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Saturday, 22 December 2012
Catarina Pamnell PDF Print E-mail

Another day in Scientology-land
by Catarina Pamnell

In 1981, when I was 18 years old, I first encountered Scientology. It was to be a major influence on my life for several years to come - unfortunately, more negative than positive. The reason I've written this down (apart from the glory and fame of seeing my name in glowing electrons ;-) ) is simply that writing it helped me to put things in perspective, and it's my small contribution to the increasing number of stories about Scientology life which are now becoming available. I was just a low-level scientologist. Other people have told what life was like for those who were more deeply involved.

When the friendly, confident young man insisted that I should at least try out one of their courses, it all seemed so reasonable. Yes, I'd heard something about Scientology being a cult, but I'd been around some pretty weird people before, and it never did hurt me one bit. This guy looked normal enough, and it didn't seem fair to knock a subject without giving it a chance. It wasn't as if he was asking me to sell my soul, was it? Yet, little by little, without really noticing the transformation, I allowed Scientology to control my actions, words and even my thoughts, in exchange for a wealth of empty promises.

Even though the first couple of courses didn't impress me all that much, I was getting caught up in the atmosphere of expectancy and urgency. These scientologists seemed so sure that they were on the right track. If I didn't show up for course, they would phone and write - all that attention was flattering. There were fantastic stories about what other people had achieved with Scientology methods.

I did some of their communication drills (TRs), where for example you had to practice sitting on a chair for a long period of time, without moving or reacting, or doing anything except to sit there, first with eyes closed and then facing another person, and then also to be able to hold your composure despite provocations. After this, I did feel a bit more confident. What if the Scientologists were right? What if they really had found answers to the workings of people's minds, on how to make us more intelligent and able, and eventually reduce evil and suffering in this world? Despite my initial hestitation, it seemed the least I could do to read some Scientology books and try it out for a little while more.

There was a program which was supposed to clean the body of stored toxins (the Purification Rundown). While doing it, I experienced various phenomena, which were explained as 'accumulated radiation and illness leaving the body'. (Wasn't it rather the combined side effects of extreme doses of vitamins, and 3-5 hours daily in a sauna? But at that time, I was far too willing to uncritically accept their claims.) After a couple of weeks of this strenous program, I felt unusually lightheaded and exhilarated - I could stand in the street for several minutes just looking at colors shifting on a parked car. In this 'high' state, it wasn't very hard to convince me to buy some more courses.

Then I got some therapy, called auditing, a kind of psychotherapy (though Scientologists wouldn't use that word) where a therapist, called an auditor, with a longer or shorter Scientology training (maybe only a couple of weeks) asks intimate personal questions of the person being audited, known as a preclear. The questions are already listed on set forms, and more often than not an E-meter is used - a kind of crude lie detector. In the auditing I experienced that I 'remembered' a past life - wow!

Sometimes I would encounter things that didn't make sense, and doubted the whole Scientology thing, but I was always convinced to keep going. 'Get more auditing, study more, contribute more, work harder; eventually you'll understand! Or don't you want to help in saving the planet?' Whenever the promised miraculous results didn't occur, I learned to blame myself for the failure. I was learning the secrets of the universe, yet my life was going down the drain.

By 1983, two years after reading my first Hubbard book, I had gone from a reasonably well-ordered life (steady job, friends, money in the bank, no drug or psychiatric problems, etc.) to a complete mess. I had quit my office job, and worked in the local Scientology organisation in Stockholm, Sweden, for 'wages' of around $10-15 a week. My money was all gone after paying over $10,000 for their courses. I had nowhere to live, as the person I had been renting a room from got kicked out of Scientology, which meant that other Scientologists were not allowed any contact with her. The organization's Ethics Officer told me I had to move out within 24 hours.

I didn't eat or sleep much, had practically no contact anymore with my family and former friends, and was becoming increasingly depressed and unstable. So why didn't I just quit?

By then, I had begun to accept the view that if any Scientology methods didn't work out very well for me, it was solely due to my own shortcomings. People who were not successful and healthy were considered less valuable as human beings, as it was believed that their own evil intentions and deeds caused all of their problems. The worse things got, the more I thought I had to stick to Scientology. Hubbard, the founder and 'guru' of Scientology, stated over and over that Scientology was the only way out, and only evil-minded people opposed it. The world outside was controlled by crazy psychiatrists, greedy bankers and corrupt governments. Paranoia? Oh no, just another day in Scientology-land...

In the early 1980s, Scientology went through a period of both external and internal problems. Several top ranking Scientologists got sentenced for theft of documents and infiltration of US government agencies. A network called the Guardian's Office (GO) had formerly wielded a lot of influence, led by Hubbard's wife Mary Sue. Now this group lost the power struggle to the present Scientology leader, David Miscavige. The GO staff had to 'reform' (i.e. learn loyalty to the new management). In Europe, the GO personnel were ordered to the European head quarters (FOLO EU - now called CLO EU) in Copenhagen, Denmark, to do a 'reform program' called the Deck Projects Force (DPF).

This was in the beginning of 1983, and later that year also many 'regular' church staff from all over Europe were sent to do the program. I was working in the department of personnel, communication and ethics in the Stockholm church, but was 'troublesome' - after maybe a couple of hundred of hours of Scientology auditing, I was experiencing severe anxiety attacks and starting to lose my grip on reality. Around October I was one of all those people sent to Copenhagen for correction.

At the FOLO EU, I was ordered into a small room. Two stern-looking women, dressed in the navy-style uniforms of Scientology management (the Sea Organization), started to interrogate me with the Scientology lie detector, the E-meter, screaming at me over and over to confess my misdeeds. One of them, a quite young girl ('CMO missionaire', a high ranking position) had been visiting Stockholm not long before, and we'd had a friendly chat while I showed her how to use the telex machine. Now she wore a stone cold expression. The situation seemed unreal.

Then I was taken to a crowded, dirty room in the basement, where DPFers had to sit for several hours every day and write lists of their 'sins'. According to Hubbard's ideas, a major reason why people are critical of something or somebody, is because they have committed bad acts towards that which they are criticising. By disclosing every immoral or discreditable thing we had ever done, no matter how small, we were supposed to become well-behaved, obedient, uncritical scientologists.(Of course we were not told that in those words, we were told it was our only chance to redeem ourselves from total spiritual disaster.) In this way you were trained into turning any critical thoughts inwards, at yourself, and look for your own mistakes whenever you were upset by something in the organization. Now and then, another person was to check the list, to make sure there was enough detail. Names, dates, places, everything must be included. After a a couple of weeks of this you were putting down things like how you stole an apple from your neighbor's tree as a kid, or simply inventing things so you could fill up those blank pages. As far as I know, Scientology still keeps the lists that I wrote, even though I'm no longer a member, and I have no control over how they may be used.

The rest of the time you had to work; mostly cleaning, kitchen work, painting, etc. Some jobs were especially unpleasant, such as jumping inside garbage containers, to make space for more. The rules were strict: no talking to people outside the DPF, no phone calls or letters without express permission, always run instead of walk, obey all orders from the person in charge of the DPF. Passports were to be handed over, to make it harder for people to escape. We were to watch each other around the clock, and report anyone breaking the rules.

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