A Former Scientologist Reviews 'After Earth' (Guest Column)

Will Smith and Jaden Smith in "After Earth"; Marc Headley (inset)
Will Smith and Jaden Smith in "After Earth"; Marc Headley (inset)
 

I grew up in Scientology and worked at their international Sea Organization headquarters for 15 years. In 2005, I managed a desperate escape, which only succeeded thanks to the local county authorities. I wrote about my experiences in my best-selling book, Blown For Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology. 

Who better, then, to investigate the whole Scientology debate surrounding After Earth, the new sci-fi movie from M. Night Shyamalan starring Will and Jaden Smith, than a former Scientologist -- one who's received counseling from Tom Cruise himself? I am in no way “glib” on the subject; I’ve done the research.

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I saw the movie After Earth and took notes on any parallels or “coincidental” similarities to Scientology teachings. While most of the movie involves following Jaden Smith’s character as he faces off against apes, a large, angry bird and a leech, (none of which have much to do with Scientology -- besides maybe the leech), most of the Scientology influences play out in the film’s dialogue.

“Fear is a choice.”

Will Smith’s character, Cypher Raige, tells his son, Kitai: “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Now do not misunderstand me: Danger is very real. But fear is a choice

L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings insist that emotions and fear are triggers and are part of the reactive mind. Through Scientology, one is supposed to “rid oneself of your fears.”

“Be in the present moment.”

Through Scientology training, one learns how to be in “present time,” or PT as it is commonly referred to by insiders. In order to operate as a higher being and be in control over one’s environment, it is considered key that a person exist in present time and not react to the past.

“What do you touch, see, feel, smell?”

While undergoing certain types of Scientology counseling, you are asked to recall what you see, hear, touch and smell. This is part of putting yourself in the moment and observing the moment with “full perceptions.”

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Besides the film's dialogue and its direct similarities to Scientology teachings, there are also some other clues in After Earth that cannot be ignored.

Volcanoes

The movie’s climax takes place on a volcano that could have been ripped right off the cover of Dianetics, the look is so similar. In Scientology, the volcano is a common thread through many different teachings. This image was used not only on the cover of Dianetics, but has also been used in many of Scientology’s TV ads over the years. 

Then you have the intergalactic overlord Xenu who, in cahoots with the psychiatrists of the universe, imprisoned millions of souls, froze them and then dumped them into -- you guessed it -- Earth’s volcanoes. Of all the places in the galaxy! This is part of the upper-level teachings of Scientology that members only find out about after they’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Scientology counseling.

Robotic Emotions

Will Smith’s character is pretty much devoid of all emotions for the entire movie. While this may be part of his character or something that was directed in the script, in Scientology, one goes through great amounts of training and counseling to control one’s emotions and “mis-emotion,” as described by Hubbard. Anyone who has done even the smallest amount of Scientology training will recall sitting and staring at a person for hours on end without being allowed to blink, smile or turn one’s head. Will Smith pretty much masters that for the entirety of this movie.

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Few people know that Battlefield Earth, the film adaptation of Hubbard's novel produced by none other than famous Scientologist John Travolta, was meant to be a way to introduce Scientology to the masses. Even the story itself is a veiled reference to the story of Scientology versus the psychiatrists.

We all know how that turned out. Battlefield Earth is considered by many critics to be one of the worst films ever made. After watching After Earth, I would say that Battlefield Earth might have finally met its match.

Two Xenu thumbs down.

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