William Burroughs was introduced to Scientology by Brion Gysin, a painter, writer and performance artist. Gysin invented the ‘cut-up’ technique used extensively by Burroughs (in which extracts from existing texts are conbined with the writer’s original contributions, to form a sort of literary collage).
Through the 60’s Burroughs developed an interest in Scientology. He saw in its ideas a means to resist the controlling influence of a corrupt society upon the individual. This can be seen in his novels “The Ticket That Exploded” (1962) and “Nova Express” (1964) where Scientology is one of the tools that the protagonist uses to retain their freedom. In 1967, Burroughs took several Scientology courses.
It is ironic then, that Burroughs left Scientology in 1971, after becoming disillusioned with the Churches authoritarian nature and persecution of dissenters. He was later formally assigned a condition of “Treason” and expelled.
Burroughs criticisms were directed at the way the organisation behaved, not at Scientology itself. He still believed that it was a valid therapeutic technique. A similar opinion is held today by ‘Independent Scientologists’ – people who still practice Scientology, but have have left the Church of Scientology because they believe it has been corrupted by the founder’s successors, and yearn for the ‘golden age’ when it was under the direct control of L Ron Hubbard.
It is interesting that Burroughs became disaffected with the Church of Scientology when it was still under the direct control L Ron Hubbard – but has exactly the same complaints as modern Scientologists.
“Ali’s Smile” is a curious, violent and pessimistic short story, which begins when the central character receives a formal letter of ‘Disconnection’ from a Scientologist friend. The remainder of the book contains a number of reviews, articles from newspapers and magazines and other short works that articulate Burroughs idiosyncratic assessment of Scientology.
These are minor works, which are only of interest to readers who want to learn every last available item of information about William Burroughs &/or the experience of Scientologists in the early years of the Church.