This post is dedicated to and in loving memory of Alexander Jentzsch. I never met Alexander, but there is much of his life and circumstances I can relate to as they mirrored my own in many ways. Alexander was one of so many who lost their lives in an untimely manner – in, around or because of Scientology.
There’s really not much I remember about my very early childhood.
However here are two events I very clearly remember.
First, was the loss of my father when I was 2 years old, which was my first personal experience with Scientology’s practice of disconnection.
Second was my mother’s decision to join the Sea Organization. Shortly after my 4th birthday we arrived to the Sea Org, I’ll detail much of that later.
So this post covers, in sum, how I “got into” Scientology and how I became another of Scientology’s orphans.
I was born in Manchester, England in January 1975. My name at birth was Claire Ward. I was the first born daughter of my mother, Margaret Mary Geraldine O’Sullivan, married name Gen Ward, and my father Graham Ward. My mother was 18 years old at the time of my birth.
My parents had joined Scientology as teenagers, before my birth. To my knowledge, my mother was recruited by her brother, Frank O’Sullivan.
So you could say my birth was my introduction to Scientology, this is the path that was preselected by default, by virtue of the fact my parents were scientologists. Little did I know the complexities of the web of life I had entered.
So to answer the question of how I “got into” Scientology, I was born into it. Scientology was never my “choice”, it was my chosen path.
Being born into Scientology is quite like what I imagine it would be like to be born in prison. The exception being that, from the second one can understand the idea, one is indoctrinated to believe that the “outside” world is a dangerous place, full of bad people. The “dangerous environment” as it’s referred to. So in that circumstance, and with a deep seated fear of the real world, how would one leave? It took me 30 years.
When I was two years old my parents divorced.
Much later, when I was 7 or 8 years old, my mother told me my father cheated on her. She told her version of events:
My father worked a job, and every day Gen packed a lunch for him that he’d take with him. Well, the day came when he forgot his lunch. Being the dutiful wife, she arranged to take the lunch to his workplace so he wouldn’t go hungry. On arrival, she found the business was closed that day, which supposedly led to the revelation that my father was cheating on her. Whether this is true or not, I could not say. I’ve never talked to my father, never heard his side of the story so I withhold judgment.
However by this time (and this is the part my mother never mentioned), my mother and father had vastly different opinions on Scientology. My father wanted nothing further to do with Scientology, and from what I’ve learned, Scientology was the demise of their relationship, and was at the center of what led to their divorce.
All opinions aside, that rings true for me.
I can remember the day my father left. I remember thinking I must have done something wrong or upset him in some way. It made me sad.
My mother later told me I stopped talking altogether for a while. Her solution was to take me in to the Scientology organization in Manchester to ask them what to do about it – they told her to tell me what happened and give me the full “R-Factor” (reality factor, Scientology’s terms for giving a full explanation for something so one can understand and relate to what’s going on).
So now my mother found herself as a single, teenage mother of a young child.
I can relate to the difficulty of the situation she faced, and I can even put myself in her shoes and imagine that she might have envisioned she was making a good decision by joining the Sea Organization. But in all fairness, I feel it would have been more honest if she would have simply put me up for adoption than the choices she made subsequently. That may sound bitter, and yes, I certainly have latent anger about my childhood, but I mean this in all sincerity. As much as I loved and still love my mother, I would not wish my experiences on anyone.
When my son turned 4, I was hit with a wave of grief and anger, realizing that I was his age when my mother joined the Sea Organization. And this is what I mean when I say that motherhood helped me gain perspective on my own childhood. I had never really given much thought to the events of my childhood. I had no perspective on what a “normal childhood” was.
As a mother, I consider anyone who grew up in Scientology’s Cadet org to be one of Scientology’s orphans. Whether their parents were “there” or not, turning a child over to 18 hours a day childcare simply does not count, by any stretch of the imagination, as “raising” a child.
So the day came in early 1979 when a Sea Org member arrived to my grandmother’s house in Manchester (where we were living at the time). This Sea Org member was from Saint Hill, in East Grinstead Sussex and he was here to take my mother and I to “start duty” in the Sea Organization.
All our belongings were loaded into the car, and my grandmother waved us off.
All that was warm and loving about my life to that point was left behind in Manchester.
From this point forth, my life became a dark, dreary and miserable thing, causing me to cling to my mother, who was the last remaining remnant of the life I had previously known.
To be continued….