Finding Her Way Out of Scientology’s Infamous Sea Org with Katherine Spallino  

Katherine Spallino, the author of a new book, The Bad Cadet: Growing Up in the Church of Scientology’s Sea Organization, has had quite a life journey. Katherine grew up on a secluded ranch within the cadet org, Scientology’s Sea Org school for children. At a young age, Katherine began to journal about her day-to-day life, capturing the thoughts and experiences of a child coming of age in a cult. Katherine’s background offers the rare opportunity to tell the story of the hundreds of children who rarely saw their parents and were indoctrinated to become future Sea Org members.  

Steven Reacts to Scientology’s Recent Intimidation Tactics

This week, I published my monthly blog post in Psychology Today, discussing the case of Leslie Van Houten. She has been recommended for parole and hopefully will be released if the governor of California doesn’t veto her parole again. Van Houten was 19 when as a member of the Charles Manson cult, she was involved in the murders of innocent people.  I  mentioned that Manson had, while in prison himself, received Scientology “processing” and speculated that he might have learned a few control tactics from the larger cult to use in his own group. 

What is Hypnosis? Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)?  Scientology and more!

In the past months, I have been working on two chapters on “The Dark Side of Hypnosis” for a forthcoming International Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis. I asked law professor emeritus Alan Scheflin to work with me as well as Jon Atack. Scheflin focused on one chapter on the U.S. government mind control program MKUltra and George Estabrooks. I focused on authoritarian cult leaders like Ron Hubbard of Scientology infamy and others. For anyone interested in Scientology or the topic of cults, I recommend Atack’s paper Never Believe a Hypnotist. It is of interest that Hubbard used those very words. Hubbard was a hypnotist. 

Opening Our Minds – on Predators and Prevention with Jon Atack

Jon Atack’s Opening Our Minds is quite simply the best new book on authoritarian cults. It digs into the reasons why authoritarianism is ruining the world and what we can do about it. Jon and I first met over thirty years ago; I was the “go-to” guy on the Moonies, and Jon was the “go-to” guy on Scientology. However, we found more in common than our expertise on cults – we hit it off immediately and have been fast friends ever since. There is much to admire about Jon: he is an artist, a musician, a writer, a historian and biographer, a scholar-practitioner, and a truly grounded, authentic individual. Despite decades of exploring the worst aspects of human behavior, he is also thoroughly life-affirming and believes that we have the tools to save the future from the human predators who are so intent on wrecking it.

A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology with Mike Rinder

I was excited when I learned that Mike Rinder wrote a new book, A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology. The book’s title was an ode to his billion-year commitment when he joined the Sea Organization (Sea Org) shortly after graduating high school in 1973. Rinder rose to become the top leader in the Office of Special Affairs (OSA), where, among other duties, he oversaw the “fair game” harassment of all perceived enemies, including the non-profit Cult Awareness Network. When he left Scientology in 2007, he decided to expose the criminal behavior of Scientology. I was very interested in asking him specific questions about his knowledge of Scientology.  

Mental Health Issues Including Suicidal Feelings and Authoritarianism

Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle, watched by tens of millions worldwide, was riveting and upsetting. The topic of racism in the Royal Family (“The Firm”) needs further in-depth discussion. However, in this blog, I want to focus on Meghan’s disclosure that she felt such high levels of stress and isolation that she became suicidal. Meghan reported that she repeatedly requested help, including that she needed to see a qualified mental health professional. She said her requests were denied. According to Markle, the decision to prohibit her from getting the help she desperately needed was based on protecting the Royal Family and its image, no matter the cost to a individual’s health.