In honor of the release of Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, The Master, VICE will be cherry-picking articles from our vault of the peculiar and grotesque that have to do with strange sects and cults. Keep checking VICE.com throughout the week as we roll out more of these oldies but creepies.
Everyone I know in Los Angeles lowers his or her voice when they talk about Scientology. This religion does more or less run Hollywood, and Hollywood pretty much runs Los Angeles, so people don’t fuck around with Scientologists. Like the mafia, they always find out and they never forget. Scientology is like heroin at this point: You know damn well what you’re getting into when you start to tangle with it, and if you choose to go down that route or date someone who does, well, that’s your problem. Mention Scientology or heroin to almost anyone, and they’ve got a story to tell. This one’s mine.
I still receive mail addressed to the prior tenants of my home. And guess what? Not only do they work within an educational institution, apparently they’re also Scientologists. This weekend my mailbox received the latest issue of International Scientology News, a magazine rounding up all the accomplishments of the previous year and looking forward to what’s to come in 2012. In fact, this one is called, in gold foil lettering, “Countdown to Eternity: Celebrate the Year of Source.” Score! I am totally not supposed to have this.
Scientologists are known as propagandist, pushy folk, which I’m sure to them seems like they’re simply emphatic about their religion. To most of the rest of us though, it’s a big turnoff. I ran into a gaggle of them manning a booth full of copies of Dianetics at a conference on spirituality and it was like a mantra: “Buythebook. Buythebook. HeydidImentionbuythebook.” Out of curiosity, I got an E-meter audit, that process where you hold on to two tin can-like thingies wired to a box that looks like a seismograph, and they ask you a bunch of questions to determine how fucked up you are. The guy delivering the test basically tried to get me to talk about my problems by way of manufacturing them for me. Still, I answered my questions sincerely. Once discovering I’m gay, he insisted my parents must have a problem with that/me (they don’t), and couldn’t get a reaction out of the machine until he fiddled with the dials a lot. Once the needle jumped across the numbers, he was like, and I am paraphrasing liberally, “Aha! See? You’re trapped. We can help.” No thanks, it’s cool.
I feel sorry for anyone who’s actually homophobic because it implies mental retardation; therefore, I have no huge personal beef with Scientology. I actually think the faith part, from what I’ve read, is pretty right-on: optimizing the body’s health through nutrition and purification and exercise; doing good inside your community; taking responsibility for yourself; clearing your emotional issues so you no longer react and instead are free to respond and disarm charged situations. Even the shit that sounds crazy to most people--i.e., that this planet is a dumping ground for all kinds of energetic and emotional refuse and extra-terrestrial lurkers, all of which are disembodied entities looking for human victims to latch on to--seems pretty accurate to me.
On the other hand, they take the “clearing” bit too far, encouraging one to be not just clear, but empty, and not in that Buddhist sense of liberation and reconciliation called śūnyatā. I’m talking straight-up gray alien cold removal, a vessel of nothing, totally nothing. This is the opposite of spiritual freedom, which is full of light, although "spiritual freedom" is their platform.
Plus, all that stuff where they abuse members, idolize their guru L. Ron Hubbard (aka LRH), prey on vulnerabilities to suck people dry financially, and generally kind of terrorize Los Angeles in their big black cars (one chased down my friends, who were on foot and lost, through an industrial zone one time) and helicopters, and hating gays, is a little problematic. Though once again, there’s been enough information about all this disseminated that if you still sign up, you kind of have it coming. If Scientology didn’t brainwash you, something else would.
Anyway, let’s really crack this thing open and take a look inside…
A headline written by the 1 percent.
Slamming down their acronyms across the globe.
Narconon is a drug detox and rehabilitation program based on L. Ron Hubbard’s theories on health, which the program's website openly talks about. This issue of International Scientology News doesn't explicitly discuss this. They talk about Narconon’s achievements as a separate unit while subtly intermingling the program’s logos with their own.
ISN tells the success story of an outreach center that opened in South Texas incorporating Narconon drug rehabilitation, where graduates then move on to a second phase of life coaching and become affiliated with Texas Border Patrol. So we’ve got burgeoning young Scientologists shooting first and asking questions later. The story boasts “That is the substance of what prompted a Certificate of Appreciation to Narcanon South Texas for outstanding contributions to the Rio Grande Valley, signed by Customs and Border Protection of the US Border Patrol.”
This was all noted on the front page of a local Texas newspaper called The Valley Morning Star, the image of which is included as art for the ISN story. If you squint enough, you can see The Valley Morning Star published these accomplishments on May 21, 2011. Searching the archives of the Valley Morning Star, however, a more recent story about this rehab center, initially called The Bridge, pops up. On July 2, 2011, it was reported that upon insistence of the Church of Scientology (citing trademark issues), the center changed its name. The Bridge in Scientology specifically refers to the state of mind one achieves once a person is "clear"; it is also the name of the church’s publishing entity. The feature in International Scientology News claims the center “was specifically dubbed the Outreach Center,” which it most certainly was not. Why are they simultaneously trying to show off to members about their ever-broadening influence while publically distancing themselves from their own achievements?
On to the next story, headlined “Replacing Corruption with TRUST & DIGNITY.” In short, it describes how implementation of their rhetoric has transformed specific divisions of the Peruvian National Police force. These divisions include neighborhood security, traffic control, a Watchman’s Unit of barrio patrolmen, municipal police working in impoverished neighborhoods, and transit police. They’re officially distributing Scientologists’ The Way to Happiness throughout jurisdictional channels. One colonel conducted “seminars at the police-supported soccer clubs, primarily formed on behalf of barrio kids who might otherwise run with backstreet dogs.” And this all culminated in a plaque and award of honor from the Peruvian National Police.
From here it just keeps on going, citing the people of Nepal as “first cousins to Scientologists” who live within a broken educational system that Scientology-sponsored programs are fixing all over the country, from academies in Kathmandu to rice farming villages in remote areas.
Next up: Mormon HQ, Salt Lake City, where Scientology has infiltrated the city’s lucrative copper mining business. One of the city’s most potent copper mining companies, Kaltech, is apparently a division of Scientologists’ work program, called LRH Admin Tech. Before hiring anyone, this company first tests a prospective employee’s Personal Potential Analysis, a Scientologist “aptitude” test, which seems like it must break some non-descrimination laws. Whomever passes is then fully inducted in Scientologists’ religious work program procedure, which apparently optimizes workflow and output. “In a world of raw power and elemental energy,” the story concludes, “it’s a saga of unqualified prosperity, for not only has Kaltech expanded tenfold since founding, but thanks to LRH Admin Tech it’s the number one mill relining firm on Earth.”
One racist font after another, we continue throughout the world in this surprisingly decently written magazine to southern Africa, where Grand Safari Events is superimposing animal spotting and wilderness training with Scientologist Admin Tech framework. On to a bakery in southern Austria once in the recessions of economic collapse, now flourishing under the tenets of Scientology’s business program. We go even further, into Costa Rica, where they showed “how a mission can plant a flag, start a wildfire and begin the clearing of a nation.” Scientologists also did some stuff in Taiwan, John Travolta went to a Scientologist Center opening in his hometown in Florida, blah blah blah.
There are all these weird game show images with amazing logos that look like digital polished brass or ice with numbers boasting shit I do not understand:
It turns into a super boring shelter mag for a second, talking about lots of ribbons falling and doors flinging open as new centers crop up all over the place…
And then it gets juicy again.
Chairman of the Board, Religious Training Center, Mr. David Miscavige delivers a speech to the attendees of what appears to be a glorious New Year’s Eve gala. In the electric words written, outlining his speech, you can sense through the pages that his delivery was so powerful that the crowd hushed and listened with such intensity they surely almost forgot to breathe.
“Fact,” he says. “What you will witness through the next few months fulfills every nuance of meaning in that word historic. As in, you will soon see a greater number of new Ideal Orgs than ever in our history. While even more than that, those orgs will form an unbroken chain of delivery across the Western World… And yes, even out to the doorstep of China.”
“Then again, you’ll also see a Golden Age of Tech Phase II designed to ripple out across the sea of humanity and turn this planet into no less than a platform for Global Clearing. And if by chance I still haven’t piqued your interest, you will further see the unveiling of our Mecca as a twenty-first century Scientology Cathedral. After which, you’ll be afforded vistas not seen since the first tick of time.”
Wait, there’s more! In addition to glowing verbiage about the Sea Org program, where “theta reigns and the considerations of MEST barriers such as time and space lose their grip on a being,” we see LRH lectures in action…
And children, such as a troop of Boy Scouts. (I wonder what the badge looked like for this?):
We are left with some knowledge.
And a directive.
Final notes on ISN #52: Setting precedents in empowerment, literacy, and peace is a fantastic thing. To rescue those in need and surreptitiously feed them your rhetoric, they will naturally associate wellness with your agenda, when in reality, those may be two separate things. The nature of altruism is to serve as its own reward, and this is not a comment reserved for Scientologists. Uplifting, supporting, and providing compassion is pure only when it is unconditional. Otherwise, you do no real service for anyone but yourself.