October 1968 Leaving Australia

I did my Communication Course and PE course in May 67. I helped out with volunteer work for the harried staff of the local Sydney organisation while studying my Dianetics course. At that time you had to study the whole course three times through.  I really enjoyed myself being part of the team and the moment I was legally able to at 15 years old, I left school. It was quite a long journey from our outer suburb home into the organisation in the city and I did it alone every day. Often I was scared travelling so after a while it was arranged I could catch the train with Peter and Maureen Sparshott when they were travelling at the same time.

At some point during this year, my mother came around to accepting Scientology. I know my brother and I drove her crazy with our newly learned acknowledgment skills. “OK”, “Thankyou” etc became banned words for a while.

I remember one incident where Dad came home really looking haggard and distressed. Apparently the whole of Sydney Organisation was assigned a “Doubt Condition” (this is part of the application of the scientology ethics and justice system) and Dad would not agree. He was threatened with being declared a “Suppressive Person” because refused to compromise. I have always admired him for that. My memory is hazy on these early years, but I think the whole thing was cancelled and it was life as normal again, a common thing in scientology.
During my time in Sydney I had met the first love of my life, a young man working on “staff” called Chris. We were very young and it was an innocent relationship only going as far as furtive kisses, however we were inseparable and wanted to marry when we could. This was all part of the delightful rose-coloured scenario for me at this time, aged 15. Studying this “technology” in the day, lunches at a nearby park with my love and a seemingly bright future.

Going to the UK

Dad was heavily involved with scientology now and my mother and brother and I followed in his footsteps. Dad wanted to move the whole family to join the newly formed “Sea Organisation”.  This was based aboard a ship called the Royal Scotsman which I think was anchored in Corfu at the time. The idea was to fly to the UK and then get a van to drive the family to the ship. (It didn’t work out that way, for which I am eternally and extremely grateful.)

So we all moved to England, to Saint Hill Manor, the headquarters of scientology at the time. This involved selling the house he had built, taking my siblings out of school and moving across the world. I still don’t know how my mother coped with it all, especially as my paternal grandparents who had always had a large part in our lives threatened to – and did in fact disinherit my dad and all of us for leaving. I lost one set of grandparents at that point and although we did have some small contact again before they passed, it was a loss that affected the rest of my life.

Leaving my home country, my friends and Chris was very hard. He agreed that we would somehow meet up again and that it was the “greatest good”. I was too young to stay behind being a good enough scientologist already I believed that a new life in a new land, saving the world, was exactly what I wanted.

Dad had been promised accommodation for the family when we arrived, however it wasn’t organised at all. So someone rushed around and arranged for us to stay some house that was empty for a few days, until better things were arranged. I remember it was mouldy and damp and bare and there was another family there too. We kids had to hide when someone came close, as we were not supposed to be there. Not a good start to our new life. Apparently the Treasury Sec at the time had rung Dad’s bank and pretended to be him and demanded loudly that his money be available the next day, i.e. the end of the stat week ‘Thursday 2pm’.  Dad found out this information at a later time.

Saint Hill at that time was an exciting place to be. So many people of all nationalities, people everywhere! Reception was down by the Chapel with the Canteen opposite, the hang out place for students. It was fascinating and ever-changing. I remember when I saw snow for the first time, and once even rolling all the way down the driveway in the snow, what fun. I have memories of walking down by the lake, even though it was OOB. Walking through trees covered with snow and ice, a magical experience. There were so many lovely people sharing these life experiences there and I felt grateful to be part of it, mostly.

The family had moved into a large house in Oxted that was a sort of boarding house for Scientologists. Mum and Dad ran it even though they also worked on staff. I don’t remember much of this time; I know my siblings had to fend for themselves a lot.

To be continued….

Talking the Talk

The first thing a group with cult tendencies does is introduce a new and exclusive ‘language’ to describe concepts that are limited to that group alone. Scientology had a massive ‘dictionary’ to explain their jargon, which includes numerous abbreviations, totally new words and new meanings for normal everyday English words.

This new language gives a sense of inclusion, of being part of an elite group that can communicate certain concepts only to each other. It breeds a sense of safety and familiarity within the group and widens the divide to the ‘outside world’.  After learning hundreds of new words, it in fact becomes a second language.

The first scientology word I learned was “ARC”. This is a made up word from the initials of the words Affinity-Reality-Communication. Without going into lengthy explanations, the idea is that you need to have all three concepts in alignment to lead to ‘understanding’. The term “ARC” is a very small word for a very large concept. It includes all sorts of emotions and substitutes for normal words such as liking, connection, love, empathy etc. The opposite of “ARC” is “ARC Break” (ARCX in the super duper abbreviation requirements) and this means any upset, disagreement, dislike and so on.

Two little words then become a sort of shortcut to describe the vast array of real human emotions – they are squished and squashed into a box labelled “ARC” and equated with “understanding”.

I learnt about “ARC” at the age of 14, just when a young mind is starting to awaken to the wider boundaries of life. I was so excited while doing my first course (Personal Efficiency or PE Course) and felt that I had a head start on my poor peers left studying boring subjects at school, they would never be able to grasp the incredible truth that was being revealed to me.  This is the point where you begin to really learn the ‘language’ and the start of the gradual disconnection from a normal life.

Talking the Talk of scientology (or any other cult) is a passport to a life of cognitive dissonance – a state of mind where you hold conflicting ideas simultaneously. When you are told something is “true” and your continued acceptance by the group depends on your acceptance of that “truth” –  yet you feel that something is ‘not right’ somehow (i.e. you may have conflicting experience) – it is a very uncomfortable place to be. The easiest solution, given that you feel the benefits of such a group outweigh any other consideration, is simply to accept it. If you do this long enough then you can actually get to a place where you barely use logic and alternate viewpoints in your thinking as it is all supplied for you in a ready-made package. Accepting that package leads you to accepting a life as defined by the cult leader and it happens in such a way that you barely know it has happened.

Much of the jargon stops you thinking, and is designed that way. A great article on this is Thought Stopping by Jeff Hawkins and his follow-up article Thought Stopping on Steroids.

One of the hardest and also most rewarding things an ex scientologist can do is to re-learn normal vocabulary. I have been often told that  “it is not necessary, as the jargon explains concepts that are exclusive to scientology”. Well that’s the whole point! Take any one of those exclusive concepts and write it out in plain English, it is an exercise that is guaranteed to start to shift some of the automatic thinking that using the jargon brings. Best to start with the smaller and more common words, such as “theta”, “ARC”, “Comm”, “2D” and so on.  I will add that it’s not easy to do, at first, though well worth the effort.

It is such a wonderful thing to be able to truly make your own mind up about a subject without having to double think and translate into scientologese. Wonderful.

The Start

 A belief system such as scientology can have dire consequences in ways one can not imagine.

Sitting with my first coffee of the day, I watched the beautiful native birds in a nearby gumtree and a single white feather drifted down, much like the feather in the movie Forest Gump. A symbol that life goes on, the breezes and storms of life take us where they may, and beauty still exists.

I was just a normal girl, raised in a normal church going family in a normal suburb in Australia.

I want to write of my experiences in this life to try and make sense of it all. This is mostly for me; however I hope that my children may gain some insight into their lives as well and possibly others may understand similar paths influenced by a belief system.

The place, time and family we are born into are beyond our choice, though in some metaphysical circles it is thought we do choose. I don’t know and at this point can’t take responsibility for choosing the life I have had, even though my astrology chart indeed describes it in detail, if I choose to take that point of view. Astrology has in fact been both a great comfort and challenge to me at times as it describes the ‘cycles’ we all go through in life. The very idea of those cycles helped me to survive challenging circumstances, knowing that a door would close and another one open. Which door to choose, which reaction to take are choices I do believe are our own.

Yet there are times when those choices are not ours to make and one has to go with the flow of life. Our family’s circumstances dictate a lot of that when we are young; hopefully we learn the values and attitudes to help us survive.

I am very grateful now for having an uncomplicated and loving childhood, until the age of 14, as it has given me a basis to fall back on in later life.

Although born in central Sydney, life took on a whole new meaning for me around the age of seven, when we moved to the then wilds of ‘the bush’. I am the eldest of six children with a ten year age gap. Land was much cheaper in those days and with the help of my father’s parents, Dad bought a block of five acres of bushland in what seemed the middle of nowhere and set about building us a house.

I had been raised in the Methodist Church as my parents were committed Christians when they met and for my youngest years. We went to Church every Sunday and had the traditional roast dinner for Sunday lunch on our return; it was a routine that was a comforting part of my early life. As I grew older and graduated from Sunday School, I started to help out with the smaller children in their Bible studies and it was something that I found more interesting than the normal service. My mother was a teacher and I fully expected to follow in her footsteps as a career path.

My father found Scientology in 1964 after reading the book Dianetics. He has always been a spiritual seeker and in this new philosophy he felt there were answers he wanted to find out more about. As he became more immersed in his studies over a few years, he spent more and more time away from home. After a full day’s physical work as a builder he would then drive 25 miles into Sydney to study and night, and then home again very late. I know my mother found this difficult with a brood of six children to look after, especially as she was working as a teacher as well. The elder children had chores to help with running the household but we were an unruly bunch sometimes, it must have been hard, yet with the ignorance of youth we had no idea.

My younger brother started to become interested in my father’s studies and that was not something I wanted to be excluded from, mostly from the sibling rivalry point of view.

So I went along to my first scientology Seminar in May 1967… I was just 14 years old.

The moment I walked into the venue I felt I had come home. Full of smiling friendly people, I was welcomed in a way I had not experienced before. There was an enthusiasm and apparent common purpose that seemed to bring these individuals together and I felt very grown up for the first time in my life. This Seminar was actually the playing of an important tape from the Founder of scientology, L. Ron Hubbard called RJ67 (Ron’s Journal 1967) and it concerned the need for immediate action to be taken by scientologists to ensure the safe future of the planet. It was all very dire, important and dramatic.

What magnificent concepts for a teenager! “Save the Planet” sparked my innate desire to be part of a concept bigger than the one I had and I was totally and immediately engulfed by the group purpose, even if I had no real understanding of what it was all about. I just knew I wanted to be part of an elite group of people who actually did something. (This is typical of the “love bombing” new recruits are subject to.)

And then my life changed forever.

Becoming Free to shine

Free to Shine”  is both a concept and a name.

Most of my life has been lived under the shadow of scientology and when I left that shadow I found myself standing alone on the brink of a new world wondering what was next. I chose the name Free to Shine while I was struggling to find the word or words to describe my state of mind at the time, back in September 2007 when I found the Ex Scientologist Message Board.

It struck me that I was free to shine now….

Being free to do something, and doing it, are of course two different things. The last few years have brought struggles on many levels and both the challenges and the rewards are common to many people coming out of a cult or abusive environment. I am going to tell my story here, not necessarily in chronological order, more as it seems relevant at the time and I hope it resonates with other people.

Those who have been involved in these life changing challenges are normal people in extraordinary circumstances. There isn’t a great deal of information or support about the effect of cults, in the wider community and I hope that changes as more and more people find the courage to speak out.

This is my beginning.

Free To Shine