This is the thirteenth installment of the account of a journey into and out of scientology — written by one of our long-term readers. I hope you enjoy her insights, humor and style.
Lili also provided a glossary of terms.
Through the Bubble – Lili’s Adventures in Scientologyland
This is my quirky recollection of events. Others may remember things differently. Lingo is italicized on the first mention, capitalized after that. I’ve compressed complexities in the cult to simplify your reading pleasure.
The Church of Scientology, An Applied Religious Philosophy, The New Brand
The encamped Sea Org intruders were busy taking our Scientology outpost apart and putting it back together again. These “improvements” were purported to align our operation with L Ron Hubbard’s administrative commandments and the undesirable (to me) Applied Religious Philosophy brand. The most notable and alarming changes were the heavy-duty prongy-every-which-way crosses, newly hanging from the walls in the public spaces.
I disliked organized religion. One of the reasons I joined Scientology was because I was told this was scientific self-help. I trusted self-help. For years, I’d followed my mom to many of her self-help re-evaluation counseling workshops before bugging out to hang with the other kids. I’d sat naked in hot tubs and had deep soul-baring conversations as a thirteen-year-old with adults. And even old people. I mean people over thirty.
In Scientology, I still hadn’t seen any big-circle group hugs. Or heard anyone cry while re-telling some sad thing that happened in their youth, like at our commune’s touchy-feelie Sunday meetings. I figured out that Scientology’s brand of self-help was a true do-it-yourself kinda deal. Well, that sounded science-y, so okay then.
I still wished for that touchy-feelie connection. That get-honest-and-real moment when some older lady in the big circle would reveal that she wasn’t always married, with kids, and a boring-ass accountant. She’d sob and hiccup while admitting she’d been drug-addicted, married too young, beat on, arrested, cleaned her shit up and became an accountant.
Her secret shame would morph into redemption in the arms of the group, who’d validate her strength and inner beauty. I loved the feeling when her thick waves of old remorse crashed into tiny pieces on the supportive rocks of healing.
That lady was safe now. We all listened to the horror movie drama of her diving down into self-destruction and ruination and saw that she’d survived. And we could lift her emotions up with hugs, mutual tears, and kind words. She’d end up feeling better about herself. We’d feel better about ourselves and decide anew not to become alcoholics, drug addicts, battered women, or whatever fucked-up thing she’d lived through.
Hearing those intense revelations made my chest tight. It was like the throat-constricting suspense of watching the Exorcist movie. Only it wasn’t a story. This was a real person, an adult, reliving an absolute horror. After blowing her nose and being hugged until her ribs hurt, we came back to awareness in a safe place. Those minutes after hearing a wrenching personal narrative, we all forgot our problems. That judgment-free group around me created a protected space. A space I longed to lean into and unload my past mistakes.
I’d never told any of my stories in group cuz I was just a kid. Well, a teenager. The touchy feelie adults assumed I was okay. They thought it was groovy that I wanted to be there and that I was so ‘together.’ I yearned to be together, a state none of my age group credited me with. Being together was the idea that you knew what you wanted, handled your problems, and didn’t have issues. You were just a great person to be around. I wanted to be together, and I wanted Scientology to help me get there.
Instead, I was on Course studying more L Ron Hubbard reasons why my mother wasn’t really my parent, but just a spiritual being joined to a meat body. Someone I’d randomly associated with, so I could pick up my new meat sack for this lifetime’s circuits around the sun. LRH didn’t talk about love except to say what a trap it was and that it makes us do crazy self-destructive stuff. I learned that my spiritual future depended on not getting too attached to this-lifetime physical connections. I swallowed this sad, separate-me-from-relationships philosophy while trying to live with my restrictive Personal Integrity, self-discipline, and no-drug lifestyle.
The Truth Revealed, Yeah, No
A momentous announcement appeared after two weeks of mysterious, serious, big changes for L Ron Hubbard’s Santa Barbara Scientology outpost. A giant poster showed up on an easel in the lobby that announced a mandatory “Must See” Event. Oh cool. I liked Events. It said it was a celebration. I liked celebrations. On Saturday night. But wait, that’s my night off. Me and Josh’s date night.
This Event was supposed to celebrate a return to 100% Standard L Ron Hubbard knowledge and truth. Cough. What? We weren’t standard? I hadn’t noticed. Sounded kinda dull to me. After being guilted into signing my name on the poster as an attendee and fully intending to blow it off, I was hounded to confirm that I’d be there. That right there convinced me that some Sea Org members can read your mind.
I’d never had to sign up for the old Events. If I had to go to this thing, I was hoping for someone really snazzy to make an appearance, like John Travolta. The unofficial yak was that this Event was supposed to be Big News. People from Bakersfield and Ventura would come. Would there be food? What happened to the coffee maker? All staff, part-time and full-time, were required to attend. I maybe overheard an unfavorable exchange or two. Yeah, thanks for that; I’ll just cancel my night gig delivering pizza for the tips that I need to buy toothpaste, and dress up for this fantastic Event, that I won’t get any pay for. But wait, I’ll get paid in the joyous reward of helping forward the Aims of Scientology. Well, that’s okay then.
The Event night arrived. There were more staff members and stiffly at attention, read — kind of alarming looking — Sea Org Members than students. I’d heard missing students grumbling in the bathroom; we already have to put our fifteen-hour-a-week schedules in, and we’re supposed to go to this fricken Event on top of that? With no Course-Time-Credit? On a Saturday night? Uh, no thanks. Call me a pantywaist dilettante, but I got laundry and shit.
I ended up attending. A: for Up-Stat points. And B: because Josh asked me to. The speaker was an earnest young Sea Org Man. He read a Bulletin from L Ron Hubbard. Because nothing says entertainment like your speaker reading off a piece of paper. Bulletins are big in Scientology. L Ron Hubbard says, “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true.” And LRH was into the truth, so he wrote a dumpster load of Bulletins. I’m not sure that this pronouncement elevated his written rants, boasts, and lofty pompous pronouncements to truth, but we in the audience were supposed to toe the line of whatever “truth” was in that Bulletin.
Our speaker changed it up a bit and read some short L Ron Hubbard quotes. Off another fricken piece of paper. It was all crap about expansion and taking over the world or something. Then he ruined it by specifying each quote’s Bulletin title and date. I was momentarily taken back to church with Granny. It was Luke 13:12, Homonym 6:34, or some old geezer with twelve adolescent wives, who-all-die-for-godly-purposes 42:8. Were we getting all scriptural with L Ron Hubbard’s thoughts here? Was I supposed to note those dates? So I could read it later? Hey, if that shit’s not on my Checksheet, I’m not reading it.
Flapping my Flippers Like a Trained Seal
My butt ached as the interminable Event ground on until the final ta-da moment. The speaker looked up. We looked back, a hunted pack of exhausted gazelles staring at glints in the darkness ahead. His toothy smile didn’t reach his dark-shadowed eyes. After a collectively held breath, he dedicated the creaky, old, three-story building as the no-longer-a-sleepy-Scientology ‘Center.’ What? It’s now a new and improved “Organization!” (Org.)
I think we were supposed to cheer or clap. The staff did. I smacked my palms together. The cheering was just a bit too fake enthusiasm, nausea-inducing, rah-rah, for me. The oldest Sea Org dude eyed me. I cheered. What? I can make noise. And I didn’t come to this stupid Event just to get sent to Ethics for being disaffected.
I was disaffected. But that’s easy to hide. Unless that old Sea Org dude got you on the E-Meter. That’s the skin galvanometer thing they use in Auditing, like a lie detector. Yeah, don’t get on that thing when you’re harboring contrary thoughts about Scientology. Or have indigestion.
Changing Live Communication into Cardboard
After the underwhelming response to Scientology’s Big Event announcement in Santa Barbara, the Sea Org higher-ups must have sent their Billion-Year-Contract-signing lecturer/ public speaking staff to a few Toastmasters meetings. Their train wreck of an event garnered a goose egg in the Gross Income department. It’d failed to inspire the troops. In more bad news, the new Santa Barbara Scientology Organization’s number of newbie sign-ups was zero.
I’d gone to Toastmasters to learn to communicate to groups. It’s a wonderful organization. I can get a laugh, run a tight meeting, or emcee an event. Anyway, the next-gen Scientology Events were tight, neat, controlled, and never started on time. Oh yeah, and way too long. If the speakers had studied some new public speaking data, they did it through the lens of the fanatical; this is a deadly-serious-activity mindset of Scientology. At the next Event, they spoke without reading off a paper. Yay! Not so yay, the speakers were devoid of any spontaneity, off-the-cuff jokes, light-hearted anything, oh sorry, I fell asleep while writing this. But we all attended, even though we didn’t get Course-Time credit.
Scientology’s Org Board, the First Step on the Road to Hell
In order for our deficient Scientology Center to become an Organization officially, there were new and different Posts to be filled. Post is a pompous way of saying your job. It sounds military-ish, and L Ron Hubbard had a hard-on for military words. One such Post was the Division Head above the Ethics Officer. They hired people, made sure shit happened, and who even cares?
Scientology’s Seven Division Org Board, (organizing board of written up hierarchies, positions, and duties) was pumped up as the most advanced, awesome, effective organizing and administrative tool on the planet, except maybe for their Nine Division Org Board. It’s like a military flow chart of who salutes who. Only instead of who salutes who, it’s more a who can scream at who, for failing to do some duty that the overworked and underpaid staffer didn’t have time to do.
I’d read a bunch of Bulletins about the Org Board on my Scientology MBA Course and was electrified by the flow lines of Posts, Executives, separate areas of duties and the importance of not letting someone else do your job.
Get this, if someone swept the floor to help you out, but it was your Post among other things to sweep the floor, you had been Bypassed. This act of being Bypassed weakened your command of your Post. This would lead to lower productivity Stats and other hellish consequences. Yet another reason not to ask for help or even advice about your Post. You needed to read the Hat Write-Up for your Post to learn what was Needed and Wanted on your Post and Deliver it. The Hat for my Post consisted of a pile of L Ron Hubbard Bulletins. That never said exactly what was Needed and Wanted on my Post.
But that’s cool because the Org Board had a shit ton of duties for each Division. And you were Responsible for the infinity of duties below you, whether you had Juniors to help you or not. Make it Go Right! Okay, that solves that problem.
The trouble with being on an Org Post, and yes, I was briefly on Staff, was if you tried to handle all the duties below you, which the Recruiter person never told you about, you’d fail. Constantly. This Staff experience of mine was demoralizing. Oh yeah and it sent my tenuous house cleaning gig to the teetering edge of the business-graveyard abyss.
I was supposed to have a Seven Division Org Board up on the wall for my little home-based business success. I spent a day drawing it up. All the Posts were held by either me or Josh. It was quite ridiculous straining not to bypass each other while trying to stay afloat. Pretty soon we quit looking at it and whoever was closest to the fire extinguisher would suit up and handle that day’s drama.
Back to the Santa Barbara Org and their drama, they needed one more of those Division Heads to complete the transformation to 100% Standard Organization. The beady-eyed Sea Org team scrutinized the diminished clutch of circles-under-their-eyes-staff members and settled on, sorry babe, Josh.
Josh had liked being the Ethics Officer. And not making people wrong for having Reactive Minds. He got his wins coaxing some toxic-as-shit-relationship-pair to look for more compatible mates. I loved seeing how he helped people organize some un-Confrontable situations in their lives, so their day-to-day existence went smoother. That was why he signed up for staff in the first place.
Some new dude took over being the Ethics Officer when Josh became the head of the Division. Yay, a promotion and an opportunity to gain more experience. It’d look so good on his resume. Yeah, no. No ex-Scientologist puts Scientology on their resume.
While the new Ethics Officer screamed and made people cry and question their value in this world, Josh was tasked with staffing up the place. Since the Sea Org reorganization swept about half the staff out of the building, with their strict adherence to L Ron Hubbard administrative policy, cough, cut in pay, and upright, toe-the-line seriousness, Josh needed to snap and pop to get those Posts filled.
The remaining faithful, random students that stuck around to prove their loyalty, liked Josh. We heard the new and daily-roared goal to expand Scientology across the planet. We didn’t say that the stampede-off-a-cliff intensity was an unwanted distraction. Like it or not, we were now all in harness, pulling for the same star-high goal. We were now members of the Church of Scientology. Cough. We had a Responsibility to introduce L Ron Hubbard’s wisdom to others.
Hell no, I was not knocking on doors, handing out Scientology’s version of Watchtower magazine on the weekends. I kept my head down and made my meat body smile on cue while the foul fog of our new-cherch-order dimmed my spirit.
Little Miss Chatterbox Learns to Button it up, But Good
Josh was able to lighten the mood and recruit staff members from the remaining students. Some liked the new intensity of purpose and had yearned for a bigger game to give meaning to their lives. They ignored the pain of poverty and marched forth to man the filing cabinets and push important-looking papers into appropriately labeled three-basket systems.
In happy news, the Sea Org team finally left. This allowed the remaining Org staff to take a full breath and lose sleep over their low pay instead of losing sleep over Sea Org make-work. In the bad news department, draconian Ethics remained in the building. Students nervous-smiled when any staff member hove nearby. The invisible hand of Upper Management canceled our fifteen-minute break time during the evening Course period. Hey, I fell in love on a motorcycle, in granny panties, during that fifteen-minute break.
Being on Course was now a “deadly serious” activity. In one of L Ron Hubbard’s Bulletins, which we all had to read at the start of any upstairs course, there was a fun quote about training Scientologists. “We’d rather have you dead than incapable.” Nice. This un-fun new religious order was my new life.
Josh was my love, my special person, and unfortunately, a member of the Scientology staff. I ached to tell him how much I despised this new overriding purpose to sell Scientology. My own goal, to improve myself, was rendered this unspoken, selfish indulgence. I also chafed at the repetition from various staffers about how Scientology had the only workable answers to the world’s problems. My teenage Christian friends had made the same claims. Then ruined it by wearing chastity rings, having serial bouts of premarital sex, and saying Jesus forgave them. But I’d go to Hell because I didn’t thump the bible.
When I stumbled across L Ron Hubbard’s anti-abortion, all-gay-people-are-covertly-hostile assholes, and other hate-this, hate-that statements during my study, it ripped me sideways. It fer sure soured my willingness to share this ‘religion’ with any of my non-Scientology friends.
Scientology was no longer the group I thought I’d signed up for. My unspoken words and unexpressed anger about certain LRH judgments pushed at the walls that closed in on me. I needed to unload my misgivings to Josh like the Niagra needs to fall.
But that would be Natter. And Josh, as a Scientology Division Head, would be conflicted and maybe have to write up a Knowledge Report on what I said. Because L Ron Hubbard’s policy and snitch culture, stated that he must. And I’d get sent to Ethics. I’d be forced to act the apologetic, compliant Scientologist to keep my relationship with Josh or speak my mind and lose Josh, my friends, and my life. All because I didn’t dig Scientology’s latest dictatorial direction.
Or the Ethics Officer might just decide for me that I wasn’t a good and acceptable Scientologist and hoist my cranky ass overboard. I stared through a knothole in the fence at a possible future and saw my face; grim, shoulders slumped, while Josh carried boxes of his belonging out of our love nest. I saw my business papers blowing in the wind, my desk on the sidewalk.
The scoreboard above this potential scene said – Game Over. Scientology 1, Lili 0.