Excerpted from Leah Remini: Scientology & The Aftermath (Season 1, Episode 8)
LR: Our next guest is Steve Hassan. He’s a cult expert. He’s written books.
[Scene: 3D Scientology cross zooms out; center of cross disappears; white screen]
Leah Remini (LR): You were a member of a cult, the Moonies.
Steve Hassan (SH): Indeed.
LR: And, ah, I’m interested to talk to you because most Scientologists and people in cults don’t really seek help. I’ve noticed that with Scientologists. A lot.
SH: And not only that, but Scientologists are programmed against mental health professionals. Which I am one. And they’re heavily programmed against [air quotes] “deprogrammers” which is what I was doing after my own deprogramming out of the Moon cult in 1976.
I was a nice Jewish boy from Flushing Queens, who wanted to be an English professor. My girlfriend dumped me.
[Scene: photos of Steve Hassan; Moon]
SH: Three women flirted with me in the college cafeteria and within two weeks I’m bowing to an altar, thinking Moon is the Messiah. That Armageddon is going to happen. We have to take over the world and save the world.
What happens with mind control is your real self is broken down. And a new identity is created that keeps you dependent and obedient. But your real self, even if you’re born in a cult or raised in a cult, we have an authentic self that wants love, wants truth, wants goodness. We don’t want to be exploited or abused.
SH: So there’s a dissonance between our conscience and our heart and the cult identity.
[Scene: group photo with Steve Hassan]
SH (to Mike Rinder): Now, when I was a Moonie, I was convinced I had to save your soul, Mike. If I met you, I would try very hard to learn everything about your background. And figure out, in Scientology words, your [air quotes] “ruin.”1
MR (nods): Right.
SH: To figure out which buttons to press to motivate you to come to a three-day workshop and a seven-day workshop and a twenty-one day workshop and a forty day workshop.
MR: Do you, do you think that Scientology has been created and designed to be the best there is, if you were going to set out to create a mind control organization? That this would kind of be what it looks like?
SH: If you step back and study other destructive mind control cults, you’ll have a perspective on Scientology.
Scientology has put out a lot of fair game dead agent material against me.2
LR: Why? Because you, I mean you’ve written books. Assuming that you put them in–.
SH: Well, I started out the first TV show I did, I did it with an ex-Scientologist. And I was labeled an SP because I was, I was learning Scientology was a cult. And my friend who was an ex-Scientologist was learning the Moonies were a cult.
There are universal patterns of manipulation. Someone who’s skilled will, can figure out how to systematically and incrementally manipulate you into a vulnerable, isolated place and start to control your behavior, control your information, control your thinking, and make you dependent and obedient.
There are millions and millions of people in mind control cults. The people who I’ve worked with who’ve been in Scientology have some of the most deleterious long-term effects psychological effects.
SH: I wanted to say I’ve watched every single episode. I’ve loved what you’ve been doing. I’m getting emotional now, because I’ve cried every single episode. (Voice breaking) 3
LR: Thank you. Oh, my god. Don’t make me cry.
SH (to MR): Scientology has threatened me, gone through my trash… You’ve did one about the trash bags. I loved that episode. They’ve had Nazi people, people in Nazi uniforms picketing outside my office, telling my neighbors what an evil person I am, I’m an anti-religious bigot.
SH (reaching for MR’s arm): I have to tell you, I’m scared shitless of you for so many years.
SH: I LOVE that you are modeling for ex-members of thousands of other cults. That you can be a leader. You can do horrible things. And you can wake up and be a human being.
Ray Jeffrey: (nods)
SH: A decent law-abiding human being. It’s so exciting.
MR (nodding): Thank you.
SH: So at this opportunity to come on, I was like, “Yes, I have to do this.” But I’m emotional.
LR (crying): I’m sorry, I have to stop for a second. I need a tissue. I’m sorry.
No, he really affected me. I’m really a little shocked by that. And I’m just like, we’re just moving past it. I mean, I just–. (Wipes face with tissue)
Female: Can we go into that? You know, we’ll save you a little bit…
MR: (looks to his right)
SH: (wipes nose)
LR: Well, I didn’t know any of, I didn’t know that that had happened to him.
Male: The harassment, and the…
LR: Yeah, but I didn’t know he was so… Anyway…
SH: I just think what you’re doing is heroic. I really do. I think it’s so cool.
LR: You know, we’re done filming the first season. So I’m like, now kind of like overly sensitive to hearing yet another story, you know.