What I have seen by Russ
19 Mar 2002
Well, I went to the St. Louis "Org" this last weekend to check out CoS for myself. I had heard many things from the Internet and from individuals both good and bad about Scientology. The second most important philosophy in Scientology after "Get a dictionary" is "Check your source".
Knowing that everyone (including myself) puts their own slant on things, I decided to follow this advice. I decided I was going to see it for myself. I was going to get the scoop. I was going to get the real deal, dig in the dirt and see what I could find out about this "self-help" phenomenon. I learned a lot. I learned many new words. I learned the official history of L. Ron Hubbard and took a "personality test". First of all, let me "qualify" the events that led to this.
A friend of mine is a "supervisor" in the CoS. I am a devout Christian. We each look at each other's beliefs with suspicion and disbelief. While I would like to see her turn to Christ, she does not believe in Him and believes that most, if not all, of the Bible is a fable. She tries to get me to do auditing, but I see CoS as an organization that makes a buck by marketing a false spirituality. I believe that, it being priceless, spirituality should be free. I digress. She was planning on a solo ten-hour drive to get there. Since she is 60 years old and I am currently unemployed and wanted to see St. Louis, I offered to drive with her. We took her car there and we split the gas and hotel room. Yes, there were two separate beds. Saturday was mostly dedicated to her "org" and Sunday was mostly devoted to sightseeing.
What did I experience? Well, we arrived in St. Louis on Friday night and went to the "org" at 1pm Saturday. The building is actually located in University City on Delmar Ave. It is an old Masonic Temple made out of granite stone and with a pyramid on top. I noticed that across the street was a Jewish Synagogue. I thought that it was rather ironic that a building belonging to one of the world's oldest religions was across the street from one of the newest. Now, some people may say that CoS is not a religion, so let us "clear" it. An anthropologist's simple and (and perhaps overly) inclusive definition would be that religion is a belief in supernatural beings. In this way, many ancient religions involving ancestor worship are included. Since CoS teaches that people are actually "thetans", a supernatural being, it is a religion.
Upon arrival, I met several people and watched an hour-long video that explained many aspects of Scientology from Scientology's point of view. I learned about "dynamics" and "engrams" and Scientology's mission to save the world. The video used extensive computer animation to show how trauma entered our brains while we were conscious and unconscious.
Now, I am not a physician and I do not know for sure if the brain can record things while you are unconscious, but I believe that it is at least possible. However, I do not think that these memories can affect us in the way that Hubbard suggests. Hubbard builds upon this fragile logic to go on to "group engrams". These little buggers are responsible for war, famine, pestilence, crime and all other "aberrations". Once Scientology gets rid of all the world's "engrams", there will be peace and harmony and the world will be saved. After the video, I was offered the personality test.
I accepted readily. I was gosh-darned curious. It came with the title "Oxford Personality Examination". Very prestigious sounding, I must say. Inside were 200 questions. I was stymied when I was told that you were not allowed to ask for the definitions of words. I was surprised at how vague many of the questions were. For example, "Would you let someone else's opinion change a decision you had made?" Well, that all depends. What decision? Whose opinion was it? Would I let my best friend talk me out of something stupid? You bet. Would I let a stranger talk me in to something stupid? No way. The test, however, only let you pick yes or no. I answered yes.
So, I finished the test and waited to see the results. In my opinion, the results showed a major inconsistency. On one sheet of paper, it said that I was severely depressed. It made it sound as if I was going to do myself in at any time now. That same sheet of paper said that I was very critical. (Well, that part they got right.) On another paper marked "Do not show to testee" (Why?) it said I was euphoric! The man who was administering the test looked at both and asked if I was a Christian. (He and my friend had spoken in private before this.)
I answered to the affirmative and he began to tell me that my life was a veneer. It was a fašade. That I went around pretending to be happy because I was "saved" and that without that, I would be depressed. He also went on to say that I was very critical and would disagree with everything he said. I was tempted to do just that, but then, in a sudden flash of inspiration, I decided to do the opposite and agree with him. I told him that I agreed; I AM critical. (I am!) I told him that I thought this was good. He asked why and I told him that I knew someone that was offered help by someone who was supposed to know what he was doing, but ended up just screwing her over for money. He asked me if I was the "someone".
I told him no and that it was someone whom I love very much. This made him stop and think. For the first time, this very effusive man suddenly stopped smiling. We talked about other philosophical concepts that seemed to come out of the blue. The more we spoke the more sullen and serious this once affable man became. For example, we talked about control and whether it was good or bad. I wanted to go on and address the euphoria/depression issue by telling him that, yes I would be depressed if I didn't have Jesus in my life.
I wanted the opportunity to evangelize a little, but alas he was suddenly very busy with helping the others that were taking the personality test and evaluating their results. The test administrator was effusive again as he evaluated an insecure sixteen-year-old's results. Just as suddenly, I was not able to watch any more videos, nor was I able to watch my friend learn how to "audit" a doll.
That is not a typo. My friend was really learning how to audit a Raggedy Ann Doll. You cannot know how badly I wanted to watch that. Now please, dear reader, don't get the wrong impression. I did not want to make fun of her. I respect her beliefs and her right to believe what she wants. I wanted to watch this in order to gain knowledge of how Scientology works. Scientology is a hard belief system to swallow, but I must also admit that so is Christianity.
After all, what is more difficult to believe: That God visited His creation 2,000 years ago, was crucified and rose from the dead or that a man from Nebraska had figured out an alternate system of mental health? If you were to invite a Hindu to a Christian service that included communion, he might just exclaim, "WHAT! We are going to drink BLOOD!" I wish that I had been allowed to learn what this was about. That I might (even with a critical mind) be able to learn from what was going on. However, I am now left with the indelible impression: My friend audited a doll.
I am left the speculation what kind of engrams Raggedy Ann had. Go ahead, reader, and get your laugh in now since my story is almost complete. I wandered about the building, exploring and reading the odd pamphlet or book lying about. Later on, the "org" was having a party for Hubbard's birthday. It was very odd to see a room full of people enthusiastically applauding a TV set. When the historian of Scientology complemented Hubbard, the crowd gave a standing ovation and cheered. I went outside to the smoking area. I spoke with several people about Scientology until after 9pm when the event had ended.
I asked some very pointed questions about the beliefs of Scientology that were not in the presentation video. The people who spoke with me seemed to be friendly. Perhaps it was my imagination, but they seemed to be only tolerating me. The answers also came a little too quickly as if they had been rehearsed. They shared a little CoS wisdom with me that was genuinely good, and I truly appreciated it. I am always a student of spirituality and am always looking to learn something. I was told, "Some people try to be interesting, while others try to be interested." How true.
Sunday came. As I said earlier, most of Sunday was for sightseeing just as most of Saturday was for the "org". The operative word here is 'most'. Sunday morning came and my friend wanted to go to services and to an auditing class. While she was doing this I found myself out in the car for the duration, not able to go inside. That was OK with me.
I listened to a Baptist sermon on the radio and played with my friend's sheltie that had joined us for the trip. My exclusion answered the few remaining questions I had left. My exclusion was justified in that I did not appear "interested". All the rest of the time in St. Louis, Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, was spent sightseeing. I really enjoyed Forest Park where the World's Fair had been held. I just wish that the Jewel Box had been open. That looked like a cool building. All the day, Judy Garland's song went through my head. "Meet me in St. Loo-wee Loo-wee, Meet me at the fair." We watched the set up for the St. Patrick's Day Parade and got out of town before the George Dubya's visit shut everything down.
Now I wonder how something like Scientology got started. How did a man end up making money by selling hedonistic philosophies that have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years? I think it is the sins of the Christian church. By not being there for people in need, all sorts of cults have sprung up. Nature abhors a vacuum. Christianity left a spiritual vacuum here in the United States in the sixties much like World War I left a power vacuum in Germany in the twenties. In both cases, the leaders were there, they just didn't do their jobs.
Scientology philosophy boils down to this: Man wants to survive and that by learning how to survive better, one can become enlightened. Neat promise, but empty. The means of obtaining enlightenment the Scientology way involves serving the self. Making yourself an "OT" by "auditing" out all the "engrams", and you can be happy. In other words, by being psychologically happy, one can be spiritually happy.
In my not-so-always-Christianly-humble opinion, this type of spirituality is not only idiotic, but also goes against every other major philosophy because it serves the self. Buddha said, "When you do a good deed, make a bonfire of yourself." Krishna said (very loosely translated), "Dharma is more important than Kharma. It is your motivations that purify or spoil your deeds." Jesus said, "Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow me."
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