Scientology Mythbusting with Jon Atack: Xenu the Galactic Overlord, Part 1! - 2013-03-09
In 1990, author Jon Atack published what is still one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, A Piece of Blue Sky. Atack now has a new edition of the book out, and it reminded us what an encyclopedic resource he is. So join us as we rely on Jon's expertise to sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
Jon, it struck us (based on what you wrote in Blue Sky) that you and Paul Haggis had about the same reaction to Scientology's most legendary stop on the Bridge, Operating Thetan Level III. For those new to the subject, we'll summarize that material in a moment, but we wanted to know, what are the range of reactions that Scientologists tend to have when they encounter OT III? And how literal are church members supposed to take it (even if some ex-church members are now calling it metaphorical)?
JON: Only a squirrel (Scientology's word for a heretic) would think that OT III is metaphorical. Nothing in Scientology is metaphorical and Hubbard makes that very clear in his policy "Keeping Scientology Working." I met a number of people who were simply devastated by OT III. One friend, who had been bubbly and outgoing, became sullen and withdrawn. A few years later, when I was finally allowed to ask (keep in mind the injunction on conversation about either 'the Tech' or your 'case'), she said that she had not been able to find any Body Thetans. I have never seen such a marked negative change in anyone. An OT who I'd thought was simply aloof approached me while I was on OT V (as was she) and said, "Isn't it great that Ron found something to tidy up the mess made by OT III?" An oldtimer — in from 1954 — told me that he'd thought it was nonsense when he read it, but had confirmed it on the E-meter (he paused when I asked if he'd ever suspected the meter). I've yet to meet anyone who has said that it seemed exactly right. Most people do seem to react as if they were reading hastily written science fiction (so there is hope for us all).