By Ellie G
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief is one of the most discussed films of 2015 and well worth a look. I always knew a little about scientology but had never really looked into it with any detail before. As a psychology student, I knew scientologists were constantly attacking our profession as many psychologists speak out against it. I also knew of psychologists who had their careers effectively ended by scientologists. So I knew the Church of Scientology was not a joke. Even still, I was shocked when I watched Going Clear. Like, jaw-to-the-ground staring around me in utter disbelief shocked.
Directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney and based on the novel by Lawrence Wright, Going Clear profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, including Paul Haggis and Jason Beghe (they also have some talks on youtube about their experiences which are well worth a watch after you see the film). The eight people they talk to regarding Scientology know it well; Paul Haggis was a member for 35 years before he left in 2009. The former members start from the beginning; detailing how they entered into Scientology, to going through the stages and trying to become a ‘Operating Thetan’ and eventually leaving. The documentary accounts the life of creator, L. Ron Hubbard as well as, how it’s association with A-list celebrities has served to bolster its growth and popularity.
The most astounding theme in Going Clear is control. Not only control, but also the use of psychological manipulation in gaining this. Through exploiting the most vulnerable, to using ranking tactics and the use of therapy-like sessions, known as auditing. The practices seem utterly bizarre to me as a viewer and yet, as the former members recount their experiences it is clear to see that without even realising it members are slowly and unknowingly drawn in.
The documentary is criticised as being very one-sided, yes. It does not speak to any current members. However what it is, is fascinating from a psychological perspective and truly disturbing from a humanistic one. I always looked at the people in Scientology as people who are easily dubbed or manipulated but Going Clear totally changed my opinion. It also left me with a disgusted acknowledgement of L Ron Hubbard’s genius of combining his strengths- sci-fi writing, oration and psychological manipulation. For me, the pattern it took was similar to that of abusive relationship in which one partner seeks total control over the other. It has many similarities: isolation, financial control, the use of knowledge to control its members and continuous threatening undertones. Even though at times the ‘religion’ seems utterly ridiculous (such as when members discover how humans came to be) it is often clear to see why the members were unable to leave. Scientology is far more cleverly crafted and far more dangerous than I ever realised.
Going Clear stays with you for days and even leaves a desperate sense for urgency to end the Church of Scientology once and for all.