Book Review - Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
I've always found Scientology a fascinating topic. Not for the philosophy behind it, but for how it came about and how it's shrouded in secrecy by those who lead the organization (I refuse to call it a religion). I picked up Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright at the library, and it was one of those books I had a hard time putting down. Wright did a thorough job in documenting the history and lives of those involved in Scientology's leadership. It amazes me that a group of people can be so hypocritical and lie so completely, while apparently feeling little remorse or regret while doing so.
Wright's book title is indicative of the three-part approach to his investigation. The first part covers the history of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. I had always wondered if Scientology was sort of a fantasy joke that got out of control for Hubbard. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Hubbard mixed science-fiction and fantasy into a pseudo-belief system that promised god-like abilities if someone could become a "Clear", or someone who had eliminated all the traumas of their past and suppressive people in their lives. He lied about many aspects of his life to show how he was an example of Scientology's power and truth. In reality, he was a physically frail individual who was psychotically abusive to those around him.
The second portion of the book deals with how Scientology targets the Hollywood elite for both money and prestige. The usual insecurity of actors and actresses make them especially vulnerable to Scientology "training courses" which promises improvements in personality and speaking skills. That is usually the hook to get them to spend even more money for "auditing" courses which ties them even closer to the belief system. Personalities such as Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley have bought into the system completely, and Scientology exploits their status in society to make their organization seem more acceptable in mainstream society.
The final part of the book covers how difficult it is to leave Scientology. The brainwashing that occurs is incredibly strong, and even those who are horribly abused and taken advantage of have little recourse due to the way they've been indoctrinated. Those that try to "blow" or escape are often found and forcibly, for lack of a better term, incarcerated by the organization. Their current leader, David Miscavige, is as psychotic and hypocritical as Hubbard was, and ruthlessly controls Scientology and the leadership to preserve his affluent lifestyle.
Wright is to be commended for putting together such a comprehensive and damning expose of Scientology. Given the criminal activity of Scientology members when it comes to espionage and death threats against those who speak out against the organization, Wright put himself at risk to write Going Clear. I know it's probably wrong to read a book like this and accept it as the absolute truth about the topic. However, it's hard to ignore the vast amount of documented material that Wright uses in the book. Add to that the track record of those who defend the organization, and it's pretty clear (no pun intended) that Going Clear is required reading for anyone who is interested in Scientology from any angle or perspective.
Obtained From: Library