The Wiz of Orlando
BEHIND THE SCENES AT AVATAR
PREFACE and UPDATE (okt 2005)
By Eldon M. Braun
"The Wiz of Orlando" was completed and first distributed in early 1991, shortly after the first Wizard Course, which I learned included a version of the Scientology "body thetan" exorcism process
. As in Scientology's upper levels, students were told that they were infested with many, many possessive spirits that needed to be contacted and sent on their way.
Only last year, I got a clear idea of how dangerous this particular belief system is become when a Dutch Scientology critic posted a transcript of a speech Harry Palmer gave at that first Wizard course. He described these telepathic entities as the real cause of AIDS and cancer, adding, "People trying to treat chronic conditions with drugs or surgery are trying to heal something that really isn't theirs at all."
The future healing course he promised hasn't been released yet, but that hasn't stopped some of his Wizard course graduates from engaging in serious quackery.
One Avatar Master told a student with bipolar disorder that he could stop taking lithium (the standard medication for the condition) and handle any mood swings with the Avatar tools alone. He tried it, and the results weren't pretty. After a couple of months, he predictably experienced a hypomanic episode. As a result, his career suffered permanent damage. He eventually regained his mental stability, but only after nearly a year of psychiatric care. Incredibly, the Wizard who told him Avatar would handle bipolar disorder-universally acknowledged as a biochemical condition-had a PhD in psychology, and had worked for years as a therapist under the supervision of a psychiatrist. It's clear that Avatar radically changed her belief system-from scientism to witchcraft.
By 1991, Avatar had outgrown its initial following of former Scientologists to become a mainstream personal growth training, It was highly popular and growing in France, having been one of the first Nouvelle Age trainings to cross the Atlantic. But three years later, a scandal erupted. The name Avatar has an ironic double meaning in French: In addition to its original Hindu meaning of "a descended deity," the word is also slang for "a misadventure." Two French Avatar Masters had a big one. They renamed the course "Management Power," and a helpful enthusiast in the human relations department of the French nuclear power agency made it available as a management development workshop. Some managers who took the course were not impressed. Word spread that a cult had infiltrated Electricit de France, and a few newspapers published articles. One of the Avatar Masters then sued the papers for libel, and all hell broke loose. Soon the scandal was front-page news and the topic of expos on national TV shows. Today, Avatar is virtually extinct in France.
In 2002, a similar spate of media coverage in Germany included a cover story in Stern Magazine and investigative features on two national TV shows. Harry Palmer was asked for an interview, but declined. The producers of the show did interview one of the leading German Masters, Isa Luerssen, who was asked about brainwashing. Her answer: "We wash our bodies, why not our minds?"
Scientology is regarded as a dangerous totalitarian movement in Germany, so Avatar Masters had tried to keep the Scientology connection hushed up as best they could. Palmer assisted by saying he had only briefly participated in Scientology "discussion group." When the truth came out, Avatar Masters were banned from holding recruitment meetings and courses at public facilities, and many hotels refused to rent meeting space to them as well.
More recently, Avatar has evolved with the times. According to several websites, it is "delivered in 66 countries, 19 languages and the number of Avatar graduates have exceeded 70,000."
The number of licensed Masters is said to be several thousand, but only slightly more than 1,000 are listed as active on the main Avatar website. Of those, only about 200 ran paid ads or directory listings in the Fall 2005 issue of the Avatar Journal.
During the past few years, Star's Edge has elaborated on its multilevel marketing scheme by designating an upper tier of Qualified Masters who supervise the course deliveries of Provisional Masters for a fee. Students recruited for the basic Avatar Course are steered toward consolidated "international" and "cooperative" courses held at hotels in various cities around the world once or twice a month.
Besides efforts by new Provisional Masters to recruit their immediate families, friends and associates, a couple dozen of the most avid and experienced Masters give introductory lectures in their local areas before each large group course. At this writing, 43 such talks were scheduled in the US during the month leading up to an International Course in Orlando starting October 29, 2005--to be supervised by Avra Honey Smith. Recent group pictures of course participants posted at the International Course website showed about 100 in San Diego, 26 in Montreal, and a little over 100 in Santa Fe. There is no indication of how many people in the cheering crowds are Masters, past students repeating the course, or new students taking Avatar for the first time. Estimates vary, but it seems likely that as many as half might be teaching or repeating the course for another shot of transitory enlightenment.
A survey of individual Avatar Master websites leaves the impression that few if any of them are teaching their own courses locally anymore. The last scheduled deliveries listed on some sites date back to 2003, and no future course announcements were found. Most say, "call or send an e-mail for information."
Some promote the large group courses. Several of the more prolific performers have dropped out altogether in recent years.
The Internet has changed many things about the way people interact, particularly where personal growth trainings are concerned. Scientology, Avatar, Landmark Education (formerly EST), and other groups are subjected to widespread scrutiny every day by people who read critical websites and ask questions in discussion groups. Type "avatar course" into Google or another search engine, and you'll get a mixed bag of hits. (You need to use "avatar course" in quotes to eliminate sites about animated cartoon characters called "avatars" in Internet gamer slang.) As you'll see, Star's Edge and various Masters present an array of promotional websites for their services. Next, add the word "cult" and search again. You'll find quite an array of critical reading material about the manipulative aspects of the group.
There's one link you won't find so easily: www.AvatarScam.com/ will only show up on Google as an alternate URL or as a link within other websites. That's because Palmer's lawyer complained to Google about copyright infringement. The complaint may have been valid, since the site publishes the entire transcript
of the Wizard course lecture quoted above, plus another one
that announces Harry Palmer's mission of saving planet Earth from a telepathic blight bomb that has spread across many galaxies, destroying photosynthesis in its wake. Oops, that was supposed to remain confidential until you paid $7,500 for the revelation at the Wizard Course.
But wait, there's more! One menu item this website reads, "Free Master Course.
" The last I heard, anyone who sends an e-mail to the address provided will receive by return e-mail a temporary web address where the confidential Parts II and III of the Avatar Course and the entire Master Course materials can be downloaded within 24-hours. So if you'd like a preview before you enroll, check it out.
-Eldon M. Braun, Paris October 24, 2005
There are a few possible reasons why you may not have heard of Harry Palmer's Avatar Course. If you live in the U.S., you must not take New Age Journal or Success Magazine; subscribers of those magazines receive complimentary copies of the Avatar Journal through purchased mailing lists. Or maybe you're simply not interested in self-improvement. Or you're not tuned into the right channeler. Otherwise, you should already have gotten wind of the "instant enlightenment" course called Avatar. Thousands of people in the U.S. have paid $2,000 to take it. It is offered by a few hundred teachers, called Masters, in every American city of any size, and is growing by leaps and bounds.
If you live in France and haven't heard about Avatar, you are way out of touch. There, it is proportionately far more popular than in the U.S. If you live elsewhere, expect to hear about Avatar soon. It is currently taught in 31 countries. Avatar is the fastest-paced growth course since est, as free-spirited as a Rajneesh seminar, and a lot cheaper than Scientology . What's more, like all the above, it works--assuming you believe it does.
Thousands of seemingly credible people do. The Avatar Course has even earned rave reviews from professional therapists and counselors. One is Emma Bragdon, Ph. D., psychotherapist and author of the book The Call of Spiritual Emergency. After taking the Avatar Course in May, 1990, she called it "the most empowering week of my life," and said, "I reclaimed my birthright: to be awake, to be in control, and in joy." She now teaches the course herself.
The Avatar Course is not presented as a cult, an organization that demands strict allegiance, or a set of doctrines. Graduates are only subtly encouraged to proselytize it. Unlike Scientology, the principal mental technology studied by its developer, Avatar really isn't much of an organization. The entire company that licenses the course worldwide and teaches licensees to deliver it consists of four people.
THE END OF THE BRIDGE?
In June, 1987, I got a phone call from Al Holmes, whom I hadn't seen for years. We had taken courses together at the San Francisco Church of Scientology ten years earlier. A couple of days later he and Bill Offerman, another former Scientologist, showed up. They wanted to tell me about something new. Both of them had recently returned from Elmira, New York, where they had taken the Avatar course. It had been developed several months earlier by Harry Palmer, a former Scientology mission holder.
They were obviously impressed. From their description, Palmer had figured out what L. Ron Hubbard missed during the thirty-odd years he spent developing hundreds of Scientology processes. Or maybe Palmer had discovered what L.R.H. purposely omitted in order to keep his followers buying more and more courses as they followed the elusive carrot of self-realization along the ever-lengthening "bridge to total freedom." My visitors invited me to come to Millbrae, a suburb south of San Francisco, to hear a lecture Palmer would be giving soon. He and a few course trainers had recently begun to travel around the U.S. delivering courses organized by former Scientologists. They had just completed a stint in Santa Monica, and were due to show up in the Bay Area in a couple of weeks. When they left, Al and Bill gave me a cassette tape of an hour-long lecture by Palmer. I had taken quite a few Scientology courses over the past 15 years.
In 1982, when the church began using heavy-handed tactics to extort money from independent mission-holders and became involved in scandals over its attempts to intimidate disaffected members, I demanded the last $1,100 I had in my "advance payment account" for future courses. To my surprise, it was returned promptly. Then I got some more counseling from offshoot organizations that had sprung up. By that time, there were quite a few former Scientologists around. Those people who fled the church tended to be the people I had most liked and respected when I met them in various Scientology centers. Those who remained were mostly the robotic true believer types who provide tender fodder for the first cult that promises them an exclusive way to escape the angst of everyday human existence.
WHAT JOHN LILLY MISSED
A couple of days later, I plunked the cassette I had been given into the tape deck. It had obviously been recorded impromptu on a portable tape recorder by someone in the audience. I had to pay rapt attention just to make out most of the words. Palmer's description of the Avatar course was exactly what a disillusioned former Scientologist was ready to hear. He said he had discovered these secrets when he undertook a prolonged series of experiments with his own consciousness in a sensory deprivation chamber, also known as a Samadhi tank. It was the same method used, sometimes in conjunction with LSD, by John Lilly in the late 1960's to simulate out-of-body experiences and achieve altered states of consciousness.
In an anecdote straight out of a TV sitcom, Palmer described the day his wife came home to discover her dining room taken over by the tank.. While suspended in an Epsom salt solution, floating in absolute silence and removed from all sensory feedback from the physical universe, he saw beliefs floating like bubbles in an "infinite sea of consciousness," and came to the conclusion that beliefs were the key to everything. Even the physical universe was just a solidified, generally agreed-upon belief system. The procedures he developed using this discovery, he said, were "the end of case"--case in Scientology terms meaning the sum total of all the mental and spiritual blocks accumulated throughout all one's lifetimes. His basic thesis -- that beliefs create a person's reality as self-fulfilling prophesies -- was one that had been expressed in many places from the Vedas to A Course in Miracles to information channeled through mediums from astral plane entities such as Seth and Bashar.
Scientologists were all familiar with the dictum, "You are totally responsible for the condition you are in." The difference Palmer said, was that he had discovered a profound though simple technique for finding and "discreating" hidden negative beliefs that manifest as real life problems. No longer was it necessary to spend years dissecting one's case with the long, expensive and complex techniques of Scientology. Not long afterward, I received a phone call from Margie Hoffman, the Registrar (salesperson in Scientology lingo) of Palmer's Creative Learning Center in Elmira, New York. She wanted to know whether I was going to take the course. I told her I'd come to the lecture and see. She wasn't pushy in the least, but something I got from talking to her gave me the feeling I probably would. She was one hell of a salesperson, even though she didn't really use any sales tactics. When I attended the lecture in Millbrae, about thirty people showed up. I had seen most of the people in the audience at one time or another.
Harry Palmer appeared. He was in his early forties, red-haired, with a neatly-trimmed full beard. He wore a T-shirt which outlined a slight paunch, blue jeans and running shoes. He spoke softly, with a persona of absolute humility. "Aw, shucks," his manner seemed to imply, "how could such an honor have been bestowed on me?" He began with the statement that "Avatar is what you've been looking for." During the next hour, he expounded on the same basic theory I had heard in the taped lecture: if you can really and truly change your beliefs--not just wish to change them or pretend to change them--reality will follow suit. Two basic skills were needed.
One was the ability to take the leap of faith needed to achieve a gut-level sense of responsibility for creating one's own reality. The other was learning the confidential technique that enabled Avatars to discreate unwanted beliefs with ease and replace them with ones that would be more self-fulfilling. The term "discreate" was used, he explained, because it didn't require any effort to eliminate beliefs you didn't want. You simply decided to cease creating them unconsciously as you had been doing all along. A couple of the beliefs he used as examples, if their effects could be eliminated, would indeed make conventional mental therapies such as psychoanalysis obsolete, and would eliminate the need for all the elaborate and expensive "upper levels" of Scientology. One was the theory that past experiences impinge on one's everyday reality. Just get rid of the belief that the past affects you, he said, and it won't.
Another was the idea propounded by L. Ron Hubbard, Tibetan Buddhism and various shamanistic schools of metaphysics that people were afflicted by "entities," or other beings, whose effects might range from inner conflicts to multiple personality disorders to mass political aberrations..
The upper levels of Scientology by this time consisted largely of auditing actions to free oneself of multitudes of electronically implanted beings which had been stuck together as a solution for a population crisis on a planet in a faraway galaxy. (That's another story, and a long one. It has been told already in the Los Angeles Times, Forbes Magazine and several books about Scientology.) Entities are just a belief too, said Palmer. If you don't believe they exist, they won't affect you any longer.
Palmer said he didn't want to become anyone's guru, and as evidence laid out an ethical and humane sounding plan for delivering and administering the course. A Masters Course was being developed for people who wanted to teach the course. They could deliver the course in whatever framework they chose, so long as they maintained high quality standards. They would pay a 15% licensing fee for each student they trained in order to support research and the activities of Star's Edge, the central licensing and training organization. There would be a Senior Avatar Council composed of Avatar Masters (trainers) who would vote on policy. He was considering a limit of 100 licensed Masters in the U.S. Once enough trainers were available throughout the U.S., Star's Edge planned to stop offering the basic Avatar Course, and would serve as a training facility for Masters, as well as offering free review services for any students who had trouble "integrating," or assimilating the course materials.
The most decent and humanitarian thing he promised, from the viewpoint of people who had spent time in Scientology, was that there was nothing after Avatar. Palmer said he had no plans to add additional courses. If new processes or enhancements were developed in the future, they would be included within the Avatar Course and made available free to anyone who had already completed it.
Many people who had bailed out of Scientology had already spent upwards of $100,000 in their attempt to reach the other side of L. Ron Hubbard's long bridge, only to have it lengthened and restructured every couple of years. Each new discovery Hubbard made seemed to carry a higher price tag than that last. To them, another $2,000 (discounted to $1,500 for the initial course offered by Palmer and the trainers) was no big deal. Besides, at any time during the first part of the course, through the point when you read the secret process and were ready to receive a guided "initiation session," you were welcome to a full refund of the course fee.
It sounded fair enough to me, so I signed up with about 20 other people. Just about all were former Scientologists, including a number of local luminaries. One was Peter Monk, the man who had first introduced Werner Erhard to Scientology shortly before Erhard developed the est course.
The Avatar course was taught by Avra Honey Smith, who was presented as Palmer's wife (I later heard they weren't officially married), assisted by Susan Sweetland and Margie Hoffman. Palmer didn't participate in running the course; he simply strolled in and out of the course room occasionally. The women who taught the course were collectively known as the "Avatar Angels." The course began at the El Rancho Motel in Millbrae. Later, as more people showed up, it was moved across the Bay to the Travelodge Motel near Jack London Square in Oakland. Students were enrolled in typical Scientology fashion, which included signing a legal agreement not to divulge the confidential materials of the course, and to pay $10,000 for each infringement if they did.
We read mimeographed materials and listened to a number of taped lectures Palmer had recorded. At the beginning of each tape was a warning delivered by Margie Hoffman. It stated that anyone not authorized to hear this information should stop the tape now, because the information had been known to cause severe personality changes. Oh, boy, I thought. I was ready for a few of those. The content of the course was pretty much the same as the one delivered today except that the reading materials and tapes were full of Scientology jargon. Some of the ideas were Scientological, though there was also a heavy dose of Vedantic wisdom and a few Zen touches. At that time, the course was delivered as a single unit. Today, it has three sections.
The first is available in book form. The Creativism workbook contains the basic theory of the course and contains exercises for locating subconscious beliefs that may be running one's life. The remaining two sections are confidential. Part II, which contains two basic exercises with a number of variations, costs $500. Part III, in which the technique for "discreating" unwanted conditions is explained and used, costs $1,500. During the Feel-It exercises on Part II of the Course, the student simply regains the ability to experience the world directly--to feel things rather than translate perceptions intellectually. This is similar to some upper level process in Scientology called OT I and "old" OT VII (OT meaning "Operating Thetan," a realized being).
For example, in the OT VII process, the student "places intentions" in various objects and people and observes their effects. The Avatar exercise consists of singling out an object, plant, person or belief (the thought forms Palmer described as "bubbles in consciousness"). Then the student gets a concept of the space it occupies, identifies with it and experiences how it feels. Further variations of this exercise entail consciously switching one's mental "filters," or judgments in a purposeful effort to change one's perceptions.
See that guy over there? Make him a saint. Now make him a child molester. Feel any different? Finally, one consciously decides to see things just as they are, with no judgments attached. Direct experience of this sort gives the student a profound sense of tranquility and a perception of being at peace with the whole of creation. The second set of exercises on Part II consist of making repeated affirmations--a set of statements designed to "create one's own [subjective] reality." Unlike conventional positive thinking and visualization techniques, these exercises encourage the student to focus on any thoughts or reactions triggered by the affirmations. These are called "secondaries," and are seen as limiting beliefs which prevent one from "creating the personal reality" voiced in the primary affirmation. The secondary responses, like the perceptual "filters" explored during the earlier exercises, are eliminated by consciously and repeatedly exaggerating them.
These exercises are done in pairs, with one student acting as a coach in the same manner as the Scientology Training Routines, a set of communication exercises. The technique for eliminating secondaries is reminiscent of familiar Scientology Creative Processes used for exploring different mental "mock-ups," including persistent emotional states and compulsive behaviors. The same technique is used in exercises called "Mood Drills." The person simply practices doing whatever it is deliberately until it comes under full control. From this perspective, it is easy to willfully stop doing it. Say you have a tic in your eye. If you concentrates on it and cause it to occur repeatedly until it becomes boring, chances are the tic will be gone, at least temporarily.
The content and effect of the "Source List" set of affirmations are similar to those of the Scientology Power Processes, which involve repetitively giving answers to the commands, "Tell me a Source. " and "Tell me a no-source." The end result is the same: a sense that one is source -- the seat of consciousness at the center of the universe, creating everything outside through conscious intent. The Power Processes were a standard part of the Scientology "bridge" until the early 1980's, when they were declared unnecessary for most people, when it was conveniently discovered that they routinely "went Clear" during lower levels of auditing, and could progress directly to the expensive upper levels. Many former Scientologists believe the real reason the Power Processes were discontinued was that they worked too well. People who received them often did not feel the need to buy more auditing for years. They sometimes gained such a sense of autonomy that they asked embarrassing questions about the motives of the organization.
After a few days on the Part II Avatar exercises, the student is prepared--and usually raring--to start Part III. After reading a little material explaining the Creation Handling Procedure an Initiation Session is delivered by a Trainer. The Creation Handling procedure is the one part of Avatar that everyone who took the course considered unique until a graduate came across a description of a Tibetan meditation technique taught by Tarthang Tulku. Tulku is a Tibetan lama who left the country after the Chinese invasion, and founded the Nyingama Institute in Berkeley, California in 1969.
His method for eliminating unwanted thought forms and their effects, as described in the book Hidden Mind of Freedom is almost precisely the same as Palmer's "discovery."
"Working with thoughts by opening them as they arise can bring many pleasant feelings, which--without attachment--also become our meditation. . . . We can even go into the thoughts that judge other thoughts, and, embracing this judging mind, become united with it."
"By relying on the light of awareness you can see that the difficulties you face are manifestations of your own concepts. Going deeply into your thoughts, you will see how you create your experience, how you alone are the judge who determines heaven and hell, good and bad. "
"Whatever experience arises, stay with it, expand it, and heat it up. If you remain within the intense core of the experience, the meditator unites with thoughts and emotions, and everything dissolves. Then awareness grows powerful and one-pointed. As thoughts and emotions are increasingly included within this field of awareness, they become more useful. Instead of being a cause of frustration or confusion, they become agents of well-being. . . . "
In recounting his sensory deprivation experiments, Palmer describes "pulling the plug" on what he calls the circus of the mind and watching it disappear. After that, he was left in a state of pure consciousness where his concepts of things and beliefs seemed to float like bubbles in space. Even the idea of "self," as he explains, is "the bubble you view other bubbles from."
A GLOBAL PRESENCE
At a Sheraton hotel outside Orlando were more than 40 people from all over the world. They included re-birthers, yoga teachers and past life regressionists from France; an NLP counselor from Belgium; a seeker from Berlin; an elderly minister and his wife from Australia; psychologists, artists, Course in Miracles students and a smattering of former Scientologists from all over the U.S. Avatar, I learned had become a big hit in France, where it had been introduced by several former Scientologists and a well-known yoga instructor. There, it was called an "applied philosophy," and was growing roughly twice as fast as in the U.S.
Whatever was going on, the course itself was one hell of a high. While I was there, I met a number of wonderful, often quirky, but unfailingly optimistic people. All of them had a sense of the common mission I had experienced back in Scientology days--to live in a world without insanity, criminality, war and other problems caused by the baser aspects of human nature. They were obviously intent on transforming not only themselves, but the consciousness of the world at large. There were none of the quasi-military overtones I had experienced in Scientology, only an atmosphere of common purpose freely created by the participants. Telepathy ran rampant.
One day as I was in my room changing to head for the swimming pool, I got a mental image of a French student, Dominique Rochier, biting into a Dove Bar I had put in the freezer compartment of the mini-bar refrigerator. I took it out, got into the elevator and unwrapped it. The elevator stopped on the next floor down and Dominique entered. As the door slid shut, he asked "Where you get zat?" "At the 7-11 down the street," I replied. "Want a bite?"
I held out the ice cream bar and he chomped into the corner, precisely matching the premonitory mental image I had seen a couple of minutes before. Honest. Would I make up something like that? During the course, it was announced that East German refugees were streaming into West Germany via Czechoslovakia, and that the Berlin partition was effectively over. I told Petra Shulte, the seeker who had come from Berlin to take the course, how lucky she was to be able to return home and watch such a large real world persistent mass dissolve before her eyes. As before, Palmer occasionally sauntered into the course area and chatted with people, but remained mostly aloof from the daily activity.
At the end of the course, I learned that the contract Avatar Masters were required to sign had been revised since I first started the course. The "licensing fee" to be rebated to Star's Edge was now 25% for the first ten students, 20% for the next ten, and 15% thereafter. Palmer had instituted a multi-level system. Masters whose students went on to become Masters themselves would receive "grid payments" of 10% of Masters Course fees paid by their protegees' first ten Avatar students, and 5% of the fees paid by the next ten students. In my case, of course, the payments would go directly to Star's Edge, since I had originally taken the Avatar Course from them. The system for the French was different. They were to pay 25% fees for their first twenty students, and 20% from then on. They also received a straight 10% commission of $300 for any of their students who went on to the Masters Course.
I had some qualms about this payment system from a business standpoint. The 25% initial fees to be paid at the beginning seemed almost usurious and counter-productive. They would strap new Masters who were trying to set up a practice with extra expenses exactly when they could least afford them. The "grid system" commission payments were paid pretty much at the whim of Star's Edge, and would provide a significant cash float between the time they were collected and paid. But I signed the contract anyway. Who wanted to dicker in an atmosphere of such limitless, boundary-less consciousness? At least I went in knowing I would be required to pay commissions for every student I taught. I later talked to several Avatar Masters who went through the course totally unaware of the terms of the licensing agreement until they came to it at the end of the course materials on the last day of the course and were told they had to sign it in order to deliver the course.
On Sunday afternoon, after the course ended, Palmer hosted a party at the Star's Edge headquarters a few miles from the hotel. Palmer and the three trainers live in a large ranch house situated on several acres of land, surrounded by empty horse stables and outbuildings. The office is a converted recreation room. There was a catered barbecue lunch, kegs of beer, vats of iced tea and ice buckets filled with soft drinks.
Entertainment included an interpretive dance by a young woman from New Caledonia and a "snoot flute" rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by two U.S. Masters, who prefaced the performance with a suggestion that world leaders counter hostile feelings by playing their national anthems on the instrument while looking into a mirror. (The Snoot Flute is a small red plastic device played by blowing through the nose which makes the performer look ridiculous.) There was a performance of "Mad About Nothing," a charming one-man show by a French Master named Michel Langinieux. He created his participatory theatrical adventure based on the techniques developed by his friend Douglas Harding, the English architect and Zen master, for producing an instant sense of "the void." Susan Sweetland sang "Amazing Grace," a tradition at the end of the Masters Course, and brought tears to most eyes. The party was marred by one disturbing event. A French student staggered on-stage as Palmer was announcing something and began mumbling incoherently, though happily. Palmer led him offstage, but he returned again, obviously disoriented, and was again led away.
I later learned that he had been doing a considerable amount of drinking during the course. As it turned out, he had a history of autism and acute depression replete with suicidal inclinations. I heard that he was not licensed as an Avatar Master, but I have no idea whether he would now be selling the course and guiding students toward self-realization had he not caused the scene at the party. He stayed on in Orlando for a brief period after the course. During the next week, he was returned to the hotel by the police a few times, once after having passed out on the shore of a nearby lake inhabited by alligators. Finally he was put on a plane back to France by some acquaintances who called his girlfriend to pick him up on the other end of the flight.
THE AVATAR CENTRE OF S.F.
I went back to San Francisco and published the required "fictitious business name" ad in a weekly newspaper describing myself as the proprietor of the Avatar Centre of San Francisco. The next thing I did was transcribe Palmer's original taped lecture, which was still being distributed in an edited version, and publish it as a twelve-page printed booklet. I was soon joined by Dominique Rochier, Michel Langinieux and Philo Mourier, another French graduate of the Masters Course I had met in Orlando. All had decided to come and hang out in San Francisco for a while. Philo stayed for a few months until he returned to Paris.
Things went slowly at first. I hadn't anticipated the amount of personal growth competition that existed in the San Francisco Bay Area, or the number of people who expected enlightenment to be free in the Eastern tradition. But by placing ads in some weekly papers and taking a booth at New Age fairs, I was contacted by several hundred interested seekers, and started training some students on the course. I discovered that those who had received previous training or counseling in mental practices breezed through the course in 70 hours or so. Others -- particularly those who had a tendency to rationalize, and approached philosophy from an intellectual rather than an experiential standpoint -- had a rough time getting through the exercises in Section II of the course.
Some needed 100 hours or more to complete the entire course thoroughly. It soon became evident to me that everyone who took the course needed to come back and review it at least once, if only briefly. Since the course is proprietary and confidential, students leave with only what they can remember. No matter how blissed out they become when they take the course for the first time, they inevitably have more work to do after they settle back into everyday reality. Once they do, many find that they have pretty well discreated the techniques they learned on the course along with everything else.
Many who come back after a month or so open the course materials and say, "I don't remember reading this. Is it new?" I also discovered that Star's Edge wasn't good for many referrals unless I ran ads in the Avatar Journal, and that the referrals appeared to be based on the size of ads Masters ran. Instead of running larger ads, I wrote a couple of articles, for which Star's Edge gratuitously paid me $100 per page. That brought in some students.
The biggest advertiser in the magazine was a man from Phoenix who ran a two-page spread in each issue. He listed future course schedules across the U.S., instructing prospective students to block out 30 hours of time within a four-day period. After he made a foray through San Francisco in November and delivered the course to several people, I got a call from one of them. She said most of the people on the course hadn't completed it. They were told they could finish up when the Master returned four months later. She guessed the reason the course hadn't gone very well might have been the San Francisco earthquake, which shaken up the Bay Area on November 17. I didn't think it polite to point out that the course had concluded on November 16, and her teacher had flown out of town for another engagement the morning of the 17th, only hours before the quake occurred. I spent at least 40 more hours working with her gratis.
Eventually another student from the same course showed up. He had AIDS, and was low on energy. He said he hadn't necessarily expected to cure himself with Avatar, but at least thought he might figure out the karma that had caused him to become afflicted. Now he was under the distinct impression that his teacher had ripped him off and skipped town with his last $2,000. I worked with him as best I could over the phone and on the occasions when he felt well enough to make it over. Then one day I called him and he said he had been too ill to do anything. I didn't hear from him again. I wrote a letter to the itinerant Avatar Master and told him he had better clean up his act before a bottle of snake oil appeared in his hand, referring to the photo in his ad which depicted him in an evangelical pose with an outstretched hand. I enclosed a bill for $1,000, the least I figured he owed me for the work I had done with his incomplete students, and sent a copy to Harry Palmer. I never received a reply from either of them, though I later heard that the wayfaring Master had been instructed by Star's Edge to increase the time of his courses to a minimum of six days.
By then, he had been delivering 30-hour courses for about a year, and was said to have "completed more than 80 people." Over the next year, I managed to give the course to about a dozen people. After paying the expenses of promoting the course and royalty payments, I didn't net much from the Avatar Course. I was still writing ad copy to pay the bills. Teaching the course was, however, a joy. Every time I saw students pop loose from the subconscious dramatizations that had been controlling their lives, I got a vicarious thrill that made it worthwhile.
My most interesting referral came from--well, I should say through--a trance channeler in Florida. One day a marketing executive from a local financial services company called me up. He had gotten the number by calling an information operator. He said he had recently moved to the Bay Area. Before leaving Florida, he went to his channeler and asked his personal astral guides what he should do as the next step in his spiritual development. One of the guides told him to check out the Avatar Course. When the channeler came out of his trance, he said he really didn't know anything about the course, but there was a bunch of information different people had left on a table in the hall. On the table my prospect found a tape of Palmer's 1987 lecture. He stuck the tape away for some months, then came across it while unpacking some boxes after his move to California. He had listened to earlier the day he called while riding to work on the Tiburon Ferry. He signed up for the course shortly after our first visit, and was ecstatic with the results.
Of the people who took the course from me, only one told me he felt that he hadn't really gotten what he expected out of Avatar, and speculated that might have been because he had glossed over some of the exercises to please me. I invited him to come back for another go at it. Along the way, I published a couple of newsletters, got together with some other Avatar Masters from the Bay Area and started delivering "Section I Workshops" based on the Creativism workbook, which by this time had been republished in a glitzy four-color version with New Age airbrush art from past issues of the Avatar Journal and a couple of new exercises. Most of the people who took the workshops were pleased with them, and a few went on to take the complete course. I was informed by a local Master that Avra Honey Smith had recently remarked that anyone giving these seminars should be getting an 80% sign-up rate. When I asked how many workshops Avra had conducted herself, the answer was none. Was someone else achieving this rate? If so, I'd like to talk to them. The Master hadn't heard of any. Avra hadn't mentioned any.. She simply said that anyone not getting 80% of participants to sign up for the rest of the course was "still stuck in an identity."
TROUBLES WITH HARRY
In the spring of 1990, I received a call from Del (not his real name), a friend of one of my students who lives in New York City. His friend, a professional Neuro-Linguistic Programming counselor, had told me the course allowed him to reach the state he had been searching for all his life. He had talked to Del and recommended that he take the course in San Francisco. I offered to put him in touch with someone in New York, but he said he believed a skilled instructor was important. I had been highly recommended, so he was pretty well set on coming out to the Coast. A couple of months after we first talked, he called to tell me that he had decided to go to Orlando and take the course at Star's Edge instead. I told him to do whatever he wanted. Then I recalled Palmer's earlier statement that Star's Edge wasn't going to be delivering the Avatar Course. They had, in fact, recently added a fifth staff member who was hired specifically to supervise the course there, and had run a full page ad in the last Avatar Journal.
The basic Avatar Course was obviously seen as a sideline profit center in its own right. Looking back over my years in business, it was clear to me that Palmer was making the short-sighted mistake of "going direct"--the equivalent of General Motors opening a retail showroom in front of the car factory. Legitimate companies sell products and services either directly or through licensees, but almost never both ways. I confronted Palmer on the subject in a way I felt pretty certain would get home to him, considering his heavy emphasis on being paid commissions for each and every student who receives the course. I simply waited until I owed more than $1,500 in payments for books and licensing fees, deducted $1,500 (the $2,000 course fee less Star's Edge's $500 commission) for the student they had recruited and enclosed a check for the balance. In an accompanying letter, I reminded him of his previous promise not to compete with the "network" and informed him that a number of other people had heard him say the same thing.
Star's Edge had just announced the first delivery of the Wizards Course to be held in January, so while I was at it, I reminded him of his earlier statement that "There was nothing after Avatar." When he introduced the Avatar Course, he had repeatedly assured prospective students that any future developments would be added to the basic course and made available free of charge. The Wizards Course, subtitled "The Avatar Materials, Part V," had initially been priced at $20,000. Part I was now offered at a special introductory rate of $5,000, to be increased to $7,500 the next time it was offered.
In my letter I asked him to simply drop the course materials in the mail, since that was what he had promised to do when he first promoted Avatar to former Scientologists as "the end of case." His response was a letter full of Scientology argot, a parody of L. Ron Hubbard's vernacular, warning me that I should reconsider, meaning to pay up. Palmer explained that Star's Edge only delivered the Avatar Course so Masters could experience watching students go through it. During the past year, he said, more than 1,500 prospective students had been referred to licensed Masters, while only about 20 had received the course at Star's Edge during Masters Courses. As for Del, Palmer said the trainers had asked him to leave during his second stint there because of a "conflicting hidden agenda." The letter was an entertaining parody, and was signed "Ron, er, Harry." There was just one problem: Palmer did not address my questions about his earlier statements at all. When I questioned a few other Masters who had been there to review the Masters Course that year about how many people were taking the Avatar Course at headquarters, one commented, "Bullshit! There were ten or twelve new people when I was there, and they gave six Masters Courses in Florida last year."
As Palmer and I began an exchange of letters, Michel Langinieux showed up for what turned out to be a three-month stay in San Francisco. He knows a number of people here from the days when he had lived in the area during the 1960s. During that time, he hung out with Alan Watts and other explorers on the outer realms of consciousness while teaching French drama at Stanford. He has been a student of Krishnamurti, Douglas Harding and Werner Erhard. He is on a first-name basis with just about everybody who is anybody in the worldwide consciousness-raising movement, as well as dozens of cutting-edge scientists, journalists and other thinkers he finds amusing. Michel calls himself a traveling minstrel. He officially lives in Paris, but spends most of his time flitting around the planet, stopping off a month or a few months wherever his fancy leads him. He supports himself modestly by performing the interactive show he gave when we both graduated from the Avatar Masters Course.
In the show, he wears masks representing Harlequin, Pantelone and a character called, simply, "The Fool." During the performance, he proceeds to gently remove some of the psychological masks worn by the audience. As it turned out, he had already begun to unmask Harry Palmer. Since the Masters Course we attended in Orlando, Michel had dropped in on four more courses in Europe and the U.S. in order to hone his skills. Now he had a few concerns of his own about events in Europe. In Europe, the Masters Courses were getting so large that the training was obviously superficial. Courses had recently been given at a rural castle in France, in Nice, in Montpelier, and in Neufchatel, Switzerland. At the Swiss course, 250 people attended. The three trainers were obviously stretched too thin, yet most of those attending were certified as Masters and turned loose to deliver the course. There had been incidents.
In Nice, a psychiatrist taking the course became so agitated when he couldn't get a question answered that he picked up a table and smashed it. In Montpelier someone who had taken the Avatar Course without getting the results he expected showed up to confront Palmer and got a refund after causing a scene in front of the group. The training at that course was so lax that many new Masters were licensed without even practicing guided "initiation sessions" on each other. Michel felt the Avatar course was being delivered in an increasingly unprofessional manner in France by people who obviously weren't qualified to teach it. Some Masters were surreptitiously cutting the price in order to win students away from others. Others were demonstrating the confidential procedures to the public at fairs. When asked about the lack of quality control, Miken Chappel had philosophically answered, "Some people have to get Avatar in spite of their Masters."
Before he left Paris, Michel had run into one of the most successful Avatar Masters in France, a psychologist. With his partner, he had taught the course to about 200 people during the past couple of years at their counseling center in Boulogne. The man had talked to Palmer at a Masters Course and informed him that he thought a lower commission schedule might be in order for people who delivered as many courses as he and his partner. Would Harry consider lowering the fee to 15% or 10% at a certain point?
Palmer's response, said the psychologist, was to point a finger at him (a grave insult in French culture) and call him a "black heart." After attempting to talk to Palmer a second time about the matter and getting the identical response, he went back to Boulogne and cut off all further communications with Star's Edge. He and his partner are now reportedly delivering a course called "Global Brain." While visiting a Masters Course in the U.S., Michel had spent some time working with Mike (not his real name), a student who had obviously not yet assimilated even the basic Avatar Course.
When he asked Avra Honey Smith why she was instructing him to do certain things, and pressed her for specific answers to questions about the criteria for completing the Masters Course, she told him that he basically had to please her, since she doled out the certificates. The trainers subsequently concluded that he was on drugs, and didn't pass him on the course. His conclusion was that he had been conned out of $5,000. Michel offered to put him through the Avatar Course again gratis, but he declined. When he questioned Mike about the first time he took the course in New York, Michel discovered that he was required to show up for only a couple of hours a day. Much of his time on the course had been spent not doing the exercises, but chatting about the course's theory from a philosophic viewpoint.
As for being on drugs, he said he hadn't used drugs to any extent for years -- though he had shared a few joints with his Avatar Master during the 12 or 14 hours he spent on the course. There had been problems with the French translation of the new Creativism book. Palmer had originally asked Michel to translate the book. When he was told it couldn't be finished within his one-month deadline, he hired another translator who took three months, and whose work Michel regarded as incompetent. Michel and Marie Franciose Baracetti, a Paris newspaper editor, made numerous corrections, but most were not incorporated in the final edition before it was rushed to press with some 200 inaccuracies. One glaring error particularly bothered them. In the section of the book where Palmer justifies the price of the course by saying it is aimed at the successful middle-class stratum of society, the translation implied it was "not for the common people" -- an elitist sentiment that has been anathema to the French since the revolution. An equivalent American gaffe would be to say an activity "is not for white trash."
Baracetti mentioned the translation problems in letters to other Avatar Masters. Palmer accused her of "black worming" and treachery in general. Several months later, her license to deliver the course was suspended; she was forbidden to teach students pending her review of the Masters Course. She was told she could attend Masters Courses to be held two months later in Florida or three months later in Switzerland -- but was not invited to a course scheduled to begin in France ten days after the date of her suspension notice. Apparently someone at Star's Edge did not want to take the chance that she might express her opinions there.
A Swiss industrialist, noting the mistakes in the translation of the book, asked how many copies had been printed. "Only 10,000? No problem. Burn them and print it again." Word has it that Palmer came close to having a heart attack. "Harry just doesn't seem to trust professionals," said Michel. "He hires nincompoops. He doesn't realize when people are supporting him. He sees support as betrayal." Michel loved delivering Avatar. At the time he showed up in San Francisco, He had given Part I workshops at no charge for more than 700 people in Europe and America. He liked sharing the work with people, and felt that a number of them had been transformed without taking the rest of the course. Now he had serious doubts that Palmer's management skills were up to maintaining the level of quality needed to deliver the course properly. "He has discovered a jewel and then misused it to satisfy his own idiosyncrasies," said Michel. "He seems to misuse gullible people to satisfy his own greed. It's anything for a quick buck." When I told Michel about my current disagreement with Palmer, and introduced him to some of the people who had originally taken Avatar back in 1987, he was surprised to hear about the upset in Elmira.
On an intuitive hunch, I called Del, the man from New York who had gone to Orlando to take the course. Avra didn't really use any hard sell on him, he said, and he had initially felt comfortable about taking the course at headquarters because he assumed they knew what they were doing. When he went for the first time, he found the trainers a bit cold and reluctant to answer his questions. Nonetheless, he acknowledged that the last day of the course was the highest day of his life. He decided to return and review the course the next time it was scheduled.
In the meantime, after mentioning Avatar to some friends, he received a letter and some copies of newspaper articles about Palmer from someone in Elmira. When he went to Florida to review the course, he tentatively brought up the subject of Palmer's Scientology background, and was "told to go do Feel-It's as penance." The trainers, he said, wouldn't really acknowledge anything about Palmer's past. He felt they were being evasive. This made him uncomfortable, so he left of his own volition midway through the course. I vaguely recalled hearing about some articles in the Elmira paper, so I asked him to send me copies of what he had received.
In order to make certain I had heard Palmer say what I thought he had said, I had just sent out several questionnaires to people who were present in 1987 when he was giving his first round of lectures. One was Margie Hoffman, the Avatar trainer who had caused a stir back in 1987 when she quit. While I was out one evening, she called from Elmira and had a chat with Michel. When I returned, he was aghast. "They say he's a crook!" he exclaimed, rolling the R indignantly. "Still lawsuits after four years! He stole from 30 or 40 people! Some are bankrupt! They're screaming bloody murder! Margie and Linda Rosin testified against him in court in November!" Something told me the merde had hit the fan.
The Elmira upset is described in a brief chronology entitled "Avatar's Time Track" which appeared in the new edition of the Creativism book: "A few former employees, envious of Avatar's growing success, choose to explore aspects of betrayal and launch a broad publicity campaign to denounce Harry and his Star's Edge Organization." As it turns out, a few dozen people in Elmira see the events of October, 1987 in an entirely different light. Their version would read more like this: "Every student and client of Palmer's Scientology center, joined by all but two of his staff members, denounced him emphatically. They claimed he had systematically swindled hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, then slandered and blackmailed members of the group who threatened him with exposure." The next day after her conversation with Michel, I called Margie back and listened to her story for more than half an hour. No sooner had I hung up the phone than it rang. Linda Rosin, the former promotion manager of the center was on the other end of the line.
The next day, more people from Elmira called. They all asked pretty much the same question: was someone finally going to do something to expose Palmer as he really was? He was described by various people as a con artist, a cruel and ruthless swindler, a master manipulator of people, a blackmailer and a compulsive liar, among other things. "The man is absolutely crazy," said Hoffman. "He's totally gone." Strong talk, that.
Coming from one person, I might have dismissed it as vengeful gossip by a jealous former employee trying to get back at Palmer for some imagined slight. But Margie Hoffman sounded cool, collected and totally genuine. She had no financial claims against Palmer herself, she said, but plenty of other people did. In fact, she had testified against him in court only a couple of months before. There were plenty of other people to back up her story. The "few former employees" who had sided against Palmer turned out to comprise the entire staff of the Elmira center, with the exceptions of Sue Sweetland and Miken Chappel. A number of staff members who had worked there for a decade or more verified what Margie said, and many offered to provide factual evidence. These were six of the nine volunteers who initially received the Avatar procedures when Palmer did his pilot run, as described in the article "The first Avatar Materials" in the latest edition of Creativism. Interestingly, none of them had anything bad to say about the Avatar Course. Some felt the results promised had been overstated, but they all thought Avatar had been a more or less valuable experience. Their problems were with Harry Palmer. I started checking out the stories of some other people who had dealt with Palmer over the past few years.
THE FRENCH LETTER TORTURE
The phone calls continued, and photocopies of letters and articles arrived from Elmira. Of particular interest to Michel was a series of letters that had been sent to various people around the U.S. by Kathleen Raines, who was a student at the mission from 1983 to 1987 after his development of Avatar. While studying there she fell in love with and married Tom Wright, who supervised some of the courses. The tone of the letters was resentful, but the details were specific and plentiful. Her accounts of events at the Center for Creative Learning chronicle episodes of intimidation, coercion and extortion that far exceed the notorious excesses of the Church of Scientology.
Michel wrote a letter to Palmer, enclosing a copy of one of the letters from Kathleen Raines. Palmer's response, which arrived a few days later, was that she was "addled." If she published it, she could certainly be sued. Michel's next letter called Palmer's attention to the fact that the information had already been published. "Are you going to sue the newspaper?" he asked. The tone of Michel's letters was polite, but he asked very direct questions and became increasingly insistent on getting some answers.
Why were there dozens of people in Elmira still claiming to have been victimized after so many years? What had put them in that state? Their numbers included the same people Palmer had claimed were initially transformed by Avatar, yet they now felt betrayed. Wasn't this harmful to the progress of the work? Why didn't Palmer clean this up and settle it? Palmer did not answer the questions. His response was basically, "Don't trouble yourself with this." After receiving a few evasive replies, Michel quoted a section of the Masters Course materials where Palmer had said "You embark upon lands that are known for treachery and deceit. . . where the charlatans outnumber the master by ten thousand. . . ." "Now it seems to be ten thousand and one," said Michel. "All he sees is treachery; no wonder he said that. Does he think we can be manipulated like those people in Elmira? Who does he think he's dealing with?"
After a few more exchanges, Michel sent copies of Raines' letters to a few of his friends who were Avatar Masters asking what they thought about all this. When someone called Star's Edge and mentioned having seen the material, Palmer responded by sending an overnight letter to which officially terminated his license to deliver the Avatar Course. People were speculating, said Palmer, that Michel and I must have something to hide. He advised Michel to "safely distance yourself from further criticism of Harry Palmer and Avatar," and carbon copied his attorneys. Michel, feeling by this time that Palmer was the one with something to hide, began sending out more copies of letters and newspaper articles he had received from the group in Elmira to Avatar Masters throughout the U.S. and Europe. He made numerous trips to the post office. I don't know exactly how many packets of information he sent, but it must have numbered in the hundreds.
During the next week, the copying machine at the corner store broke down twice. The same day Michel got his notice, I received a computerized form letter by registered mail informing me that my license to deliver Avatar had been suspended until such time as I successfully reviewed the Masters Course. By this time, I didn't expect to be successful if I did attempt to review the course. Passing the Masters Course is entirely dependent on Avra's judgment, and she has been known to flunk people who don't see the light, meaning seeing things her way. Instead of calling to book a plane ticket, I made a few more calls to Elmira, sent a few letters, then began piecing together the missing elements of "Avatar's Time Track." It goes something like this.
THE TIME TRACK, EXPANDED
Harry Palmer opened a Scientology mission called the Center for Creative Learning in Elmira, New York in 1971. At the time, he was reportedly a Class IV case supervisor, a fairly low level of training. Before that, he claims to have held a tenured teaching position. He has told one person that he had a Master's degree in psychology, and another that he was trained in engineering. Former staff members say he was a high school counselor before he opened the center. They also say he was asked to resign his position after complaints that he began to incorporate Scientology techniques into his work.
The center delivered lower level Scientology courses and auditing, a form of counseling performed with a device called an E-Meter, a device similar to a lie detector. It measures galvanic skin response through a couple of tin cans held loosely in the hands. A sensitive ohmmeter needle on the front jerks and dips in response to mental activity as a person is being "audited," or counseled, so the counselor can note subliminal responses.
Palmer and Avra Honey Smith ran the center, assisted by staff members like Gale Lyon, who worked there for 13 years as an auditor (counselor); Margie Hoffman, who worked there for 12 years; and Linda Rosin, promotion manager, who worked there seven years. In typical Scientology fashion, staff members were expected to work long hours for little pay. But Palmer had big plans for the future. Someday, he said, his entire family of loyal followers would be rich. They were the gauntlet that would propel him, the sword, to greatness. He told them he was doing research on religions. Once he got it figured out, he would start a new one that would be wildly successful. He paraphrased a well-known statement L. Ron Hubbard had once made at a science fiction convention: "If you want to get rich, the best way is to start a religion." At some point along the way, Palmer also started a sideline business selling and installing TV satellite dishes. Linda Rosin's husband Dick, who was taking courses at the mission, worked for that company. In 1982, the Church of Scientology began to lash out at its independent mission holders, demanding large sums of money it claimed they had "withheld." Missions were charged as much as $15,000 per day [not a misprint] just to have their books inspected by "Finance Police" in order to determine whether they had been up to any financial hanky-panky. From the sounds of things, they could have made an honest case against Palmer.
Gale Lyons says she delivered auditing 50 hours each week, but that records were falsified. Palmer reported only about 12 hours per week, she says, and paid the church its 10% commissions based on that figure. Just before the Finance Police came through town, she says, he called her into his office and told her to memorize what was on the schedule board; it was about to be erased.
The Church of Scientology is well known for playing dirty tricks on its perceived enemies, and for using various manipulative techniques to intimidate its staff members and clientele. According to former staff members, Palmer could have showed them a few new tricks. Not only did he consistently under-report the amount of auditing that was delivered, they say, he spied on the church's activities.
Gale Lyons recalls seeing stacks of documents he had collected that detailed top secret "Black Scientology" techniques for harming the church's enemies. On his home computer, he managed to hack his way into the church's computer network, printing out stacks of legal documents and other information.
Linda Rosin remembers making hundreds of photocopies of this material. One day, Gale Lyon recalls, he came in looking forlorn. "I've lost it," he said. "I've tried everything and I can't get in." Apparently the church had improved its computer security. He also appears to have perfected the intimidation and manipulation of staff members and students to levels unheard of in the Church of Scientology. The idea that Palmer's staffers would submit to some of the treatment they say he dealt out may sound incredible, but not to anyone who has spent time around a Scientology organization or any similar cult that uses manipulative techniques to keep its members in line.
The methods are simple, methodical and insidious. Once they taste some relief from their worries, people within the organization, are convinced they belong to a select group. They know something the rest of the world doesn't. A psychological wall is built up between the group and the rest of society (known in Scientology as "wogs," the racist British colonial acronym for "Worthy Oriental Gentleman"). Organization members are convinced that they have a special mission--to improve themselves and to proselytize to the rest of the world.
Scientology portrays itself as the sole effective purveyor of spiritual freedom, contesting formidable forces of darkness on a global (or in the case of Scientology, multi-galactic) scale. Group members are told they must sacrifice for the cause now, and promised rich rewards in the future when the group's goals are accomplished. They are indoctrinated with esprit de corps to the point of militaristic obedience. If they question the motives of their leadership, they are threatened with disgrace and expulsion. Liberal use is made of a psychological technique known as "the Stockholm effect."
Simply put, it works like this: if you apply consistent duress to people, they will be grateful to you whenever you stop. While working on a smaller scale than L. Ron Hubbard, Harry Palmer managed to use these techniques very effectively within his sphere of influence, which included about 40 people in the Elmira area. Staff members say they worked twelve or more hours a day, six days a week, receiving anywhere from $50 to a maximum of $150 per week in wages. They idolized Palmer, and even volunteered to go paint his house one Sunday, their only day off. Their wages were supposed to be paid in "units" which were parceled out as percentages of the value of services delivered by the center.
Gale Lyons recalls mentioning after a particularly busy and lucrative week that the paychecks should be pretty fat this week. No, Avra explained, they had to make up for the weeks when there was no income. "What weeks when there was no income?" Lyons asks herself in retrospect. She was busy every week. When she went back over her records and tallied up the total amount paid for the auditing she delivered, she came up with $1,867,000.
Lyons' daughter, Maryann Dolschenko, began taking Scientology courses at the center when she was eleven. In 1975, shortly before her thirteenth birthday, a drive was started to sell copies of Dianetics, Hubbard's introductory treatise on the mind. Avra Honey Smith talked Dolschenko into using $50 she would be getting soon as a present from her grandparents to buy books for resale. She was promised that the money would be refunded if she were unable to sell the books. "Avra wanted the money to be counted in the week's statistics," says Dolschenko, "so my mother advanced a check, and Avra agreed to hold it until I received my birthday money. She cashed the check that afternoon and went shopping."
Over the next three months, Dolschenko managed to sell three of the 25 books--two to relatives and one to a neighbor. When she asked for a refund, Avra denied having made the agreement and told her to hold onto the books for a few years until maturity made her a better salesperson. The next year, Dolschenko became a Dianetic auditor and worked at the center briefly for $2 per hour. After working for 25 hours, she was told that her attitude wasn't grown up enough. On her way out the door, Avra Honey Smith cornered her and instructed her to sign her paycheck over to the center. She owed it for the "Minister's Course," which was necessary because of legal technicalities.
After the course, she was unable to be ordained at the Buffalo church because by that time, Palmer was having a row with them. Linda Rosin says part of her job was to chauffeur Honey Smith to and from work each day, pick up her dry cleaning and do her laundry. Avra and Palmer lived in a ramshackle farm house 20 minutes out of town. Avra had learned to drive for the first time when she was 35, but rarely got behind the wheel.
The house, says Rosin, was "disgusting, an absolute slum. Harry's German Shepherds had the run of the place, and they had chewed up all the furniture, so there was stuffing falling out of it. I honestly think Avra was so intimidated by Harry that she didn't feel she could make her home her own."
Avra Honey Smith's hobby was collecting jewelry. Palmer collected hunting knives and guns, but his most prized collection was the store of gold ingots and coins he kept buried in a strongbox in the back yard. Rosin says it was so heavy a strong man could hardly lift it, indicating his stash must have been worth well over a quarter of a million dollars. When Christmas rolled around, and again three months later as Palmer's birthday approached, Avra Honey Smith made the rounds demanding mandatory contributions from staff members and students, who were expected to contribute $100 each to buy Palmer more gold. If anyone protested that they couldn't afford it, she ordered them to come up with $300 instead. She once called the business where Maryann Dolschenko was working and asked them to garnish $300 from her wages because she had balked at contributing.
The contribution for Honey Smith's own birthday present was a bargain: only $50 each. "Avra," says Kathleen Raines, "could get blood out of a stone." Rosin and Hoffman both describe Avra Honey Smith as intimidated and verbally abused. "When the pressure was on from Avra, you could be sure she was getting the heat from Harry," says Raines. When things weren't going right, the solution was always to bring in more money.
Scientology organizations are well known for high pressure sales tactics, but the atmosphere at the Elmira Mission soon became outright rabid. Kathleen Raines says she has heard of other Scientology missions where brain-washing techniques and control techniques were the norm, but "not with the thorough viciousness Harry displayed." Gale Lyons says that when Palmer called her into his office to criticize her about something, he would often pull his hunting knife out of its sheath and stroke the blade as he talked. "Sometimes he would signal his German Shepherd Grey Wolf to snarl at me," she recalls. "Once he bit me."
In 1985, the Church of Scientology came down on the center legally. No one knows exactly what the legal proceedings between Scientology and the mission entailed, or how extensive they were. The usual reason given when the church attacked an independent mission was "not sending people up lines" for higher level training and services. In the case of the Creative Learning Center, they had ample reason to think so. At missions, students were supposed to receive only Dianetics, a form of regression therapy, and "the lower levels," processes which address various abilities and attitudes. Many people complete those levels in a hundred hours or less. By that time, they have either already "gone Clear" (cut loose from their subliminal programming), or are close enough to proceed on to processing levels offered only at higher levels of the organization.
During the thirteen years she worked there, Gale Lyons recalls only two people who "went Clear" under Palmer's case supervision and were declared ready to advance to a higher level organization, despite the fact that she alone put in 18,000 hours auditing the mission's students. One of the two "Clears," Marianne Helsing, had been known as one of the mission's toughest registrars, meaning that she was good at hammering people to take out loans for services. After "going Clear," she became more mellow. Palmer fired her, telling Tom Wright the reason was "down stats" (low statistics). Then he told other staffers she had been fired for the opposite reason; she had been "regging too hard" -- putting undue pressure on prospective students.
Soon after the lawsuit with the Church of Scientology began, Avra instituted a new fund-raising drive. The 30 to 40 people who were mission regulars were told they could buy the "entire bridge, including NOTS ("New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans," the secret upper level procedures dealing with possessive entities mentioned at the beginning of this article). The students were told to come up with money for the complete panoply of Scientology auditing levels -- now renamed -- in order to help save the center, and asked to contribute to a legal defense fund as well. People were hammered constantly. They were always expected to pay in cash. If they didn't have the money, they were told to get bank loans. Students were ordered to cosign loans for each other.
The price tag for full counseling averaged $60,000, but one student paid a total of $161,000 to purchase courses and counseling for his wife and himself. Somewhere along the line, she was sold a body clean-out program called the Purification Rundown twice. She never received it, even once. The man still has claims against Palmer for around $26,000 after having received a refund of half the money he had on account.
Kathleen Raines, who invested a total of $60,000 in advance payments for auditing, says she took out so many bank loans that at one point, her payments were more than $500 a week. Not only was she taking courses several hours a day, but working two jobs to try and keep her head above water. At the time her husband was being paid $75 for working a 47-1/2 hour week at the center, and also worked at part-time jobs to try and make ends meet. Raines says, "It is astonishing for me to look back and see that I actually got $50,000 from about 15 different banks.
We students would lie to the bankers, telling them the money was for a honeymoon, appliances, personal education, consolidation loans, credit cards, ad infinitum. We knew every bank within a hundred mile radius and which credit reporting agencies they used, and which of our loans appeared on which credit reports, and which didn't. We would also lie about our incomes. I remember seeing one person forge a tax return.
Another trick was to bombard many banks at once, and then again within a short period of time. That way, the loans wouldn't appear on your credit report yet. Staff knew that we did this. I was called a financial wizard."
Other staff members say Avra Honey Smith habitually instructed people to forge tax returns with inflated income figures to obtain loans, and told them their services were tax deductible long after the IRS had ruled that Scientology "donations" couldn't be deducted. Subsequently several of them were audited and penalized by the IRS.
Raines says she got a break of sorts when she was seriously injured in a car accident. Palmer told her to see an attorney who settled with the insurance company for $26,000. Before the deal was closed, she recalls, "the mission staff was hounding me day and night. They actually had me drive up to Buffalo to pick up the money, then go straight to the bank to cash the check. Harry and Avra never took money in checks--always in cash. The mission got $12,000 of the money. I don't know how I ever got to keep the remaining $14,000, but I used all of it to pay off some of my outstanding debt with the banks."
Gale Lyons recalls that some people used a good third of their auditing time attempting to resolve "present time problems" caused by the debt they had incurred to buy the auditing. Palmer was, of course, the case supervisor who prescribed the auditing actions. Lyons and other people who worked at the center say a syndrome evolved; if people expressed money worries, the answer was a special "repair action" designed to "clean them up." The registrars would hound them to take out another loan to pay for the extra auditing, leading to more money worries. . . .
The Church of Scientology is known for its voracious financial appetite, but the therapeutic actions sold there are doled out in a methodical, sequential fashion, according to set guidelines. Palmer routinely delivered actions out of sequence, ordered high-priced corrective actions for people he felt could afford it, and took people off counseling midway during actions they had paid for, ordering them to buy courses that would cure their "resistance to auditing." Raines says the various courses and auditing actions sold by the center had different prices at different times, for different people. Prices were never published.
After Raines married Tom Wright, she was discouraged from getting pregnant, which she feels was because motherhood would have made her a less lucrative source of income. One day she received a stern lecture from Avra when it was found out she wasn't using birth control pills. Her husband was also told that she wasn't ready to have a child -- she needed more auditing first.
Margie Hoffman, who had married a man who stayed aloof from the center after checking out a lower level course or two, was advised by Palmer to divorce him because he was a bad influence and a hindrance to her spiritual progress. There was one letup in the incessant drive for money. Tom Wright says rumors of a loan fraud investigation spread when a number of people fell behind on their loan payments and then made numerous applications for more loans. They were encouraged to make payments on time, and the pressure let up for a few months.
The legal problems with Scientology were settled in May, 1987. Staff members were not told much, and were instructed not to talk to each other about the internal affairs of the mission. It is known that as part of the settlement, Palmer signed sworn statements that he was not in possession of any of the confidential upper level materials (which he had not been authorized to deliver as a mission holder anyway), and agreed to stop using the Scientology trademarks. He was treading on a legal mine field. He had obviously obtained bootlegged copies of the upper level Scientology materials, since they were already being sold and delivered at the center. If the Church of Scientology found out, they would certainly embroil him in further expensive lawsuits.
Staff members were instructed to be on the lookout for spies. They were told to visualize a cloud of white light around the building and arrange mirrors facing outward in order to fend off the bad energies being thrown at them by the church. When a staff member left without notice, Palmer called the police and told them he suspected the man had been kidnapped, probably by Scientologists. They interviewed Gale Lyons, who had a simpler explanation. The man was tired of the pressure at the center, and had talked about moving to Las Vegas.
When they checked, they discovered that was what had happened. Palmer knew it was time to come up with something new, so he set about researching what it might be. He studied the channeled book Ramtha and acquired a complete set of audio and video tapes of channeling sessions with the entity called Bashar. The Bashar tapes provided a handy source of extra income. He had staff members make hundreds of copies of the tapes (which were protected by copyright), sold them and pocketed the money himself, according to Gale Lyons.
The center was still engaged in this cottage enterprise even after the advent of the Avatar Course, when the tape duplicating machine was in hot demand for both Palmer's introductory Avatar lecture and the bootlegged Bashar tapes. Just a few days before his announcement of the Avatar Course, Palmer mentioned to Tom Wright that he had been studying some Eastern techniques for increasing and decreasing the intensity of a reality.
THE FIRST AVATARS
In October 17, 1986, he announced that he had come up with something new and took some staff members "into session" where he ran a version of what was to become the Ultimate Process of Avatar on them using an E-meter. The sessions lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour at the most per person. Many staff members emerged in a state of ecstatic bliss. After several people had received the process, Palmer emerged from the room and said, "Anybody else wants this, see the reg[istrar]." In other words, pay up.
After the initial Avatar sessions, Palmer mentioned to staff members that he would have to "complicate this up" and "mystify it" so he could charge more for it. He developed some preliminary exercises and variations on the process, and announced it would be available for $1,000..
There was one large, embarrassing problem. The center still owed its students hundreds of hours of auditing which had already been paid for in advance at prices ranging from $100 to $200 per hour. As word went out that the Avatar Course was a "one shot clear" process which made Scientology processes obsolete, some of them began to question why they couldn't just take the course and get the remainder of their money back. At first, Palmer refused to let those who had paid in advance use the money on account for the Avatar Course, period. They would have to come up with another $1,000, which was soon increased to $1,500. Others were told they needed to be audited through Grade IV before taking the Avatar Course. Still others were told they needed the "Dynamic Enhancements" first. These were renamed versions of Scientology processes known as Lists 10, 11 and 12. They entail, among other things, spotting and releasing entities that might be causing compulsive behavior or undesirable emotions--the same Scientological affliction Palmer said was automatically eliminated by taking the Avatar Course.
One student, Drandy Campbell, had purchased part of a set of "technical volumes," the encyclopedia of lower level Scientology auditing techniques. He was told he had to buy the rest of the set of books before he would be allowed to take Avatar, despite the fact that the books were now considered obsolete. Kathleen Raines, who still had over $20,000 due her in undelivered auditing, offered to let a couple of her friends use her credit to take the course and pay her back when they got their financial affairs in order. No, said Avra Honey Smith, a transfer couldn't be allowed. That would amount to a "covert refund." If Raines' friends wanted to do the Avatar Course, they would have to cough up the money themselves--in cash, as usual.
When Avatar students started to show up from around the U.S., the course room at the center was remodeled and air conditioned. As they studied the Avatar materials, Gale Lyons was busy auditing upstairs. Other staffers were told to get on the phone and round up students who still had money on account. The word from Palmer was, use up those advance payments as quickly as possible.
When Palmer, Honey Smith, Sweetland and Hoffman went to the West Coast in early 1987 for the first out-of-state Avatar delivery in Los Angeles, things had begun to change around the center. The staff members, many still feeling the afterglow of the Avatar Course, were talking to each other more openly than ever before. Without Palmer around, things felt more relaxed.
The staff and some students began comparing notes about what had been going on. Previously they had been instructed not to discuss the center's business even amongst themselves, but now the pressure was off. Many things they had been told -- particularly about their fellow staff members -- didn't add up.
The amounts of money Margie Hoffman had collected in cash, the bank deposits made by Linda Rosin and the hours of auditing delivered by Gale Lyons were wildly disparate. This indicated to them that Palmer had simply pocketed a large share of the center's income without including it in the portion that was supposed to pay their wages.
Another thing that didn't add up was that they were still receiving the same meager paychecks as before. More than 400 people had taken the Avatar Course by this time, and most had paid the center $1,500 each, for a total of more than $500,000 in income. Over and over, Palmer had promised the staffers a fair share of the wealth when it finally rolled in. Their paychecks were supposed to represent a given percentage of the center's income from the services it delivered. Simple mathematics told them it wasn't happening, except in the case of the trainers, who were paid $100 per day while they were on the road delivering courses.
At the time, Linda Rosin recalls, she was having to fend off an increasing number of people who wanted refunds of the remaining money they had paid in advance for the illicit Scientology levels they had been sold and had not received. Between visits to the West Coast, Palmer started talking about out-of-body visits he was having with extraterrestrials.
One day, staff members recall, he walked in and said he had been on a spaceship where he had been given a promotion. He also informed some of the staff members that they, regretfully, had been demoted. He took to dressing entirely in white when speaking to groups.
In September, 1987, the trainers made their first major foray into non-Scientology circles when they went to Portland to deliver the course and a subsequent Masters Course to a group of psychologists and psychiatrists. For good measure, a couple of the therapists brought along a couple of patients who suffered from mild personality disorders.
One was a woman described as a "walking schizophrenic," barely functional enough to hold down a job. Many of the therapists who took the courses liked the techniques, but Palmer himself did not fare too well with them. When questioned about his background by one, he said, "You wouldn't understand." "Try me," said the therapist, who was no metaphysical virgin himself. Palmer simply turned and walked away. From then on, he spent much of his time alone in his hotel room as the three trainers delivered the course. By the time the Masters Course started, some of the therapists enrolled on it became wary. The trainers were still using the aggressive mode of instruction known as "tearing off their faces."
The prospective Avatar Masters were ridiculed and called "dummies" when they asked questions. It was suggested that the trainers themselves might profit from some instruction in the techniques of conducting workshops. Some of the therapists were also displeased by the fact that the schizophrenic woman, after having spent three weeks on the course with few beneficial results, was passed and advanced onto the Masters Course after the trainers persuaded her to come up with the $3,000 course fee. A few of the therapists asked for refunds because, they said, they wouldn't feel right about delivering the course as associates of Palmer's organization. One who was particularly insistent was given a refund.
As the trainers prepared to leave Portland, Margie Hoffman had the feeling that Palmer was behaving, as she put it, "stranger and stranger." He mentioned to her that he had been given the Avatar Materials by extraterrestrials in his back yard, when she was pretty certain he had developed the course mainly by applying Scientology methodology to the theories he had heard in the Bashar tapes. He had told the therapists in Portland that more than 1,500 people had done the Avatar Course when she knew the true figure was less than a third that many.
Hoffman also had misgivings about the rudeness the trainers were expected to display when delivering the Masters Course, and the heavy emphasis on the telepathic "serious drill" as a cure-all at the expense of practical application. The last straw came when Palmer announced that the people in Elmira were no good. As soon as they got back, he was going to fire everybody. It was going to be just the four of them from now on. Hoffman knew better than that.
The staff members in Elmira were her friends, and in fact her extended family. They had all worked at the center for years for long hours at low wages, bolstered by the idea that they were making the world a better place and the promise of riches to come. Palmer had promised them time and time again that they would be richly rewarded the minute the organization's ship came in. Now the ship had come in, and they were about to be dumped unceremoniously off the dock. Hoffman announced that she would be leaving when they got back to Elmira.
The result of her resignation, she says, was a "brainwashing" session that lasted until 3:30 in the morning, with Palmer, Honey Smith and Sweetland all haranguing her and arguing that everything was all right. Palmer grilled her for "withholds," the Scientology term for guilty secrets. Finally, exhausted, she decided that she must have made a mistake and agreed to stay on. When they returned to Elmira, Palmer discovered that his favorite dog, a German Shepherd named Grey Wolf, had disappeared. Only a few months before, the other Shepherd had been killed by a car. The dogs had always been allowed the run of the farm. During the trip to Portland, Miken Chappel had been house-sitting for Palmer, feeding the dog and taking care of a few farm animals Palmer raised.
Palmer was coming under increasing pressure from people who had money "on account" and had not received the services. In a communique issued to his growing nationwide network of Avatar Masters on September 26, he said, "The members of the original research team, as well as several dozen others who completed Avatar in the early spring of this year, concur with the following observation: each has experienced a progressive increase in awareness over the months since doing Avatar!" In one sense, he was right. Most of them had become so aware that they were after his hide. Some were talking to attorneys about filing lawsuits.
Palmer sent out a letter to his local following, announcing a grievance meeting scheduled for October 4 that would settle things once and for all. In the letter, he thanked his followers for their contributions to the prosperity he was currently enjoying and asked them to put out their best wishes for the return of Grey Wolf. Shortly before the meeting, he informed Dick Rosin that Don Woodruff, a man who had been one of the center's greatest supporters, had never gotten any gains from the auditing he had received over the years. A rumor had been spread that Woodruff was acting in concert with the Church of Scientology to get evidence against Palmer. Rosin found these allegations curious because Palmer had collected more than $100,000 from Woodruff and his wife for courses and auditing. Woodruff ran a local promotion company, employed a number of students from the center, and paid them well so they could buy services themselves. At one time when Woodruff was working at the center, Rosin recalls that he bought an E-Meter for everyone on the staff at a total cost of around $40,000.
About 30 people showed up at the meeting on Wednesday, October 4, 1987. At the beginning of the meeting, Palmer delivered a circuitous and confusing explanation of where their money had gone. The gist of it was that the Scientology mission, after legal expenses, had wound up $35,000 in the red.
He said the organization had spent $80,000 to acquire the upper level Scientology materials -- a figure former Scientologists find questionable, since they were available in reconstructed form from a number of sources at the time. He first attempted to make use of peer pressure by dividing the group into two hypothetical categories. Some people, he explained, had made sacrifices for a purpose. They had "invested in a ship that went down," and should accept their losses. The others -- those who wanted refunds -- thought of themselves as mere customers. The Center for Creative Learning had intended to deliver the services people had paid for with "Scientology donations," he explained, but he figured nobody wanted them now that the Avatar Course was available.
Unfortunately for Palmer, most of those in the audience were not impressed by his setup. He explained that the Creative Learning Center -- the successor of the Scientology Mission -- couldn't pay any bills of the former organization; he would go to jail if he did that. But he could set up a slush fund from equity in the center's building and add the 15% royalties on courses paid to Star's Edge, Inc. (his own corporation) for Avatar deliveries. . . he would do his best. If anyone really felt they were owed something, they should get it.
By that time, most if not all of the audience had no concept of the organizational and financial labyrinth he was describing. Palmer opened the floor for questions by greeting Don Woodruff, the man he had accused of spying, and asking "Who wants a piece of Harry?"
A woman questioned him about his statement that $17,000 had been paid out of a legal defense fund the mission had set up. She herself had contributed $10,000, and she knew many others had contributed. That was just the last round of legal expenses, explained Palmer. They were paying attorneys $300 an hour, and had changed law firms in midstream. . . .
Don Woodruff confronted Palmer about his accusation that Woodruff was an informant for the Church of Scientology. Palmer said yes, he had received that information, but couldn't specify who told him. Woodruff related the story to another rumor that had been spread about him -- years before, he had been accused of having an affair with a girl who turned out to be a spy and had been assigned a condition of "liability," a label for someone considered to be detrimental to a Scientology organization. He denied that any part of it was true.
A number of people asked questions about the hard-driving sales tactics used by the center. Palmer stated that he personally had been hit by the church for a quarter of a million dollars, but was not bitter about it.
Midway through the meeting, a young woman who had spent $50,000 at the mission became emotional. Crying, she confronted Palmer by saying, "I feel completely betrayed. . . . I spent $50,000. How can you sit there and say I need another $1,500 [for Avatar]. . . . My credit is ruined, everything is ruined. I came in 18 years old begging, borrowing and stealing that fucking money so Avra and Marianne would say hello to me in the kitchen. . . . I just wanted to be happy. . . . how dare you take advantage of me!"
She went on to describe the plight of a friend she had introduced to the mission. Despite having a good job as an engineer, the woman was now delivering pizzas at night in order to pay off her bank loans. More questions were asked about rumors Palmer had spread around the mission.
When Dick Rosin asked Palmer about a statement he had made earlier that another student was a spy. Palmer flatly denied having said it and called him a liar. Rosin started to walk out of the meeting, but Avra intercepted him and convinced him to stay. By the end of the meeting, Palmer had changed his tack. He pulled out a list of people he believed had money on account, explaining that the financial records had long since been destroyed to keep them out of the hands of the Church of Scientology. Those who were owed money could settle for half or get nothing, he said, because only about $40,000 was available for repayments.
Linda Rosin described the tactic as "throwing a bone to a pack of starving dogs." Some people settled for refunds of half the amount Palmer owed them in services, though several later regretted the decision. According to Dick Rosin, four people eventually sued Palmer and seven declared bankruptcy. One man who went bankrupt left six co-signers saddled with his loans. One man who had co-signed loans for several students with Avra Honey Smith's assurance that they were good for the money ended up paying off three of them himself after the bankruptcies.
Within a week of the meeting, Margie Hoffman and all the other staff members except Sue Sweetland and Miken Chappel had resigned. Palmer invited Gale Lyons to stay on until the end of the month and finish up auditing for a few people who were still receiving it. When she went to the center, she couldn't get in because the locks had been changed. Lyons took Palmer to small claims court for a little less than $600 in wages. His attorney offered to pay it if she would sign an agreement never to take legal action against Palmer in the future. She refused, but the judge ruled in her favor anyway. She also took Miken Chappel into small claims court to collect $300 she had loaned Chappel for scuba diving lessons.
After the breakup of the center, Chappel had refused to acknowledge the debt. Linda Rosin confronted Palmer on the issue of staff wages. She knew how much money had been collected during the past two years, and had calculated what they should have been paid under the "unit" system. Palmer responded by writing her a check for $5,000. On the back was typed: Endorsement of this check acknowledges the release of Harry Palmer, The Center of Creative Learning from all claims and all actions for, upon, or by reason of any matter from the beginning of the world to the date of this check. That was nice, said Rosin, but it was less than what she figured was due her. And what about the other staff members? Palmer stopped payment on the check.
One former staff member threatened legal action if he wasn't paid the back wages he felt were due. Palmer handled that problem by pulling out the man's ethics folder. Ethics folders contain lists of misdeeds people are instructed to write up themselves, plus notes taken by "ethics officers" in interviews about a person's conduct. Officially, they are supposed to be as sacrosanct as church confessionals or psychiatric records, but the Church of Scientology has been known to use their contents for blackmail purposes when threatened by disgruntled former members.
Following the church's practices, staff members say, Palmer found a few juicy "overts" (misdeeds) and threatened to make them public. The man backed off. Palmer also refused to pay a bill he received from a Los Angeles graphic designer, John St. John, who had been assigned the task of improving the looks of the Avatar logo. The original version of the lettering had been made with rub-down letters, and Palmer had been told it looked cheap. When St. John presented Palmer with the calligraphy version of the logo that is used today, he explained that he didn't feel obligated to pay anything for the work because St. John hadn't really had anything to do with the Avatar logo. Palmer had initially seen it on the shoulders of extraterrestrials during one of his out-of-body visits to their space ship. Presumably the bill wasn't for a very large amount anyway, so St. John didn't press the matter.
In his initial negotiations with Maryann Dolschenko, Palmer offered to settle out her account for $800. Over the years, she had scrounged and borrowed about $25,000 for services at the center, and was still owed $14,000 worth. By this time, she was less naive than she had been at the age of thirteen. Once she reminded him that she was now working for the local newspaper, he upped the ante to $7,000. He found her such a skillful negotiator, in fact, that he offered to give her $10,000 if she would assist him in reaching settlements with the other students who were owed money. She refused and took the $7,000.
In February, 1988, a five-part series of newspaper articles appeared in the Elmira Star Gazette. As soon as it appeared, Palmer stopped making repayments to the people who had agreed to accept half of what they were owed, and presumably never made another voluntary payment to anyone. Margie Hoffman, Linda Rosin, Kathleen Raines and Harry Palmer were interviewed.
Just after the first article appeared, Hoffman received a note that had been mailed to her at the center and forwarded to her home. It read: "Maybe its time the wold knowxz the kind d of person you azre. Clean up the 3rd party on H or they will." [sic] 'Third party' is Scientologese for rumors. 'H' is the way Palmer signs his correspondence. Enclosed with the note were several pages of tidbits from Hoffman's ethics folder, which contained lists she had been told to write containing every bad deed and thought she had ever done or had. Hoffman called the police, who went to the center and questioned Palmer and Avra Honey Smith. The folders and the office typewriter, they were told, had disappeared. A police detective subsequently matched the typewriting to the machine that had been used to fill out Hoffman's W-2 form from the center. Her folders were later returned to her.
When he was interviewed for the series, Palmer did not impress the reporter, who entitled the piece "Palmer a Man of Many Faces," and pointed out a number of contradictions. Palmer insisted that he had done the best he could in trying to reach settlements with the people who were attacking him. Finally, though, he had decided that their demands were insatiable. They were running an extortion campaign. "They saw the success of Avatar and they're trying to cash in." He again accused them of kidnapping his dog Grey Wolf, citing that as the reason he had stopped making refunds. According to his version of the story, someone at the meeting had told him he would get the dog back only if he repaid their money. (Everyone else who was at the meeting emphatically denies that such a statement was made.)
At one point in the interview, Palmer said he had stopped making payments because he ran out of money. At another point, he described himself as a rich man, and Star's Edge--the company now delivering the Avatar Course--as a rich company. Linda Rosin, Gale Lyons and two other staff members instituted a complaint against Palmer with the New York Labor Board. The Board eventually issued a ruling that Palmer owed them a total of $53,000 in back wages for the last two years they worked at the Center. The claim was based on the number of hours they worked, calculated at the minimum wage. Palmer appealed the ruling.
"I DON'T THINK WE'RE IN ELMIRA ANYMORE"
The Star's Edge International headquarters was established near Orlando, Florida in March, 1989. When I talked to Susan Sweetland about the move later that year, she remarked that people had seemed to become friendlier and more polite as she, Harry, Avra and Miken made their journey southward from Elmira. Things had definitely become unfriendly in Elmira, and were likely to remain so for some time. The city is a rural college town with a population of 36,000. Roots go deep there, and people know a lot about each other. The scandal over the center was some of the biggest news to hit town in quite a while. To this day, Elmira would not be a hospitable location to set up an Avatar Center.
Two years after the four packed up and moved to Orlando, people still talk about the Harry Palmer scandal. Their reality is that he skipped town before he was ridden out on a rail. Palmer did return to New York for a short visit late in 1990 to appear at more hearings of the Labor Board. He was accompanied by two attorneys. At the hearing, he repeated the accusation that the staff members had killed his dog, Grey Wolf. In March, 1991, the claim was finally settled for a little over $12,000, which was divided between the four staff members. Dick Rosin says he recently heard something that, for him at least, solves the mystery of the missing dog. Word has it around Elmira that a farmer whose land borders Palmer's farm had shot the dog because it had gotten into the habit of killing his chickens. In rural areas, it is accepted practice to eliminate dogs that habitually kill livestock. German Shepherds are the breed of dog best known for developing this compulsion.
THE WIZARDS COURSE
In mid-1990, it was announced that the premiere Wizards Course would be held beginning January 14, 1991. The limit was set at 200, and at least that many Avatar Masters signed up by paying the 10% registration fee. The Wizards Course had been discussed around the center in Elmira since 1987. The full course was initially priced at $20,000 in the first printing of Creativism.
The initial two-week delivery was priced at $5,000 (a special introductory discount from $7,500) and described as Part I: The Basic Course. Apparently there were more sections to come. Palmer was obviously taking a different tack than he had when he introduced Avatar as "the end of case," and pledged not to add additional courses. His promise to retroactively include any new developments as part of the basic Avatar Course was forgotten. Officially, research on the Wizards course was conducted between November, 1987 and March, 1988 when, according to the sidebar entitled "Avatar's Time Track" in the Creativism manual, "Ignoring the power struggle over who is entitled to the revenues generated by the Avatar Course and who has legal rights to teach his course, Harry Palmer tours Central America and begins a new stage of research on civilization management, conflict prediction and conflict resolution. Later, this will be referred to as the period of the 'Wizards Course research.'
" In a communique to Avatar Masters issued around January, 1988, as word of the Elmira controversy was spreading across the country, Palmer wrote, "On a somewhat grimmer note, I know this world has some bent pieces that compulsively create demons of fear and hate when they imagine your power to free good people from their paranoid webs of intrigue. . . . From the tangled human wreckage that laughingly passes for a civilization you are salvaging some of the most beautiful, incredibly creative beings in the whole galaxy. . . . So let them snarl and complain. . . and I'll keep them busy while you continue to pick the flowers. . . .
As many of you know, the rapidity of Avatar's growth has left me spinning. . . and while I certainly am not complaining. . . the eye of the storm has taught me lessons. . . and absolutely blown the lid off creating prediction algorithms exceeding 90%-plus probability in broad areas of physics, socio-civics, economics and project management. Fate is beginning to resolve into predictable cosmic logic sequences. . . . This is heady stuff. It can drive someone who is power shy and preaching all sweetness and light into a real snit. . . . So don't lose sleep over the $20,000 price being bantered around. With the heavy traffic ahead, by the time Wizards is released in February or March '89 that will be pocket jingle." Anyone who has studied Scientology would agree that L. Ron Hubbard couldn't have said it better.
People who talked about Wizards with Palmer during Masters Course deliveries during 1990 said he had mentioned the convergence of alternate realities. An example was the Cuban missile crisis, when the U.S. and Russia approached the brink of thermonuclear war. Some of the people involved had gone ahead with the war in another reality. Now the separated realities were converging. The ecological havoc being experienced on the planet, such as depletion of the ozone layer and global warming attributed to destruction of the rain forests, were really fallout from the nuclear war in the alternate reality.
A parable Palmer used to describe the sort of intervention which could be performed at pivotal moments involved a judge.
About to pass sentence on a convicted murderer, the judge sees a small child who smiles at him as he enters the courtroom. Earlier, the judge was planning to sentence the murderer to death, but after the child smiles at him, he lightens up and lessens the sentence to life imprisonment. Rumors had it that graduates of the Wizards Course would be dispatched in missions to various corners of the world to ameliorate impending world events as opportunities arose, and would be paid for these assignments. Many of the Masters who signed up for the Wizards Course when it was finally delivered in 1991 were told there was a waiting list because the maximum enrollment had already been reached. Only 180-odd people managed to scrape together the full $5,000 by the time the course began. Several days before it started, Avra was on the phone to Europe trying to recruit more people and meet the $1 million quota.
The course began early each morning, but instead of working with the materials, students warmed up with a few hours of Tai Chi exercises and sacred dancing led by two French Avatar Masters. After lunch, Palmer gave a short lecture, then Avra doled out the written materials to be studied that day. Palmer claimed during one of the first lectures that this was the first such course held in several hundred years, when the most recent class was attended by a number of famous historical figures, including Copernicus.
On the second day of the course, the number of participants was reduced by one. Danielle Soulier, a French Master, was called aside and told she was being excluded from the course. Miken Chappel wrote her a refund check for $5,000. Edme Robert, a friend of Soulier and her husband, had come to Orlando. Robert is also an Avatar Master, and the three of them were planning to set up a center in France to deliver the course. Robert was not enrolled on the Wizard's course. He had come to Orlando to make some business contacts, and possibly brush up on his Avatar skills with some of the other Masters. He dropped in on one of Palmer's first lectures, thinking no one would mind.
The trainers told him he had to pay for the course if he wanted to be there. When he was seen carrying Soulier's bag for her in the hotel lobby, they concluded that she must be sharing the top secret materials with him. At the beginning of the second week of the course, Soulier and Robert went into the course room to confront Palmer in front of the other Masters. They felt they had been mistreated, and wanted to set the record straight. Avra Honey Smith ordered some of the men to evict them bodily. Soulier was picked up by one of the larger male students, who threw her over his shoulder and carried her from the room, kicking and screaming. As he got to the door, he was confronted by three indignant French women. One of them hit the man.
Palmer later met with Soulier and Robert. Soulier was told she could take the Wizards Course the next time it was offered. Palmer told Robert that he knew Robert was in contact with a group that wanted to harm him, and mentioned to other students that the two were "Scientology plants." He implied that he might be having more trouble with the Church of Scientology. Neither Soulier or Robert has ever been involved with Scientology. Before returning to France, Soulier contacted a local attorney and had him call Palmer, demanding reimbursement for her travel and lodging expenses. He agreed to pay $800 and told the attorney that he was canceling her license to deliver the Avatar Course.
Edme Robert sent a letter to Palmer demanding a refund of all course fees he had paid Star's edge, for a total of $5,400. Palmer later sent a letter to Soulier telling her she was in very serious trouble. He claimed to have obtained a video camera recording from a nearby convenience store that showed her and Robert using a copier. He said his attorneys had obtained arrest warrants and were about to contact French authorities. But he would show mercy. If she sent back all the materials, he would not press charges. That way, the only penalty would be that she would be unable to travel in the U.S. for three years, when the arrest warrants would expire.
Reviews of the Wizards Course were mixed. Some graduates mentioned that the outbreak of the Gulf War, which began simultaneously, was a bit distracting. Palmer's "creation prediction algorithms" still seem to need some refinement. If the participants indeed learned anything that helped them alter upcoming crises for the better, they could have used a head start. The war was in full swing before they had completed the first set of exercises.
The Wizards Course partially consisted of extensions to the "rundowns" already contained in the Avatar Course and the Masters Course. A great deal of time was spent doing more "Identity Handling" in order to gain control over both desired and resisted aspects of personality. There were additional speculations on the nature of consciousness and attention, with emphasis on finding "floats"-- areas of stuck attention or mental overload caused by confusion or unfinished actions. Additional "Creation Lists" of affirmations similar to those on the Avatar Course were introduced. A scale of mental modes ranging from reaction through intuiting to direct observation was studied and drilled.
One person described the course as "Masters II," and felt that most of the information applicable to teaching Avatar should have simply been added to the Masters Course. Some former Scientologists said it was "re-wrapped Scientology," and toward the end of the course, Palmer proved them right.. He introduced a section on handling entities with excerpts on "elementaries" and thought forms from a book about the work of Paracelsus, the 16th century mystic and medical researcher. Then he introduced techniques for finding entities, or psychic hitchhikers, and freeing them by running the Creation Handling Procedure on them.
The techniques are essentially the same as those employed on the level called OT III in Scientology, and in NOTs (New Era Dianetics for OTs)
. One student remarked a couple of weeks after the course that she felt she had been "brainwashed" and was having nightmares featuring demons. Another graduate said "I've been conned. There was some interesting stuff, but I'd seen most of it already in advanced psychology. The whole thing could have been done in a week." Another said the course seemed thrown together.
Information on predicting future events was vague and sketchy. Instead of the accurate "prediction algorithms" Palmer had described, students were instructed to adopt a neutral observational mode, and make "primaries" with a strong willful intent. The more believable the primaries (affirmations), the more likely the probability they will come true. The last section of the course made a convenient transition into more practical matters. It introduced the topic of setting goals and planning strategies for saving the planet from its current ecological, political and religious plights. The solution for fixing the world's problems was revealed as establishing Star's Edge at the pinnacle of the new world spiritual order.
The findings of Palmer's research in Central America were disclosed: how people spend their money determines changes in society. So the best way to change the world was convincing them to spend it on Avatar.
Star's Edge was to be supported by a loyal executive layer of Wizards, who in turn would manage lower levels of the Avatar network. Specifically, Palmer announced the goal of selling the Avatar and Masters Courses to a total of 2,500,000 people within five years, resulting in the "graceful transfer" of $15 billion from "prejudicial interests" into the Avatar organization. "Expansion Missions" were established for purposes of promoting the course, as well as confidential "Control Missions" for resolving any situations which might impede the organization's progress.
The description of these assignments is eerily reminiscent of the Scientology Guardian's office , a secretive undercover department set up to spy and play dirty tricks on the church's enemies. On the final day of the course, one more student walked out under his own power, reportedly because he disagreed with Palmer's ambitious plans to appoint himself leader of such a mercenary organization. Many people remarked on the mundane nature of the last few pages of the course materials, which were devoted to sales techniques. At the end of the last day, Palmer came to the podium "looking like a whipped puppy" according to one student. He read a section of the course entitled Credo of a Wizard, "To be silent, to know, to will, to dare." Then he said, "There are gathering storm clouds. But if we each keep our vow to preserve and nurture the world, we will each be expanding islands that will meet again." The person who related this said, "I thought, Oh, shit, I spent $5,000 to be told there are storm clouds gathering over me?"
If Palmer includes himself in the theory that beliefs create one's experiential reality, he must have developed the Wizards Course with at least a few misgivings about his own motives. It created repercussions among his followers which still continue. At a subsequent Masters Course in France, Edme Robert passed out leaflets in the hotel restaurant in which he compared the 9,000-franc price of Part III of the Avatar Course with its "background material" (the Tulku book) which sells for 39 francs. The Wizards Course was described as offering `"Power, illusion and [Scientological] manipulation for a few dollars extra." Palmer complained to the hotel management, but wasn't able to prevent the missive from being passed around among the Masters. One of the leading French Masters,
Frederic Beaudry, showed up during the same course and asked for a refund of the $5,000 he had paid for Wizards, saying he had told his 150 students Avatar was "the end of case" and now felt like a liar. He got the refund. His license to teach the Avatar Course was, of course, terminated on the spot. A meeting of Masters was held to discuss "the Langinieux problem.." After his return from France, Palmer issued a communique to Masters warning them that a feeling of victimization was being transmitted telepathically by Iraqi soldiers killed in the Gulf War. Masters were told to expect negative, doubtful feelings, including an outbreak of scandalous journalism. ( Sure enough, here it is. ) The answer to overcoming the problems about to manifest, he went on to explain, was granting forgiveness to anything and everything, presumably including himself. It coincided with a scathing letter Gale Lyons sent Palmer in which she informed him he couldn't "Avatar away" the people he had "raped, plundered and pillaged," and suggested that he make some amends in the real world.
Harry Palmer says the basic Avatar Course, "properly presented, is the most powerful, purest self-development program available at any price." The majority of people who have taken the course seem to agree, at least for some time after they complete it. Like his acknowledged model L. Ron Hubbard, Palmer has a good thing going financially. The Avatar Course is a brilliant synthesis of information from channeled sources, Scientology, Vedic wisdom, Buddhism and other teachings. It is presented in an experiential format that allows it to be rapidly assimilated by most Western students. It is a consciousness-raising technology people are willing to spend a pretty penny to get. So why, other than giving the course a certain mystique, are the materials jealously guarded as confidential?
The Avatar Course is presented as if it were an industrial trade secret. Students are required to sign an agreement to pay $10,000 per unauthorized disclosure. Whether or not the Avatar procedures could really be legally protected through this means is highly questionable, even if they were unique. Mental processes are specifically excluded from patent protection, and trade secret laws are generally construed to apply only to mechanical, electronic, chemical and biological processes or formulas. When the Church of Scientology cited trade secret laws in an attempt to keep its upper level procedures proprietary, it was soundly defeated.
Palmer lamely explains that secrecy is necessary because the course must be delivered by competent teachers. The trouble with his argument is that there are no professional delivery standards in the first place. Star's Edge exerts little if any control over how Masters conduct the course. As long as the commission checks keep rolling in, a Master is considered a "producer." If students come out of the course half-baked and bewildered, the failure can easily be pawned off as their own creations -- they're "non-integrators." Besides, there is always hope.
Avra Honey Smith calls all graduates of the basic course to sell them the Masters Course. For $3,000 more, they can have another go at it, and for another $7,500, become Level I Wizards. Very few mental or spiritual technologies which require training, experience or spiritual advancement on the part of the teacher are proprietary. For example, anyone who wants to can study, use or teach the techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the therapy derived from the work of the famous hypnotherapist Eric Erickson. NLP is considered a legitimate, if esoteric, branch of psychology. Why does Palmer exact a royalty, or "licensing fee" from trainers for every student who takes the course? Even Masters who want to teach the course to their spouses and family members are required to pay Palmer a fee.
He once described the licensing agreement Masters are required to sign as "a string tied to the trigger of a gun pointed at your head with Harry Palmer holding the string." Even given his reputation for avarice, Palmer could make plenty of money under a more orthodox business agreement. If he didn't wish to establish Avatar as a centrally managed organization, he could just as easily set up a professional association and ask teachers to pay dues for membership, referrals and use of his trademarks and copyrighted course material. That would generate a healthy income without the need for a business structure that resembles a multi-level marketing scheme. Why has he repeatedly broken verbal promises in order to abscond with insignificant amounts of money? He described himself as being a wealthy man and Star's Edge as a wealthy company to a reporter of the Elmira newspaper a little more than a year after the Avatar Course was introduced. He could have probably settled the whole affair amicably and emerged unscathed, at least a millionaire.
A number of people who have experienced his recurrent "decisions not to pay" have quickly become alienated. Many were strong supporters, and might still be today had they not felt cheated. He appears to have engaged in so many such acts -- aside from the fraudulent sale of Scientology courses he didn't deliver -- that to some who have seen him in action, it appears to be compulsive behavior. Dozens of people who have dealt with him financially concur that his preoccupation with money approaches the level of mania. Others, like Amos Jessup, an old-time Scientologist, say Palmer has been scrupulously honest with them to the point of generosity. The correlating factor seems to be Palmer's concept of his own power. People who question him, or suggest improvements in his operation, quickly get the shaft. Those who praise him unquestioningly get along with him just fine.. Why does he feel the need to put up elaborate smokescreens of denial, even over insignificant matters?
One of the subjective "personal realities" achieved by students during Part II of the Avatar Course is a sense that the past doesn't exist. After he introduced the course, Palmer apparently decided he could negate not only the effects of his own past experiences, but the entire past he had shared with others. Past loyalties, past agreements and past financial obligations are swept out of his paradigm whenever he finds it expedient. If anyone questions his motives or actions, the answer is simple: they are "sitting in a creation;" the problem is one of their own making. They are wrong, treacherous "black hearts," planting subliminal "black worms." Woe upon them. Palmer habitually uses Avra Honey Smith and the other two women on his staff as shields against day-to-day contacts with his constituency.
They in turn are assumed to be irreproachable, inviolably shielded from criticism by their own aura of asserted rightness. Palmer may have answered these question back in Elmira shortly before he developed the Avatar Course when he was heard to say, "If Ron [Hubbard] could do it, I can do it too. And I'm going to."
Some former Scientologists who have had experience with him think Palmer is not only using L. Ron Hubbard as a role model, but is subconsciously dramatizing Hubbard's identity. Either way, the important question is, can he pull it off? To some degree, maybe. But he certainly doesn't operate on the same scale as Ron Hubbard. Palmer's center was a local branch of a sizable worldwide organization that treats consciousness raising as a commodity. As with drugs, illicit sex and gambling, a certain segment of the populace derives pleasure from spiritual development, and will pay well for it.
Ron Hubbard might be described as a Godfather of consciousness raising. He built the Church of Scientology into a worldwide organization complete with levels of henchmen and hit squads. It must surely be the envy of the Mafia from a business management standpoint. Although the products of Scientology are legal -- governments have yet to prohibit people from paying to have their endorphins titillated -- Hubbard's church uses methods analogous to drug dealing: give people a taste for what you're selling, get them hooked, turn them into lower level dealers, and sell everyone increasingly expensive highs. While Palmer has frequently voiced his desire to emulate Hubbard's accomplishments, his Avatar Course was fashioned against a different model.
Like Hubbard, he is obviously obsessed with money. Unlike Hubbard, he is not a strong planner or manager. Hubbard assembled an organization composed of thousands of loyal staff members, willing to work dirt cheap and endure great hardships for the cause. The only organization Palmer directly controls consists of four people, including himself. He is sometimes an effective public speaker, but tends to shy away from business dealings on a personal level, especially interactions with other males. In fact, he has no known close male friends or confidants, and remains mostly aloof from daily activities, maintaining his mystique largely through his absence.
Palmer's courses are purveyed, and his business is conducted, remotely through his stable of three complaisant female personnel who administer the loosely-knit network and teach the upper level courses. The services sold produce a rapid surge of elation, culminating in a sense of mindless bliss. Customers are encouraged to come back and spend more money for advanced courses, but they are not inculcated with the superstitious and divisive belief systems common to Scientology and other full-scale cults--at least not until they begin the Wizards Course. In terms of business management, Palmer comes off more like a consciousness-raising pimp than a Don of enlightenment. He may be high on avarice and paranoia, but falls short in the categories of megalomania, manipulation and leadership ability.
The basic Avatar Course does not foster long-term addiction like the services of Scientology. Palmer's following is fairly loyal, but not to the point of blind fanaticism. Some graduates encourage friends to take the course, but not with the zeal engendered by more fascist movements. About ten percent go on to become teachers themselves, and a minor proportion of those are successful enough to make a living by teaching the course full time. As a credit to the Avatar course, most people who take it and teach it tend to be reasonably individualistic. Few become prey to the True Believer syndrome typical of cults which seek to control their members. Michel Langinieux shrugs and says, "The Wizard of Orlando pulled some strings, but he wasn't strong enough to really manipulate people. Most Avatar Masters are more powerful than he is, and found it an interesting drama. As for those who want to stay in Harry's mirage, it's what they want. Who cares whether the materials came from UFO's, Bashar or Ron Hubbard? What can't be taken away from us is the work we have put into the job of raising consciousness. Maybe this was the essence of all that holy, greedy business. Avatar is the lotus in the loo."
Palmer's recent Wizards Course was certainly a financially successful operation for an organization comprised of four people. It netted nearly a million dollars in two weeks. As a long-term strategy to build an empire, it is questionable. The 180 graduates were drawn from a pool of about 1,000 Avatar Masters worldwide. It seems unlikely that he will be able to penetrate that market far above the 30% level the next time Part I of the Wizards Course is offered, particularly since the price will be raised to $7,500.
Given the mixed reviews of the first course, and the ensuing recognition on the part of some participants that parts of it were subtly manipulative, it is questionable whether a high proportion of those who took "Wizards I" will return for higher level Wizards Courses to be unveiled in the future. With its lack of coherent management, Avatar as an organization may be approaching its maximum limits of growth. Some have speculated that it will discreate itself spontaneously as its followers become increasingly aware and observe its leader as he is. Perhaps that is the sort of movement Palmer truly believes he is destined to create: a bubble that expands and pops when it reaches a certain threshold of disillusionment, releasing its contents into the atmosphere of mass consciousness.
Applying his "persistent mass" theory to the operation of his organization, he resists assuming autocratic power and its attendant responsibilities as strongly as he desires it. So it doesn't seem likely that Avatar will expand into a multinational cult the size of Scientology, the Rajneesh empire, or even the est organization of the 1970's. Particularly not after Michel Langinieux sent a few hundred letters around the world informing Avatar Masters that the proprietary, top-secret Creation Handling Procedure is contained in an 8,000-year-old meditation technique. A fair number of Avatar Masters have already decided to go their own ways, and some are already teaching the techniques on their own. I don't see why anyone would want to emulate L. Ron Hubbard's accomplishments anyway. Whatever Hubbard may have achieved, his creations in life drove him to ever-increasing levels of paranoia and embroiled his organization in ceaseless litigation. During the decade from 1975 through 1985, he turned what had been a relatively easy-going, idealistic organization into a paramilitary cult with imagined enemies everywhere. At every turn, Hubbard man aged to arouse official ire through his acts of brazen rapacity, tax evasion, slander, espionage and outright pugnaciousness.
The organization's self-created foes ranged from the IRS and the FDA to what Hubbard called "the psychs," his blanket term for the mental health profession as a whole. As the church engaged in massive internal witch hunts and lashed out at its disaffected members. Hubbard spent his last years in seclusion, bouncing from Clearwater, Florida to Los Angeles to Brooklyn, then between secret locations in the Southern California desert, always shielded from subpoenas by an elaborate network of go-betweens. Palmer has more than once voiced the ambition to buy his own secluded tropical island and settle down there. Even if he had to settle for a tiny island, it would surely be a more pleasant place to retire than the motor home parked several miles east of San Louis Obispo, California where Hubbard spent his final days. I don't know how much interest Harry Palmer has in his own personal growth. If he develops an urge for self-improvement, I could recommend a course he might want to check out. In only a week to ten days, I'm certain he could easily learn to lovingly and tolerantly experience his own paranoia, expand to its outermost limits, label it without judgment, recognize that it isn't him but his creation, and permit it to discreate.
Copyright c 1991 Eldon M. Braun, 2029 Powell Street, San Francisco, California, U.S.A. Phone: (415) 781-6278. FAX: (415) 296-9932. Submitted simultaneously for acquisition of first North American serial rights in English and first serial rights in French translation in all French-speaking countries.
53 Published by Harper & Row, New York, New York, 1990
54 Tulku, Tarthang, Hidden Mind of Freedom, Dharma Publishing, Berkeley, California, 1981; pp. 44-46.
55 ibid, page 13
56 ibid, page 45
57 ibid, page 46
58 ibid, page 53
59 ibid, page xii
60 ibid, page 9
61 ibid, page 11
62 ibid, page 53
63 Tulku, Tarthang, Reflections of Mind, Dharma Publishing, Berkeley, California, 1975; page 148
64 Hidden Mind of Freedom, op cit, page 53
65 ibid, page 80
66 ibid, page 84
67 Reflections of Mind, op cit, page 148
68 Hidden Mind of Freedom, op cit, page 54 taken from: http://www.scientology-kills.org/avatar/avatar_wiz.htm
Author: Eldon Braun