Most of us have read a little something about Scientology, at the very least, as it relates to the celebrities we so often discuss. We’ve posted reviews of Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear, discussed Alex Gibney’s subsequent documentary, and the ripples making it caused. We know Scientology is a very strange “religion,” and we struggle to understand how people from all walks — seemingly very intelligent people — are drawn in. Speculating about the celebrity cult is one thing, but reading accounts like this essay by Carmen Llywelyn (Jason Lee’s former spouse), gives us deeply personal insight; it allows us to step inside an impressionable 19-year-old’s shoes and feel the regret and pain she still experiences many years after she left Scientology. I highly recommend the entire read, but here are a few excerpts:
“I bought a one-way ticket from Georgia to California when I was 19. My dream was to be an actor. Four months after arriving, I met the person who would introduce me to the organization around which my life would soon begin to revolve. Jason Lee, the actor best known for My Name is Earl, and I were introduced at an action sports trade show in San Diego…We got married in 1995 after being together for one year.
Jason had been a Scientologist for about five years when we met. He was introduced through his ex-girlfriend, Marissa Ribisi, and her family. When I think back, I believe a part of me knew if I didn’t accept Scientology the marriage would be over before it even started. That may sound somewhat superficial and at that age, maybe it was. But in truth, regardless of how different I feel about Jason and Scientology today, I was very much in love with the guy and wanted our marriage to work. I did what I thought was right. But I made the mistake of immersing myself completely in his world. I did what so many other people who join Scientology do: I lost all sense of individual identity in the name of the cult…I got a horrible feeling in my stomach that first day at the Celebrity Centre. Jason and I had spoken about Scientology many times. Our relationship was serious; we had just moved in together. Eventually, I started to feel like he was forcing Scientology on me, past the point where I didn’t want to go any further. He would never stop talking about it. It became a source of contention and I realized that unless I accepted Scientology the way he did and the way he wanted me to, we would most likely cease to know each another.
To me, Scientology seemed more of a surreal lifestyle for the privileged than a kind of belief system. Our tour guide showed us the auditing part of the grade chart, then the training part. She asked us, wouldn’t we like to become clear one day and was that something we could imagine ourselves doing? I remember saying I did, but that I would most likely only do the auditing side since it seemed impossible for me to finish both sides. I joked that I had no idea how I’d ever have time to do anything else.
She surprised me when she abruptly cut me off me mid-sentence in order to say that I would finish both sides, like every other Scientologist is required do. Her quick personality shift from accommodating to controlling shocked me. I didn’t expect to be belittled by our tour guide, given that it was my choice to do anything concerning Scientology—if I was going to do it at all. I wondered how she could see it any other way. But she didn’t back down from what she said. It made me feel stupid. And then she just moved on with the tour as if nothing had happened. I didn’t like it and I didn’t understand it. Worse, Jason seemed to not notice.
After I left Scientology I came to know this type of communication very well, if you can call it that—it’s too one-sided for it to be called an actual communication cycle because it’s more like being talked at. Hubbard created a complicated emotional tone scale and used it to teach Scientologists how to “deal with people.” This specific way of talking was called “speaking with tone 40 intent.” This was all learned in a very low-level course, all under the guise of having better communication skills. We practiced speaking this way with each other. Two of the training routines taught us how to deal with a person who was doing something wrong by basically ordering them around. In this routine you spoke to the person in a commanding way and you didn’t offer them a chance to reply. This was how people in the church talked to me after I left. I regrettably admit to speaking to people that way myself when I believed it was called for. It was also how Jenna Elfman and Gay Ribisi treated me when I became known as a ‘Suppressive Person. More on that later.”
Llywelyn goes on with observations on how celebrity Scientologists are treated, and see themselves, on suppressing her own critical thoughts, and always knowing her “friends” could and would change to enemies in the space of a day. But, it’s her frankness, and the self-doubt that Llywelyn still struggles with that makes her account such a powerful read.
“You’d think I’d get a divorce from a Scientologist and realize that Scientology was bunk. But brainwashing doesn’t go away like that, and especially that fast. I wish it did…No one imagines themselves as so fragile to ever let something as sinister as a cult take control of their minds. I didn’t think anyone would ever tell me how to think and when to think it. We all believe we’re above such things and only stupid people could fall for that.”
Read the entire piece here.