Through Scientology's doors

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May 12, 2003 // UPDATED 10:50 am - April 30, 2007
By: sue rich
sue rich

The controversial group has a prominent storefront on Nicollet Mall. What happens when a newcomer walks inside? Part 2.

In Part 1, Skyway News managing editor sue rich was introduced to the Church of Scientology, told that her personality test indicated depression, a lack of accord, being critical, not being outgoing enough, nervousness, irresponsibility and being unstable or dispersed.

She now begins the process of Dianetics - \"clearing\" the bad memories that keep her from reaching her full potential.

Day Three, continued

After a quick talk with Scientologist Troy about how I don\'t have to be introverted, and, really, the depression score isn\'t high enough to be a real concern, Diane, another volunteer working at Scientology\'s 1011 Nicollet Mall center, asks if I\'d like to see a video on Dianetics. There\'s a process in it that can help people figure out what\'s wrong and give them the tools to fix it.

On the way to the TV and VCR, I mention that one of founder L. Ron Hubbard\'s letters or brochures mentioned that Scientology had to defend itself to the government. What was that about?

Diane laughs; she says she\'s been in Scientology for years and some people think it\'s a cult. But it\'s all about individual empowerment. Long story short, it was a good thing the FBI and CIA racked their files because they didn\'t turn anything up. Now, Scientology has legal status as a church. This allows them into places like prison to do volunteer ministry; she personally volunteers many weekends through Criminon, the LRH-based criminal reform program.

Our discussion ends and the video begins. There is a certain cadence to the narration and pacing of the imagery, the monotonous voice of the narrator regularly punctuated by exceedingly long pauses. However slowly, I am being introduced to the only system in the world that has ever figured out the source of man\'s problems and, more importantly, how to fix them.

Basically: the mind is split into two parts, the \"analytical mind\" and the \"reactive mind\". The analytical mind is incapable of making mistakes, it is logical and rational - it is sane. The reactive mind is toxic, holding on to negative impressions of the world formed by bad experiences or by people saying things to us while we\'re in an unconscious state; it is the source of neurosis and insanity.

A \"time track\" in the analytical mind records our experiences like snapshots or frames of a film. This mind records everything in Mental Image Pictures or MIPs. Close your eyes, instructs the narrator. Now, think of a cat. Do you see a cat in your mind? Open your eyes. Now a big white cat is prowling about on a bright green lawn. \"That\'s a Mental Image Picture,\" says the narrator.

Gaps in the time-track series of images happen when painful stuff happens, and/or you are unconscious, and gets stored in the reactive mind. The negative and unconscious memories and experiences, called \"engrams,\" float around in the reactive mind. They gang up, forming strange coalitions or chains.

For example, fighting children knock their mother off a stepladder and her head smacks the kitchen tile with a thunderous crack (all in slow-motion, of course). While she\'s out cold, the children call each other names and her husband tells them not to touch her, that she shouldn\'t move, she has to stay right here.

Now the woman doesn\'t like to leave the house and doesn\'t know why.

She enters a Dianetics auditing session. The goal is to find the engram keeping her inside the house and \"cancel\" it. After all the engrams are cleared away, her reactive mind will disappear, then she will be a \"Clear.\" Up until this point she, and you are \"preclears.\" Basically, the lead character sits with an auditor and relives this negative/unconscious experience multiple times.

Tiring of watching this preclear\'s head bounce on the tile and growing sleepy with the narrator\'s lulling voice, I look around the room to keep myself awake. Two men are seated at a workstation under a handmade poster about recruiting NOTs. From the literature, I gather that OT is the level after Clear, where you tap your mind\'s extraordinary powers and are one with the universe (like the pencil-spinning John Travolta in \"Phenomenon\"). Maybe a NOT is a new or non-OT. The older man slouches with his forehead cradled in his hand. \"I\'ve contacted four people, how many have you got?\" he says to the young man working alongside him. The young man scratches his temple, \"Just one - but they\'re a friend, so it\'ll probably work out.\"

Other men enter the room dressed in navy-like clothing but without real military insignias. Now the room has a stressed-out pair of recruiters, some navy-looking guys and a woman in a black sweater and gray pants at another workstation who seems to be leaving messages for people - \"Just tell him his church called, please.\"

I return to the video, the soft-spoken mother of two is wrapping up her auditing and has dug up the culprit engram - she finally remembers hearing her husband say, \"she has to stay right here.\" That\'s why she never wants to leave the house. The auditor says \"cancel\" and brings her back to the present with one less engram to drag her down.

Diane returns as the credits roll. There happens to be an auditor available who can do my first, free auditing session right now, she says. She introduces me to Michael, who is wearing a more casual green flannel shirt and beige slacks.

Michael and I pass a 15-foot-long poster promoting recruitment to make life on Earth \"less like hell.\" I follow him into a small closed room quite unlike the big sunlit spaces in the video. It\'s probably a hundred square feet, but difficult to measure as it\'s stuffed with a long table and lit by one small lamp.

Do you really believe Earth is hell? I ask.

Well, with war, drug addiction and disease, I don\'t think anyone would say it\'s heavenly.

I skip pointing out that \"not heavenly\" is not the definition of hell. We chat - I tell him I work Downtown, at Skyway News, he tells me how \"Dianetics\" changed his life - then we get down to business. We review the video basics. He seems unduly impressed with my recall. Do I have any questions?

\"Where does book knowledge go?\"

Into the analytical mind.

But I don\'t have a picture of the Ordovician period, but I know it exists from an old geology class.

He pulls out a 12-by-24-inch picture book on, it seems, pictures. He points to the pages explaining Mental Image Pictures and reads every word aloud, tracing it with his finger to help me track it. \"Think of a cat, what do you see? ...\"

\"This is stuff I learned in the video,\" I say.

Michael confirms this - \"Yes, it was\" - then keeps his finger moving.

Halfway through the picture book, a Radiohead song pops into my head: \"You do it to yourself, you do, and that\'s why it really hurts.\"

By the time the song is finished, having swapped a few verses here and there, Michael has pulled out a screening form.

What\'s my last name? This time, I have to give it. For legal purposes. To protect both of us.

The questions quickly grow more intimate: Have I had any alcohol in the last 24 hours, how much do I normally drink, have I ever had any illegal drugs, am I on any medication, ever had psychiatric treatment or counseling, if so, why, how long, what was the analysis?

I end up telling him things I don\'t usually divulge to strangers.

Have I or a family member ever personally contributed to negative articles in the media about Scientology? Am I a member of the news media? Am I with the CIA or FBI or any other government agency?

I ask a free church service is contingent upon my profession or government involvement. \"The church has to protect itself from infiltrants,\" he explains.

Like I said before, I\'m the managing editor of Skyway News, but I\'m not in the CIA or anything. He just writes \"No.\"

With the form completed, albeit incorrectly, and oddly without me having to sign it, we move on.

For the next hour or so, I recount 10 times each the experiences of a bike accident and a previous childhood chin injury, eyes closed. Unfortunately, I couldn\'t recall anything said to me when I was unconscious, no engrams. But I did get a headache and my neck got tight - evidence of regression, i.e., reliving the experiences on that part of my time track.

Eventually, Michael\'s pen stops flowing across the pages of notes he has taken. He is going to end the session, he tells me. He says, \"cancel,\" then returns me to present time by counting back from five and snapping his fingers.

Yes, I know the date.

No, I don\'t feel any different.

Well, maybe we hadn\'t picked something that had much impact on me.

It\'s been hours. I head to the restroom, too preoccupied to smile back at the faces on the way up and down the stairs. I just need to pay for some books I picked up from hours ago.

Michael drops me off with a woman who can process the book order. There\'s no cash register. She sits at the computer and says, \"I assume you\'ll want to receive more information from us. Name, address?\"

Nope.

\"Okay, I\'ll just pull up the special code.\"

Now, she has to go to the basement to get change. Standing there, waiting, I browse the brochures. I\'m back in the area where I watched the Dianetics video.

One of the men in the navy-like outfits approaches.

\"Are you in the navy?\" I ask.

\"No, I\'m in the Sea Org.\"

Uh-huh.

\"Would you like to complete our survey?\" he asks, handing me another opportunity to offer up personal information: name, address, am I married, do I have kids? How many? Do I have debts? How much? And answer \"yes or \"no\" questions like, \"DO YOU HAVE A PURPOSE TO HELP CLEAR THIS PLANET?\"

Another man approaches as I finger brochures. \"Do you like to read?\" he asks. Yes, I like to read, in fact, I work at the local newspaper; no, I don\'t have much time. The woman emerges from the basement with my change. Despite my desire to leave, I find it impossible to be rude and leave the friendly man who approached me. We agree to talk until 4:30 p.m., no longer.

At 5:30 p.m., I get up to leave.

He\'s been kind enough to show me the book that changed his life, \"Dianetics\", and introduce me to the first few pages, where Hubbard explained one of the cornerstones of their teaching program, \"Applied Scholastics\": if you don\'t know what a word means, look it up.

He\'s addressed my concerns about the media/psychiatry/government screening process and redirected me to the big picture book when I reiterated my question about where book knowledge goes.

I buy a copy of Dianetics; this time I have exact change. He gives me his number to call if I have any questions.

Diane comes out. \"How was the auditing?\"

Not real helpful.

Well, maybe next time. The next step is the basic Dianetics course for just $35 and another audit that costs $200 but it\'s eight hours long.

Over the next day or so, I find \"Dianetics\" impossible to read. I quote a passage to my husband and can\'t imagine calling the kind man for assistance decoding it.

Dianetics has to do with the four dynamics of existence: \"None of these dynamics is necessarily stronger than the others. Each is strong. They are the four roads a man takes to survival. And the four roads are actually one road. And the one road is actually a spectrum of thousands of roads contained within the four. They are all in terms of past, present and future in that the present may be a sum of the past and the future may be the product of the past and the present.

All the purposes of man can be considered to lie within this spectrum and all behavior becomes explained.\"

We have a good laugh, then go out for a walk.