This is the seventeenth 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.
Going Clear, Humor in Scientology, and Pushing Buttons to Control People
I finally cobbled together sufficient money to go Clear. Yay. Except, once the euphoria of achieving my goal to go Clear faded, I didn’t feel any different. But I had to smile and give lots of Big Wins. In front of other Scientologists. I was supposed to be this shining example of the wondrous miracle of a home-grown Santa Barbara Clear.
Now, God-forbid some Scientologist should hear me cuss, or I’d end up in Ethics, for violating — Set a Good Example. That’s one of the precepts in their Way to Happiness pamphlet. That PR Bright Idea had twenty-one precepts written by L Ron Hubbard for living a Happy Life. And appearing to be proof that Scientology was like a Christian religion.
These Way to Happiness booklets supposedly would calm the angry, educate the uninformed, and solve world strife. So, we, the faithful, spent too much money buying packs of them. Then we were supposed to give them to our friends and neighbors. Uh no. Josh and I had a collection that gathered cobwebs for years in our garage.
Fun fact, every time there was an earthquake, tornado, or inter-continental strife, the parishioners were guilted into buying more expensive boxloads of The Way to Happiness pamphlets. These would be given out by Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers in the disaster area. I offered up my cases of booklets to give out. Uh no. They wanted cash.
Once I went Clear, I was still myself, and I still liked to say shit. That was a joke. Oh, not funny? Did I mention the lack of any sense of humor, that like a foul odor wafts, through any Scientology building I’ve ever been in? Yup, the longer I was in, the seriouser it got.
L Ron Hubbard wrote a Bulletin called, Jokers and Degraders. Its purpose was to point out how awful and evil using humor can be. This bulletin was on my Ethics Officer’s top-five list to bludgeon me with. Here’s an L Ron Hubbard quote, “In some cultural areas, wit and humor are looked upon as a healthy release. However, in the case of orgs, this was not found to be the case. Intentional destruction of the org or fellow staff members was the direct purpose.” Really? So you’re telling me that my funny knock-knock joke proves I wanted to destroy the Org?
My neck shrunk into my shoulders when I realized my shining State of Clear was like a beacon calling in all moths. Those moths were staff members who believed I had new powers and capabilities. And a lofty Responsibility for using them to forward the Aims of Scientology. I found myself drumming up attendees for the next dreadful Event. I still hadn’t learned to say no.
Drumming up attendees involved the appalling act of Call-In. Wherein you spend (unpaid) hours on the phone, telling other Scientologists that this ‘great Event’ was happening. And it’s ‘different,’ or ‘vital,’ or ‘mandatory,’ yeah, that’ll work on the Venturians. This ‘new release,’ or whatever verbiage du jour Upper Management made us flog, was the critical Button to push.
Can we talk about Buttons? When I first got into Scientology and did that Bull Bait Drill, it was supposed to flatten my Buttons. Buttons that made my Reactive Mind hijack my life and do stimulus-response stupid stuff. But when I went to the upstairs Course Room to learn how to be an Auditor, I ended up Drilling how to purposely locate someone else’s Buttons.
I learned that as an Auditor, I needed to push those Buttons to get a predictable result to help my Pre-Clear, PC. They call the person getting Auditing a Pre-Clear. Till they got Clear. After that, they were called Deluded Idiots. Uh, no, I was thinking of myself. They’re called Pre-OTs.
Back when I had my Personality Test evaluated, I felt that if I didn’t immediately do their Communication Course, I’d wobble in life so bad that I might just die. They sure pushed all the right Buttons on me then, and I signed right up. Turns out, all that Bull Baiting I did, failed to flatten any important Buttons. Like the ones the cherch staff used on me whenever they wanted me to do something I didn’t want to do. And I did a whole dumpster load of Scientological things I didn’t want to do, like Call-in.
I don’t care how good your freaking sales pitch Button is. There’s not enough lipstick on the planet to paint that pig of an Event as anything other than one rung above demonic possession in the pleasure department. Perhaps I exaggerate. Go write a Knowledge Report.
You lose your good sense when you buy into the L Ron Hubbard-is-a genius fiction. The misery is real while you’re at the Event. But you cheer and clap like a lobotomized chimp. You go home and happy-talk about the new release. How it makes sense to re-do your Study Course because some new, 100% Standard L Ron Hubbard hidden data has been rediscovered.
My reward for going Clear was, the squeeze. Between staff thinking it was open season to ask me to do unpleasant shit for them, and the Ethics Officer eyeing me to see if I was Contributing-to-the-Motion enough, I found it hard to breathe.
My Bright Idea solution was to get out of Dodge.
Windowless Rooms, Crush-Regging and Losing My Mind
With plaintive requests ringing in my ears and bleated-begging from the local Org erased from my answering machine, I drove to Los Angeles, where bigger barracudas could eat Santa Barbara Org staffers for an appetizer.
Scientology’s Big Blue, Pacific Area Command (the old Cedars Sinai multi-building-ed hospital complex in Los Angeles between Sunset and Fountain, near Vermont) is a collection of ancient blocky blue-painted buildings. Probably, painted blue to hide the decay, or there was a deal on that shade of blue the day the Sea Org team went shopping for mega gallons of cheap paint.
I arrived at Big Blue to check out my next steps on the so-far disappointing Bridge to Total Freedom. Those next steps were called OT Levels. These are the confidential steps for which the cherch charges stupid amounts of money. Or you could read them on the internet for free. Don’t bother. Long story short, it’s supposed to help you be more capable of wielding your spiritual muscles. It’s complete BS, but I could totally picture myself making things happen with my mind. Cuz I’d done things other people said I couldn’t, my whole life.
I peered up from a low chair in a windowless, décor-challenged room somewhere in the bowels of Big Blue. I found myself there like a butterfly pinned to a specimen board. For multiple hours. I faced the most Drill-toughened, Hard-Sell-trained Registrars on the planet. (I’ve since learned that this favored technique is called Crush-regging.)
It must have been a slow day for Scientology. Because at one point, we had four Registrars leaning over little seated me, ‘enlightening’ me about the danger I was in. Seriously? I just spent years borrowing and clawing my way up to The State of Clear. Now I’m in this Non-Interference Zone? That no one ever mentioned before? What the actual fuck?
According to a fast-talking, quicker whipper-outer of L Ron Hubbard’s secret informational quotes, once I went Clear, I was in mortal danger. Right up there with taking a swim in quicksand. This Non-Interference Zone covered the area between Clear and the third level of OT, or OT III. You could also call it the Third Circle of Hell.
This Crush-Regging coercion-fest was like that original Personality Test Evaluation all over again. Only on steroids. They pushed my Buttons, threw me into fear, and offered the OT III package as my salvation.
One of the super-powers the Los Angeles Registrars nailed me with, was the ability to obtain multiple credit cards, simultaneously. They assured me that credit card company A wouldn’t know about credit card companies B, C, or D, and the money they would lend me. They offered this information like it was this Big Win that only Scientology knew about. And since my future as a Thetan was vast compared to my eye-blink existence connected to my current meat sack, the fact that this was illegal seemed a piffling objection. An objection I did voice, that was skillfully decreed beneath concern.
In no universe beyond the inside of that claustrophobic office, would I ever have borrowed all that money. I forgot to mention the one non-Registrar in the office. This guy named Bob. The cherch calls them Field Staff Members. He’d get 10% of every cent I plopped down. He wormed his way into the meeting.
Bob had left his own batch of breathless messages on my answering machine. His pitch was about how great it’d be if I came to Los Angeles to learn about the wonders of the confidential OT Levels. It’d be so fun. He’d treat me to lunch.
Bob talked me into borrowing an additional $6,000.00 on another credit card while in the Crush-Regging white water. So he could buy some Scientology services of his own. I didn’t even like him. I don’t remember being treated to lunch and bonus points, he never paid me back.
Why did I do this? Superpower number two for the Los Angeles Registrars was a clever combination of Button-pushing, manipulation, and Scientology perfected love-bombing. Inside that room, the coercion was positively North Korean in its efficacy.
I don’t know why I said yes. But, Big Win for the Registrars and my Field Staff Member blood-sucker; I lost my mind and became a deeply in debt twenty-three-year-old dipshit. Oh, that’s a twenty-three-year-old Clear dipshit. Just to be unambiguous.
Good News, Bad News, for Little Miss Push-Over
I had thirty days before the seven or eight new minimum payment bills exploded into my mailbox. I’ve blocked out the memory of telling Josh what I’d done. The Santa Barbara Org staffer, who had in the past, corralled me into the most appalling volunteer projects, left numerous overenthusiastic messages begging for my help. One thing about a giant anvil, inching closer to covering you in its shade before it falls and butters your brains all over the universe, is it makes everything else look trivial. I did not respond to her messages.
I drove down to Big Blue. Someone reading this may be Out, or an Ex, as we call Ex-Scientologists who’ve had the wisdom to leave the cult. Inside the cherch, those who’ve Blown (left) are referred to as Down-Stat losers, Bitter Apostates, or Suppressive Persons. And it’s open season on them. L Ron Hubbard wrote up the Fair Game policy, where you can lie, cheat, defame, or injure any Suppressive Person. The Ethics Officer will give you a Commendation Chit. Then L Ron Hubbard loudly canceled Fair Game because it pissed off whole Third World countries. LRH was grooming those same Third World countries to become safe havens for Scientology. Didn’t happen.
Even though Fair Game was officially canceled, it’s still in full use, just using different Ethics Bulletins by LRH. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Watch the excellent movie, Going Clear, Scientology and the Prison of Belief by Alex Gibney. And by the way, Alex Gibney got Fair Gamed big time. You can read that story on the Internet.
Perhaps some Ex reading this may be concerned that they never made it to the much-touted, confidential OT Levels. What if they actually quit too soon? Well, I went for it. Unfortunately. That persistent, competitive, burning tower of ambition that boiled inside of me pointed at spiritual superpowers. I’d drunk the Kool-Aid. I believed that if I could just rid myself of all that negative self-talk from my useless Reactive Mind, I’d be free to use my true spiritual mind-over-matter skills. And get more shit done.
I toiled on in Los Angeles, in the OT Course Room, and in an Auditing hellscape during those first thirty days. I convinced myself that this miserable, grinding awfulness was necessary for me to break through to happiness. Or at least make it through OT III and beam out of the Non-Interference Zone.
For damn sure, I was not happy. But yeah, I smiled like a big-box-store greeter, and no Natter fell from my lips. I was all sweetness and light. I did not have time for a trip to Ethics.
One Good Car Accident or Illness from Bankruptcy
After I started my OT Levels, Josh finished his staff contract at the Org. Well, he almost finished it. He got a new boss who said if his stats were down, he had to work Sundays too. Hmmm, seven-days-a-week. He said nope and walked. He got a real job that he liked. And put in long hours to make sure we could make the minimum credit card interest payments, not principal, on our asteroid of debt. The bills were gruesome, and my lack of new superpowers to handle them was distressing.
Registrars love to say stuff like, do this Course, Auditing, insert Scientology service here, and you’ll double your income. Well, I had doubled my income. Again, and again. I scored these milestones by working insane hours and hiring other people to make money for me. I tried to focus on the accomplishments, not the brutal price I paid, by laying my body out in sacrificial-lamb mode for increased income.
I returned to door-to-door Fuller Brush sales to fill the holes in our financial fabric. The good news was that my old Fuller Brush clients were running out of products and ordered more than usual. Seeing their smiling faces buoyed me from a feeling of doom I refused to acknowledge.
I cherry-picked the best clients and avoided soul-sucking cold calls, all while I toiled upwards along the Bridge to Total Distress and Dismay. Solo-Auditing (you audit yourself instead of having an Auditor) the OT Levels was a lonely, unnerving misadventure.
One morning I drove toward my Hope Ranch Fuller Brush territory. I had appointments, deliveries, and my schedule was tight. Ahead of me, a blue compact car weaved a bit. I took my foot off the gas, and then the little car swerved left into the cement center divider. I slammed on my brakes, sensed a vehicle to my right, and hoped the car behind me didn’t rear-end me into oblivion.
The driver’s side of the blue car climbed onto the center divider in slow motion. My head tilted right, matching the car’s angle. My breath stopped as flashing embers flew from the undercarriage; the loud scraping-cement noise whitened my knuckles on the steering wheel. Horns honked behind me, followed by squealing tires.
In a split second, I thought, I can’t die and leave all that debt for Josh. I sensed the cars around me slowing as we all watched the firework of sparks in horror. With a wump, the wheels slammed back down onto the asphalt of the emergency lane. The little car accelerated into the now open roadway ahead, cutting across lanes to the nearest exit.
I sped up, adrenaline causing jerks and twitches to rip through my body. I drove unopposed to the slow lane and lagged at fifty miles an hour past the two exits I needed to reach Hope Ranch. I gulped deep breaths and pulled over as soon as I could. I reminded myself that I was fine and to stop acting like a Reactive Mind ruled idiot. Reality had intruded with a shock and shown me that my financial house of cards only stayed in the air as long as I worked like a possessed energizer bunny. I was one car accident or a two-week illness away from bankruptcy. It was too late to undo my foolish borrowing. I vowed never to use credit cards for Scientology again. I did not keep that vow.
I made it to my appointments on time and acted cheery and normal. I was neither. Thanks to Scientology, I had an actor’s expertise in faking it, so I put on the happy mask and did the day’s work.
If you’re wondering where the Fuller Brush orders landed, Josh figured out how to use the tiny laundry room in our love nest for storage, sorting, and bagging. We had limited access to Fred and Ethel, our washer and dryer, but hey, we were working toward our star-high goal; not going bankrupt.
In Los Angeles, I continued Solo-Auditing L Ron Hubbard’s sick and twisted vision of spiritual history on the Whole Track. That’s a Scientology buzzword for the entirety of the trillions or quadrillions of years of Time Track we lived through and lugged around like invisible Thetan baggage. My OT journey was an exercise in delusion on a grand scale. If you haven’t already watched it, South Park’s episode, Trapped in the Closet, tells the OT story with good humor.
As my Solo-Auditing on the OT Levels dragged on, I drove down to Los Angeles and then home to work every other day. They didn’t deliver OT Levels in Santa Barbara. Nope, you had to check in constantly in LA because that’s where the universe’s secrets were doled out. Or maybe, that’s how they ensured you didn’t think about all the sense this didn’t make.
Some OT Solo Auditors went insane, some suicided, some left and moved out of state. (I didn’t know that at the time.) I soldiered on, wondering what was wrong with me. I didn’t mention the depth of my desolation to Josh. After living through the credit-card-orgy of Crush Regging, one of the most irrational things I’d ever done, I felt compelled to be Right about it.
L Ron Hubbard said about Rightness, “The effort to be right is the last conscious striving of an individual on the way out. ‘I-am-right-and-they-are-wrong’ is the lowest concept that can be formulated by an unaware person.” But if I couldn’t find some Rightness about borrowing all that money and suffering on my OT Levels, how could I stand my existence? According to LRH, my urge to be Right was dead wrong.
Josh and I were like two mules harnessed to the same heavy wagonload, marching together in deep mud. If I’d had two seconds for self-reflection instead of self-delusion, I might have recognized that my life was a cinder surrounded by flames.
I was concerned that I was spending too little time with Josh, and I started worrying he’d divorce me.