Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

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Overview

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief

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Overview

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with both current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book's center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige--tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology's complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church's goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In researching Scientology for this book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright (The Looming Tower; Remembering Satan) encountered not just high mounds of potential material, but also steep walls of resistance. Thanks to his persistence and investigative expertise, he penetrated the deeply secretive religion that L. Ron Hubbard founded in the mid-20th century, earning its New York Times praise of Going Clear as "essential reading for thetans of all lifetimes." To understand that quote, read this compelling book. A Barnes & Noble Bestseller; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly - Audio
After years of extensive research, countless interviews and testimonials, and innumerable hours spent plowing through archives, New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer Prize–winner Wright offers this absolutely compelling account of the Church of Scientology. Narrated by Morton Sellers, the book is a shocking look at what many have come to view as a cult. Not one for theatrics, Sellers lets the material speak for itself. His delivery is straightforward and understated, allowing the astonishing accounts presented to take center stage. That said, Sellers is able to keep his audience engaged for the duration, never resorting to over-the-top theatrics, despite some of the more-than-colorful, character-driven, real-life accounts that pop up throughout. All in all, this is an endlessly fascinating look at one of the most controversial organizations operating in the world today. A Knopf hardcover. (Jan.)
The New York Times Book Review - Michael Kinsley
That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology. Every deceptive comparison with Mormonism and other religions is given a respectful hearing. Every ludicrous bit of church dogma is served up deadpan. This makes the book's indictment that much more powerful.
The Washington Post - Lisa Miller
In this book, Wright…brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology—its history, its theology, its hierarchy—and the result is a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction.
Publishers Weekly
Pulitzer winner Wright (The Looming Tower) expands and carefully footnotes his investigation of Scientology, which began as a 2011 New Yorker article examining the defection of acclaimed screenwriter-director Paul Haggis from the church. The book-length version offers—in persuasive, albeit sometimes mind-numbing, detail—an eye-opening short biography of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a long-form journalism presentation of the creature Hubbard birthed: a self-help system complete with bizarre cosmology, celebrity sex appeal, lawyers, consistent allegations of physical abuse, and expensive answers for spiritual consumers. Wright capably sows his thorough reportage into ground broken by Janet Reitman (Inside Scientology, 2011). He poses larger questions about the nature of belief, but can only lay groundwork because he has to fight to establish facts, given the secrecy and controversy surrounding Scientology, and his eyewitnesses are necessarily disenchanted and therefore adversarial. While Wright’s brave reporting offers an essential reality test, an analysis of why this sci-fi and faith brew quenches a quasi-religious thirst in its followers is still needed. First printing 150,000. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Jan. 17)
From the Publisher
“An utterly necessary story. . . . A feat of reporting.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Brings a clear-eyed, investigative fearlessness to Scientology . . . a rollicking, if deeply creepy, narrative ride, evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction." —The Washington Post

“A hotly compelling read. It’s a minutiae-packed book full of wild stories.” —The New York Times

“Courageous. . . . Devastating . . . will come as news even to hardened Scientology buffs who follow the Church’s every twist and turn.” —The Daily Beast

“Essential reading. . . . Lawrence Wright bend[s] over backward to be fair to Scientology. . . . This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Not to be read home alone on a stormy night: Going Clear, Lawrence Wright's scary book about Scientology and its influence. . . . It’s a true horror story, the most comprehensive among a number of books published on the subject in the past few years, many of them personal accounts by people who have managed to escape or were evicted from the clutches of a group they came to feel was destroying them. . . . Wright’s book is a tribute to fact-checkers as well as to his personal courage.” —The New York Review of Books

“Insightful, gripping, and ultimately tragic.” —The Boston Globe

“A fearless, compelling, exhaustive work of muckraking journalism and a masterpiece of storytelling. . . . A ripping yarn about ego, money, abuse, faith, and the corrupting nature of power when wielded by the wrong people. It’s as lurid, pulpy, and preposterous-seeming as anything Hubbard or Haggis ever wrote, but it’s much better, because it has the benefit of being true.” —The A.V. Club

“Invaluable. . . . Completely and conclusively damning.” —Salon

“Who’d have thought a history of religion would offer so many guilty pleasures? Lawrence Wright’s enthralling account of Scientology’s rise brims with celebrity scandal. To anyone who gets a sugar rush from Hollywood gossip, the chapters on Tom Cruise and John Travolta will feel like eating a case of Ding Dongs.” —Los Angeles Times

“Admirably judicious and thoroughly researched. . . . Being Clear is an inducement to darkness and disarray. You may laugh at it at first, but get ready to weep.” —The Guardian (London)

“Not only a titillating exposé on the reported ‘you’re kidding me’ aspects of the religion, but a powerful examination of belief itself.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A fascinating read, and a chilling one. . . . The power in Wright’s book lies as much in his meticulous investigative reporting as in his evenhanded approach.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Absorbing and important. . . . Scrupulous parsing is vintage Wright; his footnotes are as vital as those of any nonfiction writer alive.” —The Plain Dealer

“Mr. Wright’s reportorial techniques seem impeccable. . . . Lawrence Wright shines a light on a world that prefers to keep its players off stage, and the public in the dark.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A powerful piece of reportage. . . . Detailed, intense and at times shocking.” —The Miami Herald

“Wholly engrossing stuff.” —The Austin Chronicle

“Wright’s brave reporting offers an essential reality test. . . . Poses larger questions about the nature of belief.” —Publishers Weekly

“Devastating. . . . Wholly compelling. . . . Each page delivers startling facts that need no elaboration.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Jaw-dropping. . . . A fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways.”—Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
A devastating history-cum-exposé of the Church of Scientology. Wright has written about religion on several occasions (Saints and Sinners, 1993; Remembering Satan, 1994) and received a Pulitzer Prize for his book on terrorism (The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, 2006)--all of which clearly served as excellent training for this book. It begins, of course, with the life of L. Ron Hubbard, a manic-depressive, wannabe naval hero, sci-fi writer and self-styled shaman who "believed that the secrets of existence were accidentally revealed to him" after receiving a gas anesthetic in the dentist's chair. After that experience, the visions kept arriving, leading to his 1950 self-help best-seller, Dianetics, which laid the groundwork for a "religion" where "thetans" (souls) are stymied by "engrams," self-destructive suggestive impulses lodged in the brain (not a few of which were inflicted on mankind following an intergalactic war that took place 75 million years ago.) Through personal, deeply revelatory counseling sessions known as auditing, adherents deal with these obstacles, and for wealthy celebrities, Scientology (and its many Hollywood connections) has supposedly cleared the path to success. It has also destroyed many others, usually less well-heeled people from within, who raise questions or try to leave, or outside forces (journalists, the IRS, family members) investigating the church's multiple personal or financial abuses. Wright exposes the church's many sins: covert espionage, psychological torment, threatened blackmail using confidential information from auditing sessions and constant physical assaults on members by tyrannical current leader David Miscavage. The author is also interested in something deeper: If it's all a con, why is everyone involved (especially the late Hubbard) so deeply invested in its beliefs? Wright doesn't go out of his way to exaggerate the excesses of Scientology; each page delivers startling facts that need no elaboration. A patient, wholly compelling investigation into a paranoid "religion" and the faithful held in its sweaty grip.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385393041
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/17/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 815,673
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 5.82 (h) x 1.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence Wright

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He is the author of a novel, God’s Favorite, and has also authored six previous books of nonfiction—City Children, Country Summer; In the New World; Saints and Sinners; Remembering Satan; Twins; and The Looming Tower. The Looming Tower received many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is also a screenwriter and a playwright. He and his wife are longtime residents of Austin, Texas.

Lawrence Wright official website: http://www.lawrencewright.com/

Biography

Lawrence Wright is an author and screenwriter, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

He is a graduate of Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the American University in Cairo, where he taught English and received an M.A. in Applied Linguistics in 1969. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1971, Wright began his writing career at the Race Relations Reporter in Nashville, Tennessee. Two years later, he went to work for Southern Voices, a publication of the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta, Georgia, and began to freelance for various national magazines. In 1980, Wright returned to Texas to work for Texas Monthly. He also became a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. In December, 1992, he joined the staff of The New Yorker.

Wright has published six books: City Children, Country Summer (Scribner, 1979), In the New World: Growing Up with America, 1960-1984 (Knopf, 1988), Saints & Sinners (Knopf, 1993), Remembering Satan (Knopf, 1994), Twins: Genes, Environment, and the Mystery of Identity (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1997; Wiley & Sons, 1998), and God's Favorite (Simon & Schuster, 2000).

His history of Al Qaeda, The Looming Tower, was published by Knopf in August 2006. A portion of that book, "The Man Behind Bin Laden," was published in The New Yorker and won the 2002 Overseas Press Club's Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting. He has also won the National Magazine Award for Reporting as well as the John Bartlow Martin Award for Public Interest Magazine Journalism.

Wright is the co-writer (with Ed Zwick and Menno Meyjes) of The Siege, starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis and Annette Bening, which appeared in November 1998. He also wrote the script of the Showtime movie, Noriega: God's Favorite, directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Bob Hoskins, which aired in April 2000. Currently he is working on a script for MGM about John O'Neill, the former head of the FBI's office of counterterrorism in New York, who died on 9/11.

Wright is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves as the keyboard player in the Austin-based blues band, Who Do.

Biography courtesy of the author's official web site.

Good To Know

"I play the keyboards in an Austin blues band, WhoDo," Wright told us in our interview. "I've found that playing music with friends is about the most fun a grownup can have. I didn't take up the piano until I was thirty-eight and a half because I wanted to play 'Great Balls of Fire' on my fortieth birthday. I guess the point is that it's never too late to acquire a new passion."
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    1. Hometown:
      Austin, Texas
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 2, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    1. Education:
      B.A., Tulane University, 1969; M.A. (Applied Linguistics), American University in Cairo, 1971
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
The Convert
 
London, Ontario, is a middling manufacturing town halfway between Toronto and Detroit, once known for its cigars and breweries. In a tribute to its famous namesake, London has its own Covent Garden, Piccadilly Street, and even a Thames River that forks around the modest, economically stressed downtown. The city, which sits in a humid basin, is remarked upon for its unpleasant weather. Summers are unusually hot, winters brutally cold, the springs and falls fine but fleeting. The most notable native son was the bandleader Guy Lombardo, who was honored in a local museum, until it closed for lack of visitors. London was a difficult place for an artist looking to find himself.
 
Paul Haggis was twenty-one years old in 1975. He was walking toward a record store in downtown London when he encountered a fast-talking, long-haired young man with piercing eyes standing on the corner of Dundas and Waterloo Streets. There was something keen and strangely adamant in his manner. His name was Jim Logan. He pressed a book into Haggis’s hands. “You have a mind,” Logan said. “This is the owner’s manual.” Then he demanded, “Give me two dollars.”
 
The book was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, which was published in 1950. By the time Logan pushed it on Haggis, the book had sold more than two million copies throughout the world. Haggis opened the book and saw a page stamped with the words “Church of Scientology.”
 
“Take me there,” he said to Logan.
 
At the time, there were only a handful of Scientologists in the entire province of Ontario. By coincidence, Haggis had heard about the organization a couple of months earlier, from a friend who had called it a cult. That interested Haggis; he considered the possibility of doing a documentary film about it. When he arrived at the church’s quarters in London, it certainly didn’t look like a cult—two young men occupying a  hole- in- the- wall office above Woolworth’s five-and-dime.
 
As an atheist, Haggis was wary of being dragged into a formal belief system. In response to his skepticism, Logan showed him a passage by Hubbard that read: “What is true is what is true for you. No one has any right to force data on you and command you to believe it or else. If it is not true for you, it isn’t true. Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest. There is nothing unhappier than one who tries to live in a chaos of lies.” These words resonated with Haggis.
 
Although he didn’t realize it, Haggis was being drawn into the church through a classic, four-step “dissemination drill” that recruiters are carefully trained to follow. The first step is to make contact, as Jim Logan did with Haggis in 1975. The second step is to disarm any antagonism the individual may display toward Scientology. Once that’s done, the task is to “find the ruin”—that is, the problem most on the mind of the potential recruit. For Paul, it was a turbulent romance. The fourth step is to convince the subject that Scientology has the answer. “Once the person is aware of the ruin, you bring about an understanding that Scientology can handle the condition,” Hubbard writes. “It’s at the right moment on this step that one . . . directs him to the service that will best handle what he needs handled.” At that point, the potential recruit has officially been transformed into a Scientologist.
 
Paul responded to every step in an almost ideal manner. He and his girlfriend took a course together and, shortly thereafter, became Hubbard Qualified Scientologists, one of the first levels in what the church calls the Bridge to Total Freedom.
 
Haggis was born in 1953, the oldest of three children. His father, Ted, ran a construction company specializing in roadwork—mostly laying asphalt and pouring sidewalks, curbs, and gutters. He called his company Global, because he was serving both London and Paris— another Ontario community fifty miles to the east. As Ted was getting his business started, the family lived in a small house in the predominantly white town. The Haggises were one of the few Catholic families in a Protestant neighborhood, which led to occasional confrontations, including a schoolyard fistfight that left Paul with a broken nose.
 
Although he didn’t really think of himself as religious, he identified with being a minority; however, his mother, Mary, insisted on sending Paul and his two younger sisters, Kathy and Jo, to Mass every Sunday. One day, she spotted their priest  driving an expensive car. “God wants me to have a Cadillac,” the priest explained. Mary responded, “Then God doesn’t want us in your church anymore.” Paul admired his mother’s stand; he knew how much her religion meant to her. After that, the family stopped going to Mass, but the children continued in Catholic schools.
 
Ted’s construction business prospered to the point that he was able to buy a much larger house on eighteen acres of rolling land outside of town. There were a couple of horses in the stable, a Chrysler station wagon in the garage, and giant construction vehicles parked in the yard, like grazing dinosaurs. Paul spent a lot of time alone. He could walk the mile to catch the school bus and not see anyone along the way. His chores were to clean the horse stalls and the dog runs (Ted raised spaniels for field trials). At home, Paul made himself the center of attention—”the apple of his mother’s eye,” his father recalled—but he was mischievous and full of pranks. “He got the strap when he was five years old,” Ted said.
 
When Paul was about thirteen, he was taken to say farewell to his grandfather on his deathbed. The old man had been a janitor in a bowling alley, having fled England because of some mysterious scandal. He seemed to recognize a similar dangerous quality in Paul. His parting words to him were, “I’ve wasted my life. Don’t waste yours.”
 
In high school, Paul began steering toward trouble. His worried parents sent him to Ridley College, a boarding school in St. Catharines, Ontario, near Niagara Falls, where he was required to be a part of the cadet corps of the Royal Canadian Army. He despised marching or any regulated behavior, and soon began skipping the compulsory drills. He would sit in his room reading Ramparts, the radical magazine that chronicled the social revolutions then unfolding in America, where he longed to be. He was constantly getting punished for his infractions, until he taught himself to pick locks; then he could sneak into the prefect’s office and mark off his demerits. The experience sharpened an incipient talent for subversion.
 
After a year of this, his parents transferred him to a progressive boys’ school, called Muskoka Lakes College, in northern Ontario, where there was very little system to subvert. Although it was called a college, it was basically a preparatory school. Students were encouraged to study whatever they wanted. Paul discovered a mentor in his art teacher, Max Allen, who was gay and politically radical. Allen produced a show for the Canadian Broadcasting Company called As It Happens. In 1973, while the Watergate hearings were going on in Washington, DC, Allen let Paul sit beside him in his cubicle at CBC while he edited John Dean’s testimony for broadcast. Later, Allen opened a small theater in Toronto to show movies that had been banned under Ontario’s draconian censorship laws, and Paul volunteered at the box office. They showed Ken Russell’s The Devils and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris. In Ted’s mind, his son was working in a porno theater. “I just shut my eyes,” Ted said.
 
Paul left school after he was caught forging a check. He attended art school briefly, and took some film classes at a community college, but he dropped out of that as well. He grew his curly blond hair to his shoulders. He began working in construction full-time for Ted, but he was drifting toward a precipice. In the 1970s, London acquired the nickname “Speed City,” because of the methamphetamine labs that sprang up to serve its blossoming underworld. Hard drugs were easy to obtain. Two of Haggis’s friends died from overdoses, and he had a gun pointed in his face a couple of times. “I was a bad kid,” he admitted. “I didn’t kill anybody. Not that I didn’t try.”
 
He also acted as a stage manager in the ninety- nine-seat theater his father created in an abandoned church for one of his stagestruck daughters. On Saturday nights, Paul would strike the set of whatever show was under way and put up a movie screen. In that way he introduced himself and the small community of film buffs in London to the works of Bergman, Hitchcock, and the French New Wave. He was so affected by Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow- Up that in 1974 he decided to become a fashion photographer in England, like the hero of that movie. That lasted less than a year, but when he returned he still carried a Leica over his shoulder.
 
Back in London, Ontario, he fell in love with a nursing student named Diane Gettas. They began sharing a one-bedroom apartment filled with Paul’s books on film. He thought of himself then as “a loner and an artist and an iconoclast.” His grades were too poor to get into college. He could see that he was going nowhere. He was ready to change, but he wasn’t sure how.
 
Such was Paul Haggis’s state of mind when he joined the Church of Scientology.
 
Like every scientologist, when Haggis entered the church, he took his first steps into the mind of L. Ron Hubbard. He read about Hubbard’s adventurous life: how he wandered the world, led dangerous expeditions, and healed himself of crippling war injuries through the techniques that he developed into Dianetics. He was not a prophet, like Mohammed, or divine, like Jesus. He had not been visited by an angel bearing tablets of revelation, like Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Scientologists believe that Hubbard discovered the existential truths that form their doctrine through extensive research—in that way, it is “science.”
 
The apparent rationalism appealed to Haggis. He had long since walked away from the religion of his upbringing, but he was still looking for a way to express his idealism. It was important to him that Scientology didn’t demand belief in a god. But the figure of L. Ron Hubbard did hover over the religion in suggestive ways. He wasn’t worshipped, exactly, but his visage and name were everywhere, like the absolute ruler of a small kingdom.
 
There seemed to be two Hubbards within the church: the godlike authority whose every word was regarded as scripture, and the avuncular figure that Haggis saw on the training videos, who came across as wry and self-deprecating. Those were qualities that Haggis shared to a marked degree, and they inspired trust in the man he had come to accept as his spiritual guide. Still, Haggis felt a little stranded by the lack of irony among his fellow Scientologists. Their inability to laugh at themselves seemed at odds with the character of Hubbard himself. He didn’t seem self-important or pious; he was like the dashing, wisecracking hero of a B movie who had seen everything and somehow had it all figured out. When Haggis experienced doubts about the religion, he reflected on the 16 mm films of Hubbard’s lectures from the 1950s and 1960s, which were part of the church’s indoctrination process. Hubbard was always chuckling to himself, marveling over some random observation that had just occurred to him, with a little wink to the audience suggesting that they not take him too seriously. He would just open his mouth and a mob of new thoughts would burst forth, elbowing each other in the race to make themselves known to the world. They were often trivial and disjointed but also full of obscure, learned references and charged with a sense of originality and purpose. “You walked in one day and you said, ‘I’m a seneschal,’ “ Hubbard observed in a characteristic aside:
 
“And this knight with eight-inch spurs, standing there—humph— and say, ‘I’m supposed to open the doors to this castle, I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’m a very trusted retainer’. . . He’s insisting he’s the seneschal but nobody will pay him his wages, and so forth. . . . He was somebody before he became the seneschal. Now, as a seneschal, he became nobody—until he finally went out and got a begging pan on the highway and began to hold it out for fish and chips as people came along, you know. . . . Now he says, ‘I am something, I am a beggar,’ but that’s still something. Then the New York state police come along, or somebody, and they say to him—I’m a little mixed up in my periods here, but they say to him—‘Do you realize you cannot beg upon the public road without license Number 603-F?’ . . . So he starves to death and kicks the bucket and there he lies. . . . Now he’s somebody, he’s a corpse, but he’s not dead, he’s merely a corpse. . . . Got the idea? But he goes through sequences of becoming nobody, somebody, nobody, somebody, nobody, somebody, nobody, not necessarily on a dwindling spiral. Some people get up to the point of being a happy man. You know the old story of a happy man—I won’t tell it—he didn’t have a shirt. . . ."
 
Just as this fuzzy parable begins to ramble into incoherence, Hubbard comes to the point, which is that a being is not his occupation or even the body he presently inhabits. The central insight of Scientology is that the being is eternal, what Hubbard terms a “thetan.” “This chap, in other words, was somebody until he began to identify his beingness with a thing. . . . None of these beingnesses are the person. The person is the thetan.”
 
“He had this amazing buoyancy,” Haggis recalled. “He had a deadpan sense of humor and this sense of himself that seemed to say, ‘Yes, I am fully aware that I might be mad, but I also might be on to something.’ “
 
The zealotry that empowered so many members of the church came from the belief that they were the vanguard of the struggle to save humanity. “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where Man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology,” Hubbard writes. Those breathless aims drew young idealists, like Haggis, to the church’s banner.
 
To advance such lofty goals, Hubbard developed a “technology” to attain spiritual freedom and discover oneself as an immortal being. “Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life,” a church publication declares. This guarantee rests on the assumption that through rigorous research, Hubbard had uncovered a perfect understanding of human nature. One must not stray from the path he has laid down or question his methods. Scientology is exact. Scientology is certain. Step by step one can ascend toward clarity and power, becoming more oneself—but, paradoxically, also more like Hubbard. Scientology is the geography of his mind. Perhaps no individual in history has taken such copious internal soundings and described with so much logic and minute detail the inner workings of his own mentality. The method Hubbard put forward created a road map toward his own ideal self. Hubbard’s habits, his imagination, his goals and wishes—his character, in other words—became both the basis and the destination of Scientology.
 
Secretly, Haggis didn’t really respect Hubbard as a writer. He hadn’t been able to get through Dianetics, for instance. He read about thirty pages, then put it down. Much of the Scientology coursework, however, gave him a feeling of accomplishment. In 1976, he traveled to Los Angeles, the center of the Scientology universe, checking in at the old Château Élysée, on Franklin Avenue. Clark Gable and Katharine Hepburn had once stayed there, along with many other stars, but when Haggis arrived it was a  run-down church retreat called the Manor Hotel. (It has since been spectacularly renovated and turned into Scientology’s premier Celebrity Centre.) He had a little apartment with a kitchen where he could write.
 
There were about 30,000 Scientologists in America at the time. Most of them were white, urban, and middle class; they were predominantly in their twenties, and many of them, especially in Los Angeles, were involved in graphic or performing arts. In other words, they were a lot like Paul Haggis. He immediately became a part of a community in a city that can otherwise be quite isolating. For the first time in his life, he experienced a feeling of kinship and camaraderie with people who had a lot in common—”all these atheists looking for something to believe in, and all these wanderers looking for a club to join.”
 
In 1977, Haggis returned to Canada to continue working for his father, who could see that his son was struggling. Ted Haggis asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Haggis said he wanted to be a writer. His father said, “Well, there are only two places to do that, New York and Los Angeles. Pick one, and I’ll keep you on the payroll for a year.” Paul chose LA because it was the heart of the fi lm world. Soon after this conversation with his father, Haggis and Diane Gettas got married. Two months later, they loaded up his brown Ranchero and drove to Los Angeles, moving into an apartment with Diane’s brother, Gregg, and three other people. Paul got a job moving furniture. On the weekends he took photographs for yearbooks. At night he wrote scripts on spec at a secondhand drafting table. The following year, Diane gave birth to their first child, Alissa.
 
 

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part I Scientology

1 The Convert 3

2 Source 20

3 Going Overboard 79

Part II Hollywood

4 The Faith Factory 137

5 Dropping the Body 163

6 In Service to the Stars 194

7 The Future Is Ours 217

8 Bohemian Rhapsody 244

9 TC and COB 170

Part III The Prison of Belief

10 The Investigation 307

11 Tommy 331

Epilogue 354

Acknowledgments and a Note on Sources 367

Notes 373

Bibliography 415

Index 419

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 72 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2013

    Lawrence Wright has written a thorough book. The things that th

    Lawrence Wright has written a thorough book. The things that the Church of Scientology objected to or records differently are carefully included. This book has been substantiated by people who have blown or left the Sea Org and lived to tell about it. Those who don't understand, please type "lisa mcpherson scientology" without the quotes into your search engine. And then take a deep breathe. Remember that the beliefs of Scientologists are no more [ir]rational than those of any other religion. Scientology is not the only organization that is guilty of [alleged] human rights violations either. The laws in the USA need changing so that way when violations such as abuse, slavery, and forced imprisonment are found to exist in religious facilities and schools, those violations can be acted upon. I do not expect this review to last as I am quite sure that Scientologists will decend upon the Going Clear listing to leave nasty reviews and to complain about anything remotely resembling the truth. They are not necessarily bad people. Just afraid that the things that they have given their lives to are not worthy of such dedication and loyalty.

    39 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2013

    Sharp, insightful, informative. Mr. Wright has written an except

    Sharp, insightful, informative. Mr. Wright has written an exceptional book. Utilizing his exemplary investigative talents, he offers readers an intense, riveting journey through the arcane, theological concepts (and crimes) of a fledgling religion. His acumen is staggering, his research painstaking, his perspective clear-sighted and acute. Not content to cater to tabloid posturing, Mr. Wright delves deeply into an organization that, while calling itself a religion, commits crimes so heinous that they should be unconscionable. The question one is left with is this: Why have those running this organization (really, there is a central controller, who commands subordinates using intimidation and outright violence) not been brought to justice? And why do intelligent people devote exorbitant amounts of money (to say nothing of their lives) to the teachings of a person who himself spent many years evading the law while, in the process, creating his own biography, a good portion of which is in staunch opposition to facts accrued? The book is compulsively readable; with each page, one's amazement and disgust grow. Mr. Wright's work has always been discerning, well-documented, and scholarly. Such pedigree continues to be on display with this, his latest book. Prepare to be reading well into the night. Prepare also to be outraged.

    25 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Buy this version. Don't get the buggy enhanced version

    Buy this version. Don't get the buggy enhanced version

    19 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2013

    Impeccable research through extensively cited sources--most from

    Impeccable research through extensively cited sources--most from multiple corroborating sources--and a critical insight into one of the most controversial cults of our time.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Facinating.

    After reading and loving Wright's Looming Tower and Saints and Sinners, I was glad to read more of his superb investigative writing. Wright presents a fair picture of Scientology and I am appalled by the abuses of the members. I wanted to believe that the Church of Scientology should be stripped of its tax exempt status, but Wright fairly distinguished between the religion (which while I find it fantasy, others are truly helped), and the abusive behavior of the leaders. I end wishing Miscavege was convicted of the many abuses he thrust on Sea Org members.

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Excellent!

    If anyone else had written this book, I might not have believed it. Lawrence Wright so diligently documents, and speaks for both sides. After reading "The Looming Tower," and articles by Wright, I believe whatever he writes. I had the pleasure of hearing Wright speak at Book People in Austin, re "Going Clear." He gave insightful, sometimes humorous answers to all questions. I was shocked at the physical abuse, especially by the head of Scientology, Miscavige. I knew it was difficult to leave Scientology, but had no idea how difficult they make it, especially how impoverished its members are. Their designation as religious non-profit by the IRS, exempts them from prosecution for horrible abuses. If you or anyone you love is considering Scientology, please read this book!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 4, 2013

    Going Clear begins with the story of Paul Haggis, a Hollywood sc

    Going Clear begins with the story of Paul Haggis, a Hollywood screenwriter, who describes his troubled past, rejection of the status-quo, and desire for a new way to live. By individualizing Haggis’ life, Wright manages to both humanize the desire which drew Haggis to Scientology, along with the authoritarianism and lies that later forced him to reject it. First off, thank you Mr. Haggis for being brave enough to go on record and reveal the truth, warts and all. His story alone is amazing, but Wright draws on a larger historical context, documenting L. Ron Hubbard’s life and the church that spawned from his beliefs.




    Digging deep into Scientology, Wright reports on Hubbard’s own troubled past, including his fabricated war tales and damaged personal relationships. Out of this grew a vast empire, which mirrored Hubbard’s own paranoia and fear of prosecution, resulting in an isolated and secretive church. Wright also follows the tale of Hubbard’s young protégé, David Miscavige, who rose rapidly to become the church’s next chief, and the claims of abuse that followed in his leadership. The book is thorough and well documented, as would be expected from a writer for the New Yorker, and Wright avoids any personal attacks on the church. Highly recommended for anyone interested in knowing the truth behind the Church of Scientology – everything from its tumultuous roots, to the undercover infiltration of the IRS and Hollywood, and even the deep-set needs it fulfills in people searching for a higher spiritual world. Five stars in both research and captivating writing.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    SCIENTOLOGY IS THE MOST HORRID, EVIL CULT SINCE THE NAZIS. DAVID

    SCIENTOLOGY IS THE MOST HORRID, EVIL CULT SINCE THE NAZIS. DAVID MISCAVIGE = ADOLF HITLER ; TOM CRUISE = JOSEPH GOEBBELS

    5 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2013

    Absolutely fascinating

    As the New York Times book review of Going Clear stated, Wright takes care to be objective and fair in his history and explanation of Scientology. Consequently, the description of events and beliefs in Scientology is compelling and believable.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Disturbing

    Excellently researched and written

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    Thank you

    Awesome work.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2013

    I could not put the book down. I am stunned & very upset tha

    I could not put the book down. I am stunned & very upset that the cult still exists.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2013

    Amazing

    A very articulate and thoroughly researched book. I'm so glad there are people brave enough to leave this group and speak out about the vindictive hierarchy in Scientology. Your mind is the only true thing you'll ever own, be very careful who you hand it over to!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Riveting Account of Scientology

    This book details the mysterious inner workings of the "Church" of Scientology. Frankly, if half of what is detailed in the book is true I find it hard to see how they call themselves a church. Beatings, forced confinement, slave labor for paltry wages, camps who's security (to keep members from escaping) rivals Area 51 & signing a Billion Year contract...it's all in there. A Very Interesting Read!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2013

    Seems like the research in this book was very sloppily done - I

    Seems like the research in this book was very sloppily done - I thought it would be more insightful but the book is a boring read and it is information I have heard and read all before. Nothing revelatory in it at all - had expected more from Wright to be frank. Disappointing all round.

    2 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    This is nothing more than an error-filled, unsubstantiated and i

    This is nothing more than an error-filled, unsubstantiated and intolerant anti-Scientology book. You'd expect to see this trashy stuff in your typical tabloid paper but not from a Pulitzer Prize winning author. Very avant-garde Mr. Wright...

    2 out of 61 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    I live in Hollywood and grabbed this book when I saw it on the s

    I live in Hollywood and grabbed this book when I saw it on the shelf. The research, very well researched, is well written, but this is one man's story. Hollywood is home to many aspects of living, and very many Scientologists, and many who are long time neighbors and friends. When I read them parts of this book over friday evening beer in the backyard, they were horrified to hear what Wright had written. I clearly don't see their lives in his description, nor do I see them as any different than mine. It was very believeable, but I cant find any truth in what i see. I've been to a couple of events. The main Scientology hotel here has lots of public events. No one looked chained up or unhappy to me. They are a very cheerful lot, very welcoming, and invited me in for a tour in which I toted my glass of wine. No one batted an eye. I just don't get it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    Interesting, but dry

    The origins of Scientology, its evolution and practices are presented in a straightforward, dispassionate way. This enhances its credibility - one must always wonder about the writer's motives when discussing controversial topics - but it does not make for an engaging reading experience. I was also hoping for more discussion about religions in general, and why societies continue to embrace them and create new ones, but that is mostly limited to the epilogue.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2013

    Absolutely Unreadable

    I thought this be interesting and revealing. Not...it is boring. I couldn't make it to page 100. Save your money for something else.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    brilliant !

    well written, thoroughly researched , scary !

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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