William S. Burroughs’ Wild Ride with Scientology

Over at io9 you can read a short article I wrote on William S. Burroughs’ relationship to Scientology.

In 1959, the same year Olympia Press published his most famous novel Naked Lunch, the writer William S. Burroughs visited the restaurant of his friend and collaborator, Brion Gysin, in Tangiers. There, Burroughs met John and Mary Cooke, a wealthy American hippie couple who were interested in mysticism. Burroughs recalled, “There was something portentous about it, as though I was seeing them in another medium, like they were sitting there as holograms.”

Who were these portentous holograms? Scientologists. Indeed, John Cooke is reported to have been the very first person to receive a status of “Clear” within Scientology, and was deeply involved in its founding. Cooke had been trying to recruit Gysin into the Church, declaring that the artist was a natural “Clear” and “Operating Thetan.” Ultimately, it was Burroughs, not Gysin, who explored the Church that L. Ron Hubbard built. Burroughs took Scientology so seriously that he became a “Clear” and almost became an “Operating Thetan.”

Read the rest here.