The James Randi Educational Foundation newsletter published a letter from
former Scientologist Dan Garvin, describing some of his experiences and
the cash prize that Randi offers for demonstrations of paranormal
"In 1974, when I was 17, I got interested in Scientology as a 'scientific'
way to attain mystical super-powers, which I had already believed in
before that. Within two years I had joined their Sea Organization, the
elite group of top Scientologists. Sea Org members have to sign a
billion-year contract in order to join. Since Scientologists believe in
past lives extending for more than 76 trillion years, and the ability to
recall these lives fully, there is nothing symbolic about this contract.
They really mean a billion years, and their motto is, 'We come back.'
"Sea Org members are the most dedicated Scientologists of all. In addition
to their long-term commitment, they live and eat in communal quarters,
have almost no freedoms, or time off in which to exercise freedoms if they
had some, or money to enable them to afford those freedoms. They work and
study the works of Hubbard, and occasionally are rewarded with bits of
'auditing,' the Scientology technology for making people better, happier,
healthier, more powerful, and ultimately giving them TOTAL SPIRITUAL
"I signed my billion-year contract and was in there with the best of them.
I remained wholly convinced of Scientology's effectiveness for almost the
entire twenty-five years I remained in the Sea Org. In about 1999 or
2000, I was still a believer and still a Sea Org member, but I was
gradually growing more disgusted with the way the church and the Sea Org
were run. I was in that frame of mind when I heard James Randi as a guest
on Al Rantell's talk show in LA. You were advocating mandatory licensing
for people claiming psychic abilities -they would have to demonstrate
their abilities to a licensing board, which of course none of them would
be able to do.
"I was thinking 'How come some Scientologist doesn't claim this prize?
After all, we are the ones who really can do these things. There are
prohibitions against showing off in public, but that came from back when
New Age wasn't cool.' You'd think at least one of those would claim the
prize, not being encumbered by the church's regulations.
"It took a year or two, but I finally had to decide that the reason nobody
claimed the prize was probably that nobody could, not even top
Scientologists. I certainly had never observed any paranormal phenomena
that couldn't be explained conventionally. My heretical thinking
eventually led me to leave the Sea Org. I didn't leave Scientology yet,
but I knew that before I invested any more of my life into it, I was going
to have to see some actual evidence, not just more glowing success stories
or PR from the church itself. Sea Org members are utterly forbidden to
access the internet, and all Scientologists are forbidden to look at
information critical of Scientology.
"One of the first places I looked, after I got out, was the JREF website.
There wasn't much about Scientology, but it was clear that no
Scientologist had won or even tried to win the challenge money. Within a
couple weeks I got up the resolve to look at Scientology's secret
upper-level materials, posted in part on www.xenu.net. They're supposed to
kill you if you read them without the proper preliminary Scientology
levels, but they've been out there for quite a few years and nobody has
died, so I looked. It made specific claims about Earth's history that
could be disproven. And since it was wrong, it meant all of Scientology's
top levels, where you get your magical superpowers, were based on a lie, a
mistake, or a delusion.
"That was what took me from doubter to full-blown ex-Scientologist. Once I
was out from under the spell, I learned a tremendous amount that had never
made it past Scientology's censors: criminal behavior, horrible abuses,
vicious reprisals against critics and especially against plaintiffs.
"Scientology's lies and practices cost me my marriage and well over half
my life. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have escaped with my
mind intact. Others have been driven to acute or permanent mental illness,
and some to suicide.