FSM’s are what Scientology calls their ‘field staff members’ who aren’t in the Sea Org but still in a way work for them. I was very close with my FSM & most scientologists are. It’s the FSM’s job to guide you onto your next action on the bridge.* Whether it be courses or auditing, whatever they believe you need as far as Scientology goes, is your FSM’s responsibility to handle the details of & make sure it gets done. And it is a job because they get paid for it. However much money you spend that your FSM helped along with, entitles them to a certain percentage of the money the church receives as payment. The church then turns right around & cuts a fat check, sending it straight to the FSM. I’ve seen FSM’s argue over people, even argue over who got a person to do what service & who deserves the money for it. It can actually cause some serious problems when people rely on that as a source of income. It’s big business for scientologists.
When I moved out of the house I shared with Jason in Los Angeles, I stayed with my FSM at her house. She thought it would be therapeutic for me to travel to FLAG to do grades 3 & 4 in Clearwater Florida. FLAG is known as the Mecca of Scientology. The Sea Org auditors there are renowned for being so highly trained. It’s the place you go to when you don’t want to be disturbed & instead can focus solely on Scientology. Its also the only place the higher OT levels are delivered. Accommodations are very expensive depending on where you stay, on top of paying for Scientology auditing. I shelled out $17,000 immediately for this trip & found out years later more money was taken out of my account that I didn’t authorize. I’ve still got $12,000 on account at FLAG that they flatly refuse to give back to me. Its just sitting there. I can’t get it back & I can’t use it. (I wouldn’t want to use it for Scientology services either) I tried getting a refund in 2010 & it was a joke to them. I jumped through all their hoops & filled out the appropriate forms to no avail. What I wouldn’t pay to have known then what I know now. Of course during this earlier time period I wouldn’t have imagined that Scientology was capable of stealing from me. Now it’s impossible for me to imagine that Scientology is about anything except money.
Since I’d just gone through the presidents office ordeal with my divorce, my mind was on that. It was swirling with doubts about everything, especially questions about core Scientology values. Or the lack of them. It was all happening so fast. I’d begun outwardly feeling invalidated by being made to do something against my will & angry about my lack of control over the outcome. Jason became some stranger to me that I didn’t know anymore. The landscape of the whole social dynamic I was a part of was rapidly changing & I starting seeing friends betray allegiances right before my eyes. People stopped calling me. Nothing was permanent like I thought it was which was really scary. I began to wonder about my future. I was already sensing a huge gap in how different I felt from the people I knew & it became a burden to fake it. The dichotomy of how perfect they acted like their lives were & how perfect mine wasn’t in comparison was too much. It was like I had to compete with Jason & his new life to prove how strong I was to everybody, it was ridiculous. Like no one wanted to admit that they ever felt bad & I couldn’t stand it how no one could listen to what I was going through without getting really uncomfortable. Even though I know now it was appropriate to feel the way I felt, scientologists were treating me like I just needed to get over it. Like something was wrong with me. Didn’t anyone ever feel sad for longer than a moment? Apparently not. It became obvious no one knew how to tell me to cope except to do something in Scientology that they swore would “handle it.” I don’t know if my FSM could sense me becoming depressed or what but that was also her suggestion. I had to do something so I readied myself to take off to Clearwater. I thought if it was going to help me, then why not. I just wanted all that pain to disappear.
I boarded the plane. This was right after 911 & the security at the airport was extra tight. I was sitting at the very front of the plane in the third row by myself reading, about two hours into the ride. It usually took about 4 hours to get from L.A to Florida so I settled in & started looking forward to the beach, drifting off into thought.
Then the most insane thing I think I’ve ever experienced in my life happened. I could hear a woman screaming at the top of her lungs from somewhere on the plane. Everyone started looking around wondering what the hell was going on as it continued getting louder & louder. We heard her running down the middle aisle of the plane forwards towards us & the cockpit. She kept screaming “we’re all angels & we’re going to die.” “The angels will catch us & we’re all going to die.” It freaked me out. She ran past me & I guess I went into shock. I think for a second everybody did. Then she starts banging on the cockpit door but thankfully it was locked. She was actually smiling as all this was happening. About this time I see 4 men come out of no where & tackle this lady to the floor. A man identified himself as an Air Marshal & a flight attendant came running up with these loose seat belt ties & they began to tie the womans feet & hands together, then tie her down onto the seat where the flight attendants usually sit. Just like in a movie, the captain came over the intercom & told everyone that there was a problem with a passenger on the plane. He asked if there was a doctor on board. A psychiatrist came forward & the Air Marshal asked if she had any medicine to calm the woman down so we didn’t have to make an emergency landing. She said she had valium & gave it to the lady. The psychiatrist sat with her the whole time trying to help the woman & even though she became calmer, the lady never stopped babbling incoherently. In my shock all I could think about was what kind of world this would be if there was no psychiatry like how Scientology believes & what that would really mean. Everything in my life was being put to the test, including my mortality & nothing was what I thought it was. I was wrong about so many things I once staunchly believed. My entire life’s philosophy seemed naive suddenly.
When I got off the plane I felt so weird. I didn’t know what to say about what had just happened. The car service driver from FLAG was waiting for me at baggage claim & I could see him holding up a sign with my name on it. He was also a scientologist. As we met eachother I noticed the stark contrasts in our moods. When we got into the car I started trying to put my thoughts into words. I knew it wasn’t necessarily his job to listen to me but I figured it would at least be ok for me to talk about. So I started to tell him. I don’t know if it was the idea that something I’d just seen could’ve had the potential to go very wrong or that everything in my life was proving itself meaningless in comparison, but I tried to explain what happened. The driver turned around & shot me a look like he didn’t know what to say. He paused for a second & said I was kinda being downtone* & needed to just put all my thoughts on being at FLAG. That I needed to be happy & forget the rest of the world. But I was tired of trying to forget the things that other people couldn’t understand. It was glaringly clear to me how disengaged Scientologists were with the real world. And how normal it had become for me to deny myself certain emotions. Was this something I was suppose to get accustomed to now or had I already learned to suffer in silence & was just noticing? Either way, I couldn’t ignore the emotional depths of how my life was changing.
I continued on with my visit to FLAG & slowly allowed myself to take note of the things I thought didn’t seem right. I ended up going home early because I simply didn’t want to be there anymore. There was something unnatural about it. Eventually, I let myself experiment with more complex emotional feelings without thinking of it like it was ‘downtone.’ I stopped being ashamed that I wasn’t perfect & that I needed time to heal from the traumatic events in my life. That was the last time I stepped foot inside a Scientology building or participated in any Scientology services. Of course I didn’t tell anyone, including my FSM how I felt because I still thought I could exist in these two worlds at the same time. But it isn’t compatible. Being in Scientology requires the total abandonment of asking questions. It became the beginning of a new beginning for me, where I no longer felt like I had to conform to some perfect ideal of who I was expected to be. It was far less glamorous. But at least it was real.
*the bridge is another name for scientology’s grade chart.
*downtone means the expression of an emotion that isn’t happy or content. Unhappy emotions in Scientology is usually indicative of a much deeper problem with the person & everything that happens in their lives is always their own fault. There’s a saying in Scientology that there’s no such thing as a victim. Even for children.