Margery Wakefield, in her book Understanding Scientology, claimed that the extremely repetitive questioning done during drills in Scientology auditing was a form of hypnosis. She claimed that these drills are sometimes done for several hours at a time, “until the preclear can do it without delay, without protest, without apathy, but with cheerfulness.” 
In 1984, a Tax Court concluded that the church had “made a business out of selling religion,” and that Mr. Hubbard and his family had diverted millions of dollars of church funds. And a Los Angeles Superior Court judge called Mr. Hubbard “a pathological liar” who seemed gripped by “egotism, greed, avarice, lust for power and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile.”
L. Ron Hubbard was a terrible person. One of his children killed himself and another changed his name to distance himself; he disowned other kids. His wife went to prison because of him. He beat, philandered-on, stole money from, and created great anxiety for his wives.
Eventually he became a complete dictator and punisher of others. Plus, he was convicted or unwelcome in various countries.
Damn, that’s a boring review, that top one. It is also a bit boisterous — you could even say narcissistic.
It is not the beginning as that was in Nebraska. He was raised in Helena, Montana and then attended The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
The whole book is right here: http://www.spaink.net/cos/rmiller/index.html.
I skipped to the end, or rather the parts I was most interested in, and ended-up reading about the last third. It is a very good book and a rare talent. It is accurate and fun to read.
On the accuracy front, it survived. A key ingredient was the “stolen” documents by someone in the closest circles. The court cases never really made an effort to get them back, but they were sealed for a while; the book was never published in the U.S. Europeans took a harsher view of Scientology (e.g., arrests in France and Spain) and courts and sentiment seemed to be less allowing in the U.K. too.
In terms of Keith Raniere and NXIVM, it is almost a rehash. It is a clear blueprint and Raniere was far less successful at it.
Again, the book is excellent and I need to read the first half before I comment too much.
For now I can say I find L. Ron Hubbard odious. In later life he was a lonely, fat, lazy man who spent money and ordered people around.
But the beginning, you have to start at the beginning… In terms of his power and wealth, the e-meter and auditing is risky to the point of fraud.
Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller is not a great book. The beginning is disappointing. Before the internet age the author seems to be an armchair researcher only. It seems as though he never visited anywhere (e.g., Helena, Montana where Hubbard grew up) or spoke with anyone such as childhood friends, relatives, teachers, etc. The nonfiction work provides almost no insight into his development and personality. Also, it is completely lacking in expert input on where and how his extreme narcissism comes from. The book lacks any depth in terms of these issues.
One example is, I was looking forward to insight on Hubbard’s marriage to Sara (Polly) Northrup, tall, blonde, young USC student. He fell for her hard and stole her from a friend while swindling him out of money too. It seems he was infatuated with her to the point of acting crazy, such as kidnapping their daughter and threatening suicide if she left him. The book provides little input on the relationship beyond obvious and public news.
One further thing I would like to add about the Scientologists: It is interesting how they use their rights as consumers, en masse, to help achieve their goals. In the church’s fight against the IRS individual lawsuits about tax deductions were extremely effective. Church members submitted some 2,400 of them and to a degree the government had no solution for them. That appeared to help significantly with the organization’s success in achieving tax-exempt status in the U.S.