This is the second 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.
Note: She decided to use her married name, Lili Ryder henceforth. Also, this will be a regular Sunday feature until the story is fully told.
Through the Bubble – Lili’s Adventures in Scientologyland
This is my quirky recollection of events. Others may remember things differently. Lingo is italicized on first mention, capitalized after that. I’ve compressed complexities in the cult to simplify your reading pleasure.
Supervisors That Don’t Teach and Telling Strangers Their Breath Stinks
The Communication Course was quite diverting. It was supposed to take two weeks, at fifteen hours of Course Time per week. I had nothing on and no place to be, so I took four weeks. The Communication Course consisted of Drills that you did with another person. They call the other person your Twin or your Coach. There’s a Course Supervisor, who watches the students like a hawk, but get this, this Supervisor doesn’t teach, explain things, or Coach the students. We newbies would be paired up with someone and we’d take turns being the Coach for our Twin in an initial shit show of the blind leading the blind.
In the first Drill, I learned to sit with my eyes closed and not nod off. If you did, that was a flunk. The next Drill had me learning to look into someone’s eyes for minutes at a time and try to not just die inside. I thought of it as the eyeballs-to-eyeballs Drill. It was supposed to teach me to Confront.
The word Confront in Scientology has four definitions in their now mysteriously unavailable Scientology Lingo Dictionary. They don’t call it that, but that’s what it was. So as not to break your brain, I’ll spare you the conflicting, lingo-laden four definitions and just pick one sentence from the scrum of polluted thought, “Confront itself is a result and an end product.” Arggg.
The gist I got from it at the time was that we needed to learn to Confront evil, so we could protect ourselves from it. Therefore, we would be strong enough to launch ourselves into that rarefied place of higher enlightenment. That whole Confronting evil thing was some serious foreshadowing of the rampant paranoia they hid behind false smiles.
I thought it would be just peachy to learn to face the tougher things in my life. I’d demonstrated a champion talent for turning away from practical considerations, logical thinking, and cold hard facts, for a number of years. Perhaps that wasn’t such a good thing. Although me getting shit done, that other people said I couldn’t, for years, had been pretty cool. But now, damn, evil shit was stopping me from being my better self.
Time to Drill up and vanquish my unknown evil enemies. Sounds good in theory, but the eyeballs-to-eyeballs Drill could get weird. Blackness would start to intrude on the outer edges of my vision. And I kind of hallucinated a bit there as I tried hard not to twitch or blink too much, which was a flunk. When I managed to just stare and sit still, it was pretty boring.
They had this whacky Drill called Bull Bait. The dictionary says it’s a medieval European sport where you set dogs to attack a bull, who is tied so he can’t run away. I’m going to guess the bull loses. In the Bull Bait Drill, if you’re the Coach, you’re the slobbering dog, and if you’re the Twin, you’re the tethered bull. Not that I knew this at the time. In the Drill, you had to look someone in the eye while they (the Coach) said stuff to provoke a reaction, like laughter, cringing, or looking away. Anything but a stiff-bodied, barely blinking stare was a flunk. I flunked a lot.
Doing this Drill was supposed to Flatten (strip out reactions) your Buttons, (things you would normally react to). Coaches would say some pretty weird things to me, like veiled sexual innuendos or describe various sexual perversions and suggest that I was the blue-ribbon winner of – insert fetish here. My small breasts were a winning button to push, leading to a solid half an hour of flunks. There were many topics used to get a rise out of your twin, it was open season in the Bull Bait room. The rule was that the Coach couldn’t touch the Twin, which was helpful, but the ants-crawling-up-my-back creepiness of some old guy dissecting my small breasts and what he’d like to do with them remains a disturbing memory.
I was a really good Bull Baiter (Coach). If the Course Supervisor wanted to test someone for the Final Pass on the Bull Bail Drill and they wanted the student to fail utterly, they’d call me over. I’d act like I was about to barf because their halitosis was so awful. I also flirted and if they didn’t respond, I’d say, “don’t be such a fish,” in a whiny Valley Girl Voice. I’d nailed that voice listening to Frank Zappa at my first commune, Peace House, in Isla Vista. When I did Valley Girl Bull Baiting, other student Drillers in the Bull Bait room would lose all their ability to Confront. They’d laugh, flunk, and try not to pee their pants while I made sure my victim, uh, Twin squirmed. It was nice to be good at something. And make people laugh. Even if it was a flunk.
Acknowledgements and Shutting You Up in a Socially Acceptable Way
Once my Buttons were flattened, or so I thought, I had to learn to Acknowledge appropriately. I assumed this Drill involved actually listening to what the person in front of me said in full, before figuring I knew what they’d say, and interrupting them. I interrupted them because I was so smart and psychic that I usually knew what they were going to say a half an hour before they spit it out. And I had no patience. Get to the fucking point already. But seriously, I could have used that listen to them in full skill. Um, no.
What I learned on the Communication Course is that Acknowledgement is a great tool to shut someone up. Just Acknowledge the shit out of them with a smile, so they feel heard. If I had to explain some problem I was having on a Drill to the Course Supervisor and I was giving too much unwanted detail, he’d say, Fine, Good, I Got That! My eyes would go wide and I’d be struck dumb. It worked.
The individual puzzle pieces of communicating the Scientology way were exhaustively drilled. When you passed one of the Drills, the Course Supervisor made this big deal about it. You had ascended to a new level of competence and Confront. Your life was improved. If you were me, you inhaled the love bombing whole and believed that you were now that much smarter than your average humanoid.
No one escaped that first part of the Communications Course without new skills, like a long-distance, possibly creepy stare, and a choppier way of responding to non-Scientologist’s chatty waste-of-time statements.
I was on the launch pad to blast away from normal, into a stratosphere of separateness from my fellow Earthlings. The indoctrination had begun.
My New Smiley Buddy and Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Adventures
Smiley Girl was always around the Communication Course room where I was working my slow and amused way through the Communication Drills. She’d greet me and grill me on where I came from, when I got my dog, what I did last summer, and the usual affable interrogation between new friends. At least I thought that’s what she was. It turned out, years later, when I was asked to be a Buddy, for a new potential parishioner, that Smiley Girl had been assigned to be my Buddy. Eeeww.
I did the Buddy thing, like a good Scientologist does, who basically will do whatever they’re told. All the while, I cringed way down deep. My inner cognitive dissonance warred with justifications that leaned heavily on the L Ron Hubbard written truths. Cough. I was encouraged to apply, LRH’s, the Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of Dynamics, (GGGND,) to feel good about disingenuously pretending I gave two shits about this rando newbie.
The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of Dynamics, is Scientology’s way of saying if you consider all things in life, which they break down into eight handy sections that they call Dynamics, you can always figure out the best solution to a problem. The unwritten correct application of GGGND is to prioritize Scientology. Therefore, it’s totally cool to be a lying, manipulative asshole, if it helps forward the Aims of Scientology.
While I was poking along on my Communication Course, Smiley Girl hooked me into convos with other newbies, many of whom dropped off the face of the earth after their, Final Pass on the Communication Course Drills. But a few lasted and became my new circle of friends. At the Scientology Center, they weren’t pimping the whole, Church-branding thing. Yet. Probably hadn’t paid enough lawyers to ram through their tax-exempt status with the IRS.
I digress. In 1956 Scientology gained tax-exempt status, then lost it in 1967 due to Inurement. That’s when someone in a non-profit organization funnels money to a person or persons in an embezzle-y way, or misappropriates organizational assets for their personal gain. Someone like Scientology hot air founder, L Ron Hubbard.
A new push for tax exempt status for Scientology started in the 80’s, using lawyers and private investigators paid for by Scientology. Their actions included the suing of seventeen IRS agents for $120-million. At one point there were fifty active lawsuits against the IRS from Scientology or their tax-averse front groups. This led to the 1993 IRS capitulation and granting of new tax exemption for the ‘Church’ of Scientology. The various lawsuits against the IRS vaporized. What a coincydink! Not wanting to get caught with their hands in the cookie jar a second time, Scientology continued their policy of underpaying staff and spending their obscene cash excesses on Real Estate, which the IRS thinks is super legit.