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A harrowing testimony about a childhood destroyed
on 6 February 2013
I must state up front that I came to this book because I am critical of the scientology organisation.
At least I have a choice of books to read, entirely unlike the way that the author had no choice about belonging to the elite group of the scientology organisation, the "Sea Organisation." Before signing a contract for a duration of one billion years at the age of seven, she had been in the care of the organisation full time since she was five (seeing one or both of her parents for half a day most weekends, no more), in a "Ranch" for "Cadets" - a residentil facility off in the rugged countryside in California.
To me, the most important part of the book is the first part where the author describes what it was like to be treated as an adult and kept under a strict regime (from the age of five). Apart from half a day per week set aside for being with their parents, every one of the hours in their day was defined for the children (with hard physical labour accounting for the mornings). While the hard labour was bad enough, to me the worst part was the thought reform. The kids were policing themselves, denouncing bad actions / attitudes to the adults, with offenders accumulating demerits which had to worked off until normal status could be attained. Failure to comply could cause humiliation in front of the entire group. In this way, no rebellious child stayed rebellious for long. To an outsider this regime seems little different from re-education camps, but what makes the book chilling is that it all happened to a five year old and is told from that viewpoint. The organisation appears to have been shy about its treatment of the children, keeping them away from outside contractors and making sure that they were scrubbed and appeared to be carefree and happy on the rare occasions that their parents saw them.
When she was twelve years old, the author learned that the organisation was punishing her mother for having had an affair. The author was very disappointed in herself. She knew that she should stop loving her mother, but she just couldn't do it - no matter how much she wanted to hate her mother she just could not.
The second part of the book is the description of how the author went from the childrens' camp to the actual "Sea Organisation" (described by spokesman Tommy Davis as "a crew of tough sons of ....") at the age of twelve years old. This did not make her the youngest member. This story is disturbing in its own right, if not told as rarely as the story of "The Ranch" above. The author grew up wholely convinced that she wanted to do everything to help the elite group further the goals of scientology, finally going so far as to refuse - at the age of eighteen - to leave when her parents left (the parents stayed scientologists but left the Sea Organisation).
Happily, the author managed to escape and is today reunited with some of her family (most of her immediate family and her grandfather having left the organisation) and she has a lovely family married to the husband with whom she escaped. The website she started together with two other former child members is still going strong.
While there are many books published in many countries detailing the more or less harrowing details of life inside the scientology organisation, this one is interesting for being right up to date and for giving an intimate view inside the childrens' camps of scientology. It complements the broader but less intimate Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief and the much more scholarly The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion rather than replace them (and vice versa).