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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    HBO doc ‘clears’ up Scientology

    Courtesty+of+Prometheus+PicturesThe+Pacific+Area+Command+Base+of+the+Church+of+Scientology%2C+referred+to+as+Big+Blue+due+to+its+exterior+color%2C+is+located+in+Los+Angeles.+Going+Clear%2C+the+new+documentary+from+HBO%2C+holds+the+organization+and+its+questionable+practices+under+the+microscope.

    Courtesty of Prometheus Pictures

    The Pacific Area Command Base of the Church of Scientology, referred to as “Big Blue” due to its exterior color, is located in Los Angeles. “Going Clear,” the new documentary from HBO, holds the organization and its questionable practices under the microscope.

    When Scientology is brought to the attention of many people, the image that comes to mind may be an elitist, Hollywood-driven fad that celebrities embrace just like dried placenta pills and steaming one’s vagina. But the perception that only rich eccentrics subscribe to the religion is false.

    As seen in HBO’s latest documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” the major cult in popular culture isn’t the fictional apocalyptic mole women of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”: It’s Scientology.

    The story of Scientology is the story of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Essentially, Hubbard’s success comes from his ability to turn his science fiction and fantasy novels into a marketable religious practice. He created a system called Dianetics, a self-help cure-all for all mental health issues from anxiety to claims the therapy could “cure” homosexuality and drug addiction. With an addition of spirituality to the Dianetics doctrine and the goal of curing all ails of the mind to reach a higher plane of existence, the Church of Scientology was founded in the 1950s.

    The adoption of Dianetics into Scientology turned into a process called “auditing.” Members of the church are required to go into sessions where they discuss their problems with trained “auditors,” who take notes of the person’s responses and the E-meter, or the Hubbard electropsychometer.

    The E-meter claims to measure people’s “reactive mind” by forcing the person being audited to repeat a memory or issue until the meter doesn’t register a reaction. The goal is that, after years of auditing sessions, the individual will become completely clear and achieve the status of “Operating Thetan,” a free spiritual being.

    Fair enough. One can see why people would seek out this philosophy in hopes that their conscience would be clear and rise to another level of being, even if the science behind it is no more than the pure invention of its founder. The many former Scientology members interviewed in the film explain this is what initially attracted them to the religion (along with rumors that members of the church could perform magic and sorcery, of course). But moving up the spiritual and hierarchical ladder within the Church of Scientology comes with its costs.

    Several of the former members interviewed in the film claim that once they reached “OT3” status, they received confidential information that explained the true meaning behind Scientology’s practices — and that’s when they began to question the thousands of dollars they were paying for their auditing sessions.

    If you have yet to hear the story of Scientology, brace yourself. Hubbard claims a galactic overlord named Xenu ruled over Earth 75 million years ago, in a world very similar to that of 1950s America. The planet was vastly overpopulated, so Xenu sent the people of Earth in spaceships to be dumped into volcanoes that were destroyed by hydrogen bombs. The souls of the dead, referred to as “thetans,” which attach themselves onto the bodies of newborns, are what must be eliminated through auditing sessions until they are all gone. Yeah.

    But ridiculous pretense aside, it’s not the beliefs that the documentary hopes to expose. It’s the way the church has made an incredulous amount of money by being granted religious exclusion from the IRS; it’s the underpaid Sea Organization workers who do menial tasks for the church who staff the church’s cruise ship; it’s the prison camp known as “the Hole” where outspoken church members are beaten by upper level church members; and it’s the acknowledgment of anyone outside the church as “suppressive persons,” who church members are forced to “disconnect” from, even if those people are members of their own family.

    The list goes on and on, supported by former church leaders and interviewed members who shared their stories. The current leader, David Miscavige, and Scientology celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta refused to be interviewed for the film.

    “Going Clear” is a documentary that will shock you with its examination of Scientology, past and present, and the emotional testimony of interviewees whose lives were changed by the brainwashing of the church and the danger they faced if they dared to leave.

    The film successfully convinces viewers of its subtitle, that the religion is “a prison of belief” for those who follow. It’s a documentary that makes you believe that cults still exist in hidden forms in our own seemingly safe society and, perhaps, that one’s own faith may not be exempt from this indoctrination.

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    Follow Mia Moran on Twitter.

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