In 1996, I had been involved in $cientology (that's how I spell it now) off and on for a couple of decades. It started off innocently enough. I was estranged from my family, had dropped out of college, had recollections of past lives, and wanted some answers and direction in life. I wrote about this previously for The Morton Report.
After getting married in 1989, I hadn't been that active in the cult (I didn't call it that then). My new wife Debbie had done the beginning Communications course, had some auditing, did some auditing on others, and wasn't too enamored of $cientology. I couldn't blame her, given her experience in Los Angeles. She'd been diagnosed with a tubal pregnancy shortly after we married. Penny Keaton, a registrar (salesperson) at American St. Hill Organization (ASHO), where I had volunteered for years as a $cientology "ethics officer" (someone who helps keep people ethical, unfortunately using Hubbard ideas of ethics), worked very hard at trying to convince us that buying an intensive (12.5 hours) of auditing would handle the condition. Penny swore that would work — she'd seen it happen many times, she said.
Thank God we opted for a medical solution. The doctor told us that had we waited another day or two, the tube could have burst and killed my wife.
Then there was the time Debbie waited for me outside ASHO while I counseled people in the Ethics area. She was cornered by a Sea Organization ($cientology's paramilitary staff) recruiter from Germany who almost browbeat her into signing a Sea Org contract (a billion-year full-time commitment to staff service for the cult). I hit the roof over that, told the jerk (he really was) that he was a Nazi (he just laughed at me) and wrote $cientology leader David Miscavige about it. I had a good "communications line" with Miscavige at the time, which ended after my "Sea Org Nazi" letter.
I was a $cientology "Clear" at the time and burgeoning on doing my Operating Thetan (OT) levels and suddenly I was informed that I needed "security checks" — $cientology interrogations which are not confidential like auditing. (Although as most people know by now, the auditing folders—session records—are regularly combed by $cientology for blackmail material.) I informed the registrar at the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (AOLA) that I'd been doing stellar free volunteer work for ASHO (both their day and night groups) and AOLA for years with no complaints and many accolades. Since I was only two small courses away from being a $cientology Magistrate, the equivalent in $cientology ethics of a Class 8 (top-notch) auditor, and since I knew ethics and overts ($cientology's word for sins) as well as anyone, I knew I didn't need any "sec checks" so if they thought I needed them they could give them to me, because I certainly wasn't going to pay thousands of dollars for them.
Surprising me, they agreed, and I received 37.5 hours—three intensives—of sec checks, and at the end of each the auditor had to run a "repair" form (list of questions) to fix any damage that had been done. Each time, the question "Was there nothing wrong in the first place?" would result in a Floating Needle (F/N, meaning the right answer, feeling good).
While receiving the last intensive, I was driving from the Palos Verdes peninsula through downtown Los Angeles to reach AOLA and the fires that resulted from the Rodney King riots were burning in L.A. I felt like the world was on the verge of melting down, and one night I thought my pursuit of $cientology had gotten about as productive as those riots.
Shortly thereafter, now with a two-year-old son and a daughter about to be born, we moved to Burbank to be closer to the Hollywood industry and my contacts. I wasn't doing anything with $cientology and one night Debbie was very nervous in discussing something she'd done. She feared I would leave her, she said. I laughed; that was something I would never have done, as family meant everything to me. She explained how she had put on a disguise and met with a writer named Jon Atack in secret. He'd written a book called A Piece of Blue Sky exposing $cientology and she'd been followed to their meeting place.
I laughed again, amused to no end about her in disguise, but I didn't like the fact that she'd been tailed by $cientology goons — which I knew plenty about. So I went to the library, found Jon's book, read it, and told Debbie that was the end of my involvement with the cult.
Not long after that I got a call from Penny Keaton, and I told her the same thing. A couple of nights later, Keaton and Bill Yaude, whom I'd been in the Sea Org with at the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood, showed up at our house unannounced, in full mock-U.S. Navy Sea Org uniforms. They wanted to change my mind about leaving. They had a "dead agent pack" with them about Jon Atack, a $cientology method of totally discrediting any critic. Their big bad claim about him was that he'd once been a heroin addict.
"Oh," I replied. "You mean, like Chick Corea, or my old roommate Nicky Hopkins? Are you saying $cientology did nothing for his heroin addiction?"
They had no answers. Finally, I told them to get the hell out of my house and if they ever showed up unannounced again, I might hurt them. I would certainly call the cops, and I would sue $cientology. They left and I never heard from them or $cientology again.
Atack's book had filled in a few gaps of discrepancies about $cientology that I'd already discovered on my own and/or verified my own research. Examples: Hubbard claimed that during a hospital stay at Oak Knoll Hospital after World War II, he restored himself from being blinded and crippled using Dianetics "technology." I knew from two separate sources who had been in the hospital with him those claims were a crock, and that Hubbard had been considered a pain in the ass by hospital personnel. I also knew that Hubbard had received U.S. government disability checks the rest of his life, despite his $cientology claim of "OT powers."
While in hiding in Queens, New York Hubbard had written the "Way to Happiness" booklet which was cobbled from other philosophies and he "researched" (plagiarized) from many sources. I'd been roommates with one of the Sea Org members who'd been with him the whole time.
Hubbard never "exteriorized" from his body which he claimed (and repeatedly used as a carrot to sell "OT levels" to $cientologists). I actually had left my body for a short time pre-$cientology, and wanting to do it at will was one of the reasons I'd stayed in.
There were many other exposé examples. It was an extremely well-written book and I was impressed. I'd only published a few books of my own at that point, but I'd sold lots of other writing and knew good journalism when I saw it.
So Jon Atack got me out of $cientology, God bless him, and the wildest thing happened — my writing career exploded after that. No longer concerned with "going up the Bridge to Total Freedom," I concentrated on my career and family. I began studying other religions again, as I had pre-$cientology. I would repeatedly laugh, every time I sold another book, at how I'd been continually told that if you left the cult, your life would fall apart. $cientology — the cult of lies.
Now Jon Atack has revised his great book and this time included things his legal advisors told him to leave out previously. Thankfully, there have been many more books exposing the evil cult, with more coming every day. The new book, Let's Sell These People a Piece of Blue Sky: Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology, uses the full cynical phrase Hubbard declared when he started $cientology, knowing it was a total fraud with the only workable parts stolen from other sources. (And by the way, Jon Atack was never a heroin addict, although Chick Corea and the late Nicky Hopkins had been.)
I could write several articles about how good Atack's revised book is and what is newly added and amazing to read, but it's better that you read it and learn for yourself. I helped Lawrence Wright with his excellent Going Clear but this book is better, more scholarly, and Jon Atack was actually involved with the cult and lived it, unlike Wright. Anyone who wants to understand the devious, insane nature of the fraud known as L. Ron Hubbard should read this book cover to cover, and investigate all the footnotes. You will not only want $cientology ended forever, you'll feel the same way about any similar spiritual huckster that comes along in Hubbard's wake.
Thank you, Jon Atack, for helping me leave the cult so long ago. You're a blessing.