This is the eighth 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.
I’ve Never Been so Happy to Not Have a Doorbell
After I moved out of the house Josh and I had lived in, after the cottage behind the big house, the bolt hole I rented wasn’t my Ideal Scene. It was a cold, drafty, high-ceilinged, second-floor bedroom in an old building slated for demolition to make way for a shopping center. The shared “kitchen” was a sink with a toaster oven. There was no working doorbell.
I didn’t plan to miss my ride to San Luis Obispo with Josh because of a busted doorbell. He offered up the idea that we’d go to dinner the next night, and I’d stay over at the house, so we could get an early start the following day. He’d sleep on the couch in our ex-love-nest and I’d sleep on his (our old,) bed. The next day flew by, and my pulse spiked when I heard the sweet throb of Josh’s Honda. With a bag slung over my back, we purred down the street.
Dinner was full of excited talk. Everything but the kiss and what it might mean. Back at our old love nest, we fell into each other’s hungry arms. Josh didn’t sleep on the couch, nor did we get much sleep. Our weekend was a golden glowing sunflower. Tim got the remains, not much, of our attention. We decided I’d move back into the house for a two-week trial. At the end of two weeks, if we still wanted to stay together, it would be understood that we were aiming for a longer-term. Whatever that meant.
He’d missed me. I’d missed him.
In an interesting twist of fate, Mr. Good Enough caught the attention of Sylvie. They dated, got married, and Scientology faded into their mutual rear-view mirror, having served its purpose. I wish them well.
Selling Best-Selling-Stuff I Didn’t Use
Living with Josh again was smile-inducing at any time of day. I had so much love and joy bubbling under the surface for Josh that I tried to act cool. This was to avoid blowing him out of my life with a firehose of affection. My Reactive Mind, in unhelpful daily front-page news, reminded me of the uneven equation of love under our roof. Any day Josh would call it quits.
I threw myself into my door-to-door Fuller Brush sales and fifteen-hour-a-week Course schedule. I also tried and failed to cook tempting and tasty meals to show Josh what a good little wifey I’d make. If I didn’t have two or three hours to fuss my way into a great meal, I rushed my way to just adequate in the cuisine department. No one’s perfect.
Josh was intrigued by my new sales career and thought it was funny that I’d gone from cleaning houses to selling cleaning products. I’d taken home a boxful of moth blocks and chunked it down by the front door for a quick delivery the next day. Josh objected to the house-filling stench of the Fuller Brush moth blocks. They were my favorite product. People never ordered just one, and they had to reorder them every six months. They practically sold themselves.
I didn’t actually use them. What moth would eat a hole in my shirts? I could always get another blouse for a couple of dollars at the thrift store. Santa Barbara had rockin’ good thrift stores. Something about the ratio of retail clothing stores to rich ladies. And teenaged daughters who plumbed the depths of their step-monster’s closet and abandoned pricey designer layers like snakes shedding their skin. Oh yeah, and fashions changed.
Back in San Francisco, before Don (my step-dad) interrupted our lives, Mom and I had a system. We did the whole back-to-school shopping spree in an afternoon at thrift stores. I may have been Little Miss Picky about food, but clothes were not in the contents of my I-give-a-crap catalog.
Lessons From the Paul Finch School of Fuller Brush Follow-Up
Paul Finch taught me to do callbacks, record each address, name of householder, phone number, and the name of their cleaning lady. And to detail which refillable products they bought. I did demos like my showman dad did at his Shaklee meetings when I briefly lived with him in Los Angeles, in seventh grade. I’d show cleaning ladies how to remove lime deposits from toilets and shower doors, how to get tired chrome fixtures to shine, and how to keep natural and mock marble sparkling. If I did a demo, you were entertained and you gave me an order.
I’d been getting my Fuller Brush boxes of deliverables dropped off at Jim Bob’s rental since the start of my door-to-door sales career. While I lived in the soon-to-be-demolished building from Hell near downtown, Jim Bob understood there was no way I could receive shipments there. I feared Jim Bob would suspend my delivery privileges once I moved back in with Josh. Then every two weeks, I’d have to take sixteen-odd smelly boxes into our love nest. In a show of my imperfect road to maturity, I neglected to inform Jim Bob of my change of address.
The Old Man in the Wagon Tests My Sanity
My diligent work schedule made me feel confident financially. But somehow, I ended up in the Registrar’s chair plunking down too much money for a chunk of Auditing hours. She pushed the “improve your relationship” Button, and I folded like a reusable shopping bag. Down at the Org after some fits and starts, I had my first experience with Auditing. I liked it. It was heavy going during the question-and-answer slog, but I ended up feeling floaty and dreamy at the end of the week. Kind of how I felt when Margs the Rolfer did her Scientology voodoo and helped me see my stupid death in the Dark Ages.
Around that time, I connected with one of the upstairs Course Room Supervisors. I’ll call him Jumping Guy, because at a costume party we all went to, he jumped more than danced and was a super fun guy. Instead of robotically making me re-read L Ron Hubbard bulletins on Course after quizzing me about what words I didn’t Duplicate, he’d quietly discuss the dense thicket of conflicting philosophy section I struggled with. Sadly, he was the only one who broke the rules this way.
Discussing the L Ron Hubbard teachings was forbidden. Maybe because the consensus would be that it was a steaming pile of badly-written good ideas, plagiarized from wiser minds. Or maybe because LRH was a raging narcissist and we could only quote his pompous word-salad-pronouncements while giving the date and title of the bulletin it came from like a Bible quote to live by.
Josh’s dad had us house-sitting his new home, now that the old homestead with the cottage in back was being loved by its new owner. This house-sitting gig was pretty sweet, especially because Josh’s dad’s pad included an ocean view deck and a hot tub. Party time. We invited our Scientology friends and a few staffers up to the house for music, dancing, and hot tubbing. Jumping Guy was the only Org staffer who made it. Despite having a houseful of enthusiastic, noisy, not-drunk Scientologists, we had a great time, nothing broke, and they all helped clean up before they left.
I woke up the next day, and the scratchy throat I’d felt a hint of the night before roared into full red, screaming misery. I was fevered, headachy, and down for the count. But at least I was up in Josh’s dad’s swanky palace of delights.
When you get sick in Scientology, there’s more than one obnoxious L Ron Hubbard program practiced to “handle” your ill health. They all boil down to figuring out who the Suppressive Person in your life is. That’s the source of your sickness. You’ll soon realize that you committed some transgression against this SP, thereby Pulling-in your infirmity. In Scientology, Pulling-in something basically means you made it happen.
L Ron Hubbard didn’t use the concept of the subconscious mind. Well, actually, he did, but he just called it something else. The best way to describe Scientology’s “think” on illness, accidents, and acts of God, is they think you subconsciously wanted to fail. Or get sick, or stop your forward progress, or whatever the unwanted situation or condition was. So, in Scientology, it was always your fault if you got sick.
I didn’t want to go down to the Scientology Center to “get handled” by that jerk of an Ethics Officer. But, a crawling, stranger-in-my-own-body sensation blanketed me, making me notice each breath. I called Jumping Guy, because he was the only longtime Scientologist I thought I could confide in. He seemed unruffled to be called, even though my problem had nothing to do with Course Supervision.
Jumping Guy offered to come up to Josh’s dad’s house and see if he could help. He showed up carrying a shiny silver Halliburton briefcase, straight out of a James Bond movie. I was propped up and pouty. Jumping Guy removed and set up his E-meter. (Short for electropsychometer, Scientology’s lie detector machine that Auditors use.) I watched him connect the soup cans to wires and place them in my fevered hands. Jumping Guy asked me to describe my symptoms and what was going on. I was exhausted, gloomy, my head throbbed, and I told him I felt like an eighty-year-old man. He looked up at me with sparkles in his eyes.
“Tell me about this old man,” he said.
I frowned at him. I didn’t know why he was mocking me.
“Trust me. There’s something here.” He meant the needle on the E-meter dial was moving in a telling way.
I described how it felt to be this old man. My head pounded worse while I spoke. Jumping Guy asked more questions. I added that the old man was on a wood wagon, looking for his wife along the side of an old rutted dirt road. He was sad because she was dead and pissed off because he couldn’t get off the wagon until he found her.
Jumping Guy nodded at me. His uptilted eyebrows telegraphed serious-minded attention.
“He sounds pretty fuckin’ insane if you ask me,” I said.
“You shouldn’t invalidate this spiritual being, Lili. You have to help him.”
I cringed. I didn’t want to help the old guy. I wanted him to get the fuck out of my space.
“What if I don’t want to help?” I whispered.
“You’re in this. You need to be the old man’s Auditor,” Jumping Guy cocked his head in an encouraging look that I’d have mocked a year ago. I panted and shook with chills while this old guy’s burning anger nested in my chest. I wanted to jump up and run out of the house.
“What if he won’t leave?” I asked.
“I’ll help you through this.”
“He’s right here and super pissed at me for being young and alive when his wife’s dead,” I told Jumping Guy.
“Acknowledge him,” he said.
I’d drilled Acknowledgment so many times, on the Communication Course, the words slipped off my tongue. The vise across my chest eased a bit.
Jumping Guy directed me with what to do next. I asked the old man what had happened. I’d speak what I sensed from the old man’s thoughts and emotions to Jumping Guy. Jumping Guy murmured barely audible things like, Acknowledge him, ask him for more detail, what happened next, was there an earlier beginning, and like that.
The old man went over his search again and again. My head would jerk forward from having narcoleptic mini naps. The old man figured out how his wife died during an earlier storm. His shock moved the hot magma closer to the surface of my chest.
I looked up at Jumping Guy. “He remembered what happened, but he’s stuck and doesn’t know what to do.”
“Tell him he did well, and he can get off the wagon now,” Jumping Guy said. I told the old man.
“Uh, he wants to stay here. On my body,” I willed myself not to feel the revulsion that banged on my mental doors.
“Okay,” Jumping Guy said. I guess the E-meter did something alarming because he let go of it and put his hands on my shoulders. “You’re doing such a good job, Lili. Keep your emotions out of it.”
I spread calm and quiet over myself. It was exhausting. “What do I say?”
Jumping Guy had me tell the old guy he was a spiritual being and didn’t need to stay with the wagon anymore. I was supposed to get him to look around Josh’s Dad’s living room. The moment the old man saw the view of the ocean outside the window sent an earthquake through my body. A ten-pound dumbbell eased off my chest. I knew the old guy went a distance outside the window. But like a kid holding the edge of the pool in the deep end, he wouldn’t let go.
Jumping Guy was nodding at me. “Acknowledge him again, with energy.”
“Well done you! Fly away you! You did great!” I shouted into the room. The line broke. I didn’t have to tell Jumping Guy.
“You did it,” he grinned like I’d won the Bingo pot.
I stretched and flexed my muscles. “I think my fever might be gone.” I swallowed and felt that numb-ish after-sore-throat feeling. “My headache’s died down too.” I got up and chugged a ton of water.
“Take a nap,” Jumping guy said.
I curled up under my blankets and passed out. Josh and Jumping Guy provided a distant burble of sound from the hot tub while I eased back to wakefulness. Later, Jumping Guy and I sat on the porch under the Bougainvillea. He told me that I should do Scientology Auditor training to proof myself against being the effect of disembodied visitors. Just remember, he told me, don’t invalidate them. Be calm with them. They can only hurt you if you give them energy. It was such an odd exchange that I knew I wouldn’t discuss it with anyone else in Scientology.
Even though I sensed that this was not on the official Scientology menu, the experience made me feel like I was in the right place. Jumping Guy gave me tools to feel strong when I brush up against the veil.
Jumping Guy is still “in,” and at last count, he’d been busted off Post three times, been divorced three times, and nearly went bankrupt at least once. He worked at three different Scientology locations while I was “in.” I saw him crawl up out of financial ruin twice with his entrepreneurial business, helping people overcome too much debt. I don’t know if his advice got his clients out of debt, but it never stopped him from burrowing deep into borrowing for the greater glory of the cherch.