“You can also dive off a bridge or blow your brains out.”
“If you leave this room after seeing this film and walk out and never mention Scientology again, you are perfectly free to do so. It would be stupid. But you can do it. You can also dive off a bridge or blow your brains out. That is your choice.”
Those are the chilling and deadly serious words spoken at the end of the Orientation film, which is shown to brand new people in Churches of Scientology all over the world. Or at least it was, up to last Sunday, January 24th, when the film’s star, actor Larry Anderson, very publicly departed from the Church of Scientology.
The Orientation film, and particularly that closing monologue, exemplify for me the solid, deathly seriousness that pervades the current Church of Scientology these days. In earlier times, when someone wanted to find out about Scientology, they usually went to a live lecture – given by someone actually interested and enthusiastic about the subject. There used to be something called “Spirit of Play.” These days, new people are ushered in to a dark room where they sit, usually alone (with a staff member to monitor them), and watch a very earnest and didactic film, which ends with a chilling warning which equates turning one’s back on Scientology with suicide.
Many new people, after seeing that film, do walk away and never return. They don’t want to be part of that kind of fanatical seriousness. And more and more Scientologists, like Larry Anderson, are walking away from the unrelenting, grinding pressures and deadly threats that are part and parcel of today’s Church of Scientology.
Others are not so lucky.
The words of Orientation took on an alarming prescience last May when OT VIII and major IAS contributor Steve Brackett committed suicide by literally diving off the Highway 1 Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur Coast of California at 5:30 one morning. The Church tried to spin it, saying that Brackett had been the victim of a head-on collision. It was a lie. Insiders say that Brackett, a multi-million dollar IAS contributor, was despondent over financial difficulties. He was scheduled to go to Flag the next day, but chose instead to end his life.
The experiences of other OTs, as reported online, make it clear that a trip to Flag is anything but pleasant these days. OTs and Scientologists are invalidated and evaluated for, told they are not Clear, told they must redo levels over and over because of this or that arbitrary (the latest arbitrary being reported is that people are being pressured to re-do any auditing they did prior to the release of Golden Age of Tech in 1996. That’s right, not training, auditing.)
And all the while, more and more and more pressure to contribute money – to the IAS, to the “Ideal” Orgs, to the endless Superpower Building construction. And if they refuse to give more and more money? Then they are “out Ethics.” They are subjected to endless Ethics interviews and Sec Checks – all at their expense.
The latest victim of all this pressure and stress was OT and major IAS contributor Rex Fowler. As this article notes, Denver police have charged Fowler with first degree murder in the shooting of his former business partner, Thomas Ciancio. Ciancio was not a Scientologist. Fowler was originally thought to be a victim in the shooting, but the head wound he suffered was apparently self-inflicted, a botched suicide attempt. There was only one gun involved in the incident, Fowler’s 9mm Glock. Ciancio’s wounds could not have been self-inflicted.
What could drive Fowler, an OT, to such desperation? What could drive him to such depths that he would consider murder, and suicide, his only options.
The article goes on to say, “Ciancio, who was Fowler Software’s chief operating officer, resigned Nov. 23, 2009 in a dispute over the way the company was being managed.” Specifically, the company “reportedly had suffered financial difficulties since 2008, related in part to the transfer of as much as $200,000 to a church or charity by Fowler.”
One can read between the lines. Fowler, like Brackett, like many OTs who have published their stories online, was under intense financial pressure from the Church. He was being pressed for more and more donations – even if it was money he did not have, even if it was money belonging to and vital to his business.
An OT VIII friend of mine confessed that she had been suicidal after completing the level. Here she had reached the highest level attainable in Scientology, but she didn’t feel free or causative or OT. Yet she dreaded returning to the Freewinds or to Flag for more auditing, more invalidation, more Ethics, more Sec Checks – and more expenses. She was already heavily in debt.
OT VIIs and VIIIs are supposed to be free and causative. Yet when one listens to their private stories, one sees a world of desperation, of pressure, of threats. A world where their every move is controlled and dictated by the Church – what they do, what they read, who they talk to, what they think. This was not the Scientology they signed up for. They feel that they are at the end of the road, with no one to turn to. But what’s the alternative? Diving off a bridge? Blowing one’s brains out?
How many people have to die before Scientologists realize that this insane pressure for money, money, money has got to stop? How long before Scientologists realize that all of this demand for IAS donations, “Ideal” Org Donations and Superpower Building donations has nothing to do with forwarding the goals of Scientology? It has everything to do with the greed and power hunger of David Miscavige.
And it is destructive. It ruins people’s lives.
The Church is not going to let up on the pressure. They are going to explain away these and other deaths and increase the pressure on the remaining Scientologists.
This is my heartfelt plea to OTs and Scientologists: things are not as deathly serious as they are being presented to you. You do not have to ruin your life to support Scientology.
And please, please, please – taking your own life is not a solution to anything. Walk away. There are friends on the outside who will help you, who will listen to you. Many top OTs, auditors, C/Ses and Scientologists have walked away from the Church of Miscavology. You can too.
The Church complained to Larry Anderson that they would now have to reshoot Orientation at a cost of millions.
Well, when you do that, how about producing something a little more upbeat?