By Chet Yarbrough
By: Janet Reitman
Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology suggests Scientology is a movement gone mad. Scientology began with L. Ron Hubbard, a charismatic leader whose self-examination led to a humanist’ interpretation of mind. (Mind is defined as an element of belief and thought about the world and one’s experience in it.)
Hubbard recognized there was money to be made from ideas revealed in his self-examination; particularly, if “Dianetics” (Hubbard’s book about those ideas) could be classified as a guide to a belief system he christened as Scientology in 1953.
A religion is defined as “pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”. This broad definition led Hubbard to seek state recognition of Scientology as a new religion. Reitman notes that Hubbard’s primary objective was to eliminate taxation on his planned enterprise.
Hubbard established the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey in 1953. Scientology was accepted by the United States as a religious non-profit in 1957 and then denied by the IRS in 1958. Regaining religious non-profit status became a primary goal of Scientology for the following 30 plus years.
Hubbard, like Vladimir Lenin, initiated an ideological organization that grew into something bigger than its ideas could hold. From numerous interviews, Reitman finds that Scientology preaches a gospel of many lives lived by the same person. Reitman notes that Hubbard’s self-analysis leads him to believe that the mind remembers everything that happens in a person’s many lives; particularly traumatic events. Hubbard believes those traumatic events carry through in the same person and block human potential in their latest incarnation. Hubbard develops a concept and process called “going clear” to remove blockage in one’s mind from those traumatic events. Hubbard believes a bridge can be built to a kind of self-actualization (a fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities). Building that bridge is done through a process called auditing (a question, answer, re-live, and repeat process) by a person trained in Scientology. Each audit is intended to remove the bad effects of past traumatic events in a person’s life.
This brilliant idea offers a pathway to profit; particularly for a non-profit religion. Every person that wishes to “go clear”, will pay for the audit sessions. The obvious comparison is psychiatry which is, to a Scientologist, a mortal and nefarious competitor. Scientologists abhor the use of drugs to treat any psychotic or neurotic behavior.
Hubbard creates Sea Org to escape Federal’ scrutiny of Scientology in 1967. He moves the headquarters of the organization to the sea with 4 ocean-going vessels. Sea Org grows into a paramilitary organization for the management and training of elite Scientologists. Its organization returns to the United States and transitions into a training camp under the leadership of Hubbard, and later, David Miscavige (the present leader of Scientology). Reitman’s description of Sea Org reminds one of Plato’s “Republic” in which a school is formed to train future members of an idealized state. Hubbard initiated the training of young children with Sea Org’s creation but Miscavige refined the recruitment, education, and isolation of young recruits. These recruits were separated from their birth parents at prepubescent ages to become laborers, proselytizers, acolytes, and administrators of Scientology.
Religious, non-profit status is regained in 1993, 13 years after Hubbard’s death. Reitman tells the story of Scientology’s battle with the IRS. She recounts epic confrontations with IRS’ leadership and reveals stories of Scientology’s dirty tricks campaign to win “non-profit religion” classification. Unrelenting litigation, spying, and dirty tricks are characterized as common tactics used by the founder and present leader of Scientology to win the non-profit designation from the IRS.
Reitman provides a boat load of information that persuasively argues that Hubbard’s Scientology is not well enough organized or qualified to handle the consequence of the idea of “going clear” by delving into the mind of sincere acolytes. The biggest case in point is the story of Lisa McPherson, a person who dies while in the care of Scientologists who follow strict rules of the religion. Though no one in Scientology is convicted for malfeasance in McPherson’s case, the professional capabilities of Scientology’s followers seem highly suspect.
Reitman focuses on Scientology to reveal an organization in crisis. As with all movements that begin with a charismatic leader, when the leader dies either the movement dies, or it turns into something different. Just as Lenin did not appoint a successor for Russian’ communism, Hubbard did not choose a successor for Scientology. Reitman reveals that David Miscavige assumes control of Scientology when Hubbard dies in Creston, California on January 24, 1986. Miscavige purges followers of Hubbard soon after the founder’s death. Miscavige takes control of Scientology’s remaining acolytes. Miscavige accomplishes this with what a sales person calls an assumptive close, a final decision by a buyer (the follower of Scientology) based on assumed power and authority of the seller (Miscavige). With removal of original Hubbard’ followers, Miscavige takes control with the force of his personality and ambition. No active Scientologists are left to disagree with Miscavige or compete for control.
Reitman characterizes Miscavige as a revenue-focused manager that has little charisma but an autocratic management style that gets things done in a structured organization. Miscavige’s weakness is that he relies on his understanding of Hubbard’s insight to the human mind. If Scientology is a religion, Miscavige is like the Pope of the Catholic Church; i.e. he has a book (a series of a founder’s proclamations) to follow but it is a book of parables, as well as a book of “truth”. Knowing and acting on the “truth” is an interpretation of an interpretation. Reitman interviews a number of exiled Scientologists that still believe in Scientology but think Miscavige has strayed from the truth of Hubbard’s vision.
Reitman offers many titillating stories of famous Scientologists like Hubbard, Miscavige, John Travolta, and Tom Cruise. But, the most troubling aspect of Reitman’s reveal is that even if Scientology is not a legitimate religion, it is not humanly equipped to exclusively manage the human psyche. Scientology needs help from the outside world. After listening to Inside Scientology, one doubts any religion or organization is capable of exclusive responsibility for the human psyche. Evidence mounts for the opinion that Scientology, under the leadership of Miscavige, is a movement going mad.