By Charles Ealy, Austin American-Statesman, September 24, 2015
Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney and Austin writer Lawrence Wright bring their HBO documentary “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief” to theaters this weekend.
Like the book, the documentary traces the history of Scientology, with its founding by Hubbard and its overtones of 1950s sci-fi space operas. But as you might expect, the documentary does not delve as much as the book into putting Scientology into a cultural context. In fact, Wright takes great pains in the book to explain the difficulties of discussing religions, especially those that have fantastical elements, as many world religions do.
A key part of Scientology, at least for those who make it to the higher levels of church auditing, involves an event 75 million years ago in the Galactic Confederacy, which was filled with people who looked remarkably like Americans in the 1950s. Xenu, an evil overlord of the confederacy, decided to deal with some of his troublesome subjects, also known as thetans, by paralyzing and freezing them. He then transported them to Earth — which was, at the time, known as Teegeeack — via space planes that resembled a DC-8. Billions of the thetans “were dropped into volcanoes and then blown up with hydrogen bombs.”
Since thetans are immortal, their souls have been lurking on Earth for millennia, and they “attach themselves to living people.” And these thetans can stand in the way of our spiritual progress. Hence the need for the auditing methods of Scientology to discover and expel body thetans.
But the heart of the documentary centers on alleged physical abuse of church members, with some of them being placed in a facility known as “the hole” and made to participate in humiliating disciplinary games.
It’s a controversial film, and if you didn’t see it on HBO when it aired in March, this is your best chance to see it.