(c) 2 August 2003, 26 September 2003 How to talk to a Scientologist Essay Copyright 2003, Michael Leonard Tilse, All rights reserved. No scientology organization, affiliated group, staff member or entity has any authorization to copy, print or store this essay in any form, including electronic messaging systems, databases, hardcopy or as information stored on information storage and retrieval systems. Doing so is a violation of my copyright. Anybody else can read it and print it and share it as long as it is in its original form, unaltered and with this copyright notice intact. This essay is my opinion and expressed under my inalienable rights of freedom of expression, speaking and writing recognized and unrecognized. Thanks for the commentary you anonymous posters. I took advantage of your wisdom when I made the revisions. That said, I'll give up my stylus when they pry it from my cold dead fingers.
2 August 2003, revised version 1.1 26 September 2003, Copyright 2003, Michael Leonard Tilse
How to talk to a Scientologist.
You might be a non-scientologist aquaintance, a family member or a friend. You might be a coworker. If you are reading this, you are probably concerned about their participation in the church of scientology and you want to help them. You want to talk to them about it.
You might have some idea that this person you care about would be better off if they knew more about the real facts of the church or were out of it all together. It becomes a problem because scientologists can be very defensive on the subject and the issue of scientology can cause arguments, pain, discord and estrangement.
I think people are interested in why some scientologists stay in the church and why some leave, so I thought I would talk to you about it.
I was a scientologist for 27 years. I gave the church of scientology over two hundred thousand dollars of my own money. In fact, until earlier this year I still considered myself a scientologist.
As has been pointed out, all scientologists are different. Different approaches may also work. But I think this essay will be helpful.
There is a lot of information that scientology is destructive. the church of scientology has had to pay out millions of dollars to people they have harmed. The church of scientology frequently loses lawsuits and court cases brought against it for its actions. It has a history of abuses and lies. Yet, as you may know, it seems almost impossible to talk about these things with a dedicated scientologist.
You might wonder how I decided to leave the church. After all, my parents tried to talk me out of being in it. My sister tried to talk me out of it. My friends tried to talk me out of it. None succeeded.
I wouldn't listen to anyone who tried to dissuade me from membership in scientology. I was so “in”, that I kept myself from reading critical news articles or viewing television shows. I never read critical books. (Well, part of one, in 1979.) I thought critical books or expose' writings were all lies anyway. The church said they were. I would have defended scientology to the death.
It was only through the contradictions I saw within the church of scientology, my personal experience with criminal acts by scientologists, with refusal of the church to tell me the truth about L. Ron Hubbard's death and finally the treatment I received from the church when I persisted in my questioning of these things, that finally drove me out of the church. But I had to make my own decision about it.
So there are a few things you maybe shouldn't do when taking to a scientologist. While confronting them with all the information on the net or telling them sensational things may shock them into a decision to leave, I think the following may be a good approach.
Don't talk to them about the weird “upper level” stuff. And it is pretty weird. It sounds like bad science fiction. But most scientologists don't know about it and are trained in the idea that finding out about it before they are ready will kill them. Or at least “ruin their case.” So just leave that entirely alone. The weird stuff may freak you out or bring on hysterical laughter and you might want to share it, but a scientologist will think it is a personal attack.
Don't assert it is not a religion. Some don't care but usually a scientologist will instantly tune you out the moment you say that. I would have. After all many scientologists have subjective experience that it is completely spiritual and religious in nature. To assert it isn't is to be calling them a liar and denying their own experience.
A scientologist invests a lot of their life and almost all their money in pursuit of the scientology promised “total freedom.” I want you to understand that. I am an example. Almost all my friends were scientologists. Almost all my money went to scientology. Up to 20 hours a week of my time was spent at the church studying or getting counseling, even when I had a full time job. My whole life centered around scientology and I wasn't even a staff member. For a staff member scientology becomes all consuming.
I felt that scientology had saved my life. That I would otherwise have destroyed myself with drugs or suicide. I felt I had experienced personal insight into the nature of my own being through scientology. It explained everything to me.
Telling me it is not a religion would have been counter to my belief, but more importantly, it would have been counter to my investment. If you asserted it is not a religion, then, if I accepted that I would have to ask myself what I did with my two hundred thousand dollars and my 27 years of association and all those hours of study and counseling? I would have had to admit that waste and I wouldn't have done that just because you stated “It's not a religion.” I am just one example. Other scientologists have spent much more in time and money. Up to millions of dollars. I think it is very difficult to admit the possibility it was a waste.
Don't tell them Hubbard was a con-man and a fraud and a bigamist and that almost nothing he said about himself was true. A scientologist can't believe that because he has been told that such statements are all lies. That the documents that say or show these things are fabrications by a shadowy conspiracy to destroy L. Ron Hubbard and scientology and thus deny people the total freedom scientology offers.
This kind of statement puts you in a he-said she-said situation. In fact, without careful research you might be presenting false information that the church has put on the Internet just so they can show their members how false it all is. So a scientologist will be sure you are now a tool of the conspiracy, out to destroy scientology. And they will not listen.
Don't tell them scientology doesn't work. For a scientologist, it does work. They know it. They will be able to point out one or many times where they had a success or it helped them through something or they felt better about themselves. They may have past life memories that convince them of their spiritual nature. They can have experienced wonderful things.
In fact, I still feel that some things in Hubbard's scientology teachings may be helpful. It is one of the hardest things to get over and understand. How the reality of the church is so different from what he said and promised. I am still coping with it. It's because a lot of the writing that Hubbard did appeals to ones better nature, to the idea of helping people, of attaining ones dreams. Some parts, like the basic scientology processes based on abreactive therapy and hypnosis, do seem to have merit. It is very seductive to have what seems to be positive experiences, and if a scientologist has any success they will attribute it to scientology.
But I've been doing some research. And one book is a book called “Hypnotism”, written by G.H. Estabrooks in 1943. In chapter three he says: “There is a rule in Hypnotism that everything we get in a trance can also be obtained by means of the posthypnotic suggestion. Also that anything we find in either can be found in autosuggestion...” There is a lot of interesting information in this book about how self-suggestion can create the most amazing phenomena and belief. How these delusions can persist even though you are not actively creating them. Like: “I'm better than my neighbor because I am a scientologist”, even when they are having trouble with paying the rent.
So I am coming to believe that almost everything that occurs in scientology that a scientologist experiences and believes in comes about as the self-suggested results of a kind of auto hypnosis. Everything that seems to work or be positive is put on the side of scientology and everything negative is assigned to personal failure or lack of understanding of scientology. After which there is a long bout of study to correct the matter, which again is a kind of auto-hypnosis to reestablish the trance.
And any direct outside challenge to that carefully maintained trance will result in greater and greater resistance.
So how DO you talk to a scientologist?
First, you have to care. You have to care for them. Regardless of what you think about what they believe or do, you have to care. You should throw out any bigotry or intolerance you might have. I'm not talking about “being caring” with an agenda. If you make up a “caring attitude” just so you can slip them information critical of scientology, forget it. A scientologist has the same bullshit detectors that you and I have. No, you have to really care about the person, regardless of their being in or out of scientology.
The important thing is to listen. Be a person they can trust to listen. Be a person of trust. If you are a friend or family, you should let them know you care and that caring is not dependent on them being in or out of scientology. Assure them you only want good things for them. Give them a safe place to visit or come to. You might be the only non-scientologist friend they have.
I wouldn't hide your disagreement with scientology, if you disagree. Don't lie about what you feel, but don't let it become a barrier between you and the person you care about. What I am counseling against is any kind of force or ultimatum or major argument over the subject of scientology that raises a barrier that would prevent a person from examining the subject for themselves. Don't trigger defenses.
Many times a scientologist won't leave the church even though they want to. They need a safe place away from the church and people of unconditional trust to go to. Any person needs a place to go.
It is a huge personal event to leave scientology. A scientologist has to somehow come to the decision they were wrong and all that money and time and investment is lost. Sometimes a scientologist has to be willing to lose friends, maybe even a husband or wife or children. Few people can do that in an environment where others insist they are wrong to be a scientologist because their first instinct is to protect themselves. And really, what a person has hypnotized themselves into can only be undone by themselves. I think that the necessary self examination of the rightness or wrongness of their decision to be in scientology can only occur in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.
When a scientologist starts starts having doubts about the church, the church becomes very judgmental indeed. You can be an alternative.
So, tell them that if they want to come and see you, just call and you'll pay their way. Don't say “leave the church”, say “come and see me.” If they call, sent them an airplane ticket or go pick them up. And when they show up on your doorstep, don't be surprised, be supportive.
Don't eagerly use their wanting to leave the church or their confusion about it to dramatically present them with stacks of information critical of scientology. Sometimes that works, but it can cause them to be defensive. You can ask them about it, but realize that they have a lot to think about. It can take some time. Give them space. Let them ask for information or let them use the Internet to find out themselves.
If they want to talk, get them talking about it. Have them tell you their experiences, good and bad. Talking helps, especially when the person listening is nonjudgmental.
It is the internal conflicts I experienced within scientology that broke the spell for me. So if I were now talking to a scientologist, I would talk to them about these things:
Have them tell you about what they experienced. They may have had some kind of upset with the church or another scientologist they need to talk about. If you are safe to talk to they can begin to examine their experience in the church rather than defending it.
As a person who wrote to me said, “What opens the door for me is getting the person's trust and then keeping it by *really* being nonjudgmental.” I have to agree.
There are some areas that might help them examine some of the contradictions in the church, once they are comfortable talking about scientology and are willing to tell you things they don't like or found upsetting about it. You cannot make up their mind for them. Your experience and what you have read is not theirs. But listening and providing information or access to information at least gives them a chance to examine the issues.
Get them to explain about the powers of an operating thetan, the higher levels in scientology. This is an area where scientology teaches that a person, through scientology, attains wonderful, almost superhuman abilities and personal power. See if they knew of people on those upper levels who didn't seem to have the promised abilities, seemed unethical or were getting sick or getting cancer or dying or just leaving the church. Get them to think how the reality they observe differs from what is promised. Even for people who have been in the church of scientology for years and have done the highest levels.
An ex-scientologist has pointed out that if these magnificent powers of a high level scientologist existed, how then could critics continue to write or even exist. Couldn't a top level scientologist just wish them away? This idea sometimes just gets a scientologist angry. But it does sometimes get them thinking.
Get them to describe the ideals of scientology ethics and justice and how scientologists are supposed to be honest and straight. Find out if they know any scientologists who won't pay back loans, who have trouble with paying their rent, who have done a lot of scientology but still seem shady or involved in schemes. If they have been around a while, they will know some personally or have heard of many such things.
Get them to explain what Hubbard meant by saying one shouldn't be “having to have before you can do.” Then have them tell you about what scientologists are told they need to do to before management releases the next “O.T.” levels. See if they can examine the contradiction inherent in what church management tells them: If it is so important that these upper levels be done to ensure the hope of the future, why are there things, like many more church organizations having to be created, that have to be done before these upper levels are released?
Find out if they experienced the misapplication of scientology justice themselves. Get them to talk about it. What effect did it have on them?
Find out what they think about Hubbard's writings being revised over 15 years after his death. Does it make sense to them?
See if they will talk about their feelings that it is “just them” that is having trouble but that scientology really is good. It is very common for someone to go for decades wondering privately why they are not getting the promised gains from scientology while outwardly defending it to the death.
These kinds of discussions and getting them to think about what they experienced and observed as compared to what they are taught and led to believe are a key to break the kind of spell they are under.
So, I think that you should talk with a scientologist completely non-judgementally. Get them to talk about what they have observed themselves in fellow scientologists, organizations, management and activities as compared to what they are given to believe from Hubbard's writings and the promises of management. Once they will talk with you, offer them some information to think about.
I think the most useful information to show them at first is not opinion by ex-scientologists or rants by critics but rather specific facts. Opinion and rants often contain a lot of emotion and assertions. They are easy to dismiss. I found that the official documents such as Hubbard's death certificate, the coroner's investigation report and the toxicology screen were really useful to me because I knew they were genuine. They are not just someone's opinion.
They should find out that Hubbard died of a cerebral vascular accident. That is not something the church would tell me, even though I asked repeatedly. Probably because that is in conflict with the supposed abilities Hubbard said are gained from scientology.
The coroners report tells us a scientologist doctor gave Hubbard Vistaril, a drug used by psychiatrists to combat anxiety. The toxicology report confirms this was done. Yet this is in direct conflict with many scientology writings about the horrors of “psych drugs” and the necessity of scientologists to remain free of them. And Hubbard was THE scientologist.
The police investigation into the death of Lisa McPherson at the scientology retreat called “Flag” in Clearwater Florida is very potent information. The actual court documents, depositions and especially the police reports of interviews of those involved raise serious questions. How can the obvious lying and concealment, even destruction, of evidence by the church as revealed in these documents be justified within the supposed ethics of scientology?
These kinds of documents are solid evidence, written and investigated by impartial people. They are not opinion, but reporting of facts. Just individuals doing their jobs. A scientologist reading them may discover they want to know more, not just what the church has been leading them to believe. In this way the door opens far enough that they will begin to read and compare the stories and experiences of ex-scientologists with their own.
It is important that you let them know it is entirely their own decision, their own responsibility. Choosing to stay in scientology, or to leave it is up to them and their own evaluation of information and experiences. They have to start looking for themselves.
So how do you talk to a scientologist? With care and understanding. They found a reason to be in it. Give them the caring, space, time and resources to find out more than what the church tells them. They may find a reason to be out of it.