Far and Away - the Story of a Disconnect
The following story contains only fictious names in order to protect
those involved from the retribution of the Church of Scientology. I
have also avoided the use of the names of specific places for the same
reason. The story itself is factual.
Far and Away the Story of A Disconnect
It was during one of the most beautiful summers I ever recall that my
son, Ishmael and I, made the decision to move from a small town to the
big city. I was armed with high hopes and a fresh, new career. I had
landed a coveted position in my field and though initially Ishmael had
objected to the move, we were on our way.
Ishmael was about to enter his final years of high school. He as a
bright and funny teenager with good judgment and a strong set of
values. I had been a single parent for nearly all of his life.
Having grown up as an over-protected kid myself, whose naivete still
remained, I had tried hard all of Ishmael's life to help him learn
good problem solving skills and analytical thinking. I wanted
Ishmael, unlike myself, to be fully prepared to meet the challenges of
Ishmael was a talented young man with many interests. He played
several musical intruments and was well read beyond his years having
devoured any printed word all of his life. He had an innate curiosity
about the sciences that I had nurtured from the start. He loved
school and had many friends, nice kids like himself. I enjoyed them
all and they spent many hours at our home. It was a good life.
Ishmael and I spent a great deal of time talking about anything and
everything. Our relationship was very honest, open and trusting. I
was determined to allow his exposure to life. To not hide the good or
evil of it from him. It was all this that convinced me that I need
not worry much about Ishmael, he had it all together.
In retrospect, I can see that my timing was not the best in having
taken him away from his life in small town USA at this critical time
in his development. I had over estimated him. He was, after all,
despite all his abilities, a kid.
Ishmael hated his new school. He rapidly lost interest in scholastics
and became listless. He missed his friends and was finding it
difficult to meet new people who could met his standards. It was
during this time of loneliness and upheaval that Ishmael was lured
into the cult of Scientology. He had been promised the opportunity to
earn money at the same time helping all of mankind.
As is often the case, Ishmael encountered the cult on the streets of
our new city. I recall that he was quite enthusiastic about this new
found group. I had not seen this in him for a while and was glad to
see his happiness emerging once again. At that point, I felt
perfectly comfortable that Ishmael had found his "religion". I had
always been a free thinker and was not affiliated with any religious
group. I wanted Ishmael to feel free to decide for himself in matters
spiritual. My faith in his cognitive and analytical abilities coupled
with my lack of knowledge regarding cults in general provided me with
a false sense of security. As far as I knew, all was well. Ishmael's
esteem for this relisgion was so great that at one point he even
managed to recruit me. That is another story.
I will simply say that I was not impressed with the costs. I had a
kid to raise and needed my money for him.
Ishmael became more and more embroiled in the cult with great speed.
I had hoped he would renew his interest in school. Alas, instead he
had less and less value for formal education with each passing day.
He now spoke about school with great disdain. I began to feel
apprehensive. We had always talked about him going to college. Now I
did not know what would become of that plan. My concerns increased as
Ishmael, who was now on staff, came home later and later every night
and had more and more difficulty getting to school the next morning.
I tried to appeal to his value of knowledge. I tried tough love. I
tried and I tried but, I was no match for the mentors he had allied
There was a great deal of contention in our home now. Ishmael was
fast becoming a different person. I did not know him anymore. Gone
were our talks. No longer did I have a son who was considerate and
cooperative. There was no interchange of ideas any more. When I
spoke to Ishmael about anything his response was always the same,
"O.K., got that". I could not make him talk to me. I pointed out
these changes repeatedly but Ishmael insisted that they were positive.
I was at a loss.
Before long, the worst happened. One day I came home to find Ishmael
painting a sign that said LOS ANGELES. I knew, without having to ask,
that Ishmael would be leaving. He told me of his plan to go to ASHOLA
for training. Training he said was essential if he were to become a
clergyman in the church. He seemed to want this so much. He said if
I really did not want him to go he would not. I was beside myself.
Ishmael was in his last year of high school. I tried to convince him
to wait until he graduated. I appealed to his pragmatic nature. We
talked into the night. My head was swiming with conflicting thoughts.
I did not want to dictate Ishmael's future. I wanted him to be free
to follow his dream. I did not want him to hate or blame me if his
life were disappointing to him. He was eighteen years old, he could
go if he wanted and I could not stop him. At the same time I worried
about his future. Without credentials what would be his chances of
success? Part of me wanted to cry out, "Don't go, don't do this."
but, I did not. In spite of all my trepidation, I agreed to let him go
provided he would allow me to give him the money for bus fare instead
of hitch hiking as he had planned. I did not recognize the magnitude
of the danger. My knowledge of this cult was not sufficient. In
fact, the word cult was not even a part of my vocabulary at that time.
My final words to Ishmael that night were, "If it doesn't work out,
you can always come home again". And so it was that Ishmael set out
for LA with high hopes and great expectations.
I drove Ishmael to the bus station the next morning. His enthusiasm
was contagious. I had no reason to doubt his choice. We had
discussed this calmly and in depth last night and I had been told the
"acceptable truth" that had put me at ease. I even felt a sense of
pride seeing my young son looking so grown up and confident. I was
glad that he wanted to help mankind. I knew, in my heart, that if it
could be done, he could do it. Scientology had given him the tools
with which to manipulate me and he had used them well.
It wasn't long before Ishmael began to call me asking for money. I
questioned this as he had told me that he was being paid. Ishmael
explained that things were not going well at the org. Sales of
services were down and so was his pay. Like any caring parent, I sent
money but, something was begining to gnaw at my mind. My first
suspicions were forming. These calls became more frequent. I put my
fears on the back burner, thankful that at least I heard from Ishmael
and he said he was well.
But, I sensed that Ishmael was not well. Whenever I spoke with him
on the phone, there was an urgency in his voice that I had never heard
before. He was anxious and overly serious. What had happened to his
sense of humor? He had always been so much fun. We had always been
able to laugh together. On several occasions I suggested that he
might like to come home but, he declined. So, when the day finally
arrived that Ishmael called to say he was coming home I was
delightfully surprised. He asked for bus fare which I happily wired
him immediately. When he arrived home, Ishmael did not offer
explanations about what had happend in LA to cause him to leave. He
clearly was disappointed, traumatized and did not want to talk about
it. I did not push him. It wasn't until recently that I learned of
his problems in LA.
Ishmael continued his affiliation with the cult after his return. He
worked all day at his new found job and spent his evenings at the org.
He did not appear happy and offered no reasons. I never questioned
him. Before long, he was back on staff.
Time passed. Ishmael plodded along. He was so different, so sad,
serious and preoccupied. He was nervous and edgy. Then, without
explanation, he left the cult. For a short time he became involved
with Buddhism but soon became disenchanted and returned to his true
love, Scientology. He was more avid than ever now. He continued
throughout this time, to encourage me to take the communication
course. "Go take the personality test and sign up for the comm
course." he would say.
One day, I learned that Ishmael was going to Flag. He was to be
trained as an auditor. Within days, he was gone.
While at Flag, Ishmael fell off the planet. I could not contact him
and he did not contact me. He had sub-let his apartment to a fellow
Scientologist who was not present and was not paying the rent as
agreed. The owner of the building came to me and told me what was
happening. He stated that he would soon have to remove Ishmael's
possessions. The rent was seriously in arrears and enough was enough.
I promptly called the local org and asked that they please contact
Ishmael at Flag as there was a problem he was needed to solve. Silly
me, I really thought that he would be notified. He was not. I
suppose it would have been wiser to say that Ishmael had inherited a
large sum of money and needed to sign papers in order to collect it.
I am sure he would have been home immediately. But, alas, hind sight
is 20-20. When no response was forth coming, I called the org again.
I explained that the Scientologist who had sub-let Ishmael's apartment
was not keeping his bargin. I asked that someone please talk to him
about this. Still no response. I tried again and again to get
messages to Ishmael to no avail. I began to fear for my son's safety.
Why had there been no word from him in so long? Finally, in
desperation, I called the org again. I said, "If I do not hear from
Ishmael today, I will have the FBI contact you about this matter. As
far as I am concerned, my son is missing and my have met with foul
play". Voila, within eight hours, Ishmael phoned. When I told him
what the situation was, he assured me that ethics would handle this
matter and It would be resolved. They didn't, it wasn't. Ishmael did
not contact me again. I was right back where I started from.
Ishmael's belongings were removed from his apartment. I continued to
try to contact him to notify him of the current situation. Again and
again I tried to obtain a phone number where I could reach my son.
None was forth coming. I was now both frightened and angry. How dare
this so called church prevent me from calling my own son? I sat down
and thought it out as rationally as I was able. In a rage, I picked
up the phone and dialed the FBI. I was trembling in fear and anger. I
knew when the phone was answered that there was no turning back. Even
in my ignorance, I knew there would be consequences.
The pair of agents who came to my home were more than accommodating.
They spoke with me at length. I expressed my concerns that under the
circumstances I considered my son kidnapped. At best, something was
terribly wrong. They agreed. Within twenty four hours, Ishmael was
home. He was very angry with me. He told me that I would be declared
SP [a suppressive person] as a result of my actions. He said he did
not like or respect me and that he did not admire the way I conducted
my life. I was crushed by his words but, did not close the door on
our relationship. I tried instead to explain that I had done this for
his protection. He literally sneered at me is disgust. He told me
that since his training had been aborted as a result of my actions,
he now had to pay a large free loader debt. I was overcome with guilt
and remorse by this.
Our relationship was very strained after this incident. I consoled
myself with the fact that Ishmael was home, I could see and talk to
him and that made me feel a little better.
Although Ishmael was depressed and angry, he managed to carry on with
his life. He went back to work and paid his back rent and bills still
managing to maintain his affiliation with the cult. He interacted
with me less and less. When he did, he was critical and
argumentative. The strain was almost more than I could bear. In the
face of this obstacle, I continued to try to salvage our once good
relationship. I loved my son more than any one in the world no matter
what he did. I missed our fun times and talks together.
Things grew worse with the passing of time. Ishmael now contacted me
only when he was in need of my help. I never refused. However, no
matter what I did for him, he could find a flaw to be upset about. He
attacked me verbally at every opportunity. When the time came that my
life was about to take me out of the state, I contacted Ishmael and he
came for a farewell visit. It was during this visit that he made the
final disconnect. It was not what one might expect. It was not an
official I-hereby-disconnect-from-you-because. It was actually a
cowardly maneuver. It was as though he was unable to say the words
but wanted the result. Ishmael managed to start an argument and
stormed out of my house. I called him several times after that. All
he would say was that we had nothing in common and that he wanted me
to stop calling him. I tried to make amends with him but, he would
have none of it. I apologized, though I knew not what I had done, I
begged him not to do this. I insisted that we had one thing in common
that could not be changed, I was his mother yesterday, today and
always. Nothing helped. I did not hear from Ishmael for ten years.
During that time, I missed my son. I envied families. I cried from
time to time. Mostly, I blamed myself. I did not understand why this
had happened, what I had done and what I needed to do now. My
knowledge of the disconnect policy was limitied at best. The one
thing that I was sure of was this: I wanted my son to be able to
reach me any time he chose to. I knew he kept in touch with my
sister. I made certain that she always knew how to reach me and told
her to give this information to Ishmael anytime he wanted it. For
years I got reports from her about my son. She told me when he had
married. I recall that once she asked me if I wanted his new address.
I declined, "Ishmael does not want me to have it." I said. "Please
don't betray his confidence or we may lose him forever." That was one
of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. Sometimes
people would ask me if I had children. I had to say no. I felt so
ashamed that my own son did not want to hear from me. How could I
have explained it? At times they would say, "Oh, that's too bad, you
would be a great mom". I would thank them, smile and change the
subject. Inside I wept. Why didn't my son think so? Each time I
denied my motherhood, my shame grew inside of me.
I was not aware when Ishmael left the cult. He did not contact me.
But Christmas of 1997 I found the courage to try again. I had sent a
Christmas card to my sister. I enclosed a card for for Ishmael and
asked her to send it to him. She complied. It was then that Ishmael
contacted me. The nightmare was over, my son was back in my life
bringing with him his wonderful wife. The cult had won a few battles,
but, I had won the war. Funny, it was like a dream to me, a bad
dream. The three of us were able to quickly fall into step and
establish a remarkable relationship. I think my son appreciates me
more now, I certainly do him. Ishmael tells me now that he feared our
relationship was beyond repair and so hesitated to make contact.
How did he come to leave the cult? With the help of his wife, Ishmael
discovered Operation Clambake and the story of Xenu. He went on to
investigate what the ciritcs say. He learned about the sad saga of
Lisa McPherson. His questions multiplied and acceptable answers were
no longer forth coming. He became a strong critic of the cult of
Scientology. He went on to introduce me to the same. After reading a
few personal experiences I too became a bona-fide critic with a
passion for it was then that I learned of the abuses of the cult.
Ishmael and his wife are doing well. Some time after leaving the
cult, Ishmael had some exit counseling. His story can be found at
What would have happened if I had not opened the door for him with a
Christmas card? I will never know. I don't care. I have my son back
now. I had waited, hoped, prayed and accepted the situation for many
years. I recognized that it was out of my control to change Ishmael's
mind but, something did. I am so happy that I was around when it
"The only reason I always try to meet and know the parents better is
because it helps me to forgive their children." Louis Johannot