Family Truths

Writing this next part of my story is one of the hardest things I have done. Not so much for the gathering of words, more the gathering of thoughts. When I first wrote an outline of my story on ESMB I covered this era in a few sentences, this time the depth of emotions revealed were somewhat shocking to me and I need to write it out. Thankyou to some precious friends who have helped me put it all in perspective these last few weeks.

Working in any scientology organisation is not a 9-5 job and I think that’s an important point to mention. Dedication to the ideals lead you to want to help to the best of your ability, so you join staff and sign a contract for 2 ½ or 5 years (or in the case of the Sea Org it’s a billion years). Once you are absorbed into the machinery ‘working’ becomes virtually your total life and any room for individuality and personal time is rare.

I still don’t know how I managed to work with a newborn baby under my desk! Perhaps it was that I had a ready smile and she was so cute. My memories of this time are so hazy, in fact one of the few things that come to mind are of her being taken for walks by a lovely helpful young girl who later became my dearest friend of 40 years.

At the time I was living in the Stables, originally the actual stables of Saint Hill Manor which had been converted into some living areas. I had a tiny room and communal use of other facilities. Two other memories seared on my mind are of sobbing in absolute despair while my newborn baby screamed and I didn’t know what to do. It was just me and I had to try to keep things quiet for other residents. The other was of sitting by the window for hours, watching and waiting for the lone motorbike headlight that would be my baby’s father coming to see me, as we were together again for a short period. I still lived with the hope that somehow, someday, we could be a family and had named him in her birth certificate for this very reason. It was not to be, he was as young as me and subject to his own family issues with the added life changing challenges of having just returned from the ship where Hubbard was at the time.

I can’t remember the exact arrangements I had with my parents; I know we shared the care of my baby during week staff times and weekends. They were working too, studying and raising all my siblings and somehow we managed to hold it together, despite the long hours all round.  (Having raised three other children since then, I understand why this period is a blank to me now.)

In scientology, it is part of the indoctrination that you don’t show your inner turmoil, you don’t have “case on post” or “human emotion and reaction” – a great description of this is here, written by John Peeler.

This concept and conditioning has been one of the hardest things to shed and has affected my whole life. You just ‘get on with it’, you smile and you pretend no matter that your heart is breaking inside. And my heart was broken, no matter how it appeared to others, as it became plain my romantic family ideal was never to be and life continued as a constant round of coping, until an incident where dirty nappies were found in a cupboard meant I had to move out of the Stables. I was working long hours, it became my whole life as tends to happen on staff. Gradually mum took over the mothering role more and more, it just sort of happened and my baby became another child in our large family.

The point came where my parents formally adopted her and changed her surname to theirs to make life a little less complex. The Adoption Court had a requirement that she know who her real mother was, and she and I had many conversations over the years about it all, starting when she first learned to talk. In fact the last conversation I had with her some years ago was on this subject, prior to the real reason for her visit.  She had come to “handle” me to stop me telling my scientology story, and when I refused to do so she disconnected.

The problem is that those conversations were when I was still a scientologist or just newly ‘out’ – and now I’m not. I no longer choose to believe that I was just a vessel for her birth into her scientology family of choice. That she was ‘there’ at her conception and chose the way it turned out. As I’m getting into the realm of beliefs, and I am happy to let people think what they may, I repeat – I no longer believe that. This whole concept negates me as a person who had dreams and free will of my own – I wanted a baby and I went against convention to carry her to term with hopes it would all somehow miraculously turn out right. The reason it didn’t was that there simply wasn’t any support for me to do that back then.

Last year a counsellor said to me, after hearing the bare outline of my story, “You lost your baby, you had no control.” At the time I didn’t really see that as it was not the “acceptable truth” I had lived with for so long and “control” and “being cause” is a huge issue for anyone who has been a scientologist. However that simple statement opened the door to the part of my heart that I had bricked over and shut down. No-one had ever said that to me before. Many months and tears later I agree with her, I had not realised what lay behind that brick wall. I remembered the last 40 years of having to pretend she was my sister, when to me she never, never was. Grandparents adopting their child’s baby is not that unusual in times gone by, hence the Adoption Court’s sensible ruling; it’s just in this case it was complicated by a belief system. Coming to understand my own actions, the guilt of taking what seemed the easier route, the grief of loss unacknowledged, the decades of distorted truth and strange family interactions is a huge step towards coming to understand who I am, my hidden feelings of failure and so on.

I love my parents dearly and thank them for everything they did to raise us all, which I know they did to the best of their ability. Unfortunately something went wrong along the way and in her mind my mother actually became my baby’s birth mum as well. We were at a wedding about 10 years ago and commenting on all my sister’s dresses and she said, “XXX  just has a different father, same mother”. That was somewhat shocking to say the least and explained a lot, yet in my mind I had abdicated responsibility, so who was I to argue when decades had passed? If that is what my mother had come to believe, then I would let it rest for the sake of family harmony. I didn’t understand then that my silence was condoning an outdated lie and that there was absolutely no considerations of my feelings and really never had been.

Many people knew the truth anyway so my daughter and I agreed at one point that when she was in Melbourne where I was, she would be introduced as my daughter, and when in Sydney where my parents were, she was my sister, and we did this for mum’s sake. It was really just a band-aid solution and didn’t address the real issues, as we could not.  My mother was her mum, she had raised her and in respect of that I had to allow her to be called my sister.  It should never have gone that far, it was only a solution for when she was a child. A sad consequence has been that my daughter’s baby – my granddaughter – did not know the truth of this until she was in her teens, I was her ‘aunty’. I have had almost no contact with her (now exacerbated by disconnection) and hope one day I can be who I really am with her.

A few years ago I had what is probably the last real conversation with my mum, as she has had strokes and is unwell and far away. She said to me very seriously, with tears in her eyes “I have something to say to you…..I’m sorry.” She didn’t have to specify anything; her words covered all the bonds between mother and child. And I told her I was sorry too, and we forgave each other and we hugged each other. God bless you mum.

I look forward to the day the same thing can happen with my own firstborn.

And now I send these words out into the world, with love.

Good Roads and Disconnection

One of the most common questions I am asked is “how could you have been so stupid/gullible/crazy etc to have been drawn into scientology?”

Children tend to share the belief systems of their parents until they reach an age where they have enough exposure to the world and experience to compare it to other belief systems and that is what happened to me. By the time I escaped the enclosed environment (story to come) I had been drawn into the mindset that does not allow you to look outside that one belief system, even if you are not ‘active’ in it.

Scientology, as other cults do, appeals to good hearted people on the whole, the ones who want to make a difference to the world. (There will also be a minority who can sense the possibility of personal power in an environment where people do as they are told.) However a person gets interested, be it via a book or a “personality test” or word of mouth, what they are seeing is only the outer layer. The smiles, the “wins” that are shared when a person completes a service (mandatory) is seductive and also appeals to anyone with a quest for personal spiritual freedom. There are many layers to the subject that are not apparent at first and by the time you begin to see them you are well trained either look the other way or be very cautious in pointing out things that don’t seem right.

Scientology gained it’s foothold before the internet and social media made it possible for stories to be told freely. It is also notorious for keeping secrets and not allowing anything negative to be known about it and for attacking critics or anyone who spoke out about the abuses they witnessed. There has been a vast amount written about this, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here, check the links on the right.

Paul Haggis in The New Yorker recently,

I once asked Haggis about the future of his relationship with Scientology. “These people have long memories,” he told me. “My bet is that, within two years, you’re going to read something about me in a scandal that looks like it has nothing to do with the church.” He thought for a moment, then said, “I was in a cult for thirty-four years. Everyone else could see it. I don’t know why I couldn’t.

Good Roads Fair Weather” is the mechanism used to stop real communication.  It means only talking about or changing the conversation to subjects that are light and non controversial.  As a scientologist is only allowed to talk about their own emotional issues and challenges within the scientology system – auditing or ethics – it becomes second nature to disguise real feelings and to pretend on the surface that all is well while ignoring any elephants who happen to be in the room. Most of my adult life was spent behind a Good Roads front and that in itself can take a terrible toll on a person.

Scientologists are also not allowed to talk to or associate anyone who has been declared a “Suppressive Person” (SP). Follow the link to find an explanation of this. This is the ultimate penalty for perceived crimes, such as posting on a ‘critic’ Message Board or speaking to media and an “SP” can be subjected to “Fair Game”.

The reason I bring this up is that I have apparently been “declared” an “SP” for speaking out, some time in the last year or so. Of course I have never been directly told this or shown a copy of my “Declare” for fear I would publish it on the net and expose it’s idiotic libel so I have only been informed on a via. Therefore any of my family who are still active in scientology and wish to do their next service have to “disconnect” from me – and have done so.

Why would they do that? Simply because they truly believe their very eternal salvation is at risk if they do not. Scientology makes you quite selfish in that regard, the concept is disguised as ‘saving the planet’  and when you are immersed within it you totally believe it is the only way. Any threat to have that ‘only way’ denied to you is the worst thing imaginable; so family and friends who disagree sadly stand little hope against the ‘certainty’ of future lifetimes of living on this ‘prison planet’ without the “Bridge to Total Freedom”.

Disconnection is one of the very worst crimes of scientology. I have experienced it from both sides, so I am qualified to talk of it. When you disconnect you can justify it to yourself as “I have a right not to talk to that person” which is actually true. However that truth is a twisted one and the bottom line is that it’s “him/her or me”, and ‘me’ usually wins. Even heartfelt personal connections don’t stand a chance when you feel your personal scientology salvation is threatened and thousands and thousands of familes have been ripped apart by this action.

Disconnection can be silent, you quietly drift away and deliberately lose contact, and this is what I did when I was a full blown scientologist. I apologise to the people I did that to, I can only say I really didn’t understand normal personal connections beyond the scientology definitions of them. It can also be something like “I won’t talk to you or have any contact because you are attacking my religion.” There is no true discussion, any conversations on the subject before the final curtain consist of demands that any criticism is stopped immediately, retractions of any critical comments are made and that you basically beg forgiveness and return to the fold to do whatever is demanded of you. This is called “handling”.

Once you become aware of the enormity of the crimes and abuses and experience the relief of being able to talk and think freely, there is no going back. At the same time it can also take a long time to become aware of the intense and subtle indoctrination that affects many aspects of our lives  and this is where internet discussion can help a lot.

This subject brings up a lot of emotions for me – I HATE DISCONNECTION.

Click here for some disconnection stories.

1969 – Pregnant and on staff

I was not living at home at this time, I had moved into a share house with other scientologists and this obviously gave my young self a greater freedom. I suspected I was pregnant yet was woefully ignorant on the subject so I ignored the symptoms for a month or so. When I realised it was a fact, I hugged this information tightly to myself as I knew that I was going to face opposition to having a child and decided to wait until I was at least three months pregnant. Not only was this England in 1969 where illegitimate children were still frowned upon,  I was also a staff member and this could create a “PR” nightmare. Scientology does not allow anything controversial or that could cast a bad image to become ‘public’ or attract attention.

One morning a fellow housemate saw me throwing up and reported this back to my parents. All hell broke loose, and looking back on it now, I can understand my parent’s viewpoint much more than I could at the time! It was decided that I had to have an abortion and I honestly felt I had no choice. I was taken to see a doctor who refused an abortion, in disgust, as I was already past the 3 month mark. Thankyou to that doctor….

The next alternative was adoption and I saw a social worker to arrange that. This all felt beyond my control or choice and I went along with what was decided for me. With the naiveté of youth I somehow thought things would fall into place and I imagined a future where my darling baby, her father and I would live happily ever after, no matter what had been decreed otherwise. Needless to say it didn’t happen that way.

I was still working and remember going to the loo to fall asleep for an hour here and there. I was incredibly tired and there was no leeway on the demands of staff for pregnancy. At some point I left, I suppose because a pregnant single 16 year old was not good PR for scientology. I also remember going on a bus a couple of times to the hospital where I would be admitted and those two visits were the total of my pre natal care. I had no idea what birth would be like and the only real advice was from Ivis Bolder who told me “Imagine you are trying to shit a grapefruit!” Well, that’s one way to put it.

My baby’s father seemed ok with what was happening and I didn’t know differently until I found out that he had moved on to another girl. His mother also made it abundantly clear that there was no way in hell he would ever marry me, even if he wanted to. I was on my own.

My dad was due to go to Edinburgh, to the new Advanced Organisation, and somehow it was decided that the only option for me was to joining the new Sea Organisation there. This is so bizarre and the only explanation I can see is that it was a way to have me housed and working and ‘taken care of’. My younger brother had already been sent to one of the Sea Org ships, at the age of 15. So I signed my Billion Year Contract (Members of the Sea Org sign an employment contract with the organization for one billion years) and headed north. Luckily the Commanding Officer at the time, Phyl Stevens, knew this was not going to work and she allowed me to be part of the group there until my dad was complete on his services and headed back to Saint Hill. I still worked as a normal Sea Org member for that time although ‘special exercises’ were designed for me for the morning workouts all staff attended. My memory is of a room stuffed with bunk beds and no personal space and it was such a relief when I left there.

The question remained of what to do with me. The next option was that I join World Wide staff, this was then the senior administration centre of international scientology, based at Saint Hill. I will always remember that day,  sitting in a car with my mother, crying because I didn’t want to go, but not knowing I had any other choice. I wanted to save the world but I felt so young and scared, as though I was riding some tidal wave and hanging on for dear life.

I started working as the telex operator, and then Director of  Communications. This meant keeping the “communication lines” smooth and delivering telexes and post immediately. Jane Kember was the Guardian and always scared me; I remember being relieved when I had to deliver a telex and she wasn’t there. (This was the Guardians Office where all legal, PR and Intelligence matters of scientology were taken care of. Doors of “GO” staff were always locked and secrecy was paramount.)

I was located in the Monkey Room, a large room in the old Manor containing a fabulous mural painted by John Spencer Churchill , nephew of Sir Winston Churchill. Many staff worked in this large room and it was a hive of activity. One day I came back from lunch and my desk had disappeared. I had been moved upstairs without warning as it had been decided telexes needed to be more secure or something. I was always on call for the senior executives to send urgent and mysterious telexes at any time, often dictated straight to me for typing, and to be sent immediately. Life in the GO was terribly serious.

One incident I recall is that we were all staff being sent to London to give out free copies of Freedom magazine. I asked to be excused and was  refused, it was an “all hands” event that everyone had to attend.  I was 8 months pregnant, it was freezing bloody cold and it was a nightmare standing on the streets trying to give away the broadsheets and picking them up again as they were dropped to avoid being fined for littering. The journey home is seared in my memory as being pregnant I needed a loo, but the coach couldn’t stop and I was in agony by the time we arrived back at Saint Hill.

My baby was overdue so the doctors decided to induce the birth and I worked on staff until the day before. I am grateful my mother came with me to the hospital, if she hadn’t I am sure I would have died. I had no idea of what was to happen and given drugs to alleviate the pain (which I later found out I am allergic to). The result was that I told Mum that I “was going” and I really meant it. She held my hand and told me, no demanded, that I “not leave my body” and I eventually delivered a healthy baby girl. As the baby was due to be adopted, I was not allowed to breastfeed, and yet she was brought to me at the same times as other mothers and  then taken away for bottle feeding. The idea was that adoption was a last resort, and mothers were encouraged by any means possible to keep the baby and the most obvious way was to encourage bonding. This was incredibly distressing; how could I continue to be on staff with a newborn? How could I do all that was asked of me? How could I give her up?

Three days after the birth my parents visited and looked at this baby in the cot at the end of my bed. They told me they would help me raise her, as “she wanted to be part of our (scientology) family”. I cried for days, not knowing how this was going to work, whether I could do it and what was the best decision was to make for all concerned. Again, I went along with what had been decided as it seemed to mean I could keep my baby and continue working on staff, so surely that was the best solution? The hospital staff suddenly started to be nice to me, and began to teach me how to bottle feed and care for a newborn.

The day after I left hospital I was back at work.

Saint Hill 1968/9

These years were so intense it is hard to describe. So much happened in a relatively short time, stories may be a little out of sequence so I will just go with the flow.

As I had left school and had sort of been ‘set free’ within the boundaries of Saint Hill, it became obvious I had to do something with my life. Anything outside scientology was out of the question so the obvious answer was to work on staff. I worked in Mimeo in the Foundation org (evening shift) and was quickly snapped up to also be the Receptionist for the whole place. It was drummed into me that I was the “face of Saint Hill” and I liked that responsibility. I was quite a happy young person, so ‘meeting and greeting’ was fun. The switchboard was a huge old plug board and at times it was too busy for one person alone, so there would be someone else helping with that. Most of the time though the Receptionist was also handling all the incoming and outgoing phones as well as people coming and going, making it a hugely busy job.

Scientology is totally run on “stats” – statistics. The ‘end of the week’ is Thursday at 2pm, life becomes frantic just before then as ‘stats’ have to be higher than the week before, as “Ethics conditions” were applied according to them. I think my ‘stat’ at the time was something to with the number of people who came into Reception as I remember willing people to walk in that door on many a Thursday so I wouldn’t be penalised! I worked with the Registrar and Treasury (self-explanatory) to speed people through to their next service and looking back it was an example of high-speed selling at its best. Very few came in through Reception >Reg>Treasury without parting with money and this ‘line’ was drilled and drilled and drilled to make it super efficient.

I remember one day a woman came in and she was hysterical and crying, saying that her husband had just hanged himself and she needed to see the Guardians Office immediately (they took care of PR, Legal and Intelligence). I sent her to the appropriate person and didn’t hear another word about it. I was pretty shocked at the time and this was my first glimpse into the other side of scientology and one didn’t dare to ask questions.

I was working two jobs – basically day shift and night shift. ‘Meal breaks’ were only if you were lucky, mostly lunch was a run across to the ‘Canteen’ for a high-priced snack. This area was supposed to be just for public, not staff, though as it was one of the few places for relaxing, many staff used it too. During the changeover from Day to FND (night) organisations many people rushed home to eat, for me this was often not possible. Even getting home to East Grinstead (the closest local town where most scientologists lived) at night was a total nightmare at times and meant standing in the car park and begging a lift from students or public going that way, unless my parents were also going home. I eventually left the evening staff job, and my new ‘post’ was as Qualifications Division Reception, welcoming and directing those people into the area of correction of training or processing.

My personal life changed too. After some months my love in Australia, Chris, had stopped answering my letters, so I wrote to Peter Sparshott in Sydney who told me he had died. It was a terrible shock, as Chris apparently had known he was ill and hadn’t wanted to tell me. Even though I grieved, I was young and surrounded by so many people from different countries and cultures that life soon began to go on, as it does. There was such an enthusiasm in those days that bound all these strangers together and made life seem dynamic and exciting. Hard work didn’t matter; it was something you did because you were part of it and happy to be so.

Inevitably I met a soul mate and fell in love,  and that led to the next inevitability for a naive young Aussie teenager in a strange land and a strange culture….pregnancy.