I sat in the living room of my parents' comfortable house in Michigan working on a jigsaw puzzle of the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. The remains of a burning log were spitting in the fireplace. Outside the large picture window behind me, snow was falling softly in the fairyland white world of the Michigan winter.
The first few days back in the wog world were the hardest. The shock of my sudden excommunication from the only world I had known for the past twelve years, as well as the already tenuous condition of my mind after months of the bizarre upper level practices of Scientology, combined to create a certain alienation from reality.
The English language, devoid of the liberally sprinkled Scientology words and phrases I was accustomed to, sounded strange to my ears. I had the peculiar feeling, when watching television, that I was somehow listening to a foreign language. Yet I knew all the words.
I did not know how to deal with the fact that I was back in the wog world after an absence of twelve years. One night, I gathered all my Scientology certificates that I had brought with me on the plane and lay them out on my bed. Realizing that they had nothing to do with the vocational currency of the wog world, I impulsively took them down to the fireplace and burned them one by one, watching as the fire curled the edges of the heavy papers and transformed them into equally-worthless ash.
I was still experiencing the uncomfortable mental phenomena that had originated on OT 3. Sometimes it would seem as if my mind were disintegrating into a thousand tiny pieces which imploded into an internal cosmos. Instinctively, my father had bought me the jigsaw puzzle, and for two weeks I did nothing else than assemble the intricate pieces. Symbolically, I was attempting to assemble the scattered fragments of my mind.
I wrote a letter to the Director of Technical Services at Flag. Would they please reconsider their action and allow me to return to Flag, I pleaded. A week later, I received my reply. No, I was informed, in a short and terse note. I was to continue with the program that had been given to me when I left Florida. When the program was completed, I could then reapply for membership in Scientology. The letter was written on official Sea Org letterhead.
So, lacking any better plan, I decided to begin working on the program. I saw no other alternative for my life than to work, no matter how slowly or painfully, my way back into the good graces of my group.
A few blocks from my parents' house there was a busy restaurant. I applied for a job and began to work at waiting tables. I knew that my mind was still too disorganized to work at anything more complex. Office work was, at least temporarily, out of the question. I was still not even able to concentrate on the mundane task of reading the morning newspaper. I could not extract the meaning from the printed word, a condition that was to last for several months.
I buried myself in restaurant work, signing up for the maximum hours possible. Each week, I sent a few hundred dollars to Flag to be credited toward my debt of $30,000. At the rate I was sending money to Clearwater, I calculated, it would take me approximately eight years and four months to pay off my "debt." Even though outwardly I was an outcast, in my heart I was still a dedicated Scientologist. I proudly wore my Scientology jewelry to work, and when anyone asked about it, launched into a fervent testimonial about the incalculable benefits of auditing. At home, I buried myself in my Scientology books, working feverishly at the essays I had been required to write. I lived only for the day that I would be exonerated and accepted back into my group.
The months went by. I continued to wait on tables and to surrender my earnings to Scientology. My parents had insisted that I see a counselor, an act strictly forbidden by Scientology, to whom any mental health practitioner was a mortal enemy. But to satisfy my parents I finally agreed to some sessions with a social worker in a nearby clinic. In the year that I met with this counselor, I never once mentioned Scientology. Why should I defend my group to a suppressive enemy who would probably be constitutionally incapable of appreciating the wisdom of Hubbard and his "tech"?
A year and a half after being offloaded from Scientology, a new phenomenon began to emerge. I became increasingly irritable both at work and at home. I was unable to explain my explosive outbursts. Finally, I was forced to take a leave of absence from work.
I had a compulsion to read about other cults. My mind was attempting to heal. Like the young green plants in the spring poking through the melting winter snow, my mind and my emotions were stirring to life in some unknown subterranean region within.
I wrote a new letter to Florida begging to be allowed to return to Florida. One day, several weeks later I received the reply. "We are proud that you are doing so well," I read. "Just continue to do well."
I became more and more angry as the day wore on. They were not answering my question. Why couldn't I go back?
Anger churned inside me all day. At night, an unthinkable thought surfaced into consciousness. I wanted to call a lawyer. I wanted to sue Scientology. I was overwhelmed with terror. To sue Scientology was one of the very worst suppressive sins. Even the thought was suppressive. Committing a suppressive act would leave me no hope for redemption for trillions of years. To sue Scientology would be to call down doom upon my soul.
Yet the strange urge persisted. One night, without thinking, I made the call. I called information for the number of an attorney in Boston who I knew had litigated in the past against Scientology. I was able to reach him and I told him about my situation. He agreed to consider my case. I needed to send him a complete report. He would probably refer the case to an associate of his in Florida, he explained.
My heart was thudding as I put down the phone. There. I had done it. It could not be undone.
The telephone call to the lawyer precipitated a crisis. I became acutely suicidal. I planned to take an overdose of medication I had been given by the clinic for anxiety. I knew the dose I was considering would be fatal. I emptied the bottle of pills into my hand. The point of no return was just a swallow away. Suddenly I threw the pills into the sink, grabbed my father's keys and ran outside to his car. I drove for hours through the city, trying to think. My situation, it seemed to me, was hopeless.
I stopped at a phone booth and looked through the yellow pages. I called the city hospital. Could someone please help me, I cried into the phone. It was a Catholic hospital. Soon I was talking to a priest, Father Steve. He gave me directions to the hospital.
When I arrived, he met me and took me to the cafeteria. Over hot chocolate and out of desperation I told him my situation. He spent several hours with me, then drove with me to a small house near the university. Interdenominational Student Center, a sign read over the door.
Inside I met Frank Fuller, the director of the center. It just happened that Frank had recently been researching Scientology. He showed me to a small room in the center with a cot. Exhausted, I slept for over twelve hours. The next day, Frank sat down with me at the kitchen table and handed me a steaming cup of strong coffee. It cleared my mind. He had with him a stack of papers which he placed conspicuously in front of me.
"Now, we're going to go through some information about Scientology," he informed me. "I'm not requiring that you believe everything that I show you. I just want to know if you would be willing to look at some things with me."
"Why not," I thought. I knew that I had hit a dead end. Moving in any direction had to be better than staying where I was.
"Let's talk about Hubbard," he began. And for the next hour he told me things about Hubbard that I had never known. That he was not the person he had portrayed himself to be.
Point by point we went through the biography of Hubbard I had been exposed to in the cult. According to Frank, almost everything Hubbard had said about himself was a lie. And Frank had the documents to prove it.
His grandfather, I read, did not own a cattle ranch one fourth the size of Montana. Hubbard grew up in a house in an average small Montana town. He did not travel extensively in Asia as a teenager. His travels were mostly in his imagination. And he was not the decorated war hero he had portrayed himself to be. In fact, his war record was deplorable and the end of the war found him in a Navy psychiatric ward.
There were hundreds of lies.
"But why would he lie to us?" I asked incredulously. It was true, I thought, I never questioned the things he told us about himself. It never even occurred to me to question him. I just blindly believed.
I looked at the failing transcript of Hubbard's college record. He had told us he was one of the first students of nuclear physics. Yet according to his transcript he had failed the course. And there was a damaging letter he had written to the Veterans Administration, begging for psychiatric help, complaining of "periods of moroseness and suicidal inclinations."
I sat with Frank for hours that day, as my god was systematically dethroned. Hubbard, I learned, was a bigamist and a satanist. He had been married simultaneously to both his first and second wife. Frank showed me proof that Hubbard was deeply involved in the occult, performing satanic rituals devised by his mentor, the English satanist Aleister Crowley.
Yet I still couldn't let go.
Hubbard was a habitual user of drugs, under the influence of which most of the Scientology catechism had been written. In that light, I thought, books like The History of Man made more sense. And he had a habit of using affirmations which he repeated every day. One of which was: "All men shall be my slaves! All women shall succumb to my charms! All mankind shall grovel at my feet and not know why!"
After a few days, I returned home. I felt confused, stunned, betrayed. Why had I never questioned any of these things? Why had I accepted everything without thinking?
Much later I arrived at an answer to these questions. At the age of seventeen, I was naive, gullible. I had been raised in a system in which I was programmed to accept the words of adults without questioning them. My parents, my teachers had always been right. And I had made the fatal unconscious assumption that since I was honest and had good motives, then others must be too. As a teenager, I had never been disillusioned or deceived. I was unprepared for a monster like Hubbard who knowingly used hypnosis and mind control to entrap me in order to exploit me for his own purposes.
The turning point came for me one day in October of 1981. Frank had taken me to a deserted church where we sat in the empty pews and I soaked in the long-forgotten comfort of the religion I had abandoned many years before getting into Scientology. I knew in my mind that I was going to have to make a choice. Who would be my God? Would it be Hubbard? Or would it be the god of my childhood whom I had abandoned long ago?
I knew the answer. Hubbard was not worthy of godhood. Not any more. Strangely and miraculously, having made my choice, one night I suddenly snapped out of the hypnotic trance I had been in for twelve years. I literally woke up, as if an invisible hypnotist had snapped invisible fingers. And I knew from that moment that I would never return to Scientology. A decision began to emerge. I would, I decided, return to Florida to talk with the attorney to whom I had been referred by the lawyer in Boston. Over the ensuing weeks, this resolve hardened into action.
In November of 1981 I returned to Clearwater. The attorney accepted my case. And my case against the Church of Scientology, ten years later, is still pending.
Coming to know the truth about Scientology was by no means the end of my problems. It has taken me ten years and hundreds of hours of counseling to come to terms with my experience in Scientology and to deal with the considerable anger I felt toward the man and the organization responsible for my exploitation and betrayal.
I still have nightmares about Scientology. The healing process continues. But I am free. And having been once deceived by a great master of deception, I know I can never be deceived in the same way again. I will never again cede away the deed to my mind, not to anyone, no matter how convincing they may be. My freedom has been purchased at a tremendous cost, and neither my freedom nor my mind will ever be for sale again.