Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief ★★★½

Although it's a well-constructed documentary, 'Going Clear' is obviously preaching to the converted. I don't expect any follower of Scientology will watch this. We can all clap each other on the back for not falling for it, we can make jokes about how terribly gaudy and cardboard the stage design at those assemblies is, but all in all, I feel the whole Scientology movement just stands for how lonely and terrified of their own minds people are.

I'm a big proponent of psychiatry - therapy sessions and the right anti-anxiety medication have made the world of difference for me.

Almost ten years ago, the travelling Scientology exhibition on psychiatry came to Amsterdam and I went to see it. It was a pretty terrifying experience. The whole exhibition area was completely dark and all the "evidence" they used (from medieval torture devices used on the "insane" to affecting stories of people who killed themselves when on anti-depressants) was presented with little to no context, all to give you the idea that psychiatry is making money off of the lost and weary, exploiting the most vulnerable. 'Going Clear', within its first 15 minutes, shows you that's more the Scientology modus operandi.

I think it's incredibly interesting that Hubbard's book 'Dianetics' was first a best-seller in the early 1950s - it immediately made me think of that early boom of self-help and social science books, like David Riesman's 'The Lonely Crowd'. My favourite university module I've taken was on the popularity of those books in 20th century America, and I would be interested to see how 'Dianetics' compares to those books. The popularity of books like 'The Lonely Crowd', the Kinsey reports and 'The Authoritarian Personality' signify that America's book-buying public wanted to understand themselves and others better. From popular culture in the 1950s and early '60s, I imagine being in therapy to be a status symbol in those days, it was a pretty hip thing if Marilyn Monroe and others spoke so openly about it.

One of the most shocking, depressing things about Scientology's enduring popularity is, to me, the fact that it's use of "auditing" is so inherently old-fashioned in the way it uses personal pain and shame to control people. Everyone has things from the past they feel incredibly shameful of, and I just want to shout to the world, "it's fine, you probably did the best you could!". Psychotherapy may have been fashionable in some circles, but talking about your fears and anxieties has never become socially acceptable. This has become Scientology's greatest weapon.

The film and that exhibition back in 2007 made me hope that one day, people can talk openly about therapy, depression, shame, guilt, sadness, anxiety, disappointment, feeling lost, medication - all things associated with that world. Not talking about it only leads to more shame, and shame seems to be the key thing to exploit if you want to control vulnerable people.

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