Ok, here we go, down the rabbit hole. Over the next few posts I’ll cover how I was slowly indoctrinated into giving up everything I’d known and diving headfirst into the crazy world of Scientology.
The year was 1988. I was 27 years old, a year or so out of a bad marriage, living in San Mateo with my best friend, and just starting a new business in Palo Alto. Things were looking pretty good, right?
Not really. I was actually at a low point, but I wasn’t telling anyone about it. I was unhappy with myself and felt like I had no direction. I’ve already mentioned in another post how I got introduced to Scientology, but I haven’t really talked about my first day in the door at my field auditor’s office. Let’s call him “Jim”.
A Scientology field auditor is the most independent of practitioners. Basically, they operate like feeder lines to the higher-level organizations. The higher the organization, the higher the level of service delivered—for more money, of course. The hierarchy is field auditor, mission, Class V Org, Advanced Org, Flag Service Org. The last two are manned entirely by Sea Org members, but field auditors and mission staff are public Scientologists. Class V Org staff are one step below Sea Org staff in that they sign a contract, but it’s only for five years and they get paid. Plus they don’t get imprisoned.
Enough of the background. It was a late August day in 1988. I was hesitant to see this counselor, because I’d never had good experiences with therapists before. But I trusted the person who’d recommended him and hey, it was a free introductory session, so what did I have to lose? Famous last words.
When I got to the office building, it looked pretty innocuous: the typical brown-shingled 80’s-type office complex in Los Gatos, California, which is a very nice area so I felt pretty comfortable. When I entered the office, Jim greeted me warmly and seemed quite kind and not at all threatening. He was different than other therapists I’d seen and we had an instant rapport.
After we’d spoken for a few minutes—basic introductory chit-chat—Jim asked what I was there to work on. I told him a little about the substance abuse and the affair, and my general lack of direction in life. He said this wasn’t unusual, and that he’d helped many other people in my situation.
Then he asked me if I knew anything about Scientology. I said I didn’t. In 1988, there wasn’t a lot broadly known about it and remember, there was no internet. He then asked if I had heard of Dianetics. I said I had, as I’d seen a few of those “exploding volcano” commercials on TV over the years. (Little did I know that only a few years later, I’d be working alongside the person who made those commercials.)
He explained a bit about Scientology, telling me it was a system of tools to handle specific problems in life. Sounds pretty simple, right?
Then he had me take a “personality test”. This is a 200-question test that’s supposed to give you insight into the specific areas that are bothering you. It’s basically rigged and it’s a key way to get people into Scientology, because it makes them look at all the terrible things about their personality that they need to get fixed.
I started crying when I saw the results. “Yes! I’m critical of myself!” “You’re right! I let people take advantage of me!” “How did you know that I’m so depressed??” First of all, DUH. Second of all, the words he said next were the clincher:
“It’s not what I know about you, it’s what YOU know about you. Scientology can help you change that.”
BAM. He got me. In Scientology terms, this is called “finding a person’s ruin,” i.e. what’s ruining their life, so you can show them how Scientology can fix it. It’s a pretty slick trick, and I used it for years after that to get hundreds of people into Scientology—something I’m still trying to forgive myself for.
Jim recommended I buy a book to start: Introduction to Scientology Ethics. He said that would be the best one for me to start with as it covered the basics of ethics and morals. I should have run right there, but I was feeling pretty amoral at the time, so what the hell.
I took the book home and put it on a shelf, thinking I’d get to it at some point, but I had work to finish.
A couple of days later, I got a phone call. My dear childhood friend Chris had just died from “pneumonia”. He and I had spent almost every weekend together as kids in Orange County, then we moved up to San Francisco within months of each other in the early 80s. He was so happy there, finally free to be himself. We had many years of fun—so many clubs, so many parties, so much hilarity. So much disco!
Then Chris got sick. A few months later, he died. I was absolutely gutted, not just because of how he died, but because nobody in his Catholic family would admit what it was. Nobody would talk about it. I was a mess.
That same day, Jim happened to call me to check in and see if I’d started reading the book I’d purchased. I told him that one of my best friends had died. I was pretty hysterical. “Come see me right now—I can help you,” he said.
I have no idea why I felt he could help me, but he was so calm about it all and so insistent, that I just got in the car and drove. When I got to his office, he met me outside and said, “Let’s go for a walk.” He began to point out things in the environment and ask if I could see them: “Look at that tree.” “OK.” “Look at that lamppost.” “OK.” And so on.
This is called a Locational Assist in Scientology, and it’s supposed to get a person to extrovert when they’re stuck in their head. I mean, taking a walk, how novel, right? But it worked. I started feeling better.
Jim brought me back to his office and said, “Would you like me to help you be less upset about all of this?” “Sure,” I said. He then proceeded to give me a “Book One” auditing session, so named because Dianetics is the first book L. Ron Hubbard wrote.
He had me go back to the moment when I got the phone call that Chris had died, and to tell him everything about it, every detail, then go over it again and again and again until it no longer had the same emotional charge. He then had me go back to earlier and earlier times I’d felt that same emotion. I think the last one was when my dog died when I was a kid.
I felt a LOT better after that session. SO MUCH relief. “This worked!” I said. “What is this stuff anyway?”
That’s when he POUNCED.
To be continued…