This is the twenty-third 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.
The Verbal Data Berlin Wall
In Scientology, when you study to be an Auditor, or steep your brain in L Ron Hubbard’s theories about the human mind, you aren’t allowed discuss your opinions about what you’re reading. As a Scientologist you can quote L Ron Hubbard verbatim. But if you want to debate, chat, or argue about what LRH meant in some convoluted quote, or question the validity of what you just read, that’s a hard no. Discussing LRH teachings or giving your opinion within the Scientology bubble has a name. Verbal Data.
Verbal Data is the forbidden act of discussing the “data” in L Ron Hubbard’s published works. I really wanted to talk over what I was reading in hopes of understanding it better. But the fear of spreading Verbal Data like a communicable disease, cut my urge to converse cold. This Verbal Data rule, like the Berlin Wall, kept us students muzzled and isolated.
It felt like Scientological heresy, when I began a campaign of asking random friendly jewelry clients to give me their opinions and stories about their investments. Because I was asking for — Verbal Data. In more shocking news, non-Scientologists were generous in their advice, and often fearless in revealing how much money they invested and exactly where they put it. I pushed away the thought that if I’d revealed monetary specifics like that in front of a Scientology Registrar, I’d have been hounded mercilessly till I gave some of it to the cherch. I’d get home and tell the tales I heard to Josh, who occasionally made stock buys based on my client’s advice. Or so I thought. But hey, at least I had fresh tidbits for our dinner conversations.
I had gotten all worked up about the concept of passive income from Deave as he enthused his way through an orgy of Multi-Level-Marketing sign-ups and stock ups. Lorna, my bestie, hoped her husband Deave’s serial forays into Amway and other MLM’s would yield happy sprinkles of extra funds. Ever hopeful, I joined the revolving door of MLMs with them. Sadly, that passive income stream was a dry desert ditch. Never happened.
Talking to my jewelry clients reminded me of the sexy nugget of info that your money could actually work for you and earn while you slept. Just your cash could make you more cash. Having had little cash to play with due to our wagonload of debt — for years, had pushed that knowledge into the suppressed memories portion of my brain. High school graduate, commune-raised me, had had no clue. Why didn’t they teach us about stocks in school? Why hadn’t I been given examples about how credit card interest was the most wasteful and useless recurring expense ever? I’d have paid attention had I known paying hundreds of dollars a month over ten years was only good for the Visa corporation. Maybe.
Wog Considerations and Investment Advice Inside the Bubble
L Ron Hubbard labeled Non-Scientologists, Wogs. I thought it sounded cute, like pollywogs. I liked pollywogs. L Ron Hubbard said it stood for Worthy Oriental Gentleman, which didn’t make much sense to me. The Oxford dictionary defines Wog as, a person who is not white. I learned the Oxford definition after I left the cult. I cringe for all the times I’d tossed off this hateful label as if it was a cute nickname that proved I was an insider.
My sole source of financial investing news and advice in Scientology came from the Registrar. The news would be who cashed in their 401k for their next step on the Bridge. According to the Registrar and any right-thinking Scientologist, my eternal spiritual freedom was way more important than the transitory physical universe bullshit game, that Wogs blindly followed. Slight problem, I didn’t have a 401k.
During the Nineties, a local Scientology couple we knew and admired, worked for a wealthy Scientologist investor who specialized in venture capital funding in the medical industry. Venture Capital Dude also invested in the stock market. This couple had worked in the Sea Org, routed out, and become active public Scientologists.
Our near-empty Org struggled to get enough money to pay the most basic of bills. By the end of the month when the mortgage payment was due, it was five-alarm-fire time to keep from defaulting on the loan. A retired Navy Admiral who was a sweet old man, regularly got hit up by the Registrar for money to help cover the mortgage. When I found out that The Admiral was regularly funding the Registrar’s Make it Go Right campaign to stave off foreclosure, it made me sad.
Active Couple was roped in to “volunteer” to help solve the monthly mortgage problem. Unlike The Admiral, Active Couple’s wallet stayed shut. They came up with the Bright Idea solution that we should fundraise to pay off the building’s mortgage in full. The Executive Council approved the plan.
Active Couple put together an “important Event” and briefed the Santa Barbara public on this new Bright Idea to pay off the mortgage so the staff could focus on Scientology instead of overdue loan notices. Over the following years, they spearheaded bake sales, movie nights, and other ticketed-typed down-home-vibe, kid-friendly fundraising activities. These were often enjoyable and I was good for a hundred dollars here or there, even though I detested our drafty, stupid-ass building.
The last I’d heard, the committee in charge of fundraising to pay off the building’s mortgage, had raised $250,000.00. Even though we were nowhere close to paying the mortgage down, I’d heard through the grapevine, (could be false) that some Scientology entity in Los Angeles had been paying all or part of our mortgage since the fundraising started. Possibly, The Admiral was coming to the end of his savings.
Where was this pay-off-the-Org-mortgage money going? To the lender? Nope. Into a savings account? Ah no. Someone had a better idea. If there was a safe and best-practices way to handle money in the Wog World, many Scientologists would look at it with distaste. Inside the Scientology bubble, safe money handling ideas were treated like Wog conspiracies. No doubt cooked up to kill your dreams, and deaden your sorry soul. So, no, they didn’t put that money in the bank.
I don’t know which genius came up with this Bright Idea, but they gave that money to Santa Barbara Scientologist Reed Slatkin, an ordained Scientology minister since 1975, turned self-employed investor. He probably told them he’d kick in $50,000.00 because he cared so deeply about the Org building. Or maybe he guaranteed a 10% return on their money. I never saw Minister Slatkin cross the threshold of our Org.
What people knew about Reed Slatkin, was that he was super Up-Stat and slumming it in Santa Barbara’s toniest neighborhood, Hope Ranch. The mansion he was living in was big enough to have been used as a boarding school. Reed Slatkin’s customers thought they knew how their money was being invested. Um no. In fact, in 2001 Slatkin was arrested by the Securities and Exchange Commission. He got a one-way ticket to the big house for his $593 million Ponzi scheme. He ripped off Scientologists and non-Scientologists alike. The FBI executed search warrants on that same day. They wanted to be totally, totally, fer sure, fer sure that his slippery-Scientology-ass landed in a United States lock-up. Yay, your tax dollars at work.
Active Couple had often praised us contributors on how Ethical and Up-Stat we were, while goading us to dig deeper and give more. Once Minister Slatkin was fitted with his orange jumpsuit, the fundraising Events stopped. The Org staff weren’t talking, but we could tell by their tight expressions that some sort of shit had hit the fan. Like wizards being afraid to utter the name, Lord Voldemort, the Org staff were terrified to speak the name, Reed Slatkin. Nor would a staffer utter a word about the previous money raised to pay off the mortgage on our stupid-ass building.
Active Couple and their fundraising Events faded from memory. However, they still worked for the Santa Barbara Venture Capital Dude. They followed his lead in the stock market, and it worked out great, until the day it didn’t. They lost everything and had to sell their home. No more jewelry for them.
On a positive note, Josh and I learned that short selling was not for us.
It’s All About the Money
Investing in the stock market wasn’t the only way Scientologists ate shit and died in the world of finance. Selling Real Estate unwisely was another way that Registrars regularly separated parishioners from their assets. Tall Guy was a handsome, bouncy, new Scientologist who was digging the L Ron Hubbard Sci-Fi vibe. He was electrified about his past-lives and the promise of going free. Tall Guy liked to talk. He especially liked telling people about his past life adventures flying around in spaceships while battling aliens. Basically, everything he’d just told his Auditor while in Session.
Tall Guy’s loose lips put him on a short list for death-by-Lower-Conditions. But not before he used up his Auditing hours. It looked like Tall Guy’s time in Scientology was near the end. Any second he’d get the old heave-ho for his latest distracting story which was making the rounds of us newbies. Then all of a sudden, the staff started treating him like he was their newest best friend.
Little Miss Inquisitive found out why. Tall Guy had inherited a house from his grandma in Malibu and perhaps the cash that enabled his meteoric rise up the Auditing side of the Bridge. Guess what everyone from the Registrar on down to the volunteer who snuck boxes of Personality Tests into little markets and fast-food joints thought he should do? Lock that property down into a Trust for his retirement? Aw, Hell no.
Tall Guy followed the love bombs to the Registrar’s office. He sighed when the Reg told him, you’re so special, I see something unique and genius in you, and other blistering lies dressed up as truth and guidance. Okay, I wasn’t in the room. Artistic license and all that crap.
Bottom line top, Tall Guy sold the Malibu house for $150,000.00. He spread the money amongst Scientology entities from Santa Barbara, to Los Angeles, to Florida. For the investment-savvy readers, those were early eighties dollars. I’d be shocked if Tall Guy is still in. I wouldn’t be shocked if he needed the help of narcotics to dull the pain of selling a home that has probably appreciated to a three-or-four-million-dollar value. Tall Guy if you’re reading this, sorry to trigger you dude.
To my shame, I was jealous at the time. I wished a relative of mine would have dropped their body, so I could have inherited all that sweet money to spend on my bridge.
That’s not who I was before Scientology. I should have told Tall Guy I was sorry for his loss instead of thinking how lucky he was for inheriting his grandmother’s house so he could buy his Bridge.
More It’s All About the Money
Josh and I had a friend in Scientology who was a teacher. She loved kids, teaching, and was a warm, funny, giver of a person. That’s probably why she took a vow of poverty. Oop, I meant signed a five-year contract to join staff in Santa Barbara. When her years of under-appreciated servitude were at an end, she moved out of town where she taught at a private Scientology school. Teacher woman and her husband raised their kids and did less Scientology. When the kids hit their teens, a long line of prospective FSM’s looking for their future 10% commissions probably knocked on their door to become their newest best friend. Once at the table they’d whip up the enthusiasm for Teacher Woman and her husband to move up the Bridge to Total Freedom. Teacher woman no doubt did her Conditions, or L Ron Hubbard’s convoluted Admin Scale, or maybe a Why-Finding to discover why she was stalled on her Bridge.
Anyhoo, the reason she was stalled on her Bridge-to-Total-Freedom, turned out not to be that healthy teenage boys can eat $100.00 worth of beef per day, while out-growing their $70.00 Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts in two months. The Why, was her regrettable choice of career. Yup, the income for an educator is not a lot. And Scientology costs — a lot. Teacher Woman did what any Good Scientologist would do and switched careers. Scientologists don’t switch careers to follow their bliss, their dreams, or their true passion on this planet. They switch careers to make more money. Teacher Woman became an insurance adjuster. Because nothing says I love nurturing children’s love of learning like measuring dents in someone’s SUV or interviewing a dog bite victim.
Planning For Retirement While Side-Stepping the Reg
A few years later, best bud Deave invited us to a Real Estate Investment Seminar, given by this John Streeter guy. I’d always wanted to invest in Real Estate, but the reality of doing so was like wishing I could get to the top of the Empire State Building by climbing it from the outside.
The following weekend, my bestie Lorna, her hubster Deave, and Josh and I, showed up in a depressing Ventura City College lecture hall. I’d studied for my Real Estate license exam early in my twenties, back in my professional-housecleaner days. I’d ultimately dropped out due to cherch Course-time conflicts and being more scared of the Ethics Officer than the loss of a possible career path. But I never fell out of love with Real Estate. I said yes to Deave’s Real Estate seminar thing, hoping you couldn’t multi-level houses.
Mr. Streeter strode to the podium like David Miscavige at an IAS trophy extravaganza. During his Power Point presentation, his assistant handed out reams of paper containing everything from the names of loan agents in Austin Texas, to how to find a property manager in Clarksville Tennessee. Josh and I were excited. I was hooked.
Streeter’s program involved armchair-investing, using his stable of realtors, loan agents, and property managers. He suggested we use the equity in our over inflated California homes as down payments for more affordable properties out of state. Josh and I knew we were woefully unprepared for our future retirement as self-employed people. While Deave and Lorna looked at this as an opportunity to earn money for their Bridge, I was thinking of retirement. Unlike staunch Scientologists, I wasn’t interested in working until I dropped from exhaustion. On the way home, Josh and I agreed we’d keep our own counsel, and not mention our Real Estate plan to the Registrar.
A couple of months later we were the proud owners of two income properties. As Josh and I had discussed, we never told the Registrar about our new stream of income — which was one of the best decisions we ever made.
Ah, The Things We Did to Go Free
I bet there isn’t an ex-Scientologist — or one still trapped inside the bubble — who hasn’t personally been involved with, or heard of, one of the many quasi-legal money-making schemes making the rounds in the world of Scientology. In the never-ending quest to make more money, no doubt many of these people switched from careers they loved to working at shitty jobs they hated.
Ah, the life of a Scientologist.