Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief Audiobook, by Lawrence Wright Play Audiobook Sample

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Author: Lawrence Wright Narrator: Morton Sellers Publisher: Random House Audio Audio Length: Release Date: January 2013 Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download ISBN: 9780385393058

Plot Summary

An honest revelation, a deep investigation into the culture of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of the classic examination of the September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda, The Looming Tower. Drawing on more than two hundred interviews, conducted by the author, with former and current Scientologists – some famous, others not – and years of archival investigation, Lawrence Wright utilizes his exceptional research skills to bring to light the mysterious ways of the Church of Scientology.

At the book's core are the two men who built Scientology into what it is today, brought to life by Wright's vivid prose: L. Ron Hubbard, the darkly gifted science-fiction author whose fitful and far-reaching imagination invented the new religion. And David Miscavige, his stalwart and ambitious successor, whose lot it was to perpetuate the church in the wake of Hubbard's death.

Wright portrays Scientology's complex cosmology and unique language. We learn about how the church recruits celebrities, like John Travolta and Tom Cruise, and how the stars are exploited to further the church's ambitions. We are introduced to the young idealists who have signed a billion-year contract to join the clergy of Scientology, the Sea Org.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief takes a deep look at what essentially makes a religion a religion, and whether or not Scientology is a bona fide religion, deserving of constitutional protection. With an expert journalists' sense of understanding, observing and shaping a story into a irresistible historical narrative, Wright presents a fair yet fiercely penetrating report that uncovers the very heart of the institution that Scientology has become.

Lawrence Wright is a graduate of the American University in Cairo and of Tulane University. In addition to being an author of nonfiction books, he is a screenwriter, playwright and novelist. He lives with his wife in Austin, Texas.

Publisher Summary

National Book Award Finalist

A clear-sighted revelation, a deep penetration into the world of Scientology by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Looming Tower, the now-classic study of al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attack. Based on more than two hundred personal interviews with current and former Scientologists—both famous and less well known—and years of archival research, Lawrence Wright uses his extraordinary investigative ability to uncover for us the inner workings of the Church of Scientology.

At the book’s center, two men whom Wright brings vividly to life, showing how they have made Scientology what it is today: The darkly brilliant science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, whose restless, expansive mind invented a new religion. And his successor, David Miscavige—tough and driven, with the unenviable task of preserving the church after the death of Hubbard.

We learn about Scientology’s complicated cosmology and special language. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how such stars are used to advance the church’s goals. And we meet the young idealists who have joined the Sea Org, the church’s clergy, signing up with a billion-year contract.

In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of this constitutional protection. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observation, understanding, and shaping a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that reveals the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.

From the Hardcover edition.

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  • “An utterly necessary story…A feat of reporting. The story of Scientology is the great white whale of investigative journalism about religion.”

    - Wall Street Journal
  • “Not only a titillating exposé on the reported ‘you’re kidding me’ aspects of the religion but a powerful examination of belief itself.”

    - Entertainment Weekly
  • “A hotly compelling read. It’s a minutiae-packed book full of wild stories.”

    - New York Times
  • “Powerful…essential reading.” 

    - New York Times Book Review
  • “Lawrence Wright brings a clear-eyed investigative fearlessness to Scientology—its history, theology, its hierarchy—and the result is…evidence that truth can be stranger even than science fiction.”

    - Washington Post
  • “Who’d have thought a history of a religion would offer so many guilty pleasures? Lawrence Wright’s enthralling account of Scientology’s rise brims with celebrity scandal. To anyone who gets a sugar rush from Hollywood gossip, the chapters on Tom Cruise and John Travolta will feel like eating a case of Ding Dongs.”

    - Los Angeles Times
  • “Absorbing…The book’s most intriguing aspect, though, is not its treatment of Scientology…but its raising general questions about the nature of faith and reason and the role of religion in American life.”

    - Chicago Tribune
  • “A gripping, exhaustive, remarkably evenhanded investigation of the religion everyone loves to hate.”

    - Newsday
  • “Insightful, gripping, and ultimately tragic.”

    - Boston Globe
  • “Revealing and disturbing…A series of devastating revelations that will come as news even to hardened Scientology buffs who follow the church’s every twist and turn.”

    - Daily Beast
  • “A wild ride of a page-turner, as enthralling as a paperback thriller.”

    - Salon
  • “It’s incredible. It is an incredible, fascinating read. It is like a pirate novel, but there are celebrities in it. I admired [Wright’s] chutzpah, he’s like Don Quixote.”

    - Hairpin
  • “Eye opening.”

    - Publishers Weekly
  • “A fascinating look behind the curtain of an organization whose ambition and influence are often at odds with its secretive ways…The sheer scope of the church’s influence and activities will be jaw-dropping.”

    - Booklist
  • “Devastating…A patient, wholly compelling investigation into a paranoid ‘religion’ and the faithful held in its sweaty grip.”

    - Kirkus Reviews
  • “Narrator Morton Sellers makes a fearless attempt to put an objective spin on this fact-driven work…It’s downright chilling to listen to what money, power, and single-mindedness can create out of a vulnerable population of, in some cases, highly intelligent individuals. This is a good listen for those who enjoy controversy in their audiobooks.”

    - AudioFile


  • A USA Today bestseller
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” for Nonfiction, January 2013
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013
  • A New York Times bestseller
  • A 2013 Booklist Editors’ Choice for Adult Books
  • A Publishers Weekly bestseller
  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books, Best Nonfiction 2013
  • A 2013 Chicago Tribune Book of the Year
  • A Huffington Post Best Book of 2013
  • A 2013 BookPage Best Book
  • A #1 Los Angeles Times bestseller
  • A 2013 Entertainment Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • An NPR bestseller
  • A San Francisco Chronicle bestseller
  • Finalist for the 2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Current Interest
  • A Washington Post bestseller
  • A 2013 Washington Post Top 10 Book for Nonfiction
  • A 2013 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A 2013 National Book Award Finalist
  • A 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2013 Salon Magazine Best Book

Customer Reviews

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  • Overall Performance: 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5

    " Really great read, especially when viewed in the light of Wrights book on fundamentalist Islam. Really fascinating portrait of a modern religious icon - a smart guy, creative genius and ego mad sociopath. The only downside was the salaciousness that comes along with the discussion- necessary considering the scope of the project, but a bit of a bummer. Don't read this unless you don't mind not enjoying tom cruise movies, cause after you read this book, you'll probably need to find a new action hero. "

    - Aaron, 2/18/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " All I can say is 'wow'. Mr. Wright obviously spent a LOT of time and trouble to make sure what he put into print was as correct as he could make it, since the subject of Scientology is extremely secretive to the point that it reminds me of when I was a child and the boys had clubs in treehouses, and girls were not allowed. We were never allowed to know what they did when they were in their fort. My personal thoughts on scientology: L. Ron Hubbard was born four years before my own father, and they shared some of the same qualities. In fact, my own father was about the same age and was obese, hadn't seen a doctor in over 50 years, and died of a series of strokes over a period of three years until the last big one. He was also as money and power hungry as Mr. Hubbard. I had been estranged from him since I left home the day of my 21st birthday. My father also wrote a lot of fiction and non-fiction, and musical pieces, none of which he could find a publisher for. However, rather than trying harder, he became very embittered. He was raised Roman Catholic, but by his own choice became a Buddhist when he was in his late 40s, although I honestly don't think he had a clue as to what that entailed. I know that I will be forever grateful to him for taking me to Buddhist services in the San Luis Obispo area when I was 12 - 14 years old. I felt so much at home there as compared to the Catholic services I attended intermittently. My father, unlike Mr. Hubbard, didn't talk about the soul being a thetan, or use the terminology that Hubbard did, although he fervently believed in reincarnation and talked to me about past life memories. When I was sixteen, I had my first out of body experience when I was asleep. At the time, I did not know anything about what is called astral projection, although my father and I shared the ability to see things in dreams before they happened. It was because of him that I read voraciously about the Theosophists such as Madame Blavatsky, J. Krishnamurti, and Annie Besant, among others. I also had met Alan Watts several times when I was a child. He and his wife lived on a houseboat in Sausalito. My parents used to have gatherings of interesting people come to the house when I was a small child, such as Alan Ginsberg, a famous general from WW 2, Alan Watts and his wife, and a man I only knew as 'Dorje'. My father was a very bitter man and it seemed to me, like Hubbard, he wanted to be rich. He paid lip service to Buddhism, but he didn't really embrace it. On the other hand, the idea of universal compassion, connectivity, the Eight Fold Noble Path, etc. appealed greatly to me, and still does to this day. I was also introduced to Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings by my father and we visited the place where his body was lying in Encinitas, CA. I absolutely loved that place. It was so beautiful. Later, I read Yogananda's autobiography several times and it remains one of my favorite books to this day. He came here from India to show the West the connection between spirituality and science. It was from him that I became familiar with the idea of the universal law of cause and effect; i.e. karma, the idea that the observer is not separate from what is being observed and other ideas that quantum physicists are just now starting to put together. Now - as to L. Ron Hubbard, here is what I think happened in his life. This is my opinion only, but after reading this book, it makes a lot of sense. I believe he awakened the kundalini, or serpent fire, which lies coiled at the bottom of the first chakra in most human beings. Whether it was accidental, or he was literally playing with fire, I cannot say, but I believe that he indeed awakened that force and he was far from ready for the experience. When that happens, a person may become extremely ill, suffer all kinds of strange symptoms, and can literally cross the line into a state of psychosis or schizophrenia. Mr. Hubbard was a very paranoid person and he believed his own delusions about intergalactic evil overlords like Xenu, etc. He was convinced that this is what causes disease and cancer, etc. The man was very charismatic, but he was also rather amoral in that he married, I believe three women, without bothering to obtain a divorce from any of them. However, he was very proud of himself because he could write thousands of words per day in his pulp fiction writing, and also his book on Dianetics. (I was rather surprised to read that Robert Heinlein was a friend of his). He, of course, loathed psychiatrists and psychologists, and so did my own father. His college room mate is a rather famous one and I can say from experience that most of them are arrogant, look for easy answers and are just as wrong as Hubbard was in his ideas. Hubbard took some of the ideas of the Theosophists, the Hindu religion, and Buddhism, and put them all together to make his own belief system. He also invented a language to call actions or people or souls by different names. A soul is a thetan. (Guess he liked the Greek letter theta :). As time went on the man became much more paranoid to the point where he would no longer go out into public, although he had followers in Great Britain and the United States. Other countries, like Australia, Venezuela, and Greece would not let him land there. This was when he operated on a fleet of ships since he had been in the Navy during WW 2. However, it seems that he lied about awards that he received for bravery and valor, and inuries he endured. The only thing he came home with were stomach ulcers. The author of this book did his due diligence on all of that and more. Mr. Hubbard claimed he studied mysticism in the far east (he did not), he claimed he graduated from college and had a degree in civil engineering and another subject. It turns out that he couldn't cut it, and he was asked to leave. (My father did not have those problems). The man seemed to be a pathological liar and lied even when telling the truth would have served him better. He became so paranoid that he had some of his followers, including his first wife, break into FBI offices, IRS offices, etc to steal files and also to bug their phones. His wife did time in prison for him and for her loyalty to him, he never spoke to her again. Honestly, it seems to me there is NO science involved in this so-called parody of a religion. Even today, they prey upon young people who are alone or who want to get into show business, or even couples who have problems with their relationships. And some of the first steps they do does seem to help people. However, instead of 'counseling', they 'audit' you and that process does not come cheap. Most people have shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to this organization and received nothing but confusion and even harm of one kind or another in return. They ignore the child labor laws and if you happen to disagree with the powers that be, in this case, David Miscavige, the man who succeeded Hubbard after he died, you are likely to get punched in the face and ordered to clean floors with a toothbrush for a period of up to two years. Children as young as six are put to work. Hubbard was one kind of person, David Miscavige, in my humble opinion, is simply a violent and very short sociopath. His own wife left him not too long ago. He also loves power and money and woos celebrities like Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Lisa Marie Presley and others, not only for their support and money, but to put Scientology in the pubic eye. I think it is a load of crap, but people want to believe so badly in something, that they are basically tricked into this pseudo-religion. Hubbard and Miscavige both were/are homophobic, bigoted and if they have famous members, they encourage them to spill everything when they are 'audited' and then if the people want to leave, they blackmail them with the information that they learn. No honest religion would ever do that. Even the Catholic's confessional is private; or at least it is intended to be. Nowadays, when people think of Scientology, they think of Tom Cruise and/or John Travolta, although Miscavige privately laughs at Travolta because he is a gay man, even if he is married to a woman. I have heard in the news that Tom Cruise wanted to leave after Katie Holmes left him, but it seems he changed his mind rather quickly. Since this is not a true religion, they should pay taxes, but the IRS gave up on them in the mid 90s. I honestly hope they look into it again. Australia won't even allow them in the country. They are looked upon as not just ludicrous, but actually dangerous. And they are. Why in the world would a religion need a stockpile of automatic weapons? This was a fascinating book; I had heard some terrible stories about scientology from a friend of mine and what happened to her and at the time, I didn't really believe her. I do now. They also have a drug "rehab" program which involves hot saunas and taking Niacin (vitamin B3) in massive quantities which causes a person's skin to flush and "stuff" to come out of the pores in the skin. I remember in the 1970s magazines such as "Prevention" were even recommending it for system cleansing and to lower blood pressure. Until they found out that large quantities damage the liver. It makes the subject's skin tingle, so of course, the guinea pig will think the niacin is doing something, and they tell people they feel "great", alive and full of pep. Personally, I think that is the placebo effect. B Vitamins may be water soluble but all of them can be dangerous if taken in huge quantities, and there must the right balance between them also. Just taking huge quantities of one is plain stupid. I think these folks must get a bounty on each person they can bring into the fold because I had a FB 'friend' who I know now was grooming me to try it, although I am not a good hypnotic subject and I made up my mind years ago Scientology is crazier than the man who invented it. What is funny about that was that I kept asking him questions, and finally, he wrote back and asked me what I wanted from him!!!!! Then I said something else to him and he blocked and deleted me. That confirmed my suspicions. He is a published writer, but I cannot bring myself to read another word of any of his work, because I honestly suspect that he has someone else writing the books with his name on them. I only am sharing this so that everyone learns to be carefulwho you talk to on social networking sites. You would think a writer would be above reproach. Not so, folks, not so. I suspected he was a scientologist so I googled him, and yes, he is. Of course he never told me that, although he quoted Krishnamurti to me a couple of times. I am not going to mention any names; just that this writer's ethics leave a lot to be desired. If one is truly compassionate, spiritually minded, kind, then one is also honest for the most part. (I realize that it is okay to lie to a person who is trying to rob or carjack you for instance). But I found it quite interesting that I had the ability to make him back away from me in fear, so to speak. All I wanted was honesty. Guess that was too much. I think it is for anyone who believes in this sick facsimile of a religion. After all, the whole crowd of them believe lies, so why shouldn't they lie? Even if they say they believe in karma.....:) That, my friends, is not possible. Sorry for the length of this, but I found it to be an excellent book and all the author's sources are listed in the back. "

    - Valerie, 2/14/2014
  • Overall Performance: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

    " Chilling. Fascinating. Stick it out..it starts off slowly with a lot of foundation building, but a third of the way in the book takes off. "

    - Bree, 2/11/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " A brilliant, insightful and balanced study of a truly fascinating religion. I don't think Scientology will ever get a fairer shake. "

    - Matthew, 1/28/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " An exceptional, deeply researched examination of Scientology and the lies, deception, violence and mythology that are under the surface. Part L. Ron Hubbard biography, part chronology of a cultish new religion, all engrossing. It looks daunting, but moves swiftly. Highly recommended, especially for those interested in Hollywood and the bizarre. "

    - Ryan, 1/22/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " The book did get a bit gossipy at times, but overall it was a fascinating, well-documented book that gave great insight into a secretive part of society that few Americans know much about. "

    - Cathy, 1/14/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " This is a dynamite book. I think Wright did a great job being even-handed in his discussion of Scientology, and the biographical sections on LRH. The story is so compelling, I had a hard time putting this one down. Highly recommended. "

    - Karen, 1/6/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " Wow! Scientologists are WHACK! "

    - Mandi, 1/6/2014
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " I may be biased as a psychiatrist when it comes to Scientology, but L Ron was a disturbed individual! "

    - Ajay, 12/31/2013
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " Like Under the Banner of Heaven, this book exposes this organization. If you like reading investigative work, this is well researched work. "

    - Diane, 12/19/2013
  • Overall Performance: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5

    " I read Wright's New Yorker essay in 2011. This book...this book. I took a night without internet and read it in a single, horrified sitting. Wright is incredibly even-handed, I think, which makes the "church", LRH, and Miscavige still more fascinating/terrifying. I am almost without words. "

    - Wendy, 12/19/2013
  • Overall Performance: 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5

    " It had some chronology issues that made it a bit hard to follow at times, but it was certainly well researched and thorough. "

    - Sam, 10/10/2013
  • Overall Performance: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

    " Incredible that human beings can be so gullible... and, on the other hand, can perpetuate such an enormous joke on so many people. Scientologists are certainly not the first - nor will they be the last. Fascinating book! "

    - Dotty, 10/6/2013
  • Overall Performance: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

    " Very interesting read. I had to constantly remind myself there are 2 sides to every story but so many defectors of Scientology say the same stories. I'm just glad that I or anyone I know hasn't had to go through an experience like the people in this book. "

    - Donovan, 9/18/2013
  • Overall Performance: 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5

    " Much more than you've ever wanted to know about L Ron Hubbard and Scientology. What a bunch of fruitcakes!! But very scary tactics. "

    - Diane, 8/11/2013
  • Overall Performance: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

    " You know how I can tell this is harrowing? This includes the words "until his teeth fell out." Also the footnotes are EPIC. "

    - Suzie, 2/28/2013
  • Overall Performance: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

    " I thought generally fair and very comprehensive. Thought-provoking about what consistutes a religion. Very detailed and my head started to swim after a while with all of the names and terms specific to Scientology. "

    - Jpread, 2/23/2013

About the Author

Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of two novels and ten books of nonfiction, including several New York Times bestsellers. His books have received many prizes and honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower. He is also a playwright and screenwriter, and he plays keyboard in the Austin-based blues band WhoDo.

About the Narrator

Morton Sellers is an audiobook narrator. His readings include Going Clear by Lawrence Wright.