Search Results for: scientology

Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology

Longreads Pick

Author Alec Nevala-Lee surveys the fiction of L. Ron Hubbard, gaining new insights into the life of the founder of dianetics and the origins and nature of Scientology itself.

Source: Longreads
Published: Feb 1, 2017
Length: 30 minutes (7,744 words)

Xenu’s Paradox: The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard and the Making of Scientology

Illustration by Pat Barrett

Alec Nevala-Lee | Longreads | February 2017 | 28 minutes (7,744 words)

 

I.

L. Ron Hubbard published over four million words of fiction in his lifetime, but his most famous story consists of just a few handwritten pages. Before their contents were leaked in the early ’70s, they could be viewed at the Advanced Organization Building of the Church of Scientology, a hulking blue edifice off Sunset Boulevard where visitors were handed a manila envelope to open in a private room. Most had paid thousands of dollars for the privilege, which made it by far the most lucrative story Hubbard, or perhaps anyone, ever wrote—a spectacular rate for a writer who spent much of his career earning a penny per word.

The story itself, which has become more familiar than Hubbard or any of his disciples ever intended, revolves around the figure of Xenu, the tyrannical dictator of the Galactic Confederation. Millions of years ago, Xenu, faced with an overpopulation crisis, threw hordes of his own people into volcanoes on the planet Earth—then known as Teegeeack—and blew them up with atomic bombs. Their spirits, called thetans, survive to the present day, clinging to unsuspecting humans, and they can only be removed through dianetic auditing, a form of talk therapy that clears the subject of its unwanted passengers.

One of the church members who read this account was screenwriter and director Paul Haggis, who was a devoted Scientologist for over three decades before resigning in an ugly public split. Haggis told Lawrence Wright, the author of the seminal New Yorker piece that became the exposé Going Clear, that after finishing the story, he got the wild idea that it was some sort of insanity test—if you believed it, you were kicked out. When he asked his supervisor for clarification, he was informed: “It is what it is.” Haggis read it again, but the same thought continued to resound in his brain: “This is madness.” Read more…

Why the Church of Scientology Can’t Beat the Internet

Over at The Kernel, Jesse Hicks has put together a fascinating account of the Church of Scientology’s relationship with the Internet. So, how has a notoriously secretive and hierarchical organization dealt with the world’s most “open and radically nonhierarchical platform for communication”? Not well. Scientology’s antagonistic relationship to the Internet dates back to the web’s early days: when an early ’90s message board became a gathering place for Scientology critics, the Church launched a full-scale war on the site. Things have not improved in the intervening two decades. Why?

Mark Ebner, another journalist who’s often written about the church, offers an even blunter assessment. “We (journos, apostates and critics alike) saw the Internet undoing of Scientology coming around ’96,” he emails. The Internet amplified the reach of critics and brought them together; it helped potential defectors find critical information otherwise suppressed by the church. (Tory Christman remembers the software sent to members in 1998: described as a Web page builder, it also covertly blocked users from viewing anti-Scientology websites.) “The Internet pulled back the curtain to find Hubbard bare, and caught the Office of Special Affairs with their pants down,” Ebner writes. “Years later, Anonymous came to Cyber Town and strafed Scientology while they weren’t looking.”

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More on Scientology from the Longreads Archive

The Church of Scientology vs. the Internet

Longreads Pick

Inside the Church of Scientology’s long-running war against the Internet.

Source: The Kernel
Published: Sep 21, 2015
Length: 15 minutes (3,853 words)

Inside Scientology: A Reading List

Longreads Pick

Stories about Scientology from Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Los Angeles Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, JSTOR Daily, and The Daily Beast.

Author: Julia Wick
Source: Longreads
Published: Mar 20, 2015

Inside Scientology: A Reading List

Alex Gibney’s much-talked about new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Beliefbased on Lawrence Wright’s similarly titled 2013 exposé—has been making headlines since it made its Sundance debut in January. It opened on limited screens across the country last Friday and will premiere on HBO in two weeks. In the meantime, the Church of Scientology has gone into overdrive attacking the film: taking out full page ads in major newspapers to denounce it; buying up Going Clear-related search results on Google; and trying to discredit the filmmakers and their subjects in a series of videos on the Church’s website. Scientology has long been shrouded in mystery—doubtless in large part due to the Church’s secretive practices—but the Church is also notorious for terrorizing critics and defectors. Suffice it to say they are not an easy institution to investigate. In honor of their inscrutable reputation, and with Scientology-talk nearing zenith zeitgeist, I decided to put together a reading list of stories that explore the Church from a variety of angles. Please don’t kill my dog.

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1. “The Apostate” (Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, 2011)

Wright is nothing short of a master reporter (he won a Pulitzer for The Looming Tower, his 2006 history of al-Qaeda), and his deep investigative skills shine in this epic piece, a profile of Hollywood director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. Haggis was once one of Scientology’s most prominent members; he is now one of the Church’s most prominent defectors. This article eventually became part of Wright’s 2013 book Going Clear.

2. “The Tip of the Spear” (Joel Sappell, Los Angeles Magazine, 2012)

Starting in the mid-1980s, journalists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos spent five years examining the Church of Scientology for the Los Angeles Times, ultimately producing a six-day, 24-article series (available here in its entirety) that ran in June 1990. Here—more than two decades after the fact—Sappell reflects on his unnerving experiences reporting on the Church.

3. “What Katie Didn’t Know” (Maureen Orth, Vanity Fair, October 2012)

An exquisitely creepy behind-the-scenes look at the Church of Scientology’s 2004 search for the next Mrs. Tom Cruise.

4. “Scientology’s Hollywood Real Estate Empire” (Daniel Miller, The Hollywood Reporter, July 2011)

Little known fact: the Church of Scientology owns more historic buildings in Hollywood than any other entity. Miller’s decision to examine the Church’s relationship to Hollywood in the context of its real estate empire makes for fascinating reading.

5. “Escape from Sea Org” (Astra Woodcraft, as told to Abigail Pesta, The Daily Beast, July 2012)

Astra Woodcraft was seven when she was indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology via an arm of the church known as Sea Org. This is the story of what she endured, and how she escaped.

6. “Are Academics Afraid to Study Scientology?” (Ruth Graham, JSTOR Daily, November 2014)

Scientology attracts an extraordinary amount of media attention, but scholars have been slow to devote time and research to its study—Why?

See Also: “A Scientology Glossary” (David Sessions, The Daily Beast, July 2012)

Don’t know the difference between an engram, an E-meter, and an operating Thetan? Don’t worry, The Daily Beast has your back.

 

Scientology’s Vanished Queen

Longreads Pick

After the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige disappeared from public view, in 2007, those who asked questions were stonewalled, or worse. Now interviews with former insiders provide a grim assessment of her fate:

This cryptic explanation only fueled the mystery. Had Shelly fled the church? Was she in hiding? Some Scientology defectors believe she was exiled to one of several secretive and heavily guarded bases the church owns in remote western locales. There, the sources say, those who are banned endure lives of isolation, menial labor, and penury. The reason, they claim, is simple. “The law [in Scientology] is: The closer to David Miscavige you get, the harder you’re going to fall,” says Claire Headley, an ex-Scientologist who, along with her husband, Marc, worked closely with the Miscaviges. “It’s like the law of gravity, practically. It’s just a matter of when.” (The church of Scientology declined Vanity Fair’s repeated requests to interview the Miscaviges. In so doing, church representatives dismissed most of V.F.’s sources as disgruntled apostates, and called V.F.’s questions “ludicrous and offensive.” Additionally, the representatives described Shelly Miscavige as a private person who “has been working nonstop in the church, as she always has.” They also point out that I have written critically about the church in the past.)

Author: Ned Zeman
Source: Vanity Fair
Published: Mar 1, 2014
Length: 21 minutes (5,446 words)

Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting

Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting

Meet the Heroes of Early Scientology Reporting

Longreads Pick

Then came the six-part expose published June 24th through 29th, 1990, in the Los Angeles Times, a story that conclusively divided the wheat from the chaff where Scientology rumors were concerned. Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos spent five years on the story and it was, and still is, a corker. The other day Sappell told me that the Times’ Scientology investigation began when he learned that a former Los Angeles Police Department sergeant had become a private investigator for the Scientology organization, after having been fired by the department in 1981 for allegedly running a house of prostitution and alerting a drug dealer to a planned raid. (He was acquitted of all criminal charges in a later trial.) Soon enough it became clear that this former officer was using his LAPD contacts on behalf of his new bosses at Scientology. Sappell’s editor scented a bigger story, and the game was afoot.

Source: The Awl
Published: Feb 16, 2011
Length: 15 minutes (3,922 words)

The Fresh Air Interview: Church of Scientology, Fact-Checked

The Fresh Air Interview: Church of Scientology, Fact-Checked