Beyond Belief is my third Scientology related memoir and, while it has its merits, there isn’t much about the cult that surprises me anymore which took some of the oomph out of this one. Jenna Miscavige Hill, unlike Ron Miscavige and Leah Remini, was born into Scientology. Her father, Ronnie Miscavige, was brought into Scientology by his father, Ron Sr, and her maternal grandmother had followed LRH since the ’50s.
When Jenna was only two years old her parents decided to enter the SeaOrg which meant that at two years old Jenna entered the SeaOrg. She rarely saw her parents, who in turn rarely saw each other, and after a brief time with a nanny Jenna and her brother were sent to The Ranch- a compound built by and for SeaOrg children.
“At special events, we were dressed up in cute outfits and paraded in front of our parents and Int crew to make it seem as though Scientology was creating a normal and joyful childhood, when in fact we were all being robbed of it.”
Jenna never had a normal childhood. Unlike her grandfather, who was an adult with a family when he dragged his family into Scientology, or even Remini who didn’t join Scientology until her teens. This is the aspect of her memoir that is most unique. Scientology essentially treats children like adults, because Thetans are ancient beings regardless of their current body, and as an “adult” Jenna signed her own billion year SeaOrg contract when she was eight.
Jenna’s mother was a high ranking official in Clearwater, FL; during a few visits Jenna got to live the good life- very different from the one she had in California- and aspired to a similar life. However, her life outside of her mother’s bubble consisted of group dorm rooms, manual labor for little to no pay, and constant belittlement. Jenna was also punished severely for the actions of her family although she admits her last name, the same as her cult running uncle’s, saved her a bit of the harsher alternatives.
“Scientology always has been a game of power and control. L. Ron Hubbard was the ultimate con man, and it’s hard to figure out how much of Scientology was an experiment in brainwashing and controlling people, and how much of it was truly intended to help people.”
As someone who reads memoirs often I try to withhold my personal beliefs and judgements of the author’s actions. Jenna was given numerous chances to leave the cult before she finally did. She actually successfully talked her mother out of leaving Scientology a few years prior to her eventual exit. She was then given the opportunity to join her parents when they both exited the cult when Jenna was sixteen. Yes, there is ample evidence she was brainwashed but it was increasingly difficult to feel sympathy for her situation after a third refusal to leave!
One thing I appreciated from Miscavige- Hill’s story is she actually renounces Scientology as a religion. Remini and Miscavige Sr’s reasons for escape focused on certain aspects of Dave Miscavige’s leadership, not the practice itself, which was a bit disappointing. But it is important for ex-cult members, of any kind, to shed light on the situations they’ve escaped from to raise awareness and sharing their stories could help another person survive a similar fate.