One opened, more to go... Operation Clambake presents:

The Tech Runs its Course
A Commentary on the Lisa McPherson Case

The author has requested anonymity

Part 1


Lisa McPherson
Lisa McPherson


On December 5, 1995, long time Scientologist Lisa McPherson, 36, was pronounced dead at New Port Richey Hospital, near Clearwater, Florida. McPherson's death followed two and a half weeks of forcible confinement in a room at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida. I won't attempt to fully recap all the facts of the case; these are readily available through various Lisa McPherson memorial pages on the web. Rather, I'd like to focus on and perhaps bring some insight to bear on the question of how anyone could have done what was obviously done to McPherson.

From the partial and sketchy logs and interviews released by the court and from the autopsy performed on McPherson, at least some of what was done is obvious.

The Obvious

1. McPherson was not given adequate medical care when she needed it.

From the beginning of her confinement at the Fort Harrison in mid-November, 1995, through to the end at Dec. 5, McPherson was either refusing most food and drink or unable to eat or drink much. By the time of her death, on December 5, she had lost from 20 to 33% of her body weight. Estimates of her weight on November 18 range from 155 to 135 pounds. At the time of her death she weighed 108 pounds. She was 5'9".

Reports from Scientologists assigned to 'watch' McPherson show that she ate and drank little to nothing throughout her confinement despite persistent, even desperate efforts on the part of the Scientologists assigned to McPherson to feed her. McPherson's weakening trend could not have gone unnoticed. In fact there was at least one medically trained person monitoring McPherson--Janice Johnson, formerly licensed to practice medicine in Arizona--who could not have failed to notice that McPherson needed to go to a hospital long before she was finally driven to New Port Richey. But it isn't necessary to be medically trained to know that people who don't eat or drink become weak, get sick and eventually die. No reasonable person on the scene could have failed to notice that Lisa McPherson was going downhill fast.

Scientology damage control tried to spin a scenario of McPherson suddenly and unexpectedly becoming gravely ill on the day of her death. It may well be that she suddenly took a turn for the worse--after all, death is a sudden turn for the worse--but she was already in a horrible state well before the final day.

Let's take a critical look at some of the 'logs' kept by Scientologists assigned to McPherson and released by the court. These are mostly reports to the 'Senior Case Supervisor,' a very high-ranking Scientology executive who would have been responsible for Scientology's spiritual diagnosis and treatment of McPherson, and who would have been closely monitoring McPherson and giving instructions to the 'watch' throughout McPherson's 17-day stay at the Fort Harrison..

On November 18, the day McPherson supposedly first came to the Fort Harrison for 'rest and relaxation,' the Medical Officer Manager reports she had only 1 1/2 cups of fluids and ate only a 'small bite of turkey and spagettie, 3/4 banana.'

On November 20 the 'Med Off Mgr.' reports that McPherson spit or vomitted out everything offered but '2 sip of protein drink,' and writes, 'She has difficulties even to swallow a bit of water.' McPherson either couldn't or wouldn't eat.

On the 21st, the Staff Chaplain reports that McPherson drank 2 glasses of water, a protein shake and a bit of toast and eggs, but on the 22nd, 'Security' reports that she has not eaten.

On the 22nd, a report says, 'She refused to eat and spit out everything she took.' The report also says, 'Her breath was foul. She looked ill like measles or chicken pox on her face. Had a fever to my touch.' McPherson was sick and looking awful. But where's the medical treatment?

Then there's a break in the logs, but in a 'debrief' done on December 5th, it says, in a summary of an interview with watch person Laura Arrunda, 'Lisa was eating at some times [during the first week, or from about November 18 to 25] and other times was putting food on the floor. She was eating bits at a time.' People assigned to McPherson had to help her 'to eat and drink and tried to help her keep eating by offering it to her.' (In other words, someone was already alarmed at the possible consequences of McPherson's refusal or inability to eat.) McPherson couldn't have been eating or drinking much to get to an emaciated 108 pounds by the time of her death.

What else happened during this break in the records is anyone's guess. Did she become sicker?

On November 26, the Staff Chaplain writes, 'She has not been eating just drinking a little bit of orange juice...refused to eat the food that was brought to her, including the protein drink that she usually takes.' The Chaplain doesn't say how much protein drink McPherson was taking.

In a report of the same date, the watch person says she succeeded after considerable effort in getting McPherson to eat a mashed banana with a tablespoon of protein powder mixed in. The watchperson was putting food in McPherson's mouth, most of which she spat out.

Then the reports jump to the 29th. What happened during the three-day gap?

The Staff Chaplain reports on the 29th that McPherson had a protein shake the day before and another one on the morning of the 29th But on the same day, the Public Medical Liaison Officer reports, 'The 'watch' said she was quieter, but suspects it's because she's weak, in spite of the protein drink, etc. of yesterday.' She wasn't weak when she came to the Fort Harrison, as evidenced by reports of McPherson (understandably) physically attacking her captors. If someone won't or can't eat and is getting weaker, she needs to go to a hospital, regardless of possible embarrassment to the cult.

More evidence that McPherson's weakening trend was well noted follows. The watch person notes that on the evening of the 29th McPherson was, 'on floor scooting around, moving arms & legs & speaking & groaning.' Is she no longer strong enough to stand? And isn't groaning a sign that something is seriously medically wrong?

Later in the report, it says that McPherson is stronger because, 'she sits up frequently and for long periods of time. Whereas yesterday I only saw her sit up once.' Sounds like an uptick in dangerous weakening trend. McPherson was apparently so weak by the 30th that she couldn't stand, or had difficulty doing so.

On the 30th, if not sooner, the watch person tried to force feed McPherson: 'My idea of closing her nose so she has to swallow so she can breathe is only marginally successful. She either swallows & breathes or she lets everything in her mouth come out.' Why would the watchperson force feed McPherson unless there was a perception that she was in serious trouble? The report says that McPherson had 'approx' 12 oz. of protein shake and 12 oz. of fluids. I wonder how optimistic these approximations are. The same report says, 'She kept starting a very fast, shallow breathing. . . .' Isn't that alarming enough?

On December 1, Janice Johnson saw McPherson and reported that McPherson's extremities were cool and that her respiration rate was '18-24,' but noted nothing about McPherson's appearance. Still, she called for watch personnel with medical training for the next eight hours. She also wrote, 'Needs 2L fluids when awake and attempt to feed.' Two liters is a lot of fluid--equal to about six 12 oz. glasses. The chances of getting that much into McPherson without an I.V. would have been practically nil, but Johnson apparently didn't do anything to ensure that happened, just wrote, 'Call if any ?'s problems.' Obviously, there were plenty of problems already. Why didn't Johnson act? The simple answer: Johnson, the closest thing to a doctor on the scene, was not in charge and didn't have the authority to act That power rested with the 'Dear Sir' to whom most of the reports were addressed, the 'Senior Case Supervisor' at the Fort Harrison who assumed control of McPherson's 'case'

Heather Hoff, who had been with McPherson earlier was called back in three days prior to her death. According to the released summary of an interview with Hoff, 'Once she returned to the room {December 2 or 3] she found that Lisa was pale, weak and slept more. Per Heather Lisa has not been active in the last 3 days.' But the report of December 2 is more explicit about what not being 'active' means.


Executives of the Flag Service Org in late 1995
Executives of the
Flag Service Org in
late 1995


In a report dated December 2, it says that between 1 AM and 4 PM of that day McPherson got about 15 oz of fluids--not close to the two liters ordered by Johnson--plus a couple of mashed bananas mixed with some protein powder and half&half. According to the report, McPherson, when awake, was talking, but 'basically immobile.' The same report says, "She has tried to stand several times but is not strong enough yet.' Later the watch person leaves off the 'yet': 'She has tried to stand a couple of times but is not strong enough.' For how long had McPherson been too weak to stand? Of course someone who can't stand and will barely eat or drink needs to go to a hospital.

Then there's a three-day blank space in the reports until the debrief on McPherson's death from the Commanding Officer of the Office of Special Affairs. Some of the gap is filled in by the summary of interviews that follows the debrief:

'During the last 2 days Heather attempted to give her food. Sometimes she would eat and sometimes she would just spit it out.'

The Summary of an interview with Laura Arrunda seems to contradict the December 2 report and the statements that McPherson was 'immobile.' and 'still' too weak to stand: 'Lisa [when Arrunda returned to the watch on Saturday, December 2] was less strong and sitting and walking more.[?] She was sitting and laying on the floor, rolling around, walking and talking. . . ' The word 'walking' seems absurdly out of place, as if crudely inserted to give the impression that McPherson was not immobile.'Walking' is unlikely if one is 'less strong' and was previously 'not strong enough yet' to stand.

'She was only drinking protein shakes and was not eating much solid foods. She was then two days looking better [December 3rd and 4th?] and was sleeping this week and talking to Laura [who would not have spoken back as the watch had orders to be silent].... yesterday [December 4th] she was refusing the protein shake and when Laura arrived today she was looking bad, she was not moving her body . . . . Laura told Janis [Johnson] that Lisa was not eating and maybe needed an I.V. Janis came to see her and saw she was looking bad. JANIS CALLED THE SENIOR C/S OFFICE [my emphasis]and called to Dr. Minkoff [a Scientologist at the New Port Richey Hospital] to get OK to bring Lisa there to the hospital. Two days ago Lisa was helping to put her clothes on and then deteriorated in the last 24 hours very badly. It was when Laura arrived today that she noticed her doing bad'

But the hospital chosen was not the nearest one. It was 35 minutes away and McPherson apparently died en route or just as she arrived. Possibly McPherson could have been saved had she been rushed to the nearest Hospital, just a few minutes away. Amost certainly she could have been saved had she been gotten to a hospital when she had become so weak she couldn't stand, before December 2 and probably well before November 29.

Is the report of McPherson 'walking' on the second and 'two days looking better,' so much better that she could actually 'help put her clothes on,' a coached and unenthusiastic attempt to make it look like the death was sudden and unexpected and that McPherson had been healthy until near the end? But healthy thirty-six year old dancing enthusiasts can stand up and feed themselves. The evidence we have shows that McPherson experienced an unmistakable and severe weakening trend and should have been given emergency medical care long before she died.


Autopsy pictures #22
Autopsy pictures #22


According to McPherson's autopsy she died as a result of blood clots in the left lung which stopped or severely slowed blood flow to the heart, brought on by severe dehydration and bed rest--a finding consistent with the reports indicating that McPherson wouldn't or couldn't eat or drink enough to maintain her health throughout her confinement at the Fort Harrison. and was immobile, at least toward the end of her confinement. Dehydration, as I understand it, causes the blood to thicken and makes it more likely for blood clots to accumulate. Immobility also makes it less possible for blood clots to disperse and more likely that they will lodge somewhere. Severe dehydration--or for that matter, the loss of 20 to 33% of body weight--doesn't happen in a day or two. McPherson's body was also covered with bruises and abrasions--indicating physical struggle with her captors--as well as possible insect bites. Some of the apparent bites were not accompanied by the body's usual immune response, indicating that they could have occurred after McPherson was dead, or when she was very near death, possibly in a coma.

More interesting perhaps than the documents we have, are the ones we don't have. The Senior C/S would have written a Scientology diagnosis and ordered a series of Scientology procedures designed to remedy what he saw as the spiritual cause of McPherson's troubles. He would have been the ultimate authority as to what was done with McPherson and would have probably given daily instructions as to her handling. He would have been the one who ordered staff assigned to McPherson to stay the course despite McPherson's increasing weakness and awful appearance. Note that Janice Johnson called the Senior C/S Office before McPherson was finally taken to the hospital. Had there been earlier, unheeded requests to get her to a hospital? Not unlikely, I think.


Killed by Scientology
Killed by Scientology


2. McPherson was confined against her will

McPherson was brought to Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater by paramedics on November 18th when she disrobed and asked paramedics for help following a minor traffic accident. Several Scientologists followed McPherson to the hospital and persuaded McPherson to come with them to the Fort Harrison. A psychiatric nurse and a doctor interviewed McPherson before agreeing, against medical advice, to release her. The interviewers found McPherson coherent enough to make a rational decision and agreed to release her on the understanding that she'd be watched and cared for by friends at the church. She was apparently not incoherent and babbling during the interviews and there is NO indication whatsoever of violence. That apparently didn't start until after she was confined to a room at the Fort Harrison.

At the Fort Harrison she was put into what Scientology calls 'isolation.' The practice is part of a procedure known as the 'Introspection Rundown,' a series of peculiar psychotherapeutic actions purported to be the remedy for Scientologists who flip out (not uncommon) and exhibit bizarre behavior, or sometimes for cult members privy to sensitive information who threaten to defect. But 'isolation' can also be ordered independent of the Introspection Rundown. Note, though, that isolation isn't just 'done,' it has to be ordered by someone in authority. In McPherson's case, that authority was the Senior Case Supervisor.

'Isolation' consists of being locked in a room and attended by a 'watch.' The members of the watch are not allowed to speak, in fact, must be completely silent around the person detained. They keep the room clean, get the person food and of course prevent the captive from escaping. It takes little imagination to see that the practice of non-communication could CAUSE the captive, already deeply upset and confused, now imprisoned indefinitely, denied access to friends and family, unable to talk to anyone, to resist violently, (Who wouldn't?) to start babbling to herself, or to resist through non-cooperation--like refusing to accept food to the point of having to be force-fed.

Another look at the 'watch' reports:

On November 18, the 'Med Off. Manager' reports, 'She is still talking non-stop. She tried to go out of the door.' The report doesn't say how she was prevented from getting out, but clearly McPherson was being forcibly confined.

If the date and times noted on this report are correct, it appears McPherson was ALREADY in isolation before the minor traffic accident. The last entry on this report is November 18, 3:15 PM. According to the information I have, it wasn't until 5:55 PM of the same day that McPherson was involved in an accident and told paramedics, 'I need help. I need to talk to someone.' If the times are right, McPherson had just escaped, momentarily, from captivity.

It appears that McPherson's loyalty to Scientology was wavering. A bit before her captivity she had called her mother, tearfully describing how badly she was doing at her job at AMC Publishing, a Scientology run company. She had also called a childhood friend in Texas. McPherson told the friend she would be coming home soon and that there would be lots to talk about--things she couldn't get into over the phone. If McPherson was wavering as a Scientologist, it means that she was at least beginning to recognize the powerful, near hypnotic 'influence' of the cult over her behavior--an influence powerful enough to make people do destructive things and think they're advancing the salvation of the world. McPherson said to one paramedic, that she'd been doing 'wrong things she didn't know were wrong.'

A parenthetical note:

(McPherson's disrobing and desperate plea for help make sense, don't even seem 'crazy,' if one considers the following possible scenario: McPherson had had enough and wanted out, away from the relentless thought and behavior control of the cult, so that she could sort things out on her own. The cult was determined NOT to let her out, for a number of possible reasons: She was a great source of income; there could be a serious 'PR flap'; perhaps McPherson, who had worked on some cult public relations projects in Clearwater, had been privy to embarrassing inside information; and of course, McPherson, in leaving, would be blowing her only chance at salvation, and in the process, committing the worst offense of all--making it look like Scientology's vast 'technology' of spiritual salvation really didn't work. Perhaps McPherson, who had recently had plenty of Scientology's mind-shuffling 'processing,' had in fact recently attested to Scientology's 'state of clear,' was exhibiting some strange behavior. McPherson, now assumed to be 'psychotic,' landed in isolation. She managed to get out the door and into her car. Intentionally or by accident, she ran into a boat trailer that was stopped at the scene of an accident. Seeing paramedics on the scene, and perhaps knowing she was being hotly pursued or about to be pursued, McPherson may have hit upon a way to get herself quickly to a safe place, away from the cult's still overwhelming ability to control her. She took off her clothes and begged the paramedics for help, knowing they'd have to take her in for psychiatric evaluation, where McPherson could talk to someone outside the cult.

(But McPherson wasn't safe at Morton Plant Hospital--the personnel at the hospital apparently didn't appreciate the devastating power of cultic influence. Scientologists followed her there, arriving just twelve minutes after McPherson got to the EMS unit at Morton Plant Hospital. Somehow they got to McPherson's bedside before she could talk at length to someone alone. They insisted on being present during the evaluation, and were apparently permitted to do so--a disastrous mistake, as McPherson was still susceptible to their control. Teary-eyed with a fixed stare and speaking in a monotone, McPherson said she wanted to go home with the Scientologists who were at her bedside. She seemed capable of making a rational decision and wasn't out of control, so the interviewing doctor reluctantly permitted her, against medical advice, to leave with 'friends,' who promised to care for her night and day. McPherson went right back into captivity.)

On November 20, the report to the Senior C/S says, 'Lisa did not really sleep last night, but jumping out of her bed. Susann Reid had to get her to lay down again and again. . . . When I gave her a cup of water she through it on the floor. . . . Right now she is again jumping out of the bed over and over.'

In a November 22 report, it says, 'After 1 PM she went violent & hit me a few times telling me she was [going?] to kill me #s of times. I called in the 'guard' outside. . . . He stayed with me during the rage.' McPherson was imprisoned, and had she gotten out the door again, past the people assigned to be with her in the room, she could not have gotten past the security personnel stationed outside.

On the 24th, 'Lisa was awake and agitated she became more agitated and became violent toward Joan, poking her in the eye and attempting to do it several times. She then attacked Joan with a potted plant in the room, which they took away from her. She then started to hit at things in the room and broke a lamp hanging from the ceiling. . . . She then became more and more violent and broke more glass in the bathroom She then went and got back on her bed and jumped off landed on the wet floor and then hit her head on the floor. She then attempted to hit her head again on the floor which the watch prevented her from doing. At this point, security was called in and she was gotten onto her bed. . . .' Was she put into restraints? Again, it isn't hard to imagine why someone, upset, confused and desperately needing to talk to someone, would become enraged after a week of being held captive and given the silent treatment--lots of us would. Also, why would McPherson try to hit her head again? Was she now considering suicide as a way out?

There are several more reports of McPherson kicking or otherwise attacking members of the watch. Yet McPherson apparently had no history of unprovoked violence, and was not violent at the outset. She was trying to resist.


The Fort Harrison Hotel
The Fort Harrison Hotel


3. McPherson's treatment at the Fort Harrison amounted to torture.

McPherson originally told an interviewer at Morton Plant, apparently after being influenced by the Scientologists who followed her there, that she wanted to go home to be 'with her friends from the congregation,' who promised to keep an eye on her night and day Understandable and acceptable to the interviewing doctor, who must not have known about Scientology's isolation practices, and probably thought that McPherson would be able to relax and talk to friends and get things sorted out..

Of course McPherson didn't go home with her friends to sort things out Instead, an already deeply distraught woman was held in a room, attended by people who were not permitted to say anything in her presence, much less sit down and establish the kind of rapport that would have enabled her to come to grips with what was troubling her. The forced captivity in a small space and prolonged silence amounted to torture, even though torture was almost certainly not what the people assigned to watch McPherson intended. Rather it was what they were ORDERED to do by the Scientology executive in charge.


The PTS/SP Course Pack
The PTS/SP Course Pack


The Scientology Diagnosis

The Senior Case Supervisor would have had to consider several seemingly applicable parts of L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology scripture (called 'tech,' short for 'technology') in coming up with a Scientology diagnosis and treatment of what was spiritually awry with McPherson.

One possible conclusion could have been that McPherson was 'type III PTS.' PTS is Scientology acronym for 'potential trouble source,' a phrase coined by Hubbard in the '60s to mean someone who was under the influence of a 'suppressive' person or group. A suppressive person is defined as someone with hidden evil intentions who can't stand seeing people getting better and therefore overtly or covertly undermines Scientologists, causing them to appear to lose the fantastic gains they've made through use of the tech. The 'trouble' with a potential trouble source is that the person's inability to keep the miraculous gains advertised by Scientology makes it look like the tech really produces only the hope and not the reality of fantastic spiritual gains. Trouble indeed. The remedy is basically to locate the correct suppressives in auditing or in interviews, then to sort out why the Scientologist is under the their influence and handle accordingly, either through specially coached 'good roads, fair whether' communication, or by 'disconnection.' In reality, handling PTSness is a tortuous and expensive wild goose chase for many Scientologists.

Hubbard 'discovered' that there were several 'types' of PTS.' Type I' is connected to a suppressive now. 'Type II' is reminded of a past suppressive by something in the environment. 'Type III' is the worst kind, a person so overwhelmed by suppressives that he or she has gone delusory, lost all grip on reality and sees Martians and FBI agents everywhere. McPherson might have been seen as type III, but this diagnosis wouldn't have fit very well. McPherson lived and worked with Scientologists in good standing, lived near the Flag Land Base, 'the Mecca of Technical Perfection,' and had received tons of processing and counseling there, some of which would have already addressed her 'PTSness.' Besides, the PTS type III designation is somewhat superseded by a one of Hubbard's later 'discoveries.'

In the early 70's Hubbard came up with a unique, Scientology re-definition of the word 'Psychosis' in an essay called 'Case Supervisor Series 22.' My copy went into the dumpster some months ago, so I can't quote it exactly, but a 'psychotic' is one who has and acts out hidden evil intentions, who characteristically seeks, overtly or covertly to harm or destroy. Psychotics are usually quite normal seeming as they hide their evil intentions, but they cause ruin wherever they are. Under stress, they may suddenly leave an area, lest their crimes be found out. Under enough stress they become what non-Scientologists normally think of as loony, exhibiting strange, delusional behavior, babbling, etc.

Later, in 1973 or 4, Hubbard came up with a further 'breakthrough,' a method of rapidly curing the 'psychotic break, ' called the Introspection Rundown. (A 'rundown in Scientology is a definite sequence of rigorously disciplined psychotherapeutic actions involving mostly asking the person prescribed series' of questions designed to get at the source of what the person is diagnosed--by the 'Case Supervisor'--as spiritually suffering from. The patient is hooked up to the Scientology e-meter (short for 'electro-psychometer,' a skin galvanometer) and a trained therapist, [called an 'auditor'] repeats sets of questions over and over until the person reaches pre-defined end points--looked for realizations and accompanying phenomena on the e-meter--then moves on to the next set of questions until all the steps of the rundown are complete, or the person has the sought after BIG realization for the entire rundown, like, 'Gee, the reason I've always been so psycho is blahblah.' If you think of 'auditing' as rigidly directed and extremely evaluative version of psychotherapy, infused with a mythical 'history' of the evolution of the human spirit you're not far off.)

Understand that, in order to have a 'psychotic break,' one had to be at least somewhat 'psychotic' as defined in 'Case Supervisor Series 22.' The underlying predisposition to psychotic break was evil intentions, and the person's day-to-day actions were dominated by the pursuit of the evil intentions, regardless of whether it was evident to the person or to others or not. In Scientology doctrine, a person is 'basically good' but can be controlled and dominated by commands from 'the reactive mind,' or even from the reactive minds of other beings. 'Good' from the perspective of a Scientologist means, not exclusively, but especially, actions--even ruthless ones--which promote the purposes and well-being of the church--naturally, because Scientology is assumed by Scientologists to be mankind's only route to salvation and the alternative is endless suffering from the hidden things only Scientology can uncover and irradicate. So someone who has a 'psychotic break' has exposed him or herself as someone who is 'being' evil and to some degree at least, an enemy of the church--and of salvation for mankind.

It's easy to see how being diagnosed as 'psychotic' or even worrying about possibly being 'psychotic' could drive someone to look inward for the 'reasons' for his or her condition, and, in the process, go a bit nuts and even start babbling incoherently--especially in the absence of anyone friendly to talk to. Imagine also how this ideology would shape the attitudes of the people assigned to 'watch' a person having a 'psychotic' break. McPherson had almost certainly been so labeled, either as result of obviously wanting to 'blow' the cult, or because she exhibited some bizarre behavior, or both.

In Scientology theory, people who have psychotic breaks are predisposed to breaks by virtue of being 'psychotic' in the first place as explained in C/S series 22. What Hubbard imagined he had discovered at the time of the Introspection Rundown was what precipitated the break. As I recall, Hubbard said that in order for a 'psychotic' to go into a 'psychotic break,' there had to be a 'point [or points] of introversion' immediately prior to push the person over the edge. A point of introversion would usually be what's called a 'wrong indication,' although it could also be other kinds acute stress. A 'wrong indication' happens when someone tells you that what's really wrong with you is such and such, and from your perspective, it isn't. It's common for people in Scientology to be given introverting 'wrong indications.' Scientology executives on church staff, and by extension, Scientologist executives who run businesses and use the 'tech,' are held responsible for applying Scientology 'ethics' to the people under them. This means that when a 'junior' noticeably screws up, or if the person's assigned statistic drops long term, the executive is supposed to use Scientology's ethics 'formulas' to straighten the person out. Scientology 'ethics' is more or less reduced to the application of a dozen or so formulas--ethical recipes of step-by-step solutions for every possible 'condition' one can be in life. If you're in trouble with 'seniors,' the formulas you have to do have names like, 'danger,' 'non-existence,' 'liability,' 'doubt,' 'enemy,' 'treason' and 'confusion.' Being assigned to do one of these can act as 'wrong indication.' Being put through all the steps of the various formulas, especially by a domineering, control freak senior can result in violent upsets, although it more often leaves people drained, introverted, more manageable and more convinced of their own hyper-accountability. (Scientology 'ethics' essentially shifts accountability for the ineffectiveness of the 'tech' organizationally downward and away from the founder [Hubbard] and the most senior executives and facilitates domination. It's a kind of tedious torture, which, along with other procedures in Scientology, eventually produces a powerful mental taboo against questioning the validity of the 'tech.') Some Scientology parents also practice the assignment of conditions on their kids, and it's used in Scientology schools on students. In my recollection, most 'points of introversion' happen as a result of someone applying Scientology, especially Scientology 'ethics.' to Scientologists. In other words, the application of the 'tech' drives people into temporary states of extreme despair or even insanity. The Introspection Rundown, touted by Hubbard as cure for insanity, was in reality mainly a remedy for the disastrous effects of the application of Hubbard's own 'technology.'

Lisa McPherson was apparently in some sort of serious 'ethics' trouble either on her job at AMC Publishing, or with the cult itself. There's an almost certain indication of this in a quote from her mother: 'She called me three weeks before she died and she was crying. She said she was having trouble with her sales. She said, "Mother, I've let my group down."' Scientologists who have been assigned 'lower conditions' and have to 'suffer up' through the tedious, self-eroding 'ethics formulas' are prone say things like, 'I've let my group down.' McPherson had also recently had plenty of high level, mind-scrambling Scientology 'auditing.'

The Introspection Rundown has a number of steps, most of which I only vaguely recall, but the person must first be confined to a secure room. People are assigned to watch the person, give him food, etc. Per scriptures, the watch people are 'muzzled,' that is, they aren't allowed to speak to or respond verbally to the prisoner. I believe the stated rationale for silence was that the person was in such delicate shape that only the precise 'auditing' actions of the rundown could bring him or her out of it. Obviously complete silence would only make it worse for an upset and disoriented person, and perhaps that was the real rationale--make it even worse so that the when the person eventually comes out of it the 'tech' can be seen as a miraculous cure. That the person will eventually come out of it is likely because the 'psychotic' really isn't someone who is chronically deranged, but only someone who has been driven into a state of temporary insanity by the 'tech' itself, which requires a relentless, introverted quest to track down and erase preconceived scientological past-life 'causes' of one's inability to be a godlike being, permanently beyond the reach of life's troubles.

While the person is being held captive, the Case Supervisor (C/S) is kept apprised of what's happening by frequent reports from the watch people. The C/S would also be sending the person written messages, like, 'What can you promise me if I let you out?' An auditor (a rigorously trained Scientology therapist) would be sent in from time to time to try to get the person to identify the point or points of introversion that theoretically preceded the break, the expectation being that identifying these would bring the person out of the acute break and make it possible to audit the person further and eventually uproot the evil intentions that were causing the person to be 'psychotic' in the first place. If the person was a rank and file 'Sea Org' member, he or she would be sent to the Rehabilitation Project Force for months, perhaps years of forced, unpaid labor, confession of crimes and special auditing of evil intentions. A 'paying public' person, like McPherson would just be audited at her own expense.

Another factor for the Case Supervisor to take into account would have been 'errors' in recent auditing. McPherson had had plenty of recent auditing. Auditing, especially some of the 'high level' auditing McPherson had had--'L 10' and 'L 11' were two of the actions McPherson had completed--has a tendency to drive people nuts. There is a whole vast section of Scientology 'technology' devoted to the correction of auditing 'errors,' which comes into play when people get upset or go nuts in auditing. Interestingly, one of the commonest, and perhaps THE commonest 'correction' of auditing errors is to indicate that a certain action was unnecessary and should not have been done. (This is probably the most honest of Hubbard's 'discoveries,' but it should have been applied to the whole of the 'tech,' not just to parts of it.)

Whether or not Lisa McPherson was actually 'on the Introspection Rundown' isn't completely clear as we don't have the Senior Case Supervisor's diagnosis and instructions.. She probably was, but she was definitely in silent 'isolation' according to what Hubbard said in the Introspection Rundown 'Bulletins.'







The Accountability of the Slave and the Blamelessness of the Master

At least some of what McPherson was going through at the very beginning of her captivity is evident in the message to the Senior Case Supervisor from the 'Med. Off. Manager' of November 18, 1995--apparently written before McPherson momentarily escaped and tried to take refuge at Morton Plant. Some of McPherson's 'babble' is quoted in the report. Former Scientologists will see that McPherson's statements are not babble at all. They are precisely the sorts of things a Scientologist would mull over while trying to establish his or her personal responsibility for the fact that the 'tech,' believed to be unerringly effective if 'correctly' applied, 'appears' not to be working.

McPherson is quoted as saying 'I was 1.1. What my chronical [chronic] tone level is.' McPherson was referring to Scientology's 'emotional tone scale,' one of Hubbard's more imaginative discoveries. Hubbard imagined that all emotions could be placed on a linear scale which went step-by-step from lowest to highest, sort of like a scale of musical notes. On the tone scale are 'high' emotions, like, 'serenity of beingness,' aesthetics, enthusiasm--and lower ones, like fear, apathy, grief and 'covert hostility.' Hubbard creatively assigned number designations to the emotions on his scale, so that emotions are sometimes referred to by Scientologists by their number alone. '1.1' ('one point one,' or 'one-one') is the number for 'covert hostility.' Someone whose 'chronic tone level' is 1.1 or covert hostility would be putting on a outward show of friendliness, but, secretly, constantly doing underhanded things to harm others, in keeping with Scientology's special definition of 'psychosis.' McPherson was searching for a Scientology answer that would explain the apparent failure of Scientology tech on her. According to the 'tech,' people who continuously commit harmful acts, like 'psychotics' or '1.1s' can't make 'gains' from the tech. (Conversely, if you don't 'make gains,' you risk being designated as such a person. This is one of the many ways in which Scientologists are encouraged to imagine they've made incredible spiritual progress.)

According to the report, McPherson also said, 'I have an MU on the Student hat.' The 'Student Hat' is Scientology's main course on how to study. An 'MU' is the Scientology acronym for a 'misunderstood word.' Again, this isn't just babble. Hubbard devoted a large part of Scientology scriptures to what's known as "misunderstood word technology.' In so doing, Hubbard, true to form, borrowed an unquestionably good idea--that one ought to look up words one doesn't know or is hazy on or might have misdefined--and turned it into an crippling burden for Scientologists--and another handy explanation for the tech's failure to get its advertised results.

Hubbard ascribed vast and catastrophic consequences to passing misunderstood words without defining them. Not only would the student be unable to understand the section following the word, but the student could become antagonized toward Scientology (or whatever subject was being studied), then, as a result, begin committing harmful acts ('overts') against the subject, then mistakenly imagine that Scientology had harmed him, and finally, 'blow,' or leave. So, in Scientology study, you don't just look up words in a dictionary as needed. Instead you are on a constant, meticulous search for any word that could conceivably be misunderstood. Scientologists are required to clear up every definition and every word in every definition of every word they look up, as well as the complete derivation.. Scientologists are trained to suspect that any word can be an 'MU' and often spend months clearing up each definition of thousands of common words encountered on Scientology courses. And it doesn't end there. Hubbard invented nine different methods of 'word clearing' designed to detect hidden misunderstood words. Some methods are done on the Scientology e-meter. One commonly used method involves having the student read aloud while a 'word clearer' watches for the slightest hesitation, mispronunciation, stumble, flinch or fidget. Of course, whenever the student stumbles, the 'misunderstood word' is found and meticulously defined. Another method is to simply clear up every definition of every word used.

'Misunderstood word' is broadly defined in Scientology to mean not only words one wrongly understands, but also ones incompletely or partially understood. Given the huge number of words in the English language, the fact that a word may have many different meanings, the fact that meanings change over time, the fact that meaning is flexible depending on context and the fact that the same word might just mean different things to different people, it's impossible NOT to bypass 'misunderstood words.' So the 'misunderstood word tech' gives Scientology a nearly infallible method of redirecting people who begin to suspect that Hubbard's profoundly confused teachings don't really make sense: 'You've got an MU!' Some word can just about always be found. 'Miraculously,' after lots of this, one can develop a fragile internal sense of certainty about what Hubbard was talking about. The internal certainty is sheltered by the fact that Scientology militantly prohibits any discussion of the meaning of Hubbard's work.

McPherson was trying to come up with a scientologically correct explanation for her abject failure to benefit from the tech without violating the main taboo in Scientology: Thou shalt not question the validity of Hubbard's work. If she had 'an MU,' it was not Hubbard's fault, but here's.

In the same report, McPherson is quoted as saying, 'I disseminated [tried to convert] my mother, but she didn't get handled. . . .' This is another way of saying she's 'PTS' to her mother, another reason Scientology might appear not to be working.

Another quote from the same note: 'I can't confront force. I am dramatizing it.' Again, this is not babble at all; it's straight out of Hubbard's lectures, and would sound perfectly reasonable to trained Scientologist. Hubbard taught that people were originally, trillions of years ago, spiritual beings ('thetans') with god-like creative powers, capable of creating and withstanding vast amounts of physical energy. Gradually, through the influence of various mechanisms in the 'reactive mind,' thetans became less and less able to handle and confront force until finally we reached our current frail and degraded human state. Part of what Hubbard advertised that Scientology could do was the rehabilitation of the ability to confront and use force--lots of it.

Another quote: 'I created time 3 billion years ago and now I am dramatizing it. . . .' Right out of Hubbard's teachings. Hubbard taught that 'time' was somehow 'the sole source of aberration,' I guess because without time, things, including bad mental or emotional states, wouldn't persist In order to suffer from something, one had to at some point in the past have created it, at least for oneself. Later on, having become unaware of an earlier creation, one could involuntarily 'dramatize' it through the influence of one's own reactive mind or the reactive minds of others. In auditing, Scientologists search endlessly for the past life inceptions of their 'aberrations,' (mental barriers) hoping that by viewing these points, the barriers will vanish and they will return to Scientology's promised state of god-like ability, invulnerability and serenity. Again, the statement would have made sense to anyone trained in Scientology.

In the same note McPherson is quoted as saying one thing that does seem loony at first glance: 'I am LRH [L. Ron Hubbard] and I didn't confront it because I didn't confront that power.' It may be a misquote, but if it isn't, McPherson was imagining that somehow, at least in some way, she was Hubbard. Assuming this is an accurate quote, it isn't really a big reach for a very troubled Scientologist to slip into such a delusion. Scientologists are continuously indoctrinated to look to Hubbard as the 'source' of direction in all but the least significant decisions. In Scientology, another name for Hubbard, a kind of nickname, is in fact, 'Source.' Scientologists are encouraged to ask themselves, 'What would Ron [Hubbard] do?' or, 'What does LRH say?' in the face of any difficult decision. 'On-Source' is a phrase often used in Scientology. An on-source Scientologists is one who's actions are in complete harmony with what Scientologists imagine Hubbard intended in his published work. The phrases 'in-tech,' 'in-ethics' and 'on-policy' mean fundamentally the same thing--constant reference to and obedience to what Hubbard said to do. If someone is 'off-source,' he or she is guilty of either devising his own philosophy of dealing with life, or of heeding someone other than Hubbard--very bad in either case, because Scientologists believe only Hubbard had the real answers.

In order to be consistently 'on-source,' of course one has to construct a sort of imaginary Hubbard in one's mind as reference. I certainly did this myself without realizing it when I was in the cult. And the L. Ron Hubbard in the minds of Scientologists is definitely imaginary. The real Hubbard was a nasty, greedy, domineering, stingy, jealous, plagiarizing, self-medicating, paranoid compulsive liar, with delusions of grandeur, given to toddler-like tantrums, and with a special gift for making up exciting stories and inventing pseudo-science. The Hubbard who exists in the imaginations of Scientologists is a compassionate humanitarian, resolute in the battle against evil, the wisest of wise, modest despite his greatness, the reincarnation of Buddha, generous beyond comprehension, who, out of profound kindness and despite great hardship, despite being wrongly perceived and slandered by 'psychotic' suppressives as a ruthless, amoral opportunist, left mankind the precise method to finally overcome evil and return us forever to a state of spiritual serenity. And above all, the imaginary Hubbard is the only being capable of finding the way out of the complicated 'trap' that keeps 'thetans' imprisoned in the 'physical universe.' If you think about it, it's easy to see that accepting the supreme and exclusive 'rightness' of Hubbard also means that you've invalidated your own--and everyone else's--ability to tell right from wrong in matters of importance. You can now do or condone things that seem wrong to you, knowing they're really right, because 'Ron' said so--like imprisoning people, charging huge sums for a completely unworkable and debilitating psychotherapy, neglecting children and denying them education, working idealistic staff to death with negligible pay, ruining members financially, scapegoating psychiatry, destroying critics, deceiving new recruits, etc.

Eventually, under the influence of the imaginary Hubbard, the personality, or at least part of it--the conscience--submerges, and in its place, one assumes a Hubbard-like, 'on-source' pseudo-conscience. Intelligence and ingenuity and much of the person's outward personality are still there, but these faculties are now subjugated, chained to the cause, like Nazi rocket scientists. But the conscience is sunk, under a kind of social fear of being oneself, a fear that if one is oneself, non-Hubbard-like, something different than Hubbard's perfect, remorseless, all-powerful, ruthless but supremely good 'thetan,' one will damage Hubbard's route to salvation--and one will suffer great pain as a result.

It's only a baby-step from striving to be a Hubbard-like Scientologist to imagining for a moment that you are Hubbard. Maybe that's what happened with Lisa McPherson.

In any case, Lisa McPherson was trying to come with acceptable explanations for whatever trouble she was in, explanations that would validate Hubbard's 'technology' and assign blame to herself, as is required of all Scientologists. It didn't work this time.



Why were the Scientologists in control so determined to keep McPherson in captivity that they chose to ignore her life-threatening physical decline? Letting her go would have been bad PR, but the cult could withstand some bad PR. She was a source of income, but the cult has plenty of other cash cows. Devout Scientologists would have been concerned with McPherson's salvation, but it's contrary even to cult policy to try to 'process' someone who isn't cooperating, and Lisa McPherson certainly wasn't cooperating. If McPherson was privy to sensitive information, that could certainly have lent greater urgency to keeping her in the room and hoping she'd come around despite the possibility she was dying. But if so, why would a 'church' act like the KGB, gambling with someone's life to protect sensitive information?


Lisa after finishing L11
Lisa after finishing L11


Illusion vs. Faith

The underlying answer I think, comes down to the 'need' to preserve the fundamental illusion that's the cornerstone of the whole edifice of Scientology--'The "tech" works.' Scientology, unlike most other religions, doesn't require of its members a voluntary act of faith in its basic principles. Instead, Hubbard worked to create the illusion that Scientology's vast body of 'processes' (psychotherapeutic routines) could actually be observed to increase happiness and ability. The illusion is constantly reinforced in dozens of ways: producing transitory states of 'release' through the use of Scientology's 'processes,' mandatory 'success stories,' careful selection of positive results, suppression of failures, removal of people who question the tech, the use of derogatory labeling of people who don't make 'gains,' punishment of doubters, use of the pseudo scientific 'e-meter,' carefully controlled meetings, assigning guilt and total accountability for failures to the users, not the maker of the tech, a kangaroo court 'justice system,' etc. The illusion is powerful and it's treasonous in Scientology to penetrate it.

Without the illusion of therapeutic effectiveness, there is no rationale for Scientology to exist; the cult promises benefits in the here-and-now, not in the hereafter. Without the fundamental illusion, Scientology is simply an organization of slaves and cash cows, supporting a tiny, parasitic elite caste at the very top. Without the illusion, Scientology's vast 'technology' of 'total freedom' becomes simply an old-fashioned methodology of dominating and using people. Without the illusion, lives spent forwarding Scientology become wasted lives, good deeds become bad deeds. So there's understandably great incentive for long-time Scientologists to cherish and preserve the illusion.

Preserving the illusion was, in the final analysis, what Lisa McPherson's mistreatment was all about.


A Likely Scenario

Lisa McPherson, in Scientology for half of her 36 years, was torn between the growing and horrifying realization that the 'tech' didn't really work and her profound loyalty to her group and her cherished hope that it really possessed a route to unbounded freedom, ability and happiness. She was in serious 'ethics' trouble at the Scientology company she worked for and perhaps with the cult as a whole. She was terribly upset and on the verge of leaving, going back home to Texas to rethink her life. Perhaps the cult had special reasons not to want McPherson in particular to leave, perhaps not. Church members became alarmed and she wound up in 'isolation' at the Fort Harrison. She managed to get out and to her car. Possibly cult members were in hot pursuit. Her sudden disrobing and desperate request for help at the scene of the accident on the 18th of November were a bold effort to bolt from the crushing mental influence of the cult and get quickly to a safe haven. Because she was still torn between two alternatives, the Scientologists who pursued her to Morton Plant Hospital were able to influence her to come back. Medical personnel at Morton Plant Hospital, perhaps not understanding the devastating power of cultic influence, permitted her Scientologist pursuers to witness their interviews and reluctantly let McPherson leave in their custody before she could talk to someone at length alone. She went back into captivity, probably this time under heightened security. Her confinement and the silence of her captors drove her into deeper upset and introversion and soon into incoherently babbling to herself. She resisted physically and by refusing to eat and drink, perhaps trying to give her captors such a hopeless problem that they would have to release her. Perhaps she thought that the only way to get her captors to let her out was to threaten to starve herself to death. She became weaker and weaker, probably became ill, and finally died. Senior executives at the Church of Scientology decided to stay a course that had clearly failed despite being informed of Lisa McPherson's continuous resistance and deteriorating health on at least a daily basis. Those in authority considered the option of allowing McPherson access to proper medical care at a hospital too risky as they knew she would again escape and, almost certainly leave the cult, and perhaps do serious damage to the all-important illusion that Scientology's 'technology' actually produces beneficial results..

The 'tech' had run its course.


The last picture of Lisa
The last picture of Lisa


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