A Comparison of Going Clear and Beyond Belief2


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Acomparison of Lawrence Wright’s “Going Clear” and JennaMiscavige’s Biography, “Beyond Belief

JennaMiscavige and Lawrence Wright interestingly provide very deepinsights about the practices and flaws of the Church of Scientology. They differ in the way they present their assertions and reservationsabout the activities, rituals, and the doctrines of the religioussect. Jenna relates her experiences in an autobiographical style asan insider and a high-ranking member of the sect. To the reader, therenunciations that she makes are words from the “horses’ mouth”rather than criticisms of an outsider. Wright, on the other hand,provides the criticisms from an outsider’s point of view. He usesthe accounts of eyewitnesses and in-depth examination of the foundingprinciples that held the followers of the Church of Scientologytogether based on document research (Instaread 2015:18). Nonetheless, in both cases, the reader has an opportunity toencounter the influence of religion on people and how it candegenerate into a controversy of faiths. Before, discussing thevivid similarities and differences between Jenna’s and Wright’sauthorship styles and thematic presentations in their books, a briefbackground of the Church of the Scientology puts this comparison intoperspective. Understanding the origins and influences of the sect isthe best way to articulate what was in the two author’s minds whenthey wrote autobiography and biography respectively. Perhaps thiswould be the best approach towards the comparison because the pointsof convergence and divergence of Jenna’s first-hand experience inthe inner circles of the sect and the biographical assertions ofWright in “going clear” are pretty ascertainable.

In1950, L. Ron Hubbard published the book, Dianetics(Browne 2015: 3).Thebook provides a never-before-seen approach to mental health thatattracted many people to its beliefs. The huge following that Hubbardwas able to amass as subscribers to his assertions in the book and by1954, he used the huge following to found the Church of theScientology. The sect was the basis through Hubbard could perpetrateand entrench the beliefs and teachings in Dianetics. However, there was a lot that led to the skepticism that hassurrounded the beliefs and teaching of the sect for years: thesecretive ways through the church conducted its activities. Thefollowers of the sect also had a sect-like devotion to doctrines thatemanated from the unusual scriptures that they believed would enablethem “ascend the scientologist bridge of total freedom”. AsWright points out in the biography, the sect also attracted thenotoriety for other controversial issues such as domestic espionage,human rights violations, and the unusual teachings on psychiatricconspiracies. It is against this backdrop that Jenna Miscavige, aniece to one of the high-ranking leaders, and a high-ranking memberherselfdenounces these beliefs and puts down her thoughts throughher biography, beyondbelief. Wrightmay not have party to the sect, but his research and findings are asthought-provoking to the potentialities of religion as Jenna’saccounts of personal experiences when she was still affiliated to thesect.

Thefirst appalling factual similarity between Jenna and Wright is thedetails they provide about the way the scientologist church quelleddissent and how it did so in the attempt to detect it. They bothcite a polygraph-like device called the E-meter was used to providespiritual therapy to followers. Jenna reports in her book that shewent through the E-meter which she describes as “two soup can-liketubes connected by a wire” (Hill &amp Pulitzer 2013: 26). According to her, the device was used to check her devotion to thesect after she was suspected of concealing information about peoplewho were considered overts. This was just one of the many ways thechurch exerted immense control over its members and was able tomanipulate them. Wright also writes about E-meter, which he found tobe an invaluable device in “auditing procedure” in the church.Auditing is the scientologist version of Catholic confessions thatfollowers make to priests with the exception of the device. Memberswho underwent the E-meter test had to confess their ill-deeds and itwould audit the statement to determine their truthfulness. Thissimilarity is strikingly interesting because the Wright’s findingsand personal experiences of Jenna converge as though they had similarexperiences with the device. The two authors also agree that thiswas just one of the many ways the church used to hold control overits followers so that they do not dare to call it quits. According toWright, the confessions would be used against a dissenting member whowished to leave the sect after possibly being fed up.

Inboth accounts, scientologist attached their strange doctrines withthe pomp and snobbish manipulations. Jenna reports that her contractwith the Sea Org was “a billion-year contract”. The sea org(which stands for the sea organization), is the highest ranking levelof the sect. Billion-yea, in this case, refers to the time Jenna andother children were expected to devote their service to the sect. They were convinced that death would not them, since they could comeback and complete the church’s mission through a reincarnation ofthemselves. Wright also points out that the same manipulationhappened during the auditing process. A six figure bill would behanded to the subject after auditing. Continued devotion and serviceto the sect is the only way of reaching the “clear” status offooting the bill. Both issues are impossibilities that deranged somedevout members to death.

Theonly difference between Jenna and Wright is the position they standwhile addressing the issue of religious exploitation. To bothauthors, religion has the capability to turn people into helplesslots. All that its leaders do is create a sense of fear and theillusion of a better future after all the suffering that they gothrough when they finally accomplish their assignments in the churchor whatever place of worship. Surprisingly, such cults are usuallyare usually so oppressive and suppressive that the subjects have nooption, but to comply. However, at the end of it all, it does notlast forever as there are those who finally unchain themselves fromthe cult get a better life after realizing the flaws in theteachings. The reader may not have any idea what the scientologistsmeant by “going clear” in Jenna’s Beyondbelief. However,Wright’s GoingClear breaksdown the cosmology of scientologists as coined by its founder,Hubbard. The idea of “Going clear” began with Hubbard’s taleof the “galactic confederacy”. The confederacy was under therule of Xenu, a tyrant who was assisted by evil psychiatrists. Theinhabitants of the galactic confederacy were called the Thetans. According to Hubbard, Xenu wanted to destroy the Thetans. One of themethods Xenu used to tell them to turn up for a tax investigation. As a result, billions of Thetans were excommunicated from thegalactic confederacy and forced a place called Teegeeack (present-dayearth). When Xenu was captured he was hiding in an electric cage. The Thetans who been excommunicated and abandoned found their wayback to the Galactic confederacy, but they only went with theirbodies and left their spirits on earth. The spirits they leftpossessed the inhabitants of the earth who are human beings. Onehuman being could be having a cluster of Thetan spirits. The spiritsinhibits personal growth for human beings. The idea of “goingclear”, therefore, involved the helping subjects get rid of theThetan spirits. The process could take as long as a lifetime. It isagainst Wright’s incisive background explanation of “goingclear” that the reader can comprehend the suffering that Jenna hadto go through while trying to rid off the Thetan spirits that wereapparently “clustered” in her.

Inconclusion, Jenna’s autobiography and Wright’s biography have thesame themes. The similarities lie in the way they dramatically exposethe hypocrisy of scientology. Its followers were people who hadfallen prey to a group of witty liar s that exploited the normalhuman thirst for life answers in religion. Throughout both texts, itwas appalling to see how subjects paid huge sums of money to gothrough the “going clear” process through hard labor and manyother human rights abuse. As pointed out in the above paragraphs,the vivid difference is that Wright’s work is a product of researchwhile Jenna’s work was an account of personal experience in thecult.


Browne,R 2015. What‘Going Clear’ means for the decline of Scientology.Rodgers Media Video Publishing.

Hill,J., &amp Pulitzer, L 2013. Beyondbelief: My secret life inside Scientology and my harrowing escape.

Instaread 2015. In Keytakeaways &amp analysis of Lawrence Wright`s Going Clear:Scientology, Hollywood and the prison of belief(2nd ed., Vol. 1, p. 18). Instaread Summaries.