This blog will be a little different as I'm combining both the pre-service and regular blog in one. Also, structure is going to be pretty free form with this one.
Quick facts about the Church of Scientology:
- The Church was started in twentieth century by science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard.
- The Church was first started from a self-help book Hubbard wrote called Dianetics which was his response to modern psychology.
- The exact number of members is unknown, as the Church does not disclose that information. Estimates range from 50,000 to 10,000,000
- The name is derived from a mixture of Latin and Greek words, "science" meaning "knowlege" and "logos" which as a suffix means "study of." Therefore the study of knowledge, but not in the same sense as epistemology, which is a philosophical study of knowledge.
- Scientology has an official clergy named Sea Org, and is modeled after a navy because of L. Ron Hubbard's naval background.
- The Church is currently run by David Miscavige.
- The Church uses a service called auditing in which members hold onto a machine called an e-meter, which they believe helps them purge themselves of impurities in their life that are holding them back.
- You can progress through various levels of the Church through courses and auditing until you become what is called Clear. Once you become Clear, you are free to start taking advanced courses called Operating Thetan courses or OT. Several of these courses contain sensitive and controversial materials that most Scientologists do not know about, including stories about aliens and alien spirits. Upper level Scientologists are told not to talk about and deny these stories, and lower level members have never heard of it. These stories are reported by virtually all upper level Scientologists who have left.
- Scientology actively courts celebrities, and has a special center for them in California. Several famous Scientologist celebrities include: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jason Lee, Jenna Elfman, Greta Van Susteren, Anne Archer, Elizabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, Beck, etc.
- The Church teaches mankind is made up of three parts, similar to Christian belief, of mind, body, and spirit. They refer to the spirit as a thetan and it is what you truly are, not something you have.
- Scientologists oppose psychology and traditional psychotherapy.
The experience was interesting. We started by going down to Salt Lake where there are two Scientology buildings, one downtown, and one in the district of the city called Sugar House, which is sort of a hippie/hipster part of town. We went to the mission which is downtown, but it was closed. I did snap a few pictures of it.
This is outside of the mission. It's in the basement of an office suite.
This is the guest book just outside of the mission. We were sad it was closed. The mission appears to be one room with a table, two chairs, a fridge, treadmills, and a few posters.
So, we drove down to the main church which, fortunately was open. In the parking lot of the building was a van for their volunteer ministry.
There was also a sign that was over the back door that talked about increasing your IQ, which I found to be quite interesting.
We entered the main lobby doors and it was a modern, loft style suite. There was an advertisement near the stairs going upstairs for a class of some kind. On the level just below the entrance was a desk with a man sitting in it. He came and introduced himself, asking what we were doing there. After explaining that we were curious, he asked us if we wanted to do orientation. We agreed and he took us to it.
Orientation was in a small room, no more than 10 foot square and a low ceiling. The room had a big screen television, 3 chairs, a bookshelf, several posters on the wall, and a nightstand with a lamp on it. They turned on the movie and left the room shutting the door behind them. I had the distinct feeling we were being filmed the entire time. I have no proof of it, but I definitely felt like they were monitoring us. Lisa and Austin who were with me agreed with that assessment.
The video featured an introduction to the religion, including a long promotion of L. Ron Hubbard that glorified him considerably, it also talked about the structure of the Church quite extensively. I could see why it appeals to many people, they promote yourself and constantly state that the religion is about you. They tell the members that they are free to bring in their old beliefs, so they can be Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, atheist, etc, and be a Scientologist. I found it interesting that they said you could be an atheist, but much of their literature explicitly refers to God. One thing in the video that sort of bothered me was that they said that the Church has it's own law that's not the law of the land, so if you have an issue in the church, go through the church's law.
After the video ended, a young woman came into the room and set a chair down in front of us for a Q&A. We asked a few questions about the structure of the church, and they told us about books we could buy or rent from their bookstore. More on that in a bit.
We then had to get going, because Austin had to work. They sent us away with a stack of literature and DVD's. I watched the DVD's with Lisa and Austin. They essentially teach the most basic of concepts of the Church, then tell you after each segment to go buy a book or sign up for a course. There is a course list. I noticed that nothing in the Church is free other than the personality test they send you away with. Everything comes with a price, whether buying or renting. I don't know how much these courses cost, but I imagine they're not cheap, and I know even auditing has a price tag on it.
After watching the videos, I have to say, there isn't much in the way of doctrine or belief that I could see. It seemed like a bunch of self help books tied to a Church and all with a price tag. This is a red flag to me. You shouldn't have to pay all of this money for spiritual counseling and self help courses, and it bothers me they have different levels you have to pay your way to through courses.
I have to say that Scientology was both slightly unnerving when they locked us in a room to watch a movie, seemed appealing and benign from the videos, and also seemed to have a very sweet side, but also quite a sinister side to it as well.
I may be going back to one of their Sunday services sometime, and might blog about it just to have a full assessment of them.
I will be doing a video on this visit which includes some of the literature I was sent home with.
Until next time, peace be with you.