Interview with former Scientologist Saina Kamula

Saina Kamula is a Finnish-American lady who was raised into Scientology, but ultimately made her way out of the religion. She was recently featured on an episode of the television show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.

Here’s my interview with Saina.


Saina3

(photo credit AETV / “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

1) Where were you born?

Stockholm, Sweden but both parents are Finnish

2) What does Finland mean to you nowadays? Have you visited lately?

I was just in Finland for about 1-2 months until beginning of August this year. Went and visited family after walking the Camino.
I lived there about 6 years ago or so as well, for a year or two while my beloved grandma was suffering from dementia and I wanted to be with her.
Finland will always be one of my main two homes… LA being the other. I have many family and friends there.
3) Your mother took you with her from Finland to the United States when you were very young. What was that experience/journey like?
We actually stopped via Copenhagen first but there wasn’t any school or place for children there. I’d get lost in the streets of the city there sometimes (which was scary for a 7 year old!) so they – the Church of Scn – moved us to LA.

I didn’t speak English so the transition was extremely difficult. Unable to communicate made me a prime target for bullies. My mom had to get her indoctrination/training to be a staff member in the Sea Org.

4) In your own words, what is Scientology? How does it differ from, say, Christianity?
Essentially an applied (meaning you have to actually use what you learn) technology to improve your conditions (states of existence) in life and how you (as a “thetan” – spirit) relate to yourself, others, the universe and the like.
Scientology doesn’t state there is a specific higher power, although honestly LRH is sort of deified as the most perfect man that ever existed. They do leave that open to interpretation a bit with the “8th dynamic” which is the Supreme Being but that’s about it.
 5) Your mother was in the “Sea Org”. What is it?
It’s the “elite” of Scientology comprised of the most dedicated Scientologists Basically you sign a billion year contract (not kidding) and service all the other scientologists who lead relatively normal lives and just come to the organizations for auditing (aka counseling) or training/courses or manage the organizations that do .
It’s different In that they live together, you can’t have sex or even heavypet before marriage, you eat cafeteria style with everyone and work for little to no wages (most will get $50 per week although when I was in the sea org from age 12 to 2 days before my 18th birthday, there were months where I got no pay and I had to resort to stealing shampoo, tampons and basic necessities). You have little time off… maybe every Sunday morning after cleaning. If you want any more time than that, you have to request approval. You can’t leave the property area on your own free will without permission and have to usually go with 2 other people.

6) What is a childhood and youth in Scientology like?

Well, I was indoctrinated young and that’s affected me to this day. For instance: You’re taught that sympathy is “low toned” as is any other tone level (I’ll send you copy of tone scale as attachments) that’s like grief, anger, etc below 2.0 (which is antagonism) so you’re taught to basically repress any of those seemingly negative things and act as if everything is fine.
I also wasn’t just raised a scientologist but as a Sea Org member’s daughter (and future sea org member) which is quite different. Regular scientologists can grown up relatively normal in that parents can have their own home, have work outside Scn (if they wanted to) and do all the normal things other kids can do.
Us Sea Org member kids had our own “school”, lived in sub standard living conditions in dorms and were basically groomed for the sea org. We never were given a choice as to what we’d become when we grew up and were simply told constantly that we were going to be “Clearing the planet” (Sea Org goal). Our school had no real curriculum and we were made to study Scn courses too. I joined the sea org at 12 and left 2 days before my 18th birthday.
7) Scientology employs some very unorthodox methods in raising young people. What are some of these methods, and what are they aimed towards? In other words, what is the “Ideal Scientologist” like when she has grown into adulthood in Scientology?
This is what they say on their website:

“WHAT DOES SCIENTOLOGY SAY ABOUT THE RAISING OF CHILDREN?

L. Ron Hubbard has written a great deal about raising children. In Scientology, children are recognized as spiritual beings, occupying young bodies. This does not make them any less a person and they should be given all the love and respect granted adults. Scientologists also believe children should be encouraged to contribute to family life and not just be “seen and not heard,” as the old saying goes.

Most children raised in good Scientology homes are above average in ability and quickly begin to understand how and why people act as they do. Life thus becomes a lot happier and safer for them”.

Again, I grew up as a “cadet” so I personally grew up in a very military-esque type environment where we had to muster before and usually after meals and other random times. If you “backflashed” (talk back basically), you’d have to do push-ups. We had an obstacle course we’d do daily, we marched in formation for hours and hours and had punishments like running laps, cleaning and eating out of the dumpster, etc
Scientologists believe we are ageless as thetans (spirits) and we’ve learned everything in previous lifetimes and so, with that reasoning, not much importance is placed on having a proper childhood nor education… a dedicated scientologist would be proud if their child joined the sea org. Of course, if a child scientologist grow up to be rich and successful, even better for the church since they are then pressured into donating more and more
8) Celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta are paraded around as living advertisements for Scientology. The experience of the normal scientologist is, however, quite different from the experience of a millionaire film star, I imagine ?
Again, I had a more severe scientologist upbringing than most non Sea Org kids so can’t speak for them but we were treated as assets whereas celebrities are given the red carpet treatment. Whenever celebrities were rumored to be coming for whatever reason, we’d be made to clean up and make everything look presentable. Most celebrities usually went to Celebrity Centre where they catered to such types.
9) Having read Going Clear a few years ago, I can easily say that L. Ron Hubbard is one of the most peculiar people I have ever heard of. How is he presented to Scientologists within the cult? A messiah?
Pretty much. He’s looked at as a perfect man … one who figured it all out. They have busts and pictures of him everywhere. Even as a kid, I remember seeing framed photos of him at our “school” in every single classroom and common areas.
10) You suffered through some very, very dark times in Scientology when you were young. What were those experiences like? What caused them? (no need to answer this if ou don’t feel comfortable!)
Apparently the church in Stockholm wouldn’t let my mom leave with me when I was young and so my grandmother decided to go and get us both and leave back to Finland.
I rarely saw my mom, even as a young kid, since she was always working for the church. My grandmother is who I remember when I think of Finland and the early years there after Sweden.
While at a babysitter my mom had found for me, I was molested by the babysitter’s daughter repeatedly.
We then moved to Copenhagen but then soon left for LA when I was roughly 7 years old.
When I was about 8-9, I’d been bullied at the school and a teacher who seemed nice offered to let me play video games at his office. I jumped at the chance of getting away from my tormentors not realizing the teacher was grooming me and would then molest me repeatedly.
I tried to tell a teacher about it after my mom refused to let me go back to Finland. She called me a liar and said I was nattering (criticizing someone which in Scn indicates you’ve committed some sins against person you’re talking about). I was then forced to write down full confessional essentially with all my sins and made to make amends with the group
11) Your best friend is Mirriam, another woman who went through a similar path in and out of Scientology. How did you meet her? How important has she been in your journey towards healing from your experiences?
We met when I moved to LA. I didn’t speak English at first so we weren’t necessarily friends until about a year later but then we hit it off. We both enjoyed reading and writing and bonded over that.
It’s so hard for me to describe how much Mirriam means to me. It’s hard enough to relate to people due to my upbringing and her and I not only grew up together like that but we’ve stayed in touch even when she left. She has been my rock and we’ve just been there for each other for decades. She is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She is beautiful, strong and the best friend I could ever ask for and I doubt I would even be alive were it not for her.
12) How did your journey out of Scientology start? Did one specific event trigger it, or did the process start over time?
I was raped by someone I grew up with, another Scientologist. It was such a shock. I had such a controlled response to the incident and pretended everything was fine. But when I started having panic attacks, gained tons of weight despite dieting and exercising and when I started having flashbacks and strong suicidal urges, I sought help. From there, all the past trauma just popped up and I started getting angry which got me to reach out to Mike Rinder as I wanted to finally face and try to resolve the issues.

13) What is the actual, technical process of leaving Scientology like? Do you simply sign some paper and then turn in some materials that belong to the church, and then you’re free to leave?

Most non Sea Org Scientologists usually just fade out of it… they stop going to courses and services, although they’ll sometimes be hounded by phone, email or even in person, to come back.
For Sea Org members, you have to go through a process. Usually you’ll be put on “decks” (made to do labor intensive work) while undergoing a Confessional. And usually they’ll try to pressure you into staying so you have to be really resolved in getting out. For instance, when I left, one of the Ethics/Justice executives sat me down and locked me in a room to tell me (for about 3 hours)  how I wouldn’t make it in the outside world and even very openly implied I would probably even kill myself and went on about how evil and degraded the outside world (“wog” world) is. You then sign some legal paper where you say you can’t sue them or whatever….. I don’t remember what it says
14) Scientology is notorious for those hecklers they send after some people who leave the cult. Did they do this to you?
I’m a nomad. I travel too often and have no real address for them to do that to me. I’m sure they would’ve liked to though.
15) What has your life been like after leaving Scientology? What are you up to these days? Has the church left you alone?
The day I left the Sea Org was the most magical day… I met so many different people on the Greyhound bus they put me on and I felt so free. Unfortunately, I was still straddling the fence about Scientology since it was all I knew and the only support system I thought I had (in retrospect, I wish I had reached out to my Finnish family since they would’ve helped me but I was still brainwashed with how Us VS Them Scientology was and didn’t feel like I was a part of that family anymore). So I stayed with it for a while.
I will say this though: I have experienced SO much since leaving. Things I never could’ve done had I stayed in Scientology. I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon, rim to rim. I have walked the Camino Frances, way of St James (from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain). I’ve gone skydiving a few times and want to get my solo permit, I’ve attempted the Pacific Crest Trail (got about 650 miles in before getting injured) and was able to be a contributor on a long distance hiking iTunes featured podcast, seen incredible sights and hiked in so many different states. I’ve reconnected with my family in Finland, got to travel some more and volunteer and make an actual difference in people’s lives (something I thought I was doing when in the Sea Org).
The church has publicly labeled me an enemy and a “Suppressive Person” so have lost hundreds of friends. Got hate mail from people from the church and the church continues to monitor mutual friends to see if they’re still friends with me. If they are, they get talked to about how they have to “disconnect” from me (Scientology practices “disconnection” which is essentially shunning). My mom refuses to talk to me (although we’ve never been that close, she is still my mom and I wish we could at least try to work on our relationship).
16) Did Scientology ruin your ideas about religion and spirituality? Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
I find Mother Nature to be my faith… trees and the forests are like my temple and lakes/oceans are my holy water. I have a hard time with organized religion for sure but respect everyone’s right to believe what they want to, especially if it’s not harming anyone.

And finally, my usual questions I ask all my interviewees:

17) Your top 3 films

Oh man…. this one is hard. I feel like I’m going to slap myself for missing some other movie later but oh well 😄

In no real order: Into The Wild (amazing book and love the soundtrack), The Exorcist and Zoolander

18) Your top 3 books
The Alchemist. Dracula. Not sure if it counts since it’s poetry but I have read the Essential Neruda book countless times. If that doesn’t count, maybe Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
19) What model phone do you use? (my personal, quirky tech geek question :))
I’m out of date with phones… I have a 6s

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