Going Clear (book)

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Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Going Clear.jpg
Hardcover, US first edition, Knopf, 2013
AuthorLawrence Wright
Cover artistPeter Mendelsund
CountryUnited States
PublisherAlfred A. Knopf (US)
Publication date
January 17, 2013
Media typePrint (Hardcover)

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief is a 2013 non-fiction book about Scientology written by Lawrence Wright.

The book contains interviews with current and former Scientologists, the histories of founder L. Ron Hubbard and current leader David Miscavige, and analysis of the relationships of Tom Cruise and John Travolta to the organization. In an interview with The New York Times Wright said that "There are a lot of people out there who were very high up in the church and know a lot about it who have become outspoken... I'm very lucky to come along at a time when a lot of these people are ready to talk".[1] Wright also disclosed that he has received "innumerable" letters threatening legal action from lawyers representing Scientology and celebrities who belong to it.[1] Wright spoke to two hundred current and former Scientologists for the book.[1] It was originally published in the United Kingdom by Transworld but is now being published by Silvertail, which may be because of legal pressure from the Church.[2]

The title of the book, Going Clear, is in reference to a stage of spiritual development in Scientology. In Scientology parlance, "Clear" means a state of having freed oneself from "engrams", which members believe are "subconscious memories of past trauma". Scientologists go through therapy sessions called "auditing" as part of the process of becoming Clear.[3]

Wright had previously written a profile of former Scientologist Paul Haggis for The New Yorker.[4][5]


The publishers Transworld cancelled their publication of the book in the United Kingdom.[6] Transworld made an internal decision not to publish the book following legal advice, feeling that an edited version would not fit with their schedule. It has since been published in the UK by Silvertail in 2016.[7]

Wright’s German publisher, Random House Publishing Group, provided the internet addresses of the Church of Scientology’s published responses in a disclaimer in the front of the German edition and a disclaimer that none of the stories contained in the book concern the German branch of the church.[8]

Lawrence Wright signing a copy of Going Clear

Going Clear has been challenged by the Church of Scientology International. The Church published an official statement in its newsroom[9] and a blog listing its refutations.[10] There have been comments about the disagreements between Wright and the Church of Scientology in the media.[11][12]

Karen Swartz reviewed the book for Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, writing that Wright achieves his goal for the book, providing “a rich history that engages current questions,” while allowing for a “more nuanced discourse” of the meaning of religion, while perpetuating a “heavily Protestant understanding.” She also comments that the author recognizes the lack of information provided by the Church and encourages readers to research further.[13]

Clark Collis reviewed the book for Entertainment Weekly, writing:

Lawrence Wright, who won a Pulitzer for 2006's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, interviewed roughly 200 current and former Scientologists for the book, which began as a 2011 New Yorker article written with Haggis' cooperation. You can feel the heft of the research as he details Hubbard's establishment of the church in the '50s, its globe-spanning infiltration of government agencies in the '70s, and the more recent alleged physical abuse suffered by some members (the Church of Scientology denies many of the claims...) Going Clear is peppered with examples of the church lavishly accommodating its A-list members, particularly Tom Cruise, if not always dealing so well with its famous congregants' quips.[14]

Awards and honors[edit]

The book was a finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction,[15][16] and was shortlisted for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award.[17] It won the nonfiction Carr P. Collins prize of the Texas Institute of Letters.[18]

Film adaptation[edit]

The book was adapted into a documentary film by HBO, directed by Alex Gibney, and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2015. It had been stated by HBO documentary films chief Sheila Nevins that HBO had 160 lawyers review the film out of concerns about litigation by the Church of Scientology.[19] This was later called hyperbole by Gibney, though the film was scrutinized by HBO's lawyers.[20]


  1. ^ a b c Mcgrath, Charles (3 January 2013). "Scientology Fascinates the Author Lawrence Wright". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of belief - review". standard.co.uk. 25 March 2016.
  3. ^ NPR Staff (February 6, 2013). "Hollywood Hot Shots, Scientology and a Story Worth the Risk in 'Going Clear'". Morning Edition. NPR. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  4. ^ Wright, Lawrence (14 February 2011). "The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ Thornton, Kim (2012-11-17). "Lawrence Wright's Book on Church of Scientology Coming in January". Knopf Publishers.
  6. ^ John Sweeney (7 January 2013). "Scientologists believe the Holocaust was planned and carried out by psychiatrists". The Independent.
  7. ^ "Silvertail to publish Wright's Scientology exposé | the Bookseller".
  8. ^ Church of Scientology International (2013-01-13). "Statement on Lawrence Wright's book". Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  9. ^ Church of Scientology International (2013). "How Lawrence Wright Got It So Wrong: A Correction of the Falsehoods in Lawrence Wright's Book on Scientology". Retrieved 2013-11-29.
  10. ^ Dickson, Caitlin (23 January 2013). "Scientology vs. Lawrence Wright". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  11. ^ "Scientology author talks of church's presence in D.C." 27 January 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-23.
  12. ^ Swartz, Karen (2013). "Contemporary Esotericism". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 17 (4): 125–127. doi:10.1525/nr.2014.17.4.125.
  13. ^ Collis, Clark (January 25 – February 1, 2013). "Going Clear". Entertainment Weekly. New York: Time Inc.: 120.
  14. ^ "2013 National Book Award Finalists Announced". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  15. ^ "2013 National Book Awards". NBF. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  16. ^ "Announcing the National Book Critics Awards Finalists for Publishing Year 2013". National Book Critics Circle. January 14, 2014. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  17. ^ Galehouse, Maggie (13 April 2014). "Winners of Texas Institute of Letters competitions". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  18. ^ Sarah Gray (November 24, 2014). ""We have probably 160 lawyers": HBO readies documentary on Church of Scientology". Salon.com. Retrieved November 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Brian Stelter (March 15, 2015). ""Scientology mounts media offensive against upcoming HBO documentary". money.cnn.com. Retrieved March 17, 2015.

External links[edit]