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Book Review: Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman

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Inside Scientology leaves no scandal unturned in the life of L. Ron Hubbard, underlings, celebrities and cult “slaves” in this story of America’s most secretive religion. Janet Reitman builds a sturdy scaffold on which readers can safely stand and watch the goings-on inside this 58-year-old New Age religion. It is a riveting read not only for its thorough research, and winning style, but because she has left no greed undescribed in the 396 page-turner.

A TIME expose in 1991 flagging Scientology as perhaps the most money-obsessed religion ever created was the first media crack in the edifice — a “cult” that received the status of religion; therefore a tax-exempt organ raking in billions around the world, which left observers scratching their collective heads at the machinations behind L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics and later Church of Scientology.

The author presents an unprecedented look at founder L. Ron Hubbard, who began his career as a pulp science fiction writer and a spinner of tall tales that he had been everywhere, done everything and above all knew everything about the mind. He was probably the best salesman ever born, conning his way to wealth and new followers.

From the get go he tells them that it is all about the money, all about selling anybody, anything and, if possible everything, from a book to auditing sessions ($3,000+) and, — icing on the cult — a billion-year contract of allegiance and worldly wealth to the church! This was the genius of a man whose greed knew no bounds.

Hubbard’s over-the-top inculcation became his legacy, which was passed along with his best-selling book on the mind: Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The world was not enough for L. Ron Hubbard. 

Who was L. Ron Hubbard? His humble beginnings were in moving from one small town to another, described as tall, thin and physically unattractive yet “magnetic.” He invents the “E-meter,” a simple galvanic response or lie-detecting machine, shrouds his teachings in the cloth of a “church” and coins the term Scientology “the study of knowledge.”

He went to great lengths to embellish his resume with research he never did on the records of former prisoners of war at Oak Knoll Hospital. He claimed to treat their psychological wounds, convincing lies on a revised resume.

It stands to reason that after his first career, writing pulp fiction science, there was an element of weirdness that made its way into the teachings and KSW (keep scientology working) was so other-worldly that when Cruise was finally initiated into the idea of extra-terrestrials embedded into the body of mortals he jumped and ran from the cult for years and had to be wooed back into the fold. He was not alone in revulsion; thetans and theta beings were the weirdness pushing away potential members, but that doctrine remains.

Behind the façade of the “fastest-growing church of the 21st century” these days is an image of members fleeing in droves, in the wake of voluminous online information calling out Scientology as a dangerous, greedy cult. Former members have written books, constructed countless blogs debunking the wonders of drug-free “clear” auditing sessions that are supposed to lead to happy and psychologically healthy individuals.

It is unclear the original purpose of auditing sessions. One of the early ones led to a member reverting to the womb and suddenly a former life. The auditors never quite knew what to expect from these sessions, which takes the science out of Scientology, you might say. But one outcome was predictable: audited individuals often suffered serious “breakdowns” and breaks with reality that were swept under expensive rugs.

Sell, sell, and sell the packages and the lingo of Dianetics: “SP, KSW, Sea Org, Int, wog, clear, Clears, pre-clear, auditing,” were the most oft-used terms. Signs of a cult include uniformity, special language, and the “specialness” of the followers; telling seekers they have an undeveloped soul or are in spiritual kindergarten.

Remarkably, keeping followers in this “kindergarten” limbo is part of cult tactics. The uninitiated cannot find their way out of the dark cave alone. If you watch Cruise’s Scientology talks you will hear him use this lingo. But using the language of Scientology is not all; he was accused of accepting a pimped-out RV bus built by “slave” labor.

Los Angeles is the fertile ground where the first and the most recent church opened on April 24, 2010 amid the touting of David Miscavige (who took control of Scientology) that the best was yet to come for the church and its ever-expanding membership, which in the last decade finally turned its eye to an untapped group: the African-American community. Finding new converts and ruining the competition were never-ending tasks.

And if you don’t understand anything else about Dianetics and Scientology you must get this: their ritual, scientific and all-out attack on the discipline of psychiatry and the drugs created for the psychotic and the bipolar was uppermost in the takeover strategies begun by Hubbard. He planned to replace the entire psychiatric world with Scientology and the clear mind created by “auditing.”

Auditors (trained members) lacked the credentials and licenses to practice healing in “mental science.” Hubbard fixed this with the protection church status could confer since “they could claim tax-exempt status, which Hubbard would later explain to his flock was a fundamental reason for taking the religious route (pg 44).” It was not popular until explained that it was needed for the legal and ethical loopholes provided. He sold it and the evolution of Scientology began. An eight-point cross was designed (two linking pyramids with what looks like an anchor), wedding and funeral rites and ordained ministers completed the look and feel of religion.

Despite the founder’s reclusive later years and death in 1986, his creation went on to become global, including docked ships, AKA the Sea Organization, to ensure absolute control over the “org” and its membership. The true story of Scientology reads like a startling bell curve of highs, lows and in-betweens of flagging memberships in what can only be described as a pay-as-you-pay-through-the-nose scheme of packages, perks that cost some members anywhere from low six figures upwards to multimillions, especially in the cases of the very wealthy like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

While those two celebrities have not turned up dead, suicidal or broke, many middle class, professional and working class men and women have met that end, well-documented by this book, and there have been two media-sensation deaths: Lisa McPherson and Greg Bashaw. For them death became the final exit from the grips of Miscavige.

Hubbard predicted the need to recruit from the celebrity class. A deliberate targeting began to gain a foothold in the Hollywood homes of up-and-coming actors who could multiply influence by bringing in the real bounty: Hollywood’s A-list directors, actors and their spouses. If you wondered, as I did, what came over Tom Cruise when he jumped Oprah’s couch or tangled with “Today” host Matt Lauer over Brooke Shields and her “irresponsible” reliance on drugs and at the same time gushing about his new love Katie Holmes — Inside Scientology offers a chapter “The Seduction of Tom Cruise.” And it’s a chilling reminder how easily we can find what we’re not looking for!

Tom’s many YouTube talks and the above incidents hallmark the scientologist’s persona. Anti-drugs and anti-psychiatry is an obsession with them along with the portrayal of the “happy” peppy person, an over-the-top love of life that exude like beads of gold from the pores of the “Clear,” an as-yet elusive goal. Therefore, Tom’s couch-jumping and Matt Lauer confrontation are but two sides of the same coin minted by auditing and wads of cash.

Inside Scientology is a must-read for present and former cult members, cult observers and those who debate the price of freedom.

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  • ObjectiveGuy

    Just be aware that the Scientology Office of Special Affairs “internet handlers” will come here to attack you for your review, it’s their job.

  • Heloise

    I expect that like when one of them attacked my review of Lions for Lambs cause cruise was in it. LOL