Ruthless: My Son David Miscavige and Me (UK Edition) | Ron Miscavige with Dan Koon | Silvertail Books | 2016
This book is based upon the experiences of Ron Miscavige, the father of David who is presently the ‘leader’ of Scientology. In it he discusses how he took his family into Scientology, how his son rose to power, and how he eventually escaped from a guarded Scientology compound.
From an outsider’s point of view this is an essential text for the things which Ron Miscavige reveals but, overall, a frustrating read.
The problem is with Ron himself. He is what people who study literature call an ‘unreliable narrator’ – he’s telling the truth as he sees it. Unfortunately, in his version of reality, Scientology should be taken seriously, and there are valuable insights in its early teachings.
Also, he is still impressed by writers who were big names in the (now largely forgotten) ‘New Thought‘ movement (AVA “Higher Thought). A list of recommended books appears at the end of his volume and recommends early works by Hubbard and some antique fringe writers of the ‘New Thought’ movements.
I happen to have one of the ‘New Thought’ texts he recommends (and will be putting it online in my next post). It’s a crude wish-fulfilment fantasy which depends on magical thinking. It claims that, if you follow the author’s instructions, you will be able to acquire anything you want, as long as you wish for it hard enough.
I’m not being sarcastic here. That’s literally the argument presented. If you are looking for a book with philosophical depth, or for a critical analysis of Scientology itself, you won’t get much out of this one.
Consistency isn’t Ron’s strong point either. At the beginning of his book, he describes how his son David was impressed by Scientology because it cured his Asthma. By the time we get to page 97 it is 1980. Ron and David are living on ‘Gold Base’ (a closed Scientology compound in Hemet California). David has to be taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment for… an Asthma attack. This strange contradiction is not explored – it’s just dropped in as part of the narrative.
An ‘Independent’ Perspective
These flaws are compounded by the fact that Ron’s ghost writer, Dan Koon, is an Independent Scientologist.
‘Indies’ are people who have left the official Church of Scientology, typically because they believe the present leadership has corrupted the founder’s teachings. However, they still believe that L Ron Hubbard’s ‘technology’ has value, and continue to practice and promote it.
From his point of view, Koon is scrupulously fair. Hubbard is presented as a man not a demi-god. It’s admitted that he could behave badly, and made mistakes. However, the habitual cruelty of his behaviour is glossed over, and his ideas are still taken seriously.
Also, you have to read carefully to separate the parts of the story that Ron personally witnessed from background material drawn from other sources and given a slight indie spin.
I think we can trust the reading public not to taken in by this. At this stage of Scientology’s decline, they have either dismissed Scientology out of hand, or know enough about it to know that it is nonsense. They are certainly not aware of the official/indie conflict, which will probably go over their heads. However, it’s wearing to have to have to read between the lines.
I wish Ron well. The story he presents of his own experiences is credible and corresponds with that of other writers. Either he is telling the truth, or he is part of the Mother or all conspiracy theories. His story is well worth putting on record. I just wish it had been done with a little more objectivity.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the book is provided inadvertently – an insight into the mind of a man who spent many years in Scientology (joining when Hubbard was still active) saw the chaos and abuse at the top, escaped from a guarded compound – and still thinks that there is something of value in the ‘philosophy’.
In conclusion, it’s a frustrating read for Scientology watchers and might puzzle the general public. Its greatest value is the fact that Ron’s name on the cover might persuade Scientologists to read a book which is critical of the CofS. That might be the first step in eroding the mindset that leads them to take Scientology itself seriously.
However, Judging from Ron’s list of ‘recommended books’, the sooner this happens the better.
“Ruthless” As Presented on US Television
The book was introduced to the US public with a feature on a TV current affairs programme, called 20/20 which tells much of the story- and also reveals Ron’s curious attitude towards Scientology itself. Despite everything, he still seems to still take it seriously.
This report also includes material that support Ron’s claims about Scientology’ aggressive approach towards critics and those who leave the church and Scientology’s practice of ‘Disconnection’.