Edited 27th June 2021
A common question I am asked nowadays is “Are you a Scientologist?” Some people assume that publishing a neutral book concerning Scientology indicates support of Scientology or its church. Yet, in contrast, Scientologists who stumble across my book nearly always take the opposite position: that I am an ‘anti-Scientologist’.
The circumstances which led me to write a book on Scientology, as well as my current thinking and stance on the subject, are more nuanced than sweeping statements of love or hate, attack or support.
Born into ideology
I was born and raised in Scientology. My father in particular was very keen on the topic—as keen as they come. My first years of school were in a Scientology institute. I was raised using Scientology principles. By the time I reached my early teens I was fully immersed in the world of Scientology and I joined its religious order—the Sea Organisation—at 15.
However, my time in the Sea Organisation proved too great a challenge and I returned to live a more regular life within a year. Still, my mind never strayed from the Scientology frame; I was always ‘on’.
Several years later, in my early 20’s, I rejoined the Sea Organisation. This time I lived and worked there for over three years before returning to a more regular life. Once again, my mental frame was not undone: I was more disappointed with what I felt were my own failings.
Then at 31 years of age I went back to the Sea Organisation for another attempt. Finally, this would begin the unravelling of my Scientology mental framework.
In late 2017, while I was participating in some particularly immersive Scientology services, a technique did not go well and I experienced what could loosely be called a mental breakdown.
During the following months—which stretched out into several years—requests for help to remedy the situation fell on deaf ears. Eventually, and after much consideration, I decided I could not support an organisation which is unwilling to lend a hand in such unusual circumstances.
Stepping out from one’s ingrained childhood ideology can be hard, especially when it has been a comprehensive part of one’s life.
The first thing that happens when one expresses any grievance in Scientology, it seems, is those Scientologists around you—who you considered friends (including your closest friends)—move away from you with haste. This is a startling experience to live through, particularly as this is when you need your closest relations most.
Jordan Peterson refers to leaving a highly ingrained ideology as “you’re in the desert now!” In my experience this is an apt analogy. When you lose your fix on your fundamental thoughts the space around you can start to shift. Little is certain and even simple tasks can become confusing.
Which direction one takes in a desert is guesswork. Luckily I had two guides who proved suited to the task.
My then girlfriend—now my wife—was also born into Scientology. She has a similar upbringing and many shared experiences with the subject. She was there when my mental frame began to come apart, and, viewing the same circumstances, found her own framework coming apart. Together we started the great task of sifting through a lifetime of thoughts once unquestionable—now all in doubt. Several years have now been spent reassessing all of our thoughts from the ground up.
A second guide came in the way of my closest friend, who has never been a Scientologist, but is familiar with the subject due to our many years of conversation. He provided a second ear with perspectives which would otherwise been unknown to me—such was my insular approach to life that Scientology was all I knew.
These two guides—my wife and my friend—provided some basic mental stability; enough to stay alive and move forward.
A way forward
As part of finding a way out of my desert I researched Scientology widely.
I paid particular attention to how other people had dealt with similar mental transitions as I was experiencing. Some denounce Scientology. Some quietly move on with a regular life. Others have created podcasts, movies, television shows, books, etc. Others seek counselling services. The list goes on.
I also began reading up on history and philosophy. I felt I had gaps in my education; my knowledge of these fields coming almost exclusively from Scientology.
It was evident that I must take some course of action to rebuild my mental outlook. But which one?
Some methods of moving forward, I noticed, seemed to stick people into a new type of mire. Specifically, giving into malice or hate appeared to have a side effect of the speaker remaining entangled with their unfortunate circumstances. I decided that I did not want to take any path where negativity was dominant.
I had been working on my writing skills for some years past and it was the best form of expression available to me. Noticing that no books existed on the fundamental philosophical ideas of Scientology, I decided to write just such a work. I felt this would give me an opportunity to contribute something new to the conversation surrounding Scientology while at the same time providing me with a means of ‘clearing my mind’ (a pun for anyone familiar with Scientology) of the distress it was going through.
Publishing a book
As writing my book on Scientology was also an act of self-help in which I had decided to shun malice, the result is a fairly benign work, even in places where it perhaps should not be. But this is also the difference between a private conversation over a drink with friends and a publicly self-published work: different forums work in different ways and produce different results. Sure, I have misgivings, but I felt a public airing of such thoughts would be unproductive.
Neutrality does offer a seperate benefit to the reader, who is not encouraged to think of the subject in any particular light—something which is missing in most discourse on Scientology. I am pleased with my book and I stand by it, but I could not write it again: too much has changed in life and mind. The book remains a personal snapshot in time.
Am I a Scientologist?
All this raises the question: am I still a Scientologist?
In looking over my spinning thoughts, back in the desert, it struck me that a major failing of a mind fixated on a single set of ideas is that it thinks in absolute terms: ‘black or white’, ‘yes or no’, ‘right or wrong’. Nuanced thoughts are hard to come by as they threaten the whole show.
As I once possessed an ‘absolute right’ for all things Scientology, to about-face into a new ‘absolute wrong’ could indicate a failure to transition into nuanced thinking. Shifting one’s stance from one extreme to another can be done without changing much at all!
Thus, although I cannot consider myself an active Scientologist in any way, I acknowledge that I have a solid background in Scientology. I choose to retain any good, throw out the bad, and think over new ideas as they come.