“There was no way back. We were literally prisoners’
Translated into Dutch as De sekte. Original Swedish title: Sekten på Dimön.
“I talk about everything, I have nothing left to lose.”
She was fanatical and convinced, and she worked at the highest level at headquarters in Florida, directly under leader David Miscavige. Until the excesses and terror at the Church of Scientology became so untenable that her eyes opened and she began to plot her escape.
The second part of her trilogy, The Cult Rises, has just appeared: about a New Age movement on an island on the Swedish coast under the leadership of a charismatic leader. ‘To join is tempting, escape is impossible’, is the motto of the books and could also be that of her life. Because yes, in a physical sense she escaped Scientology after her flight in 2004. But the cult – because that is the ‘church’ in her view – does not let her go. Her accounts are hacked, false Facebook pages are created and when she visits a book fair somewhere, then there are shadows that photograph and film her.
But Lindstein does not give up her mission: she gives lectures, does school visits and has started writing thrillers to warn young people who are receptive to the lure of these kinds of movements – which seem so innocent, but which slowly brainwash people. “You can shout: do not join a cult! But nobody will listen, so I can make it much easier to see how easy it is to get caught up in something like that.”
Together with her current husband Dan Koon, also a former Scientologist, Lindstein tells her story. “He was the first person in the church with whom I dared to talk about my doubts, and often a raised eyebrow was enough.”
It is probably not easy to publicly admit that you made such a totally wrong choice 27 years ago.
“I fled to Los Angeles in 2004, where I lived with Dan for seven years, and during those early years we were only trying to get our lives in order, we had been cut off from the world, I still dressed like in the nineteen eighties, had no passport, no references, it was hard to find a job – just tell them you were in a cult for 27 years, then we went to Sweden, to Halmstad, where I grew up. To ask the question: what would my life have been like if I had made a different choice when I was nineteen? I got nightmares and started to write to get rid of them, it was such a relief.” …
There was no way back, but you have climbed high within the movement. That does not happen just like that?
“No, I do not want to wallow in victimhood, I have been very fanatic for a long time, I really believed that we were working for a higher purpose, though sometimes I had a vague sense of discomfort. The doubts came and went. Then people began to be physically abusive, I got my mind back a little bit – although it took me five years before I found the courage and the opportunity to escape. David Miscavige is very violent and unpredictable. The abuse is denied blatantly, that feels like a knife stuck into my heart. We’ve seen it with our own eyes.”
Her husband Dan Koon, who sits next to her all this time, takes over the conversation. “When Tom Cruise, the film star, came to the base for his training in 1990, we were still allowed to call friends and family; someone from the marketing department told his mother about Cruise and she had sold the stories to gossip magazine National Enquirer. From that moment on, someone always had to be there when you called – that was the beginning of an even greater isolation from the world, and we were also constantly told how bad things were in the outside world. ”
Lindstein: “At one point we were all called together and we were shown the images of 9/11 on a screen.” This, “said the Leader, is what happens in the world because you are not spreading our message quickly enough.” He used the attacks to frighten us, manipulating them, and playing extreme power games at Scientology.”