This is the twenty-fourth 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 Scorched Life After Lost Faith
Due to national economic upheavals and trusting the wrong advisor, Josh and I had a major financial setback. I did not take it well. I blamed myself for Pulling-it-in and no longer trusted myself to make the simplest decisions. Many Kleenex boxes died in service to my over-active tear ducts. A couple of months after this disaster, our lives seemed to return to normal.
In the past I’d always relied on my strong, internal engine to get me to my next goal. Unfortunately, I was low on gas and I couldn’t seem to shift out of second gear. Though I hadn’t done any Scientology services for years, I decided to fix my bruised self by going to the Flag Land Base for some Auditing.
Two months later, I arrived at Flag with high hopes of digging myself out of my funk. A chatty, Director of Processing (another word for Auditing) interviewed me. This was my big chance to say what I hoped to handle with my Auditing. I told him that I wanted a female Auditor who spoke unaccented English. Swimming through heavy emotional waters, while struggling to understand an Auditor’s thick Slovenian accent wouldn’t be helpful. I added that I was feeling low and needed someone who was upbeat and smiley.
At Scientology’s Flag Land Base, they trained Auditors from around the world. They threw English-as-a-second-language student-Auditors at us over-paying parishioners on a regular basis. Unless you were a VIP. The VIP’s got the bright, good-looking, accent-free, and fully interned Auditors. There was no disclosure about this bait and switch routine.
I ran the zipper up and down my sweatshirt while I sat in the waiting lounge. The door to the inner sanctum of Auditing rooms opened to reveal a middle aged, frumpy white man, with disheveled hair. My Auditing folder was clutched to his chest like a shield.
“Hello Lili, I am Peter. Please follow me.” I winced when I heard his thick Eastern European accent. My worst nightmare. Once he’d handed me the E-meter cans, I realized he was not a fan of pausing between words. I didn’t want to be a problem, so I kept my mouth shut. I watched his lips as I struggled to follow his words. I didn’t feel his support when the Session predictably went South.
I’d wanted to recover confidence and faith in myself. Instead, I found myself locked in a room with a man I didn’t like, while being spied on by a camera mounted in the corner. To make matter worse Peter asked questions having to do with sexual incidents — most of which happened in past lives, billions of years ago. I hated revealing erotic content to this old white guy and what any of this had to do with my current situation I had no idea.
Between Sessions I hid out in a small room stuffed with L Ron Hubbard’s books and dictionaries. In the good news department, this time away from my over-scheduled life, alone in a book-lined room gave me peace. This sanctuary also served as a refuge from IAS Registrars. They trawled the Auditing waiting rooms for vulnerable catch between Sessions with their various buckets of guilt-inducing chum. Full disclosure, this grindingly awful Auditing program cost me twenty-five-thousand-dollars. Yeah, I know.
As craptastic as the Auditing was, the quiet time between sessions led to some much-needed introspection. I decided to Confront how I went about making big decisions. I’ll cop to being a bit impulsive. I spotted the fact that I’d decided to say yes to that investment advisor before I’d even met him face-to-face. I realized that since I’d made that decision already, no amount of due diligence would have changed my mind. I had checked him out half-heartedly online. Turns out this investment dude had been jailed for fraud years earlier. News of his incarceration must have been on page twenty-seven of my Google search. Too bad I rarely clicked past page three.
Since the financial disaster, my life had flipped into a gray existence of no self-trust and outward facing suspicion. This sad, distrustful existence was a dagger to my heart. I wrote down policy that’d help me avoid falling into future financial disasters. What I didn’t write down but I decided anyway, was don’t consult any Scientologists for financial advice. Cuz for damn sure, that’s the last place I’d find a sane viewpoint about money. Confronting my past errors about big-decision making opened the door to trusting myself again.
During my Auditing Sessions, talking about being a past-life vestal virgin and lesbian to boot wasn’t helping. Inconveniently, it was a bit of a turn-on. I couldn’t even look at my Auditor. But in the good news department, if I ever decide to write erotica, bam, I got my story.
I called Josh and told him how I Confronted our disaster and come up with policy so it wouldn’t happen again. He thought that was great. I felt his love through the phone line. I remembered how Josh had been so calm about the loss when it first happened and said, “We’ll be okay. It’ll get better.” I’d been mad at him because I thought he didn’t understand what a blow it was. Now I saw that he’d had the right idea, we still had us. I missed him so much and couldn’t wait to get home and hug him and Van. My engine restarted and I found my smile.
Apparently, the Case Supervisor thought that dredging up past-life sex incidents in various temples and office buildings had sorted me right out. And just like that, I was done with my Auditing Program.
I wrote a bull-shit Success Story about how looking into the past freed me up to live a better life in the future. Oh yeah, and I thanked L Ron Hubbard, cuz if you didn’t thank the old rotten-toothed bastard, they’d make you write it again.
The Big Win That Wasn’t
Back at home and in better spirits, I faced a new challenge. Van was in ninth or tenth grade and homework had become a big problem. Actually, it had been a problem even in elementary school, but I did nothing about it. Just because he was smart didn’t mean he was willing or able to do hours of daily homework. I hit a wall with him lying about doing homework, when one of his teachers emailed me about getting no homework for weeks. I discovered that screaming, cajoling, and threats didn’t move Van in the homework department. So, where did I turn? To L Ron Hubbard. Sorry, Van.
This problem with doing homework was a red flag that something was wrong. Inside the Scientology bubble, that translated to my kid having undisclosed transgressions against teachers, public school, parents, etc. I decided that Van needed do an Ethics Program with Amends. I wasn’t enough of a blind follower of L Ron Hubbard to just pitch him into the local Ethics Officer’s pit-of-Make-Wrong awfulness.
I had a twofold reason for enforcing this Ethics action on Van. One, I wanted to handle the problem with homework, and two, I wanted to show Van how Scientology Ethics tools could handle all kinds of life problems. And bing, bang, boom, pave the way for Van to step up to being a full-on Scientologist. I wrote up his Ethics Program with the help of a public Scientologist who made her living off of helping bubble-dwellers keep their kids on the straight and narrow.
First, Van was required to disclose pages of transgressions. He didn’t look happy after he was done. Then he had to do Amends and wash our cars or something. I’ve blocked the memory of whatever dumb-ass thing we cooked up for him to do. Next, he had to do some Scientology kid’s study courses. The good news for me was that the kids’ study courses I made Van take, were done in Scientology’s Ventura Mission Course rooms. Which actually had students in them. I liked the bustle of the slightly cramped quarters the Mission operated out of. The bad news was that Van did the courses without any apparent enjoyment.
My favorite part of his course days was driving back in forth to Ventura and chatting with Van. He was great company and I loved the one-on-one time alone with him away from the distractions of day-to-day life. As well as making him take Scientology Courses in Ventura, we bought him some stupidly expensive Auditing. I didn’t find out until we quit Scientology that Van had hated it.
Throughout the homework Ethics program, Van knew he was being blamed for laziness, or willfulness, or stalking down the road to juvenile delinquency. Once the Ethics program was done, the homework thing seemed to settle down. At that time, I only looked as far as Scientology for a solution to this problem. Scientology Ethics hadn’t proven all that helpful to me over the years, but I still used it to bludgeon my son into doing his fucking homework.
I patted myself on the back and took a Big Win on Scientologically “handling” Van. When his next report card came in, he almost failed his math class or whatever subject had started the whole Ethics Cycle. I ignored the proof that I hadn’t handled shit. In the logic department, this was a predictable companion to my sticking with a religion whose founder spouted repellent homophobic and racist quotes. My stomach curdled while I justified, “It was just the times,” “It was a different generation,” or “He wouldn’t say that now.”
Kids in the bubble are raised by wolves, I mean culty-minded parents. I was a perfect example. I hadn’t even let Van see any school psychologists. Yeah, I visited the principal once to dodge Van’s appointment with a “head shrinker.” I signed a form and everything. I didn’t want that school’s “enemy-of-the-church” poisoning my son’s mind. As a card-carrying member of Scientology’s vendetta against what L Ron Hubbard called Trick Cyclists, I had regularly donated to the cherch’s CCHR front group. This was the Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights. They fought the evil Psychs and their wanton psychiatric drugging of kids and called Ritalin a “chemical straightjacket.”
In conversations with Van after Josh and I left Scientology, he told me he noticed something wasn’t right with him from about Middle School on. He thought he was lazy. As the years passed, he grew increasingly distressed when he didn’t “grow out of it.” I’d never seen my energetic, creative, and inventive son as lazy. I had assumed everything with him was hunky dory. I guess he’d learned to fake a smile, just like me… I’m so proud.
I found out years after leaving Scientology that Van had ADHD. He told me that finding out and getting the right prescription improved his life. I had to do a quick reaction check. Years ago, I would have twisted myself into a pretzel. As a Scientologist, having a child on “Psych” drugs would have branded me some sort of deviant fail-parent. I’d have been coerced into reading all of L Ron Hubbard’s turgid declarations about the Suppressive effect of Van’s diagnosis and the mind-flaying end product of his prescription. The preferred end product of this obligatory Ethics pressure cooker would be to convince me to get Van off his prescription meds and into an Auditing chair. Or if he was considered too degraded for Auditing, to drag him into a twilight shit show of Ethics mind fuckery.
My reaction to finding out about Van’s ADHD diagnosis post-Scientology was gratitude. And sadness. I was grateful he’d found a way out of his depression and solved the mystery of his self-classified laziness. I was miserable because I hadn’t helped him.
As a Scientologist, I had viewed Van’s college years as busy, successful, and a satisfying adventure. His skills were in demand throughout his college years and he had a job in his field lined up before his prestigious post-graduation internship was complete. I was always happy to brag about my Up-Stat son to anyone who made the mistake of asking, “how’s your boy.”
I groaned inwardly thinking about Van defying a thicket of Scientology “truths” he’d heard from birth. Such nuggets as there’s no such thing as mental illness, Auditing can handle that, or Ethics can handle that, or worse, if they can’t handle it, it’s your fault, because you’re a Degraded Being, or a Down-Stat piece of shit.
Back when I was busy Scientologically “handling” Van and the homework nightmare, I failed to help him. Van Made it Go Right back then, to get me off his back. I’d taken a Big Win for solving the situation. Within a year of this “handling,” Van announced that he no longer wanted to be a Scientologist. Josh and I acknowledged him with some sort of okay, fine, got it, type deal. I didn’t believe strongly enough in L Ron Hubbard’s teachings to fight him on it. But I was as ready to defend his right to choose not be a Scientologist as I was to assist him if he wanted to go for it
I wish that back then I’d said out loud that I’d support him and defend his decision. I wish I’d helped him get tested by mental health and educational professionals. I wish I’d understood that applying L Ron Hubbard’s Ethics “Tech” basically made my son wrong and drove him toward depression. Luckily, with zero help from me, he found a solution… So much for being a good mom.
The Prison of Self-Censorship in Scientology
It was drummed into my cranium early on that I was never to read, watch, or listen to anything about Scientology not approved by Scientology. L Ron Hubbard was a raging racist and homophobe. But if you read an article quoting LRH being a racist or homophobic, you were the bad guy. Yup. You’d get thrown to the Ethics wolves for reading critical material written by Suppressive Persons. Toilet scrubbing would factor into your future.
I had never mentioned this rule to Van. I mean, at what age do you tell your child, “Ah, by the way, you can’t read, listen, or watch anything negative about Scientology. You can only examine what L Ron Hubbard wrote about Scientology.” Even though that’s a dump-truck load of conflicting, dense as mud, pseudo-science. I just couldn’t say that to him. My logical, question-everything child would never have let that rule stand.
Van’s ease at gliding down the byways of the internet and his natural curiosity made it inevitable that he’d stumble across the truth about Scientology. It was easy to blunder into how cruel, controlling, and abusive the cherch was. Unless of course, you were a Scientologist, because then you’d have no reason to see this factual information. If some friend had the bad taste to ask me about The Hole, or any of the other well-known scandals in Scientology, I knew, whatever that friend heard or read, it was all lies. Any good Kool-Aid drinking Scientologist would never stoop so low as to read any opinion about Scientology not sanctioned by the cherch.
How could thirteen-or-fourteen-year-old Van discuss this with us? Did he wonder if we’d Disconnect from him if he rained on our culty parade? I’ve spoken to a couple of young second-generation Scientologists who disagreed with the cherch’s teachings. One kid had the urge to protect his parents from being ripped off. They thanked him by kicking him out of the house.
It hurts my mom-heart that any mother could prioritize her nebulous spiritual freedom over the love of her child. I’ve had more than one phone call with a distraught spouse connected to a gung-ho Scientologist. They felt trapped and had to live a lie because they loved their spouse or child. The price you pay to stay connected to a Scientologist you love is silence. Not speaking your truth about your pain with an organization or religion to someone you love, is a horrible burden. Van shouldered that burden alone. I regret that deeply.