At Delphi, students take a course called "Improving Conditions." "Conditions" refers to key Hubbard principles. Charted on a scale, they relate to one's relationship to oneself and to those within one's organization, school or "group." A Scientologist's goal, it's often noted, is to "improve conditions."
From highest to lowest, the Conditions are: Power, Power Change, Affluence, Normal, Emergency, Danger, Non-Existence, Liability, Doubt, Enemy, Treason and Confusion. Together, these conditions form the spine of the practical application of Scientology "ethics," which is, many say, the true heart of the faith. "Ethics," as a Scientological term, is defined as "rationality toward the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics," as well as "reason and the contemplation of optimum survival."
To survive, Scientology applies its philosophy, or "ethics tech," across a broad social and societal scale. They do good works — indeed, as Rinder notes, "Scientologists are driven by a real concern for the well-being of others. They see the world around them and want to do something about it."
But the church's drug-treatment and literacy programs and anti-psychiatry campaigns do more than just evangelize through charity; in fact, they exist largely to help prepare people to become Scientologists. Once a person is drug-free, psychiatrist-free and literate, he is qualified for auditing. And auditing is the centerpiece of Scientology. "It's all about going up the Bridge," says Paul.
Paul began auditing when he was four. Rebellious by nature, he says it did very little for him. By the age of eleven or twelve, he says, "I was so out of control, my parents had no idea what to do with me."
Scientologists run a number of boarding schools around the country, including the prestigious Delphian School, in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, which counts Earthlink founder Sky Dayton among its graduates. Scientologists' kids who caused trouble, or otherwise displeased their parents, have been sent to more restrictive private boarding schools. Paul was sent to Mace-Kingsley Ranch, located on 2,000 acres in New Mexico, which was closed in 2002.
Paul arrived at Mace-Kingsley when he was thirteen, and stayed for three and a half years. As he tells it, he underwent what sounds like a typical "boot camp" experience, complete with hard labor, bad food, tough supervision — all with a high price tag, roughly $30,000 per year. The school enforced a rigid Scientology focus that many former students now say served as both a mechanism of control and a form of religious indoctrination.
The process began for all new students with an IQ test and the Purification Rundown, which Paul says was give to kids as young as eight or nine years old. Then they were administered the Oxford Capacity Analysis, created by Scientologists in 1953. The test was designed to find out the student's "tone," or emotional state, in preparation for auditing. Students were audited daily at the ranch. By the age of sixteen, Paul say, he'd grown so used to the process, he'd figured out how to "trick" the E-meter: By remaining calm enough for no electrical charge to register, he was often able to hide most of his inner feelings from his auditors and his "case supervisor," who oversaw his progress.
But not always. "There are things they wanted to know, and they'd just keep asking until you finally told them," he says. "They'd get me to tell them about lies, or things that were bad, right down to my thoughts — some of which were overts." So were some of his deeds. Masturbation is an overt — strictly forbidden in Scientology, as Hubbard believed that it can slow one's process to enlightenment. "It's not evil, just out-ethics," says Paul. "They'll dig it up in session and tell you to stop because it's slowing you down."
Another overt is homosexuality, which Hubbard believed was a form of sexual "deviance" best treated by therapy, or institutionalization. This view was espoused by many psychiatrists of Hubbard's generation. Mainstream psychiatry has changed its view since the 1950s. Scientology as an institution takes no formal position on issues like gay marriage, but homosexuality, sexual promiscuity or any other form of "perversion" ranks low on Scientology's "tone scale," a register of human behavior Hubbard described in his 1951 book Science of Survival: Prediction of Human Behavior.
This book, according to Mike Rinder, is perhaps the most important Scientology text after Dianetics. In it, Hubbard denounced virtually every sexual practice that doesn't directly relate to marriage and children. "Such people should be taken from the society as rapidly as possible... for here is the level of the contagion of immortality and the destruction of ethics," he wrote of homosexuals. "No social order will survive which does not remove these people from its midst."
In auditing, Scientologists are frequently asked about their sexual thoughts or practices, particularly in the special auditing sessions called "security checks." This process requires a church member to write down any break with the ethical code. Security checks are administered to every Scientologist on the Bridge, and particularly to all OTs, who must be checked every six months "to make sure they're using the tech correctly," as church officials explain. In September, I received, through a source, a faxed copy of the standard security-check sheet for adults. Its questions include "Have you ever been involved in an abortion?" "Have you ever practiced sex with animals?" "Have you ever practiced sodomy?" "Have you ever slept with a member of a race of another color?" as well as "Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard?"
Paul resisted his security checks — he says he sometimes fell asleep during the sessions. But Sara, who says she went through months of "sec checks" after deciding, at age fifteen, that she didn't want to be a Scientologist any longer, says she was highly disturbed by the process. At first, she says, counselors at her church tried to "clear" her. She was forced to repeatedly look up words in the dictionary to make sure she misunderstood nothing about Scientology. Then they gave her a security check. "For months I'm going to the church every night after school, and I'm in this fucking basement for four hours a night, on the E-meter," she says. "They're asking me questions about sex — every personal question known to man." If she tried to leave, Sara adds, the auditors would physically block her path and force her back in her chair. Officials say this forced auditing is for the subjects' own good, as it might be harmful if they were to leave a session before they were ready.
"Scientology has a plausible explanation for everything they do — that's the genius of it," says Sara. "But make no mistakes: Scientology is brainwashing."
Jeffrey Aylor was thirteen when He joined the Sea Organization. Raised in a Scientology family in Los Angeles, he was at church one day when a Sea Org recruiter approached him. "What are you doing with your life?" he asked the teen.
Jeffrey had no idea what to say. "I'm thirteen, I'm not doing anything with my life," Jeffrey said. The recruiter asked him if he wanted to "help" people. Jeffrey said, "Sure. What kid doesn't want to help people?"
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