On Saturday, November 12, 2016, Tony Ortega at The Underground Bunker wrote:
We have many former Scientologists in our reader community, and we wanted to hear your thoughts about this. What motivated you to follow the intricate rules in Scientology? And what fear did you have, if any, for the prospect of being hauled in by ethics for a sec check?
As a former scientologist (1977 to 2014), I recall how exciting life became when I joined fellow scientologists in going against the status quo.
When I joined scientology, I had been looking, searching for a new religion. I had been raised as a Christian in the Methodist church, but early on developed an affinity for the subject of reincarnation. Mankind, I noticed, liked to treat each other like dogs but, I reasoned, men are not dogs. So, I explored other worlds: the Catholic religion; the Bahá’í Faith; and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But I reached a turning point with a viewing on the big screen of the motion picture Siddhartha (1972), based on the 1922 novel by Hermann Hesse. My journey through many faiths is my search for the meaning of life.
Photo 1 Caption: Two female Sea Org members talk on the front steps outside of the American Saint Hill Organization (“ASHO”), located at 1413 L. Ron Hubbard Way (“LRH”), in Los Angeles, California. In the foreground is a metallic sculpture of a lion, ASHO’s mascot (with the lion acting as the Protector of the Technology of scientology).
In 1977, I came into a small amount of money, an insurance check, which had been lost in the mail for a year. I had no idea that it had been sent to me, so when it turned up, I made plans to leave Upstate New York. Just before this, I had a few conversations with Jerry, my former Methodist Youth Fellowship Leader, in which I explored my desire to write. Jerry suggested that I should travel these United States; get a job on a farm, then work in the city, all the while discovering what makes people “tick.” So, with check-in-hand, I said “goodbye” to my friends, family and job.
I had little to no idea of the direction in which I would be heading. I simply got in my car and started driving. I had a vague idea of my destination: west. A work associate’s sister had been dating a musician, living somewhere between the Mississippi and the Pacific Ocean, and I thought, “How wonderful it would be to join them.”
The vehicle I drove in (and the only car I’ve ever owned) has been voted (by a YouTube Channel, that is) the worst car ever made: a Ford Pinto, a 1972 hatchback. The Pinto and I drove from Upstate New York to Orlando. Florida, where I secured a job at Walt Disney World, yet I opted out. Instead, the Pinto and I headed west.
Photo 2 Caption: With every visit to PAC Base, I received an escort by one of PAC’s Security Guards. Here we have one on a bicycle.
After arriving in Louisiana, I pointed the car north, arrived long enough in Kansas City to get my bearings, and began driving west. The state of Kansas, I recall, had tumbleweeds half the size of my car.
I drove twelve hours a day, barely stopping for meals. Looking back at it now, I traveled as if possessed; as if an “inner voice” called the shots.
I traveled with the Beatles—on cassette tape, that is. One side of a Beatles album, in particular, had grabbed my attention from the get-go: Side “2” of Abbey Road (1969).
Abbey Road, the Beatles’ eleventh studio album, had originally been released during my first year in high school. At that time, however, I didn’t have the opportunity to acquire the record album. My brother, Guy, and I had strict rules about the kind music we could listen to, and it couldn’t be any “stronger” than the Carpenters, Sonny and Cher or Elton John. I suppose my parents saw the Beatles just like someone would have seen Led Zepplin (a group that some teachers at my school protested against).
Photo 3 Caption: In this composite of two photos, we see two scientologists doing the Survival Rundown (“SR”). In the left picture, the guy is most likely a public scientologist, whereas the lady holding the official SR clipboard (always white) and pen (always blue) is a SO member in her particular org’s uniform. In the photo on the right, she smiles nicely for the camera. She is his “coach”; they are standing on the east side of LRH Way, just north of the intersection of that street and Fountain Avenue.
Alan Parsons serviced as Production Assistant for Abbey Road; I’ve read somewhere that he is instrumental for forming the sound found on Side 2. I didn’t know this at the time time, and would only learn later of his influence (as Engineer) of one of the best-selling records of all-time: Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Parsons would later form the Alan Parsons Project of which I became a big fan.
Side 2 of Abbey Road became my soundtrack as I searched for the meaning of life, which continued as a crossed the border from Kansas into Colorado. There, I entered what I believe is the longest stretch of my journey; from the moment I saw the Rocky Mountains, that destination just about consumed my thoughts. As those mountain crests drew closer, I dreamed of being in a garden on a Sunday morning, singing “Here Comes the Sun,” the first song of Side 2. Like a winter in England which goes on forever, that stretch of Highway 70 seemed never-ending, and the Beatles helped fill in the gap.
Leaving Upstate New York provided an opportunity to quit marijuana, as I had become quite a pothead. I started smoking weed in 1975, but after almost two years, I knew that I had to quit because I smoked too much of the stuff; it had begun to cloud my mind. The trip west, and the freedom afforded such a change in environment, offered an out, an end to the haze through which I saw life. Later, when I learned of scientology’s disfavor with marijuana, it only firmed up my decision to join that group. (I’m not against pot, just against smoking it myself.)
Photo 4 Caption: In this photo, there are two people: on the right, is a male SO member as he exits the front door of the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (“AOLA”), located at 1306 LRH Way, in Los Angeles; and a female dressed in blue, a scientologist who has been recruited for the SO. She is on the Estates Project Force (“EPF”) and will become a SO member only after she has satisfactorily graduated from that program. When I served in the SO in the late 1970’s, the EPF consisted of a lot of hard work (such as the type this EPFer is engaged in) as well as various courses (such as “Introduction to the Sea Org” and “Welcome to the Sea Org Tapes”).
One of the most beautiful memories I have is my arrival in Denver and in the foothills of the Rockies. After Denver, I climbed Pikes Peak, seventeenth among Colorado County’s highest points. How my Pinto ever made it is beyond me, but that car purred up that mountain like a cat; I even survived a brief moment that early May in 1977 when a light snow blanketed the highway.
The Rocky Mountains proved to be a turning point in my journey west because I never lacked a moment of out-of-this-world entertainment, courtesy Mother Nature. The highway through a long portion of the Rockies is intertwined with the railroad. As I traveled, a train marked my journey; the locomotive and I moved at similar speed, and for a considerable distance. Long moments would pass as the train disappeared from sight, only to emerge from a tunnel on the other side of the road. Before the mountains west of Denver became the foothills of eastern Utah, a plain emerged in which I saw a herd of wild horses.
My trip into Utah and Salt Lake City (“SLC”) proved uneventful except upon my arrival in that city. After passing Strawberry Reservoir, I entered the mountains to SLC’s east, and began a long, gradual descent into SLC. Soon, I could see the golden dome of the state’s capital building shining brightly with the descending sun. The effect of the city and ensuing shadows as night arrived made me declare, “This is the place,” the exact phrase uttered by pioneer Brigham Young some one-hundred-and-thirty years earlier as he arrived in what would become Salt Lake City.
Photo 5 Caption: In this picture, we see two scientologists having a conversation at the Pacific Grill & Barbecue (“PGB”), on LRH Way, in Los Angeles. The lady on the right, a SO member, is a “coach” for the SR (notice that Bridge action’s signature clipboard and pen in her hands). In this photo, they are facing LRH Way with the Main Bldg. behind the shrubbery.
The beauty and solitude as a traveler on the highways of America came to a screeching halt, for on the third day of my arrival in SLC, someone broke into my car and stole all of my musical equipment. This included a clarinet, with which I had performed in the high school concert and marching bands (I had also auditioned twice for the Air Force band); an Alto Recorder made of pearwood; a guitar, on which I’m self-taught. A police officer understood my angst when he escorted me through the city’s pawn shops in the hopes of tracking down those missing possessions (which we never did find).
Within short order, the realities of life came into view, for I had no job, no friends, no home to call my own, and less than two-hundred dollars to my name. Soon, I moved from the hotel I stayed in the first few days of my arrival into a bed-and-breakfast type home run by Mr. and Mrs. Tibbets, an elderly couple who owned a stately home, located between downtown SLC and the University of Salt Lake. There, I shared a room and enjoyed meals twice a day (a bagged lunch would be also provided if needed).
Photo 6 Caption: A woman walks north along LRH Way, outside of the Los Angeles Organization (“LA Org”), located at 4810 W Sunset Blvd., in Los Angeles. She may very well be a public scientologist on her way to course at that org.
Life before SLC had been a veritable roller-coaster ride in which one day, I’d be at my highest, only to come careening down into darkness where I would languish until the next ascent (this is called, in scientology, “rollercoastering,” in which the wins one gained one day would be lost the next, if one stayed connected to a Suppressive Person). To avoid life, I went to a $1.00 movie house where I saw the Dino De Laurentiis blockbuster (in North America, at least), King Kong (1976) for a second time. The next night, I went to see the motion picture for a third time, but on my way, I made a decision that would forever change my life.
As I approached the movie house, I saw a young man holding a clipboard as he talked to a pedestrian. Lonely and in a new city, I thought to myself, “If he’d talk to me, I’d talk to him.” And wouldn’t you know it: when the other person left, the scientology Body Router (“BR”) from the Mission of Salt Lake City (the guy with the clipboard) did just that.
Photo 7 Caption: In this composite of two photos, we see two SO members on the left; in the picture on the right, one of them looks like she’s taking a picture of me. I shot this photo as they walked west along the north side of Sunset Blvd., about a block away from PAC Base, in Los Angeles.
“Where do you see yourself six months from now?” the BR inquired. Other questions followed in quick pursuit: “Where do you see yourself a year from now?” and “Where do you see yourself five years from now?” The words, “five years from now,” echoed in my head as I blindly rattled off a few now-forgotten dreams. The BR’s excitement and enthusiasm captured my attention as he stated, “What if I told you that I have a way for you to achieve those goals?” Intrigued, I walked with the BR (not knowing anything about a BR and what one does and why) to the Mission.
The BR turned me over to a Registrar, who had me fill out an OCA, the Oxford Capacity Analysis, a 200-question test designed to plot your personality and characteristics (good, bad and indifferent) on a chart. Grinning at me widely from ear-to-ear, the Registrar held up my chart and stated, “Here’s where you sit in life.” The chart showed peaks and dips, a number of them in not-so-complimentary realms of which the Registrar said that scientology could help me with. His solution? The $50 Communications Course.
With that the mention of money, however, I balked. Everything with scientology had been proceeding nicely, even with their evaluation of me on that OSA chart (tactics I would know nothing about until after I left scientology in 2014). So I did what comes quite naturally to almost any unemployed lonely guy in the big city: I lied. With my wallet in my back pocket and $175 in life savings tucked safely in it, I told the Registrar that I had left my wallet at home, but that I would come back the next day and pay for the course. Not knowing that the Registrar had heard that song-and-dance before, he offered to drive me home so I could get the money and pay for the course that night. So, I went through the motions: he drove me home; I went to my room; I watched the clock for a minute or two while I “retrieved my wallet”; and then forked over the cash to the Registrar.
Photo 8 Caption: I shot this photo of two female SO members as they walked west along Fountain Ave., in front of AOLA, in Los Angeles.
Oppressed by a domineering mother (my father, when I turned eighteen, told me if given a chance to do it all over again, he didn’t think that he would marry her), I never did display a rebellious youth. Scientology helped unleash that, the teenager in me yearning to be free from the constraints of society. L. Ron Hubbard voiced those restrictions with wild abandon in his book, A History of Man which I read, cover-to-cover, during a month’s hiatus between the Comm Course and the HQS (“Hubbard Qualified Scientologist”).
Scientology didn’t hook me, however, through a book. They didn’t make me read the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. They didn’t invite me to a lecture where I would then discuss Hubbardisms with other participants, over a cup of coffee. No, scientology knew exactly what this free spirit and open-minded soul needed: through their “TR’s,” or Training Routines in the Comm Course, scientology promptly hypnotized me.
Photo 9 Caption: In this composite of two pictures, we see two women in the left picture. In that photo, a SO member talks to an elderly scientologist. They may have been discussing vitamins (notice the container that the elderly lady holds). The photo on the right is a better picture of the SO member. I captured them digitally as they sat outside Lebanon Hall, between the Main Bldg. and ASHO, on LRH Way, in Los Angeles.
Scientology, I would later discover, has its roots in Theosophy, yet LRH claimed his “discoveries” were all his own; I thoroughly believed LRH when he declared himself “Source.” L. Ron Hubbard’s power through his devotees helped capture my soul and steer me from the life I would have had if not for scientology. I became a devotee and believer; I lived for L. Ron Hubbard and scientology because it offered me a slice of truth, something my “inner voice” grabbed hold of.
After a few weeks in scientology, it began to dawn on me that maybe, just maybe, scientology believed in reincarnation, so I confided in a Registrar at the Mission. “Do you… I mean, does scientology believe in reincarnation?” I whispered after I closed his door for a conversation most private. “Heck, yes,” he exclaimed quite loudly, and with that, I knew that I had “arrived.”
Just a little over a month transpired between my arrival at the Mission of Salt Lake City and the break-ins by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), in scientology offices in Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. In that brief moment of time, scientology had me hood-winked; as I prepared to move from Tibbet’s Boarding House into an apartment, I had also been working, non-stop, on slipping comfortably into scientology’s “bubble world.” The FBI, I “knew” were wrong for doing what they had done. Did I even know the reason for their actions? Did it bother me? Did I even care? No, and I wouldn’t even understand the nature of “Operation Snow White” (as Wikipedia refers to it) for another 37-years, not until that “bubble world” dissolved when I finally left scientology.
Photo 10 Caption: The man on the left is a public scientologist, while the other man (in uniform) is a SO member, his “coach,” on the SR. To the right is a lady wearing sunglasses and a red hat who is walking north along LRH Way, in Los Angeles. Between the “coach” and the lady is a tree, and behind it, sitting on his bicycle, is that ever-present PAC Security Guard. [Update: the second man from the left, the one in the Sea Org uniform, is Ken Nieztche (perhaps spelled “Nietzsche”), an Australian, who is a staff member at the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles (“AOLA”). Many thanks to Chuck Beatty for the identification.]
Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom” is the carrot that they dangled in front of me in my pursuit of the answers to the mysteries of life. Every time I ached spiritually or stumbled physically along the way, scientology caught me and urged me on, much like a cheerleader at a football game. I can’t tell you how many times a Registrar promised that “scientology can fix that,” as I went further into debt in order to buy my next step on the Bridge. I never did make enough money to afford countless hours of auditing or security checks (“sec checks”); a scientology liability that would later become my advantage.
I made it only to Level Zero as an auditor and never did attest to the State of “Clear” (although something scientologically and wonderfully weird happened in April 1978, the result of an assessment done by a Field Auditor, and I haven’t had a single headache or migraine since). So I did the next-best thing to support scientology: I joined the Sea Org (“SO”) for two years and later “contributed” countless hours working as a public person at a bevy of scientology orgs and Front Groups.
Photo 11 Caption: I used to live three blocks west of PAC Base, in Los Angeles, which made it very easy to go there and do photojournalism. As I walked home that sunny March day earlier this year, I came across a BR handing out “free” Dianetics Film and “free” OCA Test tickets. One of the most effective ways to disabuse a BR of doing his or her work is to simply take many pictures of their activity. After a dozen pictures, the BR left the northwest corner of Sunset Blvd. and Edgemont St., a block west of PAC Base.
Through scientology, I never really feared anything; not going up The Bridge became my only real fear; a fear of being left behind. Aside from that, nothing else really mattered. And without money, I never faced sec checks. Sure, I ended up on Ethics lines from time-to-time (ex-scientologist Skip Press, as an Ethics Officer at ASHO Day, helped guide me as a public person in the mid-1980’s. Thanks, Skip!). I sat on the side-lines, watching scientology pass right before my very eyes.
In 1986, while at the event at the Hollywood Palladium in which David Miscavige announced the death of LRH, I vowed to never attend another scientology event. My “inner voice” told me that scientology would never, ever be the same again, and I stuck to that decision. I never did get caught up in the confusion evoked by LRH’s “successor,” David Miscavige; I never contributed financially to the “Ideal” Org project. I barely maintained an annual membership with the International Association of Scientologists (“IAS”), and never had a staff member try to get me to “raise my status level.” When selling complete sets of the “Basic Book and Lecture” package became all the rage, I didn’t fork out $5,000 for that privilege; instead, I bought that material, for pennies on the dollar, at eBay. What better way, than eBay, to “Complete Your LRH Library”!
It’s been a little over two years since I departed scientology; I’ve been hounded and pursued by their Office of Special Affairs (“OSA”), who even convinced a Sea Org staff member in June 2016, to file a bogus Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) against me for “stalking” (“Scientology the Bully—Part 1—CH-100—A Request for Civil Harassment Restraining Order Against Me.“).
Photo 12 Caption: In photo #11, you might be able to see the large tree planters that line the north side of the street. In this composite of four photos we see, in four such planters, an unwanted Dianetics Film ticket as well as discarded OCA Test tickets (in English and in Spanish).
Thank you, scientology, for buckling and settling out-of-court; the TRO never went to trial.
Thank you, Tony Ortega and the Underground Bunker, for helping make my escape from scientology (and OSA) all that much easier. Thank you to Mike Rinder and blogs like his, to Karen De La Carriere and Jeffrey Augustine, and to everyone who assisted me morally and monetarily through the trails and tribulations created by OSA.
[Today’s blog has been interspersed with never-before-seen photographs of scientologists and Sea Org members, people like me, all in search of the meaning of life. I shot these pictures during a visit on March 10, 2016, to the Pacific Area Command Base (“PAC Base” or “Big Blue”), scientology’s West Coast headquarters in Los Angeles, California. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll spot a loved one, a friend or work associate, someone who gave up everything in order to dedicate their life to L. Ron Hubbard and scientology. Such a person may have even disconnected from you; it has been my intention, for at least the last year, to “Reconnect the Disconnected and Declared” (“RDD”). The RDD series began earlier this year, with “Reconnecting the Disconnected and Declared—March 4, 2016—Part 1.“]
All images (unless noted otherwise) © 2015—2016 Fred G. Haseney. All rights reserved.
The Underground Bunker, Tony Ortega on Scientology, “Leah Remini schools us on what motivates Scientologists to toe the line.”