Saturday, 4 October 2014

Scientology: The Art of Obfuscating and Marketing

A few weeks ago we received through the letterbox a questionnaire calling itself the Oxford Capacity Analysis.  It contained well over a hundred questions concerning personality as well as mental, emotional and behavioural disorders.  When I looked carefully at the small print I noticed that the organisation which had devised this had nothing whatsoever to do with Oxford University, but had come from the London-based Church of Scientology.  The flyer invited me to complete the questionnaire, whereupon it would be analysed and the results presented to me at no charge at its London centre on Queen Victoria Street.  So as part of my personal project into investigating as many places of worship in my area as I can, I thought this was an opportunity not to be missed.  I filled out the form and within a few days was invited to meet a Scientologist to discuss my problems – as this is what the Oxford Capacity Analysis inevitably finds out about participants.  She was a lovely person – very professional and in a centre that seemed like a cross between a hotel and a mausoleum.  I saw no other human beings in the centre besides my “analyst” and the receptionist.  It was a little creepy.  As a way of introduction I was given a video to watch from which the only memory I have is a slideshow of all the stunning Scientology Churches around the world – most photos taken at night and positively glowing.  Then it showed people reading books in what looked like Scientology libraries.  Oh, and there were lots of smiling faces in the film. 

So back to the Oxford Capacity Analysis.  It’s set up to look at 10 categories of emotions & personality traits with a sliding scale between the”desirable state” and the “undesirable state”.  For example, based on how you answer some of the questions, you’re ranked between stable and unstable.  Okay, is that straight forward?  Here are the other categories:

Happy | Depressed
Composed | Nervous
Certainty | Uncertainty
Active | Inactive
Aggressive | Inhibited
Responsible | Irresponsible
Correct Estimation | Critical
Appreciative | Lack of Accord
Communicative | Withdrawn

So in presenting my results, it was pretty clear that I had some major issues to deal with. Now, keep in mind, this is the primary way that the Church of Scientology has presented itself – its beliefs, teaching and methods - to me for the first time.  The message is:

  1. You’ve got some serious problems that we’ve uncovered with our “scientifically” developed analysis. 
  2. Don’t you want to free yourself from these in order to be successful and reach your full potential?
  3. We can help you do this.
  4. Will that be cash or card for your first course? 

I asked the woman giving me my analysis to tell me what Scientology is about; I wanted to understand what the philosophical basis of it was.  Most religions and philosophies try to answer these four basic questions:  Why are we here?  What’s wrong with us?  What can be done about it?  And how’s it all going to turn out in the end?  I mean, even atheists can answer those questions.   But she just skirted around these, repeating over and over that the only way to get to the heart of Scientology was to practise it immediately – by reading the L Ron Hubbard books and enrolling in a class.  It was as though the fundamental beliefs of Scientology could not be understood until you were well and truly neck deep in it.  And that was something I was completely unwilling to do.  This reminded me of some of the practices of New Age Spirituality, like meditation, yoga, crystals, tarot cards and such.  So many don’t really explain the basis upon which their practices are built, but rather give the message:  you have a problem; do this; you’ll get enlightenment when you’ve made sufficient progress.  

I can also understand tithing to places of worship in order that they provide for the less fortunate and other worthy causes.  But it really wasn’t clear to me why Scientology considers itself to be a church.  It seemed more like expensive self-help in a tax-free hotel.  It’s not that I’m cynical; rather I think people are actually being duped into believing that ultimate reality is about being a person with Scientology-determined characteristics and without Scientology-determined flaws; there really wasn’t much discussion in the area of ethics in those posh halls.  Yes, we all have problems, some of which can be lessened with psychological counselling.  But I strongly urge people not to base their entire worldview on a “religion” that can’t even reveal what it really believes in an hour and a half.

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