If you’ve ever driven down J street in Sacramento, you’ve probably noticed the tall, Spanish Colonial Revival Style building which houses our very own Church of Scientology. With its large informational displays visible through giant windows, the setting welcomes curious and stray passersby to wander its halls and explore what Scientology is all about.
Like many people, I’ve heard strange and mystifying things about the religion, clouded in secrecy and hype; all second hand gossip that runs through the veins of our societal consciousness. So I was intrigued with the opportunity to learn something about it from the horse’s own mouth. With my somewhat reluctant boyfriend in tow, I hiked downtown one Friday evening, eager for some first hand experience with the what I’d only known from its reputation from the social media. Coming from an unorthodox upbringing myself, I know how easily things can be misunderstood by the general public, and was determined to discover something of it first hand, before accepting the views that everyone else so ardently expressed.
Inside its large glass doors we were met by an older woman and asked to sign in. She led us around the brightly lit, immaculate, sectioned off rooms, with large screens that featured short informational videos about Scientology. She asked us if we would like anything to drink and brought us coffee in porcelain cups with a small pitcher of cream. Nice service, I thought, hell, I’d come here just for the free coffee.
After watching several of the video clips on different aspects of Scientology the only thing I was really left with was vague, glossed over infomercial type answers. Many of the videos simply stated that Scientology helped you break bad habits, realize the root of those habits and suddenly, because of this realization, any negative energy was gone. Most of the clips featured little more than people on the street talking about how stressed and unhappy they’d been, until trying Scientology, and about how much it had changed their lives. While I’m all for self improvement, the lack of real information & overly glossed feeling gave it that “too good to be true” vibe and it felt more like a late night infomercial for depressed insomniacs than anything else. I was disappointed. I’d come here with a desire to break through the the media hype and find some first-hand answers, and all I was getting was scripted self-improvement commercials.
Determined to press on, I went home and did a bit of online research on the subject, which I know has to be taken with a heavy grain of salt at all times. What I found, other than the information provided by the church itself, was a hoard of anti-scientology websites.
I returned to the Church, with notepad in hand this time, determined to get some answers from a real scientologist. Their normal PR person was out, So I settled for the nice woman at the front desk. She agreed to answer only a few basic questions and asked to remain anonymous due to her position in the hierarchy.
She’d been in a bad place in her twenties and a friend had suggested Scientology. She’d seen a dramatic improvement in her life, and two months later began working for the organization. This was in 1979. She gave me a few standard answers, but when asked about the upper levels of the group, became nervous and said that she couldn’t talk about it.
When asked about correlation between Hubbard’s science-fiction writing and its resemblance to Scientology, she informed me that she didn’t know what I was referring to. “He wrote many things,” and gave me a brochure for an upcoming reenactment of one of his stories that was to be performed there soon.
When I told this woman, who had been studying Scientology for 33 years, that Hubbard was famous for his alien based science-fiction, and that the documents online, said to be in his own handwriting, expressed a storyline that could be argued to resemble it closely, she wondered at the fact that she’s never heard of any of this.
Now granted, these expressed documents are readily available online and agreed by many to be the documents that are revealed at level three. However, since those who reach that level are of course sworn to the utmost secrecy, perhaps we will never know what the truth is exactly. It is easy to take convincing internet data and use it for a persuasive argument, but separating truth from fiction in the digital world is a tricky and dangerous business. It is a tool that can be used for good and evil.
I attempted again to get some answers from their PR person, but without luck. I sent an email of questions on several subjects that only had answers to be found on anti-Scientology sites, trying to remain as open to honest answers as possible, but have, to date, received no answer.
In lieu of an answer from them, I am left little other choice than to rely on the information that the Anti-Scientologist make readily available. And the lack of information on these subjects, compared to other large religions is somewhat discerning.