I guess nowadays most sane people are of the opinion that those Scientologists are wacky folks. Many have seen the viral video of Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch all hopped up on the ‘tology or are aware that John Travolta is a longtime member of the church. But did you know that Scientologists believe 75 million years ago a galactic ruler named Xenu imprisoned the population, put them all into boxes which he then dropped into volcanoes and subsequently detonated H-bombs sending society’s souls flying all over the place. These souls (known as thetons) now cling to our human bodies and it is only through paying a lot of money to the Church of Scientology that we can learn the secrets to rid ourselves of them. That’s some zany sci-fi shit ain’t it? Nope, that’s a billion dollar religion.
Alex Gibney’s latest documentary Going Clear exposes some shocking truths about this church of “science” that will have you picking your jaw up off the floor. Relying chiefly on archive footage and the testimonies of eight ex-Scientologists we are taken behind the scenes of this utterly bizarre cult.
To begin with we learn the background of L. Ron Hubbard, the creator of dianetics and the Scientology religion. Essentially a Science Fiction writer who created a grand mythology around himself and found a tax-free way to sucker folks. Using a pseudo-scientific combination of Freudian psychology, hypnosis and a lie detector, Hubbard’s dianetics blew up in the 1950s as the new wave of psycho-therapy. After losing the rights to the name he quickly invented a new religion, Scientology.
The ultimate aim of a Scientologist is to get “clear”. This involves regular “auditing” wherein the subject attempts to bring forth and analyze any traumatic life events or suppressed memories and afterwards no longer feels weighed down by this emotional baggage, thus “clear”. And by paying larger & larger sums you move up the ranks eventually earning access to all the highly secretive science fiction knowledge.
Everything about it appears cultish, from the insular view that any outside media relating to Scientology is forbidden to the dictum that if you leave you are “disconnected” from everyone you know and harassed/stalked/publicly slandered (this actually forms a part of their doctrine called Fair Game). Then there’s the humiliation tactics and occasional bit of torture for good measure.
The most intriguing part of all this is that as a rule Scientology tends to attract apparently sane, intelligent people. All of the “survivors” interviewed, which include actor Jason Beghe (Californication), and various higher-ups in the organization, marvel at how completely indoctrinated they were to blindly swallow whatever was put in front of them regardless of how twisted things got and in spite of multiple signs they should get out.
Being a fan of many of Gibney’s previous documentaries (Silence in the House of God, Gonzo – The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson), I had no doubt this would be a quality film but was blown away by some of the facts raised. This isn’t some scandalous exposé but a thoroughly researched (being in part inspired/based on Lawrence Wright’s book of the same name) condemnation which examines in full the dark side of this celebrity-endorsed religion.
A five minute interview with director Alex Gibney.