“Free to Shine” is both a concept and a name.
For almost 50 years my life has been lived under the shadow of scientology. I was a second generation scientologist and the subject has affected five generations of my family, and does to this day with it’s policies of ‘disconnection’ from those who speak out, tell their stories or disagree with the subject in any way. I have been organisational staff, student and public member in Sydney, Melbourne and the UK.
When I left that shadow I found myself standing alone on the brink of a new world wondering what was next. I didn’t know what “normal” was, I struggled to find the word or words to describe my state of mind and chose the name Free to Shine.
It struck me that I was free to shine now…. I had the power of freedom of speech I had so long been denied.
Being free to do something, and doing it, are of course two different things. The last years have brought struggles on many levels and both the challenges and the rewards are common to many people coming out of a cult or abusive environment. I am going to tell my story here as it comes and as it seems relevant at the time. I hope it resonates with other people and helps in some way.
Those who have been involved in these life changing challenges are normal people in extraordinary circumstances. There isn’t a great deal of information or support about the effect of cults, in the wider community and I hope that changes as more and more people find the courage to speak out.
This is my beginning.
Free To Shine 2011
A belief system such as scientology can have dire consequences in ways one cannot imagine.
Sitting with my first coffee of the day, I watched the beautiful native birds in a nearby gumtree and a single white feather drifted down, much like the feather in the movie Forest Gump. A symbol that life goes on, the breezes and storms of life take us where they may, and beauty still exists.
I was just a normal girl, raised in a normal church going family in a normal suburb in Australia.
I want to write of my experiences in this life to try and make sense of it all. This is mostly for me; however I hope that my children may gain some insight into their lives as well and possibly others may understand similar paths influenced by a belief system.
The place, time and family we are born into are beyond our choice, though in some metaphysical circles it is thought we do choose. I don’t know and at this point can’t take responsibility for choosing the life I have had, yet there are times when those choices are not ours to make and one has to go with the flow of life. Our family’s circumstances dictate a lot of that when we are young; hopefully we learn the values and attitudes to help us survive.
I am very grateful now for having an uncomplicated and loving childhood, until the age of 14, as it has given me a basis to fall back on in later life.
Although born in central Sydney, life took on a whole new meaning for me around the age of seven, when we moved to the then wilds of ‘the bush’. I am the eldest of six children with a ten year age gap. Land was much cheaper in those days and with the help of my father’s parents, Dad bought a block of five acres of bushland in what seemed the middle of nowhere and set about building us a house.
I had been raised in the Methodist Church as my parents were committed Christians when they met and for my youngest years. We went to Church every Sunday and had the traditional roast dinner for Sunday lunch on our return; it was a routine that was a comforting part of my early life. As I grew older and graduated from Sunday School, I started to help out with the smaller children in their Bible studies and it was something that I found more interesting than the normal service. My mother was a teacher and I fully expected to follow in her footsteps as a career path.
My father found Scientology in 1964 after reading the book Dianetics. He has always been a spiritual seeker and in this new philosophy he felt there were answers he wanted to find out more about. As he became more immersed in his studies over a few years, he spent more and more time away from home. After a full day’s physical work as a builder he would then drive 25 miles into Sydney to study and night, and then home again very late. I know my mother found this difficult with a brood of six children to look after, especially as she was working as a teacher as well. The elder children had chores to help with running the household but we were an unruly bunch sometimes, it must have been hard, yet with the ignorance of youth we had no idea.
My younger brother started to become interested in my father’s studies and that was not something I wanted to be excluded from, mostly from the sibling rivalry point of view.
So I went along to my first scientology Seminar in May 1967… I was just 14 years old.
The moment I walked into the venue I felt I had come home. Full of smiling friendly people, I was welcomed in a way I had not experienced before. There was an enthusiasm and apparent common purpose that seemed to bring these individuals together and I felt very grown up for the first time in my life. This Seminar was actually the playing of an important tape from the Founder of scientology, L. Ron Hubbard called RJ67 (Ron’s Journal 1967) and it concerned the need for immediate action to be taken by scientologists to ensure the safe future of the planet. It was all very dire, important and dramatic.
What magnificent concepts for a teenager! “Save the Planet” sparked my innate desire to be part of a concept bigger than the one I had and I was totally and immediately engulfed by the group purpose, even if I had no real understanding of what it was all about. I just knew I wanted to be part of an elite group of people who actually did something. (This is typical of the “love bombing” new recruits are subject to.)
And then my life changed forever.
October 1968 – Leaving Australia
I did my Communication Course and PE course (basic introductions) in May 1967. I helped out with volunteer work for the harried staff of the local Sydney organisation while studying my Dianetics course. At that time you had to study the whole course three times through. I really enjoyed myself being part of the team and the moment I was legally able to at 15 years old, I left school. It was quite a long journey from our outer suburb home into the organisation in the city and I did it alone every day. Often I was scared travelling so after a while it was arranged I could catch the train with Peter and Maureen Sparshott when they were travelling at the same time.
At some point during this year, my mother came around to accepting Scientology. I know my brother and I drove her crazy with our newly learned acknowledgment skills. “OK”, “Thankyou” etc became banned words for a while.
I remember one incident where Dad came home really looking haggard and distressed. Apparently the whole of Sydney Organisation was assigned a “Doubt Condition” (this is part of the application of the scientology ethics and justice system) and Dad would not agree. He was threatened with being declared a “Suppressive Person” because refused to compromise. I have always admired him for that. My memory is hazy on these early years, but I think the whole thing was cancelled and it was life as normal again, a common thing in scientology.
During my time in Sydney I had met the first love of my life, a young man working on “staff” called Chris. We were very young and it was an innocent relationship only going as far as furtive kisses, however we were inseparable and wanted to marry when we could. This was all part of the delightful rose-coloured scenario for me at this time, aged 15. Studying this “technology” in the day, lunches at a nearby park with my love and a seemingly bright future.
It changed pretty quickly.
Going to the UK
Dad was heavily involved with scientology now and my mother and brother and I followed in his footsteps. Dad wanted to move the whole family to join the newly formed “Sea Organisation”. This was based aboard a ship called the Royal Scotsman which I think was anchored in Corfu at the time. The idea was to fly to the UK and then get a van to drive the family to the ship. (It didn’t work out that way, for which I am eternally and extremely grateful.)
So we all moved to England, to Saint Hill Manor, the headquarters of scientology at the time. This involved selling the house Dad had built, taking my siblings out of school and moving across the world. I still don’t know how my mother coped with it all, especially as my paternal grandparents who had always had a large part in our lives threatened to – and did in fact disinherit my dad and all of us for leaving. I lost one set of grandparents at that point and although we did have some small contact again before they passed, it was a loss that affected the rest of my life.
Leaving my home country, my friends and Chris was very hard. He agreed that we would somehow meet up again and that it was the “greatest good”. I was too young to stay behind being a good enough scientologist already I believed that a new life in a new land, saving the world, was exactly what I wanted.
Dad had been promised accommodation for the family when we arrived, however it wasn’t organised at all. So someone rushed around and arranged for us to stay some house that was empty for a few days, until better things were arranged. I remember it was mouldy and damp and bare and there was another family there too. We kids (six of us plus another family) had to hide when someone came close, as we were not supposed to be there. Not a good start to our new life. Apparently the Treasury Sec at the time had rung Dad’s bank and pretended to be him and demanded loudly that his money be available the next day, i.e. the end of the stat week ‘Thursday 2pm’. Dad found out this information at a later time.
Saint Hill at that time was an exciting place to be. So many people of all nationalities, people everywhere! Reception was down by the Chapel with the Canteen opposite, the hang out place for students. It was fascinating and ever-changing. I remember when I saw snow for the first time, and once even rolling all the way down the driveway in the snow, what fun. I have memories of walking down by the lake, even though it was Out Of Bounds. Walking through trees covered with snow and ice, a magical experience. There were so many lovely people sharing these life experiences there and I felt excited to be part of it, mostly. I was suffering from culture shock as well so it was adrenaline overdrive.
The family had moved into a large house in Oxted that was a sort of boarding house for Scientologists. Mum and Dad ran it in exchange for rent even though they also worked on staff. I don’t remember much of this time; I know my siblings had to fend for themselves a lot.
Saint Hill UK 1968 -69
These years were so intense it is hard to describe. So much happened in a relatively short time, stories may be a little out of sequence so I will just go with the flow.
As I had left school and had sort of been ‘set free’ within the boundaries of Saint Hill, it became obvious I had to do something with my life. Anything outside scientology was out of the question so the obvious answer was to work on staff. I worked in Mimeo in the Foundation org (evening shift) and was quickly snapped up to also be the Receptionist for the whole place. It was drummed into me that I was the “face of Saint Hill” and I liked that responsibility. I was quite a happy young person, so ‘meeting and greeting’ was fun. The switchboard was a huge old plug board and at times it was too busy for one person alone, so there would be someone else helping with that. Most of the time though the Receptionist was also handling all the incoming and outgoing phones as well as people coming and going, making it a hugely busy job.
Scientology is totally run on “stats” – statistics. The ‘end of the week’ is Thursday at 2pm, life becomes frantic just before then as ‘stats’ have to be higher than the week before, as “Ethics conditions” were applied according to them. I think my ‘stat’ at the time was something to with the number of people who came into Reception as I remember willing people to walk in that door on many a Thursday 2pm (end of the stat week) so I wouldn’t be penalised. I worked with the Registrar and Treasury (self-explanatory) to speed people through to their next service and looking back it was an example of high-speed selling at its best. Very few came in through Reception >Reg>Treasury without parting with money and this ‘line’ was drilled and drilled and drilled to make it super efficient.
I remember one day a woman came in and she was hysterical and crying, saying that her husband had just hanged himself and she needed to see the Guardians Office immediately (they took care of PR, Legal and Intelligence). I sent her to the appropriate person and didn’t hear another word about it. I was pretty shocked at the time and this was my first glimpse into the other side of scientology where one didn’t dare to ask questions.
I was working two jobs – basically day shift and night shift. ‘Meal breaks’ were only if you were lucky, mostly lunch was a run across to the ‘Canteen’ for a high-priced snack. This area was supposed to be just for public, not staff, though as it was one of the few places for relaxing, many staff used it too. During the changeover from Day to FND (night) organisations many people rushed home to eat, for me this was often not possible. Even getting home to East Grinstead (the closest local town where most scientologists lived) at night was a total nightmare at times and meant standing in the car park and begging a lift from students or public going that way, unless my parents were also going home. I eventually left the evening staff job, and my new ‘post’ was as Qualifications Division Reception, welcoming and directing those people into the area of correction of training or processing.
My personal life changed too. After some months my love in Australia, Chris, had stopped answering my letters, so I wrote to Peter Sparshott in Sydney who told me he had died. It was a terrible shock, as Chris apparently had known he was ill and hadn’t wanted to tell me. Even though I grieved, I was young and surrounded by so many people from different countries and cultures that life soon began to go on, as it does. There was such an enthusiasm in those days that bound all these strangers together and made life seem dynamic and exciting. Hard work didn’t matter; it was something you did because you were part of it and happy to be so.
Shortly after I met a soul mate and fell in love, as 16 year olds do, and that led to the next inevitability for a naive young Aussie teenager in a strange land and a strange culture with no real parental support … pregnancy.
1969 Pregnant and on staff
I was not living at home at this time, I had moved into a share house with other scientologists and this obviously gave my young self a greater freedom. I suspected I was pregnant yet was woefully ignorant on the subject so I ignored the symptoms for a month or so. When I realised it was a fact, I hugged this information tightly to myself as I knew that I was going to face opposition to having a child and decided to wait until I was at least three months pregnant. Somehow I knew that was an important milestone, though I had no idea of anything else about pregnancy. Not only was this England in 1969 where illegitimate children were still frowned upon, I was also a staff member and this could create a “PR” nightmare. Scientology does not allow anything controversial or that could cast a bad image to become ‘public’ or attract attention in any way.
One morning a fellow housemate saw me throwing up and reported this back to my parents. All hell broke loose, and looking back on it now, I can understand my parent’s viewpoint much more than I could at the time! It was decided that I had to have an abortion and I honestly felt I had no choice. Dad took me to see a doctor who refused an abortion, in disgust, as I was already past the 3 month mark. Thankyou to that doctor ….!
The next alternative was adoption and I saw a social worker to arrange that. This all felt beyond my control or choice, I was swept along by those who had authority over me and I went along with what was decided for me. With the naiveté of youth I somehow thought things would fall into place and I imagined a future where my darling baby, her father and I would live happily ever after, no matter what had been decreed otherwise. Needless to say it didn’t happen that way.
I was still working and remember going to the loo to fall asleep for an hour here and there. I was incredibly tired, working day and night with inadequate food and rest, there was no leeway on the demands of staff for pregnancy. At some point I left, I suppose because a pregnant single 16 year old was not good PR for scientology. I also remember going on a bus a couple of times to the hospital where I would be admitted and those two visits were the total of my pre-natal care. I had no idea what birth would be like and the only real advice was from Ivis Bolder who told me “Imagine you are trying to shit a grapefruit!” Well, that’s one way to put it.
My baby’s father seemed ok with what was happening and I didn’t know differently until I found out that he had moved on to another girl. His mother also made it abundantly clear that there was no way in hell he would ever marry me, even if he wanted to. I was totally on my own. And that was acceptable to those around me, my family and staff members.
My dad was due to go to Edinburgh, to the new Advanced Organisation, and somehow it was decided that the only option for me was to joining the new Sea Organisation there. This is so bizarre and the only explanation I can see is that it was a way to have me housed and working and ‘taken care of’. My younger brother had already been sent to one of the Sea Org ships in the Mediterranean, at the tender age of just 15. So I signed my Billion Year Contract (Members of the Sea Org sign an employment contract with the organization for one billion years) and headed north. Luckily the Commanding Officer at the time, Phyl Stevens, knew this was not going to work and she allowed me to stay there until my dad was complete on his services and headed back to Saint Hill. I still worked as a normal Sea Org member for that time although ‘special exercises’ were designed for me for the morning workouts all staff attended. My memory is of a room stuffed with bunk beds and no personal space and it was such a relief when I left there, it was a close escape.
The question remained of what to do with me. The next option was that I join World Wide staff, this was then the senior administration centre of international scientology, based at Saint Hill. I will always remember that day, sitting in a car with my mother, sobbing because I didn’t want to go, but not knowing I had any other choice. I wanted to save the world but I was so young and scared, riding some tidal wave and hanging on for dear life.
I started working as the telex operator with my Dad as my boss, and then Director of Communications when he left staff. This meant keeping the “communication lines” smooth and delivering telexes and post immediately. Jane Kember was the Guardian and always scared me; I remember being relieved when I had to deliver a telex and she wasn’t there. (This was the Guardians Office where all legal, PR and Intelligence matters of scientology were taken care of. Doors of “GO” staff were always locked and secrecy was paramount.)
I was located in the Monkey Room, a large room in the old Manor containing a fabulous mural painted by John Spencer Churchill , nephew of Sir Winston Churchill. Many staff worked in this large room and it was a hive of activity. One day I came back from lunch and my desk had disappeared. I had been moved upstairs without warning as it had been decided telexes needed to be more secure or something. I was always on call for the senior executives to send urgent and mysterious telexes at any time, often dictated straight to me for typing, and to be sent immediately. Life in the GO was terribly serious.
One incident I recall is that we were all staff being sent to London to give out free copies of Freedom magazine. I asked to be excused and was refused, it was an “all hands” event that everyone had to attend. I was 8 months pregnant, it was freezing bloody cold and it was a nightmare standing on the streets trying to give away the broadsheets and picking them up again as they were dropped to avoid being fined for littering. The journey home is seared in my memory as being pregnant I needed a loo, but the coach couldn’t stop and I was in agony by the time we arrived back at Saint Hill.
My baby was overdue so the doctors decided to induce the birth and I worked on staff until the day before. I am grateful my mother came with me to the hospital, if she hadn’t I am sure I would have died. I had no idea of what was to happen and given drugs to alleviate the pain (which I later found out I am allergic to). The result was that I told Mum that I “was going” and I really meant it. She held my hand and told me, no demanded, that I “not leave my body” and I eventually delivered a healthy baby girl. As the baby was due to be adopted, I was not allowed to breastfeed, and yet she was brought to me at the same times as other mothers and then taken away for bottle feeding. The idea was that adoption was a last resort, and mothers were encouraged by any means possible to keep the baby and the most obvious way was to encourage bonding. This was incredibly distressing; how could I continue to be on staff with a newborn without support? How could I do all that was asked of me? How could I give her up?
Three days after the birth my parents visited and looked at this baby in the cot at the end of my bed. They told me they would help me raise her, as “she wanted to be part of our (scientology) family”. I cried for days, not knowing how this was going to work, whether I could do it and what was the best decision was to make for all concerned. Again, I went along with what had been decided as it seemed to mean I could keep my baby and continue working on staff, so surely that was the best solution? The hospital staff suddenly started to be nice to me, and began to teach me how to bottle feed and care for a newborn.
The day after I left hospital I was back at work at Saint Hill.
Writing this next part of my story is one of the hardest things I have done. Not so much for the gathering of words, more the gathering of thoughts. When I first wrote an outline of my story on ESMB I covered this era in a few sentences, this time the depth of emotions revealed were somewhat shocking to me and I need to write it out. Thankyou to some precious friends who have helped me put it all in perspective these last few weeks.
Working in any scientology organisation is not a 9-5 job and I think that’s an important point to mention. Dedication to the ideals lead you to want to help to the best of your ability, so you join staff and sign a contract for 2 ½ or 5 years (or in the case of the Sea Org it’s a billion years). Once you are absorbed into the machinery ‘working’ becomes virtually your total life and any room for individuality and personal time is rare.
I still don’t know how I managed to work with a newborn baby under my desk! Perhaps it was that I had a ready smile and she was so cute. My memories of this time are so hazy, in fact one of the few things that come to mind are of her being taken for walks by a lovely helpful young girl who later became my dearest friend.
At the time I was living in the Stables, originally the actual stables of Saint Hill Manor which had been converted into some living areas. I had a tiny room and communal use of other facilities. Two other memories seared on my mind are of sobbing in absolute despair while my newborn baby screamed and I didn’t know what to do. It was just me and I had to try to keep things quiet for other residents. The other was of sitting by the window for hours, watching and waiting for the lone motorbike headlight that would be my baby’s father coming to see me, as he did sometimes. I still lived with the hope that somehow, someday, we could be a family and had named him in her birth certificate for this very reason. It was not to be, he was as young as me and subject to his own family issues with the added life changing challenges of having just returned from the ship where Hubbard was at the time.
I can’t remember the exact arrangements I had with my parents; I know we shared the care of my baby daughter during week staff times and weekends. They were working too, studying and raising all my siblings and somehow we managed to hold it together, despite the long hours all round. (Having raised three other children since then, I understand why this period is a blank to me now.)
In scientology, it is part of the indoctrination that you don’t show your inner turmoil, you don’t have “case on post” or “human emotion and reaction” – in other words NO emotion.
This concept and conditioning has been one of the hardest things to shed and has affected my whole life. You just ‘get on with it’, you smile and you pretend no matter that your heart is breaking inside. And my heart was broken, no matter how it appeared to others, as it became plain my romantic family ideal was never to be and life continued as a constant round of coping, until an incident where dirty nappies were found in a cupboard meant I had to move out of the Stables. I was working long hours, it became my whole life as tends to happen on staff. Gradually mum took over the mothering role more and more, it just sort of happened and my baby became another child in our large family.
The point came where my parents formally adopted her and changed her surname to theirs to make life a little less complex when she went to school etc. The Adoption Court had a requirement that she know who her real mother was, and she and I had many conversations over the years about it all, starting when she first learned to talk. In fact the last conversation I had with her some years ago was on this subject, prior to the real reason for her visit. She had come to “handle” me to stop me telling my scientology story, and when I refused to do, so she disconnected.
The problem is that those conversations were when I was still a scientologist or just newly ‘out’ – and now I’m not. I no longer choose to believe that I was just a vessel for her birth into her scientology family of choice. That she was ‘there’ at her conception and chose the way it turned out. As I’m getting into the realm of beliefs, and I am happy to let people think what they may, I repeat – I no longer believe that. This whole concept negates me as a person who had dreams and free will of my own – I wanted a baby and I went against convention to carry her to term with hopes it would all somehow miraculously turn out right. The reason it didn’t was that there simply wasn’t any support for me to do that back then.
A wonderful counsellor said to me, after hearing the bare outline of my story, “You lost your baby, you had no control.” At the time I didn’t really see that as it was not the “acceptable truth” I had lived with for so long and “control” and “being cause” is a huge issue for anyone who has been a scientologist. However that simple statement opened the door to the part of my heart that I had bricked over and shut down. No-one had ever said that to me before. Many months and tears later I agree with her, I had not realised what lay behind that brick wall. I remembered the last 40+ years of having to pretend she was my sister, when to me she never, never was. Grandparents adopting their child’s baby is not that unusual in times gone by, hence the Adoption Court’s sensible ruling; it’s just in this case it was complicated by a belief system. Coming to understand my own actions, the guilt, the grief of loss unacknowledged, the decades of distorted truth and strange family interactions is a huge step towards coming to understand who I am, my hidden feelings of failure and so on.
I love my parents dearly and thank them for everything they did to raise us all, which I know they did to the best of their ability. Unfortunately something went wrong along the way and in her mind my mother actually became my baby’s birth mum as well. We were at a wedding about 10 years ago and commenting on all my sister’s dresses and she said, “XXX just has a different father, same mother”. That was somewhat shocking to say the least and explained a lot, yet in my mind I had abdicated responsibility, so who was I to argue when decades had passed? If that is what my mother had come to believe, then I would let it rest for the sake of family harmony. I didn’t understand then that my silence was condoning an outdated lie and that there was absolutely no considerations of my feelings and really never had been.
Many people knew the truth anyway so my daughter and I agreed at one point that when she was in Melbourne where I was, she would be introduced as my daughter, and when in Sydney where my parents were, she was my sister, and we did this for mum’s sake. It was really just a band-aid solution and didn’t address the real issues, as we could not. My mother was her mum, she had raised her and in respect of that I had to allow her to be called my sister. It should never have gone that far, it was only a solution for when she was a child. A sad consequence has been that my daughter’s baby – my granddaughter – did not know the truth of this until she was in her teens, I was her ‘aunty’. I have had almost no contact with her (now exacerbated by disconnection) and hope one day I can be who I really am with her.
A few years ago I had what is probably the last real conversation with my mum, as she has had strokes and is unwell and far away. She said to me very seriously, with tears in her eyes “I have something to say to you ….. I’m sorry.” She didn’t have to specify anything; her words covered all the bonds between mother and child. And I told her I was sorry too, and we forgave each other and we hugged each other.
I look forward to the day the same thing can happen with my own firstborn.
And now I send these words out into the world, with love.
Leaving Staff the first time
This period of my life was total stress. I was living in a room at the Stables (part of the original property converted to a few apartments) and I tried to cope with a newborn babe at the age of 16, while working on staff. My parents were busy and I didn’t have any other support or knowledge of caring for a baby. I couldn’t cope with all the dirty nappies either, and started storing them in cupboards out of desperation. They were discovered and I was asked to leave, and moved back with my parents.
I don’t know if the time sequence is right here, but sometime around then Martyn’s Place (a huge old mansion with about 20 bedrooms) was finished being renovated and my family moved there. It was a really beautiful place and I remember it fondly, and will try to post some pics sometime. I continued working on staff.
During this time I was raped by a student who I was silly enough to go for a walk with in the woods one day. I wasn’t hurt, except emotionally, and so shocked by what happened and the guilt of “pulling it in” that I didn’t tell anybody. How could I say it was rape when I had kissed him? I didn’t even know at that time that being pushed to the ground, jeans ripped while I was saying “no” was rape. He was a respected older student at Saint Hill and who would believe me? And if I did tell, it would cause a huge Public Relations “flap” and be bad for scientology. And that is all scientology cares about, so I could expect no support for “being a victim”. It took 30 years for that to come out, I cried for a week when I first told someone, and it has had a lot to do with my subsequent healing.
This is the sort of thing that interests me, as it reflects the values of the group. I did not feel safe enough to report a sexual crime, and lived with the certainty for many years that it was all my fault. Of course this is not unusual, but here was I in the midst of the supposedly safest place on the planet, and I could not tell ANYONE.
Heavy ethics penalties were brought in while I was on staff there. This meant that if your ‘statistics’ on your job (post) were down on the week before, physical restrictions were assigned. For example after a ‘downstat’ week I was not allowed to leave the premises, get food, shower etc. There was nothing I could do immediately to get my stats up and I remember once having to try to find somewhere to sleep the night other than under a desk. A friend whispered that there was a key to LRH’s camera/photography room he could get, so we spent the night there, on the floor amongst Hubbard’s cameras! If we had been found there would have been hell to pay.
I met my first husband on staff, we had an instant rapport and decided to marry quickly, and escape Saint Hill. I had to argue long and hard to get my parent’s permission and I knew it also meant leaving my baby behind for some time. She was settled within our family and I knew she would be safe, I had been becoming more and more unhappy on staff, it was really an insane time and place to be. He was unhappy on staff too, and the thought of the freedom of a new life with him was too enticing to ignore. Our wedding was arranged to be held in Saint Hill Chapel. I can’t remember the sequence precisely; I think I blew the day before the wedding as I had been refused permission for leave. I still was married in Saint Hill Chapel! How did I manage that? I am still amazed. Only half the guests came, and I suppose the fact that any did was because they hadn’t heard I was blowing ! My new husband and I drove off into the sunset (towards Scotland) with a profound sense of relief. I will remember that feeling forever. In my mind I had totally left scientology and I didn’t intend to come back to it, however life isn’t always that easy.
My new husband and I went to Scotland to start anew, blessed with the courage of the young (he was only a couple of years older than me.) I had absolutely no idea of what I was headed into and was trusting that it would certainly be better than the life I had left behind. I was 17 years old and with so much having happened within the last couple of years I also hoped that I could somehow learn about and begin a ‘normal’ life.
I had visited Edinburgh in 1969 when I had joined the SO. I didn’t get to see much of the city though, as you can imagine. I remember grey…grey … and cobblestone streets. The buildings are grey, the roads are grey. And of course the skies. I wish now I had been able to really see more.
Life in a small Scottish village north of Glasgow was a tremendous culture shock. It was a beautiful place. The village was crowded around the end of the loch, wee houses with boats out front, and surrounded by the mountains. Picture postcard beautiful, with snow showing almost all year round on their peaks. The first thing that struck me was the cold. Oh my God, it was cold to a young Aussie! I wore multiple layers and suffered badly and was told scornfully by the locals the only way to be comfortable was to acclimatise.
My mother-in-law didn’t like me at all and we were living with her in a tiny council flat.
Somehow we got by. I learned to shop in the tiny local grocery. We ate lots of canned goods and instant meals as I didn’t know how to cook, and she refused to cook us more than a family meal now and then. But when she did cook it was glorious! Lots of haggis and turnips and mash, I loved it.
The only heating in the tiny hoose was a wood fire that also heated the water tank above it. So no hot water most of the day. When I washed clothes and hung them outside they tended to freeze solid in the winter. This was amazing to me and I’d go around knocking on them.
I wanted to fit in, I had no intention of going back to East Grinstead, but it was almost impossible. I started having bad headaches and went to the local doctor. Within an hour my mother-in-law asked me if I was pregnant (and didn’t look pleased at the prospect). Apparently I had been seen by some of the locals walking away from the surgery with a green form (diet sheet) that was usually handed out to pregnant ladies! Word spread fast in that place, the curtains twitched whenever I went out. It’s funny looking back on it now.
I loved to roam the local hills above the village. The views were so breathtaking, I can remember them still, and the smell of truly fresh air. I remember going on a picnic once, a great outdoor event on another close by loch. Terrific food, good company and a million bloody European wasps. It didn’t seem to bother anyone that they were crawling all over the food.
There was a local Mission in Helensburgh, not too far away run by Sheena and Hunter Robinson. We went there a few times with the intention of working towards getting back on lines, but I don’t remember much about it and nothing came of it.
Life there didn’t suit me, and I soon found my husband was as crazy as you could imagine. I mean really, really nuts. He would fly into rages and have “invisible” stalkers. His mother hated me, this blonde bimbo from Australia who had taken her son. It was not fun.
I had left Scientology, left my family, left everything I had known. The relief I had felt at leaving behind the insanity started to recede in importance as I wondered what my life would become where I was. Isolated way up north, not in the country of my birth, I wanted to be with my family. But my family were in Scientology and I had fled it …..
Eventually I couldn’t take it as my husband was starting to become more and more crazy and violent in his actions, so I knew I had to get out or my life was in danger. I told him I was leaving and he threw all my clothes down the stairs and was so angry he broke off a piece of the stair railing and came after me with it. I stayed locked in a room and the next morning went to the local train station and sat there shivering until the daily train came.
I travelled from one end of the country to the other and it was, for me, a terrifying experience. I think I was still 17. However I was befriended by a solider on his way back to London. I didn’t trust him at first, I was so scared but he bought me lunch, chatted quietly and calmed my fears. When the train reached London he found a cab for me back to East Grinstead and waved goodbye. I have never forgotten him, and thank him for looking after me.
Saint Hill 1971 – 77
I managed to get a room at Martyns Place ( a converted manor house with about 10 bedrooms run by scientologists) where my family had rooms and began to rebuild my life. My crazy husband followed me soon after and goodness knows why – I believed everything he told me and decided to try again as he promised to get auditing. However over the next year or so he went totally nuts. He had ‘monsters’ that shadowed him, he would end up cowering in terror in a corner of a room. He shaved his head and threatened suicide many times and the only one who could calm him down was my Dad.
I hadn’t gone back on staff, but he was still apparently a threat to the organisation of scientology, as is anyone or anything that may cast a bad public relations light on them. The Guardians Office became involved of course, and I was informed that it had come up in one of his sessions that he had been given ECT when he was a child, (during a school trip to Russia) and that he was a “plant” (someone sent in by suppressive people to infiltrate the organisation)! He had told me about the trip, and looking back on it now it seems crazy that I believed what I was told. I was ordered to “handle it”, and in fact my landlord was also told that he wouldn’t be able to continue in scientology himself if he did not get my husband off the premises. Thankfully he was persuaded to leave peacefully. He was a sad, deluded bloke with problems who was attracted to a ‘religion’ that he thought may have helped him. Anyway, I have never seen or heard from him again, other than swapping divorce papers.
Looking back it’s almost unbelievable how you go along with whatever you are told within the group. I now know it was a matter of self-esteem, of being convinced I was not capable of thinking for myself, or that I had any rights beyond the ones the group allowed me, as long as I did what I was told. There is such a threat of being abandoned to the wicked outside world that you mostly tend to do what you are told, especially when young.
Despite being a good little compliant Scientologist, I didn’t rejoin staff at that time and instead ventured out into the world. I needed to pay my rent and look after myself and being on staff didn’t support that. What an experience, as I had no concept of what it was like to have a normal job. So began an intensive education of myself to be able to interact with what they called “wogs” – the rest of the human race. I managed it reasonably well and found out what it was like to buy myself clothes and THINGS. I met nice people and gradually found that it was ok to be outside the confines of Saint Hill. I ended up working in the same company as another ex staff, Barbara Vowles, she helped me a lot but sadly was dismissed – I think for speaking out about something. I often wondered what happened to her.
I also did a lot of volunteer work, like Receptionist Saint Hill, while I was suspended between two worlds.
I can’t remember much of these years. Eventually I reached a point where I knew my life was going nowhere in the UK, I didn’t know my younger siblings or my daughter so with the help of my brother, decided to return to Australia in 1977.
My scientology auditing and training:
I had been audited up the auditing and training. Over the years I ended up having my grades single flow, triple flow, quad flow and Expanded. I was given Method I Word Clearing. I hated NED and ended up getting very frustrated and making up space opera events. They read…hey! I didn’t really, in my heart of hearts, ever feel that I gained anything from the auditing, other than minor periods of feeling good for a while. Of course this thought could never be expressed, in ANY way. During a session with a lovely lady I apparently voiced the Clear cognition” and she went battled hard for me to be able to attest to it. There was much consultation and disagreement and I remember her banging someone’s desk in her determination that it would not be dismissed. I was allowed to attest to “keyed-out Clear”. This was before everyone and his dog attested to Clear, that came later.
All I knew is that I felt really good, that the thoughts I had told her were simply normal to me, that it was a state of how I had always been and had never put into words. I mean after all, I was supposedly far from the top of the Bridge and was not supposed to feel like this until I had done a whole lot more.
I also was given special processes straight from Hubbard himself, which he was apparently Case Supervising. I was a guinea pig, though happy at the time to do it, feeling very special. I think from what I have read now it was either L10 or L11 (confidential levels), Heavy stuff. I apparently did OK, I didn’t ever hear anything more about it. That auditing stayed with me for a long time, not in a good way. The weight of my whole track “overts grim indeed, with no-one to talk to about it, or help me understand. I felt like a very bad person, pretending to be ‘normal.’
Mish mash memories of Saint Hill
Being locked in a tent after the Battle of Britain event where no-one was allowed to leave until they had signed up for their next level. The angry queue of people waiting to get out that door!
Things that had to be done yesterday.
The drama of flaps to be handled.
Not having anything you had produced with blood sweat and tears taken into account or remembered beyond the time it happened.
Being so very tired, and often hungry.
Being stressed about finding a lift into East Grinstead as it was an awfully long walk. I was once stopped by the police walking down that road, a young female late at night. They gave me a lift. Most of the time you waited in the car park until someone took you home, or close by. I remember the crowding of many more students into cars than was safe, especially when it was snowing. Getting a lift with a US celebrity in his wonderful Lotus, what a trip that was!
In early 1978 I returned to Australia, although to Melbourne instead of Sydney. I only had my brother as family in Australia, as we had been shunned as a family by extended family here for being scientologists, so I followed him. (Most of the others in the UK returned in a trickle over the years.) There was a period of culture shock for the second time in my life as I readjusted to the open spaces and different way of life in the country of my birth. I didn’t really know where to start or what I wanted from life, starting afresh at 25 years old.
The obvious connections I did have were scientology ones. Being an inherent optimist, I thought that perhaps the insanity I had lived in the UK would not be here in this far away country. I had also grown up in an environment of “them and us” where the only people you could really trust, who would really understand you, were fellow scientologists. So it was one of life’s crossroads and unfortunately I did not travel the unknown roads but returned to the life and belief systems I had been raised in.
As I had blown staff (unauthorised departure meaning I had ‘crimes’) in the UK I was ineligible to join again without a lot of ‘amends’ (making up the damage) to show I was trustworthy. So I started doing volunteer work for Citizens Commission Human Rights (CCHR) and the local Melbourne organisation.
However this didn’t pay the rent, or in fact pay anything at all. The senior executive of the Guardian’s Office in Melbourne was Elaine Allen and I clicked with her immediately. I also became friends with her husband Laurie Allen and he decided to take me under his wing. He helped me set up a small secretarial business to service small businesses in his building and I began to feel more confidence within myself and hopeful for the future.
The CCHR work was mostly done in a tin shed in the backyard of the Melbourne org, and during the summer months this was hell on earth with temperatures over 40C, and freezing in winter. It was a converted house in Inkerman Rd, Caulfield and there wasn’t much room there at all. I did admin work for a year and a half and studied my Student Hat while doing secretarial work to survive, gradually doing less for CCHR and more for the GO as a volunteer typist. I remember with great fondness David Griffiths and Judy Bozan who worked tirelessly to ‘expose psychiatric abuses’ with an admirable passion. I didn’t agree that “all psychiatrists” were out to damage mankind, not at all, though I kept that to myself. I did agree that there were abuses, as there are in any system, and that was enough for my doubts to be silenced. In truth I really had not been educated much beyond the scientology approved boundaries.
I met my second husband during this time and we married within months, in October 1979. Scientology was going through the start of it’s “Out 2D” purges. (“2D” is the jargon for “Second Dynamic” and deals with family, children, personal relationships and sex.) What it boiled down to was “if you are having a sexual relationship you have to get married.” Our wedding was one of seven at that time, a wedding almost every weekend for a few months as couples made it legal! Scientology’s external public relations at work again.
My memory is a bit hazy on exact dates here, I know when it was deemed I had done enough “amends” I petitioned to be able to join staff again, and it was okayed, so I finished up my secretarial business and signed a 5 year staff ‘contract’ for the GO in Melbourne. I became pregnant and my husband took a second job to support us, he was also working on staff which paid next to nothing. We moved into a large blue stone building in Fitzroy that Elaine Allen rented, it had a lot of bedrooms sublet to selected staff…..her security as a senior executive had to be maintained.
I was happy during that time. Newly married, the anticipation of a child that I could actually raise and be a mother to, part of the ‘elite’ of scientology staff (by virtue of being in the GO) and a nice place to live. We were on the very top floor in an attic room, so the stairs were hard work as my pregnancy progressed, however the people there were like a family and we all had the common goals of scientology and it was a small price to pay.
Elaine and I would go out on Saturday mornings to the markets and plan meals for the coming week, in those early days we did actually often finish work at a reasonable hour and come home to eat. She also allowed to me take naps in the backseats of cars during the last months of pregnancy. Elaine had children herself and was as happy as I was about the baby, a stark contrast to what happened in the Sea Org (though I didn’t know that then).
In March 1980 the Melbourne org was burnt down, which was a tremendous shock. The GO blamed it on ASIO as we were ‘so successful”. I think only the top floors were destroyed and by some chance most of the PC folders were not harmed. The organisation then operated from five different private houses for quite some time, coming together a few times a week for staff meetings. My memory of that time is one of great team spirit and “making things go right” (a favourite scientology catch phrase) against the odds. “Rocky” was our theme – it was us against ASIO and the SPs out there who were trying to take us down! New premises were bought in Russell Street in the city in 1980 and the organisation started it’s new life there.
I worked until the day my baby was born and luckily was granted 5 weeks maternity leave. I had a wonderful homebirth, and it was just in time to be announced at Friday muster. My baby son rarely slept more than a few hours at a time and became very ill when he was a few weeks old. I coped as best I could, my mum flew out from the UK for a few weeks which was much appreciated and the other people in the house helped as much as they could. I returned to work to find there was a big “flap” with everyone in the GO being labelled as “DB shits” (degraded beings) for some obscure reason and having to stay and study a particular policy letter until you ‘passed the checkout’ .I remember feeling really sick, holding a newborn baby late into the night and feeling like it was my UK experience all over again. Well actually it was….
I was lucky to be allowed to bring my baby to work with me for a short time although it was extremely difficult. There was no running water or facilities and trying to keep him quiet and entertained was almost impossible. Another GO staff member, Joy Allsop, also had her baby there and often there would be two babies crying for attention. I was allowed to work only ‘day’ hours during those months but then was ordered to be on post for the fulltime schedule, which was 9am – 10.30pm with Sunday afternoon off, and I think that happened to Joy as well. It’s surprising we managed to do that for the time we did. I had no support and the stress was so great that my husband blew staff (left without permission) in order for us to survive financially. He was almost expelled from the “church” at this point but managed to sort it out and come back to work part time. I found day care for my infant, something I had never wanted to do, hand him over to a stranger to raise. I still had to cope with a baby ‘on post’ after day care hours were over, and study as well (a staff requirement) and I was desperately unhappy trying to juggle it all. The only times that had been real fun were in the early days when a group of us would go and have pizza and play Pacman once the dreaded ‘Thursday 2pm’ was past for the week, and those days were long gone.
I remember one time there was a “Garrison Mission” and still being ‘on post’ at 1am with a small, tired and unhappy baby trying to pass a “White Glove inspection”. That meant that every surface had to be totally clean, an almost impossible task in an old building, especially considering the inspection included tops of doors and skirting boards etc. I thought I would never get to go home, though eventually I ‘passed’.
My job at that time was basically as a recruiter for the Guardians Office, something I hated. It was extremely hard to find people who met the strict requirements and therefore we had an “Expansion Unit” (XPU for short) where I wrote ‘programs’ for recruits to follow until they were qualified. I loved the interaction with people, however anyone who has recruited staff for scientology will understand the pressure to ‘get that signature on that contract’. Elaine was the real recruiter; she would do whatever it took to get someone to sign up, from screaming matches behind closed doors to being their best friend. Intense pressure.
I forgot to mention earlier that her husband Laurie had passed away in the time before the move into the city. This was a devastating loss to not only Elaine, but his many friends. At that point she was recruited for the Sea Organisation (SO), although still fulfilling her post as Assistant Guardian Melbourne. This wonderful lady who had been my friend began to change from that point, and become a true Sea Org member. There were more and more incidents of Elaine giving someone an “SRA” in her office –Severe Reality Adjustment – during which we became very busy elsewhere and hoped one was never aimed at us.
My baby son was starting to get sick more and more often, running fevers and hardly sleeping. I decided I had just had to leave, but was ‘handled’ to stay with reduced hours, i.e. I went home at night. Immediately my son started to sleep and wasn’t so sick. My husband was able to mind him sometimes, and that reduced the pressure on me.
One day I left a cup of tea too close to the edge of my desk and my toddler pulled it down onto his arm and hand. I stripped his clothes off and put cold water on the burns immediately and phoned my husband to come. My son was in the Children’s Hospital for 3 days and thankfully did not have serious damage, only a scar on his wrist. I can’t tell you the guilt that a parent faces in that kind of situation. The thing is it really should not have happened at all, I was beyond exhausted and distracted by ‘saving the planet’. I was devastated and became even more highly stressed for his safety and our future. I felt bad about not being a good mother on one hand and on the other knew that my leaving would mean a whole new world of pain.
Yet again I was persuaded to stay, “for the greatest good”. Your life as an individual becomes almost worthless compared to the all encompassing need to be part of “clearing the planet” and the carrot of possibilities for your own spiritual gain that scientology promised us all. If you ‘broke a staff contract’ you would be given a to pay for any services received and denied the “Bridge” until you did all you had to do to regain ‘good standing’.
I became pregnant again.
It was suddenly decided my past “blow” at Saint Hill made me a ‘security risk’ for the Guardian’s Office. Such arbitrary decisions were common and always added to the feeling of being unsafe. Someone made that decision and it didn’t matter the years of hard work and dedication and hardships I had endured to be a staff member. So I could no longer be Elaine’s Communicator and was made the Project I/C for a huge international event, which took 5 months to organise. I was pregnant again, yet managed to pull it off somehow with great success.
At the end of that marathon I was a physical and emotional wreck and when I started to have false labour pains at about 5 months, my doctor became very concerned and said I had to rest. This was the crunch point and once again I faced the decision between being a mother in the best way I could, or following the path scientology decreed. (That being that I continue to work, no matter the risk to the baby or myself and “make it go right”.) It’s funny how life does that for you, give you another look at an issue and a choice for a different approach to it.
I finally decided that the health of both my son and unborn child – and myself – was more important than anything else and I had to take a break. Woohoo for a flash of sanity!
I remember the day I told Elaine I was leaving very well, early 1982. I actually only asked for a Leave of Absence until the baby was safely delivered and the result was one of the dreaded SRA’s (Severe Reality Adjustments) from her. I was screamed at and basically reduced to rubble by someone who I had shared a great deal of my life with the past few years, that I had shared a house and ‘family’ life with…. I couldn’t believe that she would do that to me. I know now how naive and unrealistic I was back then but its how I felt. She called me “one of the black hats”, that is “those who leave when things are getting better”, presumably because of their own ‘evil purposes about the expansion of scientology’. I know… I know…unbelievable. In fact it was this concept that made me decide to totally leave. To see my ‘friend’ accuse me of such things, to be so vicious and scathing and treat me as the lowest lowlife you can imagine was more than I could bear. I turned around and walked out of that office and away from scientology staff forever.
This story so far perhaps sounds somewhat bleak so I wanted to add that there were happy times as well…of course. However I am writing about how scientology affected my life and how it’s presence shadowed every event and decision in some way. It’s those times that I could, for a moment, step away that were the times of joy.
I decided when I left staff that I would devote at least the next five years to TOTALLY being a mother and I would guard that precious decision with the passion of a mother lioness, which I did. And during that time I allowed that side of myself to come to the fore and had some very happy times. By 1985 I had 3 toddlers/babies under 5 years old and it certainly kept me busy. I wish I could post photos of them, however it is not a good idea to do so at the moment. One day it will be possible.
Family life 1982 -88
Walking away from the scientology organisation in Russell Street, Melbourne is a day I will never forget. The relief was so massive and I felt excited at the immediate future; being a proper mother at last, despite the exhaustion I felt at the time. I was going to be there for my family and not have children as a second priority to whatever disaster scientology was trying to overcome at the time. This was such a huge decision and required a courage born of desperation.
I can’t remember if we moved out of the shared (scientology staff) house before or after I left, I think it was just before. I can’t even remember what happened to my husband regarding being married to a ‘blown staff member’, somehow we just sank out of sight and out of mind, which is quite unusual. 1982 was the year when management was busily rearranging the Mission Network and goodness knows what else, and was a period where many thousands of people left scientology, so I guess I was just one of the many.
I did get a Freeloader Bill, although I successfully argued that many of the “courses” I was being charged for were not for personal spiritual advancement but rather work related. I’m not sure how I managed that! It ended up only being a few hundred dollars which was paid off over a period of time and thus I once again became a ‘scientologist in good standing’ although an inactive one regarding taking any courses or auditing, I had no intentions of that!
Slowly I felt myself become whole again and not a nervous wreck. Having rest, food and time heals many ills and I had a healthy baby daughter in 1982 and another in 1984, all three babies were wonderful (medically supervised) homebirths. I didn’t really know how to be part of normal society and didn’t understand that there were many organisations and people who were there to help new mothers. The insular attitude of scientologists was still my own…and although I enjoyed motherhood it was also a solitary activity for me. The downside of that was having virtually no support at all, my husband worked very long hours and was almost never there to help with child raising and I didn’t have any real friends until my children went to school. And as he worked night shifts, a lot of these early years were a nightmare of keeping the babies quiet during the day while he slept, an almost impossible task with a lot of ramifications to this day.
After my elder child began school and the other two followed over the next three years, I discovered a whole new world. I became friends with other mothers and instead of finding their conversation trivial and uninteresting as the still ingrained scientologist in me expected (they weren’t trying to save the world were they?) I found wonderful support and unconditional friendship. There was no-one there who was going to report me for disloyal thoughts, or tell me to “get your stats up” or expect impossible physical marathons; they were fellow women who worked through the same mothering issues and understood.
I had a wonderful conversation with two of my kids on the subject of education and social morals; they are now successful and capable adults yet it wasn’t always so and I feel that my own internal conflicts about resolving scientology doctrine about children with what I felt was right caused it’s own problems for them too.
Scientology considers children to be “thetans in small bodies”, in other words adults who need to “regain their (past life) abilities”. There is a whole book written on this called Child Dianetics and another on ‘The Second Dynamic’. This never sat well with me and I had many internal conflicts on what was the best thing to do in various situations. To me children were just that, children, and deserved to have a happy and carefree childhood. Yet my own indoctrination was the opposite in many ways, and dictated that children be treated as having innate adult understanding! My husband also had a scientology upbringing from a very young age, so when I stepped away from acceptable scientology “handlings” I did so alone.
I negotiated this minefield of conflicting information for many, many years and the most decisive step came in 1988 when I was approached to help start a scientology school.
Scientology School 1989-90
A strange thing happened to me in late 1988. I had a dream, one that is still burned into my memory to this day, and I am not one for remembering dreams. I won’t go into details, it concerned me being ‘judged’ by a panel of ‘judges’ that did not seem to have a solid form and they told me that I was “not doing what I should do or using my gifts”. It was very unsettling and I thought about this long and hard and came to the conclusion that somehow I needed to get back to “saving the planet” or something. No other explanation made sense, I didn’t feel that there was much I could do in my life as a wife and mother other than what I was already doing and I had no apparent alternative path in sight. I was enjoying my life and felt a guilty pleasure in it versus working on staff so I let the dream take it’s place in background unconsciousness and laughed off the thought of a dream telling me what to do.
I love gardening and worked hard at it growing wonderful food and flowers. A few days after the dream my right knee began to swell and hurt, I thought I had sprained it while gardening. It began to get worse and after seeing different doctors and specialists I had an exploratory operation to check on the cartilage. That wasn’t an answer though and my left knee began to swell as well.
Around this time I was approached to help start a scientology school in Melbourne, something that hadn’t ever been accomplished despite many attempts. It was to be called the Phoenix school (later renamed Yarralinda). A school appealed to me as I still believed in the “study tech” and I wanted my kids away from the threat of the drug society in public schools. The woman who was doing the set-up was per scientology standards, unacceptable. She had a previous psychiatric history and was unable to go further in scientology. However she wanted a school both for her own daughter and for other scientology kids and knew that she faced enormous challenges in ‘making it go right’. She also knew I was more publicly acceptable person to the scientology ‘field’, so wanted me to be the public face while she worked behind the scenes doing what was needed. She had recruited enough parents with young children to make it viable and now faced the challenge of making the school “legal” per education authority requirements.
So began one of the nightmare periods of my life. It was so bad that even now I am unable to organise memories into any kind of real sequence or make sense of the insanity that ensued. I also don’t want to name names right now as from where I am sitting years later I also know that the parents involved in the massive dramas and betrayals were acting from a view that they were protecting their children and every parent has that right and duty. The fact that those opinions and viewpoints mostly resulted from insane scientology policies is something many of them still need to understand and I hope one day those that are still “in” have that opportunity.
Long story short, this ‘unacceptable’ person doing the set-up became the focus of the parents and hounding her was more important than combined support for the school. It was inevitable per Hubbard policies and something she had anticipated. Within a short time, and within sight of the final steps to having the school accredited, it became a massive, unbelievable drama. The woman who started it finally took off, as she had always planned to do, and as her chosen replacement as Headmistress would not take on the job, it fell to me. (Later I was told that was exactly why I had been recruited, as the fall guy.)
Trying to do the right thing I asked ABLE (or Applied Scholastics, can’t remember which it was then) to become involved in sorting it all out. Represented by Martin Bentley, he sided with one set of parents, as the school was divided down the middle, approximately 5 families on each side. Martin sided with the “other” set of parents and the original families (including mine) who started the school were kicked out, so I left and I put my children back in a normal public school. And in so many ways that was a tremendous relief.
During this period I had become very ill. What had started as a swollen knee turned into a raging deterioration of all major joints in my body. I saw many different doctors, specialists, chiropractors, naturopaths and no-one could diagnose or help with what was happening. I lost a great deal of weight and had sometimes unbearable pain in my hips particularly, but also knees, ankles, elbows and jaw. About the only thing I could eat was peanut butter sandwiches, and after about 6 months my legs actually started to turn outwards. I carried a little stool to sit on as I could barely walk, suffered fevers and nausea so badly I thought I was dying. Now this was while I was trying to help set up a school! As long as I was there every day, no-one seemed to care, and being a ‘make-it-go-right” sort of person, I just kept on. I remember taking a walk with Martin late one night, to discuss the school situation, in such agony I thought I would fall down in the street. He didn’t seem to notice, though on reflection I am sure he did and it may have been the deciding factor in which set of parents to support. I was obviously “PTS” and therefore not trustworthy.
After leaving the school I had time to try to find out what was wrong, I think that saved my life. I finally found the right specialist, he found an unknown severe and violent form of arthritis and X-rays showed that my hips had turned in their sockets by 20 degrees. Deterioration of the joints at this speed was unheard of, and the fever and raging illness was dangerous; he arranged for immediate hip replacements and medication to arrest the disease. It took a few years of constant medical attention and medication and almost dying in surgery but I finally recovered enough to walk again. It took me many, many years to finally accept that it was not due to “something I had pulled in” per scientology but rather genetics.
The fallout from the school saga continued for some months and the woman who started the school was Comm Evd (a scientology trial) and found guilty of everything under the sun except starting a school! I owe her no favours, but that does not sit well with me and is typical of the scientology “justice system”.
I feel sad that those lovely children I knew back then had to go through the reflected horrors of that time and have their own lives disrupted. I am very glad that my own children survived it ok, though with scars. After leaving the school I found that I had no “friends” anymore, no support or care in any way from ANY scientologist.
That was my real wake-up call and truly the moment I left scientology. Even though I paid it lip service for another decade and appeared to do the right things, I knew it did not hold the answers for me when basic humanity and compassion were foreign words. So back to my dream – it was in 1989-90 that I began the very slow path of finding my gifts and perhaps doing more of what I ‘should do’ – finding a happier life. I still question the dream’s meaning or wonder if it had any significance at all, yet events since then have led me on a path that does seem more aligned with who I am – I just needed to realise it would never come via scientology
Finally releasing the bonds
I ran into a brick wall on the telling of my story. That is because the next period covers 20 years of marriage to a scientologist and the raising of my children within scientology doctrine. As circumstances are at the moment, with some family members still in and one very ill, I don’t wish to leave them open to any reprisals because of my words. And sadly that is a very real possibility.
I can talk about my own point of view though, and how I finally emerged from the mindset. After finally finding proper medical treatment and rehabilitation, and putting my children back into the normal public school system, I had quite a few years of what seemed to be a ‘normal’ life. Well, except for my husband having a serious affair in what he told me later was “an attempt to find a replacement as I thought you were going to die.” Or words to that effect, but I won’t go there.
I didn’t have a lot of contact with the organisation other than occasional obligatory attendance at “events” and giving in to the odd attempt to find “why I had fallen off the Bridge”. Saying we had no money (true) usually did the trick and we were left alone for a while. I felt totally trapped within the system, (mostly because of my family and the threat of disconnection) even though I wasn’t a real part of it and I think there are many thousands of people out there who feel the same way. The last time I was ever in an org was around 1998 (though I am hazy with dates) when I flew to Sydney Advanced Organisation in some latest “free clean-up”. I still had a teeny tiny thought that perhaps IF the ‘right item” could be found, it would all fall back into place and my doubts would disappear. They didn’t.
By 2000 I had left my husband and was divorced. I had discovered the internet but was still too afraid to read anything critical of scientology. This is one of the hardest pieces of indoctrination to break, the reading of “entheta”. (It’s easier to ignore criticism than examine the opposite point of view.) I was still getting many phone calls trying to get me back in and even the odd visit, despite me saying I was into “other practices” (astrology)! The more I came to understand how limited my critical thinking had been, the more confidence I began to find in myself. Around 2002 I read “What is Expected of You as a Life Long Scientologist” and then I started some serious self de-programming.
The last ever visit I had was probably around 2003 when two Sea Org guys came unannounced one afternoon. I was in a good mood that day, so I let them in. We did have a fascinating conversation and I told them exactly what my experience had been and what I thought now. One of them said “you do know stuff don’t you?” and I have never forgotten that comment or the look on his face. I was pretty sure he was close to blowing and I hope he did. In fact he even asked me to run his astrology chart, (the other SO gal was very unimpressed) and I wondered how that would be explained on his next “mission debrief”.
I started reading critical articles online, starting with Jon Atack’s “A Piece of Blue Sky” as I had known Jon at Saint Hill and his words resonated with my own experiences. Then I read Operation Clambake’s many stories and articles and the more I read, the more I wanted to know. I spent many, many, many hours online, reading everything I could find. Finally in 2006 I found “Scientology -Through the Door” and found the courage for the first time to put my own critical thoughts in the public arena. It was a huge breakthrough for me, and although I did it anonymously I was still scared that somehow it would be traced back to me.
Having started to talk, even in a small way I found it very difficult to really explain my life to people who had no understanding of the subject. A friend finally said “you need to find some ex scientologists to talk to!” – so I Googled “Ex scientologist” and discovered the Ex Scientologist Message Board.
When I first started posting I used to shake, stomach churning and spilling tears all over the place as piece after piece of my life began to fall into new contexts. It was distressing, exhilarating and totally obsessive! At last I had the freedom to speak, to debate, to think and my life totally changed. My first attempt at telling my story was full of jargon, as I hadn’t learnt to totally speak normally yet, and I think I cried on and off for weeks doing that. It felt like so much pain and emotion was finally finding a way out, to be seen and let go of.
The freedom to speak, to be, to think and to disagree…..I became Free To Shine.
A friend once said that what released her from the bonds of scientology was doing a ‘correction list’ on the item “Opinions you can’t say”. She realised “What am I doing in a group that promises me freedom and I’m not allowed to state my opinion?”.
For those who are ‘keeping quiet’ or don’t know what to do, there is a way to release the bonds and that is simply to allow yourself the freedom to really look. Not the kind of “freedom” scientology promises, but real freedom without “must and must not”.
And it changes your life.