My Year in the Sea Org
updated last 05.10.15
I became agnostic at 17 after leaving Catholicism and then Christianity altogether. Searching out a new path to truth and fulfillment, I found Scientology — which offered a comprehensive package of total freedom in exchange for total commitment. I dove headlong into Scientology and was simultaneously swallowed up by it. I accepted that I was claiming the benefits of my search for truth. The answers to every question I had were answered. Hurriedly, I learned what ever I could. My universe was expanding with every conversation and every page that I read. I felt tremendously empowered and Scientology promised more, so much more.
The promises of a Scientology world were a world of adventure and world of learning, the keys to fantastic power on a super natural level; a utopian world of perfect people. Yet the reality of the Scientology world that I saw was filled by misadventure, censorship and futile efforts on the scale to make Scientology win for losing; there was no utopia, just constant sacrifice to the dream of a Scientology world. And that is this story — my story — a story of my observations and disappointments with Scientology.
Scientology stories begin differently for different people. In my case, it starts with me reading an article…
An Interesting Article
I was reading a Karate magazine in the basement of my uncle’s house when I came across an article on Dianetics. A black belt was discussing how he implemented Dianetics in his karate practice and explained the benefit. I recall that he said, because of his training in Dianetics that injury was less frequent. Once when he did get injured, Dianetics helped him cure the injury in half the time.
This was in the year 1990. Commercials for Dianetics had aired on television and were in recent memory. The typical commercial addressed a problem in the form of a question and then gave a page number, suggesting that the answer to the problem could be found on that page. Following a series of such questions and page numbers was shown an image of a volcano violently erupting then the cover of the book. “Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard” narrated a voice. Influenced by these commercials I had bought a copy of Dianetics, but hadn’t summoned the motivation to read it.
Being impressed with the article in the karate magazine I picked up the book and started reading. I was on summer vacation and I didn’t have a job so I made great time going through Dianetics. In the book the author described a state he called “clear.” This was an elevated state of ability which could be achieved exclusively through use of Dianetics.
The state of clear was very appealing. On reaching the state of clear a person would recover perfect eyesight, enjoy nearly perfect health and, amazingly, have a perfect photographic memory of everything that had happened in their life. Moreover the clear would enjoy greater mental clarity and joy in life.
I was excited by the promises of Dianetics. Although I didn’t have any major problems in my life, I was open to making my life better and hoped that Dianetics was going to give me a real boost in that area. My mind would drift and I would fantasize about a day, coming soon, where I would have a perfect memory, perfect health and a greater intellect than I already had; wonderful, magical daydreams.
Falling for it
About half way through reading Dianetics I was became so intrigued that I called the Church of Scientology in St. Louis. I explained that I was reading Dianetics and wanted to know more, I was connected to a customer service person, who introduced himself as Ron (not Ron Hubbard, by the way) and made an appointment for me to come visit their facilities.
Imagining what the Church of Scientology would be like, I pictured a professional, elegant building with a verdant garden courtyard and a path with a large water fountain which I would be standing next to as Ron told me about Dianetics. It seemed to me that a group of people with perfect memories, great health and high IQs would have an exceptional building.
Driving up to the building I found it exceptional in that it was exceptionally disappointing. The Church of Scientology was a sparse, small industrial building on a sparse commercial street. Steel letters on the building identified it as the Church of Scientology but what seemed most odd to me was a display of an unorthodox eight pointed cross. Brushing aside my disappointment in the appearance of the building, I parked the car and walked inside.
I met Ron, he was a well spoken 20 something, who sat me down next to his desk for a discussion about Dianetics. I was excited to have such access and to have my questions answered immediately and thoroughly!
I was very impressed when Ron demonstrated an e-meter to me. The device consisted of aluminum cylinders which were held in the hands and a large meter bearing knobs and a display in which a needle swept from side to side. The device seemed to pick up on emotions of distress.
Ron demonstrated the device by showing me what was called a “pinch test.” It consisted of having me hold the cylinders and pinching my arm, then asking me to remember the pinch. The needle on the display of the meter moved! It was as if the e-meter was reading my thoughts. To make sure that Ron, himself, was not controlling the movement of the needle, I exploited a moment while Ron was digging through his desk to remember a memory of falling off my bike. The needle moved! The e-meter really did work. It really was measuring mental distress.
At some point in the conversation my gaze began to wander over to the books on the bookshelf. The title of one book, “Have you lived before this life?” intrigued me. I began to steer my questions toward answering the question of “have I lived before this life?”
Ron seemed to be taken off guard by the new line of questioning. He was hesitant to answer when I asked him what happened before birth and conception. “I don’t want to scare you away by giving you too much information too fast,” he stated.
I assured him that I could handle it, I just wanted to know what Dianetics had discovered.
Indeed we had lived before this life, he informed me. Before this life, Dianetics technology had uncovered memories of past lives. He must have been reassured due to my expression of joy and wonder because he continued to fill me in on the history and nature of consciousness in this universe.
He opened a book for me, the first sentence of the book read, “This is a cold-blooded and factual account of your last sixty trillion years.”
Now, I hadn’t gotten out much as a teen, but now I could see the mysteries of the universe being reveled to me. Now I was getting the inside information. Ron poured open to me, he answered any questions, soaking up my attention like a sponge. In a crash course in Scientology he told me about the basic Scientology principles, past lives and the ability to restore supernatural capabilities to those practicing Scientology, such as the ability to bring the spirit out of the body, telekinesis and telepathy.
The tone of the conversation turned ominous when I asked why psychologists didn’t use Scientology, as Scientology was so remarkable.
Ron informed me that L. Ron Hubbard attempted to assist psychologists and psychiatrists with Scientology and Dianetics, but they didn’t want the assistance. They rewarded Hubbard’s offers of assistance by attempting to discredit Hubbard. Psychologists and psychiatrists didn’t want to patients to get well because these “sciences” were not about making people well, they were about making people worse. And, worse still, they operated under the full sanction of the government. And the government was controlled, ultimately, by a handful of wealthy men whose ultimate goal was to enslave mankind. These wealthy men used psychiatry to derange the minds of men, thus making them easier to control.
I actually got quite worried because I really believed it. I asked Ron why these people who controlled the government didn’t just walk in to the Church and shoot the place up. Ron explained that those people didn’t work that way, they worked in such a way as to be undetected. This eased my mind a bit, for a while there I felt that I was actually in physical danger.
While discussing the abilities of Scientologists and who had gone past the state of clear and were working on becoming clear as spiritually beings, called Operating Thetans (O.T. for short) , Ron pointed one of them out to me. A red haired, older and confident women walked past the desk and onto her business.
“She’s wearing glasses,” I observed.
“What do you mean,” asked Ron.
“Well in Dianetics, it says that a clear doesn’t need glasses because they have perfect eyesight.”
Ron explained that the clears didn’t have perfect eyesight due to causes rooted in previous lives and Dianetics didn’t treat previous lives. These root causes took much time and effort to track down and treat. In fact, Scientology was used to treat them, rather than Dianetics. As a result, very few clears had perfect eyesight.
In retrospect, I had made a critical observation and Ron had given a wholly unsatisfactory response. Hubbard had made the claim that an attribute of the state of clear was perfect eyesight. Yet clears didn’t have perfect eyesight. Therefore the claim was false. I didn’t pick up on it. Had I been more sophisticated I would have seen right then and there that Dianetics didn’t work as promised and might have even extrapolated that Scientology probably didn’t work either.
I just lacked sophistication and critical thinking skills for sure and maybe I was so caught up in wanting the claims to be true that I lost any objectivity that I did have. Excited as I was on the prospects of Scientology, I didn’t want a little inconsistency to stop me from benefiting from this wonderful new discovery.
I learned a few other things, Scientologists smoked cigarettes because the root causes of cancer could be prevented with Dianetics and Scientology. Also, the Republican ideology was more consistent with Scientology than the Democratic ideology. “Maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time,” I thought to myself, having been more of the Democratic persuasion.
Having learned of the capabilities of the e-meter, past lives, the state of O.T. and the international psychiatric conspiracy to enslave mankind I knew I had to get involved.
Ron took out a price list and rattled off some courses and their cost. The prices ranged from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. They were wildly out of my price range either way. Books and correspondence courses were about the only thing that I could afford and even those were expensive. But I couldn’t get clear and then move on to O.T. by reading books, I would have to undergo the Scientology processes at the Church to make real progress. It was disheartening, for a second there I thought I would have to wait until I got settled into a good job before I could move forward.
Then Ron provided me with, what I thought, was a golden opportunity. “Well, there is another option,” he said. You could join staff and that way you would be able to take your classes for free.
That sounded quite interesting to me.
Ron explained the terms of employment, there was a four year contract involved and my pay would be a percentage of the gross income of the Church . That percentage would increase with my training and level of authority. I could also get commissions based on getting others to take classes.
My initial reservation was that hadn’t finished high school. Perhaps I should wait to join staff pending graduation from high school.
“Why wait?” Ron responded. Ron explained that he had gone to college and had learned infinitely more in studying Scientology than he had in traditional schools. The argument was quite effective as I admired Ron’s intellect.
Before joining staff, I would have to take a personality test called an OCA. The test posed questions of my behavior such as did I ever read bus schedules for fun? And did I fidget when I was nervous? There were a hundred such questions. Once I was done, Ron took my answer sheet away and returned with a computer printed graph. Ron summarized that the graph looked okay except for one area, which was a real problem. I tensed up for a bit, thinking the problem might stop me from being hired on to staff . Ron seemed disappointed with the dip in the graph but told me I not to worry. Scientology could help out with that during my training for staff.
Ron and I finished the application process and Ron told me I would have to affirm a series of statements with the e-meter.
Moving deeper into the interior of the Church, I sat down, held the cans of the e-meter while asked questions such as “Have you ever been a member of the communist party,” and “Are you a criminal or wanted.” I had no problem with the questions and the Church (and the e-meter) had no problems with my answers. I was hired.
I drove home that night, windows rolled down, letting blow in the warm and humid Missouri night air. I didn’t feel so much as I was on the road home though. I felt that I was finally and luckily on the road to total freedom. It was the best road and the only meaningful road. I was on the road to my destiny and the warm and humid night air felt magical and exhilarating.
The Scientology Staff Lifestyle
The road to total freedom was not a luxurious road for those on staff. The pay was not enough to get by on and the hours were long. The day started around nine o’clock and went until ten at night. We worked everyday except Sunday.
The pay was horrible, far below minimum wage and hardly enough to live off of. But staffers employed survival skills to get by. One staff member would buy a huge tub of peanut butter and keep him self nourished that way. I saw another staff member paying for cigarettes with nickels and dimes which he scrapped together. In passing I heard Barry, a fellow staffer, say that he was unable to look his landlord in the eye, presumably as he was having a hard time with rent.
I had it some what lucky since I was living with my Uncle and Aunt and could eat out of their fridge and cupboards. The down side was that my Uncle’s house was far from the Church and gas money was becoming an issue. Once I allowed my gas tank to get too low and ran out of gas. I had to use a gas can to get some fuel from a gas station.
Money aside, life seemed exciting, Being on staff hardly gave me enough money to afford the gas I needed (even at 1990’s prices), but Scientology was the only thing I was interested in. It was my only interest. Studying Scientology, working at the Church of Scientology or even talking with people in the Church of Scientology was thrilling. I couldn’t get enough of it. Money didn’t matter all that much since everything I seemed to do was fun.
The first part of the day I spent in the class room, quietly reading policy written by Hubbard or recorded lectures of Hubbard speaking. I would take lunch and hang out with the staff and then go to work. The work wasn’t difficult. I would do things like stuff envelops, answer the phone, hand out personality test on the street and a broad array of activities geared to getting people interested in coming to the Church to take a course. Much of the time I could chat with co-workers while working.
Don’t let him leave
I was sitting in the desk next to the main entrance when fellow staffer Barry hurriedly approached me and pointed out a man sitting in the classroom. We could see the man through the class doors, he looked annoyed. He was also the only person in the classroom. “Don’t let him leave,” commanded Barry.
“What? What do I supposed to do if he tries to leave?”
“Just don’t let him leave,” Barry cautioned. He went away as quickly as he had come, leaving me to stand guard.
I was confused and since the man wasn’t trying to leave at present, I tried to come up with a plan to execute should he try to leave. I imagined myself jumping up and blocking the door with my body, thus blocking his exit. That might make him even more annoyed. I imagined that I might run up next to him and tell him not the leave. He was a customer though, not a staff member, I couldn’t order him around. I figured that best thing to do was a combination of the two, physically blocking him in part, while trying to convince him to say. If I failed, then I could at least say that I tried.
At another level, “Don’t let him leave” sounded like something people said in cults. I was committed to Scientology, but how far would I be justified in going to stop this man from leaving. I thought the Scientology tech would handle all these kinds of problems. I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with stopping people from leaving when they wanted to leave.
Luckily for me the man didn’t try to leave and I didn’t have to try to stop him.
It turns out that the man had grown dissatisfied with his course and wanted a refund. Since he was one of the very few customers that the Church had, we had to get him to stick with the course, as giving out a refund would have hurt us severely. The executive director (general manager) of the Church got an O.T. (A high level Scientologist) to come and convince the disgruntled customer to stick with the class.
The O.T. must have had a profound impact on the customer because in a brief exchange with the customer before he left and he told me he felt fantastic and was excited to continue with Scientology.
Establishing an LRH Presence
In a period of idleness, I sat at a desk looking at a bust of LRH which stood across the room from me. I can’t say what possessed me, perhaps my iconoclastic tendencies or maybe sheer boredom, but I rose from my desk, removed my tie and placed it around the neck of LRH.
I thought I had been alone, but Steve and Barry materialized out of some adjacent spaces. “Take that off of there!” said Steve hurriedly.
Sensing the faux-pas I expediently removed the tie from the bust.
“Don’t do anything to desecrate an image of LRH,” Steve instructed.
Barry eyed me with a mixture of suspicion and hostility. “Yeah, don’t put your tie on the bust. You sacrilegious…” he stopped mid-sentence at a loss for words.
I timidly tried to explain that I meant no disrespect. I was just fooling around. So soon everyone went back to where they came from and I slunk back to my desk thinking that Hubbard was taken more seriously around here than I had been led to believe.
Later Steve brought me a bulletin written by Hubbard dealing with images of Hubbard which instructed that images of himself should be placed around the Church to establish an “LRH presence.” Also, as Hubbard was the founder of Scientology, any disrespect shown towards an image of Hubbard was unethical in that it showed disdain for Scientology.
I hadn’t expected Barry to call me sacrilegious. It was as if images of Ron were treated as sacred objects. I was expecting a more casual atmosphere, not something so uptight. But when it came to images of Ron or comments about Ron, blasphemy was not tolerated and violations would be met with the swiftest rebuttal, as I myself had found out.
The veneration of Hubbard went further. In every Scientology organization, there was an office of LRH, just an empty furnished office that no one ever entered and at the end of each class the students would stand up and, led by the supervisor, applaud a large portrait of Hubbard and cheer. No one used the word worship, but in practice we did worship him.
Problems at Home
For the first few weeks while I was employed at the Church of Scientology, my uncle and aunt, who I was living with, were away on vacation. When they came back I had to give them the news about my joining the Church of Scientology and dropping out of school.
I think they would have been fine with it actually, had it not entailed me dropping out of school. But my dropping out of school was a big deal and my Aunt wouldn’t let it go with out an argument.
The whole debate was a total mess. I keep trying to explain what Dianetics and Scientology were about and they were so deeply entrenched in the real world that it was hopeless. I started talking about the whole thing about past lives and it just perplexed them. My Aunt began to openly speculate that Scientology got its money from running drugs. It was a mess, an utter mess.
The problem was that they had no idea of what I was talking about. They knew nothing about Scientology and were completely out of their depth trying to talk me out of something that they knew nothing about. They had no idea of how to make a counter argument. The whole thing totally blind sided them, one day they’re on vacation, the next day they find out about Scientology, the hard way.
A funny thing happened in the argument. A guest who my Uncle invited back from Pennsylvania injected into the conversation. I was making the point that I would be financially okay working in the Church (a relative statement, to be sure) and he asked me about the cars in the staff parking lot. He pointed out that by looking at the cars in the staff parking lot, I could tell the financial condition of the people who worked there. That made me think. Most of the staffers didn’t have cars. The ones who did have cars didn’t have very nice cars. I never answered his question.
My Aunt was actually quite reasonable, she told me that I could go back to working at the Church once I finished high school. But if I didn’t go back to school, I couldn’t live in the house.
I left the house. I know my Aunt and Uncle were hurt by it, and I didn’t hold it against them for a minute. I always understood what they were trying to do. I never broke off communication with them even if they disagreed with me about Scientology.
I drove to my Mom’s house, who conveniently enough lived much closer to the Church of Scientology. She let me stay and wasn’t so concerned that I dropped out of school as she believed I would lose interest in a year or so and return to school then. She had been a Catholic nun for a short while when she was my age. Eventually she lost interest in the religious life and left the convent. She was convinced I’d be the same way. Actually she was right.
When I showed up for work the next morning, I didn’t tell anyone about being kicked out to my uncle’s house. In the short time I had spent in Scientology I learned not to speak bad news, it was part of the Scientology philosophy and ethos. I felt a pride in suffering in silence. When my co-workers saw me the following morning and asked me how I was doing, I answered, “great!” I was all smiles and good news.
Working at the Hubbard Communications Office
Being a permanent staff member, I was appointed to a post in the Hubbard Communication Office. The qualifications to work in the HCO were more stringent than for other posts in the Church. One of the big qualifiers was that I had never used any drugs at all. Working in HCO also gave me some extra authority, for instance, according to my reading, HCO personal were the only people in the Church who could authorize the use of physical force in a confrontation. Also they were sort of like the police of the Church, they enforced the rules of the Church on the staff and were privy to the ethics files of all the staff members.
I was hopelessly under qualified and under educated to have any job except flipping burgers. When Mary, my boss, told me that I would be working with ethics, I replied, “I’m very interested in ethnics.” Ron and Mary looked at each other and I knew I said something stupid. At the time, I was vaguely familiar with “ethics,” but I had read about “ethnicity”. I was confusing the two. But Mary seemed to think I could handle the responsibility of working with ethics, even if I didn’t know the correct pronunciation of the word itself. I took the job, determined to learn as much as I could and be the best “ethnics” person ever.
My exact title was Personal Procurement Officer. I was the recruiter for the Church of Scientology of St. Louis. And I did find it odd that I had just been recruited myself and here I was trying to recruit people.
I did get a short course on how to recruit from the outgoing Personal Procurement Officer. I never knew why she was leaving and I thought it would be rude to ask. She did, however, make some time to show me how the job was done. It was a ten minute crash course and it was entirely conversational, no reading from policy volumes involved, which was rare for any sort of Scientology instruction.
She told me that I should focus my efforts on recruitment on people who came into to the Church of Scientology for courses and services. These people were already Scientologists or where already interested, they knew Scientology worked so they didn’t need to be “sold” on Scientology itself, as they had already “bought” it. We did some role playing in which I pretended to be a student on break and she played the recruiter. I sat down on a chair and she walked by, sat down next to me and introduced herself to me. “Hello, I’m the recruiter here and I was wondering if you knew about the privileges of being on staff?” went the introduction.
This was the gist of what I was supposed to do. Contact people interested in Scientology and tell them about the opportunity of joining staff. As we had limited time together, the issued of handling certain considerations keeping people form joining and closing the deal never came up.
I never did recruit anyone. It wasn’t so much for lack of trying but the job didn’t have much to offer in the line of pay. It wasn’t an appealing job for a person not interested in Scientology, nor was it very appealing for a person interested in Scientology. That and I didn’t spend much time in the HCO, soon I was offered a new opportunity.
Recruited for the Sea Org
The recruiter became the recruited.
Some weeks later I was sitting at my desk, thinking about how I was going to recruit some people when Steve, the Executive Director of the Church walked by and asked to speak with me in his office.
Sitting in Steve’s sparse office, he in his chair and I in the chair across the desk, Steve asked me if I knew what the Sea Org was.
I replied that I did know what it was. It was a higher echelon of command in the Church of Scientology.
Steve began to fill me in on some details of the Sea Organization. He informed me that in the Sea Org, you were provided with meals, housing, some spending money (about $20 and week) and a uniform. Sea Org members got two weeks of vacation a year and one Sunday off every two weeks. Sea Org members receive daily training in Scientology and don’t have to pay for auditing. Steve then asked me if I had any questions.
“Do you want me to join the Sea Org?” I asked.
“Yes,” Steve answered.
“Okay.” I smiled. The Sea Org sounded perfect for me.
Steve told me that to join the Sea Org I would have to sign a billion year contract. “Now the contract isn’t legally binding,” he said. “We would have a hard time trying to get a billion year contract to stand up in court, but it’s more of an honor thing,” he assured me.
That didn’t concern me, I just wanted to sign the contract as fast as I could before he got the chance to change his mind. I fully intended to serve out the full length of the contract. I was in love with Scientology and now Scientology had just asked me to marry it. I wanted to live in Scientology, to serve Scientology and not just till death, but till the next billion years.
In signing the contract I took an oath which read as follows: “I, Thomas Weeks, DO HEREBY AGREE to enter into employment with the SEA ORGANIZATION and, being of sound mind, do fully realize and agree to abide by its purpose which is to get ETHICS IN on this PLANET AND UNIVERSE and, fully and without reservation, subscribe to the discipline, mores and conditions of this group and pledge to abide by them.
“THEREFORE, I CONTRACT MYSELF TO THE SEA ORGANIZATION FOR THE NEXT BILLION YEARS.”
Steve read the oath and I repeated it with my right hand raised. The ceremony took place in the privacy of his office, door closed and only one other witness present.
A whole new world was opening up to me.
Steve told me that I was to go to go to Los Angeles immediately. The deal with the Sea Org was that I had to get to Los Angeles on my own and once there, the Sea Org would take care of everything else. So on Steve’s suggestion on I gave him the title to my car and he bought me a ticket to Los Angeles. He told me I would be landing LAX, one of the biggest airports in the world. Once I got there, there would be Sea Org members waiting for me to drive me to the Sea Org Western United States headquarters.
Steve told me that there was a lot of buzz and excitement at the Sea Org because of my recruitment. “In fact they’re probably making confetti right now to celebrate when you come.”
I imagined being showered with confetti and welcomed with cheers as I walked into the offices of the Sea Org. I didn’t like attention that much, but still it was a nice idea that I was so wanted and welcomed.
From what I had heard about the Sea Organization it was an organization created by L. Ron Hubbard himself to disseminate Scientology world wide. The Sea Org was a no nonsense, snap and pop operation. More so than any organization, the Sea Organization used the system of ethics, administration and technology outlined by L. Ron Hubbard. The Sea Org was the manifestation of Scientology, that is a pinnacle of perfection and efficiency. Sea Org members were the most productive people on the planet. They held a reputation in the Scientology community of being incredibly focused and amazingly quick to get results.
I’m making a conscious effort here to build up the repute of the Sea Org, but in even making a conscious effort, I don’t think I’m doing their reputation justice. Perhaps the reason for that is there is a level of supernatural ability expected of the Sea Org as L. Ron Hubbard’s technology eventually restored super natural powers. Sea Org members were reputed to capable of getting results only dreamed of by others.
Once in the Sea Org, they would train their intention toward me and turn me into a Sea Org member. I would learn to be a no nonsense type of character, spreading Scientology and learning Scientology at the same time. Thus I would do well and be well at the same time.
Recruiting a Replacement
Before I could be allowed to go to the Sea Org, it was proper that a replacement for me at the St. Louis org would be recruited. Steve told me to get to work on recruiting my replacement.
Having no real leads to work from, I took a box of 3x5 cards on which was information about people who had taken a class or bought something from the Church. I started cold calling the phone numbers on those cards and telling the people that the Church of Scientology was now hiring. I tried not to sound too desperate, but I was really concerned as to how I was going to pull off recruiting someone for such a low paying job.
After an hour or so, Steve walked by and told me that the “cycle of action” I was engaged in wasn’t very realistic and to follow him.
“Okay.” I jumped up and followed him into his office. I was very relieved to hear someone tell me that what I was doing was unrealistic because I felt it was unrealistic.
Steve knew of a potential replacement, he would call her in and try to sell her on taking the position. He wanted me to help though. He told me was her “button” was that she liked to help people and that was the button we needed to press. I was to really emphasize that if she would join staff to be my replacement, that would really help me a lot, and it would help Scientology and the world a lot.
The woman came in and Steve and I made a point to tell her how she could really help, we pressed her “button.” I did feel that we were taking advantage of her good nature, but if that was how things were done then I assumed that it must have been for the best.
She had pressing bills and refused in the least assertive way she could, to join staff. She never helped us. I but it wasn’t for lack of us asking for her help. In the end, it was decided that I would go to the Sea Org with out an immediate replacement. Steve would work on it after I left.
The Supreme Test at the Airport
On the night before I left for L.A., I conversed with girl named Jade in the parking lot about joining the Sea Org. Jade spent much time around the Sea Org as many members of her family were in the Sea Org. She told me that some times things had been tough when she there and some days they had only lettuce leaves to eat. Still, she eventually wanted to join, but said that her parents wouldn’t let her as she was only around 15. To this day, I can’t figure out if she was trying to warn me or merely prepare me for what I was going to see when I got to L.A..
I was only slightly disturbed about what she had told me about times being hard and having only lettuce leaves to eat because I thought she had to be exaggerating on some level. I had heard too many good things about the Sea Org and only this one negative thing. I figured that it probably made perfect sense, but I wasn’t getting the whole story. Regardless, she had a high opinion of the Sea Org overall and I was too close to my adventure to call it off now.
Having told my family of my new opportunity, I packed a trunk full of clothes and let them know that I would be in touch. Dressed in nice blue suit and white shirt that I owned, I set out to make a good impression. Steve told me as we drove to the airport to take my copy of the book Dianetics and hold it up after I got off the plane so I could be spotted by the Sea Org members who would be waiting for me at the gate. Steve walked with me to the boarding gate and soon I was airborne on my way to L.A.
I disembarked from the plane holding my copy of Dianetics. Once at the gate I stopped, held up my copy of Dianetics in such a way as to make it conspicuous and waited.
Nothing. I couldn’t see that anyone was looking for me. No one walked up to me and asked my name. After waiting a few minutes I decided to go to baggage claim and pick up my trunk. Once again I made a conspicuous display of my paper back copy of Dianetics. The cover of the book depicted an erupting volcano and was bright with red and orange — it would be hard not to see. No one, however, approached me. I waited more.
I wandered out side into the warm L.A. summer air, seeing the palm trees and blue skies. Yet the mood was a bit dampened with concern as to where my counterparts were. I was supposed to be met at the gate. My coming was supposed to be greatly anticipated and celebrated with confetti and cheers. But I saw only indifferent people going about their daily business. Was it possible that the snap and pop, super naturally capable Sea Org had left me stranded by sheer incompetence at an international airport? Was there some other explanation? I began to ponder the situation.
From what I heard about the Sea Org and the reputation they held, I knew they didn’t make mistakes. So the problem couldn’t be the Sea Org. Also I looked back on what had happened and saw that I had done every thing right. Based on these observations I came to the conclusion that what was happening was a test. I was being tested by the Sea Org. It was the obvious answer to what was going on.
L. Ron Hubbard said that the “supreme test” of a person was their ability to “make it go right.” Scientologist constantly made reference to this as it was a very popular saying. I figured that as I was joining the Sea Org, they wanted to see if I had the right stuff. They wanted to see how I measured up against a “supreme test” and “make it go right.”
I thought to myself the Sea Org members sent to pick me up knew were I was right now and were, in fact, watching me from a distance with a pair of binoculars as they sat in an air conditioned car or standing by a phone booth conducting themselves in an utmost professional manner. As this idea occurred to me I leapt into action. I would demonstrate to the Sea Org that I did have the right stuff, I could measure up — at least enough to be worth the effort.
In the back of the book, Dianetics I found a telephone number. While I wanted the telephone number for the Continental Liaison Office of the Western United States, not seeing it I decided I should call the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles. A pay phone was a few feet away but I didn’t have any money at all, not even the change for a phone call. This is where I could “make it go right.” So I looked around and noticed that carts could be returned for a deposit of 25 cents and that was all I needed for a call. I found a cart, wheeled it back, pushed it back into the vending machine and took out the coin.
“Pretty industrious,” I thought to myself. I imaged the Sea Org members who were spying on me from afar making notes in their notebooks and smiling at each other.
Picking up the phone, I dialed the number and when the voice at the other end of the phone spoke, “Advanced Organization of Los Angeles,” I introduced myself and informed them that I had just joined the Sea Org and was stranded at LAX.
“Oh my God!” exclaimed a man’s voice on the phone. The voice was nervous and worried, “Okay, I’m going to get you in touch with someone who can help you here! Hold on here! Sorry, this isn’t the first time this has happened. This has happened before. Hold on…” He must have put the phone down to make a call on other line.
My heart sank as I realized that my being stranded at the airport wasn’t a test, or even a “supreme test.” There were no Sea Org members evaluating my performance from afar. I really was alone and if I hadn’t made the call they never would have found me.
The man’s voice came back over the phone. “Hello, okay I’m going to transfer you to some one who can help you. If you get disconnected call back, collect if you have to.”
Another younger voice came on the line and he explained that some Sea Org members were sent to pick me up but they were late and when they got to the gate I wasn’t there. They had also paged me over the airport intercom, but I guess I hadn’t heard it. At some point they decided to just leave and go back to the complex, which seemed out of character from what I had understood about Sea Org members. They hadn’t stayed to make it go right.
The young voice told me to get a cab and tell them to take me to the horse shoe at Church of Scientology.
“The horseshoe at the Church of Scientology? Don’t they need an address?” I asked.
“No, everyone knows where we’re at. Just tell them the horse shoe at the Church of Scientology and they’ll know where to go. Once you get here, we’ll pay for the cab fare.”
Where is the Church of Scientology?
Hanging up the phone, I hauled my trunk to the cab stand, peeked into a cab and said, “I need to go to the horse shoe at the Church of Scientology.”
“Where is that at?” asked the driver.
“I don’t know,” I responded, “The guy told me that everyone knew where it was at. He told me to say ‘the horse shoe at the Church of Scientology’.”
She indicated a map book on the seat beside her and said, “Well, I can find any address with this map book. It’s got every street in the city here, but I’ve got to have an address.”
“Oh, so you don’t know where its at?”
“No,” she answered. “You don’t have any idea of where it’s at?”
“No,” I replied, confounded by now at to why I wasn’t given more information. I knew, at least that this wasn’t a test.
“Well, let me ask around to see if anyone knows where its at.”
I watched her get up out of the cab and start asking other taxi drivers where the horse shoe at the Church of Scientology was at. Time after time, the drivers would shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.
Perplexed, I sat down on my trunk. I wondered how the Sea Org member could have the impression that everyone knew where the Church of Scientology was when, in fact, practically no one knew where it was. If anyone should know, taxi drivers should know, but they didn’t know. I hadn’t even heard of Scientology myself up until a few months ago.
It began to occur to me that this Sea Org member that I had talked to must have had a grandiose view of how the world viewed Scientology. He had the impression that everyone knew about Scientology and knew where the buildings were, when in fact no one knew what Scientology was or where its buildings were.
The taxi driver returned and told me that she had found a driver who knew where the horse shoe at the Church of Scientology was. I awoke from my state of contemplation and realized that I must have been sitting there, thinking to myself for about five minutes. I speculated that the cab driver might know were the Church was because he might be a Scientologist. The cab pulled up, the driver put my trunk in the back of the minivan, I got in and we drove off. I didn’t ask if he was involved in Scientology and he didn’t say anything. I looked out the window, watching the city landscape roll by.
A Big Blue Building
Twenty or so minutes went by and looking out of the window of the cab I saw the eight pointed cross of the Church of Scientology in the distance. It stood on top of a big blue six story high, unsightly building. The unsightliness of the building made me hope that I wasn’t going to that building. But as the cab drew closer and closer to the building I knew that’s where I would be going. The Sea Org building was not quite what I had imagined it would be. But I didn’t complain, exteriors weren’t important.
There was a horseshoe driveway and the cab drove right into it. I read a sign which read “Pacific Area Command Base.” I would learn later it was know commonly as the PAC Base. I saw a Sea Org member walk out past some sliding doors to meet the cab. He pulled some cash out of his pocket and paid the fare. He was my age or maybe even younger and he did conduct himself with an air of confidence. I believe his name was Mike.
Mike showed me around a bit. While I had expected to be received with much celebration and throwing of confetti, my expectations had faded since the debacle at the airport. To have a big deal made out of my arrival would have made me feel awkward, but it also felt awkward when I walked into the office and was barely noticed. Some Sea Org members turned to look at me. There was no confetti or celebration but I hadn’t joined the Sea Org for kudos so I just dropped the little expectations I had left.
Quality Recruits of the Estates Projects Force
All Sea Org members begin their Sea Org career with the same program called the Estates Projects Force or EPF. This is sort of a boot camp where Sea Org recruits divide their days between studying some basic instructions for Sea Org members and manual labor such as mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms and the like. It wasn’t hard work or even that difficult.
Everyone in the EPF wore blue jump suits and would have to jog from place to place instead of walking. We also stood in formation for muster in the morning, but the militaristic aspects of the EPF were less emphasized; we didn’t salute much and I never saw much military ceremony while I was in the Sea Org. The recruits in the EPF were of varying ages — from as young as 13 to over 50 years old.
It was normal for EPF members to give testimonials as to their success with the EPF program. After a few weeks in the EPF, I saw a testimony of one young man who stood up and told, “Up until I month ago I was living on the street, with no money and no place to live. I had never heard of Scientology before and then someone told me about the Sea Org and I joined and now things are going so great for me.”
While everyone clapped, I was reeling from what I had just heard. Was it possible that Sea Org recruiters were recruiting the homeless kids off the streets of Hollywood? I was told that the qualifications for joining the Sea Org were high, that it was an honor to be recruited for the Sea Org. But come to find out the Sea Org was seemingly recruiting anyone who they could get to sign the contract.
In another case I became acquainted with another recruit who knew nothing about Scientology. Apparently he didn’t even know that he wasn’t supposed to criticize Scientology and he complained and expressed his doubts freely. I wondered to myself how it was that he had been recruited to the elite Sea Org. I was forced to conclude that the Sea Org’s standards were much, much lower than I had anticipated. He was eventually kicked out after a recruit who, was a real Scientologist, got a cold and blamed his suppressive influence for having causing it.
Then, while I in class, I had an eyebrow raising experience with a high school aged Sea Org recruit. I had been asking him questions as part of Hubbard’s “self analysis” processes. The questions I was asking were like, “Remember a time when you were happy,” or “Remember a time when you discovered something new.” I don’t remember the exact questions. At the end of the process, as was part of the process, I asked him how he felt. I wasn’t supposed to stop the questions until he felt better.
In a bored and emotionless tone he told me that he felt great and energized. Obviously I had a difficult time believing that he really felt “great and energized” and felt he was merely telling me what he was supposed to tell me. As I had been instructed to not evaluate him and not to contradict him, I simply wrote down that he felt great and that was the end of the session.
Of course, I had gotten the not so subtle hint that we was just going through the motions and didn’t have much of a passion for Scientology. I formed an idea in my mind that his parents must have been Scientologists who had pressured him into the joining the Sea Org. I don’t know if that was true but their were a lot of kids who’s parents were Sea Org members who were in the Sea Org in one capacity or another.
There was also a case where a young kid, about 15 years old or so, who ran away to live on the streets. He was in the EPF and was the child of Sea Org members. About a month later he either came back or was taken back to the PAC base. I saw him sitting in the court yard; his head was shaved and his Sea Org issue boots had been spray painted white. The word was that he had run away from the EPF and joined a skin head gang and had been living on the streets.
Was this how the children of Sea Org members were brought up? I thought to myself. Normal families have troubles, I know that’s true. My family had lots of troubles, but I didn’t expect Scientology families to have problems of such proportions. Sea Org families were supposed to be functional and well adjusted. Still more to the point, was this the caliber of Sea Org recruits?
Of course, I don’t mean to count the misses and not the hits. There were many competent, intelligent and dedicated Sea Org recruits. Maybe they didn’t strike me as being of the finest caliber, the best of the best but I figured that’s why they were there — to become the best of the best and to hone their excellence.
Fast Track to Marriage
The days were full in the EPF and very structured. The EPF had its own barracks which was a sexually segregated apartment building a few blocks away from the PAC complex. Each morning, we would wake up, get dressed, go eat breakfast, go to class, go to lunch, start work, break for dinner, then walk back to the barracks when the work was done. By the time we went back to the barracks it was time for bed.
After a few weeks of being on the EPF some new recruits joined and among them was a girl who became my girlfriend. We didn’t have much time to get to know each other, during meals, during breaks and while walking to and from the barracks in the night and mornings. Debbie was from Switzerland, very much into Scientology and very nice, especially to me. She had worked at the Church of Scientology in Zurich for years and just recently joined the Sea Org.
The Sea Org demanded upstanding behavior from its members and listed many rules to follow, among them was no sex outside of marriage. It wasn’t long then, that I began bringing up the idea of marriage to Debbie. She played it cool, but I was concerned that once we finished the EPF she would be working in a completely different office from me. In fact the office she would be working in was about a mile away and with no car or time off that is a very considerable distance. If we did get married, then we would be able to have a room together, so that we could see each other every night among other things.
Eventually Debbie agreed to the idea of marriage and once we graduated from the EPF, we got some time off to take a bus downtown to the L.A. courthouse and got married. It was a Bohemian marriage to be sure and after getting the marriage license, we had just enough money to eat at McDonald’s.
In retrospect, we hardly knew each other and had no business getting married. For example, a few hours after we were married, I learned that her father had committed suicide when she was younger. I married her before I even knew anything about her family. But everything in my life was moving at a million miles an hour in those days. A day later we had our room together.
The Matter of $100
Back in St. Louis my presence was missed. Mary, who had been in charge of HCO, returned from her maternity leave to find her new recruit newly recruited to the Sea Org. She had high ambitions for the division and I had been central to her plans. Finding someone willing to join staff was hard enough, but finding someone willing to join staff and qualified for HCO was harder. To complicate matters, Steve, who recruited me, was married to Mary. I found out years later that she was so angry about it that it nearly ended in divorce.
I was grateful to Steve for giving me the opportunity to join the Sea Org at the near cost of his marriage. He never was able to recruit someone to take my place, but the Sea Org wasn’t about to give me back. He told me that he had sold my car for $350 and since the plane ticket cost only $300 I asked him for the difference. He responded by mail that I should “consider this a done deal.” Knowing that Steve and Mary were newly parents and knowing the pay at the St. Louis org, I wandered to myself if he was keeping the $50 out of financial desperation. I also started to wonder to myself, if Steve had recruited me to the Sea Org for the $50 commission.
Of course, I didn’t know Steve’s motives one way or another, but I couldn’t help but wonder.
The Ever Disappointing Sea Org
As a Sea Org member, my life was consumed by Scientology. After waking in the morning, I would put on my uniform and take Scientology courses in the course room until noon. Breakfast was offered, but I usually slept in past that. After class and immediately after lunch, I would go to work in CLO WUS office. This would continue until at least 10 at night — breaking only for dinner. Depending on the work load, days could easily go longer. For us at CLO, Thursday was the big day for all nighters where we would stay up late into the night reviewing and responding to reports submitted by orgs under our command. We would stay up until 3 a.m. and then sleep in — thus giving up our course time.
Some Sea Org members would socialize in the cafeteria before bed, but only for an hour or so, as they had to get up in the morning to do it all over again.
There were no days off. Monday through Saturday were exactly the same in schedule — course work and work. On Sunday we would have some time to do laundry in the morning and then had to help in “field day,” or cleaning and doing maintenance jobs around the base. In my whole time in the Sea Org I had one day off to myself because I was expecting a visit from my mother who was planning to have a layover in L.A.. When her layover was canceled, I didn’t bother cancel the day off.
The Sea Org wasn’t what I was expecting but that was alright because I believed, at some deeper level the sacrifice and long, arduous hours would pay off; they would bear fruit eventually.
Debbie’s and my room wasn’t really so much a room as it was a blocked off section of a hall. What had complicated matters was that the room blocked a fire escape. We didn’t have a lock on the door I imagine so people could go through our room in the event of a fire, but still the room was out of sorts. I had heard that our room might be demolished to clear the egress to the fire escape and, while in the room, I lived with the uneasiness that we could lose our space together.
The dining facilities left much to be desired as well. I remember walking through the dishwashing area and seeing cockroaches everywhere. I have a vivid memory of a dishwasher spraying a hose and chasing hundreds of them down a huge drain. I figured that maybe the bug problem was worse in L.A. than it was in St. Louis, still it couldn’t have been a good thing by any stretch.
I had imaged that the Sea Org would be a pinnacle of perfection and professionalism. Yet the juxtaposition of imagined expectations and experienced reality was more than obvious. I did overlook it, but I couldn’t keep it out of the back of my mind. As I experienced a Mecca of Scientology as it really was, the contradictions between the reputation of the Sea Org and reality of the Sea Org were unshakable. I tried to wave them away, like pestering flies at a summer picnic, I believed that Scientology worked. I had heard stories which testified to the validity of Scientology; antidotes of past lives remembered, rumors of supernatural capabilities gained. So maybe, the Scientology buildings and furnishings were a bit run down, maybe the living conditions weren’t great, and maybe I hadn’t met anyone who really amazed me, but I dismissed that as irrelevant. I dismissed what I witnessed as irrelevant and accepted the promises of L. Ron Hubbard and the rumors of the Scientology community to be relevant.
Sea Org Management: The Scream Team
The Sea Org members themselves were dedicated and even tireless. They really did believe in Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology, but I could easily see that they weren’t the most productive group of people on the planet. The management style of the Sea Org seemed to be nothing extraordinary during day to day business; but it could dissolve into hysterical screaming when things went wrong. To hear hysterical screaming peppered with threats of “heavy ethics” or completely unreasonable demands in the Sea Org wasn’t rare at all, it was no big deal and business as usual.
Scientology administration was supposed to be the most effective and cutting edge. L. Ron Hubbard was drawing on trillions of years of administration know how in developing Scientology admin technology, but it seemed that confusion and uncertainty reigned in the administration of the Church of Scientology. Goals were set with the full intention of being met and then not met at all. At times, no improvement happened at all or maybe the area went into a decline. Things went wrong all the time and that would be fine for other organizations — Coca Cola, Sony, Xerox , it would be fine there, but not in the Sea Org. The Sea org was supposed to be light years ahead of any corporation. There wasn’t supposed to be a comparison at all. The Sea Org was the organization that Hubbard had started himself. It was the organization that was not only going to save the earth, it was literally supposed to save the galaxy.
One night, my wife, who worked at the International Office told me that there had been a huge flap that night due to the Continental Liaison Office in South America being shut down. She conveyed to me that the rent on their building had not been paid for so long that the organization was evicted and the Sea Org Staff had been thrown out on the street. The answer to this, according to my wife, was hysterical screaming at the evicted South American Sea Org members over the phone.
Even the head of CLO WUS (Continental Liaison Office Western United States — the Sea Org unit where I was stationed), Cal the Commanding Officer, was fired by means more humiliating than constructive. He was demoted to the position of deck hand. “Deck hand” was a reference to the Sea Org’s naval heritage, but it essentially meant that instead of working behind a desk in a prestigious position, he would be pushing a broom in a less than prestigious position. The whole point was to humiliate him and make an example out of him.
The whole exercise had the effect of sinking morale in the org. Cal was working hard everyday, just like everyone else there. We all gave so much of our selves and now Cal was being punished as an example to the rest of us for not producing miracles. I knew that Scientology was supposed to be creating miracles, I didn’t expect that we could be punished for not producing miracles. Anyhow, Cal was immediately replaced with someone who had to ask us how to do his job.
One of the worst cases of management by screaming came from a young girl screaming at an old woman. My memory of Claire (I’m unsure of her name), the personnel officer is that of a nice older lady who, instead of a wearing a look of confidence as I had expected of a Sea Org member, wore a look of fatigue and worry. She was probably in her 60s. I had been witness to her being harassed by a young staff member of superior rank.
This younger staffer, who was in the Commodore’s Messenger Organization (CMO) — a more senior organization, yelled and screamed at Claire and literally chased her up and down the halls. Claire was running and his girl was chasing after her, screaming at the top of her lungs. This went on for a good five minutes. And when I describe the harassing staffer as young, I mean she was very young — about 12 years old or so, pre-pubescent for sure.
Knowing the policies of the Church and the ranks of the two, I knew the young girl was perfectly authorized in screaming at the old lady. But the lack of tact struck me as bizarre. It seemed to me that the sadism of this young child which might normally be directed at other children on some playground was just being poured out on this old lady; it was a surreal scene and I’ll never forget it.
In a different setting, this young girl and older lady might have had a relationship like that of student and teacher or grandchild and grandmother. A relationship built on compassion and caring. Regardless of whether the older lady was humiliated or not, I felt humiliated for her. Also I felt a fear that this might happen to me were I to remain on staff into my old age.
The Finance Office and Non-Compliance in the Sea Org
Most of the screaming in CLO West US came out of the finance office. While the name implies that the office disbursed funds or made loans to the orgs in the West US, that wouldn’t be true. The sole function of the finance office was to extract a percentage of income produced by the orgs. Stern tones, angry voices and yelling of Sea Org members talking on the phone to staff in lower orgs could often be heard from the hallway outside of the finance office. It was just a matter of routine. That’s how it was done apparently.
I felt somewhat sorry for the Scientology staff members on the other ends of those phone lines. Having worked in the St. Louis org, I knew the staff hardly got any pay at all, yet they had to send a percentage of their Church’s gross income to the finance office each week.
I hadn’t expected that the Sea Org would be so stingy when it came to money. I hadn’t expected that the Sea Org would ever be at a loss for money or incompetent with funds as was the case with CLO South America. I had expected the Sea Org to be successful in its own right, in a position to give money and to help instead of being in the position of demanding and screaming for money from people who couldn’t pay their rent and subsisted on peanut butter and crackers.
The Continental Liaison Office was supposed to be providing a valuable service to the lower orgs but I began to doubt whether that service was being provided. I recalled from working reception in the St. Louis org that the Sea Org was calling on the phone constantly and interrupting while the staff was trying to work. I remember that at St. Louis org, the phone would sometimes be allowed to ring, not to be answered as the staff just assumed the Sea Org was on the other end of the line and wasn’t interested in talking to them. The phone would just ring for minutes.
In the Sea Org, being on the other end of the line, it was frustrating that, at times, it was difficult to contact staff members via phone. Once Cory, a colleague in the Sea Org, needed to talk to a staff member at a certain org. He said, “This is the kind of call that I need to be answered, so I’m just going to put the phone on speaker phone and let me know when someone answers it.” So even those of us at CLO knew that the staff at the orgs weren’t interested in talking to us. That phone rang for at least five minutes before someone picked up on the line on the other end.
Telexes were much the same situation. I could send out 20 telexes to staff members and would normally get about 2 telexes in response. It was as if my telexes were being thrown directly into the trash. Not to imply that the trash wasn’t a good place for my telexes. I had less than a year experience in Scientology and was giving instruction to staff members with many years of experience over me. In fact, ironically, I lost respect in the competence of the Sea Org since they had the incompetence to put me in a position of authority, giving instruction to people who should have been giving instructions to me.
I knew I wasn’t making a contribution. I was in over my head and I desperately wanted to get some instruction on how to do a good job. I would do what ever I was told with the strength of ten men, but the only training I got was from my courses which were vague; they didn’t answer any of my questions. Sure they were filled with platitudes about being unreasonable, and tough and competent — but that didn’t help me to actually be competent at my job. I hadn’t expected to be in this situation, I thought that I would be trained to handle any eventuality, with certainty and confidence. True I did have a lot of training left, but I didn’t think that training would address my shortcomings. I formed the idea that most of my colleagues where just playing by ear, making it up as they went along and silently hoping for the best. I sensed that deep down no one believed that the training worked, they all just took what good they could from it and ignored what they didn’t agree with and filled in the blanks with what they thought would work. And that was the ultimate irony in itself as our whole mission was to spread the teachings of Hubbard.
It also occurred to me that there were so many problems and so many things that were wrong, but no one ever talked about them. Of course, that was a key part of the ethics of Scientology — don’t complain or “natter” in Scientology-speak. Hubbard wrote that people only nattered about things that they subconsciously wanted to destroy. Of course, I didn’t want to let on that I wanted to destroy Scientology, so I never uttered a word of complaint. No one complained or nattered ever, no matter how crappy things were. Good news and pleasantries were all anyone ever communicated. So it was just impossible for me to walk into a meeting and just start spouting off all these problems that I had with Scientology and the Sea Org. I might as well declare myself a Suppressive Person and walk out. Nattering about the Sea Org might get me sent to the Rehabilitation Projects Force, a program even more restrictive and demanding than the regular Sea Org.
The OT in the elevator
Having finished my work for the night, I went to my room and changed out of my uniform. I disliked my uniform — for one reason I only had one uniform and it was difficult to keep clean. Also I just never did like uniforms, they seemed to strip individuality away. Maybe there’s some deeper reason, but to this day, even though I still wear a uniform for work, I take it off as soon as I can.
Being changed out of my uniform and into “civilian clothes” I walked downstairs to make a purchase form the canteen (the snack shop). When I entered the elevator going up, a well dressed man stepped in front of me. The first thing I noticed was a bright, colorful tie framed by the dark lapels of a fine suit. I looked up to his face to see an older man, in his 50s maybe, standing regal and confident; he was looking at me intensely. “Sea Org member, where is your uniform?” he demanded.
“I’m off duty right now, so I took it off,” I responded. I wasn’t intimidated by him, but I was very mystified as to who this person was.
“That’s no excuse, as per regulation (and he sited a regulation which I can’t remember) Sea Org members are to wear their uniforms at all times.”
“Oh, I wasn’t aware of that,” I responded. “I might not have gotten to it in my training yet. I’ll look into that regulation…” The elevator has reached the fourth floor, the door opened and I stepped out. The fourth floor apparently wasn’t his floor.
Before the doors closed I looked back at him and asked, “Who ARE you?”
He seemed surprised, “You don’t know who I am? …You’ll find out… You’ll find out,” he chimed ominously as the doors closed. This tone and manner suggested to me that he was someone important and clearly an O.T.. If he told me that I would find out who he was, then it would happen. I would find out.
I mentioned the encounter to my wife. She thought it was odd but couldn’t give me any information as to the identity of the well dressed man. I didn’t want to seem foolish, going around asking who that person might be so I just let it go. I figured, eventually I would find out who the well dressed man was.
Eventually I did find out. One evening I walked in to the foyer at the PAC base where I saw the well dressed man with an entourage; a dark sedan was waiting for him outside the glass doors. I quietly strolled up to the assemblage seeing the well dressed man off. After giving orders to members of his retinue he pointed at me as asked, “You. Have you found out who I am yet?”
“No,” I replied. I was somewhat impressed that he remembered me. It had been a month at least. Oddly I wasn’t so impressed that the O.T. powers that he implied he had didn’t revel the secret of his identity to me sooner. After all me did want me to know who he was.
He pointed to a young man in the entourage. “You. You tell him (pointing back at me) who I am.” And with that the well dressed man hurried out the sliding glass doors and got into the dark sedan, which drove off into the night.
I turned to the young man. “So who was that?”
The young man didn’t look at me as he spoke, which was rare for a Scientologist. His eyes followed after the well dressed man and his car. “ That was Norm Starkey, he’s the executor of the LRH estate.”
So that was how an O.T. introduced himself. He pointed to other people and demanded that they tell you who they are. The only super natural power he seemed to have was the power to build suspense and atmosphere of authority.
Well the executor of the LRH estate sounded impressive. It must have been someone who was well trusted by Hubbard, I figured. Some time later, he held a meeting with Sea Org members in the cafeteria which turned out to be a sales pitch for some of LRH’s fiction books. He presented the sales pitch to make it sound as if he was giving us a golden opportunity to have these new editions at a good price — but it was clear to me that he was out to make a commission. “How hard up is this guy for money to be selling books to people with no money and hardly any spare time to read?” I thought to myself.
I’m in Doubt
During my short Sea Org career the only person I had ever expressed any doubt about Scientology to was Debbie. One night while we were together in our room I began to openly speculate about whether the Church of Scientology was doing any good in the world. “We’re just a bunch of people in some big blue building in the middle of Hollywood and we’re not helping anyone! We’re not saving the planet! No one even knows about us!”
What I had said was serious. Any criticism of the Church of Scientology could easily be construed to be a suppressive act — the most serious kind of transgression against mankind. I had Debbie’s full attention.
“You are in doubt,” she told me. “You have to do the doubt formula.” She was a good Scientologist giving stock answers.
To be in doubt is not a good thing in Scientology. It is considered a lower condition of ethics, but by following the formulas of Hubbard one could rise up into higher conditions of ethics. To get out of doubt, it was necessary to do the doubt formula. The doubt formula consisted of looking at both sides and deciding what side to be on.
Debbie tried to talk some sense into me. “Everyone knows about Scientology, even if they don’t know what Scientology is. Still deep inside they know about us and they know we are right. Even the bums on the street know that we are right.”
“Okay,” I replied meekly, but really I was confused as to why she believed that everyone somehow knew about Scientology. As I felt I was already on thin ice, having expressed doubt about the Church, I didn’t bring up that I had never heard anything about Scientology or had any idea of its existence before a year ago. But her conviction that everyone knew that Scientology existed reminded me of the Sea Org member who told me that all the cab drivers knew where the Church of Scientology was. I had soon found out that the Sea Org member was wrong about the cab drivers and felt certain that Debbie was wrong about the bums on the street knowing that we were right. I felt that some Scientologists had been in the Church for so long and been so isolated from the outside that they took on a delusion that everyone knew about Scientology.
For a while my doubts subsided and it was business as usual, but in the back of my mind the doubts still wandered and stumbled about in the twilight.
The Rose Bowl
Occasionally Sea Org members go on mission, which is a Sea Org term for business trip. The only time I ever went out on mission was to the Pasadena Org during the Rose Bowl parade. Really the goal of the mission was, more than anything, to become more familiar with what it was I was supervising.
The Pasadena Org was on the Rose Bowl parade route and the occasion provided the opportunity for a lot of walking in traffic. The Pasadena Org and CLO agreed the occasion called for a focused effort. While I was there I worked, not as a supervisor, but as a normal staff member along side other Church staff members, out on the street. We passed out free movie passes for introductory Scientology films, we invited the public into the Church for free personality tests and we answered basic questions about Scientology from curious people.
For me it was nice to get away from the Sea Org complex for a while and talk to people who weren’t Scientologists. But I did get some, not hostile, but weird vibes from some people who seemed to believe I was a little crazy. I recall giving some college students a free pass to go see a movie and they seemed very enthused about the offer. Later I saw them in the crowd- after they had been to the Church and seen the introductory film. Now the students sort of looked at me like I was strange. I sensed that their first encounter with Scientology had left much to be desired and now they viewed me with suspicion.
Another man I invited in to the Church asked me if I had seen the 60 minutes episode on Scientology.
“Was it on recently?” I asked.
He said it was.
“Well, what did they say?” I asked.
“It wasn’t good,” he replied.
The conversation didn’t go too far and he wasn’t at all interested in Scientology or in even discussing Scientology. Still the short conversation left me feeling odd about not knowing that an episode of 60 Minutes had aired about Scientology. We never watched television in the Sea Org and we were never told about critical news stories about Scientology. It didn’t seem right to me that we should be left in the dark about the debate on Scientology when we were right in the middle of it. After all, if anyone knew whether or not Scientology worked, it should be the Sea Org.
As I walked through the doors of the Church, on my way back, the public executive secretary reminded me to smile by pointing towards her own exaggerated smile. It had the effect of cheering me up and reminding me not to give up. I had been wearing a tired look of confusion from dealing with the crowd and failure so I fixed it by smiling and standing up straight. I had the cognition that the work of spreading Scientology on the streets, as these people did on a day to day basis, was tough.
I believe I was offered a couch to sleep on at the Church over night, but I turned it down to sleep at an office desk. I sat down and laid my head on the desk and fell comfortably asleep. After waking up I watched a few of the introductory films which I has passed out passes for previous night. They had been directed by L. Ron Hubbard himself, so I thought they would be outta sight, but alas, they were not as good as I expected. They were alright, I thought to myself, but I felt a bit embarrassed by them. I wanted so much to be impressed but wasn’t. The feeling of being embarrassed by Scientology was becoming, slowly and surely, more familiar.
How to Pay for Courses with Credit Cards
After my stay at the Pasadena Org was over, a ride was arranged for me with a public Scientologist back to the PAC base. He was either taking a class or getting some auditing at the PAC base and he lived in Pasadena, so giving me a ride wasn’t a problem.
We talked for a bit and he recounted a story to me in which he refused to give money to a homeless person. He sort of mocked the homeless person’s tone who said to him, “I’m homeless, don’t you care about the homeless?” stretching out and exaggerating the word “homeless” as he spoke. Then he moved on to discussing how he had gotten the money to pay for the Key to Life course.
The Key to Life was a new Scientology course which had just been released recently. The course dealt with improving the ability to communicate in speaking and writing. It also came with a steep price tag — $5,000.
My host confessed to me that originally he was perplexed as to how he was going to get the money to pay for the course. “Then I started noticing these credit card applications coming to me in the mail. So waited until I got about five of them, filled them all out, sent them all in and they all got approved. After that I walked right into the org, put down the credit cards and paid for the course.”
In telling the story, he conveyed the sense that he was quite a genius for having solved his problem so easily. While I told him that his idea was smart, I secretly thought that it was a horrible idea. I didn’t know much about credit cards, but I knew that he would have to pay back each one of those cards with interest.
It wasn’t the only story I had heard about Scientologists getting into debt paying for Scientology courses and services. Debbie’s mother was having substantial difficulties with such debt back in Switzerland. Debbie even speculated that she might have to travel back to Switzerland and work for a while to help pay off her mother’s debt. I was already feeling insecure in our relationship. Last thing I wanted to hear was that she would be leaving for how ever much time it took to earn thousands of dollars to pay back her mother’s debt. This never happened though.
Even in the Scientology community, which shielded itself from criticisms made of Scientology. it was well known that a key criticism of Scientology was that, in financing courses, people often borrowed large amounts of money which they had difficultly paying back. Of course it was all justified in that Scientologists believed that the received training would increase their earning capacity.
Once I heard two Sea Org members talking about a man who borrowed thousands of dollars to take Scientology courses. Once finished with the courses, the story went, he quickly paid off the loans as the courses had given him such an edge over the average person. Perhaps this is what the driver of the car expected to happen. Once we got the PAC base, he dropped me off and I never saw him again. I can’t say whether of not his Scientology training paid off for him or whether he was just stuck with the bill.
I reasoned that if Scientology training enabled people to earn more money then the orgs in the West US and the CLO would be awash in money and that was far from the case. Church staff and Sea Org members got their course for free in addition to getting the whole of their job training in Scientology. I knew from my experiences in St. Louis that staff members hardly made enough money to live off of and in the Sea Org, I only had one uniform, a shoddy room and often would be limited to beans and rice at meals because CLO was in difficulty paying expenses.
A Sec Check
It was announced at general meeting that applications were being accepted for what was called the Book Compilations Unit. Anyone with writing skill was encouraged to apply.
The Book Compilations Unit was a very prestigious unit tasked with taking the notes of LRH and making them into text. It was explained that LRH left copious amounts of notes which were yet to be compiled into text. These notes dealt with yet unheard of subject matter and were uncharted territory for anyone but LRH — who left only the notes.
I filled out an application, citing my experience with my high school newspaper where I had been editor and chief.
Some time later I was contacted as an applicant of interest. Before the hiring process could go any further I would be subjected to sec check, which was standard procedure. During the sec check I was asked questions about any drugs I might have taken, perverted sex acts I might have engaged in, my true motives in the Sea Org as well as other invasive questions.
Embarrassed, I was forced to confess a sexual perversion I had engaged in at a very young age — around 10 years old. It felt very uncomfortable recalling the incident. I opened myself up quite a bit. The auditor didn’t show any disgust or give any judgment, as auditors were trained to respond. She simply wrote the incident down on paper. To this day I’ve told no one about that incident — the only person I’ve ever told was that Sea Org auditor.
When asked about my drug use, the meter registered distress on mental picture I was seeing. It was an image of a man wearing a gown sitting in a doctors office which was located in a space station. I recognized the man as me, except I was in a different body. I could see a few very large pills in the palm of my hand. I realized that the drugs were a treatment for radiation poisoning. Also, I understood the incident to have taken place 35,000 years ago.
The auditor acknowledged and validated the incident.
My first real past life memory, I thought to myself. If I was going to be remembering incidents from the past 76 trillion years, the sec check might take a very long time.
“Should I just stay in this life?” I asked the auditor.
“If you can,” came the reply.
So after that, I focused on this life and had no further past life memories.
Before hearing whether or not I got the job, I announced my plans to leave the Sea Org. So I never was posted to the Book Complications Unit.
The relationship between Debbie and myself dissolved between October when we had been married and December. I could blame the Sea Org for that — claiming that we hadn’t had enough time together (which was true) but the truth was we never knew each other well enough to begin with. On relationship terms we were never more than boyfriend and girlfriend — although we were legally married.
Hubbard stated that the secret to successful marriage is COMMUNICATE. We tried that and I think some pretty mean things were COMMUNICATED between us. Most of Hubbard’s practical and down to earth advice on marriage worked fine when we got along. Debbie and I could COMMUNICATE fantastically together at the beginning of the relationship, but that advice seemed too obvious and over simplified towards the end.
We did go to some Scientology marriage counseling, but it was a spectacular failure in that it did absolutely nothing to bring us closer together. Granted, things had gotten cold between us and a happy resolution was a bleak possibility, but I thought Scientology was supposed to produce miracles. I expected us to clear up some issues and to make some process. Scientology marriage counseling fixed nothing — I don’t know if it made matters worse but it didn’t help in any way except to make obvious that it was over.
Debbie moved out and I moved into a male dorm. We went to Scientology counseling. I really wanted to get back together in an “ I’m 18, romantically inexperienced and emotionally insecure “ kind of way, but it was a lost cause.
“The E-Meter is Now Available in Red!”
As part of a special Scientology event to be held at the Shine Auditorium in L.A., all the Sea Org members put on civilian clothes and got on buses taking us to said event. There were a lot of people there, the place was nice and there was a band playing some festive, fun tunes. The event was held in the expo center. Some people were dancing, although most stood around talking.
As the night went on David Miscavige took the stage. He was top dog in Scientology. Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology center. He stood on the stage in full dress uniform — which was similar to the dress blue uniform of a naval captain. His speaking was a bit robotic and stiff. I have seen him since, and he was gotten much better at public speaking, but back then it was robotic. He spoke clearly, but without enthusiasm and staring straight ahead. His mannerisms seemed awkward and odd.
Odder still was what he talked about. On one occasion he mentioned a young student, a boy, who had completed his Key to Life course and Life Orientation course within hours. Everyone applauded. These were usually classes that took months, at least six months. It seemed surreal for someone to blaze through those courses at such a pace. Miscavige held this boy out as an example of what we could aspire too. However, after that speech, I never heard anything about the boy again.
On a large screen we were shown uptrending graphs of statistics for Scientology operations from all over the world — proof that Scientology was expanding. Some of those statistics were from the Western United States. I knew not all of our statistics were up trending, some of them were down trending. In fact, CLO had been put on rice and beans several times due to lack of performance — yet we were being held out here as being successful. Of course, Miscavige was picking out the best statistics to show, but he wasn’t giving the full story.
The high light of the night was announced by Miscavige as well, amid much fanfare. “The e-meter is now available in HCOB red!” “HCOB red” was a reference to the color of ink used by the Sea Org to print Hubbard’s Technical Bulletins called HCOBs. Essentially, he was saying that the e-meter, a piece of equipment critical in Scientology processing, was now available in red.
Everyone applauded and even I applauded but, mentally, this was a mini mind revolt for me. The Sea Org was supposed to be saving the planet, saving mankind and what was the big news for the night? The e-meter was now available in red! What was that? Why should anyone care? I’m sure it took some effort, but it was nothing to be announced amid fanfare. It would have been different if Miscavige played it off as if it were no big deal, but he did just the opposite. Listening to him tell it, it was earth shattering, ground shaking! Big news! I couldn’t help but to feel disappointed.
My direct boss, Dave, said that we would be working this event. I can’t remember what it was that we were supposed to be selling — something to do with Scientology administration technology for businesses. With a sense of urgency Dave set up the tables, set out the books, and put some fliers into my hand. “Pass these out,” he ordered. Dave was such a great guy, I admired his drive and although I was unsure about my sales ability, I let his enthusiasm rub off on me and starting handing out the fliers.
I waded into the crowd passing out fliers left and right. Some people took the fliers, others refused them stating that they were Sea Org members (meaning they were trained by the Sea Org, so didn’t need to buy anything). This went on for a few minutes. Then I handed a flier to a girl who refused it, “We’re in the Sea Org!” she snapped. She was about my age. Looking at her I recognized her as a Sea Org member who (maybe) had a bit of a crush on me. I hadn’t recognized her without her uniform on. She was probably offended that I hadn’t recognized her right away.
Following this, before of handing out a flier, I asked if the person was in the Sea Org. Every single person said yes and I didn’t hand out a single flier. I took the fliers back to Dave. “Everyone here is in the Sea Org.” I reported. He took the fliers and put them back on the table. He seemed perplexed. We didn’t sell any packages that night.
I wondered how many public Scientologists there were in L.A. Was the Sea Org there in civilian clothes just to give the appearance of there being a lot of public support for Scientology? I didn’t know, but I wondered.
I had no place for this “entheta” or negative thoughts about Scientology. I would keep my “theta” or positive thoughts on Scientology and I would dwell on those. I pushed the events of the night to a hidden place in my mind and I gave it no further thought. I didn’t even reflect on how crowded it was getting in that hidden place in my mind.
Followed by Sea Org Security
A significant experience which was to inform my means of leaving the Church of Scientology happened one day when I walked off the base to cash a check which my aunt had sent me for a holiday. Now I didn’t have a checking account and in order to get cash for the check, I would have to go to one of those checks cashed places. I knew of such a business at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards. After walking about six blocks or so, I went into the business, endorsed my check, took my ID out and then stood in line.
Standing in line for a minute or two, I saw a familiar face in the adjacent line. Looking at him, he looked concerned as he looked back at me. There was no mistaking that this was someone I knew. “Hello,” I said, giving a small wave and a reassuring smile. He acknowledged my greeting with a meekness unbecoming a Scientologist, but he was a Scientologist.
The man was a security guard at the Church of Scientology and as he stood in line I saw that he still had on the khaki work pants and the polished black dress shoes which made up the bottom half of the uniform. What was missing was his khaki uniform top complete with badges and patches identifying him as a security guard from the Church. He wore, instead, a plain white t-shirt tucked into his dress pants which appeared most conspicuous considering the bottom half of his ensemble. It was clear to me that he had simply taken off his uniform shirt and walked into the line next to me in order to keep tabs on me.
The Church suffered already from rumors that it was a cult and the security guard, I imagine, didn’t want the general public in on the fact that they were spying on one of their own members.
This was an awkward situation really. I was still a Scientologist and didn’t want to leave. I really was just cashing a check. Also I didn’t want to worsen Scientology’s public image, as bad as it was already, by letting everyone in the business know that a security guard from the Church was actively spying on me. I wanted to protect Scientology. The security guard was trying to help me, I felt.
The guard looked quite guilty once I made him. In a low voice, just loud enough for him to hear, I said, “I’m not going to leave, I’m just cashing a check.” He nodded, meekly turned around and walked out in the most inconspicuous manner possible. This had the effect of confirming beyond a doubt why he had been standing in that line next to me in the first place — he really was spying on me. After all he could have been standing in line to cash a check
More curious still was that upon coming back to the Church later on in the afternoon, a security guard engaged me in conversation and told me that it was him who had dispatched the security guard who I had encountered in the line. In informing me of this, his tone was friendly and not at all defensive. I got the idea that he was merely informing me of something of interest which happened on that day. He had been looking at the security camera monitors, saw me walking away from the complex and then turn right on to Sunset Blvd. “And I said to myself, ‘Hey wait, there’s no reason he should be walking that way.’ “ While there were Scientology facilities to the west of PAC Base, there were none due east. This aroused his suspicion as to where I was going. He hid nothing about the whole incident and treated it as if it were nothing unusual. By way of the security cameras he saw that I was leaving, thought that I might be leaving for good and dispatched someone to trail me.
I might have even thanked him for his concern — I don’t remember. But I did feel that it was a little odd that the security force was somehow engaged in monitoring the staff and taking an interest in whether or not they were attempting the leave the Church unannounced. I guess I thought they were there to guard the buildings against unauthorized entry, theft and the like. I speculated on whether this was something that this security guard had taken upon himself, or if it was part of his duties.
This experience greatly informed my plans when I finally did decide to leave in a manner unapproved by the Church. I wouldn’t be able to pack my bags and just stroll out of the complex to go sit at the bus stop. I would not only have to not let any Scientologist in on what I was doing, I would also have to circumvent the security force.
A Significant Report
While I was working in the CLO, I found the room adjacent to mine filled with filing cabinets . Those filing cabinets contained reports of all kinds submitted to the CLO from the orgs in the West U.S. Out of curiosity I looked for the files from St. Louis and found a filed report regarding Ron, the very staff member who had recruited me.
In the report I read how he was so behind on his rent that had to pursue outside employment at a computer store. The report detailed how Mary, who was my former boss and the equivalent of the personnel officer, had to set off after him and get him to come back to working at the Church full time. She ironed out some arrangement with his landlord so he could do some work on the landlord’s properties, such as cleaning out gutters, in trade for rent.
The irony of what I had read was not lost of me though. Ron had been the guy who introduced me to Scientology, he convinced me that Scientology was the movement of miracles. Now this same man, who I believed to be so empowered by Scientology, this man that I had admired was unable to pay his rent and reduced to cleaning out the gutters in trade for payment.
I knew staff members had a hard time paying bills, but reading about Ron cleaning out gutters in exchange for rent stuck in my head. I knew Ron, he had recruited me. I believed in him and had been impressed by him.
Deciding to Leave
I’m not sure when I decided to leave the Sea Org. I would like to remember the precise moment, but I can’t. What I do remember is that I was still a Scientologist, I believed that Scientology worked and was the only hope for mankind. But still I wanted to leave the group that was trying to spread Scientology to the world. Part of me was just tired of giving so much; I was exhausted. I never had a day off, never had time off at the end of the day and part of me felt cowardly to be bailing out on such a noble endeavor. But another part of me was disgusted that no one was being helped by my sacrifice. It was all for nothing.
I remember sitting at my desk and thinking. “The Sea Org wasn’t doing anything; they weren’t helping anyone. The Sea Org had been around since the 1950s, but most people out in the world hadn’t even heard of Scientology. What kind of progress was that? The Sea Org itself was a mess. There had to be something seriously wrong, SERIOUSLY WRONG. I didn’t know what it was; I wasn’t smart enough to figure out what it was. But clearly the Sea Org hadn’t lived up to my expectations; I wasn’t impressed. I wanted out, I had to get out and maybe then I would have some spare time to think it over — to figure it out. I could get a job and pay back the Sea Org for all the courses I took and then I could advance my Scientology training as a public Scientologist. Then, who knows, maybe I would rejoin the Sea Org, but then I would be more knowledgeable and more in control — more able to fix the Sea Org and save the world.
I had been thrown in over my head. I had no idea of how to accomplish the goals which had been set for me. I had been given an executive position and had no idea of what I was doing. I had a fervent desire to learn but I wasn’t being taught. I didn’t know what to do and shuddered at the idea of being rewarded or punished on the performance of those beneath me. That’s right, I was supposed to be managing people. But the people I was managing had years of experience and I had none at all. I mean I would send these people telexes and they would have no idea of what I was talking about. Truth is, I think I embarrassed myself more times than care to admit. The writings of L. Ron Hubbard were supposed to tell me how to handle any situation — and they did in a general sense, but rarely did they get into the details that I needed. My superiors were supposed to be smarter than me, but how smart could they be to appoint me to an executive post when I had no experience at all and no clue how to give direction? I actually viewed my management as incompetent for appointing me to my post, because I knew I was incompetent and had they been competent, they would have seen that.
I knew it would take some fortitude to get up from my desk, walk down the hall in search of the appropriate staff member and tell them I wanted to leave. I felt like a coward for wanting to leave, but leaving would take courage. The policies, culture and politics of the Church made leaving an ordeal at the very least. My Scientologist colleagues wouldn’t let me leave quietly. I’m not sure if they would attempt to stop me physically, I knew I would get a hassle one way or another, even if it was a gaggle of Scientologists inconveniently standing in my way, extolling me to stop and talk about it. Besides, just walking out of the Church without going through the proper channels was considered a Suppressive Act as per HCO PL SUPPRESSIVE ACTS, SUPPRESSION OF SCIENTOLOGY AND SCIENTOLOGIST.
To be found guilty of a suppressive act was to be “disconnected” or excommunicated from the whole of the Scientology movement. The mystical spiritual rehabilitating technology of Scientology would be denied to me at every turn. I wanted to avoid committing a Suppressive Act. I wanted access to the Scientology technology so I could eventually develop the supernatural abilities of the spirit: transcendence of the physical body, telepathy, telekinesis and a comprehensive recall of trillions of years of past lives. To stay in the good graces of the Church, I would undertake to leave by the rules. Per the rules, confronting the personnel officer and telling her I wanted to leave was the first step.
I was willing to give the proper procedure a try, but I didn’t know how that would turn out. What I did know is that I was leaving soon, one way or another.
My first step in leaving would be to tell Claire, the same old woman I saw being screamed at and humiliated by a 12 year old girl. I saw the old woman as weak, humbled and disrespected, so telling her that I wanted out of the Sea Org wasn’t what took fortitude on my part. What did concern me was what would happen when she told others in the chain of command.
I found her in the mail room. It was the perfect place as it was out of the way. “I have to talk to you,” I said.
“Okay,” she replied, smiling.
I proceeded to tell her that life in the Sea Org wasn’t working out for me and that I wanted out. “I don’t know the whole process involved, but whatever that process is, could you just get it started.”
Surprisingly the whole time she just looked at me smiling and nodding with the kindest look of understanding. She didn’t even attempt to talk me out of leaving, she just acknowledged my request and after thanking her, I went back to sit at my desk. I can’t help but think that she might have approved of my decision and perhaps she had enough herself, but wasn’t in a position to leave, being so old and having little prospects.
Sea Org members don’t have savings accounts or savings bonds, they don’t own property or have assets that they can sell for cash. Sea Org members don’t retire. They can’t retire. Sea Org members aren’t given an income greater than $20 a week and the Church doesn’t make payments into FICA, Social Security and Medicare for staff members. So elderly Sea Org members can’t just one day begin drawing Social Security once they reach 65. Sea Org members are totally economically dependent on the Church. And the longer they are in, the more dependent they become.
I never knew the financial situation with the old lady, but it is possible that she had no money, no entitlements by way of Social Security and no family outside of Scientology. So to say she had little prospects might mean that she was limited in her options to working for the Church or sleeping on the streets of L.A..
The lack of effort on the part of personnel officer to keep me from routing out was surprising since I had experienced and heard of efforts to retain quitting Sea Org members while on staff. My colleagues and I believed, as was part of the Scientology belief system, that to leave or to want to leave was a signal that you had done something unethical and were, in Scientology speak, out ethics. Even I believed I had done something out-ethics. For the personnel officer to overlook my lack of ethics demonstrated of a state of apathy on her part, I thought at the time.
Having told the personnel officer of my wish to leave, I walked back to my office, sat down at my desk, alone in my office and waited for a response. It would be a while before I heard anything but still a weight seemed to lift from my shoulders. I had done it. At least the first part of it.
The Sea Org Response
It took a few days for the chain of command to react to my request. I got the feeling that they were just ignoring my request and hoping that I would change my mind in the meantime. The Sea Org boasted of a reputation of being a snap and pop organization; more efficient than any group or company on the planet. They did have a super high opinion of their abilities. But since joining my high opinion of the Sea Org had waned and it didn’t help that S.O. members in my org were taking so long to respond to my request.
After a few days a colleague in my division named Cory asked me into an empty office and told me that once he too had wanted to leave. This was the first news I had which confirmed that Claire had sent my message up lines. He recalled that he had been fatigued by the hard working conditions but he stuck with it and things got better. He now had a great marriage (mine had recently broken up) and an executive position (which I also had, by the way). Most important, he was helping the cause of Scientology — a cause which I still very much cared about.
I really never did like Cory, he came off to me as egotistical and a bit sadistic, but his short talk inspired me to stay in the Sea Org. Really! I was all ready to call off my plans to leave, except he never asked me to stay. He asked me to think about what he said. I said okay and he walked out of the room. And alone in the room, I realized that, by saying nothing, I had stood my ground and I could still leave if I wanted to. I realized that, after some reflection, I still did want to leave. Nothing had changed.
The next day I was told that since I was routing out, I was to be put on MEST work; which is a Scientology word for menial labor. MEST is an acronym for “matter, energy, space and time,” and Hubbard wrote that MEST work was good for beings in a state of confusion since it was simple and easy to understand. So technically, being put on MEST work wasn’t a punishment, instead it was a treatment for my “confused” state. Of course, there is the assumption to want to leave the Sea Org I had to be in a state of confusion, but I didn’t mind. I would to what I had to until I could get out.
I was sent to the construction site for the new CLO West US building. It was just across the street. I wouldn’t even have to take a bus. The building was just being started. The foundation hadn’t even been laid.
While working there I tried to make myself useful, but I don’t remember doing much. I do remember talking with a brick layer who was just starting on a wall. He was a non-Scientologist, hired to help with the construction. He asked me some questions about Scientology and I told him what it was about. As I was still a believer in Scientology, I only told him the good things, just as I was supposed to. There were many Scientologists working along side the construction workers and I asked him what he thought of the Scientologists. He told me in so many words that we wasn’t impressed with the way that Scientologists didn’t work well with others. He told me that the problem with “people around here” was that every one wanted to be the boss.
That specific criticism didn’t ring true for me, but what stuck with me is that he made “a criticism.” He made a criticism about the Sea Org and he said it without thinking twice. I had thought critical thoughts about the Sea Org, but I never said them out loud. Also he confirmed my “not-so-sneaking” suspicion that non-Scientologists weren’t impressed by Sea Org members.
This might sound odd, but I began to admire the brick layer. I realized that he didn’t have a great job, but at least he got paid for it. He could afford an apartment and a car. I didn’t have that. I only got $20 a week. I had never had a place of my own, but I did have a car — which I sold to pay for the plane ticket to go for the Sea Org. But most of all the brick layer had spare time. I could live without a car, or even a place of my own, but just to have some spare time. I was interested in writing and wanted some time to work on that craft, but very little time was available. All day long I was taking classes or working. At the end of the day, I might have less than an hour before I had to go to bed. I was free to stay up late, but not to wake up late — and that was the rub.
Taking Some Time Off
Being assigned to MEST work, I noticed that there was no one checking to see that I was present at the work site. In fact, when I did go to the work site, I would have to pester someone to get a work assignment. After a few days, I stopped reporting to the work site. If anyone noticed at all, which they didn’t, they would assume that I was off somewhere with a Sea Org member who would be handling my situation. At the same time the Sea Org members who were supposed to be handling my situation would assume that I would be at the work site.
I had lost my respect for Sea Org. Obviously sneaking out of work the way I did was contemptuous of their authority. But I didn’t care, I didn’t even care that I was getting free room and board, while dodging work. I felt entitled after all the hours I had put in. I had no qualms about it whatsoever. Besides, what was the worst they could do to me? Kick me out? So I got a few days off. The Sea Org did find out, but it took some time. It was wonderful.
My experience of being followed by the Sea Org security guards came in handy as it informed me that I had to walk off the base going in the direction off the HGB. Once out of sight, however, I would break from that route and slip off to walk around. I remember taking the bus to the mall and just walking around. It doesn’t sound like much now, but then it was like getting out of prison. A deep sense of freedom and excitement filled me, just to walk around the street. Just to have some spare time to think and let myself think whatever I wanted. I was starting to make plans about what I would do when I got back home.
A Set Back in the Escape Plan
Before I had informed Claire that I wanted to leave, I called my Aunt in St. Louis and told her I wanted to leave. She handled the conversation very matter-of-factly, but I’m sure she was thrilled I wanted to leave — she didn’t understand my attraction to Scientology. The whole time I was involved in Scientology, I had maintained a good relationship with my entire family, so it was easy for me to call them and ask for help. I asked my Aunt if she could buy me a ticket for a bus or a plane — whatever. She called my Dad and it was decided that my Dad would drive to L.A. and pick me up. I wasn’t expecting that, but that was fine with me. I told them that before I left, I wanted to handle the situation properly so as the leave on good terms. When it became apparent to me that the Sea Org was postponing my departure with delays and red tape, I called my Dad and told him I was ready.
I knew I would be leaving in a couple of days, so I just stalled for time. I didn’t show up for work or class. While my roommates were out of the room, I packed my trunk with all my clothes and books. I didn’t take anything that wasn’t mine.
I talked to my Dad via my stepmother on the phone. He was en route to L.A.. No turning back now. I went back up to my room for lack of anything better to do. I was running over in my mind the details of how I would leave — I formed a plan so that no one would see me leave. If no one could see me, then no one could try to stop me. While thinking, there was a knock at the door. I opened the door to see one of the missionaries involved in posting me at CLO upon completion of the EPF. He worked for Flag Bureaux, the echelon directly above CLO. I wondered what he was doing there, he was in uniform but he wasn’t in my chain of command.
He walked in, took off his Sea Org combination cap and ran his fingers through his black hair. “We were wondering where you were,” he said, with concern. “We assumed that you were at the work site, doing MEST work and when we contacted them to get a hold of you, they told us that they thought you were with us…So we started to wonder what happened to you.”
I didn’t have to explain, when he saw me alone in my quarters and out of uniform he knew what was going on. But he didn’t know that I had plans to leave that very night.
He started to sit down on my trunk and a look of panic must have come over my face. Somehow, I thought that if he sat down on the trunk, he would find out it was full and thus know that I was leaving. It was a silly thought — how could he figure out that I had just packed, just by sitting on the trunk? He didn’t, but he did see my face. “Is it alright if I sit here?” he asked apologetically.
“Sure,” I said recovering. I realized that I was paranoid about being found out. Nothing they could do would stop me from leaving and my Dad wouldn’t leave without me, but I wanted to leave with the least resistance possible. No confrontations, no stalling conversations, no high pressure tactics and I didn’t want anyone to get in any sort of trouble on my behalf. If any Sea Org member knew I was leaving, they would have an obligation to report me and if they didn’t, they would get in trouble.
The missionary knew I wanted to route out, but had no idea that I was leaving that night. “I know you want to route out and I can see some reasons,” he sympathized. “You haven’t had a lot of wins while you’ve been here and your 2D is in shambles.” Being Swiss, he knew my wife, who was also Swiss. What he communicated to me sounded a lot like sympathy, something rare in the Scientology community. I was surprised to hear it but touched too. That’s how far a few sympathetic words go at the PAC base. It wasn’t the last sympathetic ear that I would find that night.
I wondered what he thought about the Sea Org, if he was disappointed too. Did he think he was wasting his time? Did he suspect that the Sea Org would never be able to clear the planet or even make a minimal difference? But I couldn’t ask him that, it would betray my own thoughts. Thoughts which betrayed Scientology and the Sea Org. I still thought like a Scientologist though with their new age type belief in “knowingness” and thought that, deep down, he had a knowingness about my plans for that night. I felt like I had to get those thoughts out of my head, so that he couldn’t pick up on them. But I had a knowingness too, a knowingness that he was tired of the Sea Org.
“The Public Contact Sec wants to talk to you. You’re required to talk to her before you route out so go to the HGB this evening at 7 o’clock and meet with her.”
I agreed and the missionary showed himself out.
The Plan Confirmed
The sun had gone down when I set out on Sunset Blvd toward the HGB, but the air was still warm and welcoming. I was in a good mood and unworried out my plan to leave without making a scene. Still I was concerned, of course. Half way to the HGB I stopped at a pay phone and placed a collect call to my step mother. She told me that my Dad was in Hollywood, not far from the Scientology complex and he had checked into a motel. I asked if she knew the address, she said she could find out if she called my Dad. She called me back at the pay phone and told me the address. It was right across the boulevard from me.
I j-walked across Sunset walked and went to my Dad’s room. He wanted to leave then and there, but I explained that my trunk was still at my quarters and I wouldn’t be able get it without raising suspicion. So we should just stick to the plan that I set out earlier. The plan to sneak out in the middle of the night. I wanted to synchronize our watches, but he dismissed that as some kind of crazy idea. He wasn’t afraid of Scientologists and neither was I, but he wasn’t sensitive to the situation. Later I that night I would be wishing that we had synchronized our watches, although that we didn’t was fortunate in the end.
A Most Unproductive Meeting
If I wanted the plan to proceed without rousing suspicion, I had to go through with the meeting with the Public Contact Sec, my superior at Flag Bureaux. I think her name was Denise. She was a mature woman with reddish hair worn pulled back. I didn’t sense much confidence even when she talked to me, a teenager, but she did conduct herself professionally. I met with her being of the mind that whatever happened, I would be leaving that night, but she couldn’t know that.
Again, I had to explain myself and the reasons that I wanted out of the Sea Org. I don’t remember what I said, but I couldn’t help but feel like a quitter and a coward. I still believed in Scientology and by leaving the Sea Org I would be turning my back on the only group that could save humanity. I didn’t sugar coat it or make excuses for myself — I wanted out, eventually I could come back when I was ready.
Towards the end of our conversation, Denise got to the point she had been building up to for the whole meeting. The point when she would pull out all the stops and rope me into staying in the Sea Org and fulfilling my billion year contract. “Well, the only reason you would want to leave would because you have a misunderstood word in your training.”
This comment needs some clarification for the uninitiated. According to Hubbard, the reason why people don’t understand what they read is because they mis understand words in the text. Because of this mis understanding, the reader develops a hostility or confusion toward the subject matter which could cause aggression or a desire to depart from the subject matter. So according to the Scientology mode of thinking, since I misunderstood a word in my Scientology training, this created a misunderstanding of Scientology and this led to me wanting to leave Scientology.
I didn’t agree with Denise on that matter. After all I had been checked on each and every policy letter that I read. That included checks to make sure that I understood the meanings of the words used in the policy letters. My reasons for leaving was because I didn’t feel ready for the Sea Org, and felt that I wouldn’t get ready if I stayed, but I didn’t say anything about that. She wouldn’t have listened anyway.
Denise continued, “So, before you can route out, you will have to re take all your classes so you can be sure to clear up that misunderstood word.”
I instantly knew it was a ploy to keep me in the Sea Org and at the same instant I lied, looking her straight in the eyes and saying, “Alright.”
She seemed relieved to have me agree to such terms. After all, it would take me the better part of a year to redo all my courses — courses which weren’t necessarily exciting. It was as if she was prepared for a huge argument, expecting that I would rail against such terms. What she didn’t expect was for me to say “alright.”
Having agreed to retake all my classes she dismissed me. The meeting wasn’t more than 30 minutes long soon I was walking down Hollywood, on my way back to the PAC base. I had two clear choices, either leave with my Dad that night or spend the next year retaking all the classes that I had taken so far.
Discovered at the Last Minute
The plan I set out with my Dad was that at midnight, right on the dot, we would meet at the horseshoe shaped driveway of the PAC base. It was a Saturday night and my room mates were out, either spending some precious time with family or with friends. Aside from an occasional walk in, I was alone in the quarters. My mind was preoccupied and I found it difficult to do anything other than wait for midnight to come around. I must have looked suspicious just sitting there, doing absolutely nothing.
One of my room mates, Donnie, walked in. I don’t know why he walked in, but he did and he took an interest in as to why I was just sitting in the dark.
“I’m just sitting here.” I told him. Apparently, he didn’t seem convinced.
“You’re just sitting alone in the dark?” He asked, slowing down.
“Yes, I’m just sitting here.” I wasn’t lying about that, I WAS just sitting there, I was just omitting certain truths.
He eyed me suspiciously. He walked directly in front of me and looked me in the eyes. “Are you going to leave?”
Alarm bells went off in my mind. How the hell did he even suspect?. Knowingness. He must have just known — picked up on it — had a knowingness, an awareness of the truth… I didn’t want to lie any more than I had too. Lying to Denise was enough, but Donnie already knew what I was up to just by looking at me. I stalled.
“You can tell me if you are,” said Donnie, “ I won’t care.”
I couldn’t believe my luck, I was hours away from getting out of the Sea Org without incident. Now I was discovered and the only responsible thing Donnie could do would be to alert other Sea Org members that I was leaving.
Donnie was pressing, “You can tell me if you’re leaving, I want to leave too.” He was trying to get my trust, but when he compromised himself by telling me that he wanted to leave — then trust began to creep in, slowly. After all, I had said nothing, and he just told me that he wanted to leave.
Donnie elaborated, “I only joined the Sea Org because I want to take the Key to Life course. After I do that course, then I’m going to leave.” The story sounded somewhat plausible, the Key to Life was a much desired course with a price tag of over $5000 in 1990 dollars. “If you’re leaving, I want to help. I want to leave too, just not till I finish Key to Life.”
I took a chance. It felt like I was stepping out into total dark. “Alright, yeah, I’m leaving.”
“I thought so,” said Donnie. I was relieved to see that he wasn’t leaving to inform an Ethics Officer. Again I couldn’t believe my luck, just this time in a good way. Not only did Donnie not report me for planning on leaving and not only did refrain from trying to talk me out of it but instead he wanted to help me. He really wanted to help. He practically insisted on doing something to help.
As my Dad and I hadn’t synchronized our watches, this provided a role for Donnie. He could serve as a look out from our room on the fourth floor. I would be at the bottom of the stairwell out of the view of the security cameras. When he saw a pickup pull into the driveway he would run out the room, across the across the hall, poke his head into the stairwell and call down to me. This would be my cue to hurry out to the truck and drive off.
Since the driveway that my Dad would be pulling into and the foyer I would be walking across with luggage were both in the field of view of the security cameras, we had to move quickly once we entered that field of vision. Adding to the need for speed was the fact that the security station was adjacent to the foyer I would have to walk through. A security guard COULD just step out of the security room and try to stop me somehow. Just like the previous time they interceded to stop me from escaping when I wasn’t really escaping. Except this time I was escaping for real.
Technically, what I was planning on doing, according to the policies of the Church, was a suppressive act. I quote from the policy letter titled, “Suppressive Acts, Suppression of Scientology and Scientologist” “…When a person is secretly planning to leave and making private preparations to do so without informing the proper terminals in an org and does leave (blow) and does not return within a reasonable length of time, an automatic declare is to be issued….” I didn’t know if I was going to be declared or not. I didn’t want to get declared, but I thought that the Church won’t be too hard on me, after all, I didn’t feel like a suppressive person and I wasn’t leaving to hurt Scientology. I just wanted to leave.
When Donnie asked me to help, initially I refused because I didn’t want him to get in trouble. In helping me, Donnie was being an accessory to a suppressive act — technically, there is no policy on that, but I’m sure that it would be enough to get him declared suppressive anyway. I could only guess that it would register on a sec check in the future and his involvement would be found out. But as he insisted on helping, I let him help.
Donnie and I had gotten into Scientology in different ways. I got in through reading Dianetics and joining staff, and he got in because he was born into it. His parents were Scientologist and he was raised within the Scientology community.
One thing that I noticed about kids who had grown up in Scientology was that they seemed more at ease playing loose and fast with the rules. Of course, the kids weren’t all the same. Some kids excelled, like the kids in CMO and other kids just got by. Donnie was somewhere in between. He was an oddity to me, he clearly valued Scientology, as he wanted the take the Key to Life course, but he was able to dismiss the parts he didn’t agree with. I hadn’t been like that, I took the whole of Scientology as a package and shut the door on any other possibility. I didn’t understand him, but he was my look out.
A Plan in Motion
A few minutes prior to midnight I put Donnie on lookout and hauled my trunk down the stairs. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, just out of view of the security cameras, I still didn’t know if I could trust Donnie. I had no choice but to stand there and wait. I stood there facing the fire door. Any moment now… Then I heard Donnie shout down, “He’s here!” I picked up my trunk, pushed past the fire door, and through the glass doors I could see my Dad’s truck outside. I walked right past the security station’s closed door, past the glass doors and into the warm night air. I could feel the cameras looking down on me. My Dad helped me put the trunk in the truck bed, then we got in the cab and drove off. I turned around to see if we were being followed. It was all clear.
My Dad drove to the hotel and we slept till morning. After waking up I looked out the window to scope for any Sea Org members who might have found out were I was somehow. It was all clear. My Dad, Donnie and I had pulled it off. I had vanished. Soon my Dad and I were driving through the California desert. We stopped in Nevada to play some nickel slot machines in a casino, then drove through the mountains until we descended into Denver — home ever since.
Finishing up High School
Once back in the ordinary world, my first priority was to finish high school. The counselor informed me that I only needed five classes to finish — and two of those were gym classes. So it was a fun semester. But I was still a Scientologist. While I had lost respect for the Sea Org, I still believed in LRH and believed that Scientology worked. I even made a trip to the Scientology org in Denver to buy a copy of “Introduction to Scientology Ethics.” Also I was very interested in spreading my enthusiasm for Scientology although I would find that this struck my friends and acquaintances as bizarre.
While in high school I wrote an article about Scientology for my high school news paper stating that Scientology had all the answers to all the questions. The journalism teacher pulled it stating that I had not given enough evidence to back up my claims. I got a girl I was dating to read, “Have You Lived Before This Life?” Excitedly, I asked her what she thought. She told me some of the stories were neat, but others seemed made up. That cooled me down and I never talked to her about it again. Another girl, after months of frustration, finally chimed in and asked me to stop talking about Scientology, “It’s all you want to talk about, she said.” Another friend remained silent and looked at me funny when I started explaining to him about how the e-meter picks up charge from a thetan and when I gave yet other friend a copy of “New Slant on Life,” he dismissed it as just common sense but nothing special.
Most of my friends hadn’t heard of Scientology until I told them about it. This was the early 90’s. Before South Park and even Tom Cruise (Kirstie Alley was the big Scientology Celebrity at the time). Their opinion was completely unbiased by negative press or media. Still they rejected Scientology, even after detailed talks and even after reading from Scientology books. For some reason Scientology only made sense to me. It was unnerving and slowly I grew to keep my opinions about Scientology to myself.
The Time Magazine Article
While buying some cigarettes at 7-ll, I looked down at the magazines to see an issue of Time. The cover read, “Scientology, the Thriving Cult of Power and Greed.” Figuring that I might be called on to defend Scientology against the charges leveled against it in the article, I thought that I should read the article to find what those charges would be. I ignored LRH’s admonitions against reading criticism about Scientology. After all, I was an ex-Sea Org member and thought I would be able to see a lie when I read it. I bought the magazine and read it over mozzarella sticks at Denny’s.
Before even opening the magazine, I formed the opinion that it was the creation of suppressive people who were doing what they could to harm Scientology and turn public opinion against it. Consistent with my Scientology world view I believed suppressive people held high positions in government and business. I would be easy for them to manufacture a smear job in Time magazine.
I noticed no outright lies in the article. Some of what was in the article rang true- the high price of Scientology courses and auditing, threats and harassment towards critics of Scientology, the use of the legal system to overwhelm critics and even Scientology’s war with the IRS. Of course I disagreed with the portrait of LRH as a flim-flam man. There were a lot of anecdotes about people getting ripped off by Scientology which I couldn’t confirm and I wasn’t in a position to verify what the article said about the O.T. levels. I remember being confused as to who “Xenu” was. I had never heard of him.
Reading the article must have gotten to me because I threw up the mozzarella sticks in the Denny’s bathroom toilet. But I returned to the article, sour stomach and all, reading over it late in the night. I thought it odd that the suppressives responsible for the article would even go through the effort of publishing an article attacking Scientology, when no one even knew Scientology existed. Since I had left the Sea Org, I only meet two people who knew what Scientology was — and both of them had bad things to say about it. Scientology seemed to be failing on it’s own, why give it publicity?
The Sea Org in Denver
While enlisting in the Navy through the delayed entry program, I called Debbie to get a copy of my marriage certificate. “Where are you?” is the first question she asked me.
“I want a divorce,” she said.
I told her that was fine.
She must have told someone in the Sea Org because a few months later I got a telephone call from two Sea Org missionaries who were presently in Denver. They told me that they would like to speak to me — in person. I figured that they must have gotten my address from the Denver org — I had bought an Ethics book from there after I got to Denver and they had asked for my address and phone number when they had checked me out. .
I drove to the org and met the Sea Org members. They were wearing their uniforms and I was somehow glad to be interacting with the Sea Org again. I can’t remember the names of the missionaries, Kay and Jane maybe. I was acquainted with both of them and one was married to Dave, the head of the public division in CLO WUS.
I asked Jane how Dave was doing.
“He’s having some difficulties, but I’m kicking him into shape and keeping him in line.” She had a curt, abrupt manner undercutting her attractive features — it was just her personality. I wondered how much trouble Dave had gotten in because of my defection.
Kay said, “You leaving created a huge flap at CLO. At first no one knew where you were and then we found out that you left. It created a lot of commotion and was a big deal. The only reason that you weren’t declared suppressive was because of slow admin lines.
“We are here on mission, and one of our secondary objectives is to bring you back to CLO. We are willing to take you back if you come back immediately.”
“I’ve joined the Navy through the delayed entry program, I can’t get out of that.”
“Why the Navy?” she asked.
“I guess I want to see the world.”
“You can join the Sea Org and see the world that way.”
That was cheap, I thought to myself. The Sea Org had only one ship and my odds of getting posted to it were slim. “Well, I’ve already enlisted in the Navy. They’ll arrest me if I don’t report on my starting date. I’ve already joined — it’s too late.”
“You can find some way out of that. We think we can get your old post back. You were posted on a mission to build div 6 and it is critical to that mission that you be returned to your old post. Also we talked to Debbie and she said that she would be willing to see about working on your 2D (marriage/ relationship).”
“I seriously doubt that.” It was clear to me that she was just telling me what she thought I wanted to hear. It was a bit of a low blow and I felt a little insulted that she would take advantage of my feelings for Debbie. “She made it pretty clear…”
“You need to come back or else you might get declared.”
I made an effort to speak with perfect TR s (looking her square in the eyes and speaking clearly). “I won’t be going back.”
She responded with a look that turned hostile. “Okay, we’re done. You know the way out.”
Showed myself out.
A Girl with Problems
After graduating, I reported for duty in the Navy. By that time I was very reticent about my beliefs in Scientology. I had figured out that anyone I told about the 76 trillion year history of theta thought I was a complete nut. After one of my friends made a crack about Scientology, I told him that I was a Scientologist. He apologized and explained that he had read some articles in reader’s digest noting the high cost of Scientology. I didn’t take it personally and we became good friends. But I didn’t try to sell him on Scientology or even tell him about it.
My Scientology beliefs were tested further when girl I had been seeing during my training in Virginia, named Jamela came out to California to live with me. She had mental issues, to put it bluntly. More to the point, her psychiatric medication noticeably helped her condition. This was a contradiction of what I had been told while involved in Scientology.
According to L. Ron Hubbard, psychiatrists were suppressive people determined to derange the minds of anyone they could — in an insane bid to destroy the world. They didn’t care if destroying humanity meant that they too would be destroyed and that was illustrative of just how insane and destructive they were. The means they used to derange included electric shock therapy and psychiatric medications like the ones my girlfriend was on.
Since leaving the Sea Org I had talked with a student currently studying to become a psychiatrist. I was impressed with her kindness and intelligence. I started to wonder how good people, such as herself would somehow be transformed into a suppressive person in the process of becoming a psychiatrist. In the end, I had to assume that not all psychiatrists, probably most, were not suppressive people and truly had the best interest of their patients in mind.
I became more accepting of psychiatry. Still, Jamela had been informed about Scientology from her psychologist who warned her not to stop taking her medication even though I might say otherwise. But I had come around and, seeing the good that it did, encouraged her to take them. This didn’t stop her some making fun of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology by mocking my reverence for it — which tested my patience.
With the mediation she was still crazy, just not as crazy. And, as if by fate, one night on the streets of downtown San Diego, we met some Scientologists attempting to spread the word of L. Ron. What followed was a conversation where I argued that the medication my girlfriend was talking seemed to improve her condition. The Scientologists argued the medication only treated the symptoms and not the cause, which I agreed with. The Scientologists and Jamela found less common ground and got into an argument which ended with Jamela grabbing a copy of Dianetics out of the hands of one of the Scientologists and ripping it in half along the binding and then she then threw the two halves at one of them. To which the Scientologist coolly replied, “You owe me a book.”
At the time, I found it amusing, but looking back on it must have struck me deeper to see the two Scientologists pushed around by my girlfriend. Perhaps I realized that the Scientologists wouldn’t have been able to help Jamela, they couldn’t even keep her calm. The incident symbolically reduced Scientology to impotence in my mind. It wouldn’t be long now.
My First Few Moments as an Ex-Scientologist
It was a few more months after Jamela and I broke up that I had my last few moments as Scientologist. I was sitting at a light rail station, reading a newspaper when it all fell into place. It was an article about genetics and the inherited nature of personality traits. Science again moving into replace Scientology with real science. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
At that moment everything which had bothered me about Scientology suddenly made sense. “It’s all bullshit,” I said to myself aloud. Scientology was scam. LRH was a liar. No more would I have to strain to rationalize some shortcoming of L. Ron Hubbard or Scientology. The burden of reconciling a broken belief system was lifted off my shoulders. Never again would I have to have feel embarrassed when I revealed to someone that I was a Scientologist. I smiled to myself. I was free. All this time freedom had never been more than a thought away. The shortcomings of the Sea Org and Scientology finally made perfect sense. It was all bullshit, the whole time. I was free.
Looking up from the paper, the world looked different. My train was coming in.