calendar to read "AD 1, AD 10" etc. ("After Dianetics, 1951," etc) and claimed that his discovery of Dianetics (ie, Scientology without the religion) was a "milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and arch".

Not everyone agreed that he has made such great contributions. The New York Times, which currently accepts Scientology ads in, of all places, their Church column, reported on 24th April, 1951 that one of Hubbard's earlier wives was suing him for divorce, claiming that doctors had said he was a "paranoid schizophrenic" and that he had tortured her by "beating her, strangling her and denying her sleep".

It should also be noted that Hubbard, who often calls himself a nuclear physicist, and claims a BS from George Washington University and a PhD from Sequoia University, actually flunked physics, was placed on probation his first year at George Washington and didn't return afterwards; and Sequoia University in California, which was originally called the College of Drugless Healing, delivered mail-order doctorates. Nonetheless, Hubbard calls himself "Doctor" and he does indeed have a D.Scn -- or Doctor of Scientology.

While the Church of Scientology creed states that all men have the right "to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write about the opinions of others", this doesn't seem to apply to anyone who wishes to think, talk, or write against Scientology. A few of the articles and books on Scientology and Dianetics have strangely "disappeared" from the New York Public Library. Scientology offers a £4,180 reward to anyone who can give information "leading to the prosecution of those responsible for the attacks on Scientology". One writer in America tried to speak out against them on the telly. Before he went on the air, he learned that the Scientologists had found out about his plan and had called friends of his for personal information on him, "because we're going to get him".

A Scientologist is the last person in the world permitted to speak against Scientology, and if he tries, he becomes a "suppressive person" and "enemy of Scientology" and no other Scientologist is permitted to associate with him. Anyone who knows a suppressive is "reviewed" (and charged for it!) and declared a "Potential Trouble Source" or "PTS" until he "handles or disconnects" from the suppressive. If a Potential Trouble Source refuses to disconnect from someone on the suppressive list, he becomes suppressive, and one American boy was declared suppressive for failing to disconnect from his father -- although the child was only ten years old!

Another "suppressive", Raymond J. D. Buckingham, an English basso who administers a voice school in Manhattan, was initially so impressed with Scientology that he convinced several of his students and his fiancée to join. But when he discovered that his auditor was revealing personal information about him, and that the reverend who was his fiancée's auditor was trying to seduce her, he'd had it. When he went to the Scientologists to complain, however, he was told he would have to pay them £10 to discuss it and "get their advice". Totally disgusted, he had the courage to speak against Scientology on a radio programme. The Scientologists countered by declaring him a "suppressive person", "outside their protection" and "fair game". They ordered his students who had become Scientologists (at his recommendation) to disconnect from him and the money they legally owed him. He received phone calls threatening his life, and his fiancée, who was too frightened to leave Scientology, was held in a room at the org in Manhattan for four hours until she agreed to sign a statement saying that Buckingham had threatened to kill her.

The story does have a happy ending. Two, in fact. They eventually did get married and both have left Scientology.

But most stories don't have such happy endings there, because most people who join Scientology stay there. It would be foolish for them not to, because they have revealed much intimate information about themselves during their auditing and security test, and this information is kept in files which are hardly dead, since they are sometimes brought out and discussed with Scientologists if they're having some difficulties -- like perhaps they want to leave the group. In a Policy Letter of l9th April, 1965, Hubbard stated that a Scientologist who left without reporting to the leaders or letting his auditor handle the matter "must be fully investigated at any cost". In fact, Hubbard wrote the following to the secretary of the Melbourne headquarters about a boy who was giving them trouble: "H (a well-known Scientologist) blew up in our faces ... we have criminal background on him. Rape of a girl pc (preclear) in Dallas and countless others. This will do something to (another Scientologist). Now I firmly believe you will be able to find a criminal background this life on ________ and (two more Scientologists)...."

But most Scientologists stay there not because they fear investigations or blackmail but because they genuinely believe in their Church and its principles. Scientologists are perfectly contented to "disconnect" or divorce themselves from their "suppressive" spouses or parents, if necessary, remarry other Scientologists, have their own children audited, leave their jobs, and become part of the world of Scientology -- a world so different from the real one that it hits you like the heat on a hot summer day from the moment that you walk into an org. It's a world with its own morality, according to the Australian inquiry into Scientology which found that a Scientologist can seduce a fifteen-year-old girl because she's really over seventy trillion plus fifteen-years-old -- obviously past the age of consent. The Scientology world has its own language, which often makes them sound as if they're eating a metaphysical alphabet soup (PTS, Org, SP, LRH, MEST, etc).

People who become part of the Scientology world even look different, because Scientologists are trained to stare in the eyes of others in an "eye-lock", while acknowledging everything said to them verbally ("Beautiful", "Groovy") in a way that can sometimes be unnerving. Scientologists have their own system of justice, with misdemeanours, crimes, high crimes and punishments, eg being made to wear a dirty rag or a handcuff on their arm if they break the Scientology rules.

And finally, yes -- they do have church services -- if one could call them that. During one outdoor service in Manhattan's Central Park, the first speaker told how wonderful Scientology was and the second sang probably the dirtiest lyrics ever heard within a supposedly clerical setting.

Although in England Scientology is not a religion -- the Registrar General refused to register Saint Hill under the Place of Worship Registration act of 1855 -- by calling itself a Church in America, Scientology has so far been able to avoid not only taxes, but difficulties, since American laws allow a great deal of latitude toward anything that calls itself a religion. And the religion adds an air of respectability which is reinforced by the full clerical garb worn by some Scientologists (which includes a cross "bigger than the Archbishop of Canterbury", as one Londoner describes it).

But outside America, things have not been so easy for the Scientologists. In Victoria, the Lieutenant-Governor appointed a special board of inquiry to look into Scientology because of numerous complaints as to their activities. Although this inquiry had the limitations of being a one-man commission, this man was thorough enough to spend 160 days listening to four million words of 151 witnesses, and on the basis of this testimony, he concluded that Scientology was "evil", that it had "no worthwhile redeeming features" and that it was "the world's largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy". The Government accepted his conclusions, and a law was passed in 1965 making teaching Scientology, applying it, or even advertising it, punishable in the State of Victoria in Australia by up to £500 and two years in jail. And Scientology has also now been banned in the State of South Australia.

In England, Scientology has been making news -- and trouble -- since 1959, when Hubbard left America (because "the atmosphere was being poisoned by nuclear experiments") and bought the palatial Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, formerly the home of the Maharaja of Jaipur. Hubbard switched the headquarters of Scientology to England and sent his decrees by Telex from this mansion to his "orgs" in five continents.

An inquiry is currently under way to investigate Scientology in England, but in America, unlike England and Australia few people are brave enough to try to stop it. Scientology is growing rapidly throughout many major American cities and they have tripled or quadrupled their numbers in the past three years alone.

There is no doubt that Scientology has helped some of its converts, although it is certainly debatable whether it is a form of faith-healing effective on people so suggestible that they would have been helped by anything. But there is also no doubt that there are others that it has not helped. Preclears have had psychiatric treatment and/or hospitalisation after they left Scientology. Letting an auditor, without proper medical or psychological training treat the "spirit" would seem to be a dangerous practice. And letting an auditor solve problems by taking people back to former lives may lead them to believe they're doing something about their problems when in reality they could be getting worse.

There are fourteen stages of crawling before a child can actually walk; the mind too, develops in certain hierarchical steps, each of which must be stabilised somewhat before the person can safely move on. Scientologists, encouraged by auditors whose qualifications are questionable, may move on to the next step before they are ready to handle it. And like walking before they can crawl -- they may fall flat on their psychical faces.

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