Scientology and Me
Twenty Eight Years Later
This is what happened to me at the Church of Scientology of Toronto. Their headquarters was a large house on Avenue Road, near Davenport, that burned down within days of their move to the current Yonge Street location.
How I got in...
I had just turned seventeen. Adolescence was a strain for me. I was socially inept, a late bloomer. This was exacerbated by my being two years ahead of my age group in school. I was a successful science and math student but my interests were changing to the visual arts. But a career in art seemed totally impractical, and while I was not without talent, there were so many artists that were better I couldn't imagine competing professionally in the field.
It was 1971 and Woodstock was a recent memory. "Hair" was playing in Toronto (and as I remember the female lead was a Scientologist). Men were walking on the moon. The Zeitgeist combined with youthful optimism, helped me to believe that there could be a better way to live than the way of my parents.
Two of my cousins, both older, very capable individuals got involved with Scientology. One would eventually stay on as a staff member for twenty three years, the other for seven. I respected them both, still do. They told me that scientology was the one true path, the one real answer, the one way to escape the trap of the reactive mind.
I gave it a try.
Eventually seven members of the family aunts, uncles, cousins would give it a try. All eventually left, though some, not until they had donated tens of thousands of dollars and years of their life to the church.
The turning point was when I quit the faculty of science during my first year of university. Though I planned to continue in fine arts the next year, I knew what happened to most people after a four year visual art program. Scientology was looking better than ever.
What I did....
I wanted to become "happier and more able". How much more able? I wanted to be an OTVIII and have control knowingly and at will over matter, energy, space, time, life and thought. But I had to start at the bottom.
The bottom is the "Communications course", then available over two consecutive weekends for the paltry sum, even then, of $15.00. It was a GREAT course and I'm not being sarcastic here. For someone who had trouble getting along, it taught tried and true methods for better communication. A friend who is OTV, and now an enemy of Scientology, says it is actually the BEST course they have. It is the tasty worm on the end of the hook. But if you really want to learn to communicate my advice is take an introductory course in dramatic arts at the community centre. It will also teach you tried and true methods of communication, while not putting you on the road to a strange, mystical, time consuming, expensive, and foolish enterprise.
Then I read over twenty books, every book available by L.Ron Hubbard. The books contained the usual pockets of wisdom:
- the clam incident
- the knitting needle stuff
- racism and homophobia
- claims for curing physical illness
- how to pursue and realize superhuman powers
If you're not familiar with the above, check them out on the internet.
And where was the proof for their claims? In dozens of filing cabinets upstairs, I was told. The medical establishment would never accept the proofs. They were too self interested and dense with suppressives. Not only that, my cousins told me it was all true. If you can't believe your own cousins...? Looking back, they tell me that they either put too much stock in comparatively minor phenomenon they witnessed or were passing on anecdotal evidence from other cult members who could never lie to them. They were sincere. I believe this sincerity extends way up the ranks.
During those days I:
- spent about 200 dollars on books and courses
- phoned a dear friend on scientology's behest and told him to "grant me beingness as a scientologist"
- did a project for sociology class telling my classmates that scientology could give them superhuman powers (is it any wonder I had trouble getting along?)
- had a friend tell me that I used to know a bit about everything but my conversation had changed to "Have you heard of Scientology?" and "I don't do drugs."
- scared the hell out of my immediate family
- defended scientology's indefensible positions to family and friends
- took an incredulous friend to see Captain Bill at the King Edward hotel where he spoke to the adoring crowd about tying suppressives to chairs and auditing them, and taking over the world by 1975.
- lined up a scientologist to speak to an uninterested (and captive) crowd at a science-fiction convention
You might say I got off easy.
How I got out...
I signed up for my second course, the Hubbard Qualified Scientologist Course. Compared to the Communications Course, it was quite weird. Though my memories are vague at this point, I remember a process that went something like this: Working with a partner he said, "Touch that table (thank you). Touch your nose (thank you). Touch that table (thank you). Touch your nose..." I did this until I experienced a "cognition", a new found realization of something important. The process was exceedingly dull and I knew it was not going to stop until I had cognitions, so I had them. Mine were quite trivial but they got me off the process.
Incidentally, my partner in this did not go back to university that September, but became a staff member. When I ran into him eight months later at York university he had quit staff, but did not wish to discuss it.
The sinker was a process called "The book and the bottle". I'm not sure if I can recount the exact process accurately, but details are available elsewhere on the internet. Here's the trick; Again a repetitive set of meaningless commands must be carried out until the end product is reached. The end product is the soul leaves the body. Scientologists call this exteriorization. There is no description of what exteriorization feels like, you decide for yourself. One of two things should happen during this process. Either you get sick and tired of it and you will leave (blow) and the scientologists will pressure you to return, or you will decide that you have left your body at which point you'll have to also admit to yourself that scientology is a scientific process, concerned with the human soul that will deliver what it promises.
A third thing happened to me. I had done "The book and the bottle" for twenty six hours (over the space of three or four days). It has to be done with a partner but suddenly they couldn't find one for me. I spent the next two days waiting for a partner.
Now, that Tuesday (if my memory serves me well) the World Science-Fiction Convention was being held in Toronto. I was then, and I remain today, an enthusiastic S-F fan. The course supervisor said, "We'll have a partner for you this afternoon." I said off-handedly, "I'm glad to hear that. On Tuesday, I'm off to the World Science Fiction convention, anyway."
This was interpreted as my trying to "blow" course. They sent me down to the ethics office where, again, I waited for another two days. The actual interview there took an hour or less, then I was sent back upstairs to proceed on my course. I had half a day before the convention began. The course supervisor told me that if I was TONE 40 (if I really wanted to) I would finish. It was the final insult. I blew. If not for that course supervisor I might have "exteriorized" and still be there today.
For the most part, I was relieved. I could leave without insulting my family members, saying that scientology was hard to work with. Had I said that it didn't work they would have told me that I hadn't given it enough of a chance.
And since then...
At first, I told people that scientology might be right but that I would not get involved again until their methods had been proven by the scientific establishment. Then I watched my cousins, and almost everyone whom I met there in 1971 drop Scientology. It took seven years before I would admit to myself that their methods don't make people "happier and more able," they merely delude them. And what's more, that it is coldly calculated to generate money and power for L.Ron Hubbard and his heirs.
Now, I staple up handbills denouncing scientology, write letters to the editor after EVERY article I read about the organization, phone my alderman protesting when they are involved in community events, and send letters to celebrities who support scientology. I also do what I can to support those who have a bit more courage then I, those who risk lawsuits and harassment for speaking against them publicly, those who will go toe to toe with the scientologist to stop some other seventeen year old from getting hooked.
And things have turned out fine. I have a job I like, a wife and children I love and I have gone far, far farther with my artwork then I ever expected to. All without the benefit of CLEAR or OTIII.