If someone claims to be related to a god, the general gut reaction is to smile politely and slowly move away. However, being the great-grandson of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard, Jamie DeWolf almost has the right to make that claim.
Jamie’s grandfather, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard Jr., was L. Ron’s right-hand man until he decided to abandon Scientology, change his surname to DeWolf, and start a crusade to expose what he claimed were lies espoused by both his father and the church. That’s a family tradition Jamie has continued—though somewhat unintentionally—and he’s now the last of his relatives who’s willing to speak out against the organization that his great-grandfather created.
He’s also a filmmaker, circus ringmaster, writer, and performance artist and teaches kids at schools and young offenders’ institutions how to express themselves through art. I spoke to him about Scientology and the joy of Shakespearean dick jokes.
VICE: Hi, Jamie. Growing up an aspiring writer, was your great-grandfather a big influence on you, being a prolific sci-fi writer?
Jamie DeWolf: I was raised in an absurdly religious environment. I was baptized and went to apocalypse rapture camps, where we would wait in fields for Jesus Christ to come down and swoop us up. So when I was a child, actually, he was one of my greatest inspirations—along with the Incredible Hulk and Frodo and Wolverine. Every bookstore I went in I could see his name everywhere. My uncles would actually give me some of his science fiction books, and in many ways he became a living model [of how] anything was possible in terms of being a writer.
It wasn’t until a pastor gave me a book on cults—and I went through it, studying very carefully—that I got to Scientology. Before that, I had no consciousness that he was a cult leader. I had to discover that for myself.
You’ve described yourself as a "troubled teen malcontent." What do you mean by that?
Ever since I was young I would often get sent to the school psychiatrist for what I was writing. A lot of it was just too macabre, in retrospect. But I realized, even when I was a Christian kid, that a lot of what drew me into Christianity—and what they were certainly exploiting—was my fascination with demonology and the apocalypse, the Antichrist and the Whore of Babylon. I mean, those were my jams when I was a kid. I must have read the Book of Revelation 10,000 times by the time I was ten years old.
Imagine if Edgar Allan Poe was in elementary school—these days they’d send him to the school shrink, put him on some Prozac, and say, “Your writing is far too dark.” So who gets to win? What is good art if it doesn’t have any kind of an edge to it?
Tell me about your art.
I think art that celebrates everything that’s rowdy and raucous and randy in the world is a real way to bring us back to our roots, in a way. I remind that to students when I do writing workshops with them. You know, Shakespeare had mad dick jokes in all of his plays; when you went to see a Shakespeare play there wasn’t this sense, back in the day, that it was dry, antiquated language—it was pretty dirty and rowdy.
How has the Church of Scientology reacted to your performance art?
People who I believe were Scientologists came after me immediately after I wrote that [first anti-Scientology] piece in 2000. They are absolutely in-your-face confrontational.
A lot of people don’t know this, but my grandfather—L. Ron Hubbard Jr.—actually created a lot of the Fair Game policies on how to come after your enemies. He helped develop a lot of that complete "destruction of your enemies" philosophy, obviously with his father guiding him. But then he started going after the cult himself, and he could just list off everything they were going to unload on him because he had helped, literally, to write the guidebook.
Do you get bored of talking about Scientology?
For some—because of South Park and stuff like that—it’s a wacky, surreal, funny factoid: “Aw, isn’t that cute—they believe in aliens.” But then you meet people who've lost 20 to 30 years of their life, or lost their houses. I was doing a circus yesterday and met a trapeze artist who's seen the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition in LA and was talking to me backstage. I found out her sister is in the Sea Org and hasn’t spoken to her for over 15 years, and her whole father’s side of the family runs Orgs and refuse to talk to her. I feel I owe something to the thousands—hundreds of thousands at this point—of victims who've been left behind and have been smashed into silence, including my grandfather, because of fear.
Jamie during a circus performance
What do you think the future of the church is?
Gerry Armstrong used to be L. Ron Hubbard’s biographer. He suggests that we’ve never seen Scientology pushed to the absolute wall. What happens when they get to a point where they actually feel like there is no future? Could we be looking at something that just holds in there tenaciously through public scorn and becomes an institution in 100 years? We could be seeing the end of an empire, or it could be changing into something very different. And as to whether that’s something that's more open—which I’m real cynical about—or something that's even more elusive and dangerous, I don’t know.
You were recently in Clearwater, Florida—the global spiritual headquarters of the church—for an anti-Scientology conference, right?
Yeah, they asked me to be a speaker, so I was like, "All right." It seemed like a good time to return and meet some of the other people who have their own private battles. I also had a sort of atomic bomb with me, which is that I’ve just recently got my hands on the secret memoir of my grandfather, which the public hasn’t seen and the church has tried to bury for a long time.
I felt that I wanted to give the world a bit—just a taste—of some of this memoir so people get a sense of who L. Ron really was. Especially who he was in the formative, early years, when it was much more about power and these rituals that he had transposed from black magic. It’s been backed up in multiple places, so the cult isn't gonna stop it by just breaking into my house—it’s out there.
And you think there were private detectives following you when you were there?
Private detectives followed us every day that we were there. Before I went out there, I made a public statement to all my friends and family that, if something weird happens to me out there, they shouldn't believe it. You know, if I slip on some soap in the shower, if I crack my head open—don’t believe it.
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