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Scientology and me

Joey Falco | Monday, April 24, 2006

With all this chatter about Katie Holmes giving birth to her daughter in silence so as not to traumatize it later in life and her baby’s daddy, Tom Cruise, supposedly gnawing on the poor girl’s placenta for the alleged health benefits, Scientology has once again reemerged in the national spotlight as the craziest religion on Earth not practiced by Madonna.

But as I gazed over the numerous tabloid photos of the former Joey Potter of “Dawson’s Creek” fame proudly knocked up by the pseudo-homosexual, ex-Mr. Nicole Kidman, I could not help but wonder what about this mysterious religion made people like Cruise do the cha-cha on Oprah’s couch and engage in hand-to-hand combat with Matt Lauer over the benefits of psychiatry. After all, rumor has it that Scientology was created by its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as a joke after he bet a friend that he could start and popularize his own religion as a money-making scheme.

Sure, Scientology Web sites claim that their religion is on par with the Eastern religions that seek salvation and unity with God through personal enlightenment. But on the flip side, many have accused it of being run like a commercial business (unlike Catholicism, of course), in which members are charged for each of the religious services performed by the church. Plus, the Church of Scientology itself is rumored to have real estate holdings valued in the billions of dollars (unlike Catholicism, of course).

Beyond these financial practices, though, there are some tenets of Scientology that make the rumor about Hubbard’s facetious formation of the church sound highly plausible. For instance, the central practice of Scientology – auditing – requires a counselor to measure the electrical resistance running through a practitioner while he holds onto metal objects as a means of quantifying disturbances in his spirit. Also, to those who obtain a certain level of clarity in Scientology, Hubbard’s teachings promise a number of supernatural abilities, including telekinesis, immortality and even immunity from the common cold.

Best of all, though, Scientologists supposedly believe that our emotional and physical problems emerged 75 million years ago, when an evil galactic warlord named Xenu attempted to fight interplanetary overpopulation by dumping trillions of bodies into Earth’s volcanoes. Eventually, their radioactive souls attached themselves to the spirits of human beings – hence the plethora of modern mental disorders.

So no wonder Tom Cruise had the munchies for his tyke’s placenta. His soul was actually locked in battle with the tortured spirit of a 75 million-year-old alien! Give the guy a break.

Well, I was going to do just that, and in my quest to achieve true solidarity with the guy who had me from hello in “Jerry Maguire” and the girl who stole my heart while making out to Sixpence None the Richer songs on “Dawson’s Creek,” yesterday morning I snuck into the Founding Church of Scientology of Washington, DC.

Upon entering, I was not only struck by the lavishness of the chapel which held the Sunday service – mahogany walls and bookshelves, beautiful stained glass covered in esoteric Scientology symbols, a large portrait of the deific Hubbard and comfortable wicker chairs that could have doubled as patio furniture – but also the size of the place. While the overall building was a palatial mansion, only 25 to 30 people could even fit into the tiny chapel itself.

We began the service by reciting a creed, and then followed that with some readings from a massive collection of Hubbard’s writings. To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the scriptural part of the service – Hubbard’s teachings did seem to offer thoughtful insights on how to cleanse one’s soul and become a psychosomatically sound individual.

But then things just got weird.

The minister dragged out an E-Meter – a laptop-sized electromagnetic sensor that measures an individual’s stress levels – and proceeded to test it out on a member of the congregation. Then, the doors to the chapel were ominously slammed shut as the lights were dimmed, and I grabbed my wicker chair expecting my soul to be sucked out by an alien warlord with an E-Meter.

Instead, we ended the service with an activity called group processing, in which those of us in the congregation proceeded to roll our necks, nod our heads, find the floor, envision the walls, find our heads and bodies and shout words like “Okay!” and “Here!” back and forth with the minister. I literally felt like I was a four-year-old with ADD playing Simon Says with my psychiatrist and therefore had no desire to stick around after the service to sign up for the extremely expensive weekday processing sessions.

Still, with absolutely no mention of aliens, silent births or Tom Cruise, I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the whole Scientology experience – except for the part where I got to watch middle-aged men and women shouting things like, “My head is a part of my body! My body is in the chair! The chair is on the floor!”

If L. Ron Hubbard really did start this whole thing as a lucrative practical joke, then it’s safe to say the joke was on these idiots.

Joey Falco is a junior American Studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be contacted at jfalco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer