I was greeted warmly by a young woman and told that someone would be 'with me shortly.' A few minutes later she returned and said: "Come this way." I stammered something about only having the time to grab a couple of flyers and she said, "Okay, sure, come this way."
So I did, and I remained in the building for over three hours, most of it spent with my guard firmly let down. I shared past drug experiences with my new friend, tried out what the Scientologists call an 'E-meter', I even watched the Scientology movie in the in-house cinema. Actually, it was not until I found myself rummaging through my wallet for $40 to buy a book that I remembered my original purpose. And with a bagful of free anti-psychiatry propaganda, I fled.
As soon as I was out and thought through some of the insights into my personal life which the young woman had obtained with the miracles of the E-meter, and the flattery which I had allowed to silence my more pointed questions, it all seemed fairly transparent.
You don't have to be an idiot to become involved in a cult. Far from it. You should preferably be intelligent, but at a point in your life where you're searching for answers, certainty and direction. Recruiters will offer you appealing answers to complex questions and problems, they'll be friendly, hospitable, welcoming and have admirable goals.
Scientology is succeeding where the Aum, the Children of God, and the Moonies have all failed. It is successful because of its seamless rhetoric and its altruistic goals. The professed aim of Scientology is to rid the world of war, drugs, illiteracy, insanity, psychiatrists and other evils (confronting the evil of psychiatrists has been their most recent and prolonged battle). But the evils are defined in such a way that if you're not one of them, you're part of the problem. Indeed, if you see evil and don't confront it, you are evil too. It's terribly pro-active, guilt producing and effective.
One of the most common ways of becoming involved in Scientology is by taking their free personality or IQ tests. This can be flattering stuff. They promise that Scientology can help you to become more intelligent, more successful and more attractive. If you raise a criticism or ask a question, you will be told how perceptive you are. One's guard can easily be lowered by such kindness and flattery.
Scientology is both a religion and a Church; it's a philosophy and a way of life. Its "Bible", Dianetics, sets out the philosophy behind the religion and outlines how it is that one can fulfil one's own potential, and become an 'operating thetan' (OT; a free self determining individual). The basic idea is that we are all polluted with unconscious experiences ('engrams') from our past and from past lives. These negative and inhibiting presences can be 'cleared' through auditing (a therapy offered by the Scientologists). This process utilises a device called an E-meter which purports to weigh the mass of your thoughts. It has been described by critics as a primitive polygraph (lie detector).
Dianetics claims to be a science. It is "an organised science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those physical sciences" (p.6, Dianetics). By science, Scientologists mean something which is certain and complete; a collection of theories which explain everything. This claim to certainty is the most seductive aspect of Scientology. Certainty is even more appealing at times of crisis and transition in our lives.
When one believes that there can be certainty and that Scientology is the only way to have this certainty, this belief dictates all perception and understanding of reality. Because Scientology has theories which explain everything, the world can appear to operate in the ways they describe. Even critics of Scientology can be explained by Scientology. The usual designation of a non-believer is a suppressive person (SP). These people are dangerous and evil and must be fought against. Scientologists also believe that SPs only criticise Scientology because they actually believe in it but want to further their own evil goals by suppressing the truth. Helmut Kohl (Chancellor of Germany) has recently been discriminating against Scientologists. Chick Corea had gigs cancelled, Germans were urged to boycott Mission Impossible, and other Scientologists have been denied visas. Scientologists see Kohl as an SP; but one who knows the truth of Scientology even though he is trying to restrict it.
Scientologists do not admit any evil into the natural world. Most illness is psychosomatic; caused directly by engrams. A Clear, someone free of engrams, will not get colds or arthritis. Hitler was a madman because he underwent psychiatric treatment. All violence is caused by drugs, homosexuals are perversions and suppressive people are in denial of the truth of Scientology and thus evil.
The Cult Information Centre in London (www.infoman.demon.co.uk/definit.html) defines any cult as "having all of the following 5 characteristics". Using these characteristics, it is possible to explore exactly how it is that Scientology 'qualifies' as a cult.
After this initial rundown, a more subtle and ongoing form of brain washing begins. The most effective brain washing method is that which the potential member does not recognise as such. Successful reprogramming is the kind in which the subject believes he is thinking, choosing, examining arguments and deciding. L. Ron Hubbard (LRH; the founder and leader of the Co$) advised his recruiters not to let potential members make decisions. In a policy letter to "All Divisions handling the public individual" LRH writes, "We have learned the hard way that an individual from the public must never be asked to decide or choose". The rightness of this is justified as follows. LRH writes that he has found the 'hidden datum' which will explain why this is so, "to decide one has to understand", and on the "big org [organisation] chart, you can quite plainly see that Understanding is higher than the point of public entrance into processing". Basically, coming in off the street, one cannot possibly be advanced enough to understand enough to be able to make a choice. For their own best interests, individuals should not be allowed to choose or decide.
But at the same time, the potential member is led to believe that they are making a critical judgement. "Data" is given and logically structured arguments are put forward.
LRH is the pioneer of the good fight. Scientologists believe that they are the only group capable of solving the world's problems, and it is their responsibility to do so. A man like LRH can hardly be accountable when he has all the answers; he will never be wrong. We also know that in any centre there will be a bust and/or portraits of LRH. When reading from his writings, members may stand looking in the direction of the bust and applaud.
In 1994 Dennis Erlich, a former high level Scientologist, revealed secrets about the Co$ on the net (on alt.religion.scientology). His house was raided under court order and all material, hard and soft copies, relating to the Co$ was confiscated. In their defence, the Co$ argue that their teaching are confidential trade secrets; they argue that they own the intellectual property rights to them.
The Co$ has also managed to shut down various anonymous remailers (services on the net which protect the identity of posters) Cult Awareness Network (CAN) which the Co$ seemed to regard as a cult. However, the Co$ profess "That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others" (Reference Guide to the Scientology Religion).
Trying to argue with the theories of Scientology is like trying to argue with Pauline Hanson. You know she's wrong, but there is some twisted truth in what she says. The Co$ identify many legitimate problems in society; violence, drugs, maltreatment of psychiatric patients, illiteracy and so on. The problem is that the causes are grossly oversimplified. "One for one every mass murderer has had psychiatric treatment" or have been found to have massive amounts of Prozac in their bloodstream, they assert in an effort to confront the evil of psychiatry. But co-incidence does not amount to causation. Comfort does not always amount to truth.
"Dianetics is a highly technical book ... Read it and be sure to look up any words that you do not understand."You mean like "insubstantial", "mind-numbing" and "manipulative", Kate? Reading Dianetics, or the liner-notes from the various Scientology "personalities", is like watching a 10 hour infomercial. Like the abdominiser commercial, we'll pull out a minor star from a day-time soap who, in some mysterious way, proves our product is worthwhile simply by being there.
Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers, Candice Bergen, Kirstie Alley, and John Travolta are all high-profile scientologists who have been drawn in by the "Celebrity Centres", the largest of which is (of course) in Hollywood to "minister to artists and other professionals."
Scientology thus acts as an interesting metaphor for the entity that celebrity has become at the end of the Twentieth Century. Our politicians are now manufactured in a similar manner to our film stars so why not have our religion manufactured in the same way? It all seems perfectly reasonable in a world where simply being famous is viewed as an enormous achievement. In a way Scientology is the logical love-child of a society obsessed with masturbation.