Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968
See also: We've read the script to The Master, and can tell you what it's all about.
Gaiman as a teen
Former Scientologist Patty Moher was going through her collection of old church magazines and other materials when she spotted something pretty remarkable.
I visited her this weekend at a gathering of ex-Scientologists and Scientology researchers, and several of us marveled at her find.
It was a pamphlet, dated 1969, titled "A Report to Members of Parliament on Scientology."
The 14-page item was published by Scientology's "World-Wide Public Relations Bureau" at East Grinstead in Sussex. It contains the church's responses to various objections to Scientology that had been raised by the UK and other Commonwealth governments at the time.
It also contains an interview with a child, which was apparently included in order to counter accusations that Scientology kids were being "indoctrinated."
That child was the son of David Gaiman, Scientology's PR chief in the UK at the time. Years later, Neil Gaiman would go on to fame as perhaps the most celebrated science fiction writer of his generation. But at 7 years old, he made for the model of a young Scientologist.
"Of course Scientologists educate their children in their religious philosophy. There are children's courses attended by children with parents' signed consent," the pamphlet reads. "Here is an example of the effect of Scientology on a 7-year-old."
The transcript of an interview that the BBC had broadcast the year before is then included, and we've reproduced it here. (And if there's anyone paying attention at the BBC, it sure would be great to get audio of this interview, if it can be dug up.)
As we wrote previously, Gaiman these days prefers not to talk about his Scientology past. His father, David, died in 2009. In 2010 Neil told the New Yorker that he's no longer a church member.
We've looked around, and as far as we can tell, this is the first time this transcript has been put online. So without further ado...
Neil Gaiman 7-years-old, Radio Interview BBC Radio 'World at Weekend', August 1968.
Keith Graves: What is Scientology?
Neil: It is an applied philosophy dealing with the study of knowledge.
Keith Graves: Do you know what philosophy is?
Neil: I used to, but I've forgotten.
Keith Graves: Who told you that meaning of Scientology?
Neil: In clearer words, it's a way to make the able person more able.
Keith Graves: What does it do for you -- Scientology -- does it make you feel a better boy?
Neil: Not exactly that, but when you make a release you feel absolutely great.
Keith Graves: Do you get what you call a release very often, or do you have this all the time?
Neil: Well, you only keep a release all the time when you get Clear. I'm six courses away from Clear.
Keith Graves: You're on a particular grade are you?
Neil: Well, I've just passed Grade I; I'm not Grade II yet.
Keith Graves: What is Grade I?
Neil: Problems Release.
Keith Graves: And what does this mean to you, Problems Release?
Neil: It helps you to handle quite a lot of problems.
Keith Graves: What problems do you have as a little boy that this helps you with?
Neil: Only one big problem.
Keith Graves: What's that?
Neil: My friend Stephen.
Keith Graves: Oh, I see. Is he a Scientologist?
Keith Graves: But I mean, how does this grade that you've got, Problems Release, help you to deal with Stephen?
Neil: Well, you know, I've dealed with every single problem except Stephen, one thing Problems Release can't help me to handle.
Keith Graves: So you still fight with Stephen?
Neil: It's more of a question he fights with me.
Keith Graves: He's older than you, presumably.
Keith Graves: And he's three grades ahead of you?
Neil: In a way, but you see, there are six main courses; but there are ever so many in-between courses. I've just finished three, and that's Engrams.
Keith Graves: What are Engrams?
Neil: Engrams are a mental image picture containing pain and unconsciousness.
Keith Graves: And what does this mean to you?
Neil: Well, shall I tell you? -- I'll give you a demonstration. You're walking along the street, and a car hooted and somebody shouted, "shooo', and a dog barked, and you tripped over a bit of metal and hurt your knee. Three years later, say, you were walking along that same place and someone shouted "shooo", and a car hooted, and a dog barked, and suddenly you feel pain in your knee. I've had one Engram that I can remember. I was jumping off the television set. We've got a gigantic television set, but it doesn't work. Onto my mom's bed and, you see, I jumped and I hit my head on the chandelier, and you know it really hurt; and I looked up and I saw it swinging, and a few minutes later I tried to test an Engram, so I set it swinging and I looked up there, and I suddenly had a headache.
Keith Graves: And how old were you when this happened?
Neil: Around three months ago.
Keith Graves: Oh, I see. How long have you been studying Scientology?
Neil: I started at five, now I'm seven.
Keith Graves: Seven years old. Extraordinary, isn't it?
This child was badly affected by his connection with Scientology. He was refused entry to his prep school on the grounds of his parents' connection with Scientology and in the light of the Minister's statement.
Well, Neil may have had a tough time at school, but he certainly turned out all right. it's a shame, however, that he doesn't fill us in on his Scientology past, and tell us his feelings about the church today.
We'd love to chat about it, Neil!
UPDATE: I learned this morning that it was Paulette Cooper who spotted this pamphlet in Patty Moher's collection yesterday and brought it to her attention before it was handed to me. Nice work, Paulette!
Narconon in Oklahoma Spent $50,000 to Fend Off Protest
Another great piece from Jeanne LeFlore of the McAlester News-Capital shows the lengths Scientology will go to when it wants to fend off criticism or disrupt a protest.
After two recent deaths at Scientology's Narconon drug treatment center in Canadian, Oklahoma, local critics planned to hold a protest over the weekend of June 23-24 on the county road outside the facility.
LeFlore reports that Narconon Arrowhead's director, Gary Smith, approached county officials...
Pittsburg County Commission Chairman Gene Rogers said he was contacted by Smith for help the weekend the protest was scheduled -- June 23 and 24th.
"He (Gary Smith) called me and said they might be having a problem with the public that weekend and he wanted help policing the area and he asked about doing overlaying (of the road)," Rogers said.
Narconon ended up spending $50,000 to resurface a half-mile section of road that weekend, and Smith claims it was done for safety, not to disrupt the protest.
I talked to Colin Henderson, who tells me what that road work looked like.
"On Saturday, they had pulled brush from woods and stacked it on the side of the road where we were going to be standing. On Sunday morning, they were resurfacing. The whole weekend the road was one way, and you couldn't stop your car," he says.
I asked him if all that work had managed to stop his protest.
"No they did not stop it," he said. And so, despite all the work to disrupt them, the protesters stood by the side of the road and held signs.
All four of them.
Four people? I asked Henderson. Yes, he answered.
I was stunned. Narconon spent $50,000 to resurface a road in order to keep four protesters away?
Yes, he told me. And it didn't work.
Now that there's been a third death at the center since October -- Stacy Murphy, 20, died at the withdrawal unit Friday morning -- Gary Smith is going to find his unscientific drug treatment center is becoming the focus of much more attention, and not something resurfacing a short stretch of road will solve.
Not only is the local media all over the growing scandal of this center, the national media is also beginning to pay attention -- a crew from NBC hit town this weekend, we hear.
Yesterday, LeFlore talked to Stacy Murphy's father, Robert, who had this to say...
"I want to know her death wasn't in vain, that changes will be made," Murphy said Saturday....
"We sent her there to get better, not to die," he said.
Use this link to see our ongoing coverage of Narconon, Scientology's quack drug treatment program.
Scientology Sunday Funnies
We have a special Sunday helping of funnies this week. Yesterday, ex-Scientologists, Internet researchers, and journalists gathered for an annual get-together in Connecticut at the home of Patty Moher. We thought a few photos captured the mood and might go down well with your Sunday morning coffee.
I can't really remember what it was that ex-Scientologist Chuck Beatty was explaining when this photograph was taken. I only know that it had to be really deep...
It was great to finally meet Roger Weller, a former Scientologist whose tales of the early days we've found endlessly fascinating. That is Weller with Mick Jagger on his T-shirt, capturing a scene from 1972...
For a Scientology watcher, it was something to see Paulette Cooper, Nancy Many, and Kate Bornstein all gathered in one place with a lot of other luminaries.
The day was so distracting, we simply didn't have time to put together a Commenters of the Week collection. But the commenting headaches were so bad this week after we changed over to the Livefyre system, we might as well ruin your Sunday altogether.
Speaking of our commenting chaos, please know that I've been passing on your complaints to our web team, and they are repairing things as quickly as they can. Yes, that means, for example, that they are working to bring back your ability to edit a comment. And hopefully soon, we'll have the compatibility problems fixed.
More big stories brewing.
Scientology's president and the death of his son: our complete coverage
What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids
Scientology's new defections: Hubbard's granddaughter and Miscavige's dad
Scientology's disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group
Scientology leader David Miscavige's vanished wife: Where's Shelly?
Please check out our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.