Going Clear

I watched most of the HBO documentary “Going Clear” last night and then watched the last bit on my lunch hour. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the film talks with former high-ranking Scientologists about their experiences in Scientology. It has really affected me in ways I hadn’t expected. Most of all, it helped me understand perhaps a little better how controlling organizations work and why we allow them to exert control over ourselves. I wrote down some of the quotes that resonated with me, probably because I see how these things have applied in my own life.

You get this phobia inducement that if I leave, it’s all going to go down the tubes. When you’re in the organization, all the good that happens to you is because of Scientology, and everything that isn’t good is your fault.

How many times have I heard that, if I was having problems, they were a result of me not trying hard enough or not having enough faith or not being humble enough?

You begin to believe that you need the organization to survive, to have any hope of a decent life.

Your future, your eternity, all depends on you going up the Bridge. It’s scary. It’s kinda like Christianity with hell. If they don’t have the Bridge, they can’t go free. They don’t believe they can get it anywhere else.

What happens is that you no longer trust yourself to live your life authentically. You adopt someone else’s script for your life. “You take on a kind of a matrix of thought that is not your own.”

A lot of controlling organizations have a sort of “milk before meat” approach, where you have to prove your worthiness over time before you can be trusted with the deeper truths, the bigger covenants and commitments.

I finally get to OT 3, and they give me the secret materials, which I’ve been hearing about all this time. They’re hand-written by [L. Ron] Hubbard. You have to keep them in a locked briefcase, be very cautious, because if this gets out, it’s dangerous to people. It could actually do them harm if they are not adequately prepared. And I read it, and it doesn’t make any sense. … This garbled story that didn’t make sense. I remember for one fleeting second thinking maybe it’s an insanity test–maybe if you believe this, they kick you out. Maybe that’s it. That, of course, is not the case. They talk about the fact, you know, that the earth was at such-and-such trillions of years ago, and this guy, this space guy … galactic overlord, this was a prison planet, and people being caught and captured and being brought to planet Earth … and then put them in volcanoes and then blow them up with A-bombs … Whoa! I studied geography in school. Those volcanoes didn’t exist 75 million years ago. … And we have these lost souls all over us, and we have to get rid of them, and I’m going, What the f*** are you talking about? I’m down for the self-help stuff, I’m down for, OK, I can be clear, I can get rid of the negative emotions, but what the f*** is this?

And for many people, when the big reveal comes, it’s not only a bit underwhelming but a little, well, silly. But by that point, you’re in, and it doesn’t really matter. You’re willing even to take physical and emotional abuse:

Initially , you’re like, “This is absurd. This is nuts.” And then you kinda settle in and go, “Well, obviously, I need to deal with something that I’m not facing. So perhaps this is–they’re doing this to make me better.”

After all, everyone else seems to be happy, and you don’t want to seem like the one loser who doesn’t get it. So you tell everyone else you’re happy, too, even if you’re miserable.

All Scientologists are full of shit. You know, they lie. “Aw, I’m doing great! You gotta get on seven.” You know, and they’re f***ing–“I’ve got a f***ing migraine right now, and I’ve never felt so shitty!” You know, that’s the f***ing life.

You become quite adept at rationalizing even the worst things, and you blame yourself for not “getting it,” for not seeing the good and the blessings everyone else sees.

Those years of introspection eventually led me to sincerely considering that I was so bad that I couldn’t confront how bad I was. I didn’t know it at the time, but a depression set in that was with me for years, and the worst thing that was LRH kept ordering me to more auditing. I had to find swords that were stuck in me–hypothetical swords, imaginary swords that were causing all this pain. This auditing went on and on. It wasn’t doing any good. I should have been left alone. But everything that I took offense with, I rationalized almost immediately. I had to. I could not continue in this game of Scientology without explaining away what he was doing. It got to be a way of believing, and every one of us got into that. [L. Ron Hubbard] was the master who did it to us, and we took it on and then we did it to ourselves. And I learned from it, that I would never ever again, you know, go–do the bidding of a tyrant.

“We took it on and we did it to ourselves.” That made my stomach hurt and had me close to tears.

Some people even rationalize dishonesty (or “theocratic ethics,” in another context):

Because Scientology is perceived and conceived by Scientologists as being the salvation for mankind, you can have people that lie with a very straight face if they believe that what they are doing is protecting the Church of Scientology.

And the pain and shame of coming out are devastating.

It’s such a hard thing when you do wake up. You go, “Oh, my God.” Because you have this wave of regrets. I just started to think that maybe my entire life has been a lie. … You just don’t see it happening to you. You justify so much. [T]hey prey on people, suggesting that, you know, you should be able to think for yourself and then tell you exactly how you have to think, or get out. And if you get out, there will be consequences.

In the end, however, we are the ones who do it to ourselves, and that’s what is most devastating to me.

We lock up a portion of our own mind. We willingly put cuffs on. We willingly avoid things that could cause us pain, if we just looked. If we can just believe something, then we don’t have to really think for ourselves, do we? And so I can’t damn these people who aren’t coming out, or who are hiding once they come out because they’re ashamed. You know, I feel the same shame.


18 Responses to Going Clear

  1. Brad says:

    I haven’t watched this yet. It’s on my list. But this reminded me of when I watched the documentary on Jim Jones and the people’s temple. They had several people on there that survived. They talked about how happy they were in the beginning, that they are part of this organization that is going to make a difference. Then of course we all know of the tragedy. Listening to the survivors and how ashamed the were for being fooled and because of it they list their loved ones, hit home with me, I knew exactly how they felt. I watched it several years ago and it still affects me when I think about it.

    It seems to me to be the same kind of technique is used to get people in and then tell them that there lives are worthless or will go to hell if you go against our speak ill of them.

    The Nazis used it, Mormons use it, Scientology use it and any organization that want to control you.

  2. David Macfarlane says:

    There is a very interesting discussion of the film here: http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/03/tom-cruise-nicole-kidman-scientology-wire-tap-going-clear

    It features Alex Gibney, Lawrence Wright, Paul Haggis and Mike Rinder. Wright wrote the book on which Gibney’s documentary is based. Haggis is an Oscar-winning writer and director, and both he and Rinder are former Scientology adherents.

  3. CAB says:

    “What happens is that you no longer trust yourself….” Exactly.

    You are well and thoroughly taught to not trust yourself, to put all your trust into “authority,” no matter how absurd that voice of authority is. That is why I consider the church to be evil, and a cult, even though many members of my family and other people I love are still deeply invested in it.

    I struggled for decades–since I was a young child–with doubts and concerns about the church and its culture. But I was “born under the covenant” and grew up in Utah. The church controlled reality, so I almost always concluded that the problem was me.

    How any of us born into it manage to get free is still a mystery to me–maybe a miracle.

    Thanks for reviewing the documentary. I don’t feel ready yet to see it myself. The pain and trauma about the church is still too fresh for me. Some day….

  4. Donna says:

    I watched it too. Very disturbing, especially the stories of abuse in that reform center. Spanky’s story about escaping with her baby who had conjunctivitis and was covered in fruit flies was heart-wrenching but also believable. That’s the kind of hold cults can have-as we well know.

    I loved the bit at the end when Paul Haggis says that he understands why some former Scientologists don’t want to discuss their experience. But that he had to come forward, admitting he’d been duped, for others’ benefit. Admitting that you’re wrong is a brave thing to do. It’s also liberating. I’m surprised now by how many people aren’t able to come to terms with their mistakes.

  5. Allan Carter says:

    An article about Scientology and their legal actions against a web site that showed their secret OTS levels is what tipped me over the edge into looking at what the internet had to say about Mormonism. It didn’t take very long to realize that those evil anti-Mormons were much more honest about the church than the church itself. Kind of shattered my life-long belief, taught by the church, that the truth has nothing to fear. Well, the church has a lot to fear.

  6. jeanikins says:

    I must try to watch this show ‘cos I need something else to rile me up. It is all such nonsense – humans have grown up. We can print organs to replace those that are diseased; we know what causes disease. Why can’t we give up superstitious beliefs?

    • runtu says:

      I don’t know, Jean. It hasn’t riled me up but rather filled me with a flood of emotions that I am struggling to deal with. It will pass, but, wow, what a raft of unpleasantness that documentary turned up for me.

  7. zuort says:

    I married someone many years ago whom I now regard, because of repeated hurtful behavior directed toward me, as evil. Before our relationship, she was married briefly to someone who died. They both said they were happily married. Yet we were unhappily married for 20 years. My view is that she mentally abused me and controlled me during all of our married years, even after separation. None of it, however, rose to the level of legal abuse. We had two children together. I divorced her. Now she manipulates our children to her advantage. Someone I don’t know is considering marrying her. Would it be proper to warn him off from marrying her? Would it be right to publicly denounce her for perceived wrongs?

  8. CAB says:

    I just finished reading Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir on growing up in Scientology. She is the niece of the current head of Scientology, David Miscavige. Three generations of her family were in the church and she grew up in a Scientology compound without her parents because they were off doing church business. It is a deeply chilling story.
    Fortunately, she, her parents–who were very high up in the church–her husband and her brother were able to eventually escape.
    If I did not already know about Scientology, I could not help but conclude that it is an evil organization, although most of the people in it are totally brainwashed. They seem able to justify every ugly thing they do with some belief in a “higher good.” A “good” which is too reminiscent of some version of “lying for the Lord,” and the institution being more important than the individuals in it.

  9. jiminpanama says:

    I have spent many many years making excuses and explaining the church. I have an answer to every objection. But I have to say the first time I went to the temple I was nearly laughing, but I was surrounded by people smiling and encouraging and telling me I have to go more to fully understand. Eventually became a temple worker and immersed myself it it. I became inactive a few years ago as having multiple callings just drained me so I moved to another town and laid low. I still think Mormon and occasionally go to church. These past few weeks have been disappointing and an eye opener for me. Scouring blogs and understanding what’s being said and believing it, but also still believing the doctrines. Crossroads. Could JS and the early church leaders really have been that bad? Is the leadership today that bad too? The church does do a lot of good. But…. This article is eerily familiar and after reading so much of your stuff and others I just wonder if it wouldn’t be easier on me to just stay in? 52 years now of LDS, not sure I can undo that. I also struggle with the 1. Abandoning the ideals I was trained to fight for. Am I like Rambo. Or can I just turn it off. 2. Is this information I’m reading about JS true? There is always detractors and forgeries and what not. Even the church has been duped with that. Any helpful comments would be appreciated. The thought of being duped so fully is very tough to admit to.

    • CAB says:

      “I have spent many many years making excuses and explaining the church. I have an answer to every objection.”

      That is a perfect description of a co-dependent relationship.
      You sound like an abused spouse.
      I am sympathetic. I struggled with my concerns about the church I had loved for decades. I was about your age when I finally couldn’t pretend anymore that the church was not fraught with serious problems. The lies, history revisions, cover-ups, etc were just part of the problem. The hypocrisy was what finally got me.
      And the more I learned, once I was willing to come from a place of neutrality and honestly examine everything, the more uncomfortable I felt with remaining a member. I knew too many general authorities and their families, knew too much of the “dirty laundry,” to be able to stay. I could no longer pretend that “the people are imperfect, but the church is.”
      If the “church is true” then it would not need to fear and control the actual truth.
      I believe that the church does far more harm than it does good. And the good is greatly exaggerated by the church itself.
      Terribly painful to admit that one has devoted one’s life to a fraud, but coming to terms with that realization is the way to freedom and peace.

      • jiminpanama says:

        Thanks. I am actually going to be talking with my wife tonight. It is hard to admit I have been so thoroughly duped by a group of people you dedicate your life too. I feel like my home was burglarized.

      • CAB says:

        I will be sending you supportive thoughts ;-]
        This is a hard thing to face, I know.
        Consider reading the CES Letter and/or Grant Palmer’s “Insiders View of Mormonism.”
        There are a lot of online communities, too, if you feel a need for support through this.

      • jiminpanama says:

        This is very funny. Evidently my wife has been reading on her own. She totally understands and also is happy to move on. Not sure what that is yet. I feel very lucky to have a supportive wife right now.

      • CAB says:


      • runtu says:

        That makes things much easier. Best to both of you.

      • jiminpanama says:

        Thanks too for the work that you have presented. Fair, direct, and knowledgable. I’ll be around. Thanks

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