This is the eighteenth 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.
How Getting Bull-Baited Made My Sales-Stat Boom
Back on the Communication Course’s Bull Bait Drill, after getting flunked for reacting to embarrassing words, sexual innuendos, insults, uncomfortable statements, and many other awkward declarations, my sensitivity meter was busted. After my final pass on the Bull Bait Drill, I no longer blushed, ran away screaming, or insisted on being treated with respectful decorum. Well, that last thing was never in my arsenal of responses anyway.
This proved quite helpful with my Fuller Brush sales. Because some people, in the middle of a bad day, would come to their door, see someone who wanted to sell them something, and mistake them for a target upon whom to vent their spleen. At volume. One such man, Spitting Guy, raged at me, spittle flying. My feet were sore, so I stood two steps down on his walkway, hair blowing back in his hurricane of vituperative hollering.
He looked deflated when he ran down.
“I wanted to introduce myself to you. I’m your new Fuller Brush Man, Lili. Here’s a free vegetable brush,” I said with out-of-place cheer.
He stared at me, stupefied. He reached out and took the brush and ran his fingernail across the top. Plastic tines made a pleasing zzzzt sound in the silence.
“I’m sorry I yelled at you,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay. I knew you weren’t mad at me.”
He gestured me in the door.
“My mother loved those veggie brushes,” he said.
I handed him the catalog. He looked at the pictured products, and I commented on their worthiness. I wasn’t in the mood to do a demo. Product demos were less effective on guys anyway because many of them didn’t see a ring of lime deposits in the toilet as a bad thing. Spitting Guy ordered a new broom and a couple of other things. I didn’t want to risk a repeat spit storm on delivery or combat buyer’s remorse, so I made him pre-pay his order.
I discovered that people who were unpleasant at first didn’t know what to do with themselves after they’d gone full asshole on a stranger. I’d smile, give them this gift, and it often broke down their anti-social circuitry. I didn’t enjoy it, but my inner-sociologist observer was fascinated. I got more sales by standing downwind of these performances than you might think. I attributed this success to the Bull-Bait Drill.
How I Surveyed My Way into a New Career
After a couple of months in Los Angeles, digging the ditch on the OT Levels, I had a severe reality adjustment. Josh laid out our monthly bills on the kitchen table. With Arctic clarity, I saw the true blast radius of my borrowing. I needed a new and improved source of income. Yesterday. Alas, a bit late in the clear-headed-thinking department.
I had no ‘real’ job; I’d sold my income-producing house cleaning business and spent all that money on old debts. My new financial commitments sucked the oxygen from my lungs, like the 8,000-meter death zone on Mount Everest.
With the desperation of a celebrity stalker chasing Tom Cruise, I searched for some L Ron Hubbard wisdom to save me from my terrible decisions. I unearthed LRH’s Survey Tech, from my Scientology MBA Course Pack. This Survey Tech was one of the crown jewels of Scientology’s Administrative teachings.
L Ron Hubbard says — “To find out what people want or will accept or believe, one does SURVEYS.” I look at that quote now and wonder how I didn’t see it as directions from a manipulative control freak.
When the cherch Surveys fellow Scientologists, the questions they want answered include stuff like; which picture most makes you think about spiritual freedom? You end up with all these brochures selling the OT Levels with images of pretty nebulas and colorful planets. Not informative.
My favorite misuse of the Survey teachings was Scientology’s no-choice Survey. You couldn’t leave an Event without filling one out. They had questions like, what was your favorite segment of tonight’s Event? What was your favorite L Ron Hubbard quote? Or, which part made you want to redouble your efforts to move up the Bridge to Total Freedom? And you had to write your name down, or they’d make you fill out a new one. These Surveys were just excuses for the Registrar to chase you for a down payment on your next step.
I wanted to share my opinion about what was wrong with these events. But alas, your enthusiastic, happy-happy, joy-joy about the Event was assumed. And, of course, in their eyes, that was one of their best Events ever.
Little Miss Gullible had swallowed the L Ron Hubbard Survey Tech teachings on the Scientology MBA Course and thought that kind of problem-solving sounded peachy. When I saw the cherch misusing Survey Tech, I blamed the staff for Misduplication. I was convinced that with my superior understanding of LRH’s Survey Tech, I could use it more effectively to find my new career.
I got myself a clipboard and Surveyed the well-dressed Scientologists who weren’t walking fast enough to dodge me between OT Level sessions. I asked impertinent questions like, does your annual income exceed $100,000.00? In what field do you work? What education or degrees did you need to get your current job? And, how long was the training runway before you reached the higher income potential of your chosen field? Yeah, I was pretty proud of my wording. Like this was some super-legit Survey and would definitely unlock a future of vast income potential for my skinny, un-college-educated self.
My final list of potential careers based on my Survey of flush-looking Scientologists included: CPA, seven years of education – no thanks, car sales – please no, bank manager – maybe, Realtor – I’m down, Investment Advisor, tons of certification needed – nope, postal worker if you score overtime – meh, Bail Bondsperson – I’m too light-weight, RN – too much blood and vomit-y bits, and jeweler – interesting.
I returned to flogging Fuller Brush products in Santa Barbara and Surveyed the friendlier customers on what they thought I should do for my next career. I really wanted to know what I could sell them or what service I could provide in their homes. Bless the generous-hearted customers that entertained these ridiculous conversations with me. Selling jewelry topped the list by a mile.
This jewelry career wouldn’t involve typing, bodily fluids, or being told what to do in a confluence of perfect tickable boxes. For additional bonus points, this sales product was A: small. B: not smelly. C: expensive. And D: could be sold in people’s homes. Bing, bang, boom, I decided to join the jewelry industry.
I couldn’t afford the time it would take to work at a jewelry store to learn my trade. I needed someone to give me the Instant Hat. I looked around, certain if I Made it Go Right, I could find what I was looking for in the education department. I did.
Little Miss Personal-Integrity Hypocrite Breaks the Rules
I introduced my new scanty 14kt gold jewelry collection to receptive Fuller Brush customers. This activity was fraught with anxiety. First, there was the new Fuller Brush manager, who I’d ignored for the last three years while focusing on my house cleaning business. Next, there were the two primo full-time territories I squatted on despite part-time-level sales. And last, I was guilty of violating my Fuller Brush sales contract.
The new Fuller Brush area manager was no Paul Finch. The sales meetings in his cramped living room, with nicotine-stained walls, were an exercise in mind over picky-nose distress. The Fuller Brush Company was tinkering with new products. If you went to the meetings, you got free samples that you could sell for full retail, and you learned the suggested sales pitches and demos for the latest and greatest new gadgets. There were no punchbowls of cash for me or anyone else.
Around this time, I slouched into a ‘must attend’ Scientology Event. I ground my teeth at the new release I was guilted into buying. It was the same old crappy book in a fancy new dust jacket. On the other hand, Fuller Brush fought their contraction and irrelevance with proper weapons. Jar openers from Germany; I still have mine, folding scissors that didn’t rust; ditto, and other limited-availability top-drawer products.
My stomach soured when I thought about how I was violating my Fuller Brush contract. To show my new jewelry gig to Fuller Brush customers while on a Fuller Brush sales call was verboten. And unethical. My sights were set on no more door-to-door Fuller Brush sales in my future. But during my transition, I needed them like parents of triplets need sleep.
I cowered inside, sure that some disgruntled Fuller Brush customer would complain to the easy-to-find 800 number. They’d reveal that I was, gasp, showing jewelry to them under the pretext of being their Fuller Brush man.
Personal Privacy inside the Bubble, The Joke of the Century
You’ll recall that the Registrar knew about every dollar I made soon after I joined Scientology. Sure enough, with mentor-y prodding, she got me to triple my income within a year. Oh yeah, and I owed a geometric progression more of my income in debt. But that’s cool because it was to help me become a better person. Cough.
Once I started on the OT Levels, to say I couldn’t confront the math about how much I really owed and how long it’d take at my current income level to pay it off would be a cop-out. I didn’t even want to know. My Confront skills were sadly focused on Confronting my evil Reactive Mind, and keeping up a happy face while some customer yakked about non-essential topics while I tried to close them on an order of household cleaning products.
My life adventures pre-Scientology had kept me too busy to sit down and contemplate simple life goals. That and being Little Miss Impulsive in the decision department. Once I became a Scientologist, I should have at least asked myself how comfortable I was owing years of my future income to credit card companies. Alas, I pretty much did whatever the Scientology-know-best people thought was optimum for me.
In the early days, if the Registrar stopped me in the hall to ask how many new housecleaning jobs I’d scored since she last asked, I’d eagerly tell her. If she asked me how much money I made that week, I’d inform her and feel a sense of accomplishment. I thought she was proud of me. It made me proud of myself. But like giving someone all of your passwords because you believe they love you, letting a Registrar set your goals is not a good idea.
It was expected that the Scientology Registrar would know your bank balance, your over-time bonus, and that bequest from your granddad, before the ink was dry. I thought Scientology had the Mormons beat by a mile because they didn’t ask for 10% of your income. If the more sheep-like among the Scientology parishioners, like myself, ever looked at what percentage of their income actually ended up with the cherch, we’d have had a group heart attack.
It took Josh and his excellent ability to say no, to the most persuasive of people, including me, to teach me to set minimal boundaries about my personal information where the cherch was concerned. His unwillingness to share our joint bank balance with the Registrar was a shocker.
“Where do you keep our bank statements, babe?” I asked after dinner one night.
“Checking up on my ability to balance the business checkbook?” Josh joked.
“Nah, you know I have no clue. I used to keep an extra hundred in the account, so I wouldn’t bounce checks.”
“Don’t remind me. But seriously. Why the sudden interest?”
“I’m seeing the Registrar tonight. She’ll help me figure out stuff.”
“No, she won’t.”
Somehow, even though I didn’t bring her chapter and verse of our finances, the Registrar managed to get me a shiny new credit card or some other ill-advised financial encumbrance. I may have mentioned being saddled with a desire to please others as one of my less helpful tendencies.
To unlock said tendency, you only had to, A: help me with some problem. B: over-awe me with your brilliance. Or C: act all mentor-y with me, so I thought you gave a damn about me personally.
It’s helpful to know this about myself. Instead of feeling like a terminal idiot for repeatedly falling for the lies and manipulations at the cherch’s request, I’ve found that I’m not alone in falling for undue influence.
In fact, the Freedom of Mind Resource Center has a paper called, Undoing Undue Influence. Here’s a quote, “Undue influence is any act of persuasion that overcomes the free will and judgment of another person. People can be unduly influenced by deception, flattery, trickery, coercion and other techniques including hypnosis. In a court of law, undue influence is a legal term, which involves a person or group taking advantage of their position of power over another person or persons.”
All I can say is that I fell for it. I experienced undue influence. And if you wonder how it can happen that your sweet Auntie gave your $500,000.00 inheritance to Scientology, that’s how. Smart people, dumb people, self-important people, and kind people can all fall for this. Heck, a member of your own family can cast you out of their orbit with undue influence. It’s the techniques that hijack your good sense.
Taking a Stand, Sort Of
What connected me to the cherch with Gorilla Glue were the many choices made on my behalf, that I rubber-stamped. When I made a decision that the Registrar didn’t agree with, I heard about it. When I was about 26, I went strictly to jewelry work and quit knocking on random doors to sell Fuller Brush products. I knew my income Stat would take a dive. It did. And boy did I hear about it.
“Why would you abandon a Working Installation to try something Unproven as Yet?” The Registrar yelled this at high volume like some TV sitcom mom. Her eyes flashed a warning glint my way. Then she kicked the door shut. Yeah, I was going to get a wisdom enema right there.
That Working Installation is some L Ron Hubbard bullshit. It means you’ve got something solid you can count on. Calling my jewelry business an Unproven as Yet activity was a stretch. I worked my jewelry business for two years before I decided to cut my Fuller Brush income loose. I needed to focus more time on building up my jewelry-loving clientele. I had a better chance of growing my income if I worked for myself.
The Registrar wasn’t having it. My shoulders curled in listening to her pissed-off, loud voice spraying L Ron Hubbard quotes in my direction. Worst of all, I saw how unhappy she was with me. This woman, who I thought of as a mentor, while she advised me over various financial cliffs, threw bolts of stabbing disapproval my way. My resolve threatened to buckle under her attack. But Josh and I had planned this path together. While my inner backbone wobbled, I mentally focused on Josh. In the end, our future direction together was more potent than the Registrar’s admittedly powerful influence.
In the years following this big blow-up, Registrars still prodded and poked. I’d learned to say no to their intrusive questions about the black box that was our finances. I wasn’t so good at saying no to buying the next level on the Bridge to Total Freedom. Sigh. I’d figure out, time and again, how to claw my way up to the next spiritual step. But I did it on my own. What a rebel I was.