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An Open Letter from James R. Lewis

January 19, 2011

I’m reprinting a letter from religious scholar James R. Lewis here, for any that missed it. Lewis got into somewhat of a bad odor with Scientology critics as a “Scientology apologist.” Like Gordon Melton, Lewis became a Church of Scientology “ally” and was used by them to defend their religious status and quash critics.

I never met Lewis. I knew Gordon Melton when I lived in Santa Barbara and we had dinner occasionally. I gave him a hard time over his role as a Scientology apologist, and took the time to educate him on what really goes on at the highest levels of Scientology. He has since revised his opinion of Scientology. It now appears that James Lewis has been going through a similar process.

In addition to anything else, Scientology appears to be running out of religious scholars who are willing to shill for the cult.

Here’s the letter:

18 January 2011

An Open Letter to: Scientologists, Ex-Scientologists, and Critics of the Church of Scientology

James R. Lewis

[This letter may be re-posted, as long as it is reproduced in full, without alteration. JRL]

I am an academician and a specialist in the field of new religious movements. Particularly during my early career, much of my research focused on the alternative religions that have been labeled “cults,” and on the controversies in which they have been involved. Though I have sometimes been criticized as a “cult apologist,” in point of fact my views on such groups are nuanced and often critical (in this regard, refer, for example, to my online essay “Safe Sects?” It should especially be noted that my views on these matters generally conform to the consensus views of mainstream scholars of new religions (i.e., my views are not unique to me). As an academician, my primary audience has been other academicians. Thus, over the years, I have ignored the often ad hominem criticisms that have been leveled against me online by individuals involved in the cult controversy.

However, two things have happened in recent years that have prompted me to address these matters – particularly as they involve the Church of Scientology (CoS) – in a more personal way: (1) My edited collection on Scientology, published by Oxford University Press in 2009, had the effect of raising my profile in the cult controversy. (2) As the result of the defection of large numbers of upper level Scientologists, the Church of Scientology has received increasing media attention – which has had the effect of calling further attention to my Scientology anthology. Thus it seems that circumstances have been pushing me to set forth some of my views on CoS – both academic and personal – in a public way. Hence the current “open letter,” which I hope will be widely distributed (and not quoted out of context).

I should preface my remarks by noting that academicians are ill-suited to participate directly in public controversies, in part because, as a group, we do not think in sound bites. Also, in almost any controversy, all sides of the conflict tend to boil issues down to black-and-white, good-vs.-evil terms, and sometimes adopt a belligerent attitude of “you’re either for us or against us.” I anticipated this reaction when, in the introduction to the Scientology anthology, I asserted that “This volume will…likely end up pleasing no one engaged in the Scientology/anti-Scientology conflict….”

Predictably, critics trashed the book as a public relations exercise, “obviously” paid for by the Church of Scientology. However – as any informed observer could easily have anticipated – CoS hated the collection, particularly the Xenu chapter, which one of my former contacts in the Church characterized as “blasphemy.” Another chapter described CoS’s attempts to suppress scholarship that the Church viewed as presenting Scientology in a negative light. And there were other critical evaluations peppered throughout the text. But, because the book as a whole was not a negative exposé, many anti-Scientologists dismissed the whole collection as a “whitewash.” For its part, the Church of Scientology soon stopped communicating with me altogether, meaning that I have probably been re-categorized as an SP as a direct result of my book.

In this Open Letter, I will not rehearse the social-scientific analysis of the cult controversy that is the consensus view of mainstream new religion researchers. Rather, I will focus the discussion on my evolving understanding of the Church of Scientology.

Neither I nor the great majority of new religions specialists view ourselves as defenders of groups like Scientology. Rather, we are interested in understanding social-psychological processes and the dynamics of social conflict. The fact that many of our analyses undermine the more simplistic accusations leveled against controversial new religions makes it appear to critics caught up in black-and-white thinking that we have made a conscious choice to defend “cults.” However, to the extent that we have chosen to defend anything, we understand ourselves as defending good science against bad science, and, in some cases, as defending religious liberty against the threat to religious liberty posed by the least sophisticated forms of anti-cultism.

My orientation to the study of new religions is informed by the fact that, for three years in my early twenties, I was a member of a controversial new religion, Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO (I have recently described my defection from 3HO in an online article, “Autobiography of a Schism” Though I held certain negative feelings toward my former organization after my exit, these feelings were on par with the feelings one might have about one’s ex-spouse following a divorce (i.e., bad, but not extraordinary). Additionally, I had a number of positive experiences during my term of membership in 3HO that served to balance out my negative experiences.

When I first became interested in the cult controversy as a subject of academic inquiry in the mid 1980s, I was struck by the uniformly negative picture painted by “deprogrammed” ex-members of controversial groups – a picture that contrasted sharply with the mixed evaluation I had formed of 3HO. I suspected these negative evaluations were shaped, at least in part, by the deprogramming experience itself. So I surveyed former members – both deprogrammed and non-deprogrammed – and found that the data strongly supported my hypothesis. (In this regard, refer, for example, to my “Apostates and the Legitimation of Repression,” Sociological Analysis 49:4. 1989, and my “Reconstructing the ‘Cult’ Experience,” Sociological Analysis 42:2. 1986. Parts of these papers reappeared in my Legitimating New Religions. 2003.)

I first made contact with the Church of Scientology during this period for the purpose of locating former Scientologists to whom I could send questionnaires (this never worked out because of CoS’s ill-conceived policy of disconnecting itself from ex-members). A few years later, the Scientology organization became enthusiastic about the conclusions I had reached, and later referred to my research in some of its legal cases – in large part due to the fact that this research called into question the hostile testimony of deprogrammed former Scientologists.

CoS subsequently decided that I was an ‘ally’ (a quasi-technical term within the universe of exotic Church jargon). From that point forward, I was sometimes (but not frequently) asked to write letters of support, usually in response to specific conflicts. I was also once asked to testify as an expert witness in a Scientology court case (to which I agreed, though I never did testify). Additionally, during the years I lived in Santa Barbara, California, I attended various Church events, particularly events at the Hollywood Celebrity Center. Finally, during the ten years I lived in the Midwest, I regularly invited Scientologists from the Chicago Org to speak in my university classes. (As part of my approach to teaching courses on new religions, I invited representatives of many different groups to speak in my classes – not just Scientologists.)

I was, of course, aware of CoS’s unpleasant history, particularly its often vicious attacks on perceived enemies. But, as I got to know Scientologists on a personal basis, I was informed – and came to believe – that the illegal and truly onerous attacks had been discontinued following the dissolution of the Guardian’s Office in 1983. (Unfortunately, the systematic harassment of high-profile ex-members and other critics has become de rigueur in recent years.) And while I disliked certain aspects of Scientology – particularly certain aspects of the Scientology organization – my personal experiences with Scientologists over the course of the past two dozen years have been generally quite positive. As a result of my recent book and as a result of this letter, they may never speak to me again, but I still like and respect almost everyone I knew within the Church.

One aspect of the organization that particularly impressed me was the Church’s social outreach activities, such as the Literacy Crusade and Criminon. Though often dismissed by critics as “front groups,” or as elaborate PR exercises, it is clear that, at Source, these activities are serious enterprises. At several junctures over the years of my acquaintance with CoS, I even requested support for undertaking an academic study of these enterprises. These requests were always denied (for which, in hindsight, I am exceedingly grateful).

I was not prompted to re-think my basic evaluation of the Church of Scientology until relatively recently. This came about as a consequence of several different factors:

(1) The defection of large numbers of long-time, high-ranking Scientologists, who reported intensive abuse at the highest levels of the Church. I am aware that CoS’s position on this has been to deny everything, and to accuse these ex-members of conspiring to concoct a negative picture of events. I find the official response unconvincing.

(2) The sacking of Heber Jentzsch. I knew Heber from when I first began to communicate with CoS in the mid 1980s. I respected him and came to regard him as someone I could trust. Retrospectively, I can now see that my evaluation of Heber significantly shaped my evaluation of the Church. So when he was taken off the front lines and consigned to some dungeon (figuratively speaking) in Gilman Hot Springs, it served to confirm, to my mind, what the high-ranking defectors were saying.

(3) The marketing of “new editions” of L. Ron Hubbard’s basic works. New, slightly “corrected” editions of Hubbard’s basic books have been issued, and Scientologists have been asked to purchase as many sets of volumes as possible so that complete sets can be donated to libraries across the globe. This has been done in the name of the utopian ideal of “clearing the planet.” But placing books in libraries seems an ill-conceived strategy for spreading any sort of message in a digital age. I was a guest at a Scientology workshop not too many years ago where I observed the very hard-sell tactics used to unload these multi-volume sets. It was transparent that this was a fund-raising ploy rather than an effective strategy for disseminating the message. Though I know Scientology has regularly been accused of using unethical methods for raising money, I felt that this was a particularly disingenuous tactic – and yet another symptom of the dysfunctionality of the Church’s top leadership.

This Open Letter is not an apology for anything I have written in the past on Scientology or on the cult controversy. I stand by, and am quite happy with, my body of work up to this point. Rather, in light of new information I have been receiving on the Church of Scientology, there are certain aspects of my scholarship that I would like to clarify and supplement as they bear on the current controversy.

In the first place, I should say that the only article-length paper I have ever written on CoS is my chapter on the growth of the Church in the Scientology anthology. In that piece, I criticized the claim that Scientology was the “fastest growing religion in the world,” but I also painted a picture of an expanding organization enjoying healthy growth. Though the statistics I collected (from the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) did not go beyond 2001, more recent data from the 2006 New Zealand and Australian censuses have continued to support this picture.

However, current events have completely overturned my evaluation of the CoS as a rapidly expanding religion. The relatively recent defection of large numbers of long-time, high-level Scientologists – some of the organization’s most experienced administrators and others with expertise in delivering the highest levels of Scientology technology – bodes poorly for the future of the Church. In particular, the pattern of solid growth I analyzed just a few years ago seems suddenly to have ground to a halt.

According to the pseudonymous ‘Plockton,’ who claims to have contacted ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) researchers directly, the ARIS estimate for the number of Scientologists in the U.S. for 2008 was 25,000. (I referred to ARIS data in my chapter on the growth of Scientology.) This contrasts sharply with the 55,000 figure from the 2001 ARIS survey. (“2008 ARIS Study on Scientology Membership in US – Important Data.” Posted March 28, 2009 at: The drop in total numbers was likely less dramatic than these figures indicate (due to sampling issues discussed by Plockton in his posting).

In 2011, there will be new national censuses in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, all of which will produce figures for total numbers of self-identified Scientologists. So by 2012, it will be relatively simple to contrast these numbers with prior census data. The figures derived from these comparisons will indicate whether membership in the Church of Scientology is growing or declining. Assuming the latter, these statistics should decisively refute David Miscavige’s claim that, under his leadership, CoS has become “the fastest growing religion in the world.”

Secondly, I have seen my research on former members of controversial new religions misrepresented. To clarify what should already have been transparent: The central point of comparison in my several articles on new religion apostates was between deprogrammed ex-members and other ex-members who left their respective movements on their own, without outside intervention. As mentioned earlier, I found a highly significant difference in the post-involvement attitudes of these two sets of apostates, a difference that called into question the veracity of statements made by deprogrammed ex-members about the religious groups to which they had belonged. My questionnaire data had nothing to say about individuals who defected without this kind of an intervention, except that they were likely more objective about their membership period than their deprogrammed counterparts. So, to be perfectly clear: anyone who cites my conclusions about deprogrammees as a way of dismissing the testimony of voluntary defectors – including the testimony of individuals who left the Church of Scientology – is either consciously misrepresenting my work or stupid.

Finally, another criticism leveled against the Scientology anthology was that it should have included a chapter on ex-Scientologists, and perhaps another chapter on the Freezone. I think this is an appropriate critique. I will therefore be undertaking systematic research on former Scientologists and on the Freezone – research that will be reported in future publications. If any ex-CoS members reading this Open Letter think they might be interested in participating in this project, please contact me at:

  1. lunamoth permalink
    January 19, 2011 11:36 pm

    This is good news. And thank you for having those conversations with Gordon Melton.

    I’m glad you’ve given Lewis’ letter this venue. It deserves to be published far and wide. Simple communication – specifically your kind of completely unstoppable communication – is what is bringing down the glossy facade hiding the rat’s nest that is the church of scientology.

    I sometimes wish this process of decline would speed up, that the inevitable would be realized, so that we could all have the satisfaction of seeing the final fiery crash of this corrupt cult. Get it over with, already! But the truth is that it’s a fascinating process to watch. Just as we “ex’s” have discovered that the layers of cult indoctrination must be peeled off over a period of months and years, the layers of deceit and hypocrisy that have cloaked the church of scientology for decades must also come off in what can only be described as a “process” (love the irony).

    Each development, such as Lewis’ “come to Jesus” moment, here, exposes more of the rot and disease, further weakens the diseased beast, and brings us all closer to either that bang or that whimper.

  2. Marta permalink
    January 20, 2011 3:32 am

    Oh, Jeff, this is terrific news. And what a read!

    I share Lunamoth’s perspective that the process is facinating to watch unfold.

    But then, as someone once said “It takes as long as it takes”.

  3. January 20, 2011 5:49 am

    I actually read selected portions of the Scientology Anthology and thought it was well written and objective.

    Similar to Wallis’ Road to Total Freedom in many ways.

    So I can understand why the Church hated it.

    Aside from the “blasphemy” of releasing a chapter about OT III.

    (Ron himself wrote a Screen Play based on the events known as ‘Revolt in the Stars’

    See the following:

    Yet over three decades later we have Tommy running red faced out of an interview if someone dare brooch it.

    Go figure?)

    Anyway the only thing I didn’t like was the conclusion that what was going on now was some kind of minor rift of some kind when in fact it is a schism very similar to the reformation on a smaller scale.

    Other than that I thought it was a very scholarly work.

    I’m also glad that James R. Lewis is now writing about this aspect and I’d be very happy to participate.

    Thanks for posting this Jeff.

  4. Tony DePhillips permalink
    January 20, 2011 7:29 am

    I like it.

  5. John Doe permalink
    January 20, 2011 4:37 pm

    Interesting read. Yet another nail in the coffin. I can’t add much more to Lunamoth and RJ’s comments.

    Interesting, that after decades of charging parishioners full price to repair auditing that was messed up, the church is nowhaving to pay for its mistakes.

    • Cowboy Poet permalink
      January 21, 2011 7:39 am

      Yes, and apparently it will be retail pricing.

  6. freespirit permalink
    January 20, 2011 6:31 pm

    Mr. Lewis is in a thankless but valuable position in offering an objective view of CoS. It’s a die if you do, die if you don’t between the two camps. But it does provide extremely valuable insight into the workings of a cult and he is to be applauded for taking on such a task.

  7. Sid permalink
    January 21, 2011 12:15 am

    Some of the things written by Lewis and Melton on the subject of Scientology have defied belief. Quite why they failed to see the extent of the corruption in the CoS for so long is beyond me.

    The only other people who were unable to see it were those still in it. At least they had an excuse, they were victims themselves! Everybody else looking in from the outside could see it was a horrific excuse for a Church.

    And this from well-educated academics.

    Jeff – well done on setting the record straight with Melton.

    • Jeff permalink*
      January 21, 2011 12:39 am

      Some of these scholars did not want to make any damning comments about the Church as they knew that further access to the Church or its members would be denied as soon as they did. Doors would be shut in their face. Secondly, their major source of information about Scientology was the Church itself, and hand-picked members chosen by the Church to talk to these scholars. When Melton did his investigation of the RPF, for instance, he was only allowed to talk to certain carefully selected and coached RPF members. With so many Scientologists now out of the Church and speaking up, it is possible to get a much more complete picture – one that was previously hidden.

      • lunamoth permalink
        January 21, 2011 3:33 am

        Ironically, anybody who knows any of the date evaluator tech, or who could apply the condition of Doubt ( I assume this would be the correct “condition” for an inquiring mind such as these academics ) would know better than to ask a member of the church whether the church is on the up and up.

        How many glib and just plain incorrect Doubt conditions have been done over the years by church members who were not allowed access to truly unbiased data about the church, or for any other viewpoint but the church’s for that matter? How many of those of us reading this blog would have gotten out of the church years ago if we had been allowed to/had the courage to inform ourselves honestly, brushing aside all bias and rumor?

        The academics who are afraid of losing access to the church and its members are in the same boat as the members themselves when it came down to this: they don’t really look at all the data/ask the tough questions because they don’t want to be cut off by the church.

        Knowing this, maybe we can give ourselves and those still inside a little bit of break here. It seems cult members aren’t the only ones who can be kept on a short leash under the threat of ostracization.

      • Aeolus permalink
        January 21, 2011 3:08 pm

        Actually, a member of the Church is not allowed to do Doubt on Scientology itself. I had a friend, an OT VII and IAS Patron, who was assigned lower conditions for getting drunk. When she got up to the step of Doubt to “inform oneself honestly”, she contacted an anti-Scientology group to get the other side of it. She was instantly declared and expelled from the Church. Informing oneself honestly is apparently a suppressive act.

        It shouldn’t be surprising that an outside journalist or academic evaluating Scientology would be cut off at the first hint of skepticism.

    • Red Tory permalink
      January 22, 2011 4:43 pm

      The late Bryan R. Wilson, Reader Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Oxford wrote a piece that’s rather hard to reconcile with descriptions from exes. I think that it’s obvious that he was given a grand performance staged just for him.
      The Congregational Services of the Church Of Scientology

      Few scholars in this field seem to feel the need to perform a sanity check on their data. Discretely observing attendance numbers in the weeks before and after that performance should have pointed out that something was amiss.

      James Lewis felt that he could trust the information that he was given by Heber Jentzsch. Why, did he have a firm handshake? I’m sure that’s a job qualification for the top public relations “president” role.

      I realize that the danger of being cut off is a problem, but blindly proceeding with questionable data is worse.

      • January 22, 2011 11:18 pm

        Dear Red Tory,

        Jacqueline Kevanar was in OSA at the time, she is the one who did the EU Project securing the EU scholar treatises. In the late 1990s when Jacqueline was on the Int RPF, in a moment during meals or a breaktime, I asked her about that project mission, and at that time, I praised her for her work. She chatted about how it went with Bryan Wilson, how he bicycled around Oxford, and a careful reading of the Wilson treatise explains the Hubbard books he was given upon which to base his judgement if Scientology is/was a religion.

        yes, it was a conscious act on OSA’s and earlier the Guardian’s Office’s parts, Larry Brennan has spoken of his days in the Guardian’s Office when overtures to scholars were done, to secure at that earlier time, religious legitimacy from scholars by their paid for papers on Scientology.

        Jacqueline is still in the Sea Org, but Larry is out and will speak about what he observed in the 1970s.

        I think the Hubbard scriptures (the Guardian’s Office Orders, which were then repackaged as the Office of Special Affairs Network Orders, one in particular, stresses the importance of pushing the line that “we” (Scientology) are a religion, and THAT is the basis for securing the scholarly supportive treatises favorably characterizing Scientology as a religion.

        You’re right the harshest critics don’t see Scientology as a religion, but I’m one of the exceptions, I consider it a religion based on LRH ED 339R Int, The Factors, The Time Track Bulletins (I and II), the body thetan removal (spiritual exorcism practice, which is SO underexplained and ill explained rationally, but if the body thetan removal OT levels 3-7 were moderately explained, the high volume spiritual exorcism of the upper levels 3-7 ARE a religious practice in world history).

        The money grubbing, the totalitarianism of current and past official Scientology, the “Service Completion Awards”, the “FSM Commissions”, the “bonus” system for regs and booksellers, I mean THAT seems so obviously NON religious like, agreed.

        But Wilson, even though he, and Melton, and all the rest of the sought out neutral NRM (new religious movement) scholars who were secured to do treatises on Scientology’s religiousness, if they’d been given access and explanations of the OT 3-7 body thetan removal exorcism practices, and the volume of soul exorcism that goes on on the upper levels 3-7, for sure they’d have even MORE ammunition with which to conclude that the religious practices of Scientology are similar to other religious practices in world history.

        NRM scholars, none of them, are experts in ANY of the new religions to the same degree us decades long ex members are (with some exceptions of course, since some NRMs have been around longer and lots more books have been written about them (to put this in context, I recommend what another ex Sea Org member PJ Carness, recommened to me, which is get and scan through Lorne Dawson’s “Comprehending Cults”, a relatively easy to read scholarly book on the NRM field. It shows what Jim Lewis is talking about.

        Realize that “we” (Scientology people like the OSA PRs) were leading these scholars to give “us” the pat on the back as a religion. No one was around to qual check their “work”, and the scholars were sidetracked into arguing about us “apostates” as “unreliable.”

        When I met Melton, Bromley, Cowan and Beverley informly for 1-2 hours in the hotel lobby bar of the Hilton DC hotel, after one of their American Religion conferences (Bromley invited me to come for the informal chat), I let them know that there were LOTS more ex members, willing to be interviewed (I was selling them on Jeff Hawkins and other 35 year veterans of the Sea Org, who were then willing to be interviewed).

        Lewis privately has written to me, that “we” have to do our history writing, since scholars, particularly the NRM scholars, are NOT gonna know our history nor study Scientology to that degree.

        I like the sit down interviews on historical incidents, like Mike chatting with Marty about incidents with DM.

        I’d love to see former WDC members chat about different Int Coord Council Meetings, and various strategy decision making moments.

        The MORE history people dig out of each other, the better.

        The scholars, these NRM scholars, it’s just not what they are all about, I realize now.

        Lorne Dawson’s “Comprehending Cults” is a text I recommend.

        The best two “monograph” (focused on one subject) books on Scientology by scholars, are Roy Wallis’ “The Road to Total Freedom” and Harriet Whitehead’s “Renunciation and Reformulation”, both very difficult books to read. I finally finished Wallis’ book, and still have to finish Whitehead’s. Whitehead’s chapter where she discusses Hubbard’s Dianectics in terms of psychotherapy, Freud and Jung, I found enlighttening.

        But neither Wallis, nor Whitehead, nor any NRM scholar, not even the “Xenu” chapter in Lewis’ anthology compiled book “Scientology” Oxford Univ Press, 2009, not any of them study the OT levels 3-7, and put in context just HOW MUCH time and money (donations) are spent by the upper level Scientology parishioners in exorcising their “body thetans”, which clearly IS a religious practice/act.

        In my opinion, when Wilson said what was most unique about Scientology has the parishioner to minister relationship, Wilson noted now much individualized spiritual focus the Scientology minister gives to the Scientology parishioner, Wilson should have written, like Whitehead did, and noted the therapy Dianetics patient to therapist roles.

        And Wilson entirely, as did all the other scholars, they did NOT read for instance the LRH ED 342 Int Ron’s Journal 35, From Clear to Eternity, by LRH where Hubbard says that the REAL long hard work is done on the upper levels (where the body thetan removal goes on in high volume, and for a lot of parishioner self work, on Solo NOTs). He lays out the “six rough divisions of case gain.” (It’s pretty clear Hubbard STILL uses therapy terminology “case gain” is one example, to the end of his life!)

        The final Solo NOTs level, and the self exorcising of clusters of body thetans, the high volume exorcism spiritual practice of Scientology, THAT is still completely NOT covered, and SHOULD be covered in Lewis’ update of his book on Scientology, if there is gonna be an update.

        Some scholar ought to interview in detail a dozen or so ex current OT 7 completions, to survey just how much body thetan removal they did, over what lengths of time, as what cost (donations).

        THAT I think is something MORE omitted by the NRM scholars compared to any of the nitpicking about “apostates” unreliability.

        The “apostates” unreliability argument is irrelevant if MORE ex members write accurate history of their experiences, and details of the spiritual practices of DOING the upper bridge levels 3-7, in particular, and putting what LRH said in Ron’s Journal 35, From Clear to Eternity.

        What MOST distressed me about Lewis’ anthology was the LACK of quoting Hubbard, which shows just how NOT expert the NRM scholars are about the subject of Scientology.

        It’s up to “us” to do some of this fallen between chairs writing about why Scientology can even more validly be considered a religious practice, than any of the sought out scholars who Jacqueline Kevanar (she later went on to be the Mission I/C of the project with Trish Allen as her 2nd, run by Marty Rathbun, to recompile the Office of Special Affairs Network Orders, and she later went on to become Watchdog Committee Member for OSA after she finished THAT project successfully, and as Marty noted on his blog, Miscavige micromanaged Marty on that project, ensuring that the Office of Special Affairs used the questionable Hubbard Guardian’s Office covert operations/intel gathering/dirty propaganda tactics scriptures) and other past Guardian’s Office staff like Larry Brennan tells of, and other continental level Office of Special Affairs staffers and other volunteer Scientologists helped in various ways to get the scholarly writings on Scientology.

        If you read “Comprehending Cults” you see much better these NRM scholars’ self limitations. It’s painful to read their stuff, having lived the details of Scientology’s bureaucracies for a couple decades, to see how little they get of Scientology. It’s intentional, unfortunately, and the bottom line is it’s up to “us” ex members to write as best we can lots of history, or do MORE on camera history interviews, like Mike and Marty are doing.

        I’d love to see Ken Urquhart interviewed by someone’s who’s a history buff of “top management” for the period that Ken was LRH Personal Communicator.

        I’d love to see Bill Franks interviewed in depth about his period of rise and decline as ED International. Like have Kerry Gleason interview Bill Franks, and vice versa, on camera, before they croak!

        I wish all manner of vets who co-lived different time periods of Sea Org history would co-interview each other, on camera, and we set up some sites of all the history people can interview out of each other’s memories.

  8. January 21, 2011 9:17 am

    Jeff, I’m glad to hear that your conversations with
    Melton have persuaded him to revise his views of
    Scientology, but has he said anything in public or
    published anything to this effect? Do you know if
    he has any plans to?
    Jonny Jacobsen

    • brendon permalink
      January 22, 2011 10:17 pm

      Based on a recent communication I had with Dr. Melton, I doubt it. He gave me the clear impression his interests were now elsewhere, particularly with respect to creating a census on Hindus and Buddhists in the US.

  9. RenegadeX permalink
    January 21, 2011 7:13 pm

    Wow, excellent article! Thanks for posting it Jeff.

  10. Phil permalink
    January 22, 2011 2:10 am

    Of all the Ex’s Jeff is the one I would most want to hang out with and have a coffee or beer.
    Thanks for all you do ! You seem like a decent human as most of your responders. I happen to be Catholic and Proud. I just find the subject fascinating,

  11. January 22, 2011 2:47 pm

    Thanks so much Jeff!

    I’ve had a number of private communications with scholars, and what they say privately, and what they publish, are not cut and dry similarities.

    One of the most important things, or understandings, that Jim Lewis imparted to me, was putting the “NRM” scholars in context. Remember on the XSO chat site, back in 2005 or 2006, PJ Carness (used to be Kerry Gleason’s communicator in the FB), she referred me to “Comprehending Cults”, and that started me reaching out to scholars.

    I never knew, until finally recently, that HISTORY is NOT an NRM (New Religious Movement) scholar’s job even.

    They DON’T go into becoming experts on a new religion. They do like is laid out in Lorne Dawson’s “Comprehending Cults” book, which is take a particularly “scholarly” angle or argument from which to discuss or see patterns in new religions.

    In doing so, they are basically not even doing more than sort of ivory tower and honestly, superficial, coverage of the religions.

    This is so evident to me now, and for me, it’s taken me a while of educating myself, going through my own learning curve, I have a shelf full of NRM scholar books, and these books are just so unsatisfactory from my “expert” ex Sea Org member (27 years of insider Sea Org admin history) viewpoint; but these NRM scholars are NOT going to be history experts of Scientology, and their books and arguments amongst themselves are MORE for them and their angles they look at NRMs.

    I had mistakenly thought NRM scholars were some kind of intellectual saviors for really impacting Scientology’s abusive history, inevitably, I mistakenly thought the NRM scholars would just soak up ALL this history that is leaking out on all the Scientology critical chat sites, and they’d come to some brilliant wise conclusions about it all.

    But that is NOT their role.

    Sadly their role is more contained, like PJ Carness wrote me, when she suggested I read Lorne Dawson’s “Comprehending Cults” (which I recommend others get and see this point).

    Lewis’ most enlightening comment to me, privately, was that “we” had to do our histories!

    It’s up to some kind of theological Phd internal “church” Scientology member to do the histories.

    And thus, I wholeheartedly HOPE all ex vets of the Scientology movement who lived important Sea Org and Scientology history, to PLEASE just go ahead and write their firsthand histories!

    More histories, and we do it “ourselves”.

    We’re the ones who put in the decades, living the detailed day after day, year after year, lives in the ranks.

    People could do histories and we could actually set up computer sites, for instance “AOSH EU History Site” and then have it like a blog, and people write histories for that church.

    Indexing Scientology history, and drawing bigger longer range conclusions about the movement, unfortunately is just NOT the job of the NRM scholars, and never was. I mistakenly for years, thought that it was.

    The bigger history and political problems and sociological problems of Scientology’s setup, will need MORE writing like you Jeff, and like Little Bear Victor, did when Little Bear Victor was writing about Int Base life.

    Predicting where big Scientology will go in the future, is a combination task that sort of falls between chairs.

    In our heads is Scientology history, and it’s not all out on paper, and I’ve learned there is not some person out here to go seek advice from, it’s not the NRM scholars, to whom we can go ask advice, like to whom the Int Exec Strata Execs could go seek religion history advice, from which to get better suggestions about what to do in Scientology’s future.

    It’s a falling between chairs problem.

    I myself, when I sat in the lobby of the DC Hilton, chatting informal with Melton, Bromley, Beverley and Cowan, innocently pleaded with them all, myself NOT understanding that they were NOT ever in their lives any one of them, going to become as “expert” in Scientology as any of us who are blogging and speaking openly and detailedly about Scientology history.

    It’s a real fall between chairs situtation.

    When I retire in about 7-8 years, I’m gonna at least do some summarizing and indexing of the BEST of the writings and history.

    One thing Melton is doing today, is helping UC Santa Barbara set up a library of Scientology materials.

    What I think UC Santa Barbara needs also, is for people to send them the books and history writings of ex members, so anyone who wants to donate the critical books on Scientology to the UC Santa Barbara Scientology collection, please send them to this address:
    (label your box “For Scientology book/papers collection”)

    Dr. Gordon Melton
    c/o Special Collections
    Davidson Library
    University of California–Santa Barbara
    Santa Barbara, CA 93106

    PS: One ex Scientologist recently sent their whole Scientology library collection they wanted to part with.

    PS: People who don’t favor Melton, or people in Canada can send their collections to Professor Stephen Kent (his university has the LARGEST collection of Scientology materials in the world)
    Dr. Stephen A. Kent
    Department of Sociology
    University of Alberta
    Edmonton, Alberta
    Canada T6G 2H4

    PPS: Any ex Office of Special Affairs staff, I urge YOU to contact Professor Hugh Urban, who for the past couple years has been studying OSA. Here’s Professor Urban’s email address and please REACH out to him!!!

  12. Red Tory permalink
    January 22, 2011 4:55 pm

    I find that James R. Lewis is like a weather vane rather than a compass needle: The direction he points can be useful to know, but not if you’re lost in the woods.

    • January 22, 2011 11:32 pm

      Lorne Dawson’s “Comprehending Cults” was recommended to me to read, by an ex Sea Org member, and I recommend it for an overall grasp of the frustrating (to us ex members) world of the NRM scholars!

      “Our” history, the Scientology history (I’m not a Scientologist, but I support getting raw history into the public domain so official Scientology doesn’t whitewash their history) is up to “us” mainly ex members.

      NRM scholars are just NOT going to be writing like the ex members can write about Scientology.

      More books, and more interviews by ex members amongst each other, in pairs who lived the same time periods, same orgs, etc, on camera, I think is what “we” should do.

  13. Soderqvist1 permalink
    January 24, 2011 9:35 am

    Soderqvist1: I have this book; “Scientology” by James R. Lewis in my home. It is an anthology, and one of the essays in the book is by the Author William Sims Bainbridge; “The Cultural Context of Scientology” His uncle Consuelo Seoane together with Commander “Snake” Thompson; Hubbard’s old mentor worked as spies in the Orient 1910, and Bainbridge claim that he used his Uncle’s spying methods when he worked undercover in the Church of Scientology in order to give his story higher credibility!

    Wikipedia William Sims Bainbridge
    Born October 12, 1940) is an American sociologist who currently resides in Virginia. He is co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and also teaches sociology as a part-time professor at George Mason University. He is the first Senior Fellow to be appointed by the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Bainbridge is most well known for his work on the sociology of religion; recently, however, he has published work studying the sociology of video gaming.

    The Cultural Context of Scientology by William Sims Bainbridge
    I must be clear. I am not myself a Scientologist. As an atheistic Futurist and Transhumanist, I do not share the beliefs of Scientology or of any other religion, but I do agree with Scientology about the possibility of achieving transcendence through technology. Where Scientology seeks to promulgate a spiritual technology, I believe that physical technologies based in computer science and cognitive science would be required. A more sociological way of expressing this is to say that I am a member of the same post-Christian cyberculture as L. Ron Hubbard, but not a member of the Scientology subculture within it. My personal position is relevant for this scholarly essay for two reasons. First, members of the archaic Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture—including some mercenary secular journalists—are so hostile toward Scientology that a special effort must be made to see this novel religion’s real virtues. Second, it is essential for someone familiar with the wider culture to which Scientology belongs to place it in its proper cultural context. (p. 35)


    In particular, I spent six months in 1970 doing covert participant observation inside Scientology for my senior honors thesis, even trying Con’s method of using shoe scratches to record data, and two years intermittently from 1971 to 1975 inside a nominally Satanic offshoot of it called the Process (Bainbridge, 1978). Subsequently, I felt it was my duty to provide court affidavits for the Church of Scientology—at no cost, of course—affirming that many members really did consider it to be their religion. Scientology was wise enough to notice that the fact I had done covert research without their permission or guidance added credibility to my affirmations, and our relationship has been on cordial but unbiasing terms ever since. (p. 42)
    Lewis, J. R. (Ed.). (2009). Scientology. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Soderqvist1: this is a topic with evidence about the alleged relationship between Commander “Snake” Thompson and the little young Hubbard!

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