An increasing number of reports tell about the efforts made by new religious movements to establish themselves in the former Eastern Bloc countries. One of the most controversial cults, Scientology, has been particularly successful in this attempt
With the collapse of Communism, western businesses are not alone in their desire to cash in on a vast new market. With the demise of eastern Europe’s totalitarian regimes, a sinister force is determined to fill the ideological vacuum in the former Soviet bloc.
Writing in Scientific American, Professor Sergei Kapitza has commented that “the recent profound changes in the USSR have released a flood of antiscientific feelings. These public attitudes have found powerful expression in numerous manifestations of irrationality and interest in the supernatural.” While Russian scientific magazines devote progressively more space to experiments in spoon-bending and human magnetism, a far more dangerous return to superstition is underway. More dangerous because it is not the manifestation of a few cranks, but the deliberate and careful strategy of a multinational, billion dollar organization.
Transcendental Meditation is not the only cult to have claimed the fall of the wall as a consequence of its spiritual efforts. The Moonies are not the only ones to dine with perestroika’s elite. While the sight of shorn Krishnas in Red Square may send a shiver of surprise through western tourists, something far more ominous is happening in Mother Russia.
The highly controversial Scientology cult is rapidly moving east, spearheading its assault with its supposed rehabilitation group Narconon. While U.S. authorities were refusing a licence to Narconon’s largest centre, declaring its methods unsafe, the Russian Ministry of the Interior was endorsing a proposed 400-bed Narconon hospital.
It began innocently enough with a visit to England by former cosmonaut General Popovich. Perhaps being the fourth man to see the blue planet from space made an altruist of the General. Russia is failing to cope with one of the worst rates of alcoholism in the world, and Popovich was in England to sign agreements supposed to initiate a new treatment for alcoholics and other drug addicts. He was accompanied by one of Russia’s leading experts in drug abuse, Dr Vladimir Ivanov. Dr Ivanov has worked in the field for 20 years, is head of a department in the Ministry of the Interior, and also leads the Union for the Salvation of Children and Adolescents from Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Also on the mission to England were Igor Andreov, deputy chief editor of Izvestia, and Leoniv Todorov, assistant to the general director of the Soynz Theatre.
The four Russians signed an accord to establish a drug treatment programme in Russia. But their visit was not to a British medical establishment, nor even to a drug treatment centre. It was to the headquarters of the controversial “Church” of Scientology. The group sponsoring the visit is a registered charity called Narconon, created by Scientologists in 1966. It continues to be a recruiting ground, converting drug addicts and alcoholics into Scientologists.
In December 1991, the Mental Health Board of Oklahoma denied permission for Narconon to open a treatment facility. The Board ruled that Narconon’s methods, all developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, are “unsafe”. The Board found that staff are “inadequately educated” and that the programme has “potential medical risks”. In spite of this, plans go ahead for the 400-bed Narconon facility in Moscow. The much promoted project is called the “East/West Against Drugs” campaign.
Meanwhile, Russian pop star Sasha Malinin has visited both Scientology’s Association for Better Living and Education, and its subsidiary Narconon, in Los Angeles. He and his doctor wife have committed themselves to setting up yet another Narconon in Russia.
The Narconon programme centres on Scientology’s Purification Rundown. Hubbard was so pleased with himself after releasing the Rundown in 1978, that he assigned unlimited funds to a Scientology project to acquire a Nobel prize for his “discoveries”. As already noted, scientists have been less enthusiastic, as has the Nobel Committee.
The Purification Rundown consists of a daily schedule of five hours in the sauna combined with a short period of running and immense doses of vitamins. Victims have suffered this programme each day for as much as six months. One doctor who ran the programme for several months has said that it is “potentially lethal” if misadministered. Even Hubbard’s own doctor, who helped research the Rundown, has insisted that it must be monitored by a medical doctor. The Purification Rundown is only rarely so monitored, and Scientologists in Britain, Holland and the U.S. have died whilst on the programme.
The chief causes for concern are heat exhaustion from the sauna, which can cause brain damage, and overdoses of vitamin B3, which has been linked to liver failure. Victims of the Rundown suffer from drug-like experiences which they are told are evidence of drugs and pollutants leaving their bodies. It is far more likely that these states are a result of vitamin overdose. A leading nutritional expert has pointed out that the high doses of B1 used on the Rundown are capable of causing disorientation and hallucinations.
In the 1950s, having made the farcical claim that he was a “nuclear physicist”, Hubbard co-authored a childish text called “All About Radiation”. In it he claimed that radiation sickness and even cancer could be treated with a vitamin mixture which he called Dianazene. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration confiscated and destroyed a huge shipment of these Dianazene pills. Despite this earlier setback, the Purification Rundown is also claimed to “run out” accumulated radiation from the human body.
In 1991, the Russian Academy of Medical Science sponsored the use of the Purification Rundown on Chernobyl Vicims. Three high-ranking Scientologists were sent east to administer the Rundown. In a hangover from the old days, David and Sheila Gaiman, from Sussex, England, and West Country doctor Dorothy West received medals for their work. They were invited to return to conduct a more extensive clinical study.
The Gaimans are former senior executives of Scientology’s Guardian’s Office, which was retitled the Office of Special Affairs after 11 members, including Hubbard’s wife, were jailed in the U.S. In a recent Canadian trial, the Church of Scientology was convicted for Guardian’s Office infiltration of government and police agencies. The Gaimans’ own company, G&G Vitamins, has benefited greatly from Scientology’s use of megavitamin treatment in the Purification Rundown. Dr West has been the subject of newspaper allegations regarding recruitment of patients into Scientology.
Scientology has lost no time in capitalizing on the ideological vacuum in eastern Europe. Hubbard’s “Road to Total Freedom” is available at centres in Prague, Breslau, Dresden, Leipzig, Budapest, Szolnok and St Petersburg. There are also centres in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Some 25 Hungarians are in training at the British headquarters, and lectures have recently been given at the University of Kiev.
In St Petersburg in 1991, British Scientologist Peter Wakley helped resident Tania Rudukova set up a Scientology Franchise or Mission, following 15 lectures sponsored by the Russian Institute of Culture. Wakley’s first talk was given at St Petersburg University, and by December 1991, Scientology was boasting 800 graduates from its Dianetic therapist course as a result of Rudukova’s exertions. She was flown to the US to be presented an award by Scientology’s Executive Director International.
Moscow State University – the oldest in Russia – has taken to Scientology with similar enthusiasm. L. Ron Hubbard has been awarded the University’s first posthumous doctorate – in literature. It is unclear whether the award is for his Scientology work, or for his “pulp” science fiction and cowboy stories. Worse yet, the University has renaed its Library of Journalism the “L. Ron Hubbard Reading Room”. At the entrance, the traditional bust of Lenin has been replaced by one of Hubbard. The room is decked out with photographs of the former cult leader and houses a collection of his Scientology books. The Library of Journalism contains none of the hundreds of discouraging articles so far written about Hubbard and his “Church”; nor presumably Hubbard’s own disparaging statements about journalism. Journalists are actually forbidden membership in Scientology.
To add insult to injury, the L. Ron Hubbard Reading Room was opened by Boris Yeltsin’s first aide. It is some consolation that the Dean of the Faculty has admitted that the renaming was part of a deal whereby the Scientologists paid to refurbish the Library. How much the doctorate cost the cult is unknown. Hubbard ran into trouble during his lifetime by adopting the title “doctor”, because of a degree from Seqoia University – a long-defunct California diploma mill. Indeed, Hubbard publicly resigned this earlier “doctorate” in 1966, saying “In protest against the abuses and murders carried out under the title of ‘doctor’ I abandon herewith all my rights and legitimate use of this title as the name has been disgraced”.
One of Hubbard’s many fanciful claims was that he was offered Ivan Pavlov’s chair at Moscow University in 1938. The claim is ridiculous, but in an ironic twist the current holder of that chair – in Normal Physiology – has become an ardent Scientologist. Professor Evgeni Oumriokhine and his colleague Nikolai Fudin visited the British headquarters of Scientology in 1991 to take the Purification Rundown. Oumriokhine has taken other Scientology courses and received “processing” at the hands of a Scientology counsellor, and has qualified as a counsellor or auditor himself.
Most recently, Scientology magazines sport pictures of Red Guards smiling and holding out copies of Hubbard’s booklet “The Way to Happiness”. The as yet non-Scientology magazine Sobecednik has already distributed 550,000 copies of the booklet. Advance orders for Hubbard’s 1940s novel “Final Blackout” in Russian are said to have topped 300,000. The publication of this imaginative science fiction yarn will be immediately followed by that of a million copies of “Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health”, which first established Hubbard in the guru-trade in 1950. Scientology’s policy since hiring the world’s largest PR firm in 1988, has been to “position” Hubbard as “one of the most acclaimed and widely read authors of all time” then follow up his sci-fi books with his sci-fi therapy.
A document published by the Church of Scientology, in Britain, claims “we now have senior Ministers in the Albanian Government reaching to get LRH’s [Hubbard’s] Administrative Technology”. The document goes on to quote from an “Albanian Government dispatch”:
“We think that the mentioned topics will be the first concrete steps towards introducing to our country L.Ron Hubbard’s technology for administrative, business and improvement purposes. The Ministries we run are interested to promote and foster LRH’s Administrative Technology in our society so as to benefit from the advantages of this policy and practices.”
The “dispatch” goes on to request that the Church of Scientology distribute 30,000 copies of Hubbard’s “The Way to Happiness”, and provide training for Albanian businesses in the use of the Scientology personality test.
How well the Albanians and their fellow eastern Europeans can resist Scientology’s sophisticated hard-selling techniques, we can only wait to see. But it seems likely that within just two years of penetration, Scientology may already be larger in eastern than in western Europe. The Church of Scientology has recently been found guilty of criminal charges in Canada, arising from the infitration of government and police agencies and the theft of tens of thousands of documents. Scientologists have also been convicted in the U.S., Denmark and Italy. However, the terrible corollary is that despite a European Council ruling in February 1992 that all member states should fund cult-information groups, none of the member states has done anything either to implement this ruling or to advise eastern Europeans of the danger.
Counter Scientology Europe, headquartered at the Dialog Center International in Aarhus, Denmark is seeking funding for a Europe-wide information centre, so that both western and eastern Europe can be properly warned about the true history and techniques of Scientology. Counter Scientology Europe will provide information to government agencies, the media, academics, and those whose lives have been affected by Scientology. We will train counsellors to help former members, and encourage dialogue with current members. We feel no opposition to Scientologists, only to the system they have fallen victim to. The new centre has the largest collection of Scientology documents found anywhere outside the Church of Scientology, and can call upon the world’s leading experts including both university professors and attorneys expert in cult litigation. We welcome both assistance and donations.