I think it might be good practice to write all blog posts on the iPhone. That way you’re more or less obliged to keep them short and thus get them actually done and posted.

Case in point, my avowed plan to write something about Scientology: a grand and noble plan that I’ll likely never quite carry out. So let’s to for something modest.

Background. My particular interest in Scientology is a few decades old and stems almost entirely from one circumstance: my high-school sweetheart Patti got sucked into the cult right after college, at just about the time I had gotten posted to Coast Guard Headquarters in DC and we had gotten back in touch and it seemed like something might develop. We met up in DC one day and she managed to slip me into the local org where the fresh-meat guy made a gentle and genial run at recruiting me while Patti pretended to be busy upstairs.

No harm, no foul. Everybody was friendly, the scene was as cool, I suppose, as Scientology ever got, and it was obvious that Patti was really into it. Looking back, I think she probably was a person who needed a big, all-encompassing belief system to wrap herself in, having left Roman Catholicism behind and basically dived into the bottomless space of adulthood with nothing below to catch her.

I found Scientology off-putting, mostly I believe because the words of Lafayette Ron Hubbard are like a misfiring engine, blatting and puffing away to little effect. But also I found it intriguing because I had become, in my post-LSD phase, something of a collector of alternative Weltanschauungen. The more alternative, in some ways, the better. So here you had a whole thought-world neatly packaged, or so it appeared. There was a chart on the wall showing the bridge to total freedom, a phrase they capitalize and think they own, laying your personal eternity out for you.

But as I say, no harm, no foul. The foul came a week or two later, in a dramatic and romantic setting, a nice Italian restaurant in Arlington with a view up the river toward the Monument and other famous sites. I had picked the spot after soliciting recommendations and if my memory is intact after 38 years, I ordered veal Parmesan. And as the excellent food lay cooling before us, Patti laid into me.

She gave me the whole Scientology hard-sell. Which is a strange thing in itself. But stranger still was the scene itself as experienced from an emotional perspective. Here was this young woman whom I had known intimately for years and whom I still loved, in one way or another, and who still felt like a cornerstone presence in my life. I mean, we could have been married at that point, had not things taken a different turn a couple of years before. And this person transformed right there at the table, under soft and costly lighting, into some kind of ravening fanatic who did not speak at all like the person I had known, and in some strange way even looked different. She got increasingly angry when I failed to respond as I ought to have. Knowing more now, I think she had been taught to believe that if she “handled” me according to proper LRH tech — identifying where I stood on the tone scale and placing herself one tone higher — I would necessarily bend to her will.

I remember acting — as in, what an actor does — very calm. I remember holding my hand over hers without quite touching it, speaking in a quiet voice, perhaps (this I don’t remember well) hoping to coax her back from the ledge. Which is more or less how I perceived the situation: here is this person having a psychotic break on the top floor of a building in Arlington, Virginia, and I am the only on-scene witness.

So that’s the gist of it, though there were subsequent chapters, opening and closing over many years and miles, marriages and children and other huge stuff. Last I saw of her, Patti was calling herself Tricia, working as a private investigator, divorced from her Scientology husband but raising a latecoming third child. And though our encounter was accidental and brief, and the subject never arose, she still had that weird blank Scientology stare, that wooden affect.

So: a year ago when I read a tweet from Steve Silberman about some Scio-related scandal, of which there has been an embarrassment of riches, I fell down the rabbit hole and here we are. I do have more to say. Later.

Advertisements