Back in nineteeninetyneveryoumind, I was involved with a small group of mixed-up weirdos and assorted head cases. We called ourselves a “Magick Order,[i]” and our leader, who claimed to be the incarnation of Crowley’s Holy Guardian Angel, was going to bring in the New Age: we were going to heal the world with our supernatural powers, mighty abilities we would find bestowed upon us with the completion of certain rituals we had to perform before the Great Cataclysm that would kill most of humankind and lay all civilization to waste. We imagined ourselves heroes, spiritual warriors cast in an eon-defining battle, a mighty conflict which would pit the forces of Good versus Evil and finally bring peace to not just Earth, but all the worlds of the Universe.
Gee, how could something like that go so wrong?
When I crawled back into the normal world in the winter of ’97, there was no one to help me understand what I’d been through. Even today, in Vermont, there are precious few therapists qualified to deal with those of us who have come out of highly abusive organizations. But even in the very first days of the internet, there were the alt.religion boards. The Cult Awareness Network had just been bankrupted (and was in the process of being sold to and then taken over by Scientology operatives), but the start of such organizations as Operation Clambake and Factnet meant that anyone with a modem could find help, understanding, and empathy online.
It also meant that, most of the time, the person helping would be an ex-Scientologist.
Why are so many of the best message boards, chat forums and facebook communities dealing with the issues of cults and former cult members run and maintained by ex-Scientologists? Is it, as I’ve long suspected, because of the educational and organizational skills that L. Ron Hubbard stole from other, brighter people, and marketed as his own? Is it because Scientology, as the “heroin” of cults (as in the most expensive, addictive, and soul-damaging), requires its survivors to develop that much better coping skills? Is it because the extreme persecution the cult levies upon its detractors forces them even closer together, creating a tighter knit community?
Or is it because they’re all, well, so … driven?
Perhaps it isn’t very nice, as a very dear friend has recently pointed out, to generalize when talking about the portion of the population whose lives have been affected by Scientology. However, there is a definite sense of community there, and communities have group characteristics, and although there’s always exceptions, certain modes of behavior can be said to be very much prevalent. And whatever I say about my ex-Scilon friends, it is always said with love. And infinite respect.
On this day of giving thanks, I thought I’d give thanks to and for the folks who have made my life what it is more than any other group of people besides my own blood relations. So, with deep reverence and gratitude, here is my list of :
EIGHT REASONS WHY I’M GRATEFUL FOR EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS
They ARE a community. As some kind soul at Tony’s Bunker pointed out, this is one cause that brings people from literally all walks of life together – conservative and liberal, young and old, from 4Chan to Facebook, never-in or former Sea Org, we are all welcome to this party, and it’s the exes that brought us here. Whatever divisions might keep some of them apart, whatever infighting might go on, they are all, ultimately, keenly aware that they are stronger together than apart, and despite the bickering, they are sure to be there for each other if needed, united in their determination to speak their truth.
They speak out. Not all survivors do this, but an amazing amount of Ex-Scientologists post their experiences and share their stories; as Nancy Many has said, “the best antidote for shame is ‘me, too.’” In sharing the stories of how they fell prey to this evil group, they encourage and support others to tell the truth. One of the reasons the cult is in such a death spiral is because of these people stepping forward and telling the truth.
They’re passionate and vibrant. In the cult, they were forbidden to disagree, or cast aspersions. Now, they relish in the freedom to speak their minds, and it’s delicious. I might be a little thin-skinned for some of the sharper trolling, but it is beautiful to see such refreshingly blunt honesty and joyful debate. Board discussions might be a roller coaster or even a fireworks display, but they’re never boring or mundane, and the opinions and viewpoints brought up are not only intense but thought-provoking and stimulating.
They’re amazing survivors. These folks have lived through horrors most of us can’t even begin to imagine. At the Getting Clear conference in Toronto, Nora Crest made us all cry like babies as she talked about her unbelievable Scientology upbringing and her nightmarish days in the Sea Org. She also inspired us with her courage and resilience as she told us how she managed to wake herself up, to escape, to survive – and ultimately, to flourish.
They go on to do amazing things. Although it is distinctly unhealthy and reckless when taken to the extreme in Scientology, the idea of “making things go right” is nonetheless an admirable mindset when applied with moderation to your values of persistence and ambition. The list of ex-Sea Org who own and operate their own successful businesses is staggeringly impressive, and the dedication with which they throw themselves into their work is simply inspiring.
They’re ready to help. Most of the people who got hooked into Scientology got lured in because they wanted to create a better world. What’s the line? A world without criminality, war, violence and pro wrestling? However Hubbard put it, he was using it to take advantage of the truly altruistic amongst us, those selfless individuals who honestly want to improve the lot of humankind. That quality never dies, and I’ve never seen more shining examples of it than amongst those sterling individuals who have survived the terrors of Scientology. No one is more willing to help someone out of trouble, and no one understands better what it is to be in trouble, than an ex.
They love a good joke. When you find out that your religion is based on a science fiction story – and not even a good one – you’ve just got to laugh. Hubbard specifically distrusted and discouraged “jokers and degraders,” but those who have escaped the Org are noted for their humor and their ability to laugh at the vagaries of not only Scientology, but also the absurdities of life in general. Having already lived through hell, these people know that life is much too short to waste any more time not laughing.
They’ve made me who I am today. A little over a year ago, I was unemployed, having quit my maddening job at the bank call center, and was creating the art for my Tarot deck and needed something absorbing to listen to while working on the intricate and mind-bogglingly complex images. Since I wanted to get deeper into my long-time studies on cults and how they worked, I searched for something to listen to about Scientology on YouTube – and I ended up listening to Tory “Magoo” Christman, and her gripping escape story.
As I listened to her talk, I realized I couldn’t just sit back and study any more. I needed to do something to help.
My friends know that I don’t really pray, at least not in the way most people use the word. But, like Maude in Harold and Maude, I do communicate (or try to) with whatever Divinity there may be shaping this cosmos and its winding paths of existence. That autumn afternoon, as I sat working at my art and listening to Tory speak, I asked the Universe if I could perhaps, just perhaps, earn my cup of wine and loaf of bread helping rid the human race of such awful things as the organization which had hunted this woman across the continent. I contacted her, and a few other exes, and soon, well…
A little over a year later, here I am, working for Jon Atack, author of the definitive history of Scientology, as he starts up the Open Minds Foundation, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to educating people about undue influence.
It’s almost enough to make a gal believe in Divinity, at least enough to give thanks this day for all I have received. And also, I believe in you, my dear friends, and give thanks to you and for you.
And may everyone, never-in and ex-Scilon alike, have a very happy Thanksgiving, no matter where you are.
[i] when dealing with people who spell it “magick,” it is always best to keep your back to the wall and your hand on the doorknob. And for Gaia’s sake, don’t drink the tea.