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Louis Theroux outside of the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)
Documentary filmmaker and journalist Louis Theroux has a lot to say about Scientology.
The Englishman says when he first found out about the religion in his late teens "it sounded weird and fascinating." This attraction has birthed a documentary, My Scientology Movie, which opens Friday in limited release and will be available on demand.
We caught up with Theroux, who, with the help of former Church member Mark "Marty" Rathbun, attempted to pull back the curtain on the relatively young religion, to get a sense of what he's learned about the unique concepts of the organization that enthrall so many of us.
"One of the things about Scientology that makes it interesting – and maybe a little weird to outsiders – is they have a fondness for using their own terms and their own jargon, and that comes straight from L. Ron Hubbard," Theroux says. "He also really liked acronyms, so there’s a lot of initials. And then, as a writer, he seems to have liked coining his own phrases and terms."
In the film, Theroux and Rathbun, who says he was a member of the Scientology's Sea Organization for 27 years, explore techniques allegedly taught during the Church's training routines. Here's a breakdown of their explanations, as well as the church's public definitions.
Mark 'Marty' Rathbun leads Louis Theroux through an exercise, which he says is how the Church of Scientology conducts an audit. (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)Bullbaiting
Scientology: No results for the term were returned on its website.
Rathbun:In the film, he says it's a lesson that teaches one "to have some forbearance and tolerance and ability to take some (expletive)."
Theroux: "It’s just learning how to withstand verbal assault and not be upset or show any visible reaction to unfriendliness or just keeping your composure," he tells us. "And so, you literally sit across from someone and they more or less shout abuse at you, and it can go on for hours. And you learn how to take it and then you dish it out as well."
In action: "Your wife really doesn't love you, at all," a woman says in the movie, with hopes of antagonizing Theroux. "She's (expletive) some other guy right now. It's probably someone you know. It's probably your brother if you have a brother, or a relative of yours."The Tone Scale
Scientology: "The Tone Scale below is a numerical scale (scaled to show relative position)," its website reads. "The vast majority of emotional tones a person experiences can be found somewhere on this scale." The site also states, "By knowing where a person falls on the scale, one can precisely predict his actions."
Rathbun: He shares the purpose of the exercise is "to make student clearly achieve Tone 40 (identified on the religion's website as the 'Serenity of Beingness') commands."
Theroux: This drill is "a little more mysterious," he told us, "... It’s to do with sort of taking mastery over the physical environment because the ideal state you want to be in is more or less a sort of disembodied condition of being able to exit your body at will and to sort of almost roam around the room."
In action: As part of the training, Rathbun directs Theroux to yell at an ashtray to "stand up" and "sit down" as he moves the object with his hands. After subsequent commands, Rathbun tells Theroux to "get the ashtray thinking that it is an ashtray," which trips him up.
"I'm going along with this, but it isn't making a whole lot of sense," Theroux says.
"Well, it's imagination," Rathbun explains.Squirrel Busters
Scientology: No results for the term were returned on its website.
Theroux: He tells us it's derived from "squirreling the tech," which, he claims, is how Scientologists classify those who attempt the Church's practices outside of the view of the organization, deeming it "the crime of crimes" in the film.
In action: Theroux alleges in the movie that Rathbun "was hounded and harassed" by the group in retaliation of attempts to start a rival church.
"... A team of guys wearing hats that said 'squirrel busters' on (them), kind of modeled on Ghostbusters turned up outside (Rathbun's) house," Theroux says during our chat, "and more or less camped out there for a period of months filming Marty and filming his wife and making their lives very uncomfortable."
My Scientology Movie is now in select theaters in in California, New York, Ohio, Michigan, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Washington.
The Church of Scientology has not returned USA TODAY's request for comment.
If programming regarding the religion fascinates you, check out our recaps of the A&E docu-series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath below.
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