Going Clear
by Lawrence Wright
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2 + 15 in other languages
Niklas PivicNiklas Pivic wrote a review
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<blockquote>When the Dianetics movement subsided, Hubbard was unable to restore the momentum that had given it such a rocket-powered launch. Imitators and competitors came onto the field, some even rivaling Hubbard himself. He was determined not to make the same mistakes with Scientology. From now on, he would exercise total control. His word was law. He was not just the founder, he was “Source”—the last word, whose every pronouncement was scripture.</blockquote>

<blockquote>MASTURBATION CHAIN. 1st incident embryo. 80 succeeding incidents. Mother masturbating with fingers, jolting child and injuring child with orgasm.</blockquote>

Some times, the line between genius and madness is blurred. With scientology, it is not.

As with all cults, dismissing them as stuff that only affects weak-minded persons, I think is utterly wrong and dangerous. And yes, I am referring to other things than just watching Tom Cruise freak out on furniture.

Most of my friends know a lot about the scientology movement thanks to knowledge sources that actual scientologists are not allowed to check, e.g. Internet and TV-series "South Park", where you can find out that theirs is a science fiction world where the intergalactic overlord Xenu rules and has basically trapped the souls of people, and yes, scientology is the only thing that can clear your mind and make you well again.

And that makes scientology easy to dismiss. Which is partly why it's dangerous.

When visiting a scientology center or speaking to a scientologist, you will most likely meet people who are very charismatic and very well trained to lure you in, to make you feel safe - in short, way more effectively than any politician will get you.

Lawrence Wright brings the history of L. Ron Hubbard to the table. What drove him? What were his ambitions? Is it true that he was a war hero God with infinite knowledge?

As one of the obligatory firsts regarding cults most often includes isolation of the victim from its parents, friends and work place, it's not surprising that Hubbard made his initial followers go on a long boat ride with him; I'm talking years here. While on his boat - the perfect isolation - things gradually got extremely weird:

<blockquote>When the girls became old enough to start wearing makeup, Hubbard was the one who showed them how to apply it. He also helped them do their hair.</blockquote>

While the book lets the reader know about the mentally insane stuff, e.g. this:

<blockquote>Hubbard’s depression had lifted and he seemed completely in control—relaxed and confident, even jovial. The crew were mainly drinking Spanish wines, but Hubbard favored rum and Coke—an eighth of a glass of Coke and seven-eighths rum—one after another through the evening. The heavens seemed very close in the dark harbor. Hubbard would point to the sky and say, “That is where the Fifth Invaders came from. They’re the bad guys, they’re the ones who put us here.” He said he could actually spot their spaceships crossing in front of the stars, and he would salute them as they passed overhead, just to let them know that they had been seen.</blockquote>

...and this:

<blockquote>The years at sea were critical ones for the future of Scientology. Even as Hubbard was inventing the doctrine, each of his decisions and actions would become enshrined in Scientology lore as something to be emulated—his cigarette smoking, for instance, which is still a feature of the church’s culture at the upper levels, as are his 1950s habits of speech, his casual misogyny, his aversion to perfume and scented deodorants, and his love of cars and motorcycles and Rolex watches. More significant is the legacy of his belittling behavior toward subordinates and his paranoia about the government. Such traits stamped the religion as an extremely secretive and sometimes hostile organization that saw enemies on every corner.</blockquote>

...it also lets the reader know of torture:

<blockquote>When Otto Roos, a Sea Org executive from Holland, failed to lash a steel cable to a bollard on the dock during a terrible storm in Tunisia, Hubbard ordered him thrown from the ship’s bridge into the sea, a height of about four stories. Hana Eltringham wrote a concerned report to Hubbard that night, explaining that the storm had been so furious that Roos simply couldn’t hang on when trying to secure the ship. The report was returned to her with the comment “Never question LRH.”5 Roos survived his punishment, only to set a dismal precedent. After that, overboardings became routine, but mostly from the lower poop deck. Nearly every morning, when the crew was mustered, there would be a list of those sentenced to go over the side, even in rough seas. They would be fished out and hauled back onboard through the old cattle doors that led to the hold. The overboardings contributed to the decision of the Greek government to expel the Scientology crew from Corfu in March 1969. That didn’t stop the practice. None except Hubbard family members were spared. John McMaster, the second “first Clear,” was tossed over the side six times, breaking his shoulder on the last occasion. He left the church not long afterward. Eltringham had to stand with Hubbard and his aides on the deck when the punishments were meted out. If the crewman seemed insufficiently cowed by the prospect, Hubbard would have his hands and feet bound. Whitfield remembered one American woman, Julia Lewis Salmen, sixty years old, a longtime Scientology executive, who was bound and blindfolded before being thrown overboard. “She screamed all the way down,” Eltringham said. “When the sound stopped, Hubbard ordered a deck hand to jump in after her. Had he not, I think Julia may have drowned.” Hubbard chose a different punishment for another of the older members of the crew, Charlie Reisdorf. He and two other Sea Org crew were made to race each other around the rough, splintery decks while pushing peanuts with their noses. “They all had raw, bleeding noses, leaving a trail of blood behind them,” a senior auditor recalled. The entire crew was ordered to watch the spectacle. “Reisdorf was in his late fifties, probably. His two daughters were Messengers; they were eleven or twelve at the time, and his wife was there also. It was hard to say which was worse to watch: this old guy with a bleeding nose or his wife and kids sobbing and crying and being forced to watch this. Hubbard was standing there, calling the shots, yelling, ‘Faster, faster!’ ” Hubbard increasingly turned his wrath on children, who were becoming a nuisance on the ship. He thought that they were best raised away from their parents, who were “counter-intention” to their children. As a result, he became their only—stern as well as neglectful—parent. Children who committed minor infractions, such as laughing inappropriately or failing to remember a Scientology term, would be made to climb to the crow’s nest, at the top of the mast, four stories high, and spend the night, or sent to the hold and made to chip rust.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Other young children were sentenced to the locker for infractions—such as chewing up a telex—for as long as three weeks. Hubbard ruled that they were Suppressive Persons. One little girl, a deaf mute, was placed in the locker for a week because Hubbard thought it might cure her deafness.</blockquote>

And then, as scientology grew bigger:

<blockquote>VERY EARLY ONE MORNING in July 1977, the FBI, having been tipped off about Operation Snow White, carried out raids on Scientology offices in Los Angeles and Washington, DC, carting off nearly fifty thousand documents. One of the files was titled “Operation Freakout.” It concerned the treatment of Paulette Cooper, the journalist who had published an exposé of Scientology, The Scandal of Scientology, six years earlier. After having been indicted for perjury and making bomb threats against Scientology, Cooper had gone into a deep depression. She stopped eating. At one point, she weighed just eighty-three pounds. She considered suicide. Finally, she persuaded a doctor to give her sodium pentothal, or “truth serum,” and question her under the anesthesia. The government was sufficiently impressed that the prosecutor dropped the case against her, but her reputation was ruined, she was broke, and her health was uncertain. The day after the FBI raid on the Scientology headquarters, Cooper was flying back from Africa, on assignment for a travel magazine, when she read a story in the International Herald Tribune about the raid. One of the files the federal agents discovered was titled “Operation Freakout.” The goal of the operation was to get Cooper “incarcerated in a mental institution or jail.”</blockquote>

I found it hard to wrap my head around the fact that scientology went all-in where it came to not only toppling minds, but governments and psychiatry, not only by infiltrating, persecuting and brain-washing people, but also by using filibuster techniques to try and drown out all types of critique.

All in all, it's a good book that is well researched. Check it out if you want to plunge deep into a very different world.