The 'Hard Sell' Cult
East Grinstead Courier, Thursday, 12 May 1988
By Mike Ricks (Editor) and Sarah Gorman
As a campaign by members of the church of Scientology to make Britain the first Scientology country gains momentum, we can reveal the cost of the "hard sell" 'religion' which has split families and which last week led one Ashurst Wood couple to the Bankruptcy Court.
Our investigations suggest the cult uses high pitch American style sales techniques to trap their hapless "believers" in a never ending web of lengthy courses.
Scientology is the religious philosophy which grew out of Dianetics, the counselling technique first published by the cult's founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1950.
One former member describes the techniques as a refined form of abreactive therapy, a form of psycho therapy which is widely used by doctors.
Converts are led to believe they are spiritual beings progressing across a "Bridge" towards total happiness. Each step on the road to total freedom, however, inevitably costs them dear.
One former member of the organisation who is now a recognised expert on the subject told us that at current UK prices it would cost a minimum of £130,000 for a person to reach the highest stages of Scientology currently available. That figure does not include the cost of expensive textbooks written by L. Ron Hubbard.
The cult recruits its members from advertisements, by word of mouth and quite literally by picking up from the streets by offering them free personality tests.
But the stories of former members show how easily the road to happiness can turn to the road to financial ruin. Documents in our possession show that the organisation is structured in such a way that its members have to pay more and more money as they get further and further into the organisation and further and further away from their friends, families and reality.
In his governing policy to the Finance Department given before his death, L. Ron Hubbard instructed: "Make money ... Understand money flow lines not only in an org (department or division of Scientology), but org to org as customers flow upward ... Understand exchange of valuables or service for money... Make Money ...Make more money... make other peopel produce so as to make money."
Members of the church's field staff are encouraged to bring in more recruits. In a policy letter entitled "How to sell Scientology to your friends", L. Ron Hubbard says there are four principles involving the sale of Scientology:
1 Help 2 Control 3 Communication 4 Interest
He said one way to interest people in the organisation's work would be to talk to them and get them to admit they needed help on any subject.
"Following this willingness for the person to talk to you and confess a few worries or upsets, or better overts (sins or transgressions) would have to be managed. Then interest would come about. The best way of handling interest would be to get the person to procure and read Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health." The letter goes on to tell the Scientologist how to get people interested: "By two way communication, get the person to admit that help is possible, in any zone.
[Group of photographs. Caption: The hard and soft faces of L. Ron Hubbard. Above right as he appeared with his famliy in the fifties on his arrival at Saint hill, and left, as head of the Scientologists, with, centre the expensively bound "Collectors Edition" of his science fiction work, Battlefield Earth. Below right the Concerned Businessman's Association stall with Mrs Sheila Gaiman, seen centre, at the East Grinstead Lions Club May Fair.]
"By a little direction of his conversation or motions, or by two way communication on good and bad control, make the person see that control is not always horrible."
He said that when people started to talk about their "overts" it made it easier for them to talk to the interviewer.
At that point, he suggested the interviewer should get the subject to read the book Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health.
"No doubter or worrier could stand up long to your approach using these four steps."
Other literature issued by Hubbard includes advice on "Hard Sell". He said that hard selling meant insisting that people buy.
"The art of hard selling is you tell people to do something. Hard sell is based on knowing and promoting in the line of truth and not being reasonable about people who want other things."
Former members of the church have described how the pressure to move upwards through the organisation is on from the moment they step through the door at Saint Hill.
They claim that the structure of the courses is such that a student comes under increasing pressure to complete their course and that they cannot successfully compete it without first signing on for the next course.
Anyone not finishing their course is sent to one of two other departments in order to find out what is wrong, but ex students have told us that this process, which sometimes takes the form of counselling, is then charged to the student.
As an ex-member of the Sea Org- the staff organisation at Saint Hill- told us that any student wanting to leave would have to see the registrar, (salesman or woman), often up to three times on one day.
He said: "There is no legal obligation to continue, but a lot of pressure is brought to bear. If a person wants to leave they are told they can leave at any time, but a lot of peer pressure is brought to bear."
He describes how staff too were put under pressure to keep their students on the courses, with staff members gaining bonuses or privileges, including days off, for attaining certain targets.
Failure to do so result in a loss of privileges. If a student left a course, a process known as "flunking" or "blowing", the course supervisor would lose points which went toward their privileges.
Most people enter Scientology by taking a communication course. At the end of which they are introduced to the techniques of "auditing"- a process designed to help them rid themselves and eventually other people of the psychological hang-ups L. Ron Hubbard believes that everyone had.
Once all these hang ups have been banished the student is "clear" and is considered to be "someone who could confront anything and anybody in past, present or future.
The former Scientologist said: "Once you've started auditing they've got you. You are hooked."
"In the early stages of Scientology people get quite extraordinary gains and people think this is great and they are hooked.
"You are told you are a spiritual being. that in itself is not a bad thing but we were always told that the only road to awareness is by getting rid of our psychological hang ups and ills and that Scientology was the only way you could progress as a person.
"Once one becomes a member of Scientology more and more of one's time revolves around it. One's social life is spent entirely with Scientologists. If you leave Scientology you are likely to find that none of your friends will talk to you, no one will have anything to do with you. Leaving Scientology is in itself a "suppressive act".
"When you have been indoctrinated that Scientology is the only salvation the prospect of leaving and giving it up is terrifying. You are told you have had it as a spiritual person, that you have had it. To be disconnected from, is to be condemned to oblivion."
"When I left I had no money, nowhere to go and none of my Scientology friends would speak to me. You feel totally isolated."
In his book The History of Man, Hubbard claimed this of auditing; "With it the blind again see, the insane become sane and the saner become saner."
He also claimed to be able to cure cancer, radiation sickness and leukemia.
The most expensive single course at Saint Hill is level OT 3, costing £3,830.
At this level, students are given Hubbard's secrets of the universe. The course reveals that 75 million years ago Earth was part of a "galactic confedaration" of 70 planets.
They were overpopulated and the ruler of the Confederation, a titan called Xenu, rounded up all "artists," revolutionaries", and "criminals," Their lungs were shot with glycol or alchohol and thev were transported to earth aboard space ships.
When they arrived on Earth, Xenu dropped nuclear bombs down volcanoes and blew the Earth up. He then gathered the spirits or Thetans up.
Each human being is now said to contain clusters of these Thetans and the dominant spirit is the one which causes the most unhappiness and can only be removed by Scientology auditing.
The Way to Happiness
Clergy and members of the Lions Club have expressed concern after a businessman's group aligned to Scientology handed out pamphlets and collected cash at the town's May Fair.
About 200 people handed over 20p to sponsor the Concerned Businessman's Association campaign to clean street signs in the town, although organisers of the fair had no idea the group was connected with the Church of Scientology.
A Campaign organiser for the association, Mrs Mary Liberson, said that the group was made up of Scientologists and non-Scientologist businessmen keen to promote a work written by L. Ron Hubbard called The Way to Happiness.
My Alan Howson of the Lions said members had no idea of the connection and added that the club would not have allowed the stall if it had realised the association were promoting a work by Hubbard.
He said: "We have got to be fair to people but what we would say is that you can have a stall but in no way can you promote Scientology."
St Swithun's vicar The Rev Roger Brown warned local organisations to beware. "I think people ought to be vigilant about this sort of thing."
However, Mrs Liberson denied that the association was promoting Scientology by handing out the Way to Happiness pamphlet: "This book is not designed to convert people to Scientology. It sets out its own moral code based totally on common sense and it's immaterial who wrote it."
She agreed that the group was a form of chamber of commerce for Scientologists who campaigned to promote what she said was one of Hubbard's "secular works" which had wide applications in the battle against drugs and the fight for improved morals.
The Browns' story ...
[There are numerous pull-quotes in this section of the article, which have been missed out of this transcription.]
How could they be so gullible, we all ask when reading yet another tragic tale of a family ruined by the elusive dreams of Scientology, described by Mr Justice Latey in a celebrated High Court case in 1984 as "Immoral and socially obnoxious... In my judgement it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous."
The Hayman's are not the first, and will not be the last, to become embroiled in the Church of Scientology. But, as two former Scientologists explained, for some people the attractions are hard to resist.
The couple, who still live in East Grinstead, left the church several years ago. In a frank and revealing interview they attempt to shed light on the inducements and pressures which draw people into the cult, and keep them there.
For the purposes of this interview we will call them John and Julie Brown. The Browns, now in their late 30's joined the cult in the 1960's. In terms of financial investment the couple got off relatively lightly and estimate they spent UKP3,000 and UKP4,000 on courses and counselling during an 18-year period. But the emotional scars run deep, and their battles with the church, once they made the decision to leave, were ferocious.
Curiosity first drew them to the church. In the 1960's the emerging cult was fashionable game for the press and several notorious court cases involving Hubbard ensured maximum publicity.
Then, as now, it was a cult under fire: "That's what got us in the rebellious sixties," said Julie Brown., "because it seemed to us that anything that was being that strongly attacked must be interesting" - a feeling shared by her husband John: "It's very exciting being part of a small group being attacked by a large group and surviving."
But confrontation was not the only appeal. Once the couple had shown an interest after the intital questionnaire or "analysis" they took the communication course - the bait and hook for anyone travelling on the road to becoming a fully fledged Scientologist.
The analysis invariably shows that you need to get on better with others - as Mr Brown points out, better communication is a quality that most people would admit to wanting to improve in some ways.
The first course is never very expensive, possibly UKP40 or UKP40[sic] and a friendly reception is a powerful pull. "It's an extraordinary feeling to walk into a room of strangers when you've just signed up for a course and they accept you as though they've known you forver. There's something very powerful about that... it may sound very naive and childish, but there is," said Julie.
And, as John pointed out, it is difficult to be hostile in such an environment: "It's hard to be antagonistic when everyone is being so friendly towards you and eventually you start to think they are not a bad group.
"Then you start to go up to Saint Hill at weekends and evenings. You are not pressured to go up there, you are encouraged: 'have a look at this book, listen to this tape, take this course' and suddenly it's all for your benefit. Suddenly people are encouraging you to be part of a group, whereas before you had to fight your way and prove yourself.
With Scientology it doesn't matter. You can be the most tongue-tied, ugly individual around and you're still made to feel welcome. You're still made to feel part of it - that's the reaction and it works virtually eveyr time."
Soon after a basic communication course recruits take their auditing sessions, a form of interview using Hubbard's famous E Meter which employs a basic technique of psycho therapy known as abreactive Theory. Interviewees are taken back through childhood and past lives to discover the cause of their malaise, a form of counselling many people find attractive: "It's very nice to sit down for several hours at a time and talk about yourself exclusively, knowing that the person sitting opposite is listening and concerned with you."
The Browns feel that over the year many have underestimated the skills and charisma of the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. John believes that his power lay in his ability to articulate the fears and frustrations of others.
Who could argue with his call for a world without insanity, criminals or war? He held up this dream for a better world, and in the idealistic 1960's many people were drawn to this: "it's a very addictive feeling to know people who feel quite deeply about subjects you feel deeply about," said John. "You want the world to be a better place, who doesn't? And there you've got some means of achieving it.
"I developed closer friendships with Scientologists than I'd ever had before," said Julie, "simply because you know who you are and you know what you're there for."
But the illusion faded in the face of hard-sell techniques and growing dissatisfaction with the "purification" process. Mr Brown felt that a large part of the organisation and the people who work in it were devoted to raising money by encouraging people to take more and more courses.
After the first course and every course thereafter, scientologists write a "success story" listing benefits or otherwise from the course. Then they fill out a "Routing" form which outlines the courses and counselling necessary to complete the first of many steps on the road to "Total Freedom", an ideal state of mind and body promoted by Hubbard.
Scientologists also have to see various senior officers in the organisation before finally visiting the registrar whose job it is to sign them up for the next course. The system is organised so that nobody can leave one routing cycle before signing up for the next.
The trick of Hubbard's game was to keep the ideal tantalisingly elusive: "If you do a course and say 'well I didn't get a lot out of it' their eyes light up and they say 'Wow what you need is...' and suddenly there you are with yet another 25 hours of auditing or another course," explained Julie, "so it's never a question of the auditing being wrong or insufficient, it pushes it back on you all the time and you feel guilty... This is what's so dangerous.
"You end up doubting yourself and you pay out for another course or you mortgage the house again to pay for it."
As the Scientologist progresses through the system so the financial investments grow, each new course costing more than the last and each step taking him closer to the point of no return: "You invest a lot of your time and energy and money and you've probably deprived yourself of quite a lot so you almost have to go on to justify wat you've already done."
The Hayman's story ...
Computer analyst Adrian Hayman, 38, of The Ferns, Woodshill Lane, Ashurst Wood, gave UKP175,000 in 15 years to the Church of Scientology.
Tunbridge Wells Bankrupcy Court heard he had paid UKP71,000 to the church in the past 17 months.
In return he got three leather-bound books autographed by the cult's founder L. Ron Hubbard, a black box called an E-meter and "some quite lengthy courses on training and counselling" at the Scientologists British Headquarters at Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead.
Replying to questions from Assitant Official Receiver Mr Stephen Harley, Mr Hayman said that he had handed over a total of UKP175,000 to the Church and its International Association over the past 14 years. Mr Harley told Registrar Judge Birk that Mr Hayman had run up debts of over UKP250,000 and had a deficiency of UKP109,000.
He had obtained overdrafts from banks including Barclays, The Midlands, National Westminster and The Bank of Scotland and from the use of a Barclay's Sovereign card.
Mr Hayman agreed with Mr Harley's suggestion that he did not give details to his creditors of why he was borrowing the money. He also agreed that the banks might not have been prepared to let him have the money had they known much of it was being given to a cult, which had been described by Mr Justice Latey in the High Court as "immoral, socially obnoxious and corrupt".
But he refuted such allegations about the Church of Scientology and claimed that the artefacts he had bought were worth at least as much as he had paid for them as an investment.
To Mr Harley's suggestion that they were "virtually worthless" he replied: "There is a specialist market for such things".
He agreed however that he had not found a buyer and that his accountant, Mr Derek Field, who was also a Scientologist, had offered a "much lesser sum".
Mr Hayman, 38, said that he had a degree in Mathematics and after first being employed as a trainee computer programmer he had become self-employed in 1977 as a consultant, and had then formed his own Company - E.S.M. Limited.
Last year, he said, he had an income of UKP42,000. He added that he thought he could repay the money he had borrowed by his dealings on the Stock Exchange. He had however lost UKP30,000. He denied Mr Harley's suggestion that he had borrowed the money in the knowledge that it could not be repaid, but admitted that his borroing had not been "sensible".
Mr Harley said "that surely is an understatement". At the conclusion of his questioning Mr Harley told Judge Birk: "There are areas in this case that cause me concern."
"We have a situation of an experienced businessman recklessly and cynically exploiting the easy availability of credit to obtain monies which he had no real expectation of paying back and immediately proceeding to put those out of reach of his creditors by putting them in the coffers of an organisation with a somewhat chequered past, that had been severely criticised by the judiciary of this country."
Mr Hayman's wife, Jocelyn, 30, a co-director in her husband's computer company, also went bankrupt with a deficit of UKP13,500. Judge Birk said: "The public examination in both cases has been concluded."
[The following appears in a separate box on page 7:]
Scientologist Adrian Hayman told the bankruptcy court that he had paid the church UKP30,000 for an E Meter "therapy box and three leather-bound books signed by the cult's founder L. Ron Hubbard.
Mr Hayman said the artefacts were an "investment" and that there was a "specialist market for them where they could be re-sold for at least the same price.
Indeed the promotion literature for Scientology's limited edition books makes grand claims about the investment potential of Mr Hubbard's works.
A sales leaflet printed by one of the cult's two publishing companies New Era Publications quotes some staggering price rises for a "Special First Edition" of Hubbard's last science fiction yarn, Battlefield Earth. It reads: "This was a signed limited edition of 550 copies. The market price escalated from $900 to $8,000 in early 1985 with a top price of $24,000 being paid in early 1985 for a low-numbered copy."
However a valuation expert in the book department of international auctioneers Christie's said this week that despite keeping "pretty exhaustive" records of world book auctions there was no sign of Hubbard's special editions appearing on the international market: "Given that they haven't come up for sale it doesn't sound like a good investment," he concluded.
In a celebrated case in 1985 when a 22-year-old was rescued from the cult after spending UKP90,000 on Scientology literature, an expert at the auctioneer's Glasgow office was far more dismissive about the books' worth.
When the boy's parents sent Christie's the leatherbound volumes for valuation, he concluded: "This is the worst example of profiteering from cheap and fairly commonplace material I have ever seen. Not only do I think the prices being asked are outrageous, but I also think the investment will never be recoverable."
He continued: "I cannot but reel back in astonishment that anybody has the gall to offer them for such extortionate sums."
In a glossy brochure entitled L. Ron Hubbard Collectors' Editions and printed last year by Author Services Inc, book prices are listed from UKP125 to UKP750, with "show case" ten-volume sets on sale for UKP5,750. The leatherbound volumes, a mixture of Hubbard's science fiction and philosophy are presented in glossy colour settings accompanied by quotes from the author about his work.
Readers are urged to complete the order form "without delay" so that they do not miss out on an "extraordinary opportunity" to enjoy Hubbard's "unprecedented literary achievements", while making a sound investment.
In court Mr Hayman refuted suggestions by Assistant Offical Receiver that the books were "virtually worthless". After further questioning from Mr Harley he agreed he had not found a buyer and that his scientologist accountant, Mr Derek Field, of Crown House, High Street, East Grinstead, had offered a "much lesser sum".
Mr Field was not available for comment.
Cult denies allegations
UK Spokesman for the international cult Mr John Fox refuted allegations that the cult used high pressure sales techniques to get people into the church and keep them there.
He also denied that the cost of the courses and counselling offered by Scientologists rose as members went farther into the system: One can take a course for UKP20 to UKP25 and the introductory courses are kept very, very low." Donations, he said, were the only source of income.
He said that the case of the Haymans were "exceptional" and that the majority of their money had been spent on collectors' items" which in certain markets were valuable, particularly among Scientologists.
The church he said was working to help the Ashurst Wood couple through their troubles: "We're in contact with them and we are working out how we can help them right now. It's something we are concerned about and we are in very close contact."
He added that he could not comment on what form this help would take because that was not his decision.
When questioned further about the church's alleged "hard sell" techniques he replied: "There's no pressure at all. Somebody comes and does courses and does some counselling and it's basically up to him as to how long he stays." Fellow members of the church, he said, would encourage a friend to take a course if they thought it would do them good.
Allegations that ex-members were harassed or ignored he described as "ridiculous". If someone chose to leave the church then that was "totally fine".
He pointed out that members could be expelled from the church if they for example broke the law or offended against the rules of Scientology, but this was only in exceptional cases: "There's a code of ethics, but it's very much common sense."
In a response to Mr Justice Latey's judgement describing Scientology as corrupt and obnoxious he called it a comment which was "vague" and "hard to answer". He said it was unfortunate that the judge had made the statement especially when there had been no Scientologists in court to answer him.
Mr Fox also spoke about some of the goals and aspirationa of Scientologists. Hubbard's theory of the universe stated that 75 million years ago the mean titan, Xenu dropped nuclear bombs on earth releasing Thetans (individual spirits) from the murdered inhabitants. According to Hubbard clusters of these exist in humans today and auditing is a way to remove the less dominant Thetans on the road to total happiness.
Mr Fox said the word Thetan had been chosen to describe a part of the person which was neither his mind or body and which could not be confused by other definitions of the spirit.
An Operating Thetan be described as "somebody who is becoming more effective or more aware. Somebody who can operate in life," but he added that part of the philosophy of Scientology was that "absolutes were not attainable". But we can reach towards a desried goal of freedom which goes along with the responsibility and high ethics.
To be "Clear" he said was to be unaffected by the interference of adverse things: "Clear is becoming more spiritual and very much a desired states in Scientology."
When asked what had gone wrong with Adrian Hayman if the claim of Scientology was to "make the able more able" he replied: "I basically first only knew him about a week ago, but you are right there, it's something I think we should look into at least."
He added: "I don't know what the extent of training was that he had or what his own ambitions were. Certainly Adrian needs to have a good look at himself and needs to take responsibility for his debt."
When questioned about the high prices of some course available in the church and in particular the "OT 3" course costing nearly UKP4,000 Mr Fox explained that is was a major course which took a long time and involved a lot of organisation and administration.
He said that people who participated needed to be very happy that things were working out for them and if not refunds were available - this, he said, had been policy for a long, long time.
He pointed out that it was unreasonable to expect any organisation, religious or otherwise, to operate without money.
"If there were no money available in the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or the Methodist Church how would they have any buildings? How would they have anything? How would they even be able to do any sort of campaigning?" Without money, he said, any organisation would cease to exist.
Far too much attention, he added, was given to people in the media to the small number dissatisfied with the church: "It is a very small fraction who get the attention because they are the ones who talk about controversy."
He quoted from a four-paged policy which showed members of the church how to deal with people who were very antagonistic towards them or Scientology.
"If all else fails then you have the right to disconnect," this he said was a fundamental right of human beings, based on the rights of privacy written into the constitutions of many countries, such as America's Bill of Rights.
He said there was no question that members of the church were ever ordered to "disconnect" from anyone, and it was rare for there to be a "disconnection" between husband and wife, and even then it was only by their choice.