Leonard Cohen At Scientology Dianetics Course – New York Org
Note: Leonard Cohen’s brief connection with Scientology is periodically rediscovered, triggering a flurry of sometimes contentious discussion and comments. Concerns about mind control are bandied about, lists of celebrity Scientologists are examined, and Cohen’s songs, poetry, and novels are assiduously searched for references to Dianetics. This post summarizes what is known about Leonard Cohen’s experience with Scientology as a convenience to readers. (The principles of Scientology, other than “clear,” are not directly addressed in this post but are easy to research online.)
Question: Some of the articles about you over the years have indicated that you’ve dabbled or more than dabbled in various kinds of spiritual paths. Is the line, “Did you ever go clear?” from Famous Blue Raincoat a Scientology reference?
Leonard Cohen: It was a Scientology reference. I looked into a lot of things. Scientology was one of them. It did not last very long. But it is very interesting, as I continue my studies in these matters, to see how really good Scientology was from the point of view of their data, their information, their actual knowledge, their wisdom writings, so to speak. It wasn’t bad at all. It is scorned, and I don’t know what the organization is like today, but it seems to have all the political residue of any large and growing organization. Yes, I did look into that and other things. from the Communist Party to the Republican Party, from Scientology to delusions of myself as the High Priest rebuilding the Temple.
About that “going clear” thing …
Question: With Scientology, did you ever ‘go clear’?
Leonard Cohen: Probably.
Leonard Cohen: No.
From The Biographies
Cohen’s dislocated situation in New York led him to exploring different sexual, spiritual and pharmaceutical pathways, and one was Scientology. In 1968, as he was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, with Joni Mitchell, she spotted a building with a number of women wearing saris and handing out material. Above the door a large sign which read “Scientology”. “What is Scientology?” she asked Cohen. “Oh, some crackpot religion,” he replied. A few weeks later, he called form New York to say that he’d joined them and that they were going to rule the world. But a few months later, Cohen told Mitchell he was disenchanted and that he’d had some difficulty extricating himself from it. Initially, Scientology offered the goal of a ”clear path”, (“Did you ever go clear?” he asks in “Famous Blue Raincoat”). Cohen had also heard that it was a good place to meet women. On June 17th, 1968, Cohen received a Scientology certificate awarding him “Grade IV – release.”
More specifically, Cohen’s certificate confirmed him as a “Senior Dianetic, Grade IV Release.” In addition to Cohen’s general disenchantment with Scientology, he was also angry that “the organization had begun to exploit his name.”
It Turns Out The Scientology Center Was A Place To Meet Women
Suzanne Elrod, who is the mother of Leonard Cohen’s children, Adam and Lorca, gives this account of their meeting:
It was early Spring 1969. We both seemed to have signed up for a Scientology class the same day. He was getting into the elevator at the Scientology Center as I was coming out of it and our eyes locked. Some days later, we both took seats near each other. Although I had another person I was living with, I left that relationship immediately for Leonard and moved into the Chelsea with him.
Scientology As One More Exploration
“I was always going off the deep end” – Leonard Cohen
Question: Your last album, The Future, was successful and you had a fiancee, Rebecca de Mornay — and you left to live in a monastery?
Leonard Cohen: Well, I was always going off the deep end, so it was no radical departure. When I finished my tour in ‘93 I was approaching the age of 60 and my old friend and teacher Roshi was approaching the age of 90, and I thought it would be the right moment to spend some more time with him. So I entered a monastery 6,500 feet up on Mount Baldy and I stayed there for six years as his cook, among my many duties. I’d always been associated with Roshi and his community — for 30 years. He’s 94, in radiant health. He’ll probably outlive most of his students.
Question: What were you looking for?
Leonard Cohen: I wasn’t looking for a new religion or another list of dogma.
Question: Since the ’60s you have often appeared to be enjoying the hunt — I Ching, Scientology…
Leonard Cohen: Yes, I participated in all those investigations. I even danced and sang with the Hare Krishnas. No robe — I didn’t join them! But of course I was interested in all these matters that engaged the imagination of my generation at the time.
So, Leonard Cohen, the descendent of a long line of rabbis, a frequent attendee at his nanny’s Catholic church, an ordained Buddhist monk who spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, a student of Hinduism with a guru in India, a chanter of the Hare Krisna mantra, and a reader of the Bible and the Bhagavad-gita, was briefly involved with Scientology., As the man says, “It was no radical departure.”
Credit Due Department: Photo found at Blast From The Past