Scientology's Idea of a Rollicking Sermon: Watch This Gem From 1984
Here at Scientology Watching Central, we often get asked, is Scientology really a religion? In general, we tend not to get into a debate about that -- Scientology calls itself a "church," so we do the same. We find that it only makes the organization's alleged abuses -- including ripping apart families with "disconnection," forcing women in the Sea Org to have abortions, and holding its executives in a brutal concentration camp -- even more startling, since it's a "church" that's involved.
But there are other reasons why thinking of Scientology as a religion is, well, bizarre.
As we pointed out recently, one of the very strange things about Scientology is that its members can experience amazing personal journeys as they recover memories of themselves in daring exploits from millions of years ago on other planets -- but they must not talk about these experiences even with their fellow church members.
Instead, what Scientologists end up talking about with each other is about as far from space opera as it gets: they talk about statistics, production lines, and "bodies in the shop."
To help you understand, we thought we'd lead off this Friday morning post -- a day we usually set aside to look at Scientology history -- with this gem of a video, which has been floating around the 'net for a couple of years.
Even if you knew very little about Scientology, this awkward briefing by two of the church's highest-ranking officials should give you the general idea that the members of this organization see themselves as deadly serious soldiers in a war to attract people into Scientology, keep them coming back, and most importantly, to keep the money flowing in.
In 1984, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard was in hiding. His third wife, Mary Sue, was serving prison time for Scientology's massive 1970s infiltration of federal government offices, Operation Snow White, and Hubbard worried that the FBI might pull him into a similar prosecution at any time.
With Hubbard in seclusion, the young David Miscavige was consolidating his power over the church that he leads to this day. In this video, two of Miscavige's most loyal executives lay out a strategy for all of Scientology's worldwide "orgs" (short for "organizations," their word for "churches") to attract more people and reach "5.4X" -- to expand their numbers by 5.4 times.
The two men are Marc Yager -- who identifies himself as the commanding officer of the Commodore's Messengers Organization International ("CO CMO Int," in Scientologese) -- and Guillaume Lesevre, the church's "ED Int" -- executive director, international.
Yager and Lesevre were not only two of Miscavige's most loyal Sea Org lieutenants; over the years, they've also been known to be two of his favorite whipping boys.
In February, former church executive Debbie Cook testified under oath in a Texas court that in 2007 she saw Yager and Lesevre attacked by her fellow prisoners in Scientology's concentration camp for executives, "The Hole," in order to get them to confess to a homosexual affair, admissions that Miscavige wanted beaten out of them. (When Cook objected, she was treated to her own hellish hazing -- she was made to stand in a trash can for twelve hours as the other prisoners hurled insults at her, called her a lesbian, and dumped water on her, she testified.)
Back in 1984, Miscavige still trusted Yager and Lesevre enough to make this video briefing, which would have been sent around the globe to give local officials their marching orders.
What it amounts to is this: if you lunkheads running local orgs will just follow L. Ron Hubbard's policies to the letter, you'll attract more followers, and eventually you'll grow your org 5.4 times, to the size of "Old Saint Hill."
What they mean by that is that in the mid-1960s, before he became "the Commodore" and took to sea to run Scientology from a yacht in 1967, Hubbard was living in Sussex at Saint Hill Manor, an estate that he purchased from the Maharajah of Jaipur in 1959. By 1965 or so, Scientologists will tell you, the place was booming with huge numbers of people coming in to be audited, to train to be auditors, and to spread the word about Hubbard's "technology."
To this day, the Manor is the UK headquarters of Scientology, and all orgs are told that they must strive to become "Saint Hill Size" -- the size of the Manor at its height, in the mid-1960s -- as their everpresent goal.
As we've pointed out before, there's a problem with that comparison: Scientologists are urged to make their orgs Saint Hill Size, but they're never actually told just how big that is. Go ahead -- look through all the online resources you can, you won't find an exact definition of it anywhere. Was it the number of people auditing? The number of auditors being trained? The physical size of the facility?
Scientologists are simply told to "boom" their stats by 5.4 times. (And that in itself, if you think about it, is a sleight of hand -- 5.4 times what, exactly?)
Anyway, as stilted as this video is, I think it's extremely important for one reason that may not be obvious: the Scientologists who would have been required to watch it would naturally have been worried about Hubbard's absence. Since 1980, almost no one in the church had seen him, and longtime church members would have been concerned about the direction the young new leaders were going in.
With this video, Miscavige is really reassuring Scientologists that Hubbard's own policies were still their focus. It was Hubbard who tended to bring in new bodies, and it was Hubbard's policies that would keep them there.
So it's useful, for church historians, to know the contents of this video.
But it's also just a hoot. I mean, you have to love those Sea Org naval outfits.
Now, if you haven't had enough of the comedy stylings of Yager and Lesevre, here's part two!
"Vital data to help your org expand."
Wow, that's good stuff.
On the next page: Our regular Friday feature, Scientology on the High Seas...