My purpose is to bring a barbarism out of the mud it thinks conceived it and to form, here on Earth, a civilization based on human understanding, not violence.
That's a big purpose. A broad field. A star-high goal.
But I think it's your purpose, too.
L. RON HUBBARD, Scientology 0-80
Ron Hubbard bought Saint Hill Manor from the Maharajah of Jaipur in 1959. The Manor is on the edge of the hamlet of Saint Hill, a few miles from the small Sussex town of East Grinstead, 30 miles south of London. For eight years Saint Hill was the axis of the Scientology world, and many of Hubbard's research "breakthroughs" were made there. Following Hubbard's departure in 1967, Saint Hill remained a major Scientology center. I visited Saint Hill in August, 1975, to see whether to commit myself to six months of study there.
Saint Hill Manor, a large gray-stone building set in about 50 acres, was built by a retired soldier in the early eighteenth century. The house has a solid military severity, largely devoid of Georgian charm. By the time I arrived, students no longer studied in the Manor, but in the "castle," a peculiar folly on which construction had started in the mid-1960s and which was eventually finished in 1985. The word "castle" conjures images of an imposing Norman fortress, but Saint Hill "castle" is only a castle in the sense that it is faced with yellow stone and has a few turrets. As castles go, it is very small, especially considering the score of years invested in its construction. By 1975, only one single-story wing was finished. The castle is a monstrosity; a hybrid of breeze-blocks, leaded windows and battlements under a flat, tarmac roof. However, I was not interested in Hubbard's architectural taste.
The place buzzed with smiling people, many in pseudo-naval uniforms. Although I had encountered "Sea Org" members before, it was strange seeing them en masse. At Saint Hill they wore colored lanyards and campaign ribbons on their navy blue blazers. A religion run by sailors? I pushed the thought aside.
An attractive brunette whisked me around, carefully avoiding the Manor, which housed the mysterious "Guardian's Office." Between the Manor and the castle there was an encampment of huts occupied by busy Sea Org members. The expensive canteen was also housed in a corrugated hut, as were the book-store and several of the administrative offices. The "castle" housed the course-rooms and the public pans of the Organization. My tour ended in the office of the "Registrars" (the sales staff), where I was treated as royalty. I handed over what seemed to me a fortune (some £400), borrowed only after repeated assurances that I would make money easily after taking the Auditor training courses.
Despite my insistence that I was only visiting, I was ushered into a course-room. Scientology has a tremendous sense of urgency, which took hold of me. I read the "Basic Study Manual" until the evening session ended. I was then told that a Sea Org member wanted to see me. I was surprised as it was eleven o'clock, and I had to find my lodgings. The Sea Org member was a recruiter, who, for the next two hours, tried to persuade me to join that group.
In 1967, Hubbard had put to sea with a group of devoted followers, who became the "Sea Organization." I was shown photos of Hubbard dressed up as the "Commodore." Sea Org Members signed a billion-year contract, swearing to return life after life to fulfill "Ron's purpose." They also staffed the four "Advanced Organizations," where the secret upper levels of Scientology were delivered. Saint Hill was one of the four. I had heard much of this before and had already been tempted to join the Sea Org and work at the Publications Organization in Denmark. I saw the Sea Org as the monastic order of Scientology, something like the Knights Templar, perhaps. I felt guilty, because I was not ready to renounce everything for the good of the cause. I doggedly insisted that I wanted to train as an "Auditor," and "go Clear" before deciding whether to join the Sea Org. I was going to be a full-time student, and felt that as a trained Auditor I would be far more useful to the Sea Org.
Eventually the recruiter showed me a "confidential" Sea Org issue, which claimed that the governments of the world were on the verge of collapse. The Sea Org would survive and pick up the pieces. Her attempt to stir up a sense of impending doom failed miserably. l wanted no part of it. Hubbard had said elsewhere that Scientology was non-political. I was interested in Scientology as a therapy, nothing more. As a therapy I felt it might have a world-changing impact.
Completely exasperated, the recruiter retreated into the argument that anyone who did not join the Sea Org was insane. I was flustered, not understanding that I was her last chance to reach her weekly quota of recruits. Moreover, I did not know that her pay, her self-esteem and the esteem of her fellow staff members all depended upon increasing her quota each week.
The Sea Org was a bemusing aspect of Scientology. It was difficult to reconcile the military appearance of its members with religion or psychotherapy. However, I was convinced that Scientology was a valid and potent therapy, so I accepted the existence of the Sea Org.
I moved to East Grinstead in September 1975, living with my new girlfriend in a rented room. All three bedrooms of the small house were occupied, as was one of the two downstairs rooms. There were eight of us living there, including a baby. The couple who ran the house rented it from another Scientologist. They were both Sea Org members who were "living out," away from the house run by the Scientology Church. They worked incredibly long hours (the husband from eight in the morning to midnight Sunday to Friday, as well as Saturday afternoons). They were American, although the 1968 use of the Aliens Act prohibited non-UK residents from studying or working for Scientology in Great Britain. They bought their clothes from rummage sales, as do most Sea Org members in Britain. They always looked gray and exhausted. Somehow they managed to support their baby, though seeing little of him. In spite of it all, they were usually cheerful.
The husband was supposedly a Clear, and had done three levels beyond Clear. He often hinted at his psychic abilities, but excused himself from any demonstration, in case it "overwhelmed" me. He claimed to be able to back the right horse, which is how he spent his only free morning. Nonetheless, he continued to live below the poverty line.
I went to Saint Hill daily and applied myself to my studies. Scientology courses are run in a similar way to correspondence courses. The student is given a "checksheet," which has the written materials, Hubbard tapes, and practical work listed in strict sequence on it. The student signs off each completed step. I sailed through the Basic Study Manual, and went onto the Hubbard Standard Dianetics Course.
On the Dianetics Course I learned how to use the "Hubbard Electropsychometer," or "E-meter," which shows changes in a person's electrical resistance through movements of a needle on a dial. The person receiving counselling holds two electrodes (in fact, empty soup cans) and the E-meter is supposed to show changing states of mind, or the "movement of mental mass." A "fall" or "read" (rightward needle movement) shows that a subject is "charged." A "floating needle" is "a rhythmic sweep of the dial at a slow, even pace." This supposedly happens when there is no emotional "charge," or after any "charge" has been released. So areas of upset are found with the "fall" of the needle, and their resolution is shown by a "floating needle." 1
The E-meter is used in most auditing. Lists of questions are checked for responses. A "floating needle" is one of the indications that an auditing "process" or procedure is complete.
I had been given my "Original Assessment" at Birmingham. Dianetic auditing is supposed to dig out buried memories, so it seemed reasonable that the first step should be an E-metered questionnaire about my background. This included questions about my relationships with everyone in my family; anyone I knew who was antagonistic to Scientology; my education; and a complete alcohol and drug history (including all medicines), listing every occasion of use. My Auditor asked for precise information about emotional losses, accidents, illnesses, operations, my present physical condition, whether I had any family history of insanity, any compulsions and repressions I felt I was suffering from, whether I had a criminal record, and if so the details, and my involvement with "former practices," which in my case included Zen meditation. 2
This "Original Assessment" is the beginning of the "Preclear folder," which contains notes taken during auditing sessions. Auditors keep a running record of the Preclear's more significant comments during each session.
At that time, Dianetic auditing first addressed the psychological effect of drugs. This procedure was called the Dianetic Drug Rundown, and it followed a very exact pattern, which has changed little to this day. The Auditor reads out the list of drugs given by the Preclear, looking for the most marked E-meter reaction. He then asks for attitudes associated with taking that drug. If an attitude given by the Preclear "reads" on the E-meter, the Auditor sets about "running" Dianetics on it. 3
Having asked the Preclear to locate an incident of the given attitude, the Auditor directs the Preclear to "move to the beginning of the incident," and then go through it. When the E-meter shows that enough "charge" has been released from the incident, the Preclear is directed to find an "earlier similar incident." In theory the Preclear will at first give conscious moments of this attitude (called "Locks"). Then he will usually run into an Engram. The Auditor asks for earlier and earlier incidents, and the Preclear almost invariably goes into "past lives." When the earliest Engram is found and relieved, the Preclear is supposed to have a realization ("cognition") about its effect upon him, "Very Good Indicators" (VGIs), which is to say a grin, and a "floating needle." From then on, the Preclear should be free from the effects of the Engram chain.
The whole drug list is treated painstakingly in this way. Going through every attitude, emotion, sensation and pain associated with each drug. Then the drug list is checked on the E-meter until nothing on it "reads" any more. I remember Victory-V cough sweets being a persistent "item" on my drug list. I spent hours trying to think of some attitude, emotion, sensation or pain associated with Victory-Vs.
I was disappointed with my Dianetic auditing, because I did not experience any real change. My back-ache and my near-sightedness remained. A few times, inexplicably powerful images of what seemed to be "past lives" rushed into mind. At one point, I had the very vivid sensation of being burned at the stake. But for the most part I could not quite believe it. Not because I doubted Dianetics, but because I felt that I was not yet capable of fully contacting my past.
After the Dianetics Course, I did several Scientology Auditor courses. As well as receiving Dianetic auditing, the Preclear was meant to go through eight "Release Grades" before doing the "Clearing Course," and then the mysterious "Operating Thetan" levels. As a Scientology Auditor, I learned how to audit the first three of these "Release Grades." These were meant to deal with memory, communication and problems.
During this time, I had my first brush with Saint Hill "Ethics." The "Ethics Officer" would try to resolve disputes, and to remove any obstacles to a resolute practice of Scientology. I had arrived at Saint Hill with the remainder of a small court fine to pay. The papers had been transferred to one office and I had been told to deal with another, so I received a summons for non-payment. The morning I received the summons I went to the Saint Hill "Ethics Officer," an intense, overweight Australian, who wore knee-length boots with her dishevelled Sea Org uniform. I requested a morning off to attend the court-hearing. She insisted I tell her all the details. I explained that the remainder of the fine was less than £40, and that it was all due to an administrative mix-up. I was amazed when she told me that she was removing me from the course because I was a "criminal." She insisted that even if a fine were the result of a parking ticket, the offender would be barred from Scientology courses until it was paid.
Saint Hill was very different from the Birmingham Mission where there was an easy-going attitude. The Ethics Officer there would apologise for having to "apply Policy." At Saint Hill, the Ethics Officers were daunting, overworked and unsmiling. Saint Hill Registrars (salesmen or, more usually, saleswomen) were a little too sugary, and it was obvious that they wanted money. The constant and unavoidable discussions with Sea Org recruiters at Saint Hill were wearing. Virtually everyone there was too busy trying to save the world to create any genuine friendships.
The advantages of "going Clear" still loomed large for me. I did not think of leaving Scientology, just going back to the friendlier atmosphere of Birmingham - which I finally decided to do. My decision was accelerated by continuing price rises. In November 1976, the price of Scientology auditing and training began to rocket. Until then auditing had been £6 an hour ("co-auditing" between students was free). My Dianetics Course had cost £125. Beginning in November 1976, the prices were to go up at the rate of 10 percent a month, allegedly to improve staff pay and conditions. I did not object to that goal, but I did object when the prices continued to go up with each new month. The price rises were to continue for the next four years.
1. Technical Bulletins of Dianetics & Scientology, vol. 12, p.322
2. Board Technical Bulletin, "Preclear Assessment Sheet," 24 April 69R
3. Board Technical Bulletin, "Drills for Auditors," 9 October 71R.