Monday, April 2, 2007

Fear Not The E-Meter: Part the Last

The 'guy in sales' was named Alex. He was a Russian immigrant who lived in Queens and worked in construction. He had a friendly, assertive gaze and wore a nice suit. He described himself as a consultant, and sort of winced when he heard that the technician had referred to him as a salesman. Like all the other staff at the center, he said, he was basically a volunteer. He made enough money from consulting potential Scientologists to afford train fare in from Queens, and for lunch, but that was about
it. He had been a Scientologist for five years, and had found the center by just walking by it, the same way I did. He said I'd done the right thing by trying to find out about Scientology on my own, rather than just taking for granted what other people had said. ("That's what L. Ron Hubbard did, find things out for himself.") He recommended a two-day intro course, which would have cost about $50, as well as the course on communication skills that the evaluator had recommended. He asked me questions about how I was doing in my personal life, the better to recommend the appropriate classes to me.

I was distracted by a chart on the wall behind him, which represented the progress that a Scientologist could make toward becoming a Clear (and then toward the levels beyond that, which were called Operating Thetan I, II, and so on). I asked him what level he was on. He pointed to a level about three from the bottom. (out of about 40, and Clear was at about 12). I said, this all seems very interesting, and I get how it helps people, but that seems discouraging to me. After five years of study and practice, the Scientologist consultant was not even close to becoming a Clear? He smiled and said that different people had different priorities, and he'd been putting his priorities in other places.

I said I'd have to think about it and come back, and he smiled and said that was totally fine. When I went out, I was intercepted by the first guy we'd met, who said that he'd not been able to get our phone numbers. I said, what with all the phone solicitations these days, I didn't want to give out our phone number. "Not even so I can just give you a call, and see how you're doing?" he asked. I said no thanks, the
CA and I would have to talk about the program together on our own. He smiled and said that was totally fine. He said I could go up to the second floor where there was a display about the life of L. Ron Hubbard – his youth as a dashing adventurer in a chapeau, his midlife as Executive Director of Scientology, his later life as a philanthropist. There was also a birthday cake standing on a table against one wall that said "Happy Birthday Ron!" on it. It was
standing below a TV screen. The TV was showing what looked to be a televised concert in honor of L. Ron Hubbard's birthday party. Performers were dancing and singing a pop tune of "Happy Birthday" while confetti came down from the ceiling and lights flashed.

My original contact followed me up the stairs. 'I saw you went up to look at the display," he said. He told me that today was the celebration of L. Ron Hubbard's birthday! The actual birthday had been earlier in March, and all the Scientologists had gone down to their headquarters in Florida for a live party. The regional celebration was occurring that very evening. I wasn't going to be able to go, so I
asked him what they did at the celebration. He said about 150 or 200 people gathered at a nearby hotel conference room, and watched a 3.5 hour video about the life of L. Ron Hubbard, which included interviews with old folks who knew him "way back when." He said I could go if I wanted to, but that I should introduce myself as someone new so that a staff member could help me understand the terminology they used, which
I wouldn't necessarily have been able to understand. These old guys were serving as the apostles of Scientology, I thought. The last eyewitnesses to anything that actually happened back in the day. In this day and age, their testimonies can be recorded on TV…

Finally, on the way out, I bought a copy of Dianetics for $8. I figured that at the very least, I'd gotten an hour and a half of entertainment out of the Scientology Center, so I might as well make a contribution. I'll keep you posted on what I learn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should check out, as well as online versions of various books about scientology ("Bare-Faced Messiah", "A Piece of Blue Sky", etc.) and articles (wikipedia Operation Freakout, for instance). Most authors and publishers who put out books critical of scientology had to go to court, and they ended up ruining Paulette Cooper (not to mention Lisa McPherson). Scientology is a cult that has been and can be incredibly dangerous to others and to its own followers.

- Joanna