Going Clear: Sceintology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (2013) is investigative reporter Lawrence Wright’s expose on the Church of Scientology. From the thorough biography of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to the current crop of celebrity converts like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, the portrait which emerges from Going Clear is that of a dangerous oppressive cult.
According to Wright, Hubbard’s experimentation in spirituality began with his involvement in the early 1950s with Aleister Crowley’s Ordo Templi Orientis and participation in the Black Mass. According to Wright “Nibs - Hubbard’s estranged eldest son and namesake, L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. (he later changed his name to Ronald DeWolf) - claimed that his father had read the book (The Book of the Law by Aleister Crowley) when he was sixteen years old and developed a lifelong allegiance to black magic. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic just spread out over a long time period,” he continued. “Black Magic is the inner core of Scientology - and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works.”
Over the 430 pages of Wright’s book, the story he tells is shocking and bizarre. In the 1960s Hubbard and his movement literally went to sea. The Church of Scientology purchased several ships and the “Sea Org” is still the name of the full time Scientology clergy who have to sign “billion year contracts.” When a Sea Org member “blows” or leaves the Church, they are often hunted down and tried to be made to come back. Sometimes, according to Wright, force has been used. Sea Org members who offend some higher up in the Church are sent to “Rehabilitation Project Force” or “RPF” camps where they eat rice and beans and perform menial tasks. Sea Org members have been forced to divorce their spouses and “disconnect” from family and friends who have been declared by the Church hierarchy to be “Suppressive Persons” or “SP’s.” Wright’s book is full of footnotes that “The Church of Scientology refutes this.” And the Church refutes almost all of the book.
The rank and file members purchase “auditing sessions” where they are hooked up to “E-Meters” to “clear” the memories of past lives. At upper levels, auditing concentrates on removing Thetans, or disembodied spirits of aliens who have attached themselves to the person. Hubbard developed an elaborate cosmology which involves space aliens, fleets of battling spaceships, and Galactic Empires. When Hubbard died in 1986, Church leaders declared that the leader had “dropped his body” for a higher plane of existence. Scientologists still await Hubbard’s return.