Vulnerable: The Degraded Stereotyping of Cult Members

blackfaceTony Ortega recently repeated (twice) that an Ex-Scientologist who got themselves involved in Scientology did so during a “vulnerable” part of their lives.

It’s a frequent and superficial claim made about a multitude of individuals who get themselves involved in all kinds of ‘cults’, not just Scientology.

It’s a blatant stereotype.

Here’s what Tony wrote:

“I’ll repeat what I said earlier: It’s always very interesting to talk to longtime Scientologists and ask them what drew them into it at first. They will come up with a lot of different responses, but what they tend to have in common is that they ran into Scientology at a vulnerable time in their lives.”

Ortega’s suggestion, to Scientologists and Ex-Scientologists, and anyone else involved in a minority religion, is that since you were at a “vulnerable” part of your life when you made the decision to get involved in Scientology, the decision you made at that time of your life was wrong.

But is this suggestion from Tony Ortega – held out for all Ex-Scientologists and ‘cult’ members to swallow – really true?

Were you actually “vulnerable”?

As an Ex-cult member looking at your life at that time, what does “vulnerable” mean exactly – to you?

Was the decision to get yourself started in Scientology really the wrong decision for you at that time and place in your life?

Tony Ortega’s stereotype of yourself, as a cult member, is a ghost that disappears as soon as you focus on it. For some Ex-Scientologists, who have accepted this stereotype of themselves without inspection, it has become a thought-stopping cliche.

To his credit, Ortega went on to define what he meant by “vulnerable”:

“They were young and felt lost in the larger world while struggling in college, or they had just come out of a bad breakup or had lost a job. One of the things that makes Scientology attractive, at least to a small percentage of the population, is that it pretends to offer certainty. Fill out this check sheet, read this book, listen to this lecture, and all of your troubles will go away. For someone at low ebb, this can sound very reassuring.”

Does Tony Ortega’s blanket definition adequately define your unique experience of yourself and your own life at that time?

I believe that closely examining the person you were when you got involved in Scientology is very important for an Ex-cult member.

I wrote in an earlier post:

“This re-evaluation of who you were when you were a cult member is not a social thing. It is an intimately personal thing. And when I did this myself, some really great things started to happen to me. I was no longer disassociated with my earlier self – the one that got into Scientology and became a Scientologist.’

“Because Scientology exploits the best in people, your earlier self – your helpful and courageous and rebellious and curious and spiritually seeking self – is the best part of you. To dismiss that part of you, to wall it off under labels of “delusional Scientologist” or “weak” or “crazy loon” [or “lost and vulnerable”] is to remain in a dissociative state – to continue living a fractured life with some of the best parts of you buried underneath a wall of self-hatred and shame.”

I also created a list of personality traits that atheistic never-ins like Tony Ortega hold out for an Ex-Scientologist to accept about themselves.

I claimed that:

“These views can act as insidious assumptions that poison your decision-making about your former self and the reasons you got involved in Scientology, stayed in Scientology, and finally left it.”

The next sentence that Tony Ortega writes is a spectacular example of my claim.

He writes:

“And sadly, even Scientologists know that they are taking advantage of people — they literally refer to this process as finding a person’s “ruin.”

This statement, this simplistic stereotype of your experience as a Scientologist, this shit sandwich, is being offered to you to accept about yourself.

Is it true?

Is Tony Ortega’s understanding of “finding a person’s ruin” a competent, or even an adequate one?

Is this what you were doing as a Scientologist when you were “finding a person’s ruin”?

When I wrote my earlier post and called it “Embrace Your Inner Scientologist“, I did not call it “Embrace Scientology”.

Your Inner Scientologist is who you were, what you stood for – and why – when you were involved in Scientology. Your “Inner Scientologist” is not scientology the subject, the founder, or even the group of other people called “Scientologists”.

It’s the earlier version of you.

It’s the you who got yourself involved in Scientology.

Embrace and explore that earlier you without judgement and shame.

I’m telling you: There’s a well-spring of personal strength there. It’s gold.

Your gold.

Don’t let shallow thinking anti-Scientologists like Tony Ortega keep you from it.

5 thoughts on “Vulnerable: The Degraded Stereotyping of Cult Members”

  1. I was honored to find that George M White responded to this post over on Marty Rathbun’s blog.

    George traveled to the top of the Bridge in Scientology and, as far as I know, he is the first person to verify that L Ron Hubbard’s original document for OT 8, the one in which Hubbard called Jesus “a lover of men and boys” and claimed that, with Scientology, he [Hubbard] had fulfilled his mission as “Lucifer, bringer of light”. George was there in the first group of people to do OT 8, and this OT Level by L Ron Hubbard was such a catastrophe that Miscavige and others tried to cover it up.

    This verification occurred a few years ago on Marty Rathbun’s blog – one of the many contributions that blog has created for Ex-Scientologists.

    Here’s his comment:

    “Hi Alanzo,
    To me, there is truth in what you write concerning Ortega’s attitude about Scientology and ex-Scientologists. This whole idea about the “ruin” is a complete misunderstanding since that drill is used only in very specific situations. I never did that drill on anyone in 17 years. I remember getting FSM checks from a few people who wanted to avoid the idiots that were “finding ruins”.

    It really boils down to the “distance” you had from Hubbard. As a money paying public, I was only looking at what Hubbard could deliver. Yes,I was vulnerable when I entered in 1972. After an Army tour in Korea (1969-1971) during the Viet Nam War, I had had enough of Lyndon Johnson. Having been raised a Catholic, I was really, really vulnerable to Hubbard. This guy took all of the Occult books popular from 1888-1934, which I never read, and developed some anti-Christian message which I never heard. I had learned exorcism in the 6th grade thanks to Sister Polycarpa so I could easily do the OT levels. I actually already did up to OT VII in her class drills in the 1950’s.

    So I had a distance from Hubbard. Where do I put him? – up, down or to the side. Some put him way up and paid the highest price and may fit Tony’s description of an ex-scio. In the end, Hubbard tells me that he is acting in the role of Lucifer in developing Scientology. It turns out Hubbard could not qualify as Lucifer. Sister Polycarpa told me all about this is the 6th grade. She told me all about Lucifer and what he stood for. Why he is in the mind of mankind. His real meaning in symbol and in myth. Hubbard comes along and truncates classical religion; he can’t even get Lucifer right. The proof is in the pudding. You get to OT VII and Hubbard has you dealing with minor demons. You get to OT VIII and he tells you to go back and audit the GE. Hubbard read tons of pages of Occult. It gave him the peculiar look he manifests in his photos and the peculiar sound of his voice. After a while, he lived the part and tried to melt in. He simply created a bubble around himself. As an outsider, Tony cannot understand this. What Ortega is missing is that a bad experience like Scientology can build true character.

    I call Hubbard the half-way man. He half way understood classical literature; he half way understood religion. He projected himself as source but really copied 90% of Scientology from Occult books. He just changed the terms – invader forces, implants, statics,theta etc., etc. etc..”

    Read his book:


  2. Yes I agree I was vulnerable when I got into scn. i’d moved to a new city on my own, had a new job and didn’t have anyone to speak to outside of work. Work was full of established groups which I never really felt part of.
    As a staff member I also noticed that very rarely did we ever pull in anyone who lived locally. for the most part they were students from over seas, away from their families and like me quite lonely. I didn’t get into scn, I got into dianetics because I wanted to be better than I was, I was fed up with being pushed around by others, and very introverted, dianetics promised a way out of this. I soon learned that much as I didn’t want anything to do with scientology I was going to have to embrace it as dianetics was pretty much obsolete. I met a lot of people who better fit Alanzos description – those seeking spiritual enlightenment – many of them are still involved and convinced they are getting something out of it, maybe they are, who am I to say?

  3. Scientology in the 70s targeted college students as candidates for conversation and by my observation, had a good deal of success with that demographic.

    The college years are formative and important as the young person transitions into adulthood, having adult experiences like getting laid, getting intoxicated, living away from family, etc.

    So the college-aged person is primed to be the recipient of new experiences and to be receptive to new ideas.

    Like Scientology.

    These years in a person’s life are usually quite tumultuous as well, with uncertainty, fear, self-doubt all being part of the mix. There are people and groups that say they can help young people with these issues and often can be effective in doing so.

    Like Scientology.

    Motivational speaker Tony Robbins once gave some generalized advice on Larry King’s talk show regarding how a young person can make the transition to adulthood, and he said he always encouraged young people to “get involved with something larger than yourself.”

    This is quite valid, in my opinion, because it works. Whether it is attending college, joining the army, traveling in Europe on a shoestring, or joining a religion intent on saving the world, the person transitions to adulthood, essentially finding their place in the larger world.

    People of college age typically have an enthusiasm and energy and idealism that propels them into things that seem to benefit themselves and others.

    Yes. Like Scientology.

    So the reasons a person got involved are as varied as the person, but I disagree that all people who came into the church were “vulnerable” in the way Tony is characterizing it. I certainly was vulnerable but geez, at that age, who isn’t?

    And I wholly disagree that those scientologists who engage in finding people’s ruins are knowingly taking advantage of others. That is a way too sweeping statement and for the most part, wrong.

    The average scientologist, when finding a ruin, fully believes he is putting his friend on the road to a better life.

    Most scientologists I know did most of their dissemination to their friends and family in the first month or so of involvement, but after the initial excitement of discovering Scientology wore off, so did the desire to proselytize.

    The sociopathic types that got involved in Scientology undoubtedly saw it as a way to take advantage of the gullible or over-trusting types. And I would even suggest that those scientologists that got involved and stayed involved in fundraising for years and years and could still tolerate living with themselves probably were somewhere high on the sociopathic scale.

  4. Posted by “The Spectator”

    As an introduction, I was a public Scientologist for 35 years. I did auditor training when I started (back in the late 70s) and an Internship. Also I completed OT VII two times. While on my third time auditing the level (GAT version) the lack of progress confirmed for me what I’d been suspecting for years – Scientology doesn’t always work. After being out for 5 years now, I realized that most of Scientology doesn’t work. It’s not a science but a belief system, and if you believe you have “wins”, well, maybe you do. But as far as being able to reproduce gains in an objective way, no, Scientology fails. Today I’m without my family because of Scientology’s Disconnection.

    I read Tony’s “vulnerable” comments and your blog post. I think Tony’s ideas are accurate, at least in my experience. I was 19-years old, and going to college but not succeeding. With some early courses and auditing my college career and personal life changed for the better. I was convinced Scientology had changed me. In retrospect, there could have been other things what would have made similar life-improvement changes but all I saw was Scientology improving my life.

    Yes, I was vulnerable. I was young and impressed with a group of people who seemed to be making life better. Also Scientologists were a MUCH different group in the 70s & 80s then what they became in the 90s. It was a fun group back then. There were interesting people with a variety of interests. Everyone wanted the much touted abilities of Clear and OT. I have NO idea what the attraction would be to someone now!

    Last, I think Tony was speaking generally. Not everyone was vulnerable, but many people were. Everyone has their own story…

    Thanks for your blog.


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