Coming into the Scientology center, I had only vague understandings about what the “religion” was about. Of course, I had heard a lot of jokes and horror stories about the cult-like nature of Scientology, how it’s a pyramid scheme, that it can become difficult and quite scary to escape from, among other tidbits. Admittedly, the stories of the legal power of the cult made me a bit weary and thus didn’t use my real name when introducing myself to the old woman who greeted me at the reception desk.
For the sake of anonymity and respect, let’s just call this woman Cult Member #1. Now, CM#1 was nice enough. She welcomed me with a handshake that lasted way too long – mainly because my hand was freezing, which indicated to her that she needed to warm it up between her two hands – and then she proceeded to ask me preliminary questions: what do I know about Scientology, what brought me here, what do you hope to learn. I told her truthfully that I knew very little about the practices of Scientology and was simply interesting in learning anything she’d like to tell me about.
CM#1 spoke with a European accent, which I later found out was German, and she was pleasant to listen to. She began explaining how dianetics and Scientology were two separate things: dianetics was the method; Scientology was the religion. Dianetics was a superior science, she claimed. Psychologists keep looking to the brain to find out what’s wrong with people. We look to the mind and the spirit. People are made up of their corporeal selves, their mind, and their spirit. Our spirits are eternal. The brain is just hardware. It is our mind that sends the commands. She didn’t make clear her distinction between spirit and mind very well and I was too lost to probe deeper into the precise meaning of the two.
I wanted to see as much as I could during this one visit, so I tried my best to be innocuous, virtually inoffensive. The most probing question I asked was “How has Scientology changed your life for the better?” The testimony was important in determining how effective dianetics and Scientology was. It was also very predictable. She was in her 20s. She had two children and a husband and she abandoned all of them. She was lost in the world and on a trip to Denmark by train, she happened to pick up one of L. Ron Hubbard’s books on dianetics. This changed CM#1’s life and she soon read a few more of his books and accepted Scientology into her blessed little thetan heart. With her second husband, she was much more supportive and loving and open to communication. She claims that at one point, they were over $20 million in debt, but with the help of Scientology, they got out of it. She gave no further details on how they accomplished it and I wanted to know more. However, I couldn’t figure out quickly enough how to phrase the question without sounding overly nosy or skeptical, so I simply smiled, nodded, and uttered a “wow.”
CM#1 brought me over to a desk and got out a blank sheet of paper and a pen. She drew a line, which represented the timeline of a person’s life. There was conception, marked with a dark dash, and then there was the present, marked with another dark dash. Then, she scribbled in a few bolder dashes along the line. These were the engrams, the negative experiences that weighed us down and prevented us from reaching our true spiritual potential. “Engram,” while still mysterious, is a legitimate term in neuropsychology. Hubbard borrowed it for use in his pet dianetics. These are mental photographs that your reactive mind, the subconscious, takes and stores. In auditing, this is where the E-meter comes in. The glorified primitive lie detector device, when administered by a trained e-meter reader, can locate these engrams to be eradicated, paving the path for your salvation/transcendence.
Here’s a fun anecdote, kids: In one instance proving the truthiness of the spiritual aspect of Scientology, a child in Germany kept talking about the inside of the White House. He could describe in detail what the rooms were like. He belonged to a poor family and neither he nor his parents had ever been to the U.S.. The boy was 7 and the year was 1971. People believe he was John F. Kennedy in his previous life. JFK was assassinated in 1963 and when on his visit to the Berlin Wall in Germany, he famously uttered the words “Ich bin ein Berliner.”
Boom. Check mate. (?)
While listening to all this spiritual talk, I was reminded a lot of Buddhism (another religion I only know about vaguely). Reincarnation, higher spiritual planes, meditation, you aren’t good enough as you are. Sure enough, CM#1 made the statement that many people relate Scientology to Buddhism. I can’t remember if she said anything about how Scientology differed or was superior. During the auditing process, so claims CM#1, people often refer to events in their lives… that were never actually in their lives. This was evidence that they were referring to experiences in their previous lives. Obviously. I didn’t get a chance to ask her if only humans had spirits. Is it possible to be a dog or a narwhal in previous lives? Could I have been a desk? A chair? A desk chair? But we digress.
A multi-loop circle was added above the timeline – something to do with the many layers of our existence. I still don’t understand it after her “explanation.” She kept looking at me intently to see if I was getting all of this. I wasn’t. But I kept my concentrated, completely engrossed expression going. This was all just too rich. And then she drew a stick figure with the multi-loop circle around it, as if that made it any clearer. Yes, yes, oh yes, this is all fascinating – and it truly was.
After I told CM#1 about what I was looking for here (“I am constantly wanting to improve myself and seeking guidance”), I segued into asking about the personality test. “So the auditing and the negative experiences, is that what the personality test helps reveal?” She said “yes and no” and supplemented that with further explanation about how effective the auditing process was. After I told her I wanted to take the personality test, she led me to a table with six seating areas divided by low partitions. There was a timer and clock in each section with a cup of pencils. Oh boy, let’s see what we have here.
Don’t worry, this series ain’t gonna drag on much longer.