Going Clear is a documentary that interviews former members of the Scientology ‘Religion’, such as Paul Haggis, Marty Rathbun and others, who were part of the ‘Church’ for decades and even became leaders within it, and who ultimately decided to leave the movement. As a consequence of their choices, they are now being harassed by members the ‘church’ that they served for so long, but have collectively decided they will not be silenced, and continue to speak out against the brainwashing cult that is Scientology.
I had previously been exposed to the ideas of Scientology basically through pop cultural references and also through the now infamous South Park episode that details the actual ideology of Scientologists. I’m not going to get into the frankly fantastical and confusing belief in Xenu the galactic overlord that killed aliens and implanted their souls into humans, but if you want a short rundown on what Scientologists actually believe, please watch the following 1 minute video:
Before continuing with the review of the documentary, I must make a disclosure: There are few things that bother me more in this world than people or collectives suppressing the personal freedom of individuals. Personal freedom is, for me, one of the highest ideals that we can ever aspire to as humankind. So whenever I come across movements like Scientology which so blatantly suppress people’s personal freedom and brainwash them into submitting to their frankly sometimes horrifying practices, the little angry voice inside me that balks at injustice grows louder and louder, demanding to make itself heard.
So forgive me if this review isn’t as tactfully constructed as I generally prefer my reviews to be, or if I sound cynical or as I mentioned, even angry at times.
With that said, I will proceed.
The documentary uses the ironic title Going Clear to unmask the oppressive history and practices of Scientology, but this is also the term that Scientologists themselves use to denominate a state of consciousness where an individual has rid himself of all negative emotions within his soul. Being ‘clear’ is, as one of the ex-members put it, one of the loftiest goals within the movement of Scientology that a member can aspire to.
The ‘technology’ that Scientologists use to determine a person’s level of ‘clarity’ is a little machine with an arrow that is part lie detector, part electricity conductor, that supposedly can measure the mass of thoughts. A person who can read this machine conducts an audit where he starts asking the person audited some questions about his life. Whenever the person being audited mentions a memory that triggers a negative emotion within himself, the arrow supposedly shows this, and the auditor encourages the person being audited to talk it out until all negative emotions associated to that memory evaporate, and the machine shows a state of ‘clear’.
This process is repeated until the person supposedly has no negative emotions left within himself. Of course, the auditors end up with a considerable amount of power over the persons they audit, seeing as they gain access to information about their private lives they otherwise wouldn’t have had. And all audits are recorded and filed, so the ‘church’ can have access to a person’s secrets whenever they like.
According to the views expressed within this documentary, once you reach the state of ‘clear’, the process isn’t over. It just so happens that the audits then turn into something comparatively more nasty: Sessions in which auditors make people feel increasingly worse about themselves. You are repeatedly told you are a bad person, you are not good enough, you have bad feelings and bad thoughts, and must continuously use the technology provided by the ‘church’ over and over and over again to clear yourself from the inside out. It’s a never-ending cycle of psychological abuse, and people fall into the trap because they were initially seduced by the pseudo-philosophy of ‘going clear’, and by the positive reinforcement of the auditors, which in time turns into negative reinforcement and abuse.
Ex-members also describe the work they had to do in different groups within Scientology that were exclusively created for the best students or for those who wished to become ‘Ministers’ of the ‘Church’. One of these groups was the Sea Organization. The people within this organization were basically recruited by L. Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology) while he was still alive to man his ships while he sailed around the world and was on the run from the IRS (the american tax authority).
People on the Sea Organization were paid like forty cents an hour for their work, and it was hard labor: scrubbing the ships and whatnot, all for the sake of becoming distinguished members within the organization, or ‘saving the world’, as their leaders would have them believe. How cleaning and maintaining the ships of a man running from the law saves the world, I have no idea.
Another group is the Seg Organization. This group was composed of people who were sort of having second thoughts about this whole Scientology thing, and they were sent there by their leadership in order to get re-indoctrinated back into the system. Ex-members who were trapped within the Seg Organization and managed to escape tell the story of how they were made to work 30 hours straight doing hard labor, with 3 hours rest, and how they had to sleep in dirty, wet mattresses and had their children taken away from them and sent into the Cadet Organization so the parents could focus their efforts exclusively on saving the world.
One mother who managed to escape the Seg Organization describes the terrible care and treatment the Cadet Organization imposed on her baby. She remembers seeing her infant daughter covered in fruit flies, in a urine soaked crib, with so much pus coming out of her eyes that it welded them shut. This is, word-by-word, what the woman said; the image she painted is so horrible that I don’t think I will ever forget it. Fortunately, this woman managed to dupe her bodyguard and escape the prison that was the Seg Organization, but countless others weren’t so lucky.
Now, coming back to L. Ron Hubbard, or as his followers like to call him, LRH. This guy was a man of prolific imagination. Proof of this is the thousands of books that he wrote over the span of his career as a novelist. Almost all of them were science fiction, and he was so prolific that they compared him to Isaac Asimov and other great writers of the science fiction genre of that time. But being talented doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has good morals. LRH’s ex-wife tells the story of the years of psychological and even physical abuse she suffered at the hands of this man, and also how he kidnapped their daughter and basically gave her away to a mentally challenged couple who raised her in a cage, like a monkey.
LRH started his whole ‘philosophy’ with the concept of Dianetics, which is psychological in nature. Once he lost the rights to this idea, he moved on to found Scientology, which he considered a religion from the start. However, the IRS disagreed, and accused him of evading his taxes. Instead of owning up to it, LRH decided to run from his country and spend the rest of his days at sea, where the IRS couldn’t find him and charge him the millions of dollars that he owed the state.
When he died, David Miscavige was appointed as his successor, and this is where the horror story really begins.
Miscavige was raised alongside LRH since he was eleven years of age. Since he was raised in this environment from a very early age, he learned all the tricks of the book, including how to expertly manipulate a crowd and brainwash people into believing and doing what he wants them to believe and do.
Ex-members of the ‘church’ tell of the years of abuse they suffered at Miscavige’s hand, of the punishment centers Miscavige set up in order to physically and psychologically abuse those he considered were trespassing against the movement, his obsession with celebrity and his fight with the IRS, a battle that he ended up winning (but more on that later).
According to what’s established in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, religions are tax-exempt. At the time Miscavige assumed leadership of the movement, Scientology owed millions of dollars on taxes that the movement couldn’t afford to pay. So the mission for Miscavige was clear: Get tax-exempt, or else let Scientology perish under the weight of the debts it owed. And seeing as he grew up within the movement, this was his whole world. Miscavige wouldn’t let something like the Internal Revenue Service threaten his entire world.
So he came up with an attack plan: He presented more than 2,400 lawsuits against the IRS on different claims and started a national smear campaign against the tax authority. In other words, Miscavige bullied the IRS, and it worked. Soon enough Scientology was declared a religion, and thus, was tax-exempt. Scientology was saved.
Miscavige is also the one responsible for recruiting celebrities such as Tom Cruise into the movement, who has become the international spokesperson for the ‘church’. He also bullied John Travolta, who had been a member since the days when LRH was still alive, into staying in the movement. He had so much dirt on Travolta from his audit sessions, that the moment Travolta threatened to leave, Miscavige issued the order to leak information on Travolta’s audit sessions to the press, such as that he had homoerotic tendencies and whatnot. If he didn’t want anything else leaked, Travolta would stay within the movement. And he did.
This is Scientology’s approach to anyone of importance that threatens to leave the church: Blackmail them into compliance. This is the work and machinations of a big sociopathic bully.
Miscavige was also the one responsible for creating a tear in Cruise’s and Kidman’s marriage, even brainwashing their children into believing their mother was a ‘suppressive person’ and a threat to their happiness, urging them to disconnect from her. Soon enough, the rift caused them to divorce.
This is another concept that I have a serious problem with because of how inherently and blatantly cult-like it is: To disconnect from your family and friends. Anyone who is a threat to the movement must be disconnected the member’s life. This irks me, especially since so many true philosophical and religious movements place a special emphasis on the importance of cultivating healthy and harmonious relationships with your family and the people that surround you. Never will a true philosophy or religion urge you to ‘disconnect’ from those closest to you, just on the basis that they believe something different than what you do.
But this is what Scientology does, and the end result is that a person becomes more and more immersed in the cult and with other cult members, more and more disconnected from their family or anything related to a normal life outside the ‘church’. This, of course, is the perfect environment for brainwash, because you have nothing else to compare it to. The cult becomes the new normal.
In this documentary, ex-members also come clean about the lies they were forced to spew to the media regarding their ‘church’, and how Miscavige gave them direct and express orders to lie whenever a scandal regarding the ‘church’ surfaced, all in order to save face and protect their organization. Of course, these ex-members are now constantly being harassed, to the point that the wife of one of these men filed a lawsuit claiming harassment against members of the ‘church’.
It’s all very horrifying, but perhaps the most troubling fact about it all is that members of Scientology are forbidden to read or see anything that attacks or criticizes their movement. They have no counter-arguments to balance their belief system, and no people outside the movement that they fraternize with. It’s no wonder that soon enough, Scientology does become a prison of belief, and this is the prison of the worst kind.
Dangerous cults ultimately all work the same way: They isolate you from reality in order to create a new reality, with special norms and regulations, that you must adhere to in order to become a respected and valued member of the organization. And of course, this makes it even harder for people to leave the cult if they want to, because they have no one to turn to, seeing as they pushed away all their family and friends.
The technique of forcing members to disconnect from their family and refusing to let them have access to any type of critical opinion regarding their movement is only the tip of the iceberg. The ingrained belief that all of the member’s efforts are to save the world, or make the world a better place, is another deeper and darker form of brainwash.
There is no ‘one way’ to make the world a better place. There isn’t ‘one type of work’ best suited for this objective. There isn’t ‘one movement’ that will save the world. Life isn’t so simple, but cults would have you believe otherwise.
The only way to make the world a better place is to become better individuals, to act out of deeds of love and wisdom and strength, to become ever more pure in our thoughts and emotions and actions. If enough people start acting out of love instead of out of their own selfish interest, soon enough the world will become a better place.
But this is a personal path, not a collective one. The change begins in the heart. Cults, however, would have you believe that theirs is the only way to personal development and even salvation. This is a fallacy, and it is a direct attack against personal freedom. And I’m sorry, but even if there were a single movement that could save the world, Scientology wouldn’t be it.
What basis is there for the belief in Xenu the galactic overlord? An old parchment written by a man who wrote thousands of science fiction books and who had an overactive imagination and quite possibly deep-set psychological problems? Really? There’s nothing else? Forgive me for being skeptical about the foundations of your belief system, but I’m going to need a little more evidence if I’m going to buy what you’re trying to sell.
But of course, Scientologists don’t see it this way, and for a very simple reason: They are devoted to LRH. His word is law, his writings are sacred, he is a God to them and as such, he cannot be questioned.
Well, I question him. And I question the 50,000 worldwide members of the ‘Church’ of Scientology who have ever suffered any kind of abuse from their leadership, who have been told over and over again that they are a bad person, or who have disconnected from their parents or children or friends and isolated themselves in their prison of belief.
Is the world really a better place for all your efforts? Are you really a better person? Do your actions prove this? Or are you just kidding yourself? Are you secretly miserable? It wouldn’t surprise me if most of you were.
Being brainwashed is a serious thing. The mind has enormous power, but it is possible to return back to normalcy. All it takes is some clear-headed thinking and the strength to admit that you made a mistake.
I also urge the IRS to grow some balls (pardon my french). Stripping Scientology of their tax-exempt status would be a huge blow to their movement. This is a dangerous cult that makes people suffer, all in the efforts of feeding the inflated ego of their sociopathic leadership and of course also for $$$, and they deserve to be taken down.
How do you prove Scientology isn’t a religion? Easy. Religions cannot profit from their work, but Scientology does profit, and it does so tremendously. The IRS shouldn’t give up on the fight against Scientology just because they’re scared. They’re the US government, for crying out loud.
I’m glad the truth about Scientology is finally coming to light, thanks to the effort of ex-members who have decided to speak up. Cults like these really do a tremendous disservice to mankind in general, and contrary to what they would have you believe, they are not spiritual in nature, but deeply oppressive and materialistic.
I grazed over the surface of what this documentary showcases, but if you’re interested in the details, I urge you to take a look, and if you’re in any way offended by what you see, as I am, take a moment of your time and speak up about it. All of these cult-like movements can be beaten with the Truth if enough people take an interest to stop them.
Because it has to be stopped. The craziness that is Scientology has gone on long enough.