#51:  Church of Scientology

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Outside the church

Outside the church

“Forgiving someone is actually an insult because it presupposes that the person you are forgiving did something wrong.  It’s really just a way of placing blame.”

The Scientology pastor stood behind a podium and enlightened the 10 person congregation on the concept of forgiveness.  The color of his skin was oddly pale.  I suspect his dark black mullet, and matching turtle neck and blazer were partly responsible for his washed out appearance.

I convinced my two friends Mark and Lori, to take the ride with me to D.C. to check out prayer #51, The Church of Scientology. Richmond’s Carytown has a Scientology mission; however, there are no Sunday services; only a bookstore and a room to perform spiritual audits.

When we walked in, we were greeted by a well dressed man at the front desk.  “Can I help you?”  He asked respectfully.

We’re here for the Scientology service.”  Mark said. 

I assume you are first time visitors so please just fill out these cards.  Danielle will be with you in a moment.” 

After filling out the cards we stood somewhat uncomfortable for a few moments in the front lobby until we were greeted by Danielle.  She was a 5’2 African American woman wearing a gold and black Scientology uniform.  Both of her ears came to a peculiar spock-like point and she had a slightly un-kept afro.  Think Kid N’ Play if you get the reference.

“Hello.  I’m Danielle.  Tell me, what do you know about Scientology?”  I admitted that I knew very little but was interested in learning more. As we walked with Danielle, I realized I was incredibly uneasy for some reason.  I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, but there was something about the place that was giving me the creeps.  Within seconds of meeting her, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I was being watched or something.

Mark attempted to make a joke to cut the obvious tension, “So, is Dan Cruise hiding back there somewhere?” 

I immediately analyzed the expression on Danielle’s face to see if she seemed confused or offended by Mark’s question.  I quickly suspected the answer was ‘both’ so I chimed in while smiling in Danielle’s direction.  “He’s being silly.”  I looked over at Mark and bugged my eyes out, indicating my disapproval. “ Tom Cruise, Mark.  Tom, not Dan, and obviously, no….” I gave a nervous giggle while looking back toward Danielle smiling,  “…he’s not here.” 

She didn’t bother to appease us by offering a fake smile, but instead, stood there awkwardly for a moment before asking us to follow her into the back area.

We slowly made our way past the marble desk to an area that resembled the Best Seller’s tables at Barnes & Noble.   The only difference was every book was written by Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard.  To the right of the area were different little nooks that held mid-sized TV screens with tan benches.

Video Displays

Video Displays

These are our video areas.”  Danielle said while gesturing.  After showing us how to turn on the different presentations, she took a few steps back and the three of us sat on the bench to watch.  Our first one was entitled, “What is Scientology?”  After the 5-minute presentation Danielle suggested we checked out another area to learn more.  With each different nook we approached, she’d follow behind us and stand just a few steps away and suspiciously scrutinize.

The Scientology website indicated that a service would begin every Sunday morning at 11am and was open to all, however, I didn’t see any place where people would gather together.  Too chicken to ask Danielle myself, I sent Mark over to inquire.

Are there church services today?”  He asked.

You know, we don’t have services every Sunday.  I don’t think there is one today but I’m not sure.”  I was both disappointed and confused by Danielle’s vague answer.  “So, is there a service or is there not? I asked myself.  She then quickly changed the subject by suggesting we check out another video.  This one was on Dianetics. 

Mark, Lori, and I gathered around the TV screen to watch.  “Do you want to be really happy?”  The narrator asked.  “Do you want to control your circumstances and not have them control you?” “I want to be happy!”  I thought to myself enthusiastically.  The narrator continued… “Well, that’s what Dianetics is all about.”

According to the short film, Dianetics uses a counseling technique known as an audit which allows people to rid themselves of negative thoughts and psychosomatic illnesses.  Basically, according to Hubbard, we have two parts to our minds: our reactive mind and our analytical mind.  Hubbard suggests that we can control our reactive mind (also known as unconscious thinking) by accessing the negative memories and associations we have so we can ultimately address them and erase them completely from our minds storage area. 

To be honest, it sounded to me a whole lot like motivational seminar speak.  I kept wondering who came first, Tony Robbins or L. Ron?  The actors on the videos were best described as “super duper happy”. Almost as though they ingested a bit too much Prozac; which is kind of ironic since Scientologists are against using drugs prescribed for mental illness.

As we watched the 4th video, I decided I was officially creeped out by Danielle.  And you know, it wasn’t just her pointy ears.  I had a legitimate reason: She stood behind us watching every move we made. She kept whispering things to the other staff while looking over at us. If I meandered my way over to one area, she followed.  If I said anything to Lori, she was right there; like reading my lips or something.  I couldn’t ignore the feeling like there was something going on inside the Church of Scientology that only I wasn’t privy to, something fishy.  At one point, a member of the staff even came over and took a picture of us.  And where the heck was this church!?  Frustrated, I decided I was ready to either get out of there or get to this alleged, mysterious church service.  I sent Mark over to get an official answer.  I wanted to know…was there or was there not a church service today.

Danielle looked uncomfortable when he asked again.  A bit reluctant, she walked over to another gentleman, whispered something in his ear and came back to the area where we sat.  “It seems there’s a service.  It’s upstairs.  I’ll take you.”  Feeling vindicated, we all got up from the video area and followed Danielle to the elevator.  She then passed us off to another gentleman.  On the way up, he mentioned that the church has services EVERY Sunday.  Lori asked me later why the man said there was a service when Danielle was so incredibly cryptic about the whole thing, suggesting there weren’t services every week? Something wasn’t adding up.

The Sermon

The Sermon

Regardless of what was going on behind the scenes, we were attending and that’s what we came for.  The three of us sat in the front row.  The preacher started off the sermon by saying, “Have you ever judged something as ridiculous before experiencing it?”  I slouched in my seat in attempt to guard myself. “Could this guy read my thoughts?”  He then read an excerpt from one of Hubbard’s books about how important it was to apply the Golden Rule to our lives.  It was nothing incredibly profound, but nothing incredibly original either.  We ended the service by reading a prayer out of the bulletin and that was that. 

I took a few minutes to look around the sanctuary and noticed a large cross that hung on the wall. I wondered why something that has nothing to do with Christianity uses such a familiar symbol.  Danielle later explained that there was no relation.  “Sure there isn’t.” I thought to myself.  I couldn’t help but assume that they chose the cross in an attempt to convince others that their belief system was actually a religion by using a symbol that represents the largest religious body in the world.

After we went back down the secret elevator into the bookshop, we spent the next 20 minutes with Danielle who was now desperately attempting to sell me some books.  Every time she asked a question about my life, she’d follow it up with, “I know the perfect book for you!”  She’d run over, grab it and put it in my hand.  Only to have me hold onto it for a brief moment awkwardly and then place it back where she got it from.  She then asked another question, “So, what do you do?” 

“She’s a writer.”  Mark said. 

Mind Reading Machine

Mind Reading Machine

“Get out of here!  Did you know Ron Hubbard was a writer?  He has a book about how to be a better writer.  You just HAVE TO get it.  This was written for you!”  I had no idea I was going to be bombarded by a Scientologist who clearly doubled as a used car salesman.  I was grossly uncomfortable and now somewhat annoyed. 

I spent the last few minutes trying to figure out how to get out of there without being overly forceful.  Apparently the several “So, we have to head out now” statements I offered up just weren’t enough for her.  And she was holding our coats for ransom in the back so we couldn’t just run out.  

After Mark asked what an audit consisted of, Danielle did everything in her power to get us to take one.  I wanted to try it out, but it was an hour long so I refused.  Mark then asked if I could test out the equipment, referred to as a “thought reader” without actually doing the hour long audit and Danielle agreed.  Apparently, I was supposed to just hold onto this machine which resembled an old school telephone with two metal cups attached as she asked questions about my past.  If the meter pointed in one direction it indicated I was stressed, if it pointed in another direction it meant my thoughts were happy and therefore didn’t need to be erased from my memory. 

I held onto each cup and Danielle asked me to think about anything I wanted. I decided to think about something I knew would impact me emotionally.  While grasping firmly onto the two metal cups, Danielle said, “WHOA!  This is showing some major stress.  What are you thinking about?”  I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting her question.  I paused.

“I was thinking about my dad.”  I said. 

Danielle smiled from ear to ear as if she had just detected a real source of trauma that I would clearly need to have erased from my memory by taking her very expensive spiritual audit.  “Why does your dad stress you out?”  She said with a new found energy.

Well.”  I paused for a moment to compose myself while Danielle, Lori, and Mark all stared at me.  “He’s dead.”  I laughed nervously at the uncomfortable moment and we quickly moved on to something else. 

Auditing

Auditing

Danielle tried to sell me one final book before I got the words out.  “We need our jackets.  It’s time for us to go….now.”  She then brought us back to the coat room, stopping every few steps to try and sell us the books that lined the path along the way.  When we finally got out of the church, I wanted to celebrate.  It felt as though the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.  I had not been so happy to be done with a prayer in the entire 51 weeks. 

I have a few words for you Don (Tom) Cruise….  You were so cool in Top Gun.  What the heck happened, man?

A few things I found interesting about the Church of Scientology:

  • Scientologists think humans were derived from clams.  Yes, like the bivalve molluscs 
  • Scientologist believes that souls (thetans) reincarnate and have lived on other planets prior to earth.
  • Scientologists believe that psychiatry should be abolished.
  • Jerry Seinfeld used to be a Scientologist.  Heartbreaking.
  • Members are required to make donations in order to take study courses and auditing.  The more money you have, the more you can move up the spiritual ranks.  So people like Tom Cruise are really, really spiritual.
  • In the upper levels of Scientology (higher places along the Bridge, otherwise known as sacred teachings for the really, really rich) stories like the one of XENU, which was leaked on the internet in 1995 by a previous member, are revealed to the Scientology members.  According to this story, 75 million years ago Xenu (tyrant ruler of the Galactic Confederacy) brought billions of people to Earth in a spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do this today. Scientologists at advanced levels place considerable emphasis on isolating body thetans and neutralizing their ill effects.

About the thetan:

  • The thetan (soul) is the true identity of a person – and is intrinsically good.
  • Thetans created the universe for their own pleasure.  The world exists because thetans believe it exists.
  • Thetans fell from grace when they began to identify with their creation, rather than their original state of spiritual purity.  In this process, they lost their memory of who they were and how creative and spiritual they were.  Now they believe they’re just beings, but basically they’re really alien gods who don’t recognize it.

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15 Comments

  • Zee

    Zee December 29, 2010

    clams? wow… i do believe in evolution (to a certain point - i do not believe we came from monkeys…) but CLAMS?! lol…

  • charlottesometimes

    charlottesometimes January 30, 2011

    Nice write up—thanks for this. smile The link to your blog entry was posted here: http://forums.whyweprotest.net/threads/scientology-dc-org-doesnt-have-sunday-services-every-sunday.68500/#post-1358402

    Thought you might be interested in the thread.

    According to some accounts, they may have put together the Sunday service just for your benefit.

  • Alanzo

    Alanzo January 30, 2011

    Fascinating post!

    I was a member of Scientology for 16 years. That creepiness you felt, and all the things that did not add up are all creepy in reality and what you were told does not add up.

    Religious services in Scientology, just as you noticed with the cross, are all there to make Scientology appear to be a religion.

    The reason your picture was taken was because you could turn out to be a “enemy of the Church”, and they have a very strong “Office of Special Affairs” at the DC organization who recently framed an ex-member who was too persistent in protesting outside their church and exposing them to the public.

    You can read more about him in a recent article in the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/26/AR2011012607511_2.html

    And view his Youtube channel, as well:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/anonsparrow1

    You stumbled upon a group that can give decades of work to a writer - if you are into creepy mind control cults who enslave people for money.

  • Jessica

    Jessica January 30, 2011

    WOW!  Thank you so much, both of you, for commenting.  I think it is so wonderful that you both blog to get the message out about your experience. 

    If either of you have any interest in doing a guest post on my blog, I’d love to hear from you.  You can email me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

  • Tom of Helatrobus

    Tom of Helatrobus January 30, 2011

    If you want a REAL weird experience, try joining the Sea Org. They will take anyone with a pulse.

  • Jack Mercury

    Jack Mercury January 31, 2011

    Did you see a protester the day you attended? I seem to recall seeing someone like you in a video shot during an AnonSparrow1 picket. Would you mind saying which day you were there?

  • Jessica

    Jessica January 31, 2011

    Great article, a friend posted it on facebook.  I laughed a few times because your wording is very funny, but Scientology itself isn’t funny at all.  The indoctrination itself is creepy because if you read between the lines, it’s like Hubbard wanted to create Ubermensch like the 3rd Reich.  One thing he said is that everyone 2.0 on the tone scale should be eliminated quietly without sorrow or remorse.  And did you know Nicole Kidman had to agree to not talk about Scientology at all as part of her divorce deal?  It’s not a religious organization, it’s a pyramid scheme on steroids.

  • Kam

    Kam January 31, 2011

    I was a member of this cult for over 10 years. In all that time there was never a Sunday service.

    “It’s a pyramid scheme on steroids” is so true.

    The reason they took your picture is because they probably thought you were part of Anonymous.  Anonymous protests this cult once a month and the cult hates them. :D

    This was a great blog!  I’m impressed with what you are doing.

  • Jessica

    Jessica February 01, 2011

    Hi Jack, I was there the second Sunday in December but there didn’t seem to be any protests at that time.  Thanks so much for the comments you guys and the information.  I can honestly say of all 52 experiences (and there were some really random ones!) Scientology took the cake.  I didn’t expect it to be so different, but there was really something strange going on there.  Now I know why!

  • Mary McConnell

    Mary McConnell February 02, 2011

    What an enlightening article! It coincides with so many others found on the internet.

    Indeed, scientology is scarey business!

    I love what you are doing. Keep up toe good work smile

  • Ben Schumin

    Ben Schumin February 03, 2011

    If you got the creepy feeling that you were being watched, it is likely that you probably were.  Scientology has this way of spying on anyone that they consider to be a “Potential Trouble Source”, or PTS.  I’ve seen them stand outside and photograph the Anons when they do their demonstrations, and they have photo’d me on a number of occasions when I’ve looked, from the street, at the Dianetics tent that they occasionally put in the front lawn.  Very paranoid group.  Would have loved it if you would have been wearing a hidden camera or something just to see how this all went down.  Would have been quite entertaining to watch.

  • constantine

    constantine March 13, 2011

    would you do anything to go on top on the mountain…i can say yes you can.reading in understanding you can learn more.

  • Declaracion de la renta

    Declaracion de la renta March 23, 2011

    Did you see a protester the day you attended?

  • constantine

    constantine March 24, 2011

    i know guys that if you don’t know,you know how how it feels.scientology is most expensive college offers most expensive education.another next sunday of my weekend

  • Jessica

    Jessica April 02, 2011

    No protesters at all the day I went.

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