While the specific items in this list may not be for everyone, the general subject matter from which they come, I believe, is important for almost any Ex to study for life after Scientology.
My particular books on critical thinking, for instance, may not be for you. But studying the subject of critical thinking and learning its skills after Scientology is absolutely essential for anyone who became a Scientologist and stayed one for any length of time.
There are many good books specifically about the subjects of Scientology and L Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology that a person should read after getting out. Lots of information was hidden from you while you were a Scientologist in the Church and it is important to spend a good amount of time learning that “forbidden knowledge”.
But then what? Isn’t the act of reading critical books on Scientology just reading more Scientology?
An Ex-Scientologist can get stuck (spiritually & intellectually) in the rut of Scientology and anti-Scientology and never progress out of that. In fact, lingering in anti-Scientology after Scientology can become an excuse never to confront the things you need to test about yourself so that you can continue to grow in life. I know many Exes who simply traded their vulnerability to be manipulated from L Ron Hubbard to Mark Rathbun to Karen De La Carriere to Tony Ortega, never once examining their own limitations and vulnerabilities, and never once learning to question the new tribal narrative of their latest righteous fight. They have avoided doing the hard work necessary in coming to know themselves and in rebuilding a sustainable and independent inner life that is all their own.
To be fair, a lot of people never do that – not just some Ex-Scientologists.
But Scientology attracted intelligent people who had a rebellious spirit and a philosophical bent toward improving life for themselves and others. And so Ex-Scientologists, it could be argued, should be held to a higher standard for they once displayed an expectation of life high above the norm. Most everyone I know who got themselves involved in Scientology did so for the adventure, because life was precious, and should be lived to the full.
So just because L Ron Hubbard got caught up in the counter-transference of being a cult leader and eventually became corrupted by it is no reason an Ex-Scientologist should treat life as any less valuable than they did when they first got themselves involved. The same ideals that got you into Scientology, got you out, too. And the same precious life that fueled your purpose then, is still in you now.
Scientology is like the kindergarten of religions. Getting stuck in kindergarten, year after year, and then finally breaking free from kindergarten only to read more books about the fraud and criminal abuse of kindergarten – and then shaking your fist and diving into the Crusade Against Kindergarten – this doesn’t keep you moving on down that road.
For the overwhelming majority of people who were involved in Scientology, the only “therapy” you need to “recover from Scientology” is to fill your mind and brain with new ideas which are completely different than anything L Ron Hubbard ever considered, and to get on with your fascination with life. The worst, most dishonest and destructive thing you can do to yourself after Scientology is to turn having been a Scientologist into some kind of a disease.
Your unexamined assumptions can be quite insidious. You must study the actual subjects that Hubbard “spun” for you – from sources completely independent from L Ron Hubbard – so as to exhume those insidious assumptions and to poke and challenge them, inspecting each for their all their strengths and weaknesses. You must repair those weak and insidious assumptions, and upgrade them to keep growing as you move on down the road, hell and gone from Scientology.
This list is the path I took which led me away from Scientology and eventually anti-Scientology, and which helped me to create myself again. I might just be fooling myself, like we all do whether we spent time in Scientology or not, but I believe I am stronger and wiser from all these.
For now, here’s the list.
The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking by Nicholas Capaldi – Any book on critical thinking is important to read after Scientology, but this one provides many good tools for thought. When I read it, much of Scientology simply fell apart for me.
Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki – An example of a spiritual practice that is not cultic (as a book) and which presents spiritual ideas similar to some of the ones found in scientology but without Hubbard’s money-making twists.
The Thinker’s Toolkit by Morgan Jones – 14 tools to analyze and prioritize things in your life. This book introduces you to the idea of structural analysis of problems: a process designed to take apart problems in your life and analyze them without the influence of bias or emotion. This is something that Hubbard claimed ethics conditions and other things in Scientology would do for you. These tools actually deliver, much better than most everything in Scientology.
The Thinker’s Way by John Chaffee – More critical thinking skills and exercises in a completely non-coercive and secular context. No agenda to get you to join anything or call yourself a member of any kind tribe at all. Just self-improvement and mental calisthenics to get you thinking in new ways.
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmond Burke and The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine – These books are on the list because Hubbard exploited the “FREEDOM” button all throughout Scientology. By studying these books, you are taught the concepts of FREEDOM and RIGHTS in their proper historical context, and you will see that what Hubbard did with these ideas in Scientology was NOT what the concepts are about.
The Truth About Lying by Stan Walters & Never Be Lied to Again by David Lieberman Two important books after Scientology. These books immerse you into the concepts of lying while giving you the skills to tell when you are being lied to, as well as making you more aware of the different scenarios where lying is likely. Also important are the concepts you learn about when you are likely to lie to yourself.
Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels – A professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels has studied the first 300 years of Christianity, before any orthodoxy took hold. This book provides an essential understanding of gnosticism for any Scientologist, to understand the roots of Hubbard’s gnostic beliefs that were the underlying assumptions to his subject. It also provides an important historical context for Hubbard’s ideas which he was completely unaware of. Especially important for me was the understanding of “salvation through faith” vs. “salvation through knowledge” which splits the world’s religions, and helped me to see why, when the two paths diverged, I chose the one to travel by.
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman – An essential, easy to read, understand and apply text of cognitive behavioral therapy by one of the pioneers of the subject. Learning to stop and ask yourself if the stories you are telling yourself about your past, present, and future are actually true and accurate is one of the most important skills for life after Scientology. This book teaches you how to apply that skill.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini – As social animals, we are wrapped up in each other. We can’t help but be influenced by the words and deeds of other human beings. The cultures we form dictate to us not only what is normal, but what is acceptable to think and how to feel about it. That is all controlled by the people around you. This book provides the proper context for all the coercive tools that L Ron Hubbard packed into Scientology to make men more suggestible.
The Story of Hypnotism by Robert Marks First published in 1947, it is probable that L Ron Hubbard read this book and used it as a roadmap for scientology. It is a fascinating history of hypnosis, and contains a detailed account of the life of Anton Mesmer, and the “Tom Cruise” of his cult, Wolfgang Mozart. Also, vital for Ex-Scientologists is its discussion of the development of hypnotherapy by Sigmund Freud and James Braid, the man who coined the term “hypnosis” only to try to take it back and call it “mono-ideaism” as this was more descriptive of a hypnotic state than “hypnosis”. It didn’t work.
TRANCE-formation by Richard Bandler More discussions of hypnosis and trance states from sources independent of L Ron Hubbard. You learn the tools of the trade of hypnosis, the problems that hypnotherapists need to solve for their patients in session, and you see the many techniques that L Ron Hubbard placed into auditing that any hypnotist would. You can see that Dianetics and Scientology are actually a highly developed form of hypnotherapy. You finally have a contextual “bin” in which to place Dianetics and Scientology technology so it’s no longer the “bolt from the blue” that Hubbard wanted you to think it was.
Confessions of a Philosopher by Bryan Magee – An excellent overview of the major philosophies of the major philosophers throughout history, with a chapter devoted to each. You learn what real philosophy is and how and why Scientology is not even close to real philosophy. This book helps you graduate from kindergarten, once and for all.
How to Practice by The Dalai Lama – This is one of the simplest, most clearly written, and most profound introductions to Buddhism I have ever read. After reading this, you will know exactly what L Ron Hubbard got wrong about Buddhism and Eastern thought. And you will be completely gone from ever thinking that L Ron Hubbard was a person to listen to about Buddhism.
Plato’s The Republic – Real philosophy which forms the roots of western civilization, this book centers around the question “What is Justice?” In order to answer that, we have to go into almost every area of human existence and society, including past lives and the immortality of the soul – presented as a logical and rational reality. Getting through this book gave profound meaning to my life and healed me spiritually after Scientology. I suggest that you listen to it on audio, like listening to a bedtime story, rather than trying to read it. Your chance of success in getting through it will be much higher.
The Upanishads – This is where Hubbard got his descriptions of “theta”, and what he was talking about when he was droning on and on about “The Rig Vedas”. I think this book, along with the Bhagavad Gita, contain the highest teachings of spirituality on Earth.
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene – Real science from a real scientist, this book is an introduction to String Theory, what it’s trying to solve and why. Reading this book immerses an Ex-Scientologist into a vibrant world that Hubbard tried to reduce to “brain theory boys”. You see just how wrong he was in his manipulative attempt to control what you thought about science and scientists.
1984 by George Orwell – A description of a totalitarian society just like the one Scientology creates wherever it is allowed to gain control of the environment.
The Penguin Essays of George Orwell – These essays, especially “Politics and the English Language” and “On Nationalism”, are clear warnings to all future generations why any totalitarian ideology like Scientology must never be allowed to thrive in any free society.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt – A penetrating study of the tribal morality of human beings, and how and why a person can join Scientology and end up as a blinkered and fanatic cult member. Also you learn that disgust and disrespect are the two human emotions that are common to all people who are confronted with religious and political beliefs that are not their own. You learn that the one thing that the conservative republican and the liberal democrat have in common is their primal, inbuilt, disgust and disrespect for each other. This allows you to rise above these primitive and blinding tribal emotions and consider the other side – which usually contains many bits of the truth, as well.
MAO The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday – A biography of Chairman Mao of China, and his use of ideology to control his population. This book contains enlightening histories of the first use of OW write ups and confessionals to “get someone’s ethics in” and to reform them back into the ideology. The Sea Org, the RPF and all kinds of other Scientology techniques are detailed here in their original forms.
Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain by Micheal Shermer – The head of the Skeptic’s Society, Shermer is a psychologist who has studied the human phenomena of belief his whole career. Here is a respectful and extremely insightful look into how a person develops a belief, defends it, and turns it into his identity. Ex-Scientologists will be especially interested in the use of rationalization to build the scaffolding of ideas that became your Scientology worldview. I realized that a person does not have to be brainwashed in order to end up brainwashed. Given the right circumstances, he will do it all on his own. Learn what those circumstances are so you never do it to yourself again.
Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students by Sharon Crowley & Debra Hawhee – Study rhetoric to learn what an argument is, and to identify the types of rhetorical techniques Hubbard used on you to get you to accept his ideas. Knowing rhetoric also helps you to sort out your own ideas and beliefs, a vital activity after Scientology.
Seneca: Letters From a Stoic – A simple expression of a real philosophy that is designed to improve conditions in life. See how a real philosopher defines his terms without an agenda and promotes real questioning for a better life.
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer – A full description of an in-ethics, gung ho Scientologist, and what vulnerabilities and flaws he has within him to make him that way. It’s not really about a Scientologist specifically – it’s about anyone who joins a mass movement that promises to make the whole world a better place. You will see vital parts of yourself in this book. A must read for any ex-Scientologist.
Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics – Obviously one of the source documents for Hubbard’s writings on Ethics. The most valuable part of reading this for an Ex-Scientologist is to see what Hubbard left out of Scientology ethics by reading the original. This book contains Aristotle’s “Golden Mean”, a MUCH more workable technique for ethical decision making than Hubbard’s “Greatest Good for the Greatest Number of Dynamics”, and it is no wonder why Hubbard failed to mention it to Scientologists.
Introduction to “12 Against the Gods” by William Bolitho – In an interview with the Rocky Mountain News when he was publishing “Battlefield Earth”, Hubbard was asked what his favorite book was. He answered that the introduction to this book was his favorite piece of writing any where. When you read it, you’ll see the “Ubermensch” justifications Hubbard used for immorality and crime, under the guise of being a Great Adventurer. I have to say that when I was younger, this disdain for the milquetoast existence of the common man was my attitude, as well. It reminded me of the adventurer within me – the person who got himself involved in Scientology in the first place. This earlier self was important for me to examine for my life after Scientology.
Movies & Documentaries
A Dangerous Method (2011) – An actual scene of the first Emeter as used by Karl Jung in therapy. The most important part of this movie is seeing an ideology being used as a basis for therapy, and how whacky that can get. The discussions between Micheal Fassbender as Jung, Viggo Mortensen as Freud, and Keira Knightly as one of their craziest patients turned group leader is hysterical and horrifying at the same time. If you’ve ever been on staff, or hung out with lots of “trained” Scientologists talking Scientology late into the night, you’ll see direct parallels here with your own experience.
The Lives of Others (2006) – This horrifying and engrossing story of the East German Stasi before and after the Fall of the Wall provides a full picture of the sacred and lofty ideals of communism vs its profane realities. As an ideology, the same dynamics apply to Scientology and you can see here the society that Scientology would most certainly create if it was ever allowed to take political power – as it seeks to do.
The Source Family Cult Documentary (2012) – A thorough view of an LA based 1970’s cult that was a contemporary to Scientology. American society in the 60’s and 70’s, where young people had lost faith in their leaders, gives a wider context that you may have forgotten which was so powerful at the time. Hubbard seemed to copy much of what this cult leader did. The documentary filmmakers, which I know included at least one Ex-Scientology kid, sketch the cult leader and his followers through to the end of his life. Ex-followers as well as those still loyal to the cult are profiled, and it is a great “parallel study” to Scientology for an Ex. Many insights can be generated by this kind of a study of other cults than Scientology and this kind of documentary is highly recommended. I received great insight into the counter-transference which makes a cult leader become a cult leader from this documentary.
Crazy Wisdom: The Life and Times of Chogyam Trungpa (2011) – Watch a sincere and deeply insightful Tibetan Buddhist master give lectures on Buddhism while totally drunk on his ass. A raging alcoholic and coke-head, realize that some of the greatest leaders of American Buddhism today were his students. Be sure to read one of his books, like “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” to see if this guy was a fake. He wasn’t. Bask in the profound paradox of that after Scientology.
Kumare’ (2012) – This documentary pissed me off more than anything I’d seen in years. A guy sets himself up as a cult leader, forms a cult of followers by using all kinds of cult indoctrination and manipulation, and then reveals himself as a fraud to all of his followers during a special ceremony. Watch the different reactions of his students to what he did to them. Very disturbing. But it has spiritual lessons that are deeply transcendent for an ex-cult member. In the end, you can come to terms with a lot of things about your own spiritual path.
Deprogrammed (2015) – A documentary about the life and work of the “father of degrogramming” Ted Patrick. For me, this documentary showed people making decisions about their own spiritual life which came under fire by the people close to them in their lives – who used criminal-level force to get them to quit the path they had chosen for themselves.
Protagonist (2007) A unique and profound documentary interviewing 5 people who had lived extreme lives and the lessons they learned when they came back down to earth. It is told within the context of the character arc created by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides, whose development of character was so detailed and insightful, so true to life, that he has been called the first psychologist. This movie is recommended for Exes because becoming a Scientologist was a kind of extreme life, too. And many Exes’ character arcs can follow what Euripides observed in people so long ago.
Your Deceptive Mind Course by Steven Novella (The Great Courses) A course taught to those studying to be physicians at the Yale University School of Medicine. If you do this course for blood, you will become scientifically literate. And you will gain that most important knowledge of scientific literacy for life after Scientology: You will learn the limits of science.
Social Science Course from Berkeley by Prof Rob Willer After Scientology, I believe that in order to understand cults and the dynamics of groups on individuals, you must study the subject which addresses these phenomena of human existence: social science. Social science, even that branch of social science called social psychology, is not psychology. Being open to the ideas of psychology is very important after Scientology, but psychology does not study cults. Social science does. It has all the tools necessary to understand what happened to you in Scientology. Study it.
Ancient Greek History Course (The Great Courses) This course is here as an adjunct to my study of greek philosophy as a paralell to Scientology. Ancient greek history provided a context for me to understand the times and places of Homer, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – as well as all the other rock star fathers of western civilization who still influence us today. It is incredibly rewarding. Your brain will spooge with cognitions over and over.
Field Trips & Excursions
Participate in a non-cult spiritual activity – Go to mainstream Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist services for a while. Observe the people there. Talk to some of them about what they get out of their membership. You don’t have to join up and self-identify. Just get a feel for what a non-cult religious or spiritual activity is like.
Invite Mormon Missionaries & Jehovah’s Witnesses into Your Home When They Knock on Your Door – When they come by, invite them in. Sit down with them and go through their recruitment process with your eyes wide open. If they have a study assignment for you, do the assignment and be there for their follow-up appointment. Observe their worldview. See how they are on a structured program to convert you. Take the opportunity to use your critical thinking skills and use your social courage during their recruitment to ask uncomfortable questions about the contradictions and any baloney you may be perceiving. Study them and see how they paint the whole world with their religious beliefs. It can be fascinating. And great fun.
Learn to discuss Scientology and Spirituality Respectfully with Still-in Scientologists and Independents – Probably the most productive and important activity of all after Scientology, for me, was getting into respectful internet discussions with independent scientologists and being challenged on some of my harshest anti-Scientology views. The most destructive and false attitudes and views of my own scientology past were beaten out of me, simply because I found that I could not defend them. I was reminded of things about Scientology that I had conveniently forgotten in my simplistic drive to make my old self as a Scientologist wrong so that I could become somebody new.
Mental Tools & Concepts to Learn and Use After Scientology
The Fundamental Attribution Error
Cognitive Dissonance Theory of Personality as developed by Leon Festinger
The logical fallacy of Reification
The Confirmation Bias
The Concept of “Mental Constructs”
Transference and Counter-Transference
Study the subject of ideologies and their effect on the human beings who adopt them
If you’ve got a suggestion that you think would fit on this list, let me know in the comments.