Years ago when I was in college before Travolta and Cruise and other famous actors became identified with the Church of Scientology I had my first encounter with the group.
I was with a friend in Georgetown walking around one summer evening when an unusual fellow in jeans and a t-shirt came up to us and asked us if we were “clears”. Taken off-guard yet curious as to what a “clear” was we engaged him in some conversation. After a little while his eyes seemed to glaze over and he started blubbering about how one could become clear of the engrams that were in your head that prevented you from living your life unencumbered… this state of being unencumbered and free from all your engrams was called being a “clear”. Which he was! (tada!)
An engram is a painful memory or a judgement about a memory or a memory you got stuck on and couldn’t leave well enough alone. Not all engrams are directly aware to our consciousness. We all auto-magically develop them without knowing as we go through life. Which is a real bummer… cause you don’t know if you have them, how many and if a number of them have ganged up to form a formidable engram wall or barricade in your life.
Now enter in the “genius” of Scientology which is the Engram Meter that is used to identify these neural speed bumps and roadblocks!
Before going further here is some helpful definitions… Engrams are a hypothetical means by which memory traces are stored as bio-physical or bio-chemical changes in the brain (and other neural tissue) in response to external stimuli. They are also sometimes thought of as a neural network or fragment of memory, sometimes using a hologram analogy to describe its action in light of results showing that memory appears not to be localized in the brain. The existence of engrams is posited by some scientific theories to explain the persistence of memory and how memories are stored in the brain. The existence of neurologically defined engrams is not significantly disputed, though their exact mechanism and location has been a focus of persistent research for many decades.
Back to the Engram Meter or E-meter. Through the use of this apparatus (which is listed as a religious artifact in Scientology literature) one can identify these neural memory traces. And become free of these nasty pests… through a series of sessions with a trained Scientology professional (or high priest or Grand Thetan?!? this is a religion, is it not!)… set free all for a relatively low fee! Low is relative here for who can put a price on freedom!
So we listened to our new-found “clear” friend who encouraged us to go take a short test so we could sign up for a free session or two of “auditing” which is what using the e-meter with a professional is called! We said we might go and he seemed quite excited. He then told us something curious. He said that now that he was a “clear” he was ready to explore the bright clarity of the various upper levels of being an “Operating Thetan”! He then went on his merry way leaving us to contemplate that last unexpected concept. “Operating Thetan?!?” All right then…
Hard for me to believe but we actually went to the Scientology Center (not a ‘church” building but a townhouse) near Georgetown the next day. We were cordially welcomed by a friendly enough chap and given a multi-page set of questions that were not too taxing on the brain. Once we finished we sat in the reception area. Our host told us all about the Thetan part of ourselves, the spirit or soul part of us that is to be freed up via the audit process. Being pre-clears we needed to get to clear before moving on into the “Operating Thetan” stage like our friend from yesterday. So far so good…
After asking where this Thetan part of us came from he gave us a synopsis of the Super Thetans (extraterrestrials?). These beings willed themselves into existence a gazillion years ago and then united their “visions” and together created the “perception” of the universe. Gradually these Thetans got so enmeshed in the material world that they gradually forgot who they were. They flat-out forgot they were Thetans! My friend and I looked at each other mouthing “they forgot!” to each other. We were getting a tad bit uncomfortable.
And all was still quite manageable until… we started hearing shouts and stomping of feet from the upstairs of the row house. It sounded a bit painful and a bit intimidating. Our host was totally unaffected and explained what was happening… the e-meter had come across a particularly painful experience like a major rejection by a parent and that the auditor needed to help the person push through the pain and in turn push through the particularly nasty engram or engrams. Like pulling out a splinter or a nail or popping a blister or boil… no pain, no gain!
At that point when our host answered the phone and turned his back to us, we eyed each other knowingly, forsook our free audit and we slipped out as quickly and as quietly as we could.
It is widely believed that the creation of Scientology was the result of a bar bet between L. Ron Hubbard and Robert A. Heinlein. The story says L. Ron Hubbard dared that he could create a religion all by himself. According to Scientology critic Lindsay this is “definitely not true”, no such bet was ever made, it would have been “uncharacteristic of Heinlein” to make such a bet, and “there’s no supporting evidence”. However, several of Heinlein’s autobiographical pieces, as well as biographical pieces written by his wife, claim repeatedly that the bet did indeed occur.
The whole engram painful memory part has some merit in that we all know that memories with bad meanings attached to them can be particularly debilitating and Tom Cruise himself has forcefully communicated its benefits along with the freedom from psychotropic drugs and psychiatrists which is an OK goal. Though the price tag on auditing ain’t cheap by any means!
However to call this a religion you must add the Thetan stuff. Thetans are beyond extraterrestrial because the Super Ones existed before the universe existed. They are deities or super beings in the way Zeus, Hercules and Thor are… not supreme beings but powerful “creators” of the “game” called life. The material universe started as a projection of their consciousness and now all us amnesia-ed Thetans involuntarily participate in upholding the projected universe with our perceptions and thoughts.
All in all this stuff seems pretty loony and beyond far-fetched to me, even with the above mentioned redeeming aspects. And I haven’t even touched on Xenu or Xemu! I can only think of it as L Ron Hubbard’s big joke on the world!
With the breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes Scientology goes under the microscope again and I think it looks none too pretty. However a deal will be cut with Katie to give her full custody in exchange for an end to any revelation of dirt on Tom and the church. This was the apparent strategy used by founder L Ron Hubbard during one of his divorces. I provide the link below for those interested in more about not only Katie and Tom but also about the potential crumbling of significant parts of the Scientology empire.
Afer leaving the townhouse I actually read my free copy of Dianetics by L Ron Hubbard. I found it fascinating. But also filled with flights of fantasy amid some good points concerning psychological health and dealing with your past. But they lost me for good at a step beyond “clear” heading towards the ET-like Operating Thetan… all I can say to that is…
Mr Phelps… er I mean Mr Cruise, this is one MISSION IMPOSSIBLE I will not be joining you on… be careful, your message is self-destructing in… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
Have you had a personal experience with Scientology? How about sharing it in the comments section! Thanks.