My Adventures in La-La Land (the Church of Scientology)
I received an email yesterday from John Dalmas, the award-winning science fiction author, asking if I had heard anything about “Independent” Scientology.
I’m sure most people have heard something about the Church of Scientology either pro or con. Either through the antics of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, or Kirstie Ally, a few of their leading celebrity endorsers.
Why Mister Dalmas wrote me about the cult has an unusual – and twisted – history. It is where we met…
My family got involved in the “space age religion” back in 1956, before there was much of a space age. You could say I was raised in the church but that would not quite be correct. Dad was a research chemist (and agnostic) Mom was a Baptist preacher’s kid and took us four boys in tow every Sunday to the local Southern Baptist Church.
Dad’s search had begun at an early age and this drew him to major in psychology at the University of Texas. He very quickly realized most people involved in the program were trying to figure out what was wrong with themselves, just the same as his personal search. After he realized the psychology professor was in the same boat, Dad figured out psychology must not have the answers. He transferred his major to chemistry and looked for other avenues for his personal research.
I remember some the fascinating books he was reading when I was still too young to understand much of it. Proceedings of the American Society of Paranormal Research, Psycho-Cybernetics, and Twenty Cases in Support of Reincarnation were just a few of the ones I remembered. I recall the names Morrison, Snow, and Korzybski on the books. Don’t ask me what the books were about as I was only seven years old when I noticed such things and did not get too involved.
But soon Dad did involve us in the search. We would go ghost hunting, dowsing, UFO watching and that sort of thing. I figured this was a normal upbringing and everyone went through this intense search for the magical, spiritual world that seemed to overlay the physical world we could see.
Somewhere in his search he came across an ad for the Self Realization Fellowship and he read Paramahansa Yogananda’s works. There is a River by Thomas Sugrue caught his eye and he was off to study Edgar Cayce.
Then he came across the book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard. Being an avid science fiction reader, Dad was already familiar with the name of the author. Impressed with the book, Dad was soon trying the processes out on us kids. And very quickly it led into the area of past lives.
He communicated with the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C., and began taking correspondence courses from them. At that time, the only Scientology Church was the one in Washington.
In 1961, Dad got accepted for a job with Melpar, a chemical company in Fairfax, Virginia, and we sold the house in West Texas and moved to the East Coast so he could pursue his studies at the Church.
By the time we got there, the job had evaporated and we had to live in a condemned farmhouse just outside of Poolesville, Maryland, for several months. [The house is still there, still occupied, and still as condemned today.]
Fortunately, he got a job with NASA which, thanks to President Kennedy, was expanding. We moved into Bethesda, Maryland, and Dad started his courses at the Church in D.C. Soon, Mom was attending them as well.
They went to a conference at the Mayflower Hotel in 1962 where I met Ron Hubbard. I believe it was the last time he was in the country while he was actively running the Church.
By 1964, all four of us boys had joined in the action and were attending courses as well.
Yes, we were all going to “save the world”… but from what, exactly, I was a tad unsure.
(to be continued)