The facts: Stephan Fishman, a former member of the Church of Scientology, was charged with several crimes connected with his need for money to buy courses from the Scientologists. In his words, the CoS had told him that he was to murder for money if need be, and if that proved impossible, to commit suicide. Fishman claimed that he had been brainwashed by the church, and offered a good deal of the church's copyrighted study material in an affidavit to back this up. This was entered into the court record, and thus passed into public hands.

This was a bad thing for the Scientologists. For one thing, it was an article of faith that people reading these particular materials without adequate (and expensive) preparation would sicken of pneumonia and die. The other problem was that people reading these materials without previous preparation may not sicken and die, thus weakening the Church's credibility. Also, having these texts in public view was going to mean they would lose lots of money. For several weeks, the Fishman Declaration was continuously lent out to Church members to keep it out of public view, however, one enterprising soul managed to obtain a copy of it from the court clerk's office, scanned it, and uploaded it to a web page. Then, things really got interesting.

For some months in and around 1995, The Fishman Affidavit was one of the hottest properties on the Web, as one web site after another posted it, to be taken down (by various means including but not restricted to threats, legal action, hacking of sites and ISPs, and so forth), which occasioned it to be emailed to another person, who posted it on their web site, and so forth. Finally, a Dutch court took up the case in behalf of the ISP xsforall, and ruled in their favor after the ISP had been raided by the Church, and the matter died down.

To be fair, much of the material reminds me of some passages of William Burroughs, who had been involved with the Church at the time these particular documents were written -- it's interesting to speculate whether some of Hubbard's writing style influenced Burroughs, or vice versa. Personally, I find sundry bits and pieces interesting as poetry, and have performed them as such at various spoken-word events. (And no, there have been no epidemics of pneumonia ascribed to attendence at these performances.) These passages range from an account of the origin of the Universe (which he dates at four quadrillion years ago) to the well-known Xemu passage, to descriptions of images used in various mental conditioning excercises. But there's very little "magical" in them, and some people have said they're little more than gibberish.

Recently, a Swede submitted this document to a public archive in Sweden, thus making it public domain there, setting off another court case. Judgment is pending...

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