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Thomas E. Davis
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I rarely read books of over 400 pages in a single sitting, but this investigative exposé of the Church of Scientology had me riveted to my chair from the first page to the last. The narrative was compelling throughout, as was the accretion of completely believable specifics and heartbreaking personal stories. This is non-fiction that doesn't come across as dry or academic; it reads more like a complex mystery thriller. And it's a bracing antidote to the exaggerations and outright lies that the organization publishes about its founder, tenets of faith, effectiveness, and overt and covert conduct.
The story begins with the 1911 birth of L. Ron Hubbard, an ambitious, charismatic oddball who became an inveterate conman. We get a tour of his brief naval career, his evolution into a pulp sci-fi novelist, and his creation in 1950 of "Dianetics," a combination of do-it-yourself psychoanalysis and pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo that was rechristened "Scientology" when it became a religion. From the establishment of Hubbard's empire, development of religious "technology," and war on psychiatry to his life at sea as a self-appointed "commodore," disappearance from public life, and 1986 death as a paranoid recluse, we learn the details from insiders, many of whom were cruelly used and abused during their years within the group.
The book explains Hubbard's posthumous apotheosis at the hands of the Machiavellian David Miscavige, who has run Scientology with an iron hand for the past 25 years. Miscavige continues the transformation of the founder's biography into an absurd hagiography, one that is almost as over-the-top as his comical alien mythology (Thetans, Engrams, Xenu, etc). We read about the tragic death of a mentally ill member named Lisa McPherson, the ongoing enslavement of brainwashed believers like Tanya and Stefan Castle, and the sycophantic recruitment of Hollywood stars with deep pockets like Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
This pyramid scheme claims to have millions of adherents, yet reliable surveys put the actual membership in the tens of thousands. It approaches prospective converts with offers of a free "stress test" using a crude device called an "E-Meter," but all further services from counselors (called "auditors") carry high fees since they work on commission. This profitable religion is, of course, blessed by the US government with tax-exempt status. Converts enter a psychological pressure cooker in which their every move and word is examined; the higher their position, the more regimented and monitored they are.
Leaving is unthinkable, and anyone expressing a desire to do so is at first intimidated and then punished. Those who succeed in escaping are utterly shunned, and any secrets they may have revealed to the church are used to defame them. As the author points out, the perfection that the organization promises is ultimately a narcissistic one, devoid of compassion and consumed by fear of failure, obsessed with the paradoxical goals of secrecy and self-aggrandizement -- and money, money, money. The untrammeled greed and lavish lifestyles of Scientology's upper echelons and celebrity supporters beggar description.
I'm clearly not a fan of religions or secret societies that rob members of their wills, program their behavior, drain their bank accounts, forbid all criticism, and treat doubters as enemies, but this book is no mere hatchet job. It's a well-written, fair-minded, clear-eyed look at a wealthy, powerful, vindictive group of fanatics; their bizarre doctrines, arcane jargon, manipulative methods, and totalitarian hierarchy; and their gullible followers, who are desperate for certainty and approval. The author's scholarship is supported by five years of extensive research and many pages of exhaustive annotation (and a lot of raw courage, since the "church" regularly harasses and sues its critics). Look no further for the definitive history of and truth about the Cult of Scientology.