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Scientology: A Half-Life

Discussion in 'Stories From Inside Scientology' started by Shanester, Nov 3, 2013.

  1. Shanester

    Shanester Patron

    My name is Derrick Starr and this is my story.

    I am feeling rather impulsive as I write this, and not at all scholarly, so I make no guarantee as to the exactitude of dates, names or places. Because my story touches on the stories of others, the only allowance for caution that I make is to omit their names. Later, if I review and properly do my research -- which would include contacting all those who I mention and gaining their permission to include their names -- I may rewrite this. Right now, I speak off the top of my head and suffused with emotion. I do promise you, however, that the events described herein are provided to the best of my memory.

    In case there is any confusion as to which Derrick Starr I am (for, after a Google search, I discovered to my dismay that I am not the only Derrick Starr in America, nor, probably, the world), let me be more specific: my full name is Derrick Frederick Shannon Starr and I was born on August 27, 1968 in Lancaster, California. (As a possibly useless side note, my handle "Shanester" is derived from "Shane" which is a nickname for my second middle name "Shannon". For a brief period during my youth, probably because of the movie and book of the same title, I wanted my name to be Shane. When the internet happened, I realized that I could, indeed, be Shane in the digital world. Unfortunately, a lot of other people also wanted to be Shane, most of whom had a better claim to that name than I, and so I settled on Shanester.)

    I have heard and read many stories of the vindictive nature of the Church of Scientology against those who dare to speak out against its real or imagined abuses; however, I don't care. That's right: I don't care. There is nothing they -- or anyone else for that matter -- can say or do to embarrass me, to make me feel bad, or to lessen my chances of succeeding in this big, ugly, crazy, beautiful world.

    Besides, as you read this, you may find this story more complex and nuanced than the regular diatribe. I have no doubt as to the horrendous nature of other people's experiences, so the truth of my experience seems to pale in comparison. It certainly wasn't good, of course. Nervous breakdowns rarely are. But time and distance have a way of putting things in perspective. I used to rage about the injustices perpetuated against me, but now they seem almost petty compared to the current state of affairs, both in Scientology and in the world at large. I tell this story to get this weight off my chest, so that I can let it go and at last achieve my destiny, whatever that may be. I was blessed with a beautiful, crazy family. One of the most special people in that family is my dear sister. She likes to sign off with the quote, "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." Sounds like good advice to me.

    I disconnected from Scientology twenty years ago. I utterly ignored Scientology for over fifteen years. This was a self-imposed shield of ignorance that was eventually pierced by the great show South Park with its landmark episode "Out of the Closet". It was released in 2005 but I did not bother to watch it until 2008, at a presidential debate drinking game party -- you know, where you had to drink a shot every time "maverick" was mentioned. We all got pretty drunk because that debate was a concatenation of buzzy words. After the debate we first talked about politics and the election, but one topic led to another which led to South Park which led to Scientology which led to "have you seen the Tom Cruise episode?" which led to me saying "no, I haven't seen the Tom Cruise episode" which led to me, against my will, being forced to watch it.

    Good thing I was drunk.

    I didn't want to believe it. I seriously had never seen anything so ridiculous in my entire life. While my companions hooted and hollered, pointing at the screen, roaring with laughter, I could not take my eyes off the flashing message on the bottom of the screen: "This is what Scientologists actually believe." Really? I had certainly never heard of it. For some reason my chest tightened and I had trouble breathing. My self-imposed blackout on all things Scientological had not managed to stop me from hearing peripherally of the OTIII materials being posted to the internet, so many years ago. Was this what I was seeing? The problem was, I had previously seen South Park's "Mormon" episode (another gem) and had been assured by my ex-Mormon friend that the information provided therein was entirely accurate. Now, here was South Park lampooning another uniquely American religion simply by animating its beliefs. Could this be true? Nervously, I wondered if I should really have let them show this to me. Was I going to get sick? I went to the bathroom and stayed in there for fifteen minutes, clutching myself, staring at the tiles, until the concerned calls of my friends drew me out.

    It was then that I realized the nature of my self-imposed blackout. It was a form of cowardice, a coping mechanism. No matter what I told myself, I was still in the thrall of beliefs I thought I had discarded years before. It was time for some serious introspection.

    The thing about me is that I have to process something before I can talk about it. I gotta put my thinking cap on and let it do its thing until all the thought bubbles have bubbled up like a Peanuts character and I'm able to vocalize things. I'm not very good at talking about stuff until I've had a chance to think about it. When I was younger, there would be long pauses before I answered a question, to the point that some people thought I was slow or dense, when, really, I was just thinking. Even to this day people tend to think of me as "thoughtful".

    Sometimes my inner percolation process can takes years. Thus, five years after it started, I've finally gotten to a point within myself that I am prepared to bring the discussion out of my head.

    You're welcome.

    My grandmother so wanted to be free of my grandfather that she lied to make it happen. This arguably was the only lie she ever told. In 1951, a woman in California could not institute divorce proceedings against her husband without him having done provably terrible things to her. Whispers in my family suggested that a few terrible things had happened, not least of which were his affairs and his alcoholism, but these were the only two specifics ever confirmed to me. In any event, she so wanted to be free of him that she lied to the judge, confessing to her own adultery. The divorce was granted. My grandfather demonstrated little interest in his daughter, and so, from that point on, my grandmother raised my mother all by herself. My mother was five years old.

    My grandmother never remarried; indeed, she never demonstrated any interest in doing so. She was a single woman and a single mother all throughout the 1950s and 60s, when this sort of thing was unheard of -- and much frowned upon by society. Nevertheless, my grandmother was ahead of her time. She was a freethinking proto-feminist who gave no external evidence that societal disapprobation had any effect on her.

    My mother told me a few stories from this unusual childhood during the Eisenhower era. Chief among them was the religious circuit my grandmother seemed to pursue, taking my mother to the services of a host of religions and their varieties, including Catholic, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Quaker, Seventh Day Adventist, Christian Science, Religious Science, Jewish, Buddhist, Mormon, Baha'i, and Jehovah's Witness. Keep in mind my grandmother was transporting her single self and her young daughter to all of these services during the 1950s. There were more religious varieties but that is all I can remember right now. I wish I had taken notes.

    My grandmother was also an avid reader and had among her collection works by Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Korzybski and other significant thinkers of the twentieth century. She also had the Kama Sutra, the Book of Mormon, at least eight different versions of the Bible, a couple of different versions of the Koran, and various treatises on religious thought and identity. When she could, she enjoyed attending lectures and having her mind stimulated by the intellectual voices and fresh thinkers of her day.

    If that woman wasn't looking for something, I don't know who was. The only specific advice on religion that she ever voiced to my mother was this: keep an open mind.

    By the end of the fifties, my grandmother seemed to have given up on her religious pursuit and stopped attending any sort of services anywhere. Sometime during the early sixties, however, she came across a book which would have a profound effect on herself and her entire family for the rest of their lives. That book was titled "Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health" and it was written by L. Ron Hubbard.

    During this time Hubbard purchased an estate in England called Saint Hill at which he established a seminal organization of Scientology. As well, he was a popular speaker and traveled around the world giving lectures about his research and discoveries. He made regular stops in Los Angeles and my grandmother attended at least three of these, one of which she brought along her seventeen year old daughter. Before my mother finished high school, she was taking courses at the American Saint Hill Organization. When the Advanced Organization of Los Angeles was founded, in 1967, my mother was recruited to join staff. Unfortunately, she didn't last long. There was a young man also on staff with whom my mother had an affair, which resulted in her becoming pregnant.

    As surprising as it may sound to the modern observer of Scientology, and especially in light of the rumors of infidelity and sexual shenanigans in the ranks, back then things were different. AOLA was a brand new organization and was very concerned with proper appearances. Scientology was still new and shiny and respectable, its ethics and justice system was still a work in progress, and it didn't want the controversy of an irresponsible young woman who slept around with impressionable young men. My mother was offloaded from AOLA staff while the man who inseminated her was reprimanded.

    At this time, my grandmother, who had been so entranced with the magnetic L. Ron Hubbard at the beginning of the decade, became increasingly disillusioned with Scientology. She despised authoritarianism and patriarchy. She read with increasing concern the series of bulletins and policy letters that began to roll out of the Hubbard Communications Office during the sixties that established, piece by ominous piece, Scientology's ethics and justice system. When she witnessed that system exercised against her daughter in a dreadful display of patriarchal authoritarianism, she gave up in disgust. She could not believe that the man who had written Dianetics, the Science of Survival, the Creation of Human Ability, and the 8-80 and 8-8008 books was the same man who was now instituting this authoritarian justice system. She felt betrayed and confused, and utterly -- and permanently -- withdrew from the religion.

    Together, my grandmother and seven month-pregnant mother moved away from Los Angeles eighty miles northeast to the (then) small, desert community of Lancaster. While it was true that my grandmother and mother were disaffected from Scientology (and, in my grandmother's case, permanently disaffected), it was also true that both of them were deeply affected by its teachings and, probably, never stopped believing.

    About ten weeks after moving to Lancaster, I was born in my grandmother's house, delivered by my grandmother's hand, in complete silence, except for our cat Figaro, who would not keep his mouth shut, much to my grandmother's annoyance. After I was safely and smoothly delivered in, apparently, a picture-perfect delivery, Figaro jumped up and sniffed me, wrinkled his nose, shook his head, and meowed at grandmother, who shooed him away. Given my affinity for cats (or, as I think of it, their affinity for me), my mother was reasonably confident that Figaro's mewling had not given me any engrams, thank goodness.

    Later, my mother would smile as she reminisced about those days as a young woman in Los Angeles. It was an exciting time to be in Scientology, toward the beginning, when it was new and everything seemed possible. While the world seemed to fall apart with wars, assassinations, and upheaval, Scientology was an oasis of hope, a way out -- and up -- with infinity as the only guide marker.

    After all, who wouldn't want to be a god?

    (to be continued)
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2013
  2. Daisy

    Daisy Patron with Honors

  3. La La Lou Lou

    La La Lou Lou Crusader

    Derek, thanks, we love a good story here, and this one's very interesting do carry on when your fingers are rested! :yes:
  4. WildKat

    WildKat Gold Meritorious Patron

    Awesome Intro Shanester! Welcome! You have a flair with words, you should write a book! :thumbsup:
  5. TG1

    TG1 Angelic Poster

    Good golly, Miss Molly!

    Shanester, I hope when this story ends I learn that you're making your living as a professional writer. Damn, man, you are really a great storyteller.

    Thank you!

    And welcome to ESMB.

  6. Idle Morgue

    Idle Morgue Gold Meritorious Patron

    Welcome!! Riveting...on the edge of my seat....excellent writing!:drama: Glad you are telling your story and thank you for having the courage to come out!!
  7. Arthur Dent

    Arthur Dent Silver Meritorious Patron

    Welcome Shanester!
    You definitely held my interest. You write as a painter paints. I'm so curious about the rest of the story and looking forward to it. I keep guessing about it!
  8. Dean Blair

    Dean Blair Silver Meritorious Patron

    Welcome to ESMB Derrick. I am enjoying your story and your writing style. I am looking forward to your future installments and I am glad you are here.
  9. Lurker5

    Lurker5 Gold Meritorious Patron

    :wow: Fascinating, please keep on. You are a great writer. :yes: :clap:
  10. Jump

    Jump Operating teatime

    I was also captivated by your story and engaging style.

    Welcome, and I would love more .
  11. Shanester

    Shanester Patron

    Tommy Davis?

    Thanks, Jump. Hey -- your quote from Tommy Davis, where is it from?
  12. shadow

    shadow Patron with Honors

    Welcome Shanester
    You stated that your story may pale in comparison to the abuses others have written about, but from the introduction, I think your story would make a great book. You write in a manner that keeps a reader's interest......:hattip:

    And if you hadn't heard: We like stories!:yes:

    Either way you may find the exercise quite cathartic, and I want to wish you the best of luck on your life's journeys, where ever they take you.
  13. Ogsonofgroo

    Ogsonofgroo Crusader

    Another :welcome: Shanester~ :cheers: Always nice to see a new face and read such engaging histories!

  14. Shanester

    Shanester Patron


    My mother's smile would fade, however, as she remembered the circumstances of her dismissal from AOLA staff and the man who abandoned her before his child was even born. Then she would shake her head and touch my hair, and smile again. "He did have good hair," she would murmur. Grandmother never said a word about him but my young self gained the sense that she did not approve of him at all. One time when I was being especially naughty, she looked at me askance and muttered, "It's a good thing you have your mother's eyes."

    But I knew without a doubt that both my grandmother and my mother loved me completely and without reservation. Figaro the cat was a tougher sell, but he too eventually came around.

    These early years were my woggy years, growing up in a small (if rapidly growing) town that was essentially just a bedroom community of the Edwards Air Force Base. There were, to put it mildly, very few Scientologists in Lancaster, California in 1968. Two, in fact. And one of them didn't really count as a Scientologist any more.

    But my mother. Oh, my dear, beautiful mother. She got out in the nineties, disgusted with the direction the Church was going, disgusted at how the Sea Org had treated her daughter, disgusted by the disdain with which the School had dismissed her, disgusted that she was expected to buy a whole set of books that she already owned, disgusted that a course she had completed had been rescinded due to its squirrel content and that she could do the replacement -- for an additional donation. She got out, all right, mainly by just ceasing to participate. I don't think she ever stopped believing. She was one of those Scientologists who thought everything had gone to hell in a hand basket since David Miscaviage had taken over, that he was the squirrel, and that he was destroying her religion. Until just before she died, however, this was something we never discussed. She was aware of my feelings and I was sensitive to hers. It was just something that never came up.

    My early years were spent in isolation from Scientology; nevertheless, my early years were infused with it. Touch assists, contact assists, exteriorization exercises -- you name it. Any piece of Scientology my mother knew of and could use on me, she did. To this day I automatically do a contact assist on myself when I whack my head, or toe, or whatever. I literally can't stop myself. I've been doing it since I was a baby.

    One day I was playing outside when my mother came to me. It was sunset during autumn in the desert. The sky was spectacular. Pink sheets of bubbly clouds extended into an infinity of indigo, with stops at blue and orange along the way. The constant fighter jets from the nearby base had pierced a network of fading contrails through the pink clouds, allowing the indigo to seep through like the abandoned railways of a mad metropolis. Off in the distance I spotted the speck of a bird. Even now I'm convinced it was a California Condor that I saw; it was so large and ungainly in appearance, yet so graceful in the air. "Look at the big bird, mommy!" I cried, pointing.

    My mother had terrible vision -- really awful. She discovered years later that the requirements had been tightened to gain a driver license, and that if her vision were re-tested, her license would be revoked. She successfully avoided the vision test for the rest of her life. Considering she couldn't see a damn thing, she was one of the best drivers I ever knew.

    There was no way she could see the bird. I was shocked. Even with the bird at that distance, my young mind grasped that it was the biggest bird I had had ever seen in my entire life -- all seven years of it.

    My mother settled beside me and held my hand. "I'm very glad you can see the bird," she said, "But you know mommy's eyes aren't as good as yours. That makes us have a different reality."

    "Why, mommy?"

    She pointed to my favorite toy, a yellow Tonka dump truck half buried in sand and mud. "Do you see your Tonka truck?"

    I laughed. Of course I saw it! It was right in front of me.

    She laughed with me. "I see it, too. We agree that we both see it. We have the same reality."

    "Ohhh", I murmured, looking up. The bird was gone.

    "When people agree on something," she continued, "they share the same reality. When they don't agree, their reality is different. Do you remember yesterday, when you and Tom almost had a fight?"

    I nodded my head. Tom was my neighbor across the street. A group of boys had been playing some ball game, one of those unique games where young children invent the rules on the spot. Both Tom and I were inventing the rules. It was clear to me that my rules were superior. Unfortunately, Tom had the same opinion of his rules. You can imagine how that turned out.

    My mother drew a triangle in the sand and wrote the word "reality" next to its bottom left vertex. "Reality is part of a triangle. If you understand this triangle, you won't ever have to fight again."

    This perked my interest. Tom was my best friend. Usually he was docile, content to let me dictate the rules. I found it irksome when he would occasionally be seized with the initiative, attempting to guide processes for which he was clearly unqualified. Looking back, I know now he was one of the best friends anyone could ever have.

    My mother wrote the word "communication" at the right vertex. "You and Tom had different realities. You didn't agree on how you should play the game. When people have different realities, they should talk to each other. This is called communication. When you communicate with someone, you come to agreement. When you agree, you share the same reality, and everyone is happy."

    Sounded good to me. It was getting dark and I was getting fidgety. My mother recognized the signs and hurried up. She wrote the word "affinity" at the top of the triangle. "Have you talked to Tom, yet?"

    I shook my head. I was still angry with him. It had been the biggest fight we had ever had. We had almost come to blows. My mother continued, "Affinity is when you like someone, when you're friends and like to be together. Whenever one of the points of this triangle is broken, the triangle becomes smaller and it's harder to stay friends, to talk to each other, and to agree with each other." She wiped away the triangle and traced a tiny one. "Do you want to be friends with Tom again?"

    I nodded my head vigorously.

    "Then go talk to him tomorrow and say you're sorry." She drew a bigger triangle around the tiny one. "When you increase your communication, you increase your affinity, and you can be friends again. Do you understand?"

    My head nodding continued.

    She drew yet another triangle around the other two. "Then you will also increase your reality so you can play together again. These three things are always connected and always work together." She gave me a big hug and we stood up to head back inside.

    "This is called the ARC Triangle."

    (to be continued)
  15. Nicole

    Nicole Silver Meritorious Patron

    :welcome: Shanester.

  16. Lurker5

    Lurker5 Gold Meritorious Patron

  17. In present time

    In present time Gold Meritorious Patron

    ah, deleted my stupid question.

    "But my mother. Oh, my dear, beautiful mother. She got out in the nineties, disgusted with the direction the Church was going, disgusted at how the Sea Org had treated her daughter, "....

    but now i am in suspence as to what they did to your sister, oh dear.

    welcome to the board, and thanks for the riveting story.
  18. Jump

    Jump Operating teatime

    Re: Tommy Davis?

    I got it off The New Yorker site. Davis waltzed in to the magazine offices with piles of theta evidence of the good works and fantastic history of the 'church'.

    Unexpectedly, he was confronted with deep evidence of Hubbard's faked war injuries and service record. You could almost hear Davis's cognitive dissonance shattering into blunt shards on the tiled floor.

    Good times.
  19. Megalomaniac

    Megalomaniac Silver Meritorious Patron

    This is what I thought Scientology was about. Tools for life. Compassion.

    It means a lot to me that you are telling your story.

  20. Shanester

    Shanester Patron


    I suspect my early childhood experience is very similar to those of other children of Scientology with public parents, that is to say, parents who were not staff members or in the Sea Org. Our young lives were imbued with practical Scientology such that it was an ingrained and unconscious aspect of our lives. Everything else, though, was pretty much indistinguishable from any other wog family living their lives and raising their children in America. I went to kindergarten and elementary school. I rode my skateboard. I delivered newspapers on my bike route (this probably doesn't happen very much anymore :sad:).

    My mother met and married the man who I proudly call my father and soon after that my wonderful little sister was born. My mother did get my dad interested in Scientology, although neither of them were active. The nearest org was a long ways away and, given her unfortunate experience, my mother never felt particularly inspired to reconnect to her old life in Los Angeles. As a family unit we quietly practiced the most basic and -- many would argue -- most effective aspects of Scientology. We kept our beliefs hidden from our friends and neighbors (except for one other disaffected Scientology couple who lived in Palmdale) and lived our lives as wogs, for the most part, quite happily.

    I did have my problems. I was a chubby, dreamy, neurotic kind of kid with few friends. I aced school, which was good, except I was always the teacher's pet, which was bad, at least for my social life. Had I remained in Lancaster, I probably would have been that geeky, nerdy, social loser kind of teenager who survives high school to excel later in life in some sort of job in the technology industry. Things may very well have turned out exactly that way except for two incidents which would impel my mother to seek another path for me.

    It's strange to think that an electronic children's toy from 1978 was the catalyst for a future filled with Scientology, but that's pretty much the way it happened.

    I was a big, sensitive, overweight kid with tons of freckles -- literally, freckles everywhere. I am given to understand that, in recent years, freckles have become an increasingly hot commodity in the pantheon of beauty marks; however, in the seventies in small town America freckles were regarded as anything but beautiful. I was teased relentlessly about my weight and my freckles. I realize now that the bullies who delighted in targeting me did so precisely because I was always guaranteed to provide them a most satisfying response, be it screams, tears or tantrums. The best part about these responses, of course, was that there was never any repercussions to the bullies; that is, I never threatened them back, so all they had to do was laugh and tease me some more.

    During Christmas, 1978, I received a gift which I shall always remember fondly. It was called "Simon" and it was an electronic, musical memory game. My sister and I played it for hours. In 1978, it was absolutely the coolest toy any kid could have. Except for Transformers, of course.

    The following spring, I was on the playground at recess where I observed a group of girls playing pat-a-cake. Up to that point in my life, I had never paid any attention to stupid girl games. This day, however, they were teaching a new girl how to play. I became fascinated by the speed and complexity of the clapping, the chanting, the rhythmic intensity. It reminded me nothing so much as a particularly complicated game of Simon, except that both participants had to do the memory moves at the same time -- so, actually, it raised the ante and surpassed my beloved electronic toy. One of the girls -- a friend of mine who was even fatter than me -- saw me watching and invited me to join. Unable to resist, I did so.

    One of the school bullies saw me playing. You can imagine what happened next. I perhaps should say, you need to imagine what happened next, because, truthfully, the ensuing sequence of events is still quite muddled in my mind. My friend who was the fattest girl in school (why can't I remember her name? Lisa?) wasn't having any of it and told the bully exactly what she thought of him. This allowed the bully to tease both of us, as well as inviting the participation of a girl bully who began heaping abuse on the fat ones. At some point Lisa (my fat girl friend) burst into tears. At some point I became so filled with rage and hatred that I jumped on the boy bully and began beating him with all my strength. My only clear memory is a pair of very strong arms hauling me off my victim. When I looked at the bully (his name was Al) I realized with shock that his eyes were closed and a trickle of blood was spreading across the concrete under his head.

    So much for ARC.

    I'll never forget the expressions on the children's faces as the principal dragged me to the nurse's office where he personally cleaned the small amount of blood off my scraped hands. (The nurse, obviously, was attending to the unconscious Al.) My mother arrived just as the ambulance left to take Al to the hospital, sirens blazing. She was still wearing her Mervyns nametag from work. I didn't go to school the next day, a Friday, or even on Monday, which, apparently, was when the doctors decided that Al was going to be fine. Al's parents were poor and uneducated and we were never sued. I was a star student at school and received only a warning. For the remainder of elementary school, no one messed with me again. Indeed, there was a troop of boys who secretly wanted to play those crazily complicated pat-a-cake games and -- whenever I was clapping on the green -- they would join me and my girl friends.

    I didn't know it at the time, but my anger was becoming an increasing concern to my parents. It was around 1978 or 79 that my parents' Scientologist friends in Palmdale told them about a school dedicated to LRH's learning techniques that had been established in Oregon.

    I made it through the rest of fifth and sixth grades with no more incidents. Then, in seventh grade -- which I have to admit was a bad year for me -- I got into fights three times. Only one of these fights actually happened at school, so I only ever received a warning. The other two fights occurred elsewhere, with me returning home in tears and bruises. My mother became convinced that public school was turning into a disaster for me. The final straw occurred in the spring of 1981 as I was finishing seventh grade. I was at my locker where I dropped a pencil. After picking it up, I stood up to cream my forehead on the bottom corner of the locker door which yet hung open. Scalp wounds bleed a lot. I'll never forget the most popular girl in school dropping her books, pointing at me and screaming at the top of her lungs. My right eye suddenly felt weird and my vision blurred. I blinked several times, but the weird feeling and blurriness only got worse. Suddenly, I felt dizzy and fell to the ground. The next thing I knew I was lying on the cot in the nurse's office.

    When I returned home with a bandage on my forehead and my t-shirt soaked in blood, my mother totally freaked out. She simply could not believe that the school had not informed her that her son had knocked himself unconscious and then gone about his day with a bloody shirt. (There was just a little bit of blood soaked in the collar; it wasn't like a scene from a horror movie or anything. I actually thought it was kind of cool.) She took me to the doctor who confirmed I had a concussion and that I was to be both careful and carefully observed for at least a month. I still have that scar on my head.

    That was it. My mother was determined to send me to Delphi.

    (to be continued)