Once upon a time in the year 2010, I was eating dinner at my (then) favorite Italian restaurant called The Laughing Kat in Ybor City. I had a lovely
penne alla vodka with prosciutto and I was sipping on some Pinot Noir. After topping off my buzz I exited the The Laughing Kat and began chatting it
up with some acquaintances that were passing me by.
In my peripheral I could see to my left there were two young people, a male and a female, in white button downs and black slacks. Jehovah's Witnesses
(I thought)? They waited until I had departed the company of my friends and was now walking back toward 7th Ave by myself, then they approached me.
Female: Hey! Would you like to take a free personality test?
Me: Meh, I'm not a fan of Scientology.
Her and her associate had this quizzical look on their faces of surprise and amusement, like 'oh you know of us?'
Female: Well what do you know about Scientology?
At this point I had to make a choice, either brush them off and keep walking like I would any other vagrant that didn't have a clever sign OR I could
see just how deep in the rabbit hole they are.
Me: I know that L Ron Hubbard was a disciple of Aleister Crowley and that he was also personal friends with Anton LaVey (founder of the church of
Male: We aren't sure where you heard that but we can assure you there is nothing Satanic about Scientology.
Me: You know I had a very good friend who was a member of the church for 20+ years and when he left he was viciously harassed, stalked, and
threatened. He is no longer allowed to speak to his wife & children since he has been declared a suppressive person.
Female: What was his name?
Me (in my buzzed stupor): Oh I'm not falling for that one! Haha...
Female: Well would you like to give us the opportunity to share our faith with you from our perspective?
Me: Not if it involves giving you any money.
Male: No you can come with us to our building across the street and we will give you a free tour.
Me: Sure, why not.
So I walk with them into the Scientology center in Ybor City, Tampa.
Immediately they asked me to put my name down on the sign-in sheet. I signed a fake name, of course. She began by walking me through their lavishly
decorated facility that used to be a historic cigar factory. She showed me study rooms, media rooms, sleeping quarters, laundry, etc. As if I was
going to rent a room there? We walked down the end of a hall and into a small theater where she said our tour was going to officially begin.
She put a DVD on and it was projected onto a large screen about 15 feet away from my recliner. Still buzzed, I sat and watched their propaganda film.
It started with a somewhat famous but not so well known actor named Michael Fairman. He introduces this propaganda piece by telling a story about
where he first met LRH.
He started by saying that as a wee lad in his early 20s he worked at a shipyard in NYC I think. One day he was unloading cargo and slipped and fell on
the wrong side of a crowbar, the crowbar somehow pierced his flesh and penetrated his calf. He was incapacitated and taken to the hospital where
doctors reluctantly informed him that his wound had succumbed to a gangrenous infection and that it was very likely that he would lose his leg.
A day later as he was still in his hospital bed, writhing in pain and trying to rationalize what his life would be like without a leg, when in came a
visitor. This man was no doctor but was dressed like a salesmen, in a nice suit with a tie and cap. This man he says, was L Ron Hubbard.
Hubbard handed him a copy of Dianetics and explained to him that the mainstream medical profession has an invested interest in keeping people
incapacitated. He told Mr. Fairman that there were alternative methods of treatment and that he could probably save his leg.
According to Fairman, after Hubbard explained his theories of MEST and the idea of Thetans, he proceeded to do a sort of laying of the hands spiritual
healing where he placed his hands on the wounded leg and began 'channeling' mental energy through to eradicate the infection.
And according to Fairman, several days later his doctors announced that his infection had receded and that he would no longer need amputation.
In exchange for his leg, Fairman offered Hubbard his services and was henceforth a member of Scientology.
The video goes on to show reenacted scenes of Hubbard giving lectures in the 50s, with actual audio from Hubbard but the actor that played Hubbard
never showed his face to the camera (creepy).
She asked me what I thought of the film. To which I replied "I don't think 15 minutes is enough time to give a comprehensive back story on the history
of LRH & Scientology. In fact (I continued) it would be naive of me to believe that I could get a clear picture of your organization from only a 15
minute film reel."
Female: Well we aren't finished yet. Are you familiar with auditing?
Me: I've never been audited but I know the basic concept. By the way are you aware that all of your auditing sessions are recorded? Are you aware that
by divulging all of your personal thoughts and secrets you are giving power to an institution that will use your own words and experiences against you
should you decide to leave?"
She brushed off that question and proceeded to explain to me how the e-meter works.
I interjected: Actually, you may not know this but the e-meter is an overly sophisticated lie detector. It's basically a polygraph with a bunch of
bells and whistles, a psuedoscientific knock-off of a biofeedback device.
Female: The e-meter is our patented technology that measures your Thetan levels. It helps us determine the appropriate route for treatment.
Me: What if I don't need treatment?
Female: Nobody is perfect! Everybody can benefit from this technology.
She handed me the receiver, a cylindrical metal rod protruding from the device connected by a cable. Immediately upon handling the object, the meter
began to flicker. It was pressure sensitive! If I let me hand go numb the meter wouldn't move, if I flexed the meter would jump. This is hardly
scientific, I thought. The only people dumb enough to believe that this device can accurately measure your emotional responses are people who have no
background in basic Science.
Female: Now just try and relax and I am going to ask you some questions, try not to think about your responses and just answer the questions as the
thoughts come to you in the moment.
Now think about that for a second, they don't want me to think about my responses. They just want me to respond with the first things that pop in my
head. It didn't take long for me to realize that their auditing technology was a way to exploit people's lack of mindfulness. Mindful Meditation is an
ancient technique that involves engaging your prefrontal cortex in a concentrated effort to observe your thought patterns, without making any
. The technique is taught to people in order to strengthen their concentration and to settle into their middle way of their
The details escape me at the moment, as I cannot recall just what questions she asked me. I remember they were really basic, the kinds of things that
show up on their personality tests (conveniently littered all along 7th Ave).
I'll continue this story in another post...