Sunday, August 11, 2013

"counterfeit dreams" by jefferson hawkins

About the book (from Amazon): Scientology presents a glittering public façade, with smiling celebrities, polished videos, slick TV ads and impressive buildings. It is an image that Jefferson Hawkins helped to craft in his 35 years as a top marketing executive for the Church of Scientology. Yet behind that façade is a hidden world of physical and mental abuse, sleep deprivation, labor camps, family disconnection and human rights abuses. It is a nightmare world that is carefully hidden from public view. Counterfeit Dreams is a must-read for anyone who wants to know the truth about today’s most controversial cult.

My take: Like most Americans, my knowledge of Scientology is limited. Prior to reading this book, I could have told you that Scientologists hate psychiatry (thanks to the Tom Cruise/Brooke Shields/Matt Lauer debacle a few years ago) and that several celebrities are Scientologists. Then, in the wake of the news that Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, I read an article about Scientology that quoted Jefferson Hawkins and linked to his blog. On the blog, he details his experience with Scientology; after reading the first four posts, I was hooked. I also felt like I was missing something, so I bit the bullet and bought Hawkins' book, which is an expanded version of the blog. I'm glad I did.

Hawkins' tale is nearly unbelievable, and were it not so meticulously detailed, I would be tempted to believe some of it was fabricated. Hawkins spent more than 30 years as a member of Sea Org, which is basically Scientologists who work for the "Church." He was the man behind Scientology's massive Dianetics campaign in the '80s, which helped the book (written by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard) shoot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Because of his position in the organization, this book is much less of a look at how Scientology bilks celebrities (as well as regular people) out of thousands or even millions of dollars than it is an exposé about the highly dysfunctional "home office" and the abusive man who controls the organization, David Miscavige.

I will say that while Hawkins' tale is interesting, it is long. He spends chapters explaining his duties at the various places he was stationed over the years, and I was far less interested in reading about how Scientology functions as an organization (hint: it has an incredibly counter-productive organizational system) than I was in learning about what led him to leave. Because of this, I got bogged down somewhere near the middle of the book and didn't pick it up again until last month, when I learned that The King of Queens actress Leah Remini left the church. That news reminded me of this book, and I finished it in just a few hours.

One thing that disappointed me was the way Hawkins told of his departure from Sea Org and Scientology. One minute (in the book), he's at home with his wife; in the next, he's driving away with his possessions in tow. From what I gathered, Hawkins didn't choose to leave; rather, Miscavige kicked him out. (This was all alluded to in previous chapters, so his departure wasn't a surprise; I just wish he would have told the reader exactly how it happened.) I found it quite interesting that it was only after he was forced to leave that he began to seriously think about the things he had believed for 30 years and realized he didn't want to remain a Scientologist.

After reading this book, I still don't have a great understanding of the tenets of Scientology, and I really don't care to. But one thing that surprised me is that while Scientology is a recognized religious group, it really has nothing to do with religion at all. (Unless you want to make the argument that L. Ron Hubbard is a god—the man certainly was revered!) Morality is not an issue in a Scientologist's life—at least not in the lives of those in Sea Org. People sleep around, divorce is often encouraged, lying is rampant, swearing and anger outbursts are normal, and physical and mental abuse are seen as a way to keep people in line. And don't even get me started on David Miscavige. It sounds like that man should be spending the rest of his life in prison, not running a legally-recognized (and tax exempt) "church"!

If you're curious about Scientology, I would highly recommend this book. It is incredibly interesting! Also, if you know of a book by a celebrity who left Scientology, please let me know—I'd love to know how celebrity Scientologists experiences differ from those in Sea Org (my guess is the similarities are minimal).

My rating: 4 stars

Buy the book.

About the author: Jefferson Hawkins worked for the Church of Scientology for more than 30 years, most of that time as a senior marketing executive. He was the brains behind the successful Dianetics campaign of the 1980s. He left Scientology in 2005, and now works as a graphic designer and artist in Portland, Oregon. He is committed to helping individuals and families who have been victimized by Scientology. His blog, Leaving Scientology, is dedicated to exposing the abuses and crimes of the Church of Scientology, and helping people to leave the Church.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I purchased this book myself and have no connection to the author or publisher. Some of the links on this page are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase a product, I will receive a commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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