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Sasha Zbitnoff

Part 1

These letters appeared in ARS in September 1999 and I webbed them as part of my Scientology Kids page. I have been critical in the past towards apostate stories exaggerating their claims, but found these letters on the contrary thoughtful and respectful of Scientologists. Their style is excellent and the stepped installments help keep the reader's interest.

The letters are interesting in that they describe from within the mindset of someone who was born and raised in Scientology, the process of "waking up" to the outside reality, and the reaction from his immediate environment. What is also of interest is that they show that it is mostly the cultic assertions ingrained in the belief system itself rather than any strict rule that leads Scientologists to disconnect from friends and family members, and that not all of them necessarily do so.

From: sashaz6092@my-deja.com
Newsgroups: alt.religion.scientology
Subject: Letters to a Scientologist
Date: Sat, 25 Sep 1999 01:57:48 GMT
Message-ID: <7sha6n$2re$1@nnrp1.deja.com>

These are letters I wrote to an old Scientology friend. I was born and raised in Scientology. The letters below out-line my experience of questioning the church, leaving, and subsequent communications with past Scientology friends. I invite comment.


From: Sasha Zbitnoff <szbitnoff@earthlink.net>
To: Lorin
Date: Thursday, July 22, 1999 2:08 PM
Subject: A New Comm-Line!

Dear Lorin,

I first must say thank you! I am truly pleased to hear from you and your interest and care for where I'm at and how I'm doing. Hearing from this dear past of mine is a sensitive area for me, with some hurt and pain, but your reach is most warmly welcomed and appreciated. Thank You!

When we spoke we agreed that we would open a comm-line to assist in addressing some of the difficulties I experienced through my process of questioning the Church, my departure, and my subsequent communications with past Scientology friends. Scientology was an integral part of my upbringing, and I continue to have a great appreciation and respect for the organization; I gained tons in the process of reaching Clear, and I remember great friends and a strong community. Through our communications, it is my hope (as I assume it is yours) that I could reconnect, to a greater degree, with the community and friends I once knew so well. To this I say, let us begin!

While there are many factors and experiences that affected me in questioning my relationship with the Church of Scientology, none of them were as profound or influential as my experiences in Australia. After the head-on accident I endured in the summer of 1990, I did the Key to Life course at the Sydney AO. The personal process I went through in Sydney greatly affected me and my subsequent communications and relationship with the Scientology community. One might consider this experience the root cause to my departure from Scientology, and the subsequent ARC breaks I had.

While studying at the Sydney AO, I often found myself in the PC lounge when I had free time. I met people with a varied range of experiences within Scientology. What most intrigued me were my conversations with those that knew LRH when he was alive. I studied so much of his works, and heard and read so many stories of his extraordinary life, I was very interested to hear the first hand experiences of working with and around him. I'd typically ask. "What was he like", and in return I would usually hear an experience which confirmed the magnificent image I had through childhood. He was indeed this great man, and I was honored to be born in an environment that gave me such an entrée to the religion he created.

After consistently hearing so many great things, I was left feeling that LRH was in effect, perfect. I never heard a story of him having a "bad" day; I always heard how great he was. It was hard for me to believe anyone was "perfect", but with everything I heard, I was left believing that LRH was just this. It left me in a bit of a quandary though, as I had a difficult time considering anyone as "perfect". I didn't know what to do; there was something peculiar about it to me.

In my travels to and from the AO, on the subway or bus, I began exploring my true personal understanding for the man. Who was LRH? Was he this perfect? Am I that lucky to be raised in a Scientology family? I pushed myself to better understand these questions. I decided to mentally "test" LRH's greatness: Suppose Hubbard was still alive, and suppose a terrorist had him at gunpoint. The terrorist gave him two choices: he could let the terrorist kill him, or he could find five people to die for him. Which would he choose? It was a peculiar and unreal situation, I know, but one that intrigued me.

At first the answer was easy: he would take his own life. He was that great. He could be more effective without his body. What a magnificent man he was, and how lucky I was to have been born in such an environment. I was pleased and relieved that he passed my "test". In fact, my praise for him only grew stronger over the next few days. Several days passed, and I found my curiosity only temporarily satiated. Something about the hypothetical "test" remained curious to me. Since LRH was dead, there was no way I could know, or even confirm anything I thought, so to some degree it was moot. Just the same, I carried forth. I decided to look at it another way: never minding how great he was, what if he wanted to get those five people, how easy would it be?


That's a new question! Even though LRH would never do it, how easy would it be for him to get those five people? This was curious to me. I began to conjure up scenes in my head of how LRH, or people close to him (when he was alive), could get these five people. I pictured someone in the RPF being approached, and being told that LRH needed her to help him keep his mission alive on the planet, or some such. What if it was LRH himself, asking this RPFer if she would die for his cause, would she do it? Could she say no easily? From that moment, I realized that it wouldn't be that hard for LRH to get five people to die for him. This was amazing to me. What did it mean? I didn't know, but from this realization I began to look at Scientology with a slightly different perspective.

I began looking at Scientology with a more questioning mind. I hadn't made any decisions to leave the Church, but I did want to better understand who L. Ron Hubbard was, and how the organization was structured. Perhaps this wasn't the way LRH intended the organization to be, or perhaps it was. How would I know? I know it was crazy to think, but what if he wanted that kind of control over people? I was fairly certain that this wasn't the case, but it certainly had me thinking.

The story continues, but I think it might be best to stop, and check with you to make sure you're understanding where I was coming from, and what I was looking at and questioning. For me, this is the root of my process to looking at Scientology differently. From this experience, I went through a series of experiences, which eventually lead to my departure from Scientology. It is my dear hope that I've come across clearly, and without any disrespect for the Church. I am more than willing to share more, but I figure it is best to take it one step at a time. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to ask any questions you have, I want this to be an open and honest comm-line, which I believe is the best way to clear any charge or ARC breaks.

Thanks again for your willingness to listen. I am very interested in keeping this comm-line, and working through this. Your interest and care is very much appreciated!

I hope your trip to Seattle is wonderful, and you have a great time at the wedding. I look forward to hearing from you in the next several days or week.

Best to you, Sasha


From: Lorin
To: Sasha Zbitnoff
Date: Sunday, July 25, 1999 7:28 PM
Subject: Hi

Dear Sasha,

So far so good. My only personal thought on it is that I think there are many people out there who will die for someone they love. But, I do understand the concept you are talking about and I can see your concern. Please continue the story.



P.S. I had a great time in Seattle. The wedding was beautiful.



From: Sasha Zbitnoff
To: Lorin
Date: Monday, July 26, 1999 10:29 PM
Subject: Continued Story

Dear Lorin,

Thanks for the response. Your acknowledgement and understanding is greatly appreciated. Just being acknowledged helped to blow some charge. Thank you! I also think your comment is interesting. Thanks.

Here is my continued story: After I finished the Key to Life Course, which I very much enjoyed. I left Sydney with a number of curious questions in my mind regarding LRH. I wanted to learn more about who L. Ron Hubbard was. The "perfect" image of him remained peculiar to me.

When I returned to the States, my father was at Flag, so I stayed with close family friends, the Clines. You might remember Robert Cline who went to Apple School for a short while, way back when. Robert was my best friend from when I was 2 to when I was 9. His mother, June, worked under LRH as the HAS on the Flagship, when the Sea Org was first at sea. The Clines were in the Sea Org for a while, but by this time they had left several years earlier, and had actually been off-lines for a few years, which I knew, but we remained good friends, and generally avoided the subject of Scientology.

One morning June and I went out for breakfast. I remember sitting across from her, with all these questions in my head about LRH. I also knew that she worked with him. She might offer a view of him that didn't sound so "perfect. " As she was off-lines, I figured she would be honest in her views. I also knew that I would have to be cautious with whatever she said, as I didn't know what led to her going off-lines. So I asked: "What was it like to work with LRH?"

She looked up; "You don't want to ask me." I replied, "Yes I do, what was he like?" She paused, "Your best bet is to ask someone in the church, they would be able to answer your question." I insisted, "Please, I want to know YOUR viewpoint."

Actually, I don't remember the exact words, but that's fairly close. I remember it took me a long time to get her to state her views on the subject. After a bit longer, I finally got it:

"I didn't like him very much. I found him to be greedy, and he would do what ever it took to get what he wanted. He was very intelligent, but at the same time difficult to work under."

TRUTH!! Finally I heard someone's honest view of the man that didn't sound so perfect. What a relief, and to be honest, it didn't bother me in the slightest. I would have been very content continuing as a Scientologist knowing that I had some "truth" on what he was like. Or at least something that differed from the views I constantly heard. I was very thankful to her, and ready to continue my Scientology career.

However, it wasn't so easy. She continued, "There's a lot more to the man that you may not know."

"Like what?" I asked.

"Well, a number of things, for example, he stole money from the church, he let his wife go to prison, and he lied about his past."

WHAT!? I was in complete disbelief. I was willing to accept that he was a bit greedy, but this seemed a bit much.

She went on, "There's a whole book that lists the records on his life, and his involvement with Scientology."

"Really?" I had no idea that there was such a book. She told me it was called Bare Faced Messiah. I hadn't heard of the book before she mentioned it. I was interested to see what it said, at the same time not knowing what to think about all of this.

When we got back to her house, she offered me a copy of the book. I read only the first 30 pages, and I had to put it down*. At this point, I was completely confused, and I didn't know what to think. I didn't want to talk to June or anyone else for that matter. I wanted to figure out what was true for me, as I had heard and read too many things that just didn't make sense to me. This was a very confusing time for me, and it was important to me that I figure out what I know.

*While the content of the book was very significant in what it had to say, I figure I will refrain from describing the content as I know the book is not condoned by the Church. If you are interested, I would be willing to give you a synopsis of what I got from those first 30 pages, and we could go from there (e.g. clear any obvious misunderstandings, etc.), but I want to check with you first.


Again, the story continues, but I figure this is another good time to check with you to make sure I'm making sense. As I said before, I figure it's best to take this one step at a time. For me this was very heavy stuff, and I want to be sure it's not too out reality. These are my true experiences, and I want to be clear, open and honest. I don't want to be disrespectful to the Church. I still, as always, feel that I got a great deal from LRH and the Church, and for this I continue to be thankful.

As before, I'm open to answer any questions you have. Your thoughts and comments are very much appreciated.

Thanks again, and I look forward to hearing from you over the next several days. Best to you, Sasha


From: Lorin
To: Sasha Zbitnoff
Date: Wednesday, July 28, 1999 11:03 PM
Subject: Pls Continue

Dear Sasha,

Please continue. This is not out reality for me. I'd like to hear your story in full. That way we will really be able to communicate and clear up any misunderstandings if there are any. It's good to be back in comm. I appreciate your honesty.

L, Lorin


From: Sasha Zbitnoff
To: Lorin
Date: Thursday, July 29, 1999 10:35 PM
Subject: Comtinued Story

Dear Lorin,

Thanks again for getting back to me. It's good to be back in comm with you too. As I said before, just being acknowledged has helped to blow some charge. Thanks! I also appreciate your accepting this in short episodes. Last year, I sent the "full story" to Donna Robinson (whom I mentioned in our phone conversation), but never got a response of any sort. My best guess is that I was too out reality. For this reason, I'm taking it one step at a time, please bare with me. I promise I'll tell you the whole story as long as you keep listening. Writing like this has also allowed me to be more thorough in telling the story, which makes for a more complete story. Thanks!

My story carries on: After reading the first 30 pages of Bare Faced Messiah, which left me in complete confusion, I decided not to talk to anyone about Scientology but myself. (I should note, I've decided not to get into the content of Bare Faced Messiah unless you are expressly interested. The content did impact me, but what it said is not as important as the process I went through. If you want to hear more about the content of Bare Faced Messiah, let me know.) I remember sitting by myself, on the porch of the Clines one morning, in great disbelief and confusion about Scientology. I didn't know what to think, or whom to believe. I wanted to go to an ivory tower to figure all this out, and find out what was true for me. I gave myself the responsibility of being my own guide regarding Scientology, and to act only on information I knew was true for me. I wasn't going to accept what people said, or what any books said, only my personal experience. This was a key decision for me, and it made a great impact on my future steps.

Later that year, I went to a family reunion (on my dad's side) in northern California. I had a great time, though I continued to have a slew of questions. One morning, I caught my father alone, and I told him of the questions I was having. He acknowledged me. In fact, he affirmed that it was good to question the Church. He commented that LRH wanted people to question; don't just follow because he or anyone said so -- follow the philosophy only if you find it works for you. He affirmed that it was good for me to question. While this was good to hear, it didn't resolve the questions - I appreciated the support.

Later, I went to the New Year's event at the Shrine auditorium. I ran into Chris, Michael, Peter, Jed, and a slew of others. As I sat through the event, I listened to the new releases and different activities going on with the Church; I also became aware of how often I stood up to applaud. I never noticed it before, but it seemed quite frequent. Was I applauding because I wanted to, or because that was what everyone else was doing? It was curious to me, and I began to sit back and watch the crowd - how were they responding to what David Miscavige said (or others up-lines). Something about the experience made me feel like a bit of an outsider. It was strange, and I didn't know what to think about it. I left it aside, and had a good time talking with friends and others after the event.

The following spring (1991), I moved to New Hampshire to go to the University of New Hampshire (UNH). For me, the move was a relief and a curse. It was a relief in that I could give myself a break from thinking about Scientology. I still didn't know what to think about it, but at the same time, I didn't want to think about it. Very few people in New Hampshire had heard of Scientology, which made it all the easier for me. The move was also a curse, as I didn't fit in well with the conservative New England culture. It was a huge contrast to the relaxed culture of LA. My first semester at UNH was hard, and I missed the ease of LA.

The spring went by. On occasion I spoke with Chris, Michael or my dad. Around this time (if I recall) I told Chris and Michael a bit of my thought process regarding Scientology. I remember them acknowledging me, but I don't remember us getting into much of a conversation on it. Max was curious to hear how I was doing on the subject. I kept putting off any serious thoughts about it. Finally, in the summer, I flew back to LA, and was forced to again face the subject more seriously.

A number of things happened that summer. My PC Folder was still at LA Day, and I remember going into session with Lee Borth (whom I've always thought of as a GREAT auditor!). In the session, we went over some concerns I had about how I deal with these "Scientology" questions, and how I communicate them to my close friends (i.e. Chris and Michael). I don't remember the session exactly, but I do remember a specific point:

Lee had us do an exercise: I would pretend to be Chris, and he would pretend to be me. He started acting like me, and at one point he said, "You know Chris, I've decided I don't want be a Scientologist anymore." WHAT!? It absolutely shocked me. I knew I would never say that, even if I thought it. It amazed me that he would say it. As I thought about it, I realized there were certain things that I wouldn't say, even if I thought it. It was very curious to me

Sometime later I was asked to do a personality test. I remember scoring a near perfect score on all areas except one, where I was a bit below perfect (but still above average). I was sent to the registrar's office to see Joe Bueno and Greg Hughes (from up-lines). The two of them wanted me to buy an intensive of auditing to address and resolve my questions regarding Scientology. I explained that I was at a point where I needed to take some time to think about my position with Scientology.

I remember Greg saying to me "You're going to college right? What're you studying?"

"Philosophy," I said, "and I'm truly enjoying it."

"Wait a minute," he replied, "who's the best Philosopher on the planet, or in the universe for that matter?"

"L. Ron Hubbard" I said.

"That's right, and if you have a question about something, you pick up the appropriate Scientology tech, and you read about it. That's the best education you can get."

"Yes, but I only know L. Ron Hubbard as the greatest Philosopher because that's what I grew up with. I have nothing to compare him with. If he is this great, than give me the chance to see it for myself. In no time at all, I should see just how screwed up the rest of the world is, and I will likely be back in short order. Just give me the chance to see for myself. You guys have the advantage of having experienced the world outside of Scientology, I haven't."

"You need to do the false purpose rundown." Greg replied.

"I need to do what's true for me."

That was a big experience for me. I was still determined to say I wasn't fully leaving Scientology, although I did feel that I was in the condition of doubt. The experience had a big impact on me, and I remember it clearly.


Again the story continues, but I feel that I should again check with you to make sure you're with me. I appreciate your listening to this in the bits that I've sent it. I want to give you the whole story, but I also want to give you the opportunity to ask any questions or make comments as we go along.

These were huge experiences for me. So far you've listened to this story more than any Scientologist I've tried sharing this with, and for that I am extremely grateful. Thanks! I hope you're doing well, and I look forward to your response.

Thanks Again, Sasha


From: Lorin
To: Sasha Zbitnoff
Date: Friday, July 30, 1999 2:38 AM
Subject: Your story


I'm with you. I think I like it in parts actually. I'm glad it's blowing some charge for you. Me too! That's the great thing about real communication.



From: Sasha Zbitnoff
To: Lorin
Date: Saturday, July 31, 1999 10:24 PM
Subject: Story Continues

Dear Lorin,

Well, this is turning out to be a great communication for both of us. I'm truly pleased it's blowing charge for you as well. I'm glad we're working through this. Your willingness to listen is greatly appreciated, and as I said before, as long as you are willing to listen I will ensure you hear the full story.

My story continues: After my experience at LA Day, I was left with continued uncertainty, and questions. If I recall, I had a conversation with Chris some time that summer. I had told him of the hypothetical "test" I had regarding LRH. Chris said that if he were LRH, he too would have looked to get others to die for him (if he had the choice). I don't recall what followed in the discussion, but I do remember there was tension growing between us.

Delphi LA was holding a brunch for all Delphi LA alumni that August. Under the circumstances, I felt that I might add tension to the event. I called Mary Cockburn, and expressed my concern. While I very much wanted to attend, I offered to not attend to minimize any potential problems. Mary was very kind, and supportive. She explained that she had heard and read reports regarding me, and as far as she could see, there was no reason that I should not attend the brunch. She went on to say that I was a Delphi graduate and for that she is proud and supportive; if there were any problems that others had, she would support me. I was grateful and attended the brunch. I had a great time, and there were no discussions regarding my position with Scientology.

After the summer of '91, I went back to UNH to continue my college career. Going back to New Hampshire was a relief for me, as it allowed me to take a step back from Scientology and look at it from a distance. That year, I went through a number of interesting experiences, which indirectly and directly affected my view of Scientology.

While attending an Intro to Theater class, I met a fellow named David Brusso. A very kind and friendly fellow. He had a great personality, and was very easy to speak with. He introduced me to the Boston Church of Christ, a fundamentalist Christian group. I had no interest in becoming a Christian, but I certainly enjoyed the people in the group. They were very friendly, and easy to be around. It was great! I started hanging around with the group, even though I didn't want to be baptized. What was peculiar to me, was how the group reminded me of the community feel I got when I was around Scientologists. It was quite nice, but the similar feel was peculiar. As I got to know them better, I was pushed to join the group and be baptized. After several weeks, I finally stated that I wasn't going to join their group, but I did enjoy the company. When I said that, I soon found myself without several friends who were members of the group. It was odd. It certainly is a different group than Scientology, with a different structure and belief, but the similarities were peculiar to me.

What most directly affected my view of Scientology that fall, was the letter of disconnection I received from Michael Coleman. As you know, Michael was probably my closest friend when I was at Delphi. I was close to Chris as well, but there was something dear about the friendship Michael and I had, which I always treasured. Over the course of my exploring questions about Scientology, I told Michael many of my thoughts on the subject, as well as a number of other things going on in my life. We still had some of our rapport, but there was definitely a difficulty arising between us regarding Scientology.

I believe it was sometime in October when I got his letter. I was in the living room of my poorly furnished apartment. It was a bit overcast outside. I picked up the mail, and saw Michael's letter. I sat down and read the letter. I no longer have it, so I can't cite the exact words (there's likely a copy in my ethics folder). He said he didn't want to communicate with me anymore. I was hurt, shocked, saddened, and angry. It took me a long while to know what to do with it. He used to be my best friend; the friendship and all communications were terminated. It was at that time that I realized I could no longer be a Scientologist. I could not see a clear way back to Scientology under the circumstances. My evaluation was over, and I was out of doubt. It was sad, but a decision I had to make.

It was from this experience that I could say to others and myself that I was no longer a Scientologist. It was a major decision and experience for me.



I figure this is another good point to stop and check in with you. As I've said, this was heavy stuff for me, and I want to be sure you understand, and have the opportunity to ask questions or make comments. The story does continue, as I later had communications with my dad, Chris, Alison and Michael that also affected me in this process.

I hope this meets you well, and I look forward to your response.

Best to you, Sasha


From: Lorin
To: Sasha Zbitnoff
Date: Monday, August 02, 1999 9:25 PM
Subject: hi

Dear Sasha,

I totally understand where you are coming from. All is still good.



From: Sasha Zbitnoff
To: Lorin
Date: Tuesday, August 03, 1999 6:45 PM
Subject: Re: hi

Dear Lorin,

Thanks for your response. I'm glad you're getting such a good understanding, though I feel that I might be suffering from some of the constraints that are inherent to email. I worry that I'm taking too much "air" time, and am not getting to hear much of your thoughts and feelings. I'm sure we both want this to be a clear and honest two-way comm-line, and while I have a lot to say, I want you to have the chance to give a response to help us address all this.

I've described a number of events that lead to my eventual departure from Scientology. Within that, I had several questions about the Church, and one major ARC break (namely with Michael Coleman). From here my story leads to more ARC breaks (though there are still questions that arise for me). How might we ensure our correspondence is a stronger two-way comm-cycle that would assist in addressing some of the questions and ARC breaks I've had? Thoughts?

As always, I want to extend warm thanks. As I've said before, you're willingness to listen has already blown a lot of charge, although there is more to this, and I'd like your help in getting below some of the issues.

As Always, Sasha


From: Lorin
To: Sasha Zbitnoff
Date: Thursday, August 05, 1999 1:05 AM
Subject: Re: hi

Dear Sasha,

I'd love to help with any data you need so as to resolve your ARC breaks. I really don't have any upsets or questions about your comm. I just want to hear the whole story so I'm tracking with you. So far I totally get it. Do you have any questions for me? I do want to clear up any mis application of the tech as obviously there was some. I just thought you wanted to tell the whole story first. I can completely understand the upset with regards to michael's and Chris's disconnection from you. I can't speak for them but I do see that it didn't lead to a better condition- in fact it might of made things worse. At least from the sounds of things. I'm glad we are at least in comm now! : ) Can you tell me the rest of the story? I think I'd be better able to help if I knew all the data. Including any opinions and questions in PT that you may have.

L, Lorin

The letters continue

Part 1 - Part2

Wearing Scientology Blinders (Sasha's Mother Story)        Suri Cruise (Scientology Kids)

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