This is the nineteenth 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.
You Pulled it In and There’s No Such Thing as a Victim in Scientology
In the good news department, I learned how to design jewelry and started getting creative with my lovely clients’ jewelry collections. Five years into my jewelry business, I no longer sold Fuller Brush actively. But if you called me for a dozen moth block refills, I wouldn’t leave you in the lurch.
L Ron Hubbard said you don’t abandon your old Communication Lines (Comm Lines, otherwise referred to as people). I took that to mean that I had to keep delivering brooms and furniture polish because that was a valuable Comm Line. LRH further said I’d be plagued with requests from those Comm Lines until I was gasping on my dead bed, if I didn’t turn them over to another person. This involved writing up my Comm Lines with details and Hatting the person I gave them to, on how to service them. Um no.
Funny aside, some of my female jewelry clients had super controlling husbands. Some lady’s husband would be all up in her business and rubbing his hands together for the free entertainment I was evidently there to provide him. That is until I pulled out the Fuller Brush catalog and started waxing enthusiastic about techniques to scrub lime deposits off toilets. The loitering husband would beat a hasty retreat. I’d draw the redesign for the dreadful heirloom ring her husband had proposed to her with, which scraped her fingers bloody and caught on every sweater in her closet.
As a bonus, she’d put in a Fuller Brush order, so I’d have an excuse to come back and see her. I’d deliver the lavender potpourri that kept the hubster out of her underwear drawer, where she hid her passport and stash of cash. Once I arrived and he decamped, I could unveil the new, more comfortable setting for his grandma’s nice diamond. I didn’t stick around for hubs to notice her new ring. None of the women in question disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
This artistic expression added space and joy to my life. It also allowed me to sell diamonds and gemstones, which helped Josh and I get to a point where we were making principal payments, instead of interest-only ones, on our mountain of Scientology credit card debt. Our monthly credit card payments probably looked like someone else’s big-ass mortgage payment. We were renters. And happy-happy joy-joy, our Up-Stats were moving us into a pretty high tax bracket. Yay?
One of my clients was a stay-at-home-due-to-mysterious-ailments lady. She was lonely, kinda desperate, and friendly. Her husband was a creepy, tall, mad lurker dude. When I got tired of his breath at my neck, I pulled out my Fuller Brush catalog and drove him to his den of manly pursuits. What I didn’t know was that he was a litigious lawyer. Every time I walked into their sprawling Montecito estate, I got weird vibes off him. But with my bills, I’d have sold cuff links to the Cosa Nostra. Plus, I liked her. Oh, and I was a champion at ignoring red flags.
Mysterious-Ailments-Lady told her lurky man she wanted a new wedding ring with a larger diamond and wanted me to design it. He looked dour, but said okay. I was stoked. Big diamond sale, big design commish, all the good things. Three months after the delivery of this beautiful, detailed, and beloved ring, the diamond ‘fell’ out of the setting. You could practically see the tool marks where it had been removed. But….it was my fault, according to her Lurky Lawyer husband. He leered and threatened with few words. I didn’t call a lawyer, an intelligent business person, or ask anyone except Josh what I should do. Josh saw what a flattened puddle of misery I was and just wanted to get it behind us. We caved and bought Mysterious-Ailments-Lady and Lurky Lawyer Man a replacement diamond. In our culty worldview, L Ron Hubbard’s teachings were the only valid information for problem-solving. I was not in the habit of researching anything beyond Scientology except household cleaning products, jewelry, and gemstone information.
This horrific disaster caused a rip in our financial fabric, my mental fabric, and my equilibrium. I thought I was in control of my life. The wetware in my brainpan went into error mode. I couldn’t comprehend how this could happen. A: I was toeing the line. B: I was being helpful. C: I was doing zero sketchy things. And D: I worked and did Scientology five and a half days a week. I felt victimized by this situation. I got sick. Sick enough that I couldn’t conceal it. I could barely crawl out of bed for a few days. Ethics noticed.
It was time for another trip down, write-up-your-transgressions lane. And do a shit ton of Amends. But that wasn’t good enough. As an OT, my humiliation wouldn’t be complete without having to admit that even with my powerful spiritual juju, I had Pulled-it-in. It was my Responsibility this happened. Oh, I see; I Pulled-it-in because I stole the Star of Andromeda, or some shit, two-and-a-half-million years ago. Ah, that handled that. I felt all better now. No, I didn’t feel all better now. But best not to argue. Yes sir, I’m not a victim of a devious jeweler-hating, Lurky Lawyer Man bent on punishing one of the few women who visited his poor, sick wife.
I thought, it was her money, and he was in a hurry for her to kick off the traces of this mortal plane, so he could spend her money snorting cocaine off an adolescent’s abdomen. Too dark? It was dark.
The Shitty Franchise, Unsolicited Advice and Friendship in Scientology
Unlike the typical Scientologist, Deave was not a workaholic. His wife and my best buddy Lorna, was constantly working, putting in Course Time, and volunteering for the cherch. But Deave somehow managed to dodge the Course Room. For years. Respect, my man. He also seemed adept at keeping his day job without the full forty-hour-a-week commitment. When you’re in sales, you make your own hours. For me, it was, yay, I’m in sales, I can work overtime and make more money. Deave would work just enough to keep a paycheck and his health benefits. Then he’d kick up his feet. When no one was looking. He was one restful dude. And a great cook too.
Lorna always had a list of things that needed to be done around the house and chivvied Deave to work more hours and make more money. They had debts just like other parishioners. His response to her cattle prodding him to make more money was to fix the leaky sink in the front bathroom or refinish the scratched coffee table. Stuff Lorna would never do. Those home improvement efforts would buy him some peace for a time.
If you asked Deave, he’d freely admit he hated his sales job. One day Lorna’s demands for increased income from Deave leaped to a new higher pitch. This followed the new credit card she’d broken in after the latest Registrar-Palooza of an Event down at the Org. Instead of increasing his cold-calling hours, Deave bought a subscription to Entrepreneur Magazine. He grabbed a midday beverage and read every word, including the get-rich-quick ads in the back.
After inhaling the mag, Deave was ready to kick off the shackles of his hated sales job and jump into the be-your-own-boss business paradise with a shiny new franchise. One of the advantages of meeting lots of people through my Fuller Brush, house cleaning, and jewelry work, was hearing lots of rags to riches stories and the not-so-happy riches to rags tales. I was cocky and convinced that if the losers in those sad experiences just knew L Ron Hubbard’s Admin Tech, it wouldn’t have gone so wrong.
I sensed that the whole self-starter, think-and-grow-rich ethos of owning your own business was not in Deave’s wheelhouse. Entrepreneurship needed a certain insane gleam to the eye and a willingness to prioritize your dream over sanity, family, and sleep. At least, that’s what my various self-starter enterprises had been built on.
I reflected back on the time I held my tongue while a Scientology acquaintance got excited about an Avon managerial job offered in Northern California. They were nice Scientologists. I asked about the pay and was underwhelmed at the explanation that the higher commissions were on new sales staff she hired on top of those already established.
I’d watched Paul Finch, the bestest area sales manager ever, struggle to keep his team performing. His carefully trained salespeople dropped out, got hired away, or took 9-to-5 jobs. Being a self-starter was just kind of drudgery. This sort-of friend wasn’t experienced at managing teams, running pump-them-up sales meetings, or familiar with the difficulties of running a door-to-door enterprise. Her husband had a job he loved, and they had a sweet rental. But the siren call of greener grass got her goal-jets firing.
I dithered about whether it was my place to give her the view from my vantage as one of those door-to-door salespeople. I decided it might be considered Counter Intention. This was a concept I’d recently collided with in Ethics. I’d told a fellow Scientologist that his idea to go haring off on this sell-carpets-at-gas-stations-on-the-weekends Bright Idea, to pay for some Auditing, sounded kinda dumbass. This person, who was kind of a dumbass, wrote a Knowledge Report about my being a homicidal dream-killer. I prefer opinionated. If I was going to finish my current Course on the Targeted date (Scientology loved Targets, especially unrealistic ones) and get that three-day-getaway with Josh, I couldn’t waste time in Ethics. I fretted that this friendly Scientologist acquaintance flirting with Avon could react adversely to my unsolicited advice. I stilled my tongue.
After their move to Northern California, she lasted three months on the Avon job and was deeply disappointed with the compensation. Her husband settled for a less ideal job, and they stayed up there and bought some dreadful windshield-crack-repair franchise. Because nothing says follow your dreams like dripping plastic in car window cracks.
I felt guilty about not clueing in that Scientologist about sales manager jobs with door-to-door underlings. Maybe she wouldn’t have written me up for my unrequested reality check. Maybe she wouldn’t have taken that stupid ass job. But I was not going to sit back and watch Lorna and Deave walk into the speeding path of the fail train. I asked for the name of the franchise they were excited about. I looked it up. I found out why Deave thought it was so terrific. The buy-in was only $6,000.00.
Their credit wasn’t shitty enough that they couldn’t come up with that. Why was it so cheap? Ah, surprise, surprise, you had to pay 20% of your monthly gross income back to the company. Gross income is income before paying ANY expenses. I’ve learned that if you’re keeping 20% of your gross in any business, you’re either breaking the law, have no competition, or you’re God’s chosen.
Since Deave had only ever cashed a paycheck, he had no idea what profit margins as a small business owner were about. His shitty job had good benefits. He probably had no idea how paying your share of Social Security, and health insurance could cut into your income as an entrepreneur. And forget the group insurance coverage discount. And we’re not even talking about the other taxes.
To add insult to injury, this franchise involved furniture repair. Deave would have to travel at his own expense to learn from the home company. And he’d have to lease a van and buy equipment like sanders, saws, and vises. The $6,000.00 only covered the training, a few pots of varnish, and phone mentoring. Hmmm.
I asked Josh, the organizational and mathematical genius of the family, to do a pie chart laying out what Deave would have to gross per month to take home $4,000.00 after paying out 20% to the company. We then looked up van lease costs, estimated his tool costs, and listed all of that on a neat separate page.
We invited Lorna and Deave to a quiet restaurant and fed them up. Then I whipped out our pie chart and showed them some unhappy truths about the actual cost of their cheap franchise. We showed them other competitive franchises focused on in-home services that charged a much smaller percentage of gross but with a higher-priced buy-in. Deave’s face hardened as the show-and-tell wore on. Lorna looked daggers at me. Josh squeezed my leg and kept me from losing steam. This was our one chance to share our misgivings, and if they’d hate us forever anyway, we might as well be hated for the entire presentation.
Deave had a mighty sweet tooth; he did not stay for the dessert menu. Lorna clutched her purse and followed him out the door. Josh and I looked at each other and wondered if we’d just nuked our best friend status.
After two weeks of silence, Lorna called me. In the middle of a rambling convo, she dropped the little nugget that they’d decided that the furniture-repair franchise did not fit into their Ideal Scene. We got together to catch a movie and never spoke of it again.
Multi-level Madness Among the Devout
After Deave whiffed and passed on franchises as his way out of day-job-drudgery, he discovered the allure of Multi-Level-Marketing. Deave became a machine at finding and burning through MLM organizations. He’d invite us over for a ‘gathering.’ It would be a sales pitch masquerading as a party. Deave was excited to introduce us to his new upline, some awesome person that had this fabulous, can’t-miss opportunity. One such invitation’s purpose was to introduce a miracle fruit juice in a wine bottle. When I asked him point-blank would this party be some kind of MLM gathering, he said no. He lied.
Of course, it was. We signed up, spent money on inventory as you do, drank our over-priced miracle liquid, and faded out of Deave’s juice-empire downline. But Lorna and Deave would make $150.00 off our investment, and I knew they were hurtin’ money-wise.
Next, Deave roped me into a life insurance multi-level called A. L. Williams. I dropped that like a lice-infested wig when a snazzy jewelry client pointed out that insurance agents needed certification, classes, and maybe a finance degree. Oops.
How could I not sign up for the skin-care line if Deave cared enough about it to do the Vanna-turning-a-letter hand gesture at a mineral-mud facial bottle? There’s a concept in Scientology of Pushing Power to Power. In my universe, it meant, at least down at the Org, to be extra deferential and helpful to the movers and shakers on staff. The person you pushed Power to would, in turn, use their Power to protect you. It sure worked out great during that whole Moonlighting disaster. After the Sea Org Missionaires left and I produced that big bucket of student points, I continued to aid and abet my existing Moonlighting staffers. But I was less willing to hire Scientologists after that. The local Org Executive’s appetite to hoist me overboard for Moonlighting faded to apathy.
I saw that Push Power to Power idea outside of the Org as supporting my Scientology friends. I went to places I didn’t want to go to because my friends wanted to go. I bought crap I didn’t want to buy to benefit my friends. But the thing about friendship in Scientology is that it’s not like the rest of the world. Little Miss Loyalty assumed that friendship in Scientology was true blue. Ah no. Friendship in Scientology was a negotiated battlefield. I had to learn what not to say, or I’d get written up. (In a Knowledge Report). I settled for not being able to discuss what was really on my mind. Like how messed up that latest L Ron Hubbard Bulletin was. The one that canceled the Auditor Training Course I’d just finished and how I had to re-train (and pay for) the NEW line-up. Maybe that’s why I started grinding my teeth. Well, at least my dentist was thrilled.