Scientology is one of the most controversial groups in modern history. With an estimated membership of less than 100,000 members worldwide, its detractors might actually outnumber its membership base (that is, unless the church’s claim of having 8 million members turns out to be accurate).
With well-known members and former members such as Neil Gaiman, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Juliette Lewis, Peaches Geldof, William S. Burroughs, Earthlink Founder Sky Dayton; it’s no wonder that our society has become fascinated with this group.
I interviewed film director and former scientologist Jason Barclay about his experiences growing up in the Church of Scientology, what it was like to leave the church and his upcoming film: Escape from Scientology.
Cat Doss: Tell me about your experience growing up in the Church of Scientology.
Jason Barclay: Well, to say the least, it was interesting. I always believed in aliens and was glad it seemed to provide some answers. I didn’t really get involved with Scientology until I was 13. Up ‘till then it was nice that people would remain quiet when I got hurt, and I’d get basic ‘Touch Assists1’ that would help me feel better.
But then I went to ‘Flag’ (Scientology headquarters in Florida) at 13 years old. I’ve always had a big heart and always wanted to help save the world since I could remember. Well, I was there with my mom. She had paid $20,000 to do a ‘6 Month Check2‘ for her ‘OT 73‘ service. And while she was locked away in session some recruiters asked me to help save the world and I agreed…
It was tough. I began working 14-hour days. I had to do mostly physical labor work like moving cement, painting, cleaning toilets–you name it.
I didn’t like the work but believed it would make more of a man out of me. Every day, the leader of my troop of kids held me behind to scream in my face. I got the most production done, and I was a good kid, so I never understood that man. Since he seemed insane, I wasn’t really bothered by him, and I think that pissed him off the most.
Then, finally, after 6-9 months, for 14-hour days, I thought I could finally see my family back in California, but they would only let me go for a week. I couldn’t believe the recruiters who brought me on board had lied about this to a 13 year old. I didn’t know what I was doing but I had my mom withdraw her permission for me to be in the Sea Org. They tried to stop me from leaving by forcing a ‘Meter Check’ (Part of the ‘Auditing’ process (described later-on in the article)) on me. Luckily, I had a big crush on the girl that did the check on me and she thought my ‘Free Needle4‘ meant I had nothing to hide, and I was allowed to leave.
Otherwise, they would have detained me and caused to me miss my flight. My mom was poor so she wouldn’t have been able to buy another flight. And then they would have had 12 adults “’Handle5’ me” and force me to mentally change my mind forever. Scary stuff! I didn’t know my mom was already struggling with a $250,000 debt from trying to go up the bridge6 either.
When I got back my mom had to sell her house, and we had to dramatically leave our dog behind – I didn’t know the church had forced my mom to take out a “Home Improvement Loan” to do SC (Sec Check7) services. She got in trouble and couldn’t pay the money back, so we lost our house thanks to our lifetime commitment to Scientology. Good start. For the next couple years we were dirt poor…
My mom got a good job while my twin sister and I went to Beverly Hills High, but the family was torn, and there was no repairing the severed bonds between my sister and my mom.
When I was close to turning 18, my sister officially left ‘the family,’ even though she and I remained close. My mom was an emotional wreck and couldn’t work, so I got a GED, left school, and started working to support my mom at 17 years old.
At first, I worked as an Electrical Journeyman and went through many odd jobs. During this time, we got 3 evictions in our name. Then, I started doing extra work and began making 3k a month for 3 nice years. In summary, it sucked growing up in Scientology as I watched my parents divorce at 13 years old with all of my mom’s money having been sucked dry, leaving her in a poor emotional state at a price of a quarter of a million.
CD: So, your dad wasn’t a scientologist?
JB: Well he was the first to get involved and got my mom into it. She saw the vision of becoming “OT7″= full control over matter energy space and time, and she went on a no holds bared, borrow from everyone, sacrifice anything lust to get there. By the time I was 10, she was spending most of her time trying to go the bridge “to total freedom,” and not with my sister and me. My dad had a big problem with that. He officially left Scientology during ‘the golden age of tech’ when the current leader of Scientology “fixed” all of LRH’s (L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology) basic books.
CD: Do you feel like you were brainwashed?
JB: They do forbid you to go onto the Internet and look up the religion – they convince you that critical posts about scientology are done by SP8’s only trying to attack all religions of the world, and they constantly bombard you with propaganda at events to tell you how awesome they are. So yeah, I guess I was pretty brainwashed.
CD: What happens during an audit?
JB: Sure, They say, “Let’s talk Self Analysis” that they ironically don’t let you do to yourself. You’d sit down, take off your shoes and socks and wrap a blanket around your feet (Cold feet can give bad “reads”) — And they make sure you’re well fed and rested in order to continue. Then, they’d say they weren’t auditing you (I never got that part). They’d ask you something like “Recall the last time you felt happy” and they would help you remember as much of that moment as you can. Then, they’d go earlier etc. That was nice. In Dianetics9, they do the same thing, but they look for pain, and they have you go over the incident you think of over and over until you are finally cheerful with it. I haven’t gotten any Dianetics auditing myself, but I know many people who both say they felt diving into moments of pain hurt them mentally and other who said it cured serious chronic illnesses and other things that would be best described as miracles.
L. Ron Hubbard (LRH) had believed that once a person goes over most of their moments of serious pain, trauma and unconsciousness, their “pain filled mind” would “clear” and they would become somewhat of a superhuman. However he never really seemed to be able to find the absolute he was looking for in his tapes and books.
CD: So, what about the Sea Org? That’s their navy, right? What kind of ship were you on? What was your mission?
JB: I guess you could say they are they navy, but most never actually set foot on a ship. The Sea Org was formed literally on the sea but it’s the most inner, trusted and powerful group in Scientology, charged with keeping Scientology running.
Unfortunately, it is currently dominated by a yelling chain of command where each leader mostly berates and punishes those below them. As many people’s spirits are crushed they become unable to look around, make their own opinions and see if this is really the church LRH had envisioned.
CD: Where did you go, then? You said you weren’t in California.
JB: Oh, at 13 I was in Florida. I mostly worked in the Fort Harrison and other nearby buildings. When I was 25 in the Sea Org, I was working in the Los Angeles LA Org at Sunset and LRH Way.
CD: How do you feel now that you’ve left Scientology? Are you happier?
JB: Relatively. I feel like I’m in heaven, lol.
But when I left I lost all of my lifetime friends and had to start getting my health back, (I had almost died in the church to Candida at 28 since the medical officer didn’t know “what the white stuff on my tongue was,” lol). And making new friends in L.A. when you’re broke seems tough, but I’d say I’m finally starting to gain some cool new friends.
I’m the kind of person that works for others and having few friends had really sucked.
I knew I could get a day job and be able to hang out and make friends easier but since I got out, I’ve been determined to only work on things that pay nothing immediately but can pay the most in the long term like the movies I’m trying to make.
CD: Tell us about your upcoming film Escape From Scientology.
JB: Gladly, lol.
Yeah, I wanted to make a movie that was from the heart — a heart pounding honest view of what it’s really like behind the scenes. I think the general idea is fascinating and important for people to know about. I want it to show people why others get so hooked and the best ways to talk to any loved ones still “in.”
CD: So, how do you feel about L. Ron Hubbard?
JB: I think he was a courageous man trying to answer the riddles of war, crime and insanity. I think he was quite the character, but it’s what he was trying to do that I admire. I don’t think he ever perfected his bridge as much as he had wanted due to his relatively early death.
CD: Do you believe in the “Bridge?” Or do you think it’s just a spiritual concept?
JB: Not really. I don’t think a person can become powerful by looking so much into the past. I think a bridge based on the positive sides of life and ones being would have the best long-term results. I may or may not one day try to walk it, though, to see for myself. But for now it’s just a cool concept to me.
CD: Thank you, Jason, is there anything else you’d like to add?
JB: I guess I say in closing my life has been pretty rough and I’m mostly glad to be alive — and finally at a place in life where I feel like I’m about to fly. Thank you!
Explanations for terms as told by Jason:
1 Touch Assists: It’s a light process for injuries or chronic body pain. After taking care of the injury someone would touch a part of the body and say ‘feel my finger’ starting far away from the part and moving closer. There was also a contact assist where someone would help you run through the exact motions of the injury lightly to help speed up healing and reduce mental pain of the moment.
2 6 Month Check: Once a person has gotten to OT 7, they are required to come to the Scientology head quarters twice a year and buy multiple $12,000 auditing packages to ‘make sure they are still clean’ and haven’t broken any Scientology rules like “Googling scientology.” When they arrive to Flag, they are given a ‘routing form’ to make sure they get ‘expert care and service’ but they are made to stop by the IAS (Scientology’s ‘International Association of Scientists), which will find every last penny a person can borrow or take from their family or children’s college funds and put that money toward their ‘greater good.’ 6 month checks are actually also directly against LRH policy that forbids anyone, even the church, from doing such actions on these OT’s (Operating Thetans***).
3 OT7 (Operating Thetan 7): One of the top auditing levels on the bridge to total freedom available in the church. Advanced scientology data believes that dozens of bad spirits (Thetans3B ) are attached to ones body, others and the environment. On this level one contacts each of them and yells at them to leave. Some many many times they can even hear these spirits cry. Once a person has done this long enough (10+ years) he is supposed to come to a stage of enlightenment and ready for OT8 ‘truth revealed” which is supposed to end the lifetime to lifetime amnesia. There are also supposed to be more positive things a person needs to do while doing OT7 sessions but the current church doesn’t allow them.
3B Thetan: spirits that can be attached to one’s body, others, and the environment.
4 Free Needle: It’s when the needle of an Emetor4B has an almost soothing rhythmic sweep back and forth. It shows up when a person gets in auditing or when they release previously painful moments. Once this shows up the Preclear (PC) is considered DONE auditing the current question. To continue auditing will damage them. The church currently goes by an invented definition of three swings and of only greater size. This means most PC’s in Scientology are unwittingly being pushed past the point they should stop auditing every process they do.
4B Emetor: An emetor in an auditing gadget invented by LRH that’s keeps an intangible current going through a person hands and chest area. Somehow different types of thoughts show up on it. It’s used to direct auditing to key areas to make sure the hours spent in auditing are well spent. It also helps auditors know when a process is done. It is not a lie detector but is used as one. It is probably one of the first devices that let’s us see thoughts in a way.
5 Handling: When you recognize something wrong with someone and use LRH tech, common sense or tough love to turn them right. But when you’re ‘Handled’ by the church you’ll more likely be made wrong, made to see how even crimes against you were your fault, and then made to give money or time to the church as ‘Amends’. If you have thoughts against the church and have money, you will be ‘Handled’ by 10+ Sea Org members surrounding you and yelling at you to believe them. They will also dig up every lie and crime of the people you got those negative thoughts from and force you to believe how evil these nay sayers of scientology are. Scientology also has hate websites on many ex-members to help with these ‘Handling’ cycles.
6 The Bridge: The bridge is supposed to be a spiritual bridge that one can walks across to first be freed from the insanity of ones ‘pain based’ or ‘reactive mind’ and then walk towards the concept of Operating Thetan (Spirit) where one would soon have full control over matter, energy, space and time. OT levels 1-7 focus only on negative things in a person’s life and past, but handling these things is supposed to be the prerequisite to be able to begin on truly power levels that never showed up.
7 SC (Sec Check): An exhaustive auditing procedure where the auditor asks for every out ethic and immoral action and thought you’ve had this lifetime and beyond. It’s said that once a person has been through this, he or she is so clean that he or she can then be trusted, but in the current church, thoughts against the way things are being run or against David Miscavige are considered the biggest crimes and a person is given endless sec checks until he or she realizes “there is nothing wrong with the church, it’s all in my head.”
8 SP (Suppressive Person): A Suppressive Person is someone who just wants to see the world burn. LRH had a lot of data on finding out who they were and how to help them. LRH warned that if they would not keep trying to covertly destroy one’s life he should leave them. Now the church declared anyone openly critical of it as an SP and demands that all family and friends disconnect. The church may also have the good standing Scientologists do a ‘condition of doubt’ between the two parties, but based on Scientology propaganda and slander against the critic.
9 Dianetics : The first science of the mind that LRH came up with. Its founding principle is that when a person experiences mental or physical pain, they record that experience into their subconscious mind. Then, later, when enough similarities are present that were also in that recorded incident, the unconscious mind will assume that danger is again at hand and will force the person react or even think and feel anything said in the original incident. For example, lets say someone dumped you and said, “you’re just not good enough,” and this wasn’t just another guy–you were planning on marrying him. At the same time, a certain song is playing. A year later, let’s say that girl starts trying to date again, and she meets a cute guy and hears that song. That event may trigger, and all of a sudden, she may feel or blurt out ‘I’m not good enough’ and walk away. Dianetics is an interesting study that shows why the more pain we experience in life, the less we are willing to reach for our dreams or others.
Cat Doss is an artist/writer/filmmaker/performer living in the Los Angeles area. She was born in Huntington, West Virginia. A classically trained painter and a winner of multiple awards in various disciplines, Cat refuses to confine herself to one medium preferring to experiment with her work and investigate the workings behind the creative process. Her art can currently be found at Facebook.com/someassemblyrequired