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Going Clear

Cover of Going Clear

Going Clear

Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
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National Book Award Finalist

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book's center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige--tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology's complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church's goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

From the Hardcover edition.

National Book Award Finalist

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda's 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists--both famous and less well known--and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book's center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige--tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology's complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church's goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    The Convert

    London, Ontario, is a middling manufacturing town halfway between Toronto and Detroit, once known for its cigars and breweries. In a tribute to its famous namesake, London has its own Covent Garden, Piccadilly Street, and even a Thames River that forks around the modest, economically stressed downtown. The city, which sits in a humid basin, is remarked upon for its unpleasant weather. Summers are unusually hot, winters brutally cold, the springs and falls fine but fleeting. The most notable native son was the bandleader Guy Lombardo, who was honored in a local museum, until it closed for lack of visitors. London was a difficult place for an artist looking to find himself.

    Paul Haggis was twenty-one years old in 1975. He was walking toward a record store in downtown London when he encountered a fast-talking, long-haired young man with piercing eyes standing on the corner of Dundas and Waterloo Streets. There was something keen and strangely adamant in his manner. His name was Jim Logan. He pressed a book into Haggis's hands. "You have a mind," Logan said. "This is the owner's manual." Then he demanded, "Give me two dollars."

    The book was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, which was published in 1950. By the time Logan pushed it on Haggis, the book had sold more than two million copies throughout the world. Haggis opened the book and saw a page stamped with the words "Church of Scientology."

    "Take me there," he said to Logan.

    At the time, there were only a handful of Scientologists in the entire province of Ontario. By coincidence, Haggis had heard about the organization a couple of months earlier, from a friend who had called it a cult. That interested Haggis; he considered the possibility of doing a documentary film about it. When he arrived at the church's quarters in London, it certainly didn't look like a cult--two young men occupying a hole- in- the- wall office above Woolworth's five-and-dime.

    As an atheist, Haggis was wary of being dragged into a formal belief system. In response to his skepticism, Logan showed him a passage by Hubbard that read: "What is true is what is true for you. No one has any right to force data on you and command you to believe it or else. If it is not true for you, it isn't true. Think your own way through things, accept what is true for you, discard the rest. There is nothing unhappier than one who tries to live in a chaos of lies." These words resonated with Haggis.

    Although he didn't realize it, Haggis was being drawn into the church through a classic, four-step "dissemination drill" that recruiters are carefully trained to follow. The first step is to make contact, as Jim Logan did with Haggis in 1975. The second step is to disarm any antagonism the individual may display toward Scientology. Once that's done, the task is to "find the ruin"--that is, the problem most on the mind of the potential recruit. For Paul, it was a turbulent romance. The fourth step is to convince the subject that Scientology has the answer. "Once the person is aware of the ruin, you bring about an understanding that Scientology can handle the condition," Hubbard writes. "It's at the right moment on this step that one . . . directs him to the service that will best handle what he needs handled." At that point, the potential recruit has officially been transformed into a Scientologist.

    Paul responded to every step in an almost ideal manner. He and his girlfriend took a course together and, shortly thereafter, became Hubbard Qualified Scientologists, one of the first levels in what the church calls the Bridge to Total Freedom....

About the Author-
  • Lawrence Wright is a graduate of Tulane University and the American University in Cairo, where he spent two years teaching. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and the author of one novel, God's Favorite, and six previous books of nonfiction, including In the New World; Saints and Sinners; Remembering Satan; and The Looming Tower, which was the recipient of many honors--among them, The Pulitzer Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is also a screenwriter and a playwright. He and his wife are longtime residents of Austin, Texas.

    Lawrence Wright official website: http://www.lawrencewright.com/

Reviews-
  • Michael Kinsley, the front page of The New York Times Book Review "Powerful . . . essential reading."
  • Paul Elie, The Wall Street Journal "An utterly necessary story . . . A feat of reporting. The story of Scientology is the great white whale of investigative journalism about religion."
  • Laura Miller, Salon.com "A wild ride of a page-turner, as enthralling as a paperback thriller . . .I could go on and on, listing Hubbard's tall tales, paranoid delusions and eccentricities, as well as Miscavige's brutalities and tidbits from the famously wacky and decidedly unscientific Scientologist cosmology."
  • Buzzy Jackson, The Boston Globe "Insightful, gripping, and ultimately tragic . . . The initial biographical section [about L. Ron Hubbard] could stand as an engrossing book in itself. . . .The second section,
    "Hollywood," provides the answer to one of the great mysteries of the modern world: What's the deal with Tom Cruise and Scientology?"
  • Lisa Miller, The Washington Post
    "Lawrence Wright brings a clear-eyed investigative fearlessness to Scientology--its history, theology, its hierarchy--and the result is . . . evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction."
  • Lawrence Levi, Newsday

    "A gripping, exhaustive, remarkably evenhanded investigation of the religion everyone loves to hate."
  • The Hairpin "It's incredible. It is an incredible, fascinating read. It is like a pirate novel, but there are celebrities in it. I admired [Wright's] chutzpah, he's like Don Quixote."
  • The Daily Beast
    "Revealing and disturbing . . . A series of devastating revelations that will come as news even to hardened Scientology buffs who follow the Church's every twist and turn."
  • Kirkus Reviews
    "Devastating . . . A patient, wholly compelling investigation into a paranoid "religion" and the faithful held in its sweaty grip."
  • Entertainment Weekly

    "Not only a titillating expose on the reported "you're kidding me" aspects of the religion, but a powerful examination of belief itself."
  • Publishers Weekly
    "An eye-opening short biography of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a long-form journalism presentation of the creature Hubbard birthed: a self-help system complete with bizarre cosmology, celebrity sex appeal, lawyers, consistent allegation of physical abuse, and expensive answers for spiritual consumers."
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Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Lawrence Wright
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