- Politics and Social Issues
Lost to Scientology
I had a younger brother. A sweet boy. He used to bounce on the balls of his feet when he walked. He always seemed to me to be happy and optimistic, even though I suspected there were issues in relation to our shared father – a potentially undermining kind of guy who wasn't always sympathetic to the sensitivities of his children.
In part because of this Dad, I left home as soon as I could, at the age of seventeen, and was thereafter really only a passing visitor and sort of lost contact. My little brother was not so lucky. He stayed home long enough to get snared by something less spontaneous than university or world travel in terms of generating or rebuilding self-esteem.
Referred to as “the Church” or, more commonly by insiders, “the Org”, he was introduced to it by an older woman. The recruiting techniques and requirements of Org members are now fairly well known. Quotas have to be reached. Thresholds have to be achieved. Status has to be scaled. One assumes that this woman was working to the standard remit.
As I understand it, there he was, happily at his first paid job, driving his Zamboni around a local rink when this woman appeared in his life and introduced him to the self-dismantling tactics of the Org.
In a nutshell, what you offer to the Org is total unequivocal honesty about your doubts and fears. In the course of this your sense of self is eviscerated, spread out on a table in front of you, and left for you and your “betters” to contemplate. The Org repays you for this honesty and this self immolation by a) offering you a rebuild route, and b) keeping all your doubts and fears on file.
The rebuild route works fine as long as you stay within limits. If you go off limits, the files are pulled and your doubts and fears are played upon, forever.
My brother is a good man. He is honest and selfless. He has concerns for the wider community upon which, to the best of his ability, he acts. He has global concerns upon which, again to the best of his ability, he acts. He loves and is, I think, loved.
I thought I'd come to terms with where he'd got to with all this. I thought I'd eventually accepted that his journey was his journey and who am I to judge.
But then I had a daughter. I was filled with love and generosity and goodwill towards all. And I shared the joy with all comers as it seemed to grow with the sharing. I rebuilt bridges with my largely estranged family. This was partly assisted by the new technology. We emailed and skyped and posted videos and photos and stories. But then we visited. Booked flights. Flew the Atlantic. Stayed weeks. The new channels brought new intimacies and a new willingness to see each other in the flesh and to interact face to face again.
….until about the third visit, when I suddenly realised, with a shocking coldness, that the generosity and willingness to share my daughter extended to all my siblings – except this brother. Perhaps completely irrationally, I found I couldn't sit still when his wife took my tiny daughter out into the garden to explore the plants and the buzzing insects. I was nervous and kept watching out. It was then that it dawned on me that, if they offered (not that they ever did) to take her out for the day or, worse, away for the weekend, there was no way in hell I would ever agree.
This isn't some intellectual, open-to-intelligent-discussion decision about world views or morality or the purpose of life. This is a hard and fast unchangeable non-negotiable rock in the middle of my solar plexus. I can't remember when I last had such a rock in my core. I'm usually so uncertain about any views I might have about any flipping thing under the sun because I can always, helplessly, clearly, see the other side's point of view. I normally associate this kind of rock-hard certainty with stupidity – the unabashed, unsettling “Certainty of Stupidity”. But I know I'm incapable of shifting on this one.
I find myself re-visiting the loss of my brother. I imagine his bright, youthful, hopeful self being dragged into that evisceration and abused by the secretive holders of his deepest doubts and fears. I imagine him, daily, facing those doubts and fears head on while the keepers of the files assess and manipulate from their own “Stupidity of Certainty” standpoint. I imagine him using his best endeavours to scale the oily heights of their approval and favour.
Occasionally he tries to engage me in conversation, but I usually find I am frustrated by the minor elements such as the paucity of his intellectual grasp and the juvenility of his world view, but much more so by the enormous elephant in the room. We can never discuss the nature of his Org or its origins or its leadership or its guiding principles. Years and years ago I did try. I found it circular and fractious, but mostly just profoundly unenhancing – like talking to any unquestioning adherent of any belief system. More sinisterly, I now get the feeling that whatever we might discuss, he will have to be debriefed by his Org when he gets back to his headquarters to assure that he is still on board to the required degree. And this is also accompanied by the eerie sense that his lovely wife, the one who took my little girl to the bottom of the garden, is riding shotgun on our relationship. Whenever we might get together she seems to appear, as if by magic, in the middle distance, just close enough to overhear the conversation. Perhaps I'm paranoid and I am doing them a terrible injustice, but this kind of thinking won't impinge on the rock in my midsection.
The fact that he is a good man is a powerful mitigator. But being selfless is simply not enough. If one abrogates one's responsibilities and authorities as an educated intelligent individual human being, one has to consider into whose hands those responsibilities and authorities are being delivered or will fall. And to consider the full implications of one's responsibilities and authorities being exercised elsewhere.
My brother may believe that his seniors in the Org are his betters, but, to me, that is part of the tragedy. None of us can know why we're here or what we're here for. Not even that horse's arse L Ron Hubbard (or his ridiculous and petulant heir - D Miscavige). Ron may have had some entertaining theories, but we, as a species, are simply not in any kind of position to prove or disprove such theories. So that is what they must remain – theories. Open to discussion, debate, analysis, contrary interpretations until such time as the situation changes. Until such time as word gets through, incontrovertibly, incontestably from some incontrovertibly and incontestably higher source – a source undoubted by any single human, unencumbered by fear, who happens to be alive at the time.
So, in the sense that the darkness of not knowing is upon us all, it is this very darkness which assures us that we are equal. Because we don't know our purpose (reproduction is not in itself a purpose – all life reproduces), we cannot be sure whether any one among us is or is not serving that purpose – let alone be sure whether one or other of us is better at it than any other.
It is not the knowing, but the not knowing which unites us, which places us in the same boat, which makes us brothers and sisters.
And as brothers and sisters, we are all collectively joined in the hunt for clues; all collectively joined in the fair and open discussion and analysis of any such clues as and when they may surface.
© 2016 Deacon Martin