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Going Clear: The Prison of Belief - Film Review

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by Jenny Esots (subscribe)
A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published August 12th 2015
Like No Church on Earth
A good documentary makes the viewer want to discover and uncover more about the topic. This is one such documentary. Going Clear is a biography of Scientology by Oscar winning documentary film maker Alex Gibney. The film examines founder L. Ron Hubbard and his rise to prominence in the 1950's with his religion Scientology. The moniker of Scientology sounding very like a melding together of his two obsessions in life, science fiction and understanding the mind (psychology being a forbidden word).

Going Clear
Going Clear


The film begins with L. Ron Hubbard's early life as a prolific science fiction writer. It then examines his army years and short-lived marriage. But there is little of his childhood. He is not painted in a good light, his pathological lying forming a big part of his personality. However he must have had considerable charisma, which led people to follow his teachings.

Going Clear
Going Clear


Scientology has its own jargon, which is related throughout the film. Going Clear is terminology derived following the audit process. Scientology presents the mind as having two major divisions. The reactive mind is thought to absorb all pain and emotional trauma, while the analytical mind is a rational mechanism which is responsible for consciousness. The reactive mind stores mental images which are not readily available to the analytical (conscious) mind; these are referred to as engrams. Engrams are painful and debilitating; as they accumulate, people move further away from their true identity. To avoid this fate is Scientology's basic goal. Dianetic auditing is one way by which the Scientologist may progress toward the Clear state, winning gradual freedom from the reactive mind's engrams, and acquiring certainty of his or her reality as a thetan: Source Wikipedia.

Auditing - Going Clear
Auditing - Going Clear


It sounds confusing to the uninitiated. But the documentary has close ups of various ex-members of scientology explaining their beliefs and processes. From these personal confessions a very creepy edge is exposed. But it is quite a riveting expose. This is like no church on earth. As the current leader David Miscavige asserts in a very evangelical auditorium 'You are either all in, or you're out.' Much airtime is given to the celebrity power, wealth and tax exemption status. But the more sinister experiences of members being forced to work long hours for very little money for years and years exposes a culture of fear and mind control. The catch cry of Scientology is to do away with war, criminality and insanity. But seen here, it seems to be everything they are actually creating. The large scale rallies of the faithful describing a war on the IRS (Internal Revenue System in the USA) and any dissenters who dare to leave the church.

Founder L. Ron Hubbard  image source Wikipedia
Founder L. Ron Hubbard image source Wikipedia


Alex Gibney is one of America's most prolific documentary makers. His film making focuses on examining human nature. His other recent work includes We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room - on corporate corruption and Taxi to the Dark Side - on the war on terror - for which he won an Oscar for best documentary. He has a reputation for taking on the tough issues and Going Clear is no exception. It is worth seeing for the methodical way it uncovers the often secret world of Scientology.

This film was recently shown at the Mercury Cinema, Adelaide. Look out for it when it gets a DVD release. It is well worth seeking out.
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