Monday, August 7, 2023

Book Report: Going Clear

General Overview 

The book "Going Clear" written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Lawrence Wright, was published in 2013 and dives into the secretive and controversial world of Scientology, a religious movement founded by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. The book provides an in-depth history of Scientology, focusing on its origins, beliefs, and practices. It explores the life of L. Ron Hubbard,  the person behind the movement, and also the transformation of Scientology into a global organization with the influence it has on its members' lives. The book reveals its aggressive tactics, stories of abuse, exploitation, and manipulation of members through auditing records, and the intimidation members felt about speaking out. The author also investigates the celebrities that were involved in Scientology, including Tom Cruise and John Travolta. 

Favorite Part/ Relation to Class

The most interesting portion of the book to me was on a topic called “The Bridge to Total Freedom,” which is Scientology’s primary journey to achieve spiritual freedom. In the book, it is described:  “[a] journey that goes on and (although confoundingly, in the Scientology metaphor, one moves ‘higher and higher’ - up the Bridge rather than across it” (page 19). This part of the book was the most intriguing to me because it introduced the idea of group thinking in Scientology in order to climb the ladder to spiritual freedom. Group thinking is a phenomenon in psychology in which one’s desire to conform to a group can lead to irritation or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. In the context of Scientology, this plays a major factor in the decisions that members may make to advance their journey. The book highlights how Scientology’s tight-knit community even encourages this, promoting the idea that unconditionally accepting the teachings leads to achieving spiritual enlightenment, downplaying dissent, or any critical examination. Fear of rejection and isolation often comes with drawbacks, such as the lack of critical decision-making, believing outcomes are due to external factors, and being disconnected from reality. The illusion of spiritual freedom that offers a major incentive for these members, leading to group thinking, made the part about “The Bridge to Total Freedom” stick out to me.


These ideas directly correlate to social media platforms, which can amplify group thinking within a community. Like Scientolhy, social media is home to many individual communities where one can echo their beliefs and validate their experiences/thoughts. When validation occurs, it can further strengthen one’s commitment or weight on the teachings or beliefs within the group. To align themselves with these groups in seeking acceptance, one may alter their mindset or challenge their own beliefs. To top this off, the platform that social media offers people the chance to spread these ideologies to the masses.


Overall, “Going Clear” serves as a book that describes the interplay between beliefs, conformity, and manipulation in Scientology. In revealing the effects of group thinking on its members, the book offers a reminder to readers to be mindful of the consequences of putting critical thinking and individualism to the side for inclusion.

Scientology Pacific Area Command Base in Los Angeles

The Scientology logo

If you have an HBO MAX subscription, you can watch the Documentary on Going Clear!



Wright, L. (2013). Going clear. scientology, Hollywood, and the prison of belief. Vintage; Illustrated edition.

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