South Western Times (Bunbury WA), Thu 10 Apr 1997, p10

Mother warns on cult groups


A local mother warned parents last week that young people who travel to Perth in search of education, work or adventure could be influenced by cult groups.

Young people often gravitated to Perth in search of excitement and some cults have been accused of preying on the lonely, offering friendship to young people feeling lost in an unfamiliar place, the mother said.

Matilda, not her real name, said she wanted to warn others because her life had been turned upside down and her family had been divided after her daughter, Jill, joined the Church of Scientology in Perth.

Matilda said she was puzzled for years by the peculiar personality changes that turned her well-liked daughter into a militant and hateful person.

"It wasn't until six months ago after Jill rang me and one of her brothers in a panic, saying she needed $1000 immediately, that my grandson told me Jill was a Scientologist," she said.

"She needed the money to be 'enlightened' by the Scientologists through some ritual that supposedly knocks the nasties out of your body.

"Jill refused to speak to me for six years prior to that call and in that time she has successfully turned my family against each other with malicious acts."

Matilda was no stranger to Scientology. It had seemed to follow her like a shadow throughout her life, creeping up where ever she lived, both in Australia and during her time in America.

She first came in contact with Scientology while working on a sheep station in Western NSW in the late 60s when a governess at the station tried to get her involved.

Four years later in South Australia, she claimed she was threatened with social isolation after turning down an invitation to join the church and was subject to a smear campaign by one of its members.

Matilda then moved to America and her new in-laws were Scientologists and persistently invited her to church meetings, which were called "social gatherings".

Matilda said it was the final irony that the cult was still a part of her life through her daughter after she fought to be free of it for so many years.

Church of Scientology spokesman Carmen Sferco said Matilda's accusations were completely unfounded and went against the whole idea of Scientology.

"If her (Matilda's) daughter has lost contact with her mother it has been her daughter's personal choice," she said.

"The Church encourages members to keep in close communication with their families. This woman's accusations go against everything the Church stands for."

But Matilda said parents should beware if their children exhibit any strange behaviour, ask for big sums of money or become overly secretive.

"I worry that other people will go through the same thing, years of not being able to pinpoint why their family is falling apart, all because of the Church of Scientology," she said.

A sci-fi enlightenment

The first Church of Scientology was established in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, in Washington DC.

The scripture of the belief system is based on Mr Hubbard's life research compiled in his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

Mr Hubbard claimed to have traced human existence back 74 trillion years, suggesting it began on Venus.

According to his teachings, humans have a mind and a body but they are actually spiritual beings, that he called "thetans".

Thetans have lost their true spiritual beingness through repeated reincarnation and therefore have earthly troubles called "engrams".

People can have their "engrams" detected by an ordained minister of the Scientology church, called an "auditor", who uses a specially designed Electro-psychometer or E-Meter.

The E-Meter has been described as two tin cans with a needle-dial meter. The "cans" are held in each hand and the apparatus is designed to act somewhat like a lie detector by detecting changes in skin conductivity with emotional stress to questions. It can detects painful experiences in a subject's life or former incarnations.

By making the subject confront their "engrams", the "auditor" clears the subject's memory and brings them towards a state of spiritual awareness.

Each level of spiritual awareness is graded, with a grade zero release given to someone who achieved spiritual awareness and abilities on the subject of communication and so on.

Eventually a person should achieve the state of "Clear", which is when a "thetan" is no longer affected by his past and is capable of living a rational existence.

But spiritual enlightenment is not cheap.

In 1980, the Church of Scientology launched a global campaign to stop the publication of a Reader's Digest article which investigated the new "religion", but was unsuccessful.

The article cited many examples of people who claimed to have become bankrupt after shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for "clearing courses".

Since then, other publications stating examples of people who felt cheated after giving their life savings for spiritual enlightenment and ending up financially unenlightened have been written and met with similar resistance from the church.

Church of Scientology spokesman Carmen Sferco denied that the church overcharged its members, saying that compared to psychotherapy or educational institutions, the financial commitment for the church was very reasonable.