February 21, 2007
Scientology explained (again)
The New York Inquirer visits Scientology’s Manhattan headquarters. And (almost) has its life changed:
The inside of the Church is ultra-
modern and expansive with Dianetics products on every available table. The feeling inside was like that of a megastore, with uniformed worker bees buzz-
ing about, grabbing anyone who walks through the doors to make their sales pitch. We descend-
ed a staircase that led into a lobby surrounding a fish bowl library-cum-conference room, where a middle-aged man was sitting on a chair, eyes closed, his feet on a box. Someone official was sitting across from him, talking slowly.
A disconcertingly perky woman, about our age, immediately approached. I asked what was being done to the man, and she explained with a knowing smile, “he’s becoming clear.” To me, he looked pained and far away.
… They offered a to show us their orientation video. […] Images of weary looking people flashed across the screen. An ominous voice questioned if we ever felt stress, anxiety, unwanted pressure or depression. (Well, yeah, but only when I’m awake.) The narrator explained that the cause to all of our problems was the “reactive mind” which is controlled by “engrams” or painful experiences that had happened to us consciously or subconsciously throughout our lives. These traumas control the weary, unhappy and listless, causing addiction, violence and depression. They also contribute to the “problems of mankind": crime, terrorism and war. These revelations were accompanied by images of reenacted traumas; a couple breaking-up, a car accident, someone slugging a bottle of booze. We suppressed our laughter, suspecting we were being watched.
… After the film, […] we were asked to fill out numerous forms with our personal information while our escort commiserated with some of her colleagues. She came over with two copies of Dianetics. “This will change you life.”
“How?” we asked.
“It is life altering.”
“But what does it do?” We asked.
“It changes your life. Read this.”
She flipped to the back of the book and told me to read the testimonials. More life changing, altering praise for Dianetics. I conceded and bought a copy; after all, I should read the book before fully forming my opinion, right?
… Then we asked the $1 million question.
“What is the e-meter?” we inquired. Her eyes lit up. “I’ll give you a stress test!” she said.
… I was handed metal cylinders attached to wires, which affixed to a ridiculous looking machine that didn’t appear to be plugged into anything. “How does it work?” I asked.
“It measures your stress levels based on your answers.” My guide looked unprepared to elaborate any further.
She proceeded to ask me questions about what things in my life where stressing me the most. I spun a yarn of an overbearing boyfriend and an unappreciative job, a lack of direction and general sense of unhappiness. Her eyes widened as the needle on the machine jumped around.
“Wow, you are REALLY stressed. It’s good you came today.”
Then she asked me to think about all of the things that were bringing me down. I thought of all of my favorite things. The needle moved again.
“You really need the kit.”
Next came the hard sell. She put a box on her lap and opened the lid, revealing yet another copy of Dianetics, the large print edition. Under that was a DVD of Dianetics that suspiciously looked like the video we’d been shown already. Under that, was a series of “LRH’s”—L. Ron Hubbard’s—lectures. I asked what the lectures were, and she told me they were “life altering.” Of course they were. For only $150, I could leave with this box and get that much closer to being “clear.”
… I asked her about the aliens. She stammered. “That isn’t what Scientology is about.” What about Xenu? I asked. She blinked at me. I could tell I was losing her. I asked her how she got into Scientology. She told me her parents were involved since before she was born. She’d been interested but didn’t get involved until her mom had died and totally bereaved, she read Dianetics and found that all of her grief dispelled immediately. I stared, disbelieving. “Really?”
“It changed my life…”
In a really life-changing way, naturally.
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