I Got E-Metered

What I thought was garbage on my doorstep was actually Scientology propaganda cleverly disguised as garbage. It was a free personality survey called the Oxford Capacity Analysis, a name which has no affiliation whatsoever with the real University of Oxford and is full of such insightful gems as “Do you speak slowly?” and “Do you sleep well?” It’s meant to make you feel like a horrible person because Scientology can help with that.

The local church of Scientology was just a short walk down the road, so I took this as an invitation to get an insider’s scoop. There were two women working that day who were eager to help, having been trained in smiles and flattery. I told them I was there to learn more about Scientology because all I’ve heard is a biased representation through the media. They commended me on my candor and flattered me some more before the tour started. We’ll call my tour guide Mary to protect her identity and because I don’t actually remember what her name was. Speaking of names, the receptionist has never actually heard of the name, Chad. I had to spell it for her. As I recall, she thought my name was fantastic.

Mary led me a few paces to an immaculate office containing a fancy desk and some bookshelves filled with L Ron Hubbard literature. She explained that all their churches contain one of these unused offices for their founder. I’m not sure whether they expect him back at sometime or whether it’s just a good way to start the tour.

I scanned the bookcases a little more closely because I thought that my dad had a few Hubbard Science Fiction books on his bookshelf when I was growing up. The guy has written a ton of books, mostly being a science fiction author prior to his onset of omniscience. Mary told me that none of those books would be on these shelves because these ones all discussed Scientology, life, and all other manners of truthiness vomited from Mr. Hubbard over the years. She slipped and actually said, “No, these books are all fiction.” I had to stifle a laugh and she immediately corrected herself and moved on. The bookshelves contain loads upon loads of festering crap gobbled up by his followers on a continual basis, for a nominal fee.

She pointed out a few sunset pictures on the wall and explained that L Ron Hubbard was a professional photographer. The pictures were nice, but nothing a grade school kid with a camera, an ocean, and a sunset couldn’t reproduce in a heartbeat. Mary told me that Hubbard was a professional in over forty areas. Geez, they really got a hard-on for this guy. If being a professional means that people will buy something from you, then of course Hubbard was a professional of many stripes. The guy might as well have been a self-proclaimed god. Any garbage he wanted to sell, his adoring followers bought, and are still buying today.

The tour continued and I was led into another room full of posters outlining the basic ideas of the faith. As Mary explained, the idea of Scientology is to become “Clear.” She pointed to a poster that had a frowny face guy on the left without Scientology, followed by an expressionless face in the middle representing one who had just started Scientology, and on the right there was a smiling, happy face representing the douchebag who made it to the Clear level and was letting the world know. Becoming Clear, she said, involved ridding yourself of negative charged energy, which were represented on the poster by a gross red blobby ball. Apparently, these little red balls of negative charge are what make us feel bad. She was serious. I don’t know if they’re actually red or actually anything, but when I asked her to explain, she just kept saying they were “charges,” and pointed out that when you’re really angry, you feel “charged.” Riiiiiight.

I wish I could have taken a picture of some of these posters. They were so dreadfully bad I felt it would be a shame not to share them with the world. But I was trying to be polite and respectful of this nonsense, so I stayed my hand.

The next room contained information about Auditing. This is the process where you level-up in the church. You do so by sitting with an auditor who asks you questions and takes readings from an e-meter. The e-meter is a joke of a machine. It’s got two tin cans, a needle that looks like a speedometer, some fancy dials, and a mild electric current. It’s the distant retarded cousin of the polygraph machine, something you could easily replicate using two potatoes, some copper wire, and a paperclip. I’ve only seen them in pictures and on South Park, so I couldn’t wait to have it read my mind.

Mary explained the basics to me, once again referring to those damnable little charges we’ve got mucking up our life. Apparently, the e-meter reads these made-up charges and, when you’re thinking of a negative memory, it will show it up by making the needle move. She placed the tin cans in my hand and asked me a few questions. She told me to think of a negative memory and was excited when the needle went up, telling me that it caught on to my negative association. I was thinking about rolling around, covered with cute puppies. She asked me to think of another negative emotion, and the needle went up and she once again assumed she caught me with negative charges coursing through my veins. I was thinking about sex, but not a negative sexual experience, a pretty damn good one in my book. With only one dial, perhaps it’s hard to separate negative feels from puppy pile cuteness from fond sexual memories. I’m sure, if she interpreted my results, she’d try to weasel out some bullshit explanation or accuse me of cheating. I was having fun.

In between questions, I noticed that if you squeezed the tin cups, you could make the needle move. I asked her about this as I was intentionally making the needle jerk from left to right, sometimes holding it shakily in place before letting it go. It wouldn’t take long to become quite adept at this. She looked at me like I was an idiot and told me it responded to body movements as well as negative charges. Convenient. It’s a bit disconcerting, though unsurprising, that they’ve built their religion around a parlor trick, something that can easily be reproduced and explained by an elementary course in physics. But ol’ L Ron has them convinced. He’s quoted as saying, “The E-meter is never wrong. It sees all, knows all.” Perhaps it gets confused when it comes to puppies or sex.

All fun must come to an end, and she separated me from the machine, then went on to explain about all the good works their church does. She focused on the arm of the organization they use to try to convince recovering drug addicts they’re being helped, called Narconon. Mary once again pointed at some big, gaudy posters highlighting the program. One bullet point was crammed with new age nonsense words, explaining how toxins are stored in your fatty tissues and that mega-vitamin doses and saunas can help cleanse and purify your body. I asked for more specifics about exactly what toxins were being talked about and what scientific basis there was for the concept that fatty tissues held excesses of such toxins but not oxygen or hamburgers. She mumbled something about poisons and “anything bad” but failed to elaborate further, claiming that the true test of something is whether it works or not. This wasn’t working for me.

My skeptical questioning caused her to bring me to another room filled with tall posters, of which there are many in the church, explaining how after 9-11, they set up their pseudo-science rehab shop a few blocks away to help fire-fighters and police officers who were still having respiratory problems. The coup de grâce to end all doubt was a picture of one of the firefighters, freshly emerged from the sauna, holding a white towel covered in blue streaks, which she said were tested by science and found to be high in manganese. She said this was proof of the healing properties of their sauna, because the firefighters breathed in lots of manganese. She left out the fact that the mega-vitamin doses also contained a lot of manganese so even if it were the case that science found manganese, it would be useless. The fact that they colored the towel blue is another cute parlor trick, reminiscent of the recent surge of foot pads meant to draw toxins from your body, but merely relieve your foot of dead cells, causing an icky black stain on the pad in the morning. The parlor trick is in the visual representation of gunk coming out of your body, and the new-agers and Scientologists are keen on pointing to that discoloration and crying, Gooooal!

I told her I was skeptical of the whole thing and she applauded me, consoling me with the fact that, if I read all the literature, I’d become a believer. I don’t think I could afford all the literature in this racket.

Mary brought me back to the e-meter room for a little chit-chat. I didn’t have the heart to bring up the whole Xenu thing, the reports of physical abuse by their miniature leader, David Miscavige, or their hatred for Psychiatry. I guess I didn’t want to get her little red negative charges boiling, though I assume she’s above all that. I brought up the survey they dropped on my doorstep and explained some of the reasons it was so, well, shitty. She continued to smile and told me that I didn’t have to take the test, but upon further questioning, she stated that members repeatedly take the test to see how far they’ve progressed. They have graphs and everything.

We discussed the relative usefulness or idiocy of one of Hubbard’s quotes, namely:

What is true for you is what you have observed yourself. And when you lose that you have lost everything… Nothing in Dianetics and Scientology is true for you unless you have observed it and it is true according to your observation

Mary was ga-ga for Hubbard and loved this quote, clinging to the “what is true for you” fallacy as being greater than any kind of evidence which could present itself. I argued that “true for you” is essentially meaningless and that, no matter how hard you believe, if the doctor says you’ve got cancer, there’s a good chance you’ve got cancer. Refusing to see something for what it is does not alter reality.

She handed me a free DVD and said that I should come back some day and watch one of their movies which contained an actual interview with L Ron Hubbard, a fact which she was terribly giddy about. Seeing her prophet on TV seems to be a real high for her. Yea, no thanks. I said goodbye, she complimented me, again, this time on my sandals, and we parted ways.

As entertaining as this was, I don’t think I’ll be back. I feel like I’ve got all sorts of toxins in my fat cells just by listening politely to this crap. Perhaps a sauna will cure me. I wonder what colors I’ll sweat.

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