This week, we continue our examination of Scientology’s evolution from that of a self-help process, the origins of which were rooted in founder L. Ron Hubbard’s pseudo-scientific epistle Dianetics, to that of a mafia-like Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO), essentially a criminal conglomerate couched as a “religion.” In understanding Hubbard’s motivations for wealth accumulation, it was clear from last week’s examples that Hubbard’s obsession with money was as much about funding the furtherance of his legacy as it was furthering Scientology. In continuing with our use of behavior within a given era to examine the evolution of Scientology’s financial criminality, we now go from the era of Hubbard as tax evader, on to the transitional era of Hubbard as an established crime boss-like figure. Contemporary to Hubbard’s transitional era is the seemingly inevitable rise of David Miscavige, from that of indispensable lieutenant to consigliere and in our final era, his eventual role as capo de tutti capi of Scientology. Continue reading “Scientology Financial Crime, Part 2: From Tax Evader to Mob Boss”
Opening an Inquiry: Do Cults Always Abuse Women?
News over the last week or so on the cult front has featured multiple cults who seem to focus on sexual abuse of women members. We wrote extensively a week ago about the arrest of Keith Raniere, founder of Albany, New York-based Nxivm (pronounced “Nexium”). The indictment alleges that Raniere headed a secret “master/slave” group where the all-female membership were branded with his initials in their pubic region. Be Scofield, a journalist specializing in new-generation Internet gurus, recently published an article on yet another abusive group. Scofield looks at the followers of Padma Aon Prakasha, who leads various workshops in the US; 15 women and 2 men have accused Prakasha of physical and emotional abuse and other things. And the well-received Netflix documentary Wild, Wild Country about the 1980s Rajneeshee cult in Oregon recounts stories of physical abuse aimed at women.
We are writing to start a discussion about treatment of women in cults, including in Scientology. For those of you who are ex’s, we would be interested in understanding what happened to you, for both former staff/Sea Org and for rank-and-file members. And we’re particularly interested in whether high-control groups always end up committing abuse of women (and, probably equally of children). What general inferences can we draw and what can we do about it? Continue reading “Opening an Inquiry: Do Cults Always Abuse Women?”
Scientology Organized Crime, Part 1: The Beginnings
As my introductory post mentioned, my goal in this series is to provide a historical perspective on money in the church in roughly three eras: the first era will address Hubbard’s financial behavior up until the time of his final days; the second, David Miscavige’s assumption of power and the 1982 Mission Holder’s shakedown, and third, money in the church under Miscavige following the Mission Holder shakedown up to the present day.
This historical arc provides a convenient means of analyzing the church’s transition from its roots in providing Dianetics-based therapy into a pseudo-religious conglomerate with all the trappings of a cartel, or more so, demonstrating many of the characteristics reflective of a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) of significant proportions. Key to understanding any crime are the factors of means, motive, and opportunity. While the past certainly provides valuable context in understanding both L. Ron Hubbard’s role and Scientology’s means, motives, and opportunities for accumulating wealth, understanding the doctrine, ideology, and psychological profile of the church is also crucial. Thus the rigid adherence to Hubbard as “Source” for all of Scientology’s teachings, doctrine and operational foundation, and the resultant cult of personality that compels its malevolent zealotry, are the nexus for its criminality. Continue reading “Scientology Organized Crime, Part 1: The Beginnings”
NXIVM Cult Leader Arrested: Parallels with Scientology?
Earlier this week, Keith Raniere, the leader of Nexium (pronounced “Nexium”), a cultic group headquartered in Albany, New York, was arrested in Mexico after fleeing the US and swiftly extradited back to the US for trial. He’s accused of sex trafficking in conjunction with a secret “sorority” made up of Nxivm members who agreed to function as slaves for him, and who were branded in their pelvic region with his initials. There are other investigations pending that may result in further charges.
Though Nxivm never achieved the success of Scientology in its 20-year history, there are some interesting parallels between Nxivm’s modus operandi and Scientology’s as well as some parallels between Keith Raniere and L. Ron Hubbard’s claims about themselves. We look at some of these parallels and try to determine whether there’s any way to use the accelerating collapse of Nxivm to predict the endgame for Scientology, particularly in seeing how activists can target their efforts to hasten its demise. Continue reading “NXIVM Cult Leader Arrested: Parallels with Scientology?”
Scientology Financial Crime through the Years: an introduction to a new series
I was first drawn to the Scientology critic movement as a result of my background in anti-money laundering, countering the financing of terrorism and the forensic analysis of financial crime. Having come across several Interpol reports that mentioned L. Ron Hubbard’s money movements from his days on the Apollo, my interest was piqued as to the why and how of his intentions. The further I delved into the financial affairs of Scientology, the more I became convinced I was potentially dealing with a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) of significant proportions. While I’ve enjoyed investigating a variety of topics within Scientology, over the next few weeks I’ll be returning to this premise.
I’ll be looking at the historical perspective of money in the church in roughly three eras: the first era will address Hubbard’s financial behavior up until the time of his final days; the second, David Miscavige’s assumption of power and the 1982 Mission Holder’s shakedown, and third, money in the church under Miscavige following the Mission Holder shakedown up to the present day. Over the last several months, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with several key figures in Scientology history who are intimately familiar with money management over the three eras I’ve mentioned. Further to these firsthand experiences, in recent weeks we’ve undertaken several investigations into some of the foundational writings of Scientology, as well as the link between conspiracy theory, Scientology and cults in general. Continue reading “Scientology Financial Crime through the Years: an introduction to a new series”
Request for Your Thoughts: Link Between Scientology and Conspiracy Theory Thinking?
This post is a request for help. I’m trying to understand the link, if any, between Scientology and conspiracy theory thinking. I was struck by how well-known old guard critic Arnie Lerma, who recently attacked his wife and then killed himself, had degenerated into the conspiracy mindset. The story is more complex, involving significant medical challenges that affected his mental health, which may have been primarily responsible for his increasing paranoia. (Lerma’s tragic saga merely sparked my interest in the general mechanism; I’m not trying to understand the particulars of his journey or to diagnose him retroactively.) The news about Lerma’s death came only a day after another post from Tony Ortega about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “SMERSH” conspiracy, a ludicrous tale of opposition to Scientology, and the juxtaposition led me to start thinking about the connection.
I’ve heard stories about other former Scientologists who have similarly crossed into the conspiracist world. I’m trying to understand the relationship between Scientology and conspiracy theory obsession, and I can’t get it right without a lot of different perspectives. I’ll set out my thinking so far, which is indeed incomplete, and then set out particular questions I’m struggling with. I welcome the thoughts of ex-Scientologists, never-ins and people who are familiar with the mindset of conspiracy theorists. Thanks in advance for helping me (and hopefully, the reader base) understand the conspiracy mindset and how it relates to Scientology. Continue reading “Request for Your Thoughts: Link Between Scientology and Conspiracy Theory Thinking?”
The Responsibilities of Leaders, Part II: Power, Mary Sue, and Where’s Shelly?
In last week’s post, I provided an overview of The Responsibilities of Leaders, one of Hubbard’s more iconic writings, along with some observations from former Scientologists Brian Lambert and Jefferson Hawkins on the importance of this policy in understanding Scientology’s zeitgeist. Both gentlemen frame their observations of this policy as being perhaps a sort of “command legacy” from Hubbard to David Miscavige given that it’s Miscavige’s favorite LRH essay, which he uses to illustrate what he literally expects from his subordinates in terms of loyalty, ruthlessness, and Keeping Scientology Working. This week I begin by contrasting Hubbard’s power-as-leadership model against more traditional concepts of leadership, and then examine the connection between Mary Sue Hubbard and The Four Seasons of Manuela, and lastly, how The Responsibilities of Leaders may account for David Miscavige’s behavior and its subsequent impact on his relationship with wife Shelly Miscavige. Continue reading “The Responsibilities of Leaders, Part II: Power, Mary Sue, and Where’s Shelly?”
Another Angle on the Strategy Behind Scientology TV
Earlier this week, Scientology TV began broadcasting on the DirecTV network. Tony Ortega’s story the day before the launch, explaining the apps and channels involved is here, and Tony’s review of the first slug of programming the day after the premiere is here.
Here, we’ll look at the strategic imperative driving Scientology leader David Miscavige to begin to broadcast to generally accessible public, which we think is a case of doing the best job he can in playing a terrible hand. We suspect that some percentage of top donors are starting to wonder about the efficacy of the expensive Ideal Org strategy. In particular, they might be starting to wonder why there are so few new members in these opulent facilities, which was the justification for building them in the first place.
We predicted a few months ago that Scientology Media Productions would not begin broadcasting anytime soon, because of the potential for blowback and further tarnishing of the already toxic Scientology brand. We still believe all the reasons we cited in that post arguing against broadcast operations are still valid, and we now look at why Scientology management might have felt it necessary to go forward with a broadcast plan even though it will likely backfire. Continue reading “Another Angle on the Strategy Behind Scientology TV”
Reappraising Hubbard’s “The Responsibilities of Leaders”
Certain Scientology policies written by L. Ron Hubbard have assumed almost mythic proportions. Keeping Scientology Working is perhaps the penultimate example but there have been others. These policies provide an inside look at the mind of Hubbard and are very helpful for those seeking an understanding of his motivations and thought processes. To some extent, these policies also illustrate not only Scientology’s group-think on expanding their reach, but also how Hubbard expected Scientologists themselves to think and act. Continue reading “Reappraising Hubbard’s “The Responsibilities of Leaders””
Hubbard Cozies up to Ronald Reagan With Sage Economic Advice
Recently, Chris Shelton located a previously unknown letter from Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard to Ronald Reagan, who had been elected to President a few weeks earlier. The letter offers Reagan laughably bad advice on how to fix the US economy, which at the time of the vote in late 1980, had been wracked with soaring inflation and even higher interest rates for over a decade.
According to Chris, the letter was circulated among Sea Org members in the late 1980s as part of efforts to keep key people in the organization motivated to keep up the war against the IRS. So this letter was clearly intended for internal consumption, to burnish Hubbard’s reputation for brilliance, and to support the IRS campaign.
Dr. Jeff Wasel and John P. appeared as a guest on Chris Shelton’s podcast discussing the letter (also published today) and we’re presenting our analysis of the letter here. We’re writing after the podcast was recorded so our commentary here contains analysis and discussion that doesn’t appear in the podcast. Continue reading “Hubbard Cozies up to Ronald Reagan With Sage Economic Advice”