By Ross Benes
After being stalled for years through litigation by the Church of Scientology, a biography about L. Ron Hubbard, the religion's founder, was recently released in the U.S. Given that Hubbard, like me, is a weirdo born in a small town in Nebraska, I've always felt connected to him and became curious why his church was so keen on blocking this biography. So I headed to New York City's Church of Scientology in midtown Manhattan to find out more about the man.
When I got to the church, I was led upstairs where I played with interactive kiosks loaded with videos about Scientology's greatness. I learned that Scientologists were "the largest relief force on earth" and that they put in five million hours of volunteer help annually. And by using Dianetics, Hubbard's theoretical framework upon which Scientology is built, I could predict my lifespan and lengthen it. Not shitting you. The video really said this.
By quantifying emotional tones and using auditing, which are paid courses in which a trained auditor uses an e-meter to measure changes in your "reactive mind," I could "take mystery out of human behavior" and "reduce my unreasonable fears." Such "unreasonable fears" of mine include skepticism of being given a bag of self-fulfilling shit in exchange for money and obedience. Perhaps Dianetics could help me calm that fear.
I then was brought into a mini-theater to watch a "public film" with a family of tourists. I was seated close enough to the screen that my retinas felt the images burn and my ears couldn't hear thought anymore. The video said Hubbard was a dashing daredevil pilot and the youngest Eagle Scout in America. Images of this handsome gent were splashed along to cheery jazz-like instrumentals. I could not help but feel that this is how Russia portrays images of Putin riding horses to its citizens. The video presented Hubbard as a charismatic mix of adventurer Charles Lindbergh with the all-American touch of Joe DiMaggio. The family got bored and promptly left. Once they left, the video was shut down and I couldn't watch this "public film" until another group wanted to see it.
Since I couldn't watch the film, I was forced to learn about Hubbard through the kiosk videos and text excerpts displayed on the building's walls. I learned that Hubbard helped make millions drug free, gave about 80 million people or so a sense of purpose, reduced the world's crime, promoted literacy, and of course was a champion of world peace. I couldn't resist unlocking these life mysteries for myself. So I started fumbling with the $75 Dianetics How-to Kit. Luckily for simple-minded people like me, it even had instructions on how to use the how-to kit.
As I started taking pictures of things I wanted to come back to and learn more about, a guard at the church told me to stop. And to delete pictures off my camera immediately.
It was right after this that I stepped away from the crowd for the first time and went to take a piss. Before I even whipped my penis out, an administrator approached me. Alone. In the men's room.
"Have you taken a personality test yet?"
"Not yet," I said.
"You should take a personality test if you have time. We also offer an IQ test."
"Okay. I'll check out the personality test after I'm done pissing."
To my delight, he quit talking. He then shook my hand across the separator. Don't think I got any urine on him, but I'm not totally certain of that.
My "personality test" results.
After being subtly coerced in the men's room into taking a personality test, I was issued the "Oxford Capacity Analysis," a 200-item questionnaire that had no direction and seemed to lack methodical validity. While I'm not a personality expert, I spent a summer as a McNair scholar working with personality experts during which I wrote my undergraduate senior thesis on workplace personality types that I presented at a few academic conferences. I've read enough papers and worked with enough indices to know that no way in hell did this test come from Oxford. (The 1971 Foster Report for the United Kingdom government said the test "is not a genuine personality test; certainly the results as presented bear no relation to any known methods of assessing personality or of scaling test scores.")
Not surprisingly, my test results were awful. I scored clinically low on everything but "aggression." But "this could be helped with Dianetics," I was told.
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