I rarely take any interest at all in celebrity marriages, separations and divorces; they are just too, too boring. So far as Hello and other celebrity fanzines are concerned I’m a hopeless cause. However I’ve made an exception for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, whose bust up is bursting out all over our national press. I’ve made an exception because the rift is over Cruise’s scientology fad.
People are strange but one would really have to be strange indeed to embrace this bizarre mishmash, to embrace a cult that is allowed to masquerade in the States as a religion. In writing about this previously I said that I found out an awful lot about the movement from;
...watching South Park…an episode called Trapped in the Closet, which featured Tom Cruise, an aficionado of the cult. The actual beliefs of scientologists were touched on, accompanied by an onscreen caption saying “This is what Scientologists actually believe”. And, my goodness, it’s weird. It’s beyond me how any normal and reasonably intelligent person could be taken in by this claptrap…even Tom Cruise.
Yes, even Tom Cruise! But the occasion for his failing marriage is really not all that amusing, demonstrating, at least so far as I am concerned, the kind of moral depravity that these cults induce in their aficionados.
Holmes is said to be divorcing Cruise because she believes that he was planning to send their six-year-old daughter Suri to a centre run by Sea Organisation or Sea Org, described in the reports I have read as scientology’s ‘hard core elite’, a cult within a cult that demands that followers sign up for (cue the drum roll)...a billion years. Hey, that’s some contract, Tom. I think you must be as loopy as, well, Poor Tom from King Lear!
The base of this organisation in California gives the impression of being run like a kind of concentration camp. Here a form of brainwashing is at work, with children as young as Suri being bombarded with over one hundred intrusive questions. While they are answering they hold something referred to as an ‘e-meter’, a contraption which supposedly acts as a lie detector.
Sea Org is clearly the scientology equivalent of the Jesuits. Members are subjected to the strictest standards of discipline. One former ‘brother’ claims that he was locked for eighteen hours a day with no food in a punishment block called ‘the Hole.’ Beatings, apparently, are commonplace.
The centre itself, known as Gold Base, some ninety miles from Los Angeles, has the kind of security that one might have found around Hitler’s Bunker, with razor-wire fences and what looks like a camouflaged sniper’s nest. Yes, a real home from home, just the sort of place where one wants one’s daughter to be schooled.
Details of the brutal regime were revealed by, amongst others, Paul Haggis, the movie director, himself a former cult member. In an interview with the New Yorker he compares the billion year pledge made by children as young as ten to the treatment of child slaves in Haiti. Haiti, that’s clearly a pertinent parallel in more ways than one, as scientology seems to me to be a form of voodou and the members, like Cruise, little better than zombies.