Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Chapter Three: Thistle Street Lane

Seventeen Northeast Thistle Street Lane
Publications Org Worldwide, 1968

I could hear the rattle of the old elevator door, then the whine of its ancient motor as it climbed to the second floor. It came to a shuddering stop just a few feet away from where I was lying, and I could hear the night watchman fumbling to open the iron gate, then shuffling out into the open space.

"Wakey, wakey!" he intoned. He was an old Scot, not a Scientologist, and had been hired to watch the building at night and, on mornings like this, to wake up the staff who had spent the night sleeping on the concrete floor or among the book stocks.

Around me, huddled forms began to move and stretch. I wandered downstairs to see if the morning pastry cart had arrived. It was there, just inside the entryway of the building on Thistle Street Lane, and I could feel the biting cold of an Edinburgh winter coming in through the front door as I got a cup of tea and a pastry for my breakfast.

Things had gotten rough since the Sea Org Missionaire, Doreen Casey, had arrived. She had been sent from the Apollo, sent by L. Ron Hubbard himself, she told us, to take over Scientology’s Publications Organization and get it on the rails – that is, selling more books and making more money. And if we didn’t meet our targets, she would forbid us to leave – the whole staff had to spend the night sleeping on the concrete floor. Nights like that had become increasingly common.

I hoped the woman would leave soon, and things could go back to the way they were. Before her arrival, I had enjoyed working at "Pubs," as we called it, and had made a lot of new friends.

Kim, Zane and I had arrived at London’s Heathrow airport in June. Jerry didn’t make it through customs – he had some Scientology books with him and they turned him back. Scientology was the subject of a British Home Office inquiry at that time, and all Scientology students were being turned back. We’d been tipped off that this would happen, so we presented ourselves as tourists there for a holiday. With our long hair and scruffy appearance, we looked just like the thousands of other young people arriving that summer to explore the country of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. So we slipped under the radar of "the SPs" who were "trying to destroy Scientology."

We took a train down to East Grinstead, in Sussex, and from the train station took a local taxi to Saint Hill Manor. This had been L. Ron Hubbard’s home, and was now the worldwide center for Scientology. The place was a beehive of activity, with hundreds of students and staff crowded into the Manor’s outbuildings. A new building, which looked like a castle, was under construction. It housed the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course, which was then the highest training that one could receive in Scientology’s technology. Hubbard had given daily lectures to the Briefing Course students during the early 1960’s, but, we were told, no longer lived at Saint Hill. He was doing "upper level research" aboard a large yacht, the Royal Scotman, which was in a confidential location somewhere in the Mediterranean.

We were directed to one of the small outbuildings and told to see the Receptionist. Inside, the place seemed crowded and chaotic, with filing cabinets, baskets and piles of paper everywhere. We told the receptionist, an elderly woman, that we were there to join staff at the Publications Organization Worldwide. We were sent to the "Hubbard Communications Office Secretary" who interviewed us and tried to get us to sign a staff contract at Saint Hill. He wouldn’t tell us where the Publications Organization was, only that they had moved and were no longer at Saint Hill. He insisted we should join staff there.

Finally, we politely but firmly declined, and went in search of someone who could tell us something about the Publications Organization. Asking around, we were finally directed to the Manor itself, the location of the Worldwide Organization. There we found a pretty redhead, severely dressed in a naval officer’s uniform. She introduced herself as Peggy. Once we had explained what we were trying to do, she told us that the Publications Organization Worldwide had recently moved to Scotland. She got them on the phone right away, and we were told to get on the next train to Edinburgh.

The Publications Organization turned out to be located in an alley off of an alley. First we found Queen Street, which fronted onto a park, and was lined with posh townhouses – one of these contained HAPI Scotland (Hubbard Academy of Personal Independence), the local Scientology Organization. Behind Queen Street was an alley, Thistle Street, and off this alley was an even smaller alley, Thistle Street Lane. Stepping into the narrow, cobbled street was like stepping into another century. It wasn’t unusual for horse-drawn carts to come clop-clopping along. Halfway down the alley was a large wooden door with a sign over it, "Publications Organization World Wide."

I had the idea we would be applying for a job, and would go through an interview and screening. I had my design portfolio at the ready. But no one seemed interested. We were greeted immediately by the HCO Area Secretary, or HAS, a big bearded guy named Al Seligman.

"You’re Scientologists?" he said incredulously, "and you want to work here? Great – welcome!"

He gave us a tour of the place. It was four stories high. The first two floors contained the book stocks, so they would be close to the shipping doors on the alley. The executive, HCO and Treasury areas were on the third floor, and the design, editorial and production areas were on the top floor. That was where Kim and I would be working. Zane was assigned to Treasury. (He would work there for a few months before he had enough and returned to the US.)

As it was Friday, Kim and I assumed we wouldn’t be needed until Monday, and spent the weekend exploring Edinburgh and finding an apartment to rent. But when we showed up bright and early Monday morning, we got our first introduction to Scientology staff schedules.

"Where have you guys been?" demanded the HAS. "After you didn’t show up for two days we thought you had decided against working here."

We were puzzled. "You work weekends?"

"Oh yes," he explained. "Seven days a week, with a day off every other week. We don’t work a wog schedule here – we have a planet to clear."

"Wog" was the general all-purpose derogatory term for all things not Scientology. Outside the confines of Scientology was the "wog world" where they had "wog ideas," "wog justice," "wog science," "wog considerations," and so on. Anything not Scientology was looked down on as inferior, and "wog schedules" was one of those things, as we learned. Scientologists were tough and dedicated, and didn’t punch time clocks like wog dilletantes. We worked day and night, and weekends, to get the job done.

Since I was a designer, I was assigned to Division Two, which was called "Planning and Preparations." This was where the promotional items and literature were prepared and written. The Publications Organization supplied promotion to all Scientology Organizations all over the world. I was excited to be at the center of things, able to use my talents to forward international Scientology.

My senior, the "Preparations Secretary" was Christina, or Tina. She was a dark-haired beauty in her early 20s, with a wry sense of humor. And about five months pregnant. Her former boyfriend, I found out, had deserted her and gone to the Apollo, where he was working as L. Ron Hubbard’s artist, designing covers for the books. She seemed peacefully resigned to the idea of having the child and raising it on her own.

Tina and I hit it off right away, and fell into a sort of joking banter that went on most of the day as we worked. Once I banged my knee on an open drawer and she commented sardonically, "you pulled it in" – referring to Scientology’s belief that anything bad that happens to you traces back to something bad you did to another. You "pull in a motivator" because of your own transgression, or "overt act."

"No," I countered. "I pulled it out. I bumped my leg on it because I pulled the drawer out." She laughed.

Most of the staff were young, in their early 20’s, and most had long, shaggy hair like Kim and I, so we felt like we were among kindred spirits. The executives were older – in their 30’s or 40’s. The head of Pubs Org was an American, David Ziff, who looked more like a college professor than an executive. He ran the organization with a sort of bemused aloofness. His wife, Judy, was Australian, and was the HCO Executive Secretary. The Organization Executive Secretary was Carole Biggs, whose husband Ron was the editor of the Auditor magazine – which was the international magazine for Scientologists at the time. Carole and Ron were English. The Public Executive Secretary was another Aussie, Sandra Johnson. I was impressed with how many nationalities were represented at Pubs. And there were some "old timers" there as well, notably John Sanborn, who had been with Ron Hubbard since the 1950’s. There were also a number of local Scottish kids, not Scientologists, who worked in the Shipping Department. Despite the often grueling schedule, the atmosphere seemed friendly and freewheeling.

Kim and I shared a flat with a half dozen other staff members on Torphichen Street, at the western end of Princes Street. Kim, with his affinity for small, Hobbit-like spaces, set up his bedroom in the pantry. The mornings were bitterly cold, and he’s jump out of bed, turn all the stovetop gas jets on full, put on the coffee, and go back to bed. When the kitchen was nice and warm, and there was a full pot of coffee, he’d wake everyone in the flat, and we’d groggily wander in to the kitchen and wrap our hands around steaming mugs. Then we’d trek through the cold Edinburgh morning to get to work.

We ate lunch and dinner in local restaurants, where we would take over a group of tables and laugh and talk. The locals were bemused by this crowd of "Americans."

At night, after work, we’d gather in the kitchen back at Torphichen Street and talk. I befriended one of the Pubs staff, Graham, who was a Scot, a local. He would sometimes bring his Scottish friends over and we’d tell them about Scientology. Sometimes they were interested, sometimes they would just tell us it was a load of rubbish, and the conversation would rapidly degenerate into an argument.

Once Graham took me on a traditional Edinburgh "pub crawl" along Rose Street, where the public houses were congregated. The idea was to have a pint at every pub from one end of Rose Street to the other – but we didn’t make it more than halfway.

Me - at work designing Scientology promotion at Pubs Org

But most of our time was spent at work. I had to rapidly learn all of the voluminous "HCO Policy Letters" written by Hubbard that dictated exactly how promotion was to be put together. Any promotion had to be approved by the "LRH Communicator" who acted as Hubbard’s representative in the Org. This was Rosemary Delderfield, and she was a stickler for the exact application of Hubbard’s policies. Her husband was a well-known Scientology executive, Ken Delderfield. He had been the "LRH Communicator World Wide" and was currently on the ship with Hubbard.

I was excited about Scientology, and wanted to tell people about it in the promotion and literature. I wanted to explain Scientology. But Rosemary had me study a lot of Policy Letters to show me how Hubbard wanted it done. In one, called Dissemination, Hubbard said he didn’t want people explaining Scientology to new public, he just wanted them to "audit" them with the promotion and literature – put them "in session" by directing them to their own "ruins" – their failings or things they wanted to improve. He urged Scientologists to "penetrate, don’t explain."
No one was to try to explain Scientology. They were, instead, just to tell people to get a book and read it. Then Hubbard himself would explain it to them.

He called for the use of "hard sell." "Hard sell means insistence that people buy," he wrote. In promotion, he instructed,"You tell him that he is going to sign up right now and he is going to take it right now." According to Hubbard, the reason it's done this way is that, "...people are in a more or less hypnotic daze in their aberrated state, and they respond to direct commands in literature and ads."

So this was the reason for the odd "ads" they were producing – big headlines that said literally, "Buy this Book!" or "Get Auditing" or "Get Training." These were "hard sell commands" and were a part of Hubbard’s system.

The public, Hubbard felt, did not have the capacity to make up their own minds. In one Policy Letter called Handling the Public Individual, he said, "We have learned the hard way that an individual from the public must never be asked to DECIDE or CHOOSE." You just tell them that Scientology can handle their troubles and BUY this book or TAKE this course.

This was all very new to me, and I tried to adjust my designs and writing to this new way of doing things. But still, I thought, wouldn’t it be good to actually explain to people what it was all about?

In August, the Executive Director, David, went to the ship, which had been renamed the Apollo, for a briefing. When he returned, he could not tell us anything about it as it was "confidential" and had to do with the upper-level materials of OT III (Operating Thetan Level Three). All he could tell us is that we would soon have special pictures and symbols printed on the book covers that were drawn from the materials of OT III and would act subconsciously on the public, compelling them to pick up and buy the books. I was dying to find out more about this "upper level stuff" but David would not tell us any more. I would finally hear the "Marseilles Conference" ten years later, when I reached OT III myself.

New staff continued to arrive, and many weren’t even Scientologists. The HCO Area Secretary, Al, liked to go out on the street, find some hippie with a backpack, and talk him into joining staff. One day he returned with a strange looking young man, with long black hair and a long beard, wearing a black overcoat and a black, flat-brimmed western hat. He looked like something out of a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. His name was Foster, and, although I didn’t know it at the time, he and I would be close friends for the next 35 years.

In October, Tina went on a six-week maternity leave, and I suddenly found myself taking over her position as the Preparations Secretary, the head of a division. I was completely overwhelmed.

"I’m an artist," I complained to my senior, Judy. "I don’t know anything about being an executive!"

"Don’t worry," she told me reassuringly. "You’ll do fine, and I’ll help you."

Things went from bad to worse. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and finally pleaded with Judy to go back to my earlier post as a designer. That was what I knew how to do – that was what I had been hired for, I thought. Judy said she’d handle it. The next thing I knew there was a sheet of golden yellow paper on my desk – they called the color "goldenrod," saying that I was called before a Committtee of Evidence. This was my first introduction to the Scientology Justice System.

"What is this?" I asked Judy. "It says here that I’m charged with crimes."

"Don’t worry," she said. "It’s just a formality. I can’t remove you from post without a Comm Ev."

Formality or not, I soon found myself doing "lower conditions," a series of steps Hubbard had prescribed for Scientologists who wander from the straight and narrow and don’t do their assigned duties.

As the city of Edinburgh darkened into winter, the atmosphere in the Org also seemed to get darker and more serious by the day. In early November, Hubbard issued a directive from the Apollo laying out the parameters of the "war" we were fighting and the nature of the enemy. "We have located and are directly attacking the only enemy we had on this planet," he revealed, "the World Federation of Mental Health."

Then one night, a ripple of panic went through the org.

"Everyone – drop what you are doing and report to HCO NOW for a briefing! Move!"

We rushed downstairs as fast as we could and crowded into HCO. I craned my head to see what was happening and saw a female Sea Org Officer, in full naval dress uniform, sitting at a desk at the front. She had probably once been pretty, but her face had filled out and she wore heavy makeup. When everyone was there, she began talking – or rather screaming, in a grating Cockney accent.

"We’re in the middle of a war, and this organization has been slack, slack, slack," she screamed. "That’s ending right now. I have been sent by the Commodore to take over this organization and get it back on the rails." She had just been on a Sea Org Mission called "Mission International Books" where she had been getting staff all over the world to go out and force Hubbard’s books into local bookstores. That mission had only fallen down, she said, because Pubs had failed to deliver the needed books.

The Ziffs, we were told, were being sent to the ship for "ethics handling." She was taking over Pubs Org as Commanding Officer. We were to address her as "Sir" and comply with her orders immediately and without hesitation.

"Either you are one hundred percent with me or you are against me," she threatened, "and you will be dealt with accordingly." Then she told us that she would not tolerate a "hippie" atmosphere, and we had one hour to get our hair cut short and return to the org.

We flew out of there and ran all the way to Torphichen Street, where Kim and I gave each other the worst haircuts we had ever had. Then we ran back to the org. This was my introduction to Warrant Officer Doreen Casey.

From that point, things became more and more draconian by the day. Any "non-compliance" with her orders was treated harshly, with "condition assignments." If you were assigned a "Condition of Liability" it meant you had sabotaged the group’s efforts and were not to be trusted. Anyone in Liability had to wear a blue boiler suit and a dirty grey rag around their arm. They were assigned to menial tasks like scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush. Those who were assigned a "Condition of Enemy" – for "betraying the group" had to wear the boiler suit with a rusty length of chain around their wrist. And the worst offenders were assigned a "Condition of Treason." These were ushered into the elevator and taken to a small space at the bottom of the elevator shaft where they were imprisoned until they had come to their senses and completed Hubbard’s obscure "formula" for Treason – "find out that you are." To get "upgraded" from any of these conditions, you had to complete a series of steps that were laid out in Hubbard’s writings. The formula for Liability required that you petition each member of the group individually to be allowed to rejoin the group.

Whenever we didn’t meet our targets or otherwise displeased Doreen, we were restricted to the premises and not allowed to go home. People would sleep on the stock shelves, on the floor, anywhere they could find a flat surface. Then after a couple of days of this, we’d be allowed to go home for one night and bathe. The Torphichen Street flat only had one bathtub, so we’d use it in shifts, each person waking up the next in line. Invariably, someone would fall asleep in the tub, and the rest in line would get no bath that night.

We had heard stories of "overboarding" on the Apollo. Students and crew who didn’t perform their duties or toe the line were literally thrown off the side of the ship into the harbor. This was an early morning ritual aboard the ship where crew would be mustered on deck and the offending staff or students thrown over the rail.

Doreen soon developed her own version of "overboarding." The offending staff would be taken to a small courtyard out the back of the building and put up against a brick wall. A "firing squad" of staff would be armed with buckets of water and the staff member would be drenched with five or six buckets of water. As this was in the winter in Scotland, it was not a mild punishment. Once I was part of the "firing squad" and as I watched the subject of the "overboarding," a young girl, shivering and crying afterwards, I felt a hot flush of guilt and shame at having been a part of what had been done to her.

This wasn’t Scientology. Hubbard wrote about good communication and affinity and treating others with respect, and this Doreen Casey was not applying any of that. But I felt powerless to challenge her. My hatred for her grew, but I just waited for the day when she would leave, and we could return to what I thought of as a Scientology environment of communication and respect.

One day, another Sea Org Officer arrived, a big, florid man named Bill Robertson, or "Captain Bill." No one knew what he was up to; it was "confidential." After a few days, suddenly all of the Scottish kids working in the Shipping Department were fired. Captain Bill gave us a briefing that all of these kids had been in the pay of the "World Federation of Mental Health," or "Smersh" as he called it (after the shadowy evil organization in the James Bond novels). They had been hired by a local "Psych" to come into the Pubs Org and sabotage the shipping lines.

Just like in a James Bond novel. Right. The whole thing sounded weirdly implausible and paranoid to me, but we duly applauded Captain Bill for his heroics. That was my first encounter with the wild and wonderful world of Bill Robertson.

To strike back at the "psychs," he sent us out one dark night on a "raid" of what we were told was the local headquarters of the WFMH. We rushed through the building, putting up lurid posters that Hubbard had sent from the ship, depicting psychiatrists as leering deaths-head skulls, terrorizing innocent citizens. It seemed to me more like a college prank. Captain Bill then left, having struck a crippling blow against the enemy!

About this time, Tina returned with her baby. She had a basket for the baby which she set next to her desk. It was a girl, and she had named her Gwendolyn. I was entranced. I had never been that close to a baby, and loved the way she would hold my finger and stare into my eyes, as if we had known each other for years.

The dynamics between Tina and I also shifted in a subtle way. No longer pregnant, Tina was fetchingly slim, and our playful banter took on a flirtatious edge. At Christmas, we had the day off, and Tina and I spent the day together, with other friends. And that night we spent our first night together.

Limited as it was, our time together became a refuge from the increasing pressure and stress of working at Pubs Org. I soon moved into Tina’s flat, and before long I was changing diapers and helping to care for the baby. White spit-up stains appeared on the shoulders of my shirts and jackets. I was a "dad" for the first time, and I loved it. Tina and I spoke about getting married when time allowed.

But once again our lives were to be interrupted. One day in early February, 1969, the cry of "muster!" was heard throughout the org. We rushed downstairs to the executive area. The CO, Doreen, had received orders from Flag – from the Apollo where Hubbard was. The British Home Office (under the influence of the psychs of course) had been conducting an inquiry into Scientology. It was thought that they would attempt to seize all of the book stocks as they had in Australia. So we had to get all of the book stocks out of the UK immediately. They were going to be sent to Denmark, where the government was supposedly friendlier to Scientology. And once the book stocks were transferred to Copenhagen, the rest of the org would follow. We were all going to Denmark.

Shipping all of those books, which filled two floors of the building on floor-to-ceiling shelves, was a massive undertaking. All of the books - which were mostly in smaller boxes or just wrapped in paper – had to be packed into larger boxes, carried downstairs and loaded into huge shipping containers. Five of these huge containers were procured and were lined up along Thistle Street Lane.

We began packing the books right away. I wasn’t used to hard physical labor, and was soon exhausted. After about six straight hours of hard labor, I could barely move. After another six hours, I could no longer feel my body or my aching muscles, and just kept on working like an automaton.

We went on like that for five straight days without sleep, and with only minimal meal breaks. After all, the future of Scientology hung in the balance, and it was up to us to spirit the book stocks out of the country before the government had time to act. We thought of ourselves as self-sacrificing heroes, pulling off the impossible. "The supreme test of a thetan," Hubbard told us, "is his ability to make things go right." So we were "making things go right" in a major way.
No one was allowed to go out to dinner, instead, one person would be assigned to go out to a local restaurant and get takeout. I recall being assigned as the dinner guy one night, and leaving Pubs with a pocketful of bills and a long list of who had ordered what and how much they had paid. On the way back from the restaurant, carrying a big stack of take-out boxes, the list blew out of my hand and went spinning down the snowy street. I panicked – that was the only record of all the orders! – so I set down the boxes and chased the list down the street. Luckily, I caught it within a few blocks – and no one stole the food!

After five days, we could barely function. It was routine to find someone slumped over a box, asleep, or even fallen into a box. Once I fell asleep while carrying a box and only woke up when I reached the wall at the end of the hallway. Kim had cut his hand when he accidentally put his hand through a glass window, and was mercifully allowed to sleep. But the rest of us went on and on. I had the sensation that the world had been reduced to a small circle in front of me, like I was looking through the wrong end of a telescope. By concentrating on that little circle, I could make out enough details to function, just barely.

Finally, it was done. We were allowed to get a night’s sleep, then came the job of packing up the rest of the org, all of the equipment, desks and files. These filled the sixth and final container. Ironically, in the middle of packing up the org, someone came across the back courtyard from the Scientology Org on Queen Street, HAPI Scotland. They weren’t supposed to know we were moving – it was "confidential." They needed a copy of Dianetics for their bookstore, and the Receptionist told them we were "out of stock" and sent them away. Amazingly, they believed that the International Publications Organization would be out of stock of its mainline book.

With the entire org now in containers, heading for Denmark, it was time for us to go. Tina and I packed up everything we owned – which wasn’t much – bundled up Gwennie, now four months old, and got on a flight for Copenhagen, Denmark.

6 comments:

Cathy said...

Good God! I cannot get my mind around that much nuttiness masquerading as sanity.

It's unbelievable, but since I was there, not in Edinburgh but on the ship, I know only to well that your description is accurate.

The time has come, they have GOT to go. For good.

Mewba said...

Fascinating! Good work. I can hardly wait for more I hope you get it published! Just when you think you've heard it all...
--An ex member of the cult

Dagny said...

You're a fantastic writer...I was completely riveted. Can't wait to read more. Keep up the good work!

-BenFranklinGirl from OCMB

Rambling Will Smile said...

You have an amazing writing skill, conveying the large picture through vivid details. It is engrossing as a James Bond novel - to which I was addicted at the exact period you're talking of. Just got to read the next chapter. It's fantastic Jeff. I know there's not one word of a lie. The reverbrations of Doreen Casey's Missions were still echoing around Saint Hill when I got there in 1972.
So glad you're alive, out and talking.
Thanks
Colin
PS It's so exciting to read a book in construction I am going to write and publish my own this way (not mostly about Scientology, though)

genoramix said...

great writing, great story, and great remembering skills!

it's nice to know i still have 2 chapters to read, less nice to know it's a real and frightening story.

Keep up the great work!!

LightPath said...

Dear author,

Thanks for this truly fascinating and very disturbing look at behind the scenes of organized Scientology. I dare say that in my opinion, you're an excellent and talented author, keeping me in suspense of the next chapter.

I never realized just how violent and sadistic CoE allows people to be. It's hard to imagine or understand abusing one's own paid staff.

It seems CoE provides the cover for many a sadistic sycophant to operate without remorse and belittle people.

In the "wog" world, which is the only world I know, if my co-worker or superior raised an arm at me, I'd have him up on charges. But, alas, I don't have a planet to "clear".


Kindest Wishes! Once again, thank you!

/Light