A dangerous celebrity cult
Wed, 06 Jul 2005
It's scary, isn't it? Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' picture perfect relationship. The public snogging, talk-show jigging and over-zealous declarations of adoration (particularly on the part of little Katie, who we all know lusted after Tom when she was a teeny-weeny teenage girl with a poster of the 'Top Gun' actor on her wall), have got the celebrity press drooling all over itself, and the entertainment-hungry public is swooning.
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard would be pleased - or is pleased (if you're a Scientologist and believe that Hubbard is busy sitting somewhere floaty on the outside of time).
The sci-fi author, philosopher and founder of the Church of Scientology (in 1950, his book "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" was published; it has since sold over 20 million copies worldwide and is regarded as the foundation for the religion) was always intent on recruiting celebs.
In 1955, he inaugurated Project Celebrity, run by a special branch of the church, to minister Scientology to top Hollywood players: to guide their careers, monitor and control all their relationships (Katie, are you listening?) pamper to their whims and generally ensure that this brilliant "communication line" to the masses was fully utilised as part of a loopy, but grand plan of world domination.
But wait a minute. How could our darling Maverick be a sucker for such a bizarre and - as is widely accepted - abusive philosophy?
David Miscavige, Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center and the bona fide head of the movement today, has catapulted Scientology into the celebrity realm, recuiting an impressive star-studded cast of converts that include Tom (and now Katie Holmes), John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Priscilla Presley, Sonny Bono and others to promote the religion to the masses.
And right now Scientology is enjoying a lot of time in the limelight - thanks be to Tom and Katie.
Scientology is a mixture of science fiction, religion and philosophy that is deeply routed in Freudian thinking. According to Wikipedia.org, Scientology, originally established as a secular philosophy in 1952 by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, was only characterised by him in 1953 as an "applied religious philosophy".
The Church of Scientology's Project Celebrity is executed in the form of Celebrity Centres, country-club like houses that offer expensive counselling and career guidance to the chosen stars - the headquarters, The Celebrity Centre International, has its conspicuous address in Franklin Avenue, overlooking the Hollywood Highway.
The actions of a convert are directed towards reaching various levels of spiritual enlightenment, or "clearing". A convert can progress beyond "clear", to becoming an OT, or Operating Thetan ("thetan" in Hubbard philosophy means "soul"). Scientologists believe that an OT is able to leave their body and mind. They can begin to stand outside of time.
According to author Peter Forde, who was once a member of the Church of Scientology's elite Sea Organisation: "OT3 is a secret, senior level within Scientology that can only be done after many other courses, by which time the client is well prepared, well behaved and ready to, if not believe, at least work with anything Hubbard says as being truth, ignoring all evidence to the contrary."
John Travolta is an OT3. So is Priscilla Presley.
You think this is bizarre? Wait for it: According to Scientology doctrine, "OT3 mainly concerns a supposed Incident II happening 75 Million years ago, when Xenu an officer in charge of the 76 local planets of the "Galactic Confederation", solved overpopulation by mass exterminations, mostly by shootings.
"The souls of those killed were collected together, transported to volcanoes on earth, H-bombed at the volcanoes, collected up again using electronic ribbons and transported to Hawaii or Las Palmas. They were there subjected to 36 days of hypnotic "implants" using films and simple apparatus, which in their already shocked state was supposedly very effective and kept them clustered together and trapped on earth as demons."
Films and giant movie screens feature prominently in Scientology legend, if you will, and the parallels with the movie industry are startling and can not be purely coincidental - particularly when you consider the impact Hollywood has over mainstream America, and (some argue) its Orwellian tendency to rewrite history (aka 'Braveheart' and other historically inaccurate biopics) for the digestion of the masses.
But... on with the theory. Scientologists say that each person has a number of these traumatised souls stuck on their bodies - Hubbard (the genius!) referred to them as "fleas". OT3 processing involves hypnosis - the subject is supposed to communicate with these souls and, in line with Dianetics theory, relieve their trauma by recalling the said Incident II.
Religious figures like Christ and Buddha, according to Scientologists, existed well above the level of "clear". So, according to Scientology, has John Travolta - there are pictures of him undergoing his routine OT3 processing on the internet, as are there of Priscilla Presley.
OT3s are, therefore, demi-gods.
This is where we need to take a reality check. Scientology mumbo-jumbo aside, if you look at the celebrity hungry world, Tom and John well, are they not actually demi-gods?
Here's where the real mind-fuck starts: thanks to the ongoing blurring of reality and fiction that goes on in Hollywood (holy shit, the entire American movie machine relies on smudging these boundaries), then OT3, clearing and programming crap aside, the religion is actually taking hold in reality.
Yikes! It's no wonder that Scientology appeals to celebrities, many of whom have a penchant to view themselves as the said demi-gods. It is these celebrities, who have easily accessible "emotional buttons" (translate: big egos), and are vulnerable to "admiration bombing" (Scientology-speak for flooding them with attention and admiration) that are easy targets.
Take the jazz musician Chick Corea: a former head of the Celebrity Centre, the late Yvonne Jentzsch would say: "I can get him to do anything for me, just give me the phone".
It's all a little funny: celebrity megastars being controlled like puppets who jump and smile in reaction to every emotional trigger calculated by their ever-present, omnipresent "counsellors".
But it's no laughing matter when you consider that the cost of reaching OT3 levels is around $350,000. When Hubbard said he was going to invent a religion that would make him rich, he wasn't joking.
It's also not funny when you consider that Scientology has been linked to forced suicides, child abuse, homophobia, human rights abuses like torture and mind control, as well as racism.
L Ron Hubbard was a big fan of HF Verwoerd and even wrote to him to congratulate him on the forced removals in 1960: "Having viewed slum clearance projects in most major cities of the world may I state that you have conceived and created in the Johannesburg townships what is probably the most impressive and adequate resettlement activity in existence."
Professor Stephen A. Kent (Ph.D.) at the Department of Sociology at the University of Alberta wrote in 1997 that Scientology operates "confinement programs and camps as supposedly rehabilitative facilities for "deviant" members of its "elite" Sea Organisation.
"These programs, known collectively as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), put coerced participants through regimes of harsh physical punishment, forced self-confessions, social isolation, hard labour, and intense doctrinal study, all as part of leadership-designed efforts to regain members' ideological commitment... scientists to speak of the RPF as a "brainwashing" program."
Though celebs have given Scientology (which is so vehemently opposed to modern psychiatry for the reason that it markets itself as an alternative) all the glory for curing addictions, relationship problems and bringing about personal and material success, most of these celebs have been vehemently shielded from the group's darker sides - its widely reported links to abuse and even the occult.
Celebs are, after all, the ultimate PR weapon in today's entertainment-obsessed world - the more pure their converts appear, the more genuine their appeal to the masses - and=, more importantly, the more truer to reality Scientology becomes.
And Scientology is more routed in reality than you think. Remember the film 'Primary Colors' - that pic about a womanising president (played by none other than John Travolta)? Well, the then US president Bill Clinton, hearing that a film was being made that would be loosely based on him and his - at that stage, rumoured - philanderings, called Travolta and organised a meeting.
To ensure that Travolta would play him in the movie in a sympathetic light, Clinton agreed to put pressure on the German government to recognise Scientology as a religion! And you always wondered about Hollywood's dodgy links in the US administration...
But for all it's power, Scientology has its critics - and they're celebs too. Take Elvis Presley for one. Alanna Nash writes in ' Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations From The Memphis Mafia': "One day, in LA, we got in the limousine and went down to the Scientology Centre on Sunset, and Elvis went in and talked to them. We waited in the car, but apparently they started doing all these charts and crap for him. Elvis came out and said "Fuck those people! There's no way I'll ever get involved with that son-of-a-bitchin' group. All they want is my money". Well, Peggy still kept on about it, so Elvis didn't date her any more. And he stayed away from Scientology like it was a cobra. He'd shit a brick to see how far Lisa Marie's gotten into it."
He ain't called the King for nothing, is our Elvis.
Other critics include Brad Pitt, Nick Cage, Frank Zappa and Jerry Seinfeld. Jim Carey has been known to play prank calls on the Celebrity Centre, shouting about how he's got these "things" stuck all over his body and he needs to get them off - apparently his ravings have the centre staff in a frenzy.
But for all its bizarre nature, Scientology is no joke. Like most cults (it enjoys an amicable relationship with the notorious Heaven's Gate group), it targets the young and the vulnerable. Swing the spotlight away from the Hollywood walk of fame and the organisation's activities become a lot darker.
It makes money and because of that it likes nothing more than having celebrities in its arsenal: as much as for their pulling power than for their deep pockets. It's high profile converts have been called on to take responsibility for the group's widely reported abuses, but to no avail: they would prefer to remain blissfully ignorant and besides, whoever heard of the word "accountable" in celebrity circles?
But by staying uncritical, and lapping up the Tom-Katie claptrap, the media and the public ensure that these converts remain somewhere outside of the ordinary rules of play - and that Scientology's theories become ever more routed in our precious reality. Because we propagate the celebrity myth, we are almost as guilty for the thousands of misled converts, deaths, suicides, and lost children as this batty religion itself. And in the process, we are making the Scientology myth - which hinges on the belief that ordinary people can become demi-gods - a reality.