Authors: Jenna Miscavige Hill
I would like to dedicate this book to my many good friends who are still in the Church. I love and miss you all and I truly hope you someday have the courage to stand up for yourselves and get the chance to leave and really live your life.
You all deserve so much better.
CIENTOLOGY IS HARD—NOT JUST BECAUSE OF
the memories that it stirs up or because Scientology itself is a complex and layered religion—but because in the past, Scientology’s practices have made it difficult for anyone to criticize or talk about life in the Church.
The story in the pages that follow is true to the best of my recollection. The dialogue has been re-created to the best of my recollection. I have changed the names of some individuals in order to preserve their anonymity, and the goal in all cases was to keep certain names confidential without damaging the integrity of the story. Towards this end, the following names are pseudonyms:
AYS OF MORNING SUN POKED THROUGH THE CLOUDS AS
toward the back of the line of children waiting to meet two important adults in the Church of Scientology. I didn’t know exactly how long I’d been there, but it seemed like forever. At seven years old, minutes seemed like hours when I was waiting for something. There were at least ten kids ahead of me, so my two friends and I were singing songs and playing handclap games to pass the time. Although I was certainly giggling along with them, I was mostly distracted and anxious. The two visitors were recruiters from the Church’s international headquarters in Hemet, California, and they were standing at folding tables that had been set up along the road to the School House.
I’d been too far back in line to hear the exact explanation of why the two had come to “the Ranch,” the Scientology boarding school where I lived with about eighty other kids whose parents were executives of the Church. Whatever their reason, I figured it was important, or they wouldn’t have made the twenty-mile trip from the base to speak with us in person. Dressed in naval-style uniforms complete with lanyards and campaign bars, they looked impressive, even powerful. I knew they were members of the Sea Organization, Scientology’s most elite body comprised of its most dedicated members. My parents had joined the very same group years earlier, just before my second birthday.
Several songs later, my turn to approach the tables was upon me. The faces of the two recruiters were stern and intimidating. Eager for adult attention, I tried to please them by being cute and smiley. When they did not seem impressed, I changed my tactic and tried instead to seem smart and inquisitive.
One of the two handed me a sheet of paper bearing the Sea Org coat of arms and the word “REVENIMUS” printed at the top, with places for dates and signatures at the bottom.
“What does ‘
’ mean?” I asked, most curious about that.
“It is a Latin word meaning ‘we come back,’ ” the recruiter responded. She further explained that it was the official motto of the Sea Organization, seemingly pleased for the opportunity to enlighten an eventual candidate.
“Come back to
?” I asked.
“We come back lifetime after lifetime,” she explained. “You are signing a billion-year contract.”
“Oh, right,” I said, realizing how silly and ignorant my question must have sounded.
As Scientologists, we believed that when our current body died, the spirit inside it would begin a new life in a new body. Our founder, L. Ron Hubbard, said that, as spirits, we had lived millions of years already, and we would continue to do so with or without bodies. I had believed this as far back as I could remember.
On this day, I was all too willing and ready to commit myself to the cause that was so dear to my parents. Being in the Sea Org had meant so much to them that when I was six, they had placed me at the Ranch so they could dedicate all their time to the Church’s mission. They only saw me for a few hours on weekends. Nobody’s parents were at the Ranch to share the moment we pledged our loyalty to the Sea Org. Signing this document, though, meant I would be one step closer to joining them in the Sea Org, and hopefully to seeing them more frequently.
“Where should I write my name?” I asked eagerly.
The woman pointed out the spot, but directed that I read the document first. The unavoidable final line was:
“THEREFORE, I CONTRACT MYSELF TO THE SEA ORGANIZATION FOR THE NEXT BILLION YEARS (As per Flag Order 323).”
Before I signed, images from the
flashed in my mind, particularly when Ariel signed the Sea Witch’s magic contract. I knew that contracts meant I had to keep honest to my pledge, so I made mental notes of the things I was agreeing to: following the rules and mores, forwarding the purpose, and serving a
I can do this,
I said to myself. And with that, I tried to write my name in my best possible cursive with the proper connectivity of letters, exactly the way I had been learning in school. I wanted my signature on this important document to be perfect, but the recruiters were rushing me, still having to enlist the rest of the children behind me. As a result, my signature didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped.
Still, I had goose bumps as I walked away. Nothing about the billion-year contract was strange to me. I knew that my parents were with me in spirit, wherever they were. My contract was the same commitment they themselves had signed for the first time when they were teenagers. Besides, at my young age, I had little understanding of larger numbers. To me, a billion years was no different than a hundred years—both an unfathomably long time. If I wanted to be with my parents and friends for the next billion years, the obvious thing to do was to sign my name.
One by one, my friends wrote their own names down on their contracts—each pledging his or her service to a cause that none of us could possibly fully understand. As I stood there in the road between the playground and the pink and white oleander trees, I didn’t know the true significance of what I had just done or the full extent of the expectations that would now be placed on me. Just like that, I had gone from singing “Down by the bank with the hanky pank” to full-on committing my soul to a billion years of servitude to the Church of Scientology. Whatever my future held for me, one thing was now certain: my life was no longer my own.
NE OF MY EARLIEST MEMORIES OF
CIENTOLOGY WAS A CONVERSATION
that happened when I was about four years old. At the time, my family was living in Los Angeles in an apartment that had been provided to us by the Church, and one Sunday morning, I was lying in bed with my mom and dad wondering what it would be like to be out of my body.
“How do I go out of my body?” I asked.
My parents exchanged a smile, much like the one my husband and I share when our son asks one of those difficult questions that can’t really be answered within his frame of knowledge.
“Can we all go out of our bodies together and fly around in the sky?” I asked.
“Maybe,” my father responded. He was always eager to indulge me.
“Let’s do it now,” I demanded impatiently. “Just tell me what to do.”
“Okay, just close your eyes,” he instructed. “Are they closed? Now, think of a cat.”
“Do we all think of it at once?” I asked, wanting to make sure I was doing it right.
“Yes,” was Dad’s reply. “Okay, one, two, three . . .”
With my eyes closed, I waited, but nothing happened. I could hear my parents laughing, but I didn’t understand what was funny, and why they weren’t helping me. Were they not allowed to help me out of my body? Could they only help at certain times? Could I only get out of my body when I was older? Was something wrong with me?
I knew I was a Thetan. I had always known I was a Thetan and had never believed anything else.
was the term Scientologists used for an immortal spirit that animated the human body, while the body itself was essentially a piece of meat, a vessel that housed the Thetan. A Thetan lived lifetime after lifetime, and when the body it currently inhabited died, it picked its next one and started over again.
The idea of having past lives fascinated me. I would often ask grown-ups to tell me stories about their past lives. I couldn’t remember any of mine, but I was always assured that they would come to me eventually. My father’s secretary, Rosemary, would tell me things that had happened in a past life of hers, when she had been a Native American girl. They all sounded so amazing and romantic to me. I couldn’t wait until I could remember one of mine. I hoped I hadn’t been a bad guy or a solitary old man. Surely, I must have been a princess at least once.
Back then, as young as I was, that was what Scientology seemed to be about: past lives, leaving your body behind, being a Thetan. Beyond that, there wasn’t much that I knew about it, but for a child who really couldn’t understand the layers of complex belief, there was an excitement to it all. I was a part of something bigger, something that stretched into the past and the future; something that seemed impossible and yet somehow was completely believable.