My first visit to a Church of Scientology

Scientology_Cross_LogoI don’t have enough material to do the kind of review I’ve done for other churches, and I may never be able to, because in order to get the full message, I’ll have to pay for seminars.  I’m not willing to pay for seminars.  I do have some observations about my visit, however.

So, here goes:

The Seattle branch of the Church of Scientology is in the steeply-hilled neighborhood of Queen Anne.  It’s an impressive building, taking up much of its block.  It’s modern, square, and five stories tall.  It looks like an office building.

Even though it’s new, and modern, it fits in quite nicely in gentrified Queen Anne due to its “brick” facade, making it look like a slightly bigger, cleaner version of all of the other old brick buildings around it.

The front door, a double glass door like you’d find at the entrance of a supermarket, was locked.    At first, I thought I might have struck out, that they were closed.  But soon, two women up from the adjoining parking lot and went in to a side door that wasn’t locked.  I followed them in.

The lobby was beautiful.  All marble floors, earth tones, flowers.  Like the lobby of a four or five star hotel.  There was a receptionist who smiled and welcomed me, and asked me to sign in.  I did.  I chose not to put down my address or phone number, but I did put in my “doubtingmark” email address.

I had emailed them the night before.  In my email, I had mentioned that I blog about churches, and asked if there was a sermon or service I could sit in on for my blog.  As of this writing, I haven’t gotten a response.

Next to the lobby was a large open area with multimedia displays for self-guided tours of Scientology, Dianetics, and a history of L. Ron Hubbard.  Also, an E-Meter is on display.  There was a bunch of round tables, and some chairs arranged pew-like in front of a stage.  In a corner was a little cafe counter.  One of the women from the parking lot was opening up shop.

Everywhere there were books and videos that I could purchase.  Most of the books were written by L. Ron Hubbard.

ImageThe nice woman behind the counter asked me if I needed anything, and I told her I was interested in listening to a service, and so she called someone to come speak with me.  While I waited, I played with the E-Meter.

A fellow named Mark came out to talk with me.  He was a nice man, dressed black suit and tie, and in his mid 60’s.  We chatted a little, and I told him I was interested in the message, and in the E-Meter particularly.  I explained that I had family members who had been in the church, and I had seen an older version of the E-Meter that was on display.  He volunteered to give me a demonstration.

Connected to the E-Meter are two aluminium “cans,” which are the parts that the subject holds in his hands.  The cans are about the size of small Red Bull cans, but the aluminum is thicker.  You can’t crush them.  I know, I tried.

He set the dials to a baseline, and asked me to think about certain things or remember things, and when I did, the dial moved.  It was kind of magical.  How could this electrical device do that?  How could it know that I was remembering something?

He said that when the dial goes strongly to one side or the other, there is a strong indication of something that needs to be fixed.  When the needle flops around kind of back and forth, then that’s a good sign.

Then I realized that as I changed my grip on the cans, the dial moved.  So the next time he asked me a question, I loosened the grip, and the needle flopped around.   He told me that was a good sign.

This experience brought back a very old memory from over 30 years ago.  When I was little, my dad had one of these in the garage, and I remember playing with it.  I remember making the needle move around in the same way.  That’s probably how I figured out how to manipulate it so quickly.  I’ve done this before.

Mark told me that spiritual beings have mass, and that this process, using the E-Meter, somehow measures spiritual mass.  I chose not to tell him that I could make the needle do what I wanted, with or without spiritual mass.  I think it would have totally harshed the mellow.

I told him I was interested in hearing more of the message, but I brought up the subject of money.  Specifically, I don’t want to spend any.  He said that there were still things I could do and not spend anything, but that I would be severely limited, and mentioned that the $100 for the seminar and $50 worth of books really wasn’t that big a burden.

I tried to get him to let me sit in on a seminar for free, but he wouldn’t agree to that.  That’s a pity, I’d like to review it, but I’m not about to pay $100 to hear a sermon that lasts for two days.  If I’m going to have to sit through something that long and be expected to pay attention, somebody’s gotta pay me.  And feed me.

There was good news, though.  The personality test was free, and there was also the possibility of a free audit!  I enthusiastically agreed to the personality test.

It was a 200 question test, where I would read something like Do you often find yourself feeling depressed? and answer either with a “+” (strongly agree) “-” (strongly disagree) or “0” (don’t know/maybe).

Most of the questions were things you’d find on any standard personality test.  Asking me to assess some part of my own personality.  Am I agressive?  Am I introverted?

A few, though, were of a different sort.  There were several questions about whether or not I had twitching limbs, and a few about whether I heard things at night like slamming doors or felt unexplained presences.  I answered everything honestly.

I finished, and handed it in, and Mark took it into a back room to be graded.  I sat down in front of a multimedia display about Dianetics, and hit the button.

The video didn’t tell me anything at all about Dianetics, really.  It was mostly customer testimonials.  Smiling, pretty, young people telling me just how happy they are now that they know the secret of Dianetics.  One guy even said it took him twenty minutes to completely get rid of a lifetime of depression.   It was about as informative as an infomercial.  But the display was impressive.

Mark came back with the graded test, and had me come into his office.  His door said “Director” of something.  Through our conversation, I discovered that he had been in Scientology in Seattle for a long time, since 1974.  He sat me down with the graded test, and began to explain it.

Has anyone ever read your tarot cards or read your horoscope?  That person might tell you something like You are sometimes very outgoing, or You like to go out with friends or something similar.  And when they say these kinds of things, you might be inclined to think Wow, that’s so true!  There must be something to this!

That’s because it’s calculated to be general enough that it’s never false.  I am sometimes outgoing, but if a palm-reader told me Sometimes you are introverted, that person would be right.  Because sometimes I’m an introvert.  Humans aren’t easily contained within boxes.  You can say almost anything, and that thing will have some degree of truthiness.

So Mark told me things about my personality that were very true.  And also false.  When I apply them to my girlfriend, my mother, or any of my friends, it’s still true.  And false.

I asked about the test itself, where it came from.  Mark told me that L. Ron Hubbard discovered it in the 1950’s, and found that it was the most accurate and useful personality test out there, and adopted it.  I asked again, just to be clear:  So this isn’t something that the church invented, it’s been around?  He told me I was correct.

The test is called the Oxford Capacity Analysis.  Which certainly sounds official.  I mean, if it’s from Oxford, then it’s got to be good, right?  Except maybe it isn’t from Oxford.  It’s a trademark owned by the Religious Technology Center, and copyrighted 1978. I wonder what part of Oxford they’re from?

Next week, I’m going to get the free audit.  Unfortunately, this audit won’t be using the E-Meter.  More advanced audits using the E-Meter require money.  So I guess they won’t be counting my midichlorians.


One thought on “My first visit to a Church of Scientology

  1. Pingback: Church of Scientology, Seattle | Doubting Mark

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