Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion points us to a distressing story coming out of Australia. It’s the story of Kylie and Nathan Zamprogno. According to Nathan, his wife was essentially brainwashed through use of the “repressed memory therapy” by an organization run by John Darnell.
Nathan Zamprogno now runs a blog called The Palimpsest. He’s running a three part series on his investigation of Darnell’s organization and his experiences, although as of this writing he’s only up to part two.
The first post, Who are the Shepherd’s Heart and what do they believe?, lays out his take as an amateur journalist examining the organization from the outside.
The Darnells believe they have a special calling. For years, they have received people (disproportionately, women) whose initial presentation may only be of emotional distress. Some may have diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illnesses. They believe that their calling is to assist their subjects recall, acknowledge and then heal from trauma, even abuse, experienced earlier in life. Critically, the subject may be entirely unaware they had endured this abuse and trauma until the Darnell’s techniques produce distressing recollections that then have to be interpreted and processed.
One of the interesting things is that John Darnell has acknowledged that he believes that the British Royal Family are actually reptiles. That means that Darnell is a fan of British conspiracist David Icke. I have a hard time thinking of a more damning statement.
The second post, In which Nathan’s wife is stolen away by a cult, is more painful:
I lost my wife, Kylie, to a cult. I believe their influence ruined her health, her career, and robbed a 6 year old boy of his mother. That they unpicked the threads of her life and of her mind. That she cast aside her home, her wider family, even her name for the sake of a pseudo-Christian group that she had never met six months previously. She now goes by a name given to her by the cult, Hope, after she was told that the person named Kylie had never existed. At a point where she was mentally unwell and exceptionally vulnerable, this cult misdirected her therapy, providing instead what a psychologist identified as a “treatment program” written by a group who believe Nazi-built, demonically piloted UFOs kidnap women and impregnate them to create a race of half-demon super soldiers. They took the most febrile delusions occasioned by her illness and convinced her they were real; that she was the victim of Satanic abuse; that she could speak to Jesus Christ and had a gift of prophecy; that her multiple personalities were evidence of demons that had to be exorcised; that she was involved in spiritual warfare against “astral travellers” from local covens who psychically bombarded her and the group; that her real family were evil. Crazy, evil stuff.
Darnell is particularly frightening, because he seems to combine the charismatic cult-leader style with the paranoia of a conspiricist. Consider the cover of his book Satanic Strategies: UFO’s, satanic ritual abuse, nephilim, church infiltration … clearly this man has never met a conspiracy that he didn’t like.
As always, Richard Bartholomew has more information.
I found this review of Hugh Urban’s The Church of Scientology to be very interesting. Urban seems to be a qualified analyst of minority religions and esoteric traditions, with previous works on Tantra and American esoteric traditions in India and America. He also seems to have some works on the political uses of fundamentalism in America which I should probably check out.
The whole review was interesting, but this passage stood out to me:
Hubbard had frequently compared life to a game, and he didn’t want to be ‘playing some minor game in Scientology. It isn’t cute or something to do for lack of something better.’ The game hinged on the idea that we can choose what we perceive to be ‘true’, and discard everything else as an illusion. Yet soon Hubbard’s postmodern religion strove to become a ‘real’ one. His followers – among them hippies as well as educated and ambitious young people – surprised him with the intensity of their belief. Hubbard told a group of doctoral students in Philadelphia in 1954 that his followers were more convinced of Scientology’s cosmology than he was. ‘I’m just kidding you mostly,’ he said. ‘I don’t believe any of these things and I don’t want to be agreed with about them … All I’m asking is that we take a look at this information, and … let’s see if we can’t disagree with this universe, just a little bit.’
That’s a very different way of looking at Hubbard than I’m used to, and that quote is very telling. I’m used to seeing Hubbard and his followers as either scammers, lunatics or dupes. But if you are (for lack of a better word) postmodern enough to believe that you can create your own reality, then what better way to shape this new reality than by creating a religion?
And this might go some way towards explaining why so many of Scientology’s most prominent followers are actors or authors. These are people who work at creating a new reality for their audience.