I have already extensively researched the "church", it's founder L. Ron Hubbard, and his successor David Miscavige, but I was still thoroughly amazed by the documentary. We kept looking at each other, thinking "What the f...????"
The basic ideas that Hubbard formulated for Scientology are not any crazier than some other New Age ideas. He claimed that people have mental blocks created by emotional or unconscious energy that has built up and not been resolved. Through instruments such as e-meters and the complex hierarchical system known as "The Bridge to Total Freedom," these barriers in our consciousness can be overcome. "Going clear" refers to the process of removing these mental obstructions.
Where it gets really crazy is in the more advanced stages of "The Bridge" when you begin to learn about Xenu and the history of the Universe, according to L. Ron Hubbard's wild imagination. You are only revealed this secret information once you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, of course.
Scientology preys on people who, by their very nature, are vulnerable and looking for answers. Unfortunately, this is also the strategy of many other existing religious faiths. Once a system of thought or belief reaches a certain size, it naturally begins to institute systems of control to maintain its structure. The only way to maintain a religious institution is to relentlessly keep recruiting people, & then ensuring that they don't leave the bubble of influence.
More importantly, Scientology seeks out high-profile people or celebrities who have deep pockets to donate to the organization's billion-dollar bank account. Meanwhile, certain members like those in the SeaOrg are allegedly kept in virtual servitude, working for less than $1/hr. Through an onslaught of lawsuits and legal delays in the 1990's, Scientology managed to secure tax-exempt status from the U.S. government, even though it should have been bankrupted from back taxes owed, instead.
The whole thing is totally bonkers, and the most disturbing thing to me is always the cult of personality that exists in these situations. The worship and reverence for serial liar and con-man L. Ron Hubbard is so stupid. The images of the members in their faux-military regalia, attempting to appear important, was the silliest thing to us:
It was definitely interesting to see how all the people who came out to speak against Scientology had (at one time) been true-believers & top members in leadership roles. They eventually realized they had been brainwashed and completely captivated by this organization. Each one was finally pushed to the brink by the church's shitty practices.
As someone highly resistant to following authority of any type, I personally can't understand the mindset that allows people to be manipulated in this manner. One look at L. Ron or Miscavige, and it's "clear" to me that they are power-hungry creeps. I guess people desperately looking for direction or deeper meaning in life are more easily swayed by those offering those answers.
Although I am very interested in merging scientific & spiritual worldviews, Scientology is not a good way of doing it. There is danger in any organization having unchecked power over it's members, especially when controlled by a single personality.
"Going Clear" was an excellent documentary, but it was pretty disturbing to watch. It gives a compelling look at not only the operation of Scientology, but how people get sucked into other cults & religions, too. Human behavior is an endlessly fascinating phenomenon...