There's a Monster in LA... And It's Scientology!
Photographed by Ayden Case of Cassidy Marshall, Mya Grant, and Tatiana Mason
Directed by Melanie Do
Styled by Isabelle DeMers
Photography Assist: Mary Germallic
Style Assist: Riley Fernandes and Elxavier Caldwell
Journalist Assist: Chase Owens
By Cassidy Marshall & Chase Owens
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, better known by his pen name, L. Ron Hubbard, was a man whose life was marked with mediocrity. He was born into mediocrity and threw himself through life as though he were a magnet for the unexceptional. The son of an undistinguished naval officer, and a failed naval officer himself, L. Ron Hubbard did not have much going for him from the day that he was born. In a situation where many have found themselves before, desolate, poor, and uninspired, and risen above their situation, L. Ron Hubbard not only chose to succumb to mediocrity, but to develop it into a farcical affectation that he passed off as religion.
As a naval officer, Hubbard was piss poor, though to his credit, he was a far better naval officer than he was a science fiction author – and student. As a student at George Washington University, he earned repeated failing grades, though he made futile attempts to engage in campus social life; in 1932, he took to planning a student trip abroad to the Caribbean that went awry following ‘multiple misfortunes and insufficient funding’; would-be passengers responded by burning Hubbard in effigy after the trip was cancelled by the ship’s owners. He did not return to George Washington University the following semester. Early into his writing career, he found work as a ‘pulp fiction’ author, named for the inexpensive ‘wood pulp’ paper in which the magazines were printed on (Widder, 2011). Following the war and a series of bad financial investments, Hubbard began to experiment with the very beginnings of Scientology: Dianetics.
With claims that he was writing a book that would create “supermen”, Hubbard introduced the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health to the world. Defined as ‘a system which ais to relieve disorders by cleansing the mind of harmful mental images’, the concept of ‘Dianetics’ adds up to nothing more than pseudoscience (Widder, 2011).
The cult of Scientology was built upon ideas conceived from a mind submerged deep within pseudoscientific psychiatry. From this convoluted state, L. Ron Hubbard birthed the idea of Dianetics. Hubbard’s ideology divides the human mind into three segments: the conscious, the subconscious, and the somatic mind. Using these segments, Dianetics works to erase the content of the subconscious mind, which Hubbard believed interfered with an individual’s ethics, awareness, happiness, and sanity.
To further sell his disillusioned fantasy, Hubbard developed a procedure known as ‘auditing’ that ‘erases’ anything which interferes with a person’s sanity, morality, or happiness. Once an individual could rid themselves of the characteristics deemed harmful by the cult leader himself, they reach a state called “clear”. A state of emptiness. A state of not thinking for yourself. A state of being a clean slate for manipulation. A state of following.
Auditing, to most people, means conducting a financial examination of a company’s accounts. In the cult of Scientology, however, this word takes on a much darker connotation. Amongst scientologists, auditing is a procedure in which two individuals, the auditor and the preclear, work together to reduce or eliminate the neuroses of the latter. Auditing consists of the auditor asking the preclear questions that lead them to examine certain parts of their existence until they view themselves in a different light.
Wait—does that sound familiar? Another name that you may know this by is brainwashing, because that is exactly what scientology’s version of auditing is. Except the scientologists are smarter than that; it is advertised as a pathway of healing to reach new heights of spirituality. It sound may sound wonderful, but imagine being asked the same question time and time again until it no longer can even elicit a response from you because your mind has become so numb. Could you handle that? If so, welcome to the club.
So how does this all connect to Hollywood? Why does everyone keep bringing up Tom Cruise? Tom Cruise, one of Hollywood's most iconic and successful actors, has long been associated with the Church of Scientology. Cruise became involved with Scientology in the early 1990s, and his affiliation with the Church has since become a defining aspect of his public persona. Cruise's connection to Scientology has never been a private matter; whether it be admiration and criticism, Cruise draws attention to the Church nonetheless.
Cruise's prominence within Scientology goes beyond mere membership; he is arguably the most high-profile celebrity associated with the church. His enthusiastic public endorsement of Scientology has ranged from speaking engagements, to interviews, even advocating for the benefits of Scientology practices in public addresses. Cruise's close ties to Scientology leader David Miscavige have also been well-documented, further cementing his position as a key figure within the Church, though not without controversy. His public statements and actions related to the Church have sparked debates about the influence of Scientology in the entertainment industry and raised questions about the potential impact of his beliefs on his career.
Despite the controversies, Cruise has remained steadfast in his support for Scientology, contributing to the ongoing intrigue surrounding the intersection of celebrity, faith, and the Church of Scientology.
But there is a key figure we just mentioned that you might want to revisit – none other than David Miscavige, current leader of the church of Scientology. Miscavige has played a central role in shaping the direction and image of the controversial religious organization since assuming leadership in 1986. Rising to prominence after the death of L. Ron Hubbard, Miscavige has been a key figure in establishing and maintaining the Church’s prominence in Hollywood. Under Miscavige's leadership, the Church of Scientology has pursued an aggressive public relations strategy, seeking to portray itself as a force for good in society. At the same time, Miscavige has been accused of fostering a culture of intimidation and control within the organization, with numerous former Scientologists alleging instances of abuse and mistreatment. These allegations have sparked legal battles and investigations, further contributing to the contentious reputation of Scientology under Miscavige's stewardship.
His leadership style, as well as the state of his personal affairs, has been the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism, particularly surrounding his still-missing wife, Shelly Miscavige.
Shelly drew public attention in the past due to her apparent absence from public events and the Church of Scientology's reluctance to provide details about her whereabouts. In 2013, actress Leah Remini, a former Scientologist, filed a missing person report for Shelly Miscavige with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD later closed the case, stating that they had met with Shelly and confirmed she was not missing. However, the circumstances surrounding her absence and the lack of public appearances have continued to fuel speculation and concern.
The Church of Scientology has maintained that Shelly is not missing and has chosen to lead a private life away from the public eye. Critics and former members, on the other hand, have questioned the transparency of the church regarding Shelly's situation and raised concerns about the treatment of individuals within the organization. The last time that Shelly was seen in public was in 2007, at her father’s funeral (Widder, 2011).
Leah Remini, a well-known actress and television personality who initially reported Shelly missing in 2013, gained widespread attention for her public departure from the Church of Scientology that same year. Remini had been a member of the Church for over three decades, having joined as a child with her family. Her association with Scientology was deep-rooted, and she became a prominent figure within the organization along with many members of her immediate family; she has even stated that her parents had reached higher ‘levels’ than she had and had greater administrative power than most Scientologists did. However, in 2013, Remini publicly announced her decision to leave Scientology, citing concerns about the Church's practices, its treatment of members, and its leadership… including the ever-controversial figurehead, David Miscavige.
Following her departure, Remini became an outspoken critic of Scientology. She wrote a memoir titled "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology," in which she detailed her experiences within the organization. Additionally, she went on to create and host the Emmy-winning A&E documentary series "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath," which aired from 2016 to 2019. The show featured firsthand accounts from former Scientologists and aimed to shed light on alleged abuses within the Church. Remini's efforts to expose Scientology's practices and provide a platform for ex-members to share their stories have made her a key figure in the conversation surrounding the controversial organization.
Remini's departure from Scientology and subsequent advocacy have not come without challenges. The Church of Scientology has vehemently denied her claims and launched public relations campaigns to discredit her and those who have spoken out against it; every member of the Church, including her own family, has been instructed to sever complete contact with Remini or risk being expelled from the Church themselves. Despite facing criticism and legal threats, Remini has remained steadfast in her commitment to exposing what she perceives as the truth about Scientology, and her efforts have sparked public discourse and scrutiny of the organization's practices, including the existence of a character known as ‘Lord Xenu’.
THE WORLD’S WORST-KEPT SECRET
The Church of Scientology's belief in Lord Xenu is a central aspect of its cosmology. According to Scientology teachings, Xenu, also known as Xemu, is an ancient extraterrestrial ruler who, approximately 75 million years ago, carried out a galactic genocide on a grand scale. The story, often referred to as the "Xenu narrative," is disclosed to members as part of the church's upper-level secret teachings, specifically within the Operating Thetan (OT) levels.
As the narrative goes, Xenu, faced with overpopulation in his Galactic Confederacy, sought a drastic solution. He gathered billions of people, transported them to Earth (then known as Teegeeack), and placed them around volcanoes. These individuals were then exterminated using hydrogen bombs, trapping their disembodied spirits, or thetans, which were subsequently subjected to a form of brainwashing to prevent them from returning. According to Scientology doctrine, these traumatized thetans now inhabit human bodies, influencing the thoughts and behaviors of individuals without their knowledge.
Critics of the Church often reference this tale in argument that the story is such a bizarre and implausible element of the church's belief system, that it alone can be seen as evidence of the organization's lack of credibility. The Church of Scientology, on the other hand, has been known to fiercely defend these teachings, asserting that they are sacred and protected religious beliefs. The secrecy surrounding the Xenu narrative and the church's aggressive legal tactics against those who attempt to reveal it have long since been plagued with a lack of secrecy that is so prevalent that it borders on humourous; imagine spending billions of dollars to hide a secret that ends up becoming the plot of a South Park episode.
While Scientology claims to offer a path to spiritual enlightenment and self-improvement, its methods and practices speak for themselves; it is nothing more than a pyramid scheme built upon the ramblings of a sociopathic science fiction author. Former members have spoken out against the church, alleging abusive practices and manipulation. The legal battles and public relations campaigns waged by the Church of Scientology to defend its image further add to the destructive microeconomy that stems from the Church and endlessly begs to be fed further to pay for its lies. Ultimately, the intersectionality of Hollywood’s entertainment industry and the controversy surrounding Scientology underscores the endlessly shady connections that Hollywood seems to find itself forever embroiled within. From the Israeli Defense Forces to sexual predators to Scientologists, Hollywood continually proves its devotion to those who embody the worst of humanity.