Scientological Research Expedition, Voyage of Self-Discovery, or Waste of Time?

September 5th, 2010

Things were beginning to get uncomfortable. The Cardinal Richelieu/sex toys post had been my most recent post since mid-August, and I knew you were getting tired of seeing “What Kinds of Sex Toys Might Cardinal Richelieu Have Used?” pop up periodically at the top of the page whenever you accessed Rechelle Unplugged. I wanted to see it replaced with something else as much as you did, but I hadn’t received any more letters to answer or experienced anything particularly postworthy, so I decided to attend an open house at my local Church of Scientology in the hope that there I would experience something interesting enough to write about. Although that hope was not realized (nice use of foreshadowing, eh?), I figured that even if my experience at the Church was less than fascinating, at least my write-up of it would be of some value to those who are curious or fearful about what they would encounter if they were to heed the beckoning fingers of Scientologists or the inviting messages on the signs outside any Church of Scientology they happen to pass.

When the Church of Scientology set up shop about a block from my apartment building around Halloween of last year, my first thought was “there goes the neighborhood.” How wrong I was! The neighborhood is now more vibrant than ever, at least on the corner the Church occupies. One can often see well-dressed people with the demeanor of laid-back Secret Service agents on the lawn struggling with some logistical problem, on the sidewalk handing out “tickets” for “events” whose start time appears to be whenever you want to show up, or all over the place presiding over a cookout or some other Scientological happening. One can also often see often-costumed, often-dancing protesters of Scientology often brandishing often-colorful signs, of which one or two usually suggest that honking would be a good way for passing motorists to show their solidarity with the protesters, and one can often hear the festive honking of passing motorists.

I’m not sure why I was never curious enough to investigate the Church before I needed something to write about. Over the last few months, I’ve just deposited “tickets” that have been handed to me by sidewalk Scientologists in the nearest trash receptacle without much of a thought. This sort of behavior is not consistent with what has been my general attitude toward people who approach me about religion. When I lived in Kansas a few years back, my policy was to give anyone who came to my door as a representative of a religion as many shots as they wanted to win me over. [The Jehovah’s Witnesses never give up; I met with a Jehovah’s Witness once a week for several years until I moved away. The Mormons have a program of a certain number of visits (six, I think); I went through two of these programs a few years apart, and the second time the two missionaries who had taken me through the program handed me over to an area Mormon scholar, who was in the process of leading me through the Book of Mormon when I left town. The door-to-door “are you saved?” brand of Baptists whose entire Bible seems to be John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”) usually start to wrap things up when you direct them to Matthew 7:21–23 (“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”) and ask them what it means.] Perhaps I was never interested in talking with the Scientologists because they were not as aggressive as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, et al., keeping to their own property and never knocking at my door and interrupting me in the middle of waiting for the next religious agent to show up at my door (in fairness, no solicitors of any kind can get past the front desk of the building I live in now), or maybe it was because I had a vague sense that Scientology isn’t a “real” religion.

But there was no time for self-examination; I had to displace that Cardinal Richelieu post from the top of my page, and I had to do it fast, so I high-tailed it over to the Church of Scientology and was happy to find that there was a sign in front of the building reading “Are you curious about yourself?” and inviting passersby to come in and take a Free Personality Test. It looked like self-examination was going to be a part of the order of the day after all. I entered the building and found an impressive-looking reception area. Most of the rest of the first floor was occupied by viewing stations containing flat TV screens and things to sit on. In the back, I could see a large room with several desks in it. I told the man at the reception desk that I was there to take the personality test; he seemed to be waiting for further information, so I pointed out that there was a big sign in front of the building advertising a Free Personality Test and again announced that I was there to take it. He then seemed to understand and gave me a flyer about the test and had me write my name on something and summoned someone who showed me to the room in the back with all the desks and gave me a test form and a pencil.

The name of the test is the Oxford Capacity Analysis, which sounds pretty impressive, what with the first word in the name being “Oxford” and all, and I initially thought that it was a recognized standard psychological examination, but then I noticed that the second word in the name is “Capacity,” a word I didn’t think I’d ever seen in the name of any recognized standard psychological examination. I looked the test up online when I got home and learned that it had been developed specifically for the Church of Scientology. You can take it online at http://www.oca.scientology.org/, but you’ll have to go to a Church of Scientology to get the results. I was unable to find out what the word “Oxford” is doing in the name of the test, which seems to have nothing to do with the University of Oxford.

I completed the test and turned it in to a man identifying himself as Tom, who said he would grade it and invited me to take in any of the programs available at the viewing stations scattered throughout the floor. I settled into a station that offered an introduction to Dianetics. I learned from the program that there is a hitherto unknown part of the mind (the “reactive” mind) that associates past unpleasant and traumatic experiences with certain objects and situations that were involved in those experiences, resulting in irrational aversions to these objects and situations and thus making life more difficult, and that Dianetics is about neutralizing or eliminating these associations. I had just begun to watch a testimonial from an actual secretary about how Dianetics had worked for her, when Tom returned and told me he had my test results.

Tom led me back to the testing area, and we sat on a couch, and he presented me with a chart showing my scores for various factors. The news was not all good. I scored quite low (in the “Unacceptable State”/“Attention Urgent” zone) on the happiness factor, indicating that I am generally unhappy and depressed. I told Tom that I didn’t think that was true, that I’m generally fairly content, neither depressed nor ecstatic. He informed me that part of the Scientology philosophy is “if it’s true for you, it’s true,” and so he accepted that I’m generally content and asked how long that had been going on. I told him I had been content for a long time and that I think that’s my natural state. He asked if I wanted to work on that, but I told him I’m content to be content.

In the “Acceptable Under Perfect Conditions” part of the “Normal” range were my scores for stability, composure, and “correct estimation.” My scores for activity level, aggressiveness, and “responsible (causative)” were in the “Attention Desirable” zone of the “Normal” range. These factors weren’t discussed.

I scored very high on “certainty” (very comfortably in the “Desirable State” zone), but I wasn’t certain whether I agreed with that result, which cast a bit of doubt on it.

Also in the “Attention Urgent” zone were my scores for “appreciative” and “communication.” I don’t recall that we discussed “appreciative” or what it meant, but the discussion of the “communication” factor morphed into a discussion of how I am in social settings. I said I was social enough at work but not exactly a butterfly at parties. Tom asked if I wanted to work on that, and I expressed more uncertainty. He informed me that the Church offered courses that could fix me right up in that area. Not of a mind to pursue that topic, I asked whether Scientology is a religion (everything I had seen up to that point had suggested that it was more of a psychological philosophy), and Tom assured me that it was but said that one could be a Scientologist and still be a Christian or Muslim or Hindu or agnostic. I couldn’t seem to get an idea of how that might work, and I asked whether the Church had any theology. He informed me that there were scads of Scientology scriptures and that Scientologists believe in a higher power, but he didn’t elaborate on the nature of the scriptures or of the higher power the Scientologists believe in. Instead, he kept recommending that I consult a book (“What Is Scientology?”) that was for sale at the Church or could be checked out from the library. He also kept mentioning that the book was very thick, and each time he mentioned that, my inclination to check it out diminished.

Our session over, Tom invited me to have some refreshments on the way out. I had a few bites of watermelon, which was quite good. I came away from the experience feeling not much more knowledgeable about myself or Scientology, but at least we now have a new title to look at when the most recent content of the “Dear Charles” page rolls around at the top of whatever page we happen to be looking at on Rechelle Unplugged.

Comments

  • jay:

    I took the OCA 40 some years ago. It revealed (correctly in my opinion) that I had a very low communication level. I took them up on their offer of a course to help with my communication skills, and it changed my life for the better. I went from being unable to initiate a conversation to being very communicative; I can talk to total strangers when I want to now without coming across as a weirdo. I went on to do a lot more in Scientology. It’s not for everyone but it definitely was a great fit for me.

    It pretty much saved my life.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    Dearest Charles, did you give them your real name and addresses? I hope not because, ugh, the can of worms that could open might not get closed easily. It would be lovely, to me at least, if you would stop by the office again and start ranting about Xenu and how much you love/hate (you choose) him/it.

    And thank you for displacing Cardinal Richelieu from the top of the page; he was starting to molder.

    • Charles:

      Kay, I did give them my real name, but I didn’t give them an address, so it will be interesting to see if the worms from that can are able to locate me. Also interesting is the Xenu story, which I just looked up on Wikipedia. If that’s actually what the Scientologists believe, I can understand Tom’s reluctance to get into specifics right off the bat.

      • Kay in KCMO:

        If you read about Xenu and Thetans and a volcano and souls being dumped into the volcano and this all happening billions (or is it trillions?) of years ago then, yes, that’s what Scientologists believe. However, they don’t find out all this stuff until they’ve paid an enormous amount of money for classes over the course of years. There is a Southpark episode that’s about Scientology beliefs and it’s entirely accurate according to former believers.

  • Anna:

    When I bought my present home, the people who sold it moved to a new house-across the street, yea another story there. But then about 15 years later the woman’s husband died. And then 5 years after that the same man started getting lots of info from Scientology at my address. Evidently they can communicate with the dead. Or something.

  • Lee (sometimes known as Another Lee):

    Dear Charles,
    Thank you for that piece of almost investigative journalism. I will now cross “Check out church of Scientology” off my list, as you seem to have covered it. I too had a longstanding relationship with a Jehovah’s Witness while overseas. She was really quite sweet, and I miss our talks, though I’ve since gone even further down the atheist road and might cause her distress.

    • Charles:

      Lee, my Jehovah’s witness was quite a nice fellow, too, and I often wonder how he’s doing, but I won’t call him because I know he’d be disappointed to find out that I didn’t continue to meet with a Jehovah’s Witness after I moved. And because I lost his phone number.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if you’d told them you where there to find a replacement for Cardinal Richixyzlieu’s sex toys?

    I would like to remind you that Oxford is a type of shoe.

    Thank you for investigating. I have preferred to do my investigating from the distance of the Internet. Safer. Did you see Tom Cruise while you were there?

    • Charles:

      Martha, I think Tom Cruise was probably upstairs. I suppose you have to attain a fairly high level in the church before you’re taken up to meet him. I wonder if just taking that course in social skills would make me eligible to meet Reed Slatkin?

  • You are one inquisitive fellow. Enjoyed the post. I won’t say I’ve always wondered what goes on in those Scientology buildings, but now, thanks to your writing, I’ll never have to.

    And I sort of like your take on the born again Baptists, which, more or less, agrees with mine:

    The door-to-door “are you saved?” brand of Baptists whose entire Bible seems to be John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”)

    And, as a JW, I do give up, rather readily these days, though some do not. Though, I suppose, even when we do give up, it might seem that we don’t, since we try to cover the entire territory regularly, and then start in all over again when that’s done. You know, Matt 24:14, and so forth.

  • Kiara:

    Dear Charles,

    I’m sorry that a lack of questions has caused you such discomfort. I have been wanting to ask you something, but can think of nothing to ask. Hopefully some horrifc problem or situation arrises in my life soon so that you may be sufficiently comfortable.

    • Charles:

      Kiara –

      The idea of your suffering some horrible crisis and my benefiting from that in any way drives me mad with discomfort. If you want to keep me comfortable, please keep living a charmed life.

  • Funny and also very interesting. I’ll admit…I HAVE been curious about what goes on in those places. But I might have just stopped and turned around when I saw the row of flat screens. Sounds expensive and creepy.