Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was raised as a Scientologist but left the controversial religion in 2005. In Beyond Belief, she shares her true story of life inside the upper ranks of the sect, details her experiences as a member Sea Org—the church's highest ministry, speaks of her "disconnection" from family outside of the organization, and tells the story of her ultimate escape.
In this tell-all memoir, complete with family photographs from her time in the Church, Jenna Miscavige Hill, a prominent critic of Scientology who now helps others leave the organization, offers an insider's profile of the beliefs, rituals, and secrets of the religion that has captured the fascination of millions, including some of Hollywood's brightest stars such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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About the Author
Jenna Miscavige Hill was raised as a Scientologist. Since leaving the organization in 2005, she cofounded the website www.exscientologykids.com, which features the stories of current and former Scientologists and supports those who choose to leave the organization. She lives in Southern California.
Lisa Pulitzer is a former correspondent for the New York Times andcoauthor of more than a dozen nonfiction titles, including the New York Times bestsellers Stolen Innocence, Imperfect Justice, and Mob Daughter.
Read an Excerpt
My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape
By Jenna Miscavige Hill
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Jenna Miscavige Hill
All rights reserved.
IN THE NAME OF THE CHURCH
One of my earliest memories of Scientology was a conversation that happened when I was about four years old. At the time, my family was living in Los Angles in an apartment that had been provided to us by the Church, and one Sunday morning I was lying in bed with my mom and dad wondering what it would be like to be out of my body.
"How do I go out of my body?" I asked.
My parents exchanged a smile, much like the one my husband and I share when our son asks one of those difficult questions that can't really be answered within his frame of knowledge.
"Can we all go out of our bodies together and fly around in the sky?" I asked.
"Maybe," my father responded. He was always eager to indulge me.
"Let's do it now," I demanded impatiently. "Just tell me what to do."
"Okay, just close your eyes," he instructed. "Are they closed? now, think of a cat."
"Do we all think of it at once?" i asked, wanting to make sure I was doing it right.
"Yes," was dad's reply. "okay, one, two, three ..."
With my eyes closed, I waited, but nothing happened. I could hear my parents laughing, but I didn't understand what was funny and why they weren't helping me. Were they not allowed to help me out of my body? Could they only help at certain times? Could I only get out of my body when I was older? Was something wrong with me?
I knew I was a Thetan. I had always known I was a Theta and had never believed anything else. Theta was the term Scientology used for an immortal spirit that animated the human body, while the body itself was essentially a piece of meat, a vessel that housed the Theta. A Theta lived lifetime after lifetime, and when the body it currently inhabited died, it picked its next one and started over again.
The idea of having past lives fascinated me. I would often ask grown-ups to tell me stories about their past lives. I couldn't remember any of mine, but I was always assured that they would come to me eventually. My father's secretary, Rosemary, would tell me things that had happened in a past life of hers, when she had been a Native American girl. They all sounded so amazing and romantic to me. I couldn't wait until I could remember one of mine. I hoped I hadn't been a bad guy or a solitary old man. Surely, I must have been a princess at least once.
Back then, as young as I was, that was what Scientology seemed to be about: past lives, leaving your body behind, being a Theta. Beyond that, there wasn't much that I knew about it, but for a child who really couldn't understand the layers of complex belief, there was an excitement to it all. I was a part of something bigger, something that stretched into the past and the future; something that seemed impossible and yet somehow was completely believable.
And so, I sat there, eyes closed, waiting to fly around the sky with my parents at my side, waiting to leave my body behind. I didn't know then that only Scientology believed in Thetas. everyone I knew was in the Church, and as a third generation Scientology, my life was Scientology. My grandmother on my mother's side had started reading books by l. Ron Hubbard, the science-fiction writer and founder of Scientology, in the mid-1950s. on my father's side, my grandfather had come into the Church in the 1970s when an acquaintance told him about it. They'd each gotten hooked right away.
In Scientology, there was no god, no praying, no heaven, no hell — none of the things that people generally associate with religion. It was a philosophy and a self-help program that promised greater self-awareness and the possibility of achieving one's full potential. This unconventional self-help quality was precisely what drew both of my grandparents to it. Each, in their own way, liked Scientology's focus on controlling one's own destiny and improving one's life through a series of clearly laid out steps; each brought children in, nine on my mom's side and four on my dad's. once my parents joined the Church as children, they stayed. By the time I was born in Concord, new Hampshire, on February 1, 1984, they had been Scientology for more than fifteen years. from my first breath, I was a Scientology, but it wasn't until shortly before my second birthday that the Church actually began to shape the course of my life. That was when my parents decided to give up the life they had started in new Hampshire, move our family to California, and dedicate our existence to service in the Church. Prior to that we had been living in Concord, where my parents had built their dream house, a four bedroom, two bathroom wood-and-glass home on a parcel of land. Mom and dad both had well-paying jobs at a local software company, and my nine-year-old brother Justin was a fourth grader in the local public school. At least on the outside, our family had all the markings of a normal, suburban existence.
All that changed in the fall of 1985, when my father, Ron Miscarriage, Jr., went to Scientology's Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. Covering more than a few city blocks, the Flag Land Base was a massive complex that served as the Church's spiritual headquarters, a place where Scientology from all over the world gathered and stayed for weeks to months.
My father went down for a couple of weeks, and on this particular trip, the clergy of the Church, known as the Sea or organization or the Sea org, was in the midst of a massive recruitment campaign. The Sea Org recruited and employed only the most dedicated Scientology, who were willing to devote their lives to spreading Scientology to all mankind. l. Ron Hubbard had created the group in 1967 aboard a ship called the Apollo, which he referred to as the flagship. l. Ron Hubbard was a navy man and had a passion for naval traditions. The word was he had taken to the seas to research the spiritual component of Scientology without interruption or interference. There was speculation that he had moved into international waters to avoid accountability to the United States Food and Drug Administration, after some of his medical claims, such as applying his teachings could cure psychosomatic illness and other physical and psychological ailments, had been criticized by members of the medical community, who debunked his miracle cures as fraudulent.
Regardless of the reason he operated at sea, he mandated that the members of this special group wear naval-style uniforms and gave the Sea org its own navy-like rank and rating system, which set its members apart from other Scientology. He went so far as to have crew members address him as Commodore and high ranking officers as "Sir," whether they were male or female. He even selected his own group of personal stewards within the Sea Org who ran programs, related his orders, and followed up to make sure they were carried out. He called this important group the Commodore's Messenger Organization, CMO.
In 1975, the Sea Org moved onshore to the Flag Land Base in downtown Clearwater, where members lived and ate communally in facilities provided them. even though the organization was no longer stationed on ships, it still kept the naval terms from its sea days — living quarters were "berthing," staff dressed in naval style uniforms, and l. Ron Hubbard was still the Commodore. Ten years later, this was where my father found himself in the midst of the all-out recruitment effort. dad later told me there were Sea Org recruiters stationed at various locations around the Base looking for young, successful, competent, ethical Scientology.
Anyone who entered the Sea Org would have to sign a billion year contract that bound their immortal Thetan spirit to lifetime after lifetime of service to the Sea Org. It's members also had to work grueling hours, seven days a week — with minimal time off to spend with their families — often for as little as fifteen to forty-five dollars per week. Qualifications for membership included having never taken lSD or angel dust, having never attempted suicide, and having no anti-Scientology immediate family members. My father had once been a member and felt he still fit the bill. He was a dedicated Scientologist, he was willing to make the full commitment, and he was the older brother of David Miscavige, one of l. Ron Hubbard's top executives and a rising star in the Church. At only twenty-five, my uncle Dave was chairman of the board of Author Services inc., which oversaw all of the financial aspects of l. Ron Hubbard's copyrights, texts, and intellectual property from his writing. like my father, Uncle Dave had been a Scientologist since my grandfather had introduced the family to the church. from the start, Dave was so passionate that, with my grandpa's permission, he dropped out of high school at sixteen to join the Sea Org.
When my father returned home to new Hampshire, he informed my mother that he had decided to accept re-recruitment into the Sea Org. Although my parents had been in the midst of settling down, he again felt the calling and wanted our family to move to the Church's Los Angeles base, where we would begin our new life. Mom would have to re-enlist in the Sea Org as well, as Sea org members could not be married to non-Sea Org members. Without hesitation, my mother agreed.
As impulsive as this was, my parents knew what they were signing up for. not only had they both in the Sea Org before, they had first met at the Flag Land Base when each was only nineteen. At the time, they had each been married to someone else in the Sea Org. My father had a stepson, Nathan, and my mom had two-year-old twin boys, Justin and Sterling. My parents became romantically involved, got in huge trouble for it, as it was a violation of Church policy, and had to work hard to make amends for their behavior. eventually, they got permission to marry, and Mom's ex-husband remarried, too. Sterling lived with his dad and his dad's new wife, and Justin lived with my parents, but both twins were able to spend time in both households, an arrangement that made everybody happy.
My parents made a handsome couple. My father was five foot eight, slender but strong. He had sandy hair, a mustache, blue eyes, a warm smile, and was an all-around friendly guy. My mom, Elizabeth Blythe, known as "Bitty" to everybody, was beautiful, five foot six, and quite slim. She had hazel green eyes and brown hair that came down to her waist. Her ivory skin had just a few freckles. Unlike my father, she was a smoker, and had been since she was a teenager. Around strangers, she was shier and more reserved than my dad, but when she was with her friends, she was confident, blunt, and funny, with a very dry sense of humor. Mom was opinionated, and sometimes judgmental, but also an amazingly capable, woman.
Even with the huge time commitment that the Sea Org required, my parents had actually been happy there until the late 1970s, when they started getting frustrated with the management at the Flag Land Base. in 1979, after being in the Sea Org for five years, they both quit. While that was a breach of their billion year contracts, at that time leaving was not catastrophic. They were allowed to remain public Scientologists, loyal to the church, but without the full-time commitment of service to the Sea Org. For years after they had left, my parents' lives were normal. They lived in Philadelphia with my dad's parents for a bit before moving up to new Hampshire, where they lived a typical middle- class life — two working parents with job security, two children at home (they'd retained full custody of Justin after they'd left the Sea org), a nanny for the daytime, and a house built to order. Much of our extended family, including my father's sisters, Lori and Denise, and my grandmother on my dad's side, was also living in new Hampshire, and we were on a path to settling down surrounded by family. it seemed like rejoining the ranks of the most die-hard devotees of Scientology could not have been farther from my parents' minds.
And yet, with one rash decision, they did just that, returning to the Sea Org and putting all of our lives on a drastically different path. What my parents knew at the time, and what I would only learn later, was that being in the Sea Org meant that they would spend a lot of time away from me. But that didn't change their decision. The Church was their priority, and their minds were made up.
Later, my parents would tell me that their decision was made spontaneously, without much thought, and in hindsight it was the worst decision of their lives. While I can't say whether they considered the impact that their choice would have on me, most likely I was just one of the many sacrifices they were willing to make in the name of the Church. They had quit once, so perhaps they figured that they could leave again if it didn't work out. Another part of their thinking may have been that they really believed it would be awesome to raise a child in Scientology, because I would experience Scientology from the beginning of my life.
There was likely a restlessness in them, a feeling that something was missing. They preferred being out in the world on an important mission and serving some higher purpose than being in new Hampshire, working nine-to-five jobs, and raising children. They were motivated by the Church's mission and they wanted to be involved in something bigger. one thing is clear to me: That decision was when normal stopped having a place in our lives. There had been an opportunity for our lives, for our family, to look very different; my parents considered that future, then walked away from it.
Excerpted from Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige Hill. Copyright © 2013 by Jenna Miscavige Hill. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
1 In the Name of the Church 5
2 LRH Drops His Body 13
3 The Greater Good 24
4 The Ranch 36
5 A Cadet's Life 47
6 Being a Cadet, Part II 65
7 Runaway 79
8 "Dear Jenna…" 90
9 Clearwater 102
10 Key to Life 115
11 Back to the Drudgery 128
12 Flag Again 136
13 The Golden Age of Technology 146
14 CMO Training 156
15 Mom 166
16 On the EPF 178
17 "Handling" Family 192
18 The Questions Begin 203
19 "Think for Yourself" 217
20 Punished 232
21 Security Checks 249
22 L.A. 258
23 My Choice 269
24 Dallas 280
25 The Celebrity Centre 293
26 A Secret Engagement 304
27 The Edge 313
28 A New Name 324
29 Australia 333
30 Lower Conditions 344
31 Gone 355
32 The Real World 367
33 Sharing the Truth 378
34 One Life 387
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Incredible insight into a world of child abuse and brain washing. I believe this woman and it is obvious that she has amazing strength to turn away from the only way of life she knew. I'm so happy she was able to escape and have the heart to tell her story. A good read and very informative.
"beyond belief" is an incredible account of the lives lived by people in "Scientology". I could not put it down and was in utter disbelieff at first that this could occur in this day and age. There is no question in my mind that brainwashing, threats and child abuse occurs daily in the lives of many if not all in Scientology. I will no longer watch any movie or any program associated with any actor or actress who is involved in "Scientology". The reason being, although Scientology theories may not be all that may be misleading, it is the fact that there is known proof of abuse (no matter what shape of form the abuse may come in) of what it is like living and growing up in Scientology and any actor or actress who stays active in Scientology is only condoning what is taking place. I hope I am not alone in protesting a boycott on actor/actresses that are actively involved in Scientology. Until those in power are removed and held accountable for their actions, WE SHOULD ALL BE ASHAMED IF WE RENT, WATCH OR GO ANY MOVIE, CONCERT OR SHOW THEY ARE INVOLVED IN.
Incredible Read!! A Must Read Book!! Wow! This book is detailed into the life of Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece to David Miscaige (CBO). Jenna is so brave as she delves into the darkest and most corrupt system that claims to be a church. It is harrowing to read that at the age of 2 she was raised at a camp of sorts for children, whose parents had dedicated their lives to the Sea Org. With Jenna’s parents away, somewhere within the organization, Jenna is indoctrinated into the beliefs and different levels within Scientology. There are so many moments that Jenna truly wants to embrace the lifestyle and sacrifice she has made as a Sea Org member (signing the billion year contract), however she soon can’t ignore or excuse the red flags that keep popping up. Over time, Jenna loses family members who are classified as “SP’s”, and she is alone with only the guidance of her Aunt Shelley and a few other higher-ups. However, there comes a point where Jenna truly wants her life, her independence, and sees the organization’s corruptions, abuse of power, and leaves the organization. There were many times I was just shocked by the depravity and isolation Jenna and others like her, experienced. Scientology isn’t a religion, it’s a way to gain higher power based on the money you give and who you are (star power). The sheer torture of working non-stop for little to no pay, the separation from family and friends, the cut-offs from those who dont’ support Scientology, and the paranoia surrounded by those in higher ups who fear that the organization’s image will be tarnished, motivates those in upper positions to abuse their power, demote people from their level, and really becomes more man based than God based. While Scientology doesn’t believe in God, they really look to LRH as the man with the plan. With some basic psychology 101 and e-meter readings, individuals are coerced through fear, removal of benefits ( like making a phone call), and falling behind a level (even if you already reached a level, you can possibly be stripped of it to start all over). Education is primarily centered around the teachings and not formal education (traditional schooling). So, there is a catch. If a person moves through all the levels, which costs thousands of dollars, by the time the highest level is reached to Clear-the person may feel rather stupid learning about the aliens and Xenu that they stick with it b/c of all the money invested. Likewise, with education-if a child is raised in Scientology, he/she will be behind educationally and may not feel useful in the outside world. So, in many ways this religion does cause a sense of learned helplessness and a person becomes dependent on someone in higher position to be validated. With so many secrets and trying to keep people in control, those in the Sea Org don’t want tv, interact too much with the outside world, and become truly dependent on the organization. Reading all the Jenna endured, I am amazed and inspired by her courage, tenacity, and willingness to ask questions-even when others didn’t want her to. Jenna brought great points to the forefront and one can only hope that people will look more deeper into the secrets and abuse that Scientology has done to its members. Overall, this was an incredible read and Jenna wrote this book in terms that non-Scientologists could understand, but that Scientologists would also understand and know that her experience is true. I hope that her book opens eyes and creates changes within the organization and the individuals that make up the “religion”.
my husband left me as a young mother with a new baby. A woman involved in Scientology wanted to 'help' me by signing me up with the 'contract''. I was not in a good place and probably would have signed up had it not been for the elusive comments about where my child would be and with whom. I did not sign up and the whole book gives me chills to think what would have become of my baby, then only a year old. Ms. Hill gives an amazing, unvarnished look at the sick, twisted entity that is Scientology. A lot of the book gave me chills as I think what our lives could have been like, living apart from each other. thank you for writing this awesome book.
Brave girl and a lucky one to have lived a life that opened her eyes to the goodness of real life where she is allowed to control the shots. Wonderful. I love these uplifting, eye-opening, feel good about life and life-changing books.
If, like me, you are looking for an in depth expose of Scientologies beliefs and teachings, this isn't the book to read. That's not to say that this isn't a book worth your time, or money. It's an excellent book regarding some of the inner workings and behind the scenes of Scientology. This book will serve you well if you have a family member or a friend who is a Scientologist, especially if they're a Scientology "insider" and you want to understand the fundamental teachings that are shaping and informing them. Personally, I'd love to see a book written by the author's parents, as well!
Wow! Great inside view of Sciencetology. Good for her in getting out. The true word of what the inside of a cult looks like. I couldnt put it down
"beyond belief" is a very amazing book!! I found it very hard to put down. jenna miscavige hill was the neice of the head of the church of scientology she made an amazing escape from the organization with her daughters cause she begain to questian there motives and their questianable motives and the abuse that she and her friends had to go through many secrets about the leader and this strange organization is shared in this great book wonderful read. great gift idea for friend or family. other book to recamend : inside scientology by janet reitman
There were sooooo many books on scientology (sorry, I won't give it the dignity of a capital "S"). It was confusing which one to choose to read...so trust me when I say I did the research for you. THIS is the one to read. It's a page turner as Jenna seems to take the reader week through week from the day of her entry into scientology as a little girl until the heartpounding day she escapes as a full grown adult. This book made me feel enraged, intrigued, amazed, frustrated, and at times even frightened. I never really believed in brainwashing. This story made me realize how little by little, day by day and event by event, a cult - yes i think of scientology as a cult-can brainwash someone. This is a must-read if you are curious about the scientology "church", which i loosely call them. That L.Ron Hubbard sure pulled a fast one decades ago...when he bet someone he could start a church and that he could actually get people to follow in it. That joke turned into a nightmare. There is a lot of scientology terms...you will come to know them as you read them, but I didn't know this until I was finished with the book...after the story is a short glossary with definitions you may want to refer as you read. When I finished this book, I researched videos on youtube. I found a video that actually frightened me. If you watch it before you read the book, it won't creep you out, it wouldn't have creeped me out. But after reading about these people, I was literally frightened and scared watching this woman at the door. So read the book first, then afterwards search youtube for 'scientology stalker', you will see exactly what I mean!
This book confirms my experience of people being held beyond their own will at the Ranch. This continues to this day. I believe the author should get an award for creating such an open new territory in writing. Nothing is more golden than personal experience. The only thing missing is other parts of scientology. I know they have space port landing port and library in nw new mexico when lrh's alien leader returns. You can see it on google maps sw of dulce. I hope the author creates further study into a second volume. Wonderful. Thank You. Brian Kortmeyer
WOW, what a ride!! I read this from cover to cover on my Nook and simply could not put it down. What an altered reality some people are living!! Don't miss this book, it's fantastic!
For anyone who has always wanted to know what Scientology is all about, read this book! This is first-hand account of life inside the secret world. Jenna gives a very detailed description of her life in the Sea Org. I highly recommend.
Always enjoy real-life stories from those that have been on the inside of such organizations. Well-written and a quick read yet very insightful!
She wrote her story like the events were normal and at the same time, you have to scream a silent scream for her to escape, page by page, because you realize that the practices of Scientology are against everything normal. Though she and her family are intelligent and well-balanced people, they are trapped in a mind altering deception as they are being choked to death...very slowly, unknowingly. I appreciate having an understanding what Scientology is, but having my curiosity fulfilled, I am appalled this so called church is allowed to remain that allows stealing normal human experiences-- preventing friend, family and love relationships, preventing you from having children and turning everyone into a robot for hard labor controlled by fear while being under more suspician than Big Brother and the KGB combined.
Very informative; everyone should read this book to get inside knowledge of this "Cult".
Amazing story, I couldn't put it down. I wanted to reach into the book, pull little Jenna out and hug her and tell her that the real world isn't like the freaky secret cult world. This book is fascinating , yet horrific. It is such a horrible cult, and celebrities who believe in this crap should open their eyes. Buy this book though, it is gripping.
Eye-opening book. What I can't seem to wrap my head around is why so many people get sucked in and surrender every part of themselves to something that causes so much destruction. I'm glad Jenna and her family were able to escape this horrible cult.
To put all of this crazy information together and make it understandable could not have been easy. I never could understand the weak mindedness of people who where sucked into a cult. Now I have even more respect for the people who escape one. It must take an enormous amount of money to keep this joke of a religion going. Hopefully sooner rather then later these fool celebrities will stop paying so much money just to have their ego stroked. Best wishes to you Jenna and Dallas.
Was very hard to read regarding what the children had to suffer and endure. I cried so hard for all those children, and was so ANGRY with the parents who subjected their children and continue to subject their children to this horrible cult. Didn't understand why, when given the opportunity, the author decided to stay in the cult, but, I was very happy there was a silver lining.
What a life for a child to be raised in an organization (would not honor it with the word religion) where your parents are kept from you most of the time. The constant punishments and being controlled...I felt so sorry for Jenna, just happy she is free now and shedding light on what goes on in Scientology
I was waiting to read this book because i really wanted to get a glimpse of the inside world of Scientology and see what people were fussing about, I was disappointed because I was expecting so much more instead all I got was a thick book with Scientology jargon and "auditing" it got to the point where I couldn't wait for the book to be done. There were some parts that were pretty decent but for the most part I was unhappy. I would not recommend the book.
The story is a very sad and scary one. It tells of her journey with Sciententology and how from birth she is isolated from her parents. The way the children are treated is sick and terrible. These people should be locked up. Im so glad that she is brave enough to share her story and hopeful save another lost soul. This is a cult and a bad one.
I could not put this down. I believe Ms. Hill finally has found her "hat", saving others from true evil.
Excellent account of Jenna's experience with Scientology. Very well written and I found it difficult to put down!
Couldn't put this down....anyone curious about this so called religion must read...