On August 19, 2009, Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International, received a letter from the film director and screenwriter Paul Haggis. "For ten months now I have been writing to ask you to make a public statement denouncing the actions of the Church of Scientology of San Diego," Haggis wrote. Before the 2008 elections, a staff member at Scientology's San Diego church had signed its name to an online petition supporting Proposition 8, which asserted that the State of California should sanction marriage only "between a man and a woman." The proposition passed. As Haggis saw it, the San Diego church's "public sponsorship of Proposition 8, which succeeded in taking away the civil rights of gay and lesbian citizens of California-rights that were granted them by the Supreme Court of our state-is a stain on the integrity of our organization and a stain on us personally. Our public association with that hate-filled legislation shames us." Haggis wrote, "Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent." He concluded, "I hereby resign my membership in the Church of Scientology."
Haggis was prominent in both Scientology and Hollywood, two communities that often converge. Although he is less famous than certain other Scientologists, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, he had been in the organization for nearly thirty-five years. Haggis wrote the screenplay for "Million Dollar Baby," which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2004, and he wrote and directed "Crash," which won Best Picture the next year-the only time in Academy history that that has happened.
Davis, too, is part of Hollywood society; his mother is Anne Archer, who starred in "Fatal Attraction" and "Patriot Games," among other films. Before becoming Scientology's spokesperson, Davis was a senior vice-president of the church's Celebrity Centre International network.
In previous correspondence with Davis, Haggis had demanded that the church publicly renounce Proposition 8. "I feel strongly about this for a number of reasons," he wrote. "You and I both know there has been a hidden anti-gay sentiment in the church for a long time. I have been shocked on too many occasions to hear Scientologists make derogatory remarks about gay people, and then quote L.R.H. in their defense." The initials stand for L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, whose extensive writings and lectures form the church's scripture. Haggis related a story about Katy, the youngest of three daughters from his first marriage, who lost the friendship of a fellow-Scientologist after revealing that she was gay. The friend began warning others, "Katy is '1.1.' " The number refers to a sliding Tone Scale of emotional states that Hubbard published in a 1951 book, "The Science of Survival." A person classified "1.1" was, Hubbard said, "Covertly Hostile"-"the most dangerous and wicked level"-and he noted that people in this state engaged in such things as casual sex, sadism, and homosexual activity. Hubbard's Tone Scale, Haggis wrote, equated "homosexuality with being a pervert." (Such remarks don't appear in recent editions of the book.)
In his resignation letter, Haggis explained to Davis that, for the first time, he had explored outside perspectives on Scientology. He had read a recent exposé in a Florida newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, which reported, among other things, that senior executives in the church had been subjecting other Scientologists to physical violence. Haggis said that he felt "dumbstruck and horrified," adding, "Tommy, if only a fraction of these accusations are true, we are talking about serious, indefensible human and civil-rights violations."
Online, Haggis came across an appearance that Davis had made on CNN, in May, 2008. The anchor John Roberts asked Davis about the church's policy of "disconnection," in which members are encouraged to separate themselves from friends or family members who criticize Scientology. Davis responded, "There's no such thing as disconnection as you're characterizing it. And certainly we have to understand-"
"Well, what is disconnection?" Roberts interjected.
"Scientology is a new religion," Davis continued. "The majority of Scientologists in the world, they're first generation. So their family members aren't going to be Scientologists. . . . So, certainly, someone who is a Scientologist is going to respect their family members' beliefs-"
"Well, what is disconnection?" Roberts said again.
"-and we consider family to be a building block of any society, so anything that's characterized as disconnection or this kind of thing, it's just not true. There isn't any such policy."
In his resignation letter, Haggis said, "We all know this policy exists. I didn't have to search for verification-I didn't have to look any further than my own home." Haggis reminded Davis that, a few years earlier, his wife had been ordered to disconnect from her parents "because of something absolutely trivial they supposedly did twenty-five years ago when they resigned from the church. . . . Although it caused her terrible personal pain, my wife broke off all contact with them." Haggis continued, "To see you lie so easily, I am afraid I had to ask myself: what else are you lying about?"
Haggis forwarded his resignation to more than twenty Scientologist friends, including Anne Archer, John Travolta, and Sky Dayton, the founder of EarthLink. "I felt if I sent it to my friends they'd be as horrified as I was, and they'd ask questions as well," he says. "That turned out to be largely not the case. They were horrified that I'd send a letter like that."
Tommy Davis told me, "People started calling me, saying, 'What's this letter Paul sent you?' " The resignation letter had not circulated widely, but if it became public it would likely cause problems for the church. The St. Petersburg Times exposé had inspired a fresh series of hostile reports on Scientology, which has long been portrayed in the media as a cult. And, given that some well-known Scientologist actors were rumored to be closeted homosexuals, Haggis's letter raised awkward questions about the church's attitude toward homosexuality. Most important, Haggis wasn't an obscure dissident; he was a celebrity, and the church, from its inception, has depended on celebrities to lend it prestige. In the past, Haggis had defended the religion; in 1997, he wrote a letter of protest after a French court ruled that a Scientology official was culpable in the suicide of a man who fell into debt after paying for church courses. "If this decision carries it sets a terrible precedent, in which no priest or minister will ever feel comfortable offering help and advice to those whose souls are tortured," Haggis wrote. To Haggis's friends, his resignation from the Church of Scientology felt like a very public act of betrayal. They were surprised, angry, and confused. " 'Destroy the letter, resign quietly'-that's what they all wanted," Haggis says.
Last March, I met Haggis in New York. He was in the editing phase of his latest movie, "The Next Three Days," a thriller starring Russell Crowe, in an office in SoHo. He sat next to a window with drawn shades, as his younger sister Jo Francis, the film's editor, showed him a round of cuts. Haggis wore jeans and a black T-shirt. He is bald, with a trim blond beard, pale-blue eyes, and a nose that was broken in a schoolyard fight. He always has several projects going at once, and there was a barely contained feeling of frenzy. He glanced repeatedly at his watch.
Haggis, who is fifty-seven, was preparing for two events later that week: a preview screening in New York and a trip to Haiti. He began doing charitable work in Haiti well before the 2010 earthquake, and he has raised millions of dollars for that country. He told me that he was planning to buy ten acres of land in Port-au-Prince for a new school, which he hoped to have open in the fall. (In fact, the school-the first to offer free secondary education to children from the city's slums-opened in October.) In Hollywood, he is renowned for his ability to solicit money. The actor Ben Stiller, who has accompanied Haggis to Haiti, recalls that Haggis once raised four and a half million dollars in two hours.
While watching the edits, Haggis fielded calls from a plastic surgeon who was planning to go on the trip, and from a priest in Haiti, Father Rick Frechette, whose organization is the main beneficiary of Haggis's charity. "Father Rick is a lot like me-a cynical optimist," Haggis told me. He also said of himself, "I'm a deeply broken person, and broken institutions fascinate me."
Haggis's producing partner, Michael Nozik, says, "Paul likes to be contrarian. If everyone is moving left, he'll feel the need to move right." The actor Josh Brolin, who appeared in Haggis's film "In the Valley of Elah" (2007), told me that Haggis "does things in extremes." Haggis is an outspoken promoter of social justice, in the manner of Hollywood activists like Sean Penn and George Clooney. The actress Maria Bello describes him as self-deprecating and sarcastic, but also deeply compassionate. She recalls being with him in Haiti shortly after the earthquake; he was standing in the bed of a pickup truck, "with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and a big smile on his face, and absolutely no fear." Though Haggis is passionate about his work, he can be cool toward those who are closest to him. Lauren Haggis, the second daughter from his first marriage, said that he never connected with his children. "He's emotionally not there," she says. "That's funny, because his scripts are full of emotion."
In the editing room, Haggis felt the need for a cigarette, so we walked outside. He is ashamed of this habit, especially given that, in 2003, while directing "Crash," he had a heart attack. After Haggis had emergency surgery, his doctor told him that it would be four or five months before he could work again: "It would be too much strain on your heart." He replied, "Let me ask you how much stress you think I might be under as I'm sitting at home while another director is finishing my fucking film!" The doctor relented, but demanded that a nurse be on the set to monitor Haggis's vital signs. Since then, Haggis has tried repeatedly to quit smoking. He had stopped before shooting "The Next Three Days," but Russell Crowe was smoking, and that did him in. "There's always a good excuse," he admitted. Before his heart attack, he said, "I thought I was invincible." He added, "I still do."
Haggis had not spoken publicly about his resignation from Scientology. As we stood in a chill wind on Sixth Avenue, he was obviously uncomfortable discussing it, but he is a storyteller, and he eventually launched into a narrative.
Haggis wasn't proud of his early years. "I was a bad kid," he said. "I didn't kill anybody. Not that I didn't try." He was born in 1953, and grew up in London, Ontario, a manufacturing town midway between Toronto and Detroit. His father, Ted, had a construction company there, which specialized in pouring concrete. His mother, Mary, a Catholic, sent Paul and his two younger sisters, Kathy and Jo, to Mass on Sundays-until she spotted their priest driving an expensive car. "God wants me to have a Cadillac," the priest explained. Mary responded, "Then God doesn't want us in your church anymore."
Haggis decided at an early age to be a writer, and he made his own comic books. But he was such a poor student that his parents sent him to a strict boarding school, where the students were assigned cadet drills. He preferred to sit in his room reading Ramparts, the radical magazine from America-the place he longed to be. He committed repeated infractions, but he learned to pick locks so that he could sneak into the prefect's office and eliminate his demerits.
After a year of this, his parents transferred him to a progressive boys' school in Bracebridge, Ontario, where there was very little system to subvert. Haggis grew his curly blond hair to his shoulders. He discovered a mentor in his art teacher, Max Allen, who was politically radical and gay. Flouting Ontario's strict censorship laws, Allen opened a theatre in Toronto that showed banned films; Haggis volunteered at the box office.
Haggis got caught forging a check, and he soon left school. He was drifting, hanging out with hippies and drug dealers. Two friends died from overdoses. "I had a gun pointed in my face a couple of times," he recalls. He attended art school briefly, then quit; after taking some film classes at a community college, he dropped out of that as well. He began working in construction full time for his father. He also was the manager of a hundred-seat theatre that his father had created in an abandoned church. On Saturday nights, he set up a movie screen onstage, introducing himself and other film buffs to the works of Bergman, Hitchcock, and the French New Wave. He was so affected by Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" that in 1974 he decided to move to England, in order to become a fashion photographer, like the hero of the movie. That lasted less than a year.
Back in London, Ontario, he fell in love with Diane Gettas, a nurse, and they began sharing a one-bedroom apartment. He was starting to get his life together, but he was haunted by something that his grandfather had said to him on his deathbed. "He was a janitor in a bowling alley," Haggis told me. "He had left England because of some scandal we don't know about. He died when I was twelve or thirteen. He looked terrible. He turned to me and said, 'I've wasted my life. Don't waste yours.' "
One day in 1975, when he was twenty-two, Haggis was walking to a record store. When he arrived at the corner of Dundas and Waterloo Streets, a young man pressed a book into his hands. "You have a mind," the man said. "This is the owner's manual." The man, whose name was Jim Logan, added, "Give me two dollars." The book was "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," by L. Ron Hubbard, which was published in 1950. By the time Haggis began reading it, "Dianetics" had sold about two and a half million copies. Today, according to the church, that figure has reached more than twenty-one million.
Haggis opened the book and saw a page stamped with the words "Church of Scientology."
"Take me there," Haggis said to Logan.
Haggis had heard about Scientology a couple of months earlier, from a friend who had called it a cult. The thought that he might be entering a cult didn't bother him. In fact, he said, "it drew my interest. I tend to run toward things I don't understand." When he arrived at the church's headquarters, he recalled, "it didn't look like a cult. Two guys in a small office above Woolworth's."
At the time, Haggis and Gettas were having arguments; the Scientologists told him that taking church courses would improve the relationship. "It was pitched to me as applied philosophy," Haggis says. He and Gettas took a course together and, shortly afterward, became Hubbard Qualified Scientologists, one of the first levels in what the church calls the Bridge to Total Freedom.
The Church of Scientology says that its purpose is to transform individual lives and the world. "A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology," Hubbard wrote. Scientology postulates that every person is a Thetan-an immortal spiritual being that lives through countless lifetimes. Scientologists believe that Hubbard discovered the fundamental truths of existence, and they revere him as "the source" of the religion. Hubbard's writings offer a "technology" of spiritual advancement and self-betterment that provides "the means to attain true spiritual freedom and immortality." A church publication declares, "Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life." Proof of this efficacy, the church says, can be measured by the accomplishments of its adherents. "As Scientologists in all walks of life will attest, they have enjoyed greater success in their relationships, family life, jobs and professions. They take an active, vital role in life and leading roles in their communities. And participation in Scientology brings to many a broader social consciousness, manifested through meaningful contribution to charitable and social reform activities."
In 1955, a year after the church's founding, an affiliated publication urged Scientologists to cultivate celebrities: "It is obvious what would happen to Scientology if prime communicators benefitting from it would mention it." At the end of the sixties, the church established its first Celebrity Centre, in Hollywood. (There are now satellites in Paris, Vienna, Düsseldorf, Munich, Florence, London, New York, Las Vegas, and Nashville.) Over the next decade, Scientology became a potent force in Hollywood. In many respects, Haggis was typical of the recruits from that era, at least among those in the entertainment business. Many of them were young and had quit school in order to follow their dreams, but they were also smart and ambitious. The actress Kirstie Alley, for example, left the University of Kansas in 1970, during her sophomore year, to get married. Scientology, she says, helped her lose her craving for cocaine. "Without Scientology, I would be dead," she has said.
In 1975, the year that Haggis became a Scientologist, John Travolta, a high-school dropout, was making his first movie, "The Devil's Rain," in Durango, Mexico, when an actress on the set gave him a copy of "Dianetics." "My career immediately took off," he told a church publication. "Scientology put me into the big time." The testimonials of such celebrities have attracted many curious seekers. In Variety, Scientology has advertised courses promising to help aspiring actors "make it in the industry."
One of those actors, Josh Brolin, told me that, in a "moment of real desperation," he visited the Celebrity Centre and received "auditing"-spiritual counselling. He quickly decided that Scientology wasn't for him. But he still wonders what the religion does for celebrities like Cruise and Travolta: "Each has a good head on his shoulders, they make great business decisions, they seem to have wonderful families. Is that because they were helped by Scientology?" This is the question that makes celebrities so crucial to the religion. And, clearly, there must be something rewarding if such notable people lend their names to a belief system that is widely scorned.
Brolin says that he once witnessed John Travolta practicing Scientology. Brolin was at a dinner party in Los Angeles with Travolta and Marlon Brando. Brando arrived with a cut on his leg, and explained that he had injured himself while helping a stranded motorist on the Pacific Coast Highway. He was in pain. Travolta offered to help, saying that he had just reached a new level in Scientology. Travolta touched Brando's leg and Brando closed his eyes. "I watched this process going on-it was very physical," Brolin recalls. "I was thinking, This is really fucking bizarre! Then, after ten minutes, Brando opens his eyes and says, 'That really helped. I actually feel different!' " (Travolta, through a lawyer, called this account "pure fabrication.")
Many Hollywood actors were drawn into the church by a friend or by reading "Dianetics"; a surprising number of them, though, came through the Beverly Hills Playhouse. For decades, the resident acting coach there was Milton Katselas, and he taught hundreds of future stars, including Ted Danson, Michelle Pfeiffer, and George Clooney. "Most of Hollywood went through that class," Anne Archer told me. In 1974, two years after her son Tommy Davis was born, she began studying with Katselas. She was a young mother in a dissolving marriage, coming off a television series ("Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice") that had been cancelled after one season. Katselas had a transformative effect. She recalled discussions "about life, people, and behavior," and said that Katselas "said some things in class that were really smart." Some of the other students told her that Katselas was a Scientologist, so she began the Life Repair program at the Celebrity Centre. "I went two or three times a week, probably for a couple of weeks," she said. "I remember walking out of the building and walking down the street toward my car and I felt like my feet were not touching the ground. And I said to myself, 'My God, this is the happiest I've ever been in my entire life. I've finally found something that works.' " She added, "Life didn't seem so hard anymore. I was back in the driver's seat."
Jim Gordon, a veteran police officer in Los Angeles, and also an aspiring actor, spent ten years at the Playhouse, starting in 1990. He told me that Scientology "recruited a ton of kids out of that school." Like Scientology, the Playhouse presented a strict hierarchy of study; under Katselas's tutelage, students graduated from one level to the next. As Gordon advanced within the Playhouse, he began recognizing many students from the roles they were getting in Hollywood. "You see a lot of people you know from TV," Gordon says. He began feeling the pull of the church. "When you started off, they weren't really pushing it, but as you progressed through the Playhouse's levels Scientology became more of a focus," he told me. After a few years, he joined. Like the courses at the Playhouse, Scientology offered actors a method that they could apply to both their lives and their careers.
Not long after Gordon became a Scientologist, he was asked to serve as an "ethics officer" at the Playhouse, monitoring the progress of other students and counselling those who were having trouble. He was good at pinpointing students who were struggling. "It's almost like picking out the wounded chicks," he says. He sometimes urged a student to meet with the senior ethics officer at the Playhouse, a Scientologist who often recommended courses at the Celebrity Centre. "My job was to keep the students active and make sure they were not being suppressed," Gordon says. In the rhetoric of Scientology, "suppressive persons"-or S.P.s-block an individual's spiritual progress. Implicitly, the message to the students was that success awaited them if only they could sweep away the impediments to stardom, including S.P.s. Katselas received a ten-per-cent commission from the church on the money contributed by his students.
Katselas died in 2008, and Scientology no longer has a connection with the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Anne Archer told me that the reputation of Katselas's class as, in Gordon's words, a "Scientology clearinghouse" is overblown. "His classes averaged about fifty or sixty people, and there would be maybe seven to ten people in it who would be Scientologists," she says. But the list of Scientologists who have studied at the Playhouse is long-it includes Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Jason Lee-and the many protégés Katselas left behind helped cement the relationship between Hollywood and the church.
Haggis and I travelled together to L.A., where he was presenting "The Next Three Days" to the studio. During the flight, I asked him how high he had gone in Scientology. "All the way to the top," he said. Since the early eighties, he had been an Operating Thetan VII, which was the highest level available when he became affiliated with the church. (In 1988, a new level, O.T. VIII, was introduced to members; it required study at sea, and Haggis declined to pursue it.) He had made his ascent by buying "intensives"-bundled hours of auditing, at a discount rate. "It wasn't so expensive back then," he said.
David S. Touretzky, a computer-science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has done extensive research on Scientology. (He is not a defector.) He estimates that the coursework alone now costs nearly three hundred thousand dollars, and, with the additional auditing and contributions expected of upper-level members, the cumulative cost of the coursework may exceed half a million dollars. (The church says that there are no fixed fees, adding, "Donations requested for 'courses' at Church of Scientology begin at $50 and could never possibly reach the amount suggested.")
I asked Haggis why he had aligned himself with a religion that so many have disparaged. "I identify with the underdog," he said. "I have a perverse pride in being a member of a group that people shun." For Haggis, who likes to see himself as a man of the people, his affiliation with Scientology felt like a way of standing with the marginalized and the oppressed. The church itself often hits this note, making frequent statements in support of human rights and religious freedom. Haggis's experience in Scientology, though, was hardly egalitarian: he accepted the privileges of the Celebrity Centre, which offers notables a private entrance, a V.I.P. lounge, separate facilities for auditing, and other perks. Indeed, much of the appeal of Scientology is the overt élitism that it promotes among its members, especially celebrities. Haggis was struck by another paradox: "Here I was in this very structured organization, but I always thought of myself as a freethinker and an iconoclast."
During our conversations, we spoke about some events that had stained the reputation of the church while he was a member. For example, there was the death of Lisa McPherson, a Scientologist who died after a mental breakdown, in 1995. She had rear-ended a car in Clearwater, Florida-where Scientology has its spiritual headquarters-and then stripped off her clothes and wandered naked down the street. She was taken to a hospital, but, in the company of several other Scientologists, she checked out, against doctors' advice. (The church considers psychiatry an evil profession.) McPherson spent the next seventeen days being subjected to church remedies, such as doses of vitamins and attempts to feed her with a turkey baster. She became comatose, and she died of a pulmonary embolism before church members finally brought her to the hospital. The medical examiner in the case, Joan Wood, initially ruled that the cause of death was undetermined, but she told a reporter, "This is the most severe case of dehydration I've ever seen." The State of Florida filed charges against the church. In February, 2000, under withering questioning from experts hired by the church, Wood declared that the death was "accidental." The charges were dropped and Wood resigned.
Haggis said that, at the time, he had chosen not to learn the details of McPherson's death. "I had such a lack of curiosity when I was inside," Haggis said. "It's stunning to me, because I'm such a curious person." He said that he had been "somewhere between uninterested in looking and afraid of looking." His life was comfortable, he liked his circle of friends, and he didn't want to upset the balance. It was also easy to dismiss people who quit the church. As he put it, "There's always disgruntled folks who say all sorts of things." He was now ashamed of this willed myopia, which, he noted, clashed with what he understood to be the ethic of Scientology: "Hubbard says that there is a relationship between knowledge, responsibility, and control, and as soon as you know something you have a responsibility to act. And, if you don't, shame on you."
Since resigning, Haggis had been wondering why it took him so long to leave. In an e-mail exchange, I noted that higher-level Scientologists are supposed to be free of neuroses and allergies, and resistant to the common cold. "Dianetics" also promises heightened powers of intelligence and perception. Haggis had told me that he fell far short of this goal. "Did you feel it was your fault?" I asked. Haggis responded that, because the auditing took place over a number of years, it was easy to believe that he might actually be smarter and wiser because of it, just as that might be true after years of therapy. "It is all so subjective, how is one supposed to know?" he wrote. "How does it feel to be smarter today than you were two months ago? . . . But yes, I always felt false."
He noted that a Scientologist hearing this would feel, with some justification, that he had misled his auditors about his progress. But, after hundreds of hours of auditing sessions, he said, "I remember feeling I just wanted it over. I felt it wasn't working, and figured that could be my fault, but did not want the hours of 'repair auditing' that they would tell me I needed to fix it. So I just went along, to my shame. I did what was easy . . . without asking them, or myself, any hard questions."
When Haggis first turned to Scientology, he considered himself an atheist. Scientology seemed to him less a religion than a set of useful principles for living. He mentioned the ARC Triangle; "ARC" stands for "Affinity, Reality, and Communication." Affinity, in this formulation, means the emotional response that partners have toward each other; reality is the area of common agreement. Together, these contribute to the flow of communication. "The three parts together equal understanding," Haggis said. "If you're having a disagreement with someone, your affinity drops quickly. Your mutual reality is shattered. Your communication becomes more halted. You begin to talk over each other. There's less and less understanding. But all you need to do is to raise one part of the triangle and you increase the others as well. I still use that."
Some aspects of Scientology baffled him. He hadn't been able to get through "Dianetics": "I read about thirty pages. I thought it was impenetrable." But much of the coursework gave him a feeling of accomplishment. He was soon commuting from London, Ontario, to Toronto to take more advanced courses, and, in 1976, he travelled to Los Angeles for the first time. He checked in at the old Chateau Élysée, on Franklin Avenue. Clark Gable and Katharine Hepburn had once stayed there, but when Haggis arrived it was a run-down church retreat called the Manor Hotel. (It has since been spectacularly renovated and turned into the flagship Celebrity Centre.) "I had a little apartment with a kitchen I could write in," he recalls. "There was a feeling of camaraderie that was something I'd never experienced-all these atheists looking for something to believe in, and all these loners looking for a club to join."
Recruits had a sense of boundless possibility. Mystical powers were forecast; out-of-body experiences were to be expected; fundamental secrets were to be revealed. Hubbard had boasted that Scientology had raised some people's I.Q. one point for every hour of auditing. "Our most spectacular feat was raising a boy from 83 I.Q. to 212," he told the Saturday Evening Post, in 1964.
At the Manor Hotel, Haggis went "Clear." The concept comes from "Dianetics"; it is where you start if you want to ascend to the upper peaks of Scientology. A person who becomes Clear is "adaptable to and able to change his environment," Hubbard writes. "His ethical and moral standards are high, his ability to seek and experience pleasure is great. His personality is heightened and he is creative and constructive." Someone who is Clear is less susceptible to disease and is free of neuroses, compulsions, repressions, and psychosomatic illnesses. "The dianetic Clear is to a current normal individual as the current normal is to the severely insane."
Going Clear "was not life-changing," Haggis says. "It wasn't, like, 'Oh, my God, I can fly!' " At every level of advancement, he was encouraged to write a "success story" saying how effective his training had been. He had read many such stories by other Scientologists, and they felt "overly effusive, done in part to convince yourself, but also slanted toward giving somebody upstairs approval for you to go on to the next level."
In 1977, Haggis returned to Canada to continue working for his father, who could see that his son was struggling. Ted Haggis asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Haggis said that he wanted to be a writer. His father recalls, "I said, 'Well, there are only two places to do that, New York and Los Angeles. Pick one, and I'll keep you on the payroll for a year.' Paul said, 'I think I'll go to L.A., because it's warmer.' "
Soon after this conversation, Haggis and Diane Gettas got married. Two months later, they loaded up his brown Camaro and drove to Los Angeles, where he got a job moving furniture. He and Diane lived in an apartment with her brother, Gregg, and three other people. In 1978, Diane gave birth to their first child, Alissa. Haggis was spending much of his time and money taking advanced courses and being audited, which involved the use of an electropsychometer, or E-Meter. The device, often compared in the press to a polygraph, measures the bodily changes in electrical resistance that occur when a person answers questions posed by an auditor. ("Thoughts have a small amount of mass," the church contends in a statement. "These are the changes measured.") In 1952, Hubbard said of the E-Meter, "It gives Man his first keen look into the heads and hearts of his fellows." The Food and Drug Administration has compelled the church to declare that the instrument has no curative powers and is ineffective in diagnosing or treating disease.
During auditing, Haggis grasped a cylindrical electrode in each hand; when he first joined Scientology, the electrodes were empty soup cans. An imperceptible electrical charge ran from the meter through his body. The auditor asked systematic questions aimed at detecting sources of "spiritual distress." Whenever Haggis gave an answer that prompted the E-Meter's needle to jump, that subject became an area of concentration until the auditor was satisfied that Haggis was free of the emotional consequences of the troubling experience.
Haggis found the E-Meter surprisingly responsive. It seemed to gauge the kinds of thoughts he was having-whether they were angry or happy, or if he was hiding something. The auditor often probed for what Scientologists call "earlier similars." Haggis explained, "If you're having a fight with your girlfriend, the auditor will ask, 'Can you remember an earlier time when something like this happened?' And if you do then he'll ask, 'What about a time before that? And a time before that?' " Often, the process leads participants to recall past lives. The goal is to uncover and neutralize the emotional memories that are plaguing one's behavior.
Although Haggis never believed in reincarnation, he says, "I did experience gains. I would feel relief from arguments I'd had with my dad, things I'd done as a teen-ager that I didn't feel good about. I think I did, in some ways, become a better person. I did develop more empathy for others." Then again, he admitted, "I tried to find ways to be a better husband, but I never really did. I was still the selfish bastard I always was."
Haggis was moving furniture during the day and taking photographs for church yearbooks on the weekends. At night, he wrote scripts on spec. He met Skip Press, another young writer who was a Scientologist. Press had read one of Haggis's scripts-an episode of "Welcome Back, Kotter" that he was trying to get to the show's star, John Travolta. Haggis and Press started hanging out with other aspiring writers and directors who were involved with Scientology. "We would meet at a restaurant across from the Celebrity Centre called Two Dollar Bill's," Press recalls. Chick Corea and other musicians associated with the church played there. Haggis and a friend from this circle eventually got a job writing for cartoons, including "Scooby-Doo" and "Richie Rich."
By now, Haggis had begun advancing through the upper levels of Scientology. The church defines an Operating Thetan as "one who can handle things without having to use a body or physical means." An editorial in a 1959 issue of the Scientology magazine Ability notes that "neither Lord Buddha nor Jesus Christ were O.T.s, according to the evidence. They were just a shade above Clear." According to several copies of church documents that have been leaked online, Hubbard's handwritten instructions for the first level list thirteen mental exercises that attune practitioners to their relationship with others, such as "Note several large and several small male bodies until you have a cognition. Note it down." In the second level, Scientologists engage in exercises and visualizations that explore oppositional forces:
Laughter comes from the rear half and calm from the front half simultaneously. Then they reverse. It gives one a sensation of total disagreement. The trick is to conceive of both at the same time. This tends to knock one out.
Haggis didn't have a strong reaction to the material, but then he wasn't expecting anything too profound. Everyone knew that the big revelations resided in level O.T. III.
Hubbard called this level the Wall of Fire. He said, "The material involved in this sector is so vicious, that it is carefully arranged to kill anyone if he discovers the exact truth of it. . . . I am very sure that I was the first one that ever did live through any attempt to attain that material." The O.T. III candidate is expected to free himself from being overwhelmed by the disembodied, emotionally wounded spirits that have been implanted inside his body. Bruce Hines, a former high-level Scientology auditor who is now a research physicist at the University of Colorado, explained to me, "Most of the upper levels are involved in exorcising these spirits."
"The process of induction is so long and slow that you really do convince yourself of the truth of some of these things that don't make sense," Haggis told me. Although he refused to specify the contents of O.T. materials, on the ground that it offended Scientologists, he said, "If they'd sprung this stuff on me when I first walked in the door, I just would have laughed and left right away." But by the time Haggis approached the O.T. III material he'd already been through several years of auditing. His wife was deeply involved in the church, as was his sister Kathy. Moreover, his first writing jobs had come through Scientology connections. He was now entrenched in the community. Success stories in the Scientology magazine Advance! added an aura of reality to the church's claims. Haggis admits, "I was looking forward to enhanced abilities." Moreover, he had invested a lot of money in the program. The incentive to believe was high.
In the late seventies, the O.T. material was still quite secret. There was no Google, and Scientology's confidential scriptures had not yet circulated, let alone been produced in court or parodied on "South Park." "You were told that this information, if released, would cause serious damage to people," Haggis told me.
Carrying an empty, locked briefcase, Haggis went to the Advanced Organization building in Los Angeles, where the material was held. A supervisor then handed him a folder, which Haggis put in the briefcase. He entered a study room, where he finally got to examine the secret document-a couple of pages, in Hubbard's bold scrawl. After a few minutes, he returned to the supervisor.
"I don't understand," Haggis said.
"Do you know the words?" the supervisor asked.
"I know the words, I just don't understand."
"Go back and read it again," the supervisor suggested.
Haggis did so. In a moment, he returned. "Is this a metaphor?" he asked the supervisor.
"No," the supervisor responded. "It is what it is. Do the actions that are required."
Maybe it's an insanity test, Haggis thought-if you believe it, you're automatically kicked out. "I sat with that for a while," he says. But when he read it again he decided, "This is madness."
The many discrepancies between L. Ron Hubbard's legend and his life have overshadowed the fact that he was a fascinating man: an explorer, a best-selling author, and the founder of one of the few new religious movements of the twentieth century to have survived into the twenty-first. There are several unauthorized Hubbard biographies-most notably, Russell Miller's "Bare-Faced Messiah," Jon Atack's "A Piece of Blue Sky," and Bent Corydon's "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?" All rely on stolen materials and the accounts of defectors, and the church claims that they present a false and fabricated picture of Hubbard's life. For years, the church has had a contract with a biographer, Dan Sherman, to chronicle the founder's life, but there is still no authorized book, and the church refused to let me talk to Sherman. ("He's busy," Davis told me.) The tug-of-war between Scientologists and anti-Scientologists over Hubbard's legacy has created two swollen archetypes: the most important person who ever lived and the world's greatest con man. Hubbard was certainly grandiose, but to label him merely a fraud is to ignore the complexity of his character.
Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska, in 1911. His father, a naval officer, was often away, and Hubbard spent part of his childhood on his grandparents' ranch, in Montana. When his father got posted to Guam, in 1927, Hubbard made two trips to see him. According to Hubbard, on the second trip he continued on to Asia, where he visited the Buddhist lamaseries in the Western Hills of China, "watching monks meditate for weeks on end."
In 1933, Hubbard married Margaret Grubb, whom he called Polly; their first child, Lafayette, was born the following year. He visited Hollywood, and began getting work as a screenwriter, very much as Paul Haggis did some forty years later. Hubbard worked on serials for Columbia Pictures, including one called "The Secret of Treasure Island." But much of his energy was devoted to publishing stories, often under pseudonyms, in pulp magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction.
During the Second World War, Hubbard served in the U.S. Navy, and he later wrote that he was gravely injured in battle: "Blinded with injured optic nerves and lame with physical injuries to hip and back at the end of World War II, I faced an almost nonexistent future. I was abandoned by family and friends as a supposedly hopeless cripple." While languishing in a military hospital in Oakland, California, he said, he fully healed himself, using techniques that became the foundation of Scientology. "I had no one to help me; what I had to know I had to find out," he wrote in an essay titled "My Philosophy." "And it's quite a trick studying when you cannot see." In some editions of Hubbard's book "The Fundamentals of Thought," published in 1956, a note on the author says, "It is a matter of medical record that he has twice been pronounced dead."
After the war, Hubbard's marriage dissolved, and he moved to Pasadena, where he became the housemate of Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist who belonged to an occult society called the Ordo Templi Orientis. An atmosphere of hedonism pervaded the house; Parsons hosted gatherings involving "sex magick" rituals.
In a 1946 letter, Parsons described Hubbard: "He is a gentleman, red hair, green eyes, honest and intelligent." Parsons then mentioned his wife's sister, Betty Northrup, with whom he had been having an affair. "Although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affections to Ron." One day, Hubbard and Northrup ran off together. In the official Scientology literature, it is claimed that Hubbard was assigned by naval intelligence to infiltrate Parsons's occult group. "Hubbard broke up black magic in America," the church said in a statement.
Hubbard and Northrup ended up in Los Angeles. He continued writing for the pulps, but he had larger ambitions. He began codifying a system of self-betterment, and set up an office near the corner of La Brea and Sunset, where he tested his techniques on the actors, directors, and writers he encountered. He named his system Dianetics.
The book "Dianetics" appeared in May, 1950, and spent twenty-eight weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Written in a bluff, quirky style and overrun with footnotes that do little to substantiate its findings, "Dianetics" purports to identify the source of self-destructive behavior-the "reactive mind," a kind of data bank that is filled with traumatic memories called "engrams," and that is the source of nightmares, insecurities, irrational fears, and psychosomatic illnesses. The object of Dianetics is to drain the engrams of their painful, damaging qualities and eliminate the reactive mind, leaving a person "Clear."
Dianetics, Hubbard said, was a "precision science." He offered his findings to the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association but was spurned; he subsequently portrayed psychiatry and psychology as demonic competitors. He once wrote that if psychiatrists "had the power to torture and kill everyone they would do so."
Scientists dismissed Hubbard's book, but hundreds of Dianetics groups sprang up across the U.S. and abroad. The Church of Scientology was officially founded in Los Angeles in February, 1954, by several devoted followers of Hubbard's work.
In 1966, Hubbard-who by then had met and married another woman, Mary Sue Whipp-set sail with a handful of Scientologists. The church says that being at sea provided a "distraction-free environment," allowing Hubbard "to continue his research into the upper levels of spiritual awareness." Within a year, he had acquired several oceangoing vessels. He staffed the ships with volunteers, many of them teen-agers, who called themselves the Sea Organization. Hubbard and his followers cruised the Mediterranean searching for loot he had stored in previous lifetimes. (The church denies this.) The defector Janis Grady, a former Sea Org member, told me, "I was on the bridge with him, sailing past Greek islands. There were crosses lining one island. He told me that under each cross is buried treasure."
The Sea Org became the church's equivalent of a religious order. The group now has six thousand members. They perform tasks such as counselling, maintaining the church's vast property holdings, and publishing its official literature. Sea Org initiates-some of whom are children-sign contracts for up to a billion years of service. They get a small weekly stipend and receive free auditing and coursework. Sea Org members can marry, but they must agree not to raise children while in the organization.
As Scientology grew, it was increasingly attacked. In 1963, the Los Angeles Times called it a "pseudo-scientific cult." The church attracted dozens of lawsuits, largely from ex-parishioners. In 1980, Hubbard disappeared from public view. Although there were rumors that he was dead, he was actually driving around the Pacific Northwest in a motor home. He returned to writing science fiction and produced a ten-volume work, "Mission Earth," each volume of which was a best-seller. In 1983, he settled quietly on a horse farm in Creston, California.
Around that time, Paul Haggis received a message from the church about a film project. Hubbard had written a treatment for a script titled "Influencing the Planet" and, apparently, intended to direct it. The film was supposed to demonstrate the range of Hubbard's efforts to improve civilization. With another Scientologist, Haggis completed a script, which he called "quite dreadful." Hubbard sent him notes on the draft, but no film by that name was ever released.
In 1985, with Hubbard in seclusion, the church faced two of its most difficult court challenges. In Los Angeles, a former Sea Org member, Lawrence Wollersheim, sought twenty-five million dollars for "infliction of emotional injury." He claimed that he had been kept for eighteen hours a day in the hold of a ship docked in Long Beach, and deprived of adequate sleep and food.
That October, the litigants filed O.T. III materials in court. Fifteen hundred Scientologists crowded into the courthouse, trying to block access to the documents. The church, which considers it sacrilegious for the uninitiated to read its confidential scriptures, got a restraining order, but the Los Angeles Times obtained a copy of the material and printed a summary. Suddenly, the secrets that had stunned Paul Haggis in a locked room were public knowledge.
"A major cause of mankind's problems began 75 million years ago," the Times wrote, when the planet Earth, then called Teegeeack, was part of a confederation of ninety planets under the leadership of a despotic ruler named Xenu. "Then, as now, the materials state, the chief problem was overpopulation." Xenu decided "to take radical measures." The documents explained that surplus beings were transported to volcanoes on Earth. "The documents state that H-bombs far more powerful than any in existence today were dropped on these volcanoes, destroying the people but freeing their spirits-called thetans-which attached themselves to one another in clusters." Those spirits were "trapped in a compound of frozen alcohol and glycol," then "implanted" with "the seed of aberrant behavior." The Times account concluded, "When people die, these clusters attach to other humans and keep perpetuating themselves."
The jury awarded Wollersheim thirty million dollars. (Eventually, an appellate court reduced the judgment to two and a half million.) The secret O.T. III documents remained sealed, but the Times' report had already circulated widely, and the church was met with derision all over the world.
The other court challenge in 1985 involved Julie Christofferson-Titchbourne, a defector who argued that the church had falsely claimed that Scientology would improve her intelligence, and even her eyesight. In a courtroom in Portland, she said that Hubbard had been portrayed to her as a nuclear physicist; in fact, he had failed to graduate from George Washington University. As for Hubbard's claim that he had cured himself of grave injuries in the Second World War, the plaintiff's evidence indicated that he had never been wounded in battle. Witnesses for the plaintiff testified that, in one six-month period in 1982, the church had transferred millions of dollars to Hubbard through a Liberian corporation. The church denied this, and said that Hubbard's income was generated by his book sales.
The jury sided with Christofferson-Titchbourne, awarding her thirty-nine million dollars. Scientologists streamed into Portland to protest. They carried banners advocating religious freedom and sang "We Shall Overcome." Scientology celebrities, including John Travolta, showed up; Chick Corea played a concert in a public park. Haggis, who was writing for the NBC series "The Facts of Life" at the time, came and was drafted to write speeches. "I wasn't a celebrity-I was a lowly sitcom writer," he says. He stayed for four days.
The judge declared a mistrial, saying that Christofferson-Titchbourne's lawyers had presented prejudicial arguments. It was one of the greatest triumphs in Scientology's history, and the church members who had gone to Portland felt an enduring sense of kinship. (A year and a half later, the church settled with Christofferson-Titchbourne for an undisclosed sum.)
In 1986, Hubbard died, of a stroke, in his motor home. He was seventy-four. Two weeks later, Scientologists gathered in the Hollywood Palladium for a special announcement. A young man, David Miscavige, stepped onto the stage. Short, trim, and muscular, with brown hair and sharp features, Miscavige announced to the assembled Scientologists that, for the past six years, Hubbard had been investigating new, higher O.T. levels. "He has now moved on to the next level," Miscavige said. "It's a level beyond anything any of us ever imagined. This level is, in fact, done in an exterior state. Meaning that it is done completely exterior from the body. Thus, at twenty-hundred hours, the twenty-fourth of January, A.D. 36"-that is, thirty-six years after the publication of "Dianetics"-"L. Ron Hubbard discarded the body he had used in this lifetime." Miscavige began clapping, and led the crowd in an ovation, shouting, "Hip hip hooray!"
Miscavige was a Scientology prodigy from the Philadelphia area. He claimed that, growing up, he had been sickly, and struggled with bad asthma; Dianetics counselling had dramatically alleviated the symptoms. As he puts it, he "experienced a miracle." He decided to devote his life to the religion. He had gone Clear by the age of fifteen, and the next year he dropped out of high school to join the Sea Org. He became an executive assistant to Hubbard, who gave him special tutoring in photography and cinematography. When Hubbard went into seclusion, in 1980, Miscavige was one of the few people who maintained close contact with him. With Hubbard's death, the curtain rose on a man who was going to impose his personality on an organization facing its greatest test, the death of its charismatic founder. Miscavige was twenty-five years old.
In 1986, Haggis appeared on the cover of the Scientology magazine Celebrity. The accompanying article lauded his rising influence in Hollywood. He had escaped the cartoon ghetto after selling a script to "The Love Boat." He had climbed the ladder of network television, writing movies of the week and children's shows before settling into sitcoms. He worked on "Diff'rent Strokes" and "One Day at a Time," then became the executive producer of "The Facts of Life." The magazine noted, "He is one of the few writers in Hollywood who has major credits in all genres: comedy, suspense, human drama, animation."
In the article, Haggis said of Scientology, "What excited me about the technology was that you could actually handle life, and your problems, and not have them handle you." He added, "I also liked the motto, 'Scientology makes the able more able.' " He credited the church for improving his relationship with Gettas. "Instead of fighting (we did a lot of that before Scientology philosophy) we now talk things out, listen to each other and apply Scientology technology to our problems."
Haggis told Celebrity that he had recently gone through the Purification Rundown, a program intended to eliminate body toxins that form a "biochemical barrier to spiritual well-being." For an average of three weeks, participants undergo a lengthy daily regimen combining sauna visits, exercise, and huge doses of vitamins, especially niacin. According to a forthcoming book, "Inside Scientology," by the journalist Janet Reitman, the sauna sessions can last up to five hours a day. In the interview, Haggis recalled being skeptical-"My idea of doing good for my body was smoking low-tar cigarettes"-but said that the Purification Rundown "was WONDERFUL." He went on, "I really did feel more alert and more aware and more at ease-I wasn't running in six directions to get something done, or bouncing off the walls when something went wrong." Haggis mentioned that he had taken drugs when he was young. "Getting rid of all those residual toxins and medicines and drugs really had an effect," he said. "After completing the rundown I drank a diet cola and suddenly could really taste it: every single chemical!" He recommended the Rundown to others, including his mother, who at the time was seriously ill. He also persuaded a young writer on his staff to take the course, in order to wean herself from various medications. "She could tell Scientology worked by the example I set," Haggis told the magazine. "That made me feel very good."
Privately, he told me, he remained troubled by the church's theology, which struck him as "intergalactic spirituality." He was grateful, however, to have an auditor who was "really smart, sweet, thoughtful. I could always go to talk to him." The confessionals were helpful. "It just felt better to get things off my chest." Even after his incredulous reaction to O.T. III, he continued to "move up" the Bridge. He saw so many intelligent people on the path, and expected that his concerns would be addressed in future levels. He told himself, "Maybe there is something, and I'm just missing it." He felt unsettled by the lack of irony among many fellow-Scientologists-an inability to laugh at themselves, which seemed at odds with the character of Hubbard himself. When Haggis felt doubts about the religion, he recalled 16-mm. films he had seen of Hubbard's lectures from the fifties and sixties. "He had this amazing buoyancy," Haggis says. "He had a deadpan humor and this sense of himself that seemed to say, 'Yes, I am fully aware that I might be mad, but I also might be on to something.' "
Haggis finally reached the top of the Operating Thetan pyramid. According to documents obtained by WikiLeaks, the activist group run by Julian Assange, the final exercise is: "Go out to a park, train station or other busy area. Practice placing an intention into individuals until you can successfully and easily place an intention into or on a Being and/or a body."
Haggis expected that, as an O.T. VII, he would feel a sense of accomplishment, but he remained confused and unsatisfied. He thought that Hubbard was "brilliant in so many ways," and that the failing must be his. At one point, he confided to a minister in the church that he didn't think he should be a Scientologist. She told him, "There are all sorts of Scientologists," just as there are all sorts of Jews and Christians, with varying levels of faith. The implication, Haggis said, was that he could "pick and choose" which tenets of Scientology to believe.
Haggis was a workaholic, and as his career took off he spent less and less time with his family. "He never got home till late at night or early in the morning," his oldest daughter, Alissa, said. "All the time I ever spent with him was on the set." Haggis frequently brought his daughters to work and assigned them odd jobs; Alissa earned her Directors Guild card when she was fifteen.
In 1987, Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the creators of the new series "thirtysomething," hired Haggis to write scripts. When I talked to them recently, Herskovitz recalled, "Paul walked in the door and said, 'I love the fact that you guys are doing a show all about emotions. I don't like talking about my emotions.' " In the show's first season, one of Haggis's scripts won an Emmy. Since he rarely discussed his religion, his bosses were surprised to learn of his affiliation. Herskovitz told me, "The thing about Paul is his particular sense of humor, which is ironic, self-deprecating-"
"And raw!" Zwick interjected.
"It's not a sense of humor you often encounter among people who believe in Scientology," Herskovitz continued. "His way of looking at life didn't have that sort of straight-on, unambiguous, unambivalent view that so many Scientologists project."
Observing Zwick and Herskovitz at work got Haggis interested in directing, and when the church asked him to make a thirty-second ad about Dianetics he seized the chance. He was determined to avoid the usual claim that Dianetics offered a triumphal march toward enlightenment. He shot a group of Scientologists talking about the practical ways that they had used Dianetics. "It was very naturalistic," he recalls. Church authorities hated it. "They thought it looked like an A.A. meeting." The spot never aired.
In 1992, he helped out on the pilot for "Walker, Texas Ranger," a new series starring Chuck Norris. It ran for eight seasons and was broadcast in a hundred countries. Haggis was credited as a co-creator. "It was the most successful thing I ever did," he says. "Two weeks of work. They never even used my script!"
With his growing accomplishments and wealth, Haggis became a bigger prize for the church. In 1988, Scientology sponsored a Dianetics car in the Indianapolis 500. David Miscavige was at the race. It was one of the few times that he and Haggis met. They sat near each other at a Scientology-sponsored dinner event before the race. "Paul takes no shit from anybody," the organizer of the event recalled. Several times when Miscavige made some comment during the dinner, the organizer said, "Paul challenged him in a lighthearted way." His tone was perceived as insufficiently deferential; afterward, Miscavige demanded to know why Haggis had been invited. (Miscavige declined requests to speak to me, and Tommy Davis says that Miscavige did not attend the event.) The organizer told me, "You have to understand: no one challenges David Miscavige."
Haggis's marriage had long been troubled, and he and his wife were entering a final state of estrangement. One day, Haggis flew to New York with a casting director who was also a Scientologist. They shared a kiss. Haggis felt bad about it, and confessed to it during an "ethics" session. He was given instruction on how to fix the problem. It didn't work. He had a series of liaisons, each of which he confessed. Yet, perhaps because of his fame, he was not made to atone for what Scientologists call "out ethics" behavior.
Haggis and Gettas began a divorce battle that lasted nine years. Their three girls lived with Gettas, visiting Haggis occasionally. Gettas enrolled them in private schools that used Hubbard's educational system, which is called Study Tech. It is one of the more grounded systems that he developed. There are three central elements. One is the use of clay, or other materials, to help make difficult concepts less abstract. Alissa explains, "If I'm learning the idea of how an atom looks, I'd make an atom out of clay." A second concept is making sure that students don't face "too steep a gradient," in Hubbard's words. "The schools are set up so that you don't go on to the next level until you completely understand the material," Alissa says. The third element is the frequent use of a dictionary to eliminate misunderstandings. "It's really important to understand the words you're using."
Lauren, the middle sister, initially struggled in school. "I was illiterate until I was eleven," she told me. Somehow, that fact escaped her parents. "I assume it was because of the divorce," she says.
When the divorce became final, in 1997, Haggis and Gettas were ordered by the court to undergo psychological evaluations-a procedure abhorred by Scientologists. The court then determined that Haggis should have full custody of the children.
His daughters were resentful. They had lived their entire lives with their mother. "I didn't even know why he wanted us," Lauren says. "I didn't really know him."
Haggis put his daughters in an ordinary private school, but that lasted only six months. The girls weren't entirely comfortable talking to people who weren't Scientologists, and basic things like multiple-choice tests were unfamiliar. At a regular school, they felt like outsiders. "The first thing I noticed that I did, that others didn't, is the Contact," Alissa told me, referring to a procedure the church calls Contact Assist. "If you hurt yourself, the first thing I and other Scientology kids do is go quiet." Scientology preaches that, if you touch the wound to the object that caused the injury and silently concentrate, the pain lessens and a sense of trauma fades.
The girls demanded to be sent to boarding school, so Haggis enrolled them at the Delphian School, in rural Oregon, which uses Hubbard's Study Tech methods. The school, Lauren says, is "on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere." She added, "I lived in a giant bubble. Everyone I knew was a Scientologist."
For one course, she decided to write a paper about discrimination against various religions, including Scientology. "I wanted to see what the opposition was saying, so I went online," she says. Another student turned her in to the school's ethics committee. Information that doesn't correspond to Scientology teachings is termed "entheta"-meaning confused or destructive thinking. Lauren agreed to stop doing research. "It was really easy not to look," she says. By the time she