Valence Shift

Posted: 27th July 2010 by ensifer in Scientology ~ before the RTC

Los Gatos, California 2010 – Summertime

Two days before my 60th birthday I was sitting in the chapel of the Church of Scientology of Los Gatos. The reason me being there was remarkable is that I walked away from the Church of Scientology almost three decades ago. I hadn’t been in a Scientology building for 28 years until that Sunday earlier this year. The occasion that day was a memorial service for my mother Dolores. She had died earlier in the month. June 6th, to be exact. Same day as my father’s birthday and the kick-off of the Normandy invasion… D-Day… in 1944.

Dolores Stokes. At Saint Hill around 1966. Just beautiful.

I wasn’t uncomfortable being in a Scientology Church. I’m rarely uncomfortable around people, Scientologist or not. But I was stunned a bit. Not the kind of stunned where you reel back, gasp loudly and lose focus on your surroundings. It was the kind of stunned where you sit there and think – Well, fuck me.

My brother Wally was giving his version of a eulogy for my mother. I call it “his version” not to be snide. It was his version because essentially the eulogy was an abbreviated synopsis about him and our mother. The stunning part was early in the monologue when he told the story about how our mother had helped him as a young boy to overcome asthma by getting him some auditing. Which, of course, eliminated the asthma forever.

The problem with Wally’s memory of that event was that it never happened to him. It happened to me.

That’s why I had a “fuck me” moment. This person was standing there, emotionally, telling a story that was false. And tearing up over it. So, to correct the record – here’s what really happened.

Dallas , Texas 1961 – Summertime

In the summer of 1961, when I was 11 years old, Wally and I were staying in Dallas with my mother. She had been involved in Scientology for a couple of years at that point and was the significant other of a man named Red Shea. He had started a Scientology franchise in Dallas and that was where Wally and I spent a lot of our time during the visit.

Red and my mother took us kids to see “101 Dalmatians”. During the movie I had a severe asthma attack, a regular occurrence for me as long as I could remember. Those who have never experienced asthma simply need to understand one thing to imagine what it’s like – you simply cannot breath. You work your chest and lower abdomen, drawing deeply from inside trying to force oxygen into your lungs. Sitting down is scary and the idea of laying down is beyond frightening. Standing or walking is preferable, often bent over, hands on thighs to help facilitate the intake of air. I got up during the movie and went out to the lobby, gasping and wheezing as I worked to suck in air. The attack made me nauseous and I ended up in the bathroom throwing up.

My mother and Red were solicitous and a bit shaken by the severity of the attack. The other thing I recall from that evening was feeling better when we got to her apartment and she fed me some chicken noodle soup. The next day mother said that if I allowed Red to do some Scientology auditing on me there was a good chance the asthma could be eliminated. What was I going to say? I was 11 years old. Wally and I lived with my father in El Paso and he was married to a supremely evil woman. By supremely evil I mean she put us through a grind that some of you Sea Org members might think of as an RPF for kids, replete with terror, starvation and liberal applications of a leather belt on bare asses. Being asked if I wanted someone to help me was like asking a man dying of thirst if he wanted his water ice cold or room temperature.

I told my mother that I absolutely wanted the auditing.

So Red did a few sessions with me. Sorry auditors, I have no idea what he ran. Probably some Dianetics because one thing I do recall from the sessions involved me as a baby, crawling on a floor sucking in dust and other fine particles off the wood planks. After a couple of sessions I felt different. Not cured different. But intrigued different. Frankly, not many 11 year old kids are introspective about why things are the way they are. And even fewer of them are put in a situation like mine. Red was an imposing man and my mother was the epitome of an urban, cosmopolitan woman of the era. The Dallas Scientology Center was vibrant and populated by types of people that I had never been around. Artists, musicians, svelte women in black, clingy turtleneck sweaters, men who wore desert boots with slacks and worked at mysterious jobs. They laughed, smiled, joked and above all – they did not ignore me. Think back to when you were 11, how would the attention of adults, who sincerely seemed to view you as something other than just a kid, have altered your self-image?

I began the process of actually thinking about “me” and why I was the way I was as opposed to thinking about “me” and what I wanted or didn’t want.

The fact is… I didn’t have any more asthma attacks after the auditing. Not that summer, not the next, not even the next few decades. It was gone. Handled. And you can bet your ass that had a huge effect on me. It’s not like Scientology auditing was all I thought about, more like I wanted to know more about the intoxicating atmosphere, edgy people and excitement that pulsed through the Center. I did read one or two basic books. Not Dianetics, I was 11 and any of you who have actually read Dianetics know it’s slow going and a challenge for most adults.

So how did my brother, a Scientologist for 44 straight years, end up thinking that what happened to me had actually happened to him? I don’t mean for this initial entry to be an indictment of Wally. Not that I really care. After all, he did appropriate my experiences and use them in a public manner to eulogize someone I actually do care about. Instead I view what happened at my mother’s memorial as sort of a super-truncated example of how the Church of Scientology has transformed from the excitment, enthusiasm and honesty of the earlier era to the sort of slick, greedy and image-conscious corporation it has become today.

Mercifully, the memorial service was short. Wally had never once used the word “love”. In fact, I was the one person there who turned around in my seat and told the 20 or 30 people attending that I loved my mother and would miss her. I may have a prejudiced view here, but it seems to me that the personae the contemporary Scientologist is expected to exhibit does not include demonstrations of ‘wog reality’. So missing a recently deceased person might be frowned upon because only their body is dead, they, of course, are immortal and will return soon. Probably as the child of a nearby pregnant Scientologist who isn’t currently receiving PTS handling or being routed to Ethics.

What’s wrong with saying that you love someone who recently passed away? Particularly if that someone is your mother? The absence of the word in a setting where you would most expect it is perhaps one of the more subtle, but telling, aspects of Scientology today that separates it from the usual human experience.

So, there is a little synchronicity to how my first visit back to a Scientology organization tied in to the events that brought me into the fold to begin with. Yes, it’s true that having your brother hijack one of the most significant experiences of your life and then tell people it happened to him is just a little weird. But it’s a unique kind of weird… the kind that makes me want to tell the story as it really happened.

That’s what I’ll do. Over time, of course. Slowly no doubt. And I’ll throw in my interpretation of how I saw things from a time and place that most of you missed. I guess it’s fair that you missed my personal Scientology because I (thankfully) missed the one that happened after 1982. So we’re even. Right?

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  1. FreeBeing says:

    In regard to your story,

    “What’s wrong with saying that you love someone who recently passed away? Particularly if that someone is your mother?”

    Absolutely nothing! I could not agree with you more.

    “Scientology has transformed from the excitement, enthusiasm and honesty of the earlier era to the sort of slick, greedy and image-conscious corporation it has become today.”
    An accurate observation. I do believe the current form of the Church of Scientology has a very brief future. I do remember when it was inspirational to go on course in the old days and great fun to attend an event on one of the special Scientology holidays. When was that? Over 25 years ago, at least.

    At the last event I attended, which was over 5 years ago, I was approached by at least 15 different staff members trying to sell me the same set of Lectures. It was minimally total overkill and I found it beyond insulting.

  2. ensifer says:

    //At the last event I attended, which was over 5 years ago, I was approached by at least 15 different staff members trying to sell me the same set of Lectures.//

    Well, apparently nothing has changed in that regard. Even 45 years ago the Orgs were ruled by the telex machine and getting the stats off to St. Hill was a big, big deal. Those staffers trying to sell you the lectures probably wouldn’t get dinner until they met their target. I’d have tackled you and put you in a choke-hold if it meant not going to bed hungry.


  3. Raindog says:

    Knew your mom. Loved her. She was an inspiration. I hope you were in communication with her before she died.

  4. ensifer says:

    Raindog ~

    For the last two years of her time here we spoke virtually every day, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day. That’s another story, for another time though. The last time I spoke with her our conversation boiled down to telling each other how much we loved and cared for the other.

    Works for me.

    • Raindog says:

      Works for me as well. I have no trouble with telling people I love them.

      As a funny note, many current Scientologists sign their correspondence with ML. (much love) I have received some of the most viscous, hateful, and ugly letters from management signed: Much love. lol I believe David Miscavige signs his correspondence with ML, and you know how thetans love to copy.

      Enjoying your blog. Keep it up.

  5. Kingair350 says:

    I am really sad to read of Dolores’ passing,

    You know, every time I saw her, whether at an event, meeting or at the AO, I’d fall in love with her all over again. Her carriage, glamour, her total self confidence, put her well beyond my reach. God, she was such a knock out in so many ways, not the least of which was a cold steel level of personal integrity.

    It warmed me greatly to read your description of the mileau you lived through. It was very much the same for me in another org. It was, first and foremost, the people – so alive, interesting, smart…you know. You could talk about anything; GPMs, what the hell were End Words, Persian stories about Ron and on and on. And I can only imagine Dolores was in the thick of it. I feel fortunate I knew your mother, however brief it was.

    And I am happy you had the experience of sharing so much love with her. It will keep you warm till the end of your days.

    Thank you for your post. It brought back a past that very few Scientologists today will ever experie

    • ensifer says:

      Kingair ~

      Wow. What a totally accurate description of my mother. She’s an exceptional being and is so utterly different than what many post-1982 Scientologists think of as an Opinion Leader. No threats, no squinting or yelling, no isolation as a c/s or a terminal. She was just in communication, in ARC, responsible and effective with her own tech and case and yes, all this ensconced in an attractive package that is re-mindful of a female lead in a Cary Grant movie.

      She operated with understanding, empathy and admiration. Something many of us aspire to and most of us could use more of.

      Thanks for the smile.


  6. Kingair350 says:


  7. Tara says:

    Awesome – awe inspiring. Fab about your MoM, Perfectly duplicated. Peace.

  8. steve says:


    I just corrected my email address in your system if you want to communicate.

    Steve S

    • ensifer says:


      You’re the 2nd person in less than 24 hours that has contacted me from 30+ years ago. I’ll shoot you an email this w/e.

      Glad you’re alive Steve… I’ll explain later.


  9. Hi, David,

    Your mother was so beautiful. I can clearly see her face, standing at the front of the room, as I sat in one of the folding chairs, and we listened.

    She was normally gracious and smiling, but on this particular evening, she was chiding us for not doing much disseminating to folks about the courses and counseling there at the Dallas franchise which was in some office building with some odd name.

    “Disseminate,” she said, looking for this moment somewhat stern. “Let’s see what it means …”

    She opened the large dictionary. She read aloud …

    “Disseminate,” she said, ” … to spread a broad.”

    There was a long pause. Then the laughter began.

    She had the most charming smile.

    I’ll always remember her. Thank you for the photo.

    — Arthur Cronos

    • ensifer says:

      Thank you for the kind words my friend. I remember that story… with clarity. Not sure if I was there or if my mother just retold it because she thought it was funny as well… but I’m happy you mentioned it.

      I had a thought… you realize that you and I have known each other for coming up on 45 years now. I think that makes you old… doesn’t it?


  10. Jeannie (Morrow0 Livezey says:

    I am an old time Scientologist from about 1958 in Dallas. Red Shea and Dolores Stokes ran the center on Oak Lawn Ave. It was so much fun. I am sorry to hear about her passing. Is Red still alive? I would like to hear from anyone that might remember me. Gary Nelson is also here in the Dallas area. He was from the early Dianetic days. Norman Mehr has passed on. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to find Dolores. I loved her a lot and received some neat auditing from her. Red audited me and blew me way out of my bank. I actually blew a GPM but it took me years later to find out what happened because Hubbard hadn’t really defined that until years later. All I knew was that I was FREE for the first time in my lives. ha. And the adventure began. The whole world opened up for me.
    Your Mom mentioned Wally and you a lot but said you were with your dad. I was in my late teens then, quite a wild child, and totally nuts when I found Scientology. (I am 71 now.) I never questioned her about why you were not with her.
    I blew out of the “Church” when all the witch hunting came down and McSavage took over as most of us Founding Scientologists did. I have mixed feelings about all of that and am not planning to rush back in there nor do I feel I need to. Scientology is wonderful and I hope it is really delivering what Hubbard intended it to but I don’t like the franticness that I sense in them now.
    I wouldn’t trade the old days for anything. We used to talk until dawn at the corner deli there on Oak Lawn after co-auditing. I took auditor training in DC in the early 60’s and was married, had 2 sons and divorced by 1965. When I came back to Dallas, Red and Dolores were long gone back to CA and the mission was run by Betty Filisky here. Red and his wife, Miriam, came to Dallas (sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s, I think) and got us Founding Scientologists together at a local Mexican restaurant. He was walking with a cane. Other than the cane and being a little gray around the gills, Red looked just like I remembered him.
    I really enjoyed the pictures and have printed them off. I had forgotten how pretty Dolores was back then. What a great treat to see her.
    I would love to hear from you and if you can put me in touch with others that would be super too.
    Jeannie Livezey