Was Charles Manson a Scientologist?

Exploring the connections between the notorious killer and the Church of Scientology

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Charles Manson is better known today as a deceased serial killer, a sex trafficker and cult leader, and a failed musician. In this article, I wanted to explore the extent of the influence of Scientology on the career criminal, long before the ‘Helter Skelter’ murders occurred.

Charles Manson was born in 1934 to a teenage unwed mother. He was raised by an aunt and uncle after his mother was incarcerated for armed robbery when he was just five years old. For the next three years he lived in McMechen, West Virginia where he was quickly labeled a troubled youth. He had behavioral issues, was combative with friends and family, quickly took to a life of petty crime, and was heavily influenced by white supremacist dogma, such as the KKK.

His mother was released from prison when he was eight, and although he was returned to her custody, fared not much better than he had while she was serving time. Kathleen Maddox saw that her son had become quite the manipulative delinquent and felt guilty for leaving him alone all those years. She thought what he needed was a father, and she went man-hunting, ultimately marrying a circus worker just out of the Army. But Charlie’s behavior continued to worsen.

In desperation, his mother enrolled him at the Gibault School for Boys in Terre Haute, Indiana. This was a Catholic school for wayward boys with strict disciplinary rules. Charlie later claimed it was a virtual torture chamber, and his tenure at Gibault heralded an astounding seven years in Manson’s young life in youth detention centers, reformatories and jail.

At the age of seventeen, Charlie raped another boy while holding a razor at his throat and was caught. He was sent to Chillicothe, a maximum security facility in Ohio.

But at Chillicothe, Charlie encountered the first of several prison mentors. He met the acquaintance of none other than gangster Frank Costello, former head of the Genovese crime family. Costello was serving time for tax evasion, and took the boy under his wing.

Charlie got out of prison a few years later, married and was expecting his first child when he stole a car and drove west to California. He was soon arrested and thus began another eleven year phase of his life in the penal system. This time he was doing hard time, in federal prisons. But he was bright and institutionalized enough to keep his head down and make use of whatever education the prisons could offer him: whether that be in the form of other mentors (like pimps and even music teachers) and the prison libraries.

Charlie liked to read. He read the Bible front to back several times, and a favorite book was Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

“In prison there is every kind of belief imaginable. Some are good, some are bogus… If I saw a con who seemed to be on top of everything and in control of himself, I’d pursue his beliefs in an effort to see if I could strengthen myself through him… If I saw sincerity in the guys who were participating in group sessions, I’d find out which way they were headed. Though I wasn’t black, I picked up on what the Black Muslims were practicing. I did the same with the Indians. I found them solid in their beliefs so I watched them and began to appreciate their rituals and traditions. I studied hypnotism and psychiatry. I read whatever books I could find…” — Charles Manson quoted in Manson: In His Own Words as told to Nuel Emmons ©1986 Grove Press

While serving time at McNeil Island penitentiary in Washington State, Charlie got a new roommate named Lanier Raimer (sometimes known as Lafayette Rainer). Raimer/Rainer was a disciple of the Church of Scientology who had been been given permission to conduct auditing of other inmates in the prison system.

This was part of a larger campaign in Scientology that eventually morphed into a program known as Criminon. According to Scientology’s official website, Criminon: “is a volunteer criminal rehabilitation program which utilizes technologies developed by L. Ron Hubbard to help convicts recover pride and self-esteem. Today Criminon operates in more than 2,000 prisons, assisting some 100,000 inmates, through correspondence courses or delivering on-site seminars, with remarkable results.

Criminon provides inmates with the knowledge and skills to change their lives and become productive members of society. Inmates who have completed the Criminon program show dramatic improvements in compliance with conditions of probation — including restitution, fine payment and community service. Criminon is further known to cut 80 percent recidivism rates to zero and entirely eradicate cellblock violence. The program is so successful, in many cases it is mandated nationally across entire prison systems.”

Criminon was started in 1990, but it’s roots go back to the 1950s (not long after the publication of L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics). and is considered to be something of a ‘sister’ entity to Narconon, Scientology’s drug rehabilitation program.

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L. Ron Hubbard

There have been many documentaries, books, newspaper articles and podcasts detailing the history of Scientology including allegations of misconduct and abuse. In short, founder L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer who created a spiritual organization founded on the idea that men and women were immortal beings whose ancestors were extraterrestials. Scientologists believe that their thoughts and impulses are split into two sectors: analytical, and reactive (recording of pain and emotional trauma, storing the most painful images and experiences deep down where the average person cannot access them). These were ideas that they further explored when Scientology began to work with criminals and inmates. Can a person who is supposed to be serving time and atoning for terrible crimes recall the hidden experiences that may have led them into crime?

One of the tools used by Scientology in what they refer to as ‘auditing’ (somewhat of a confessional experience, where the individual answers questions, delves into their memories and emotions, and admits to the ways they have failed themselves and others). Auditing is performed with an Electropsychometer or E-Meter which reads energy through two devices that resemble metal cans, which are held by the individual who is being audited. The E-meter is supposed to measure resistance within the body to certain questions. How a person reacts tells the auditor whether they’re being honest and complete with their answers.

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The Church of Scientology’s E-Meter

But founder L. Ron Hubbard was heavily influenced by the magick community such as English ceremonial master Aleister Crowley. Allegedly, Hubbard lived during 1945 with John ‘Jack’ Whiteside Parsons, a noted occultist who was part of a magical order known as Ordo Templi Oreintis (OTO). Charles Manson is also alleged to have connections to this same organization. He was fascinated by a number of religious sects including ones that have ties to Satanism.

Charlie was audited by Lanier. In fact, according to Lanier, Manson underwent 150 hours worth of E-meter auditing. And we know that some of the ideas of Scientology were adopted by Manson.

From Hubbard’s teachings, Charlie began to understand that he was ‘an immortal spiritual being’ rather than just a half-assed criminal from a shitty background. This not only elevated his confidence; it validated his sociopathic belief that he was better than other people. Charlie sometimes claimed to be ‘Theta Clear’ which in Scientology means someone free from the reactive mind’s negative effects. Later, he would crib together the flotsam and jetsam of each of his found belief systems into his own weird philosophy. — The Manson Family: More to the Story by H. Allegra Lansing ©2019 Swann Publications

One of the most noted ways that Scientology influenced Manson was in the idea of NOW. Charlie preached a lot about NOW during 1968 and 1969. Now was his interpretation of oodles of spiritual studies, from Native American myths to Buddhist practices, New Age thinking and even Scientology. NOW was based on the idea that Time was immaterial. Get rid of your watches, your clocks, your calendars. Be present in the NOW — not mired in the past or dreaming of the future.

“The whole idea was to let time disappear. There was no time.” — Manson Family member and convicted murderer Patricia Krenwinkel from the program “Turning Point” © 1994 American Broadcast Company (ABC)

We also know that when Charlie got out of prison in 1967, he made at least two significant attempts to officially join the Church of Scientology.

During his first days of freedom, Charlie visited San Francisco’s Scientology Center and asked to join the organization. He told them he was ‘Clear’ but they declined his membership. But this was not the end of Manson’s Scientology connections or his attempts to be embraced by an elite spiritual organization.

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In fact, in the autumn of ’67, Charlie met Bruce Davis, a young man who was traveling around and got picked up while hitchhiking by Manson and a few women. Davis was a member of the Church of Scientology, and later spent several months the following year at the Church’s center in London. Bruce Davis was later one of the killers, after he returned to the Family from London.

On July 31st, 1968, Charlie visited the Scientology Celebrity Center in Los Angeles along with Paul Watkins, another member of the Manson Family. During their visit, Scientology administrators conducted a brief interview with Manson and (revealed in documents found years later) designated him as Ethics Type III — a psychotic. It doesn’t appear there is any further formal connection between Charlie and the Scientology organization after this incident.

In the aftermath of the Tate/LaBianca murders more than a year later, the press got wind of Manson’s Scientology connections and questioned the Church about it. As you might imagine, Scientology did not want to admit to any association with the man who ordered the murder of Sharon Tate and several other innocent victims.

Counterculture writer Paul Krassner (who spent time with some of the Manson women post-trial) also explored Charlie’s Scientology roots. Someone told him that there was an E-meter at Spahn Ranch, the place where the Family lived during 1968–69. He published an article mentioning this fact, and the Church of Scientology sued him for $750,000, claiming libel. He fought them on 1st Amendment grounds, and the Church dropped the suit. Lanier Raymer (or whatever his name was) pretty much dropped off the planet, and then died at the age of 48. The Church was quick to sweep any association with the guy who ordered Helter Skelter and themselves, and one can hardly blame them.

So was Manson a Scientologist? Hardly. He wasn’t a Christian, a Buddhist, a Scientologist, a Satanist or a member of any organized religion or group. He was a user, a charlatan, who cobbled together whatever he could find to get what he wanted. Scientology offered him a particular language that he found useful, particularly when he had the lives of a group of young people in the clutch of his hands and could mold them however he saw fit.

It’s a rare instance where the Church of Scientology goes against someone and comes out looking like the good guy, but this is one of those occasions. Charlie’s affiliation with them was incidental, unorganized, unofficial and apparently, very very brief. He used them, just like he used everything and everyone he ever met.

Let’s hope Charles Manson actually was just a half-assed criminal from a shitty background because the idea that this psychopath might be immortal, is one that even Scientology hopes isn’t true.

To learn more about Charles Manson, the Manson Family and their crimes, please visit MansonFamily.net.

Written by

Author of the “More to the Story” true crime nonfiction series. https://www.mansonfamily.net/

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