EDIT 7-4-2015: Watch the documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.
It's the best stomach ache around.
---- Original Post Below --- (Oct 2013)
Last week I found this flyer on my car. It's cleverly disguised as a personality test. A wonderful invitation for a free service to help me succeed in life. How nice.
So I got a day off, and headed over to the Church of Scientology at 3875 N 44th St. Phoenix, AZ 85018
Armed with an automatic pencil in my ear, and a small notepad in my pocket, I find the church.
I roll through a strong archway, and enter the compound finding the last vacant uncovered parking spot.
Getting out of the car, I’m greeted by chirping birds and a relaxed breeze.
The building is several stories tall, made of brick, and every nuance of the property is hemmed and trimmed neatly. Shading the short row of guest parking is a large tree, greenly fertile and gently welcoming.
There are multiple rows of covered, reserved spaces. The cars parked in these spots are luxury brands, as clean and new as the building.
In stark contrast, the guest’s cars are old and tired. A late ‘80s Dodge Caravan, a beat up Chevy S10, a dirty Ford Ranger and my MR2 in the far corner.
It’s apparent the people working at this “church” are far wealthier than I am.
The front doors are open, so I walk right up to the reception desk.
A man named Richard, who looks like a reformed meth addict, hands me a sheet to fill out.
I divulge my contact information as a second man approaches me.
“Hello, sir, what brings you here?”
“This was on my car. I'm always happy to learn new things,” I say to the form I’m still filling in, holding the flyer up with my other hand.
“Ah, I see. Then there’s no time to waste! My name’s Tucker.”
I hand him my information paper so they can spam me later, introduce myself confidently, and follow him.
The entrance room splits into three passageways. Tucker hangs a left so I follow him that way, commenting on how his uniform makes him look like a little superhero.
He chuckles, “Thanks, makes me feel cool too,” he says over his shoulder. He’s wearing a white dress shirt under a gold and black vest, with pressed black pants and shoes. The gold is so shiny it reflects the inset lighting above us.
Tucker brings me to a large room filled with well-designed displays, a dozen of them or so, each with a big screen TV playing demo videos on various subjects. They all have a soothing voice relating common problems that you 'suffer from' and it can all be healed through Scientology.
Around each screen are shelves of books, DVD recordings of lectures, all packaged with glossy promise. It looks like a high end retail boutique, with Dianetics as the product.
“Andrew, this is Claudia, she’ll be your guide.”
Claudia is pure sex appeal. Long dark hair, matching lashes, a young body but a wise mind. She’s humbly restrained in the female version of the superhero uniform they wear here, but there’s no hiding that shape of hers. Whatever religion she’s selling, I’ll buy it.
“Very good to see you, Andrew,” she flicks a Spanish accent and a movie star smile.
“Hi Claudia, you must be their secret weapon around here.”
She laughs just enough, then “Now before I show you what we can offer, I’d like to learn more about you, to see what you’re all about, can you come with me a moment?”
I follow her swaying hips to a side room. Like everything here, it’s perfectly clean, quiet and well appointed in stained wooden fixtures.
There’s a Hispanic young man on the right. He looks like any other misled youth, struggling over a question with headphones blaring Skrillex.
“There are two tests. One will tell me your mental health and personality. There’s also an IQ test that’s optional, if you’d like?”
“I’ll take them both, if you don’t mind.”
She seems overjoyed, “Great! How exciting! Here are your tests then, just fill in the answers on this sheet here. Do you need a pencil, Andrew?”
“Nope, got one here.”
“Okay good. Well I’ll be back in an hour or so, good luck!”
With a big smile, Claudia returns to her desk outside the room. I miss her already.
I scan over the personality test.
With questions like “Do you take criticism seriously?”
and “Do you put other people’s happiness before your own?”
If answered honestly, any normal person will have “flaws”. This test is designed to spot flaws. It should make me appear weak without this religion. Surely after I see the results, I'll happily oblige to accept their help. (for a fee)
I answer the 200 questions.
Now the IQ test. There are math questions, visual puzzles, oddly worded pattern questions and so on.
During my test, the other young man was escorted away by a frumpy looking lady. He stands meekly, murmurs responses- an easy target for Scientology.
Claudia returns at exactly 60 minutes.
“How was it?”
“Great!” she takes my tests.
“I’m going to have Tucker grade these while we take a tour,” she says, and hands them to Tucker who seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Now I’m following Claudia’s hips to the opposite path. They stop and I look up to meet her eyes.
“These are the people that operate here. We have thousands of branches across the globe,” she points to a rigidly organized board of names and titles on tiny plaques. They all sound very important, Director of This, and Admiral of That.
Then I follow her hips some more, until they stop again. We’re in another giant room of glowing displays.
“This is blah blah it’ll give you answers on how to be successful and perfect in every way.”
L Ron Hubbard’s calm face gazes at me from a thousand books, movies, pamphlets and more all portraying him as a godlike man of infinite wisdom.
“Doctor L Ron Hubbard’s lecture on blah blah fixes every problem you could ever have.”
There are shelves of products, each promising mystical perfection and answers to every major life quandary. With each passing moment, she became less sexy and more creepy.
“This book here will teach you how to analyze anyone within a moment, and know what their exact intentions are with you. Anyone that’s in your way. Any person that’s keeping you from your dreams, you can surpass with ease. With this book.”
Then she stared through me. I stared through her right back.
The tour had some fifteen stops. They were all subjects of self help, spiritual and physical cleansing. Ridding yourself of drugs, trading sadness and regret for happiness and success. All through Dianetics and so on.
There were no details, no mention of costs, or hints of aliens going into volcanoes and spirits flying out raining into human bodies. Nothing South Park could make a joke out of. No mention of that funky science fiction, or weird cult like control of your life. No price tags, no real information. Just promises. Big shiny, golden promises.
She’d hand me one of the books at each stop, and made me read the vague statements on the back.
It was awkwardly silent each time she’d watch me read it.
Then I’d look up and she’d nod like she just revealed the secrets of the universe to me.
I acted impressed for her. How could I not hand over my soul at this point, she wondered.
“You can learn where we came from as a species, the history of man, the origin of the mind. With this book.”
She hands me another shiny book, I turn it over and read the cover’s empty promises to her aloud.
She looks firmly convinced by it, “This is more of doctor Hubbard’s findings. He’s a brilliant man.”
“Claudia,” I change to a hushed tone.
I want to grab her, throw her over my shoulder and run out of this place. It would explode and crumble behind us, a giant orchestra would thunder around us then we’d kiss before credits rolled.
“Yes?” she leans in closer.
“I wanna take that E-meter test thing. Do you have one of those?”
“Oh yes, we have one of the originals here!”
She takes my hand and we return to the main room.
Tucker’s waiting with my test results, he looks uncomfortable.
“Andrew wants to take his first audit,” Claudia tells him.
The three of us venture behind one of the video demo displays.
There’s a small machine on a platform, with a few metered gauges on it, with two metal cylinders connected by wires.
“Hold these,” Tucker says.
Claudia seems eager, standing beside me.
Tucker explains that through our lives we have difficulties, pains, hardships, stresses, and it’s all recorded in our “reactive mind”. This meter here can find those instances, and with sessions eventually eliminate them, cleansing and healing the mind to unlock its full spiritual potential.
But I’m a good sport. So I’m holding the metal cylinders, smelling some Claudia, and Tucker’s chubby face says “Okay I’m gonna pinch you, watch the meter.”
The meter sat at 0, then he pinched my arm, and it blipped to 2 for a moment, then returned to 0.
“See that? Okay now recall the feeling of that pinch.”
I thought of how it felt getting pinched by his dirty fingernails.
The meter bumped to 2 again.
“Recalling pain has the same effect as experiencing that pain firsthand. It can linger like a poison for years, especially from a traumatic incident.”
My hands were getting sweaty, holding the metal things.
“Okay, I want you to think of something that stresses you out.”
The meter flew to the right, maxing out at 30.
“Oh wow!” Claudia gasped.
“Whoa. What… what did you think of?”
“My student loan debt.”
“Okay… man, must be a lot of debt, haha!” Tucker reset the meter.
“Think of something good.”
I thought of licking Claudia’s face. The meter bent backwards to -20.
“What did you think of?”
The meter went to 0. Clearly I was lying.
“Hmm,” Tucker says.
“Eeeyeah okay I was thinking of licking Claudia.”
The meter ripped to -20 again. They both laughed hysterically.
It echoed in the halls, and other employees peeked in, looking worried.
Claudia wiped at her eyes, “Okay, let’s see your test results.”
I’m sitting alone with her in an office now.
She has my results in graph form, on a printout.
Earlier I snuck a look at the other kid’s graph, I memorized its bends. They were just like mine.
That had to be impossible. There’s no way my perfectly consistent and confident answers matched his, something seemed off.
This is where she’s supposed to tell me I’m weak, depressed, lost and she’s got the answers to it all.
She points to a part of the line, “You have really bad depression, and you’re nervous sometimes.”
Leaning back comfortably in my chair, “Is that so unusual?”
“Yes, but your IQ is the highest I’ve seen since joining here.”
“You’ve got a dumb bunch of people coming here, then. High IQ often goes hand in hand with depression, and both run in my family.”
“We can eliminate that sadness with Dianetics, Andrew.”
“I’d prefer to stay regular with Raisin Bran.”
She didn’t like that. She takes this stuff very seriously. Above her head, on the wall, was a picture of a bursting volcano.
I thought of the aliens and thetans and so on. The weird shit that makes Scientology sound ridiculous.
“What’s with the volcano?” I say, pointing to it.
“Oh that’s just the logo. It represents L Ron Hubbard’s new knowledge of man and the universe.”
“Really? No aliens?”
“What, no I haven’t heard of that before?” she’s confused.
“You must not be that high up then. You have to pay for each level of teachings, what level are you on?”
“Oh yes well you do have to donate, you know, like any other religion. It's only fair, to keep things running. And it's all tax deductible.”
“Yeah, deductible for now. And donations are optional in other religions, here it’s required. But I suppose it’s the same as paying a psychiatrist, right?” I chuckle, she doesn’t.
“I… I think you should probably talk to… hang on,” Claudia's nervous, and leaves to get someone with more horsepower.
In comes a white-haired man. He’s in the same superhero outfit, but with some additional shinies on him, he must be a higher rank.
He’s all business, and quick. Not rude, but he’s not going to let me infect Claudia any longer.
“Here’s Tucker’s information. We have meetings on Tuesdays, please come again soon,” and he hurried me outside, shutting the doors behind me.
Back to the birds chirping, and the cool breeze.
Was it something I said?