This is the twentieth 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.
Amway and the Smiley Christians’ God
Our best friend Deave’s next effort to earn money off a never materializing Multi-Level-Marketing downline was to sign up and rope me into Amway. Hey, I believed in reincarnation. Why couldn’t I believe that the next MLM scheme would be different?
I met a ton of Christians in Deave’s upline at the potluck sales/revival meetings. His upline’s religious zeal for the Amway business model was a new level of shout-it-out and make-it-happen craziness. They’d pray about how much they’d sell in the next two weeks, thank God for their current sales, and then quote scripture from the Bible. I was deep into the L Ron Hubbard viewpoint that we were Responsible For our Own Condition. I knew in my Scientological bones that God had nothing to do with my productivity. But standing next to these faithful, God-energized, goal-setters made my Thetan self tilt in a delicious forbidden-y way.
I was ever eager to please. Undoubtedly, I was a Golden Retriever in one of my past lives. My tail wagged all over the place being near these smiley, friendly Christian Amway folks. I watched as they gave all the credit for their hard work to God. I could see that they were Making it Go Right and felt a bit sorry for them, giving their power away to some oblivious supreme being. I figured God didn’t give two shits about the smiley Christians’ tiny, mortal wishes to sell more laundry soap. But it was some good soap.
The Christian’s fervor for their lord and savior was just a bit too close to the Scientologists’ worshipful conviction that L Ron Hubbard’s teachings outranked the laws of physics. Like all of Deave’s eager forays into MLM fantasyland, as reality set in that this was work, he’d stop going to the meetings. At that point, I’d vanish unnoticed from his tiny downline.
I learned in Scientology that to ask God, or any outer influencer, for help was to place myself squarely on the effect side of the Cause-and-Effect equation. This reinforced the message that it was unethical and self-sabotaging to ask others for help. I thought if someone’s excellent advice helped me succeed, it was a cheat. I only got the Win if I figured it out for myself.
The Scientology Power Couple, Just Helping Out
Deave was buddies with a Power Couple in Scientology. The Power-Couple husband had been a Scientology staff member, with all the impoverishment that implies. His older wife was a successful businesswoman, running one money-generating scheme after another. The glue that stuck them together was twofold. Glue number one was her financial stability. Glue number two was their mutual, unshakable Certainty, in L Ron Hubbard’s flaming wisdom, and their shining future as super, mind-over-matter Gods-to-be. Certainty has a special meaning in Scientology; see the glossary.
This Power Couple showed up, donated at deafening volume, with emphatic arm gestures, at all major Scientology Events. We lowly peasants looked up to them. We marveled at their Causative, L Ron Hubbard quoting, Responsibility-Taking.
The Power Couple got lots of 10% Field Staff Member Commissions from the cherch, off of Bridge-to-Total-Freedom-buying Scientologists and donations to the Clear the Planet Program. This Power Couple was approachable, a bit condescending, and always “willing to help out.”
They helped newbies who wanted to be successful like them. Their brand of success included being Up-Stat, donating-all-the-time Scientologists. The code word for their brand of Up-Statness was Contribution. You were supposed to Contribute to the forward motion of Scientology. This Power Couple was possibly as skilled as LA Registrars at showing you how to game the credit card companies, use your house as an ATM, and find sketchy loans from sketchier sources.
The Siren Song of Passive Income
This Power Couple was at the headwaters of the many multi-level-marketing schemes that Deave and area Scientologists flowed into. The red flags waved unnoticed the day Deave and his Scientology Power Couple friends introduced us to ZeekRewards. You put up a chunk of money in that MLM investment scheme, and they paid you monthly interest-only payments. And you got a check for every person you swindled, er, signed up. Supposedly this allowed each of us “little guys” to invest in the same opportunities as “accredited investors.” Like we had a clue what that was.
A short, glasses-wearing Hispanic woman shouted out that ZeekRewards was the greatest. She’d invested $50,000.00, and her new monthly income allowed her to quit her job. Deave’s eyes glowed with desire. We were told we were buying an e-commerce subscription. This wording was formulated to get ZeekRewards off the hook for what they were really doing. In Forbes magazine, a year after our “investment,” an article stated, “in reality, the company was engaging in the fraudulent offering of unregistered securities.”
Josh and I went in with a $10,000.00 buy-in. That money should have gone to pay down debt. I worried into the night that the company might mismanage our money. I didn’t rope anyone into my downline. Somehow, through my paranoid vigilance, I got wind of trouble and yanked our cash out. I called Lorna and yelled down the phone wire to pull out whatever money they’d invested. Immediately. Of course, their investment was borrowed money.
Lorna leaped into action and ripped their money from the lip of the whirlpool before the news stories hit the airwaves. We flirted and dodged disaster together. I watched with the fascination of one staring at a building implode as the company crashed and burned in our wake. Many Scientologists lost money on this swindle. Some heads rolled in Ethics, but luckily our minor involvement didn’t rank notice by our nosy cherch.
I asked Lorna why we’d taken such a huge gamble and not checked out the company first. And how we could learn from our mistakes and never do something that stupid again. I’ve learned since then that checking out a business opportunity is called due diligence. Lorna didn’t ever want to talk or even think about our near disaster again. I remained ignorant as I turned away from that awful choice, unexamined.
Sympathy and Comfort in Scientology
When the investment, monthly-interest-payment scam exploded inside the Scientology bubble that we barely dodged, some people were left hanging on the flagpoles without underpants. These luckless souls were properly Made Wrong by Ethics for Pulling it In. And since they were now Down-Stat types, they lost the luster they’d gained at previous Events as Up-Stat, donating-all-the-time Scientologists.
Having lost the buy-your-way-to-spiritual-freedom sweepstakes, as it’s hard to hold a dictionary in the Course Room when you haven’t got a pot to piss in, the unfortunates often fell off the radar. They still had paid-for-and-unused services on account with the cherch, but good luck getting that as-yet-unspent-money back. That’d be right up there with seeing the re-born Christ outside of a Vegas show.
The tire tracks flattening those doomed and soon-to-be ex-Scientologists were barely noticed in the rearview mirror by an unsympathetic organization. Those shocked and shattered victims didn’t even get hopes and prayers. Being on the losing end in Scientology is a lonely, sometimes suicide-inducing affair.
The Unnamed, Untouchable Up-Stats, Who Dodged Discipline
What happened to the Power Couple? The couple at the sales meetings that attracted so many due-diligence-impaired people, including non-Scientologists? Who grinned with inside-info winks about the investment scam in the first place? Did they go to Ethics? Not so you’d notice. Were they jumping up and down in silly costumes at the next Scientology fundraising Event, making an ostentatious donation? Yes indeedy. Were they still “helping people out?” Yup. Getting their 10% commish? Uh-huh. Were they still having gatherings about the latest and greatest opportunities in the Multi-Level Marketing universe? Oh yeah. But not at their house. Because that’d look bad in a Knowledge Report.
Deave’s Power Couple friends were small fry in the destroyer-of-worlds department. Reed Slatkin was one of Scientology’s finest examples of Making it Go Right at the expense of expendable cherchies and other random rich folks. An ordained Scientology minister, schmoozer, and Up-Stat donator, Slatkin created one of the larger Ponzi schemes in history. He took $593 million from his victims and got fourteen years in prison. Interesting. Just for comparison’s sake, because I can’t help myself, Edward Monet Knight, 32, of Reno, got fourteen years and one month for robbing a liquor store at gunpoint. He left the gun, ID, and the stolen money, in an abandoned van. But hey, he used a weapon.
Reed Slatkin’s home base was in Santa Barbara. This was a massive embarrassment for the local Scientology cherch. Exactly nobody in Scientology talked about it. Even as the papers raged with wave after wave of sob stories about his victims. All the cherch cared about was keeping the good name of Scientology out of the local newspapers.
Lest you suffer the misapprehension that Slatkin was an outlier, in 2021 Scientologist David Gentile was alleged to have bilked $1.8 billion in another suspected Ponzi scheme. I wonder if he’ll get more than fourteen years?
Debts, Dropping Out and Scientology Recovery
Josh miraculously didn’t divorce me. Loving him kept me from bottoming out as I clawed my way toward the light on the OT Levels. Of course, I was clawing in the wrong direction. The light that I saw at the end of the Bridge-to-Total-Freedom tunnel was a spotlight from the hovering helicopter of Scientology. That light was the Dementors, er, Registrars drawing cash like mist from the misled moths.
I stopped Solo-Auditing for a couple of years during my final OT Level, OT VII. The anxiety of massive debt became too stressful and distracting for me. That OT Level was so sooper-secret that it wasn’t available in Los Angeles. It was only delivered in Clearwater, Florida, at Scientology’s Flag Land Base (Flag). The fact that I dared stop Auditing an OT Level, this priceless spiritual gift that L Ron Hubbard nearly died discovering, was a heinous crime on par with Jack the Ripper terrorizing 1880’s London. I was made madly Wrong for it. The Ethics backlash emanating from Scientology’s Flag Base was swift and terrifying. But not as terrifying as massive credit card debt.
Josh and I did no Scientology services and avoided all Events. We made our own little program. We knew how to work hard, so we’d work all the hours of the day, not eat out, not give each other gifts, or take vacations that exceeded couch surfing in the expense department. Our gift to each other was to be the gift of a debt-free life. I was more excited about this goal than my eternal spiritual freedom.
Luckily, we didn’t tell our best friends Lorna and Deave what we were up to. We were just “busy” and not socializing.
With the debt-free finish line in sight, I landed on a Sea Org Recovery List in flaming red letters. If there’s one thing Scientology is fiendishly good at, it’s drawing drifting cherchies back into the fold. They’d already done it once, and I didn’t see them coming at me through who else, Lorna and Deave.
It was a party. How bad could it be to break our no-socializing rule? We couldn’t spend money at a party, and Lorna and Deave “really missed us.” A well-Drilled-in-Recovery Sea Org staffer with a super-sweet personality showed up, big surprise, at this little shindig. Lorna saddled up and helped Recovery-Lady cut me out of the herd. Recovery-Lady pushed all the newest-best-friend, I-just-care-about-your-eternity, and you’re-so-special Buttons. I’m embarrassed to say she Recovered me. Love bombing occurred. I signed up for a mini-Course at the Santa Barbara Org.
The local Scientology staffers hadn’t seen Josh or me in a while and were happy to add their steaming pile of love bombs to our welcome-home gift basket. The sweetness was cavity-inducing. I refused a fifteen-hour-a-week course schedule and stated my willingness to come in on Saturday mornings only. They agreed. My world tilted. This breaking of L Ron Hubbard’s stringent rules on the sacrosanct study schedule was like the parting of the Red Sea. But where Recovery was concerned, all things were possible, except that anyone in Scientology would speak the truth.
Josh and I continued to pound down the debt, with a slight break on Saturday mornings, where I worked on my little Course. I dragged it out, so I wouldn’t have to get the full-court press from the Registrar to buy another less-little Course.
Night-of-the-Living-Dead Guy Haunts Me
Built-in scare tactics whipped wilting Solo-Auditors into staying the course on their OT Levels. Once I crossed the threshold of OT VII, I was in the spiritual crosshairs of disembodied beings stuck to my body. If I didn’t “handle” them, I could die of pneumonia. Or from lack of sleep. Or a whole unhelpful grocery list of disastrous outcomes.
I met a nice guy on OT VII whose life-wrecking insomnia started on the OT Levels. He looked like an extra from the movie Night of the Living Dead. He couldn’t Audit himself because the hour or so of sleep he managed per night didn’t allow him to register as alive on the E-meter. But Flag dragged his impoverished ass down from Canada to try one expensive handling after the next.
It was early on in my OT VII journey when I met Night-of-the-Living-Dead-Guy. I was on the much-hated and mandatory OT VII Six-Month-Check. Those money-sucking Six-Month-Checks prevented sane financial planning. I didn’t find out about this requirement until I’d signed on the dotted line. Full disclosure, I was on OT VII for seven years. The stated reason for Six-Month-Checks was to keep you safe and stable while you handled the danger inherent in your Solo-Auditing Sessions. The follow-the-money reason was to insert other pricey services, you’d need to “assist” your forward progress. If you were wealthy and had time on your hands, your two-week Six-Month-Check could cost $350,000.00 and waste eight months.
Night-of-the-Living-Dead-Guy embodied how dangerous the OT Levels could be. We were Auditing “Living Lightning,” and you didn’t fuck around with that shit. When I stopped Solo-Auditing OT VII, the part of me that feared those consequences would get flashes of Night-of-the-Living-Dead-Guy’s face. That face tortured me with the idea that I was forever tied to this damned dangerous OT Level. That could take me out at any time if I didn’t finish it. Yeah, that whole Non-Interference Zone ending at OT III was just a sales pitch.
I believed the danger warnings. Even though since putting down the E-Meter cans, nothing worse happened than having a fight with Josh’s middle brother. It was fantastic to have a mutual pissing match with my bro-in-law and not end up in Ethics, with some thirteen-year-old Sea Org staffer spouting some L Ron Hubbard references that proved I should Disconnect from a member of my family. As fantastic as the sound of wind in the trees.