My friend and I were approached in Times Square by a woman offering a free 15 minute movie. That should have been our first clue that something was up. Our second clue should have been the Dianetics fliers she was peddling. Now I shouldn’t plead ignorance about the implications here. I knew full well that Dianetics flyers and images of erupting volcanoes can only lead to scientologists and couch-jumping, but for some reason I just didn’t seem to care.
I was in such a good mood from all the neon and such, and I really didn’t know very much about the elusive cult, and so I figured that it could be a fantastic opportunity to learn a thing or two. Besides, the lady escorting us had spent a couple of years studying Paua in Wellington, so I figured she couldn’t be all bad.
We were escorted away from Times Square through a couple of parking lots, and down a couple of darkened alleyways until we finally arrived: the anything-but-humble Church of Scientology. We were escorted into a room with a projector (we were the only two in the room), and told that we would watch a brief 15 minute video, followed by a short survey to see what we thought.
I’ve never been one to spoil the ending of a movie for anybody (no matter how poorly acted), but basically the premise suggests that all of our negative experiences, health issues, bad attitudes or negative feelings are caused by past experiences recorded by the ‘reactive mind’ during periods of trauma, intoxication, or unconsciousness. In other words – the reason I wear glasses is most likely due to some instance of unconsciousness in my childhood (e.g. anesthesia for having my tonsils removed), and some association with an event that happened during that (e.g. the doctor saying “I’m having trouble seeing”). These negative experiences are called ‘engrams’, which dominate and ruin your life, causing you to abuse your partner and yourself, as well as commit various crimes.
Once the film had finished, Rohan and I just sat there, not entirely sure what to do. But we dutifully completed the survey forms (under false names), and waited for someone to tell us what to do next. The back of the survey had a flier for a free two hour seminar, in which you could learn more about engrams, for only $100. Our hostess soon returned with a copy of L Ron Hubbard’s ‘Dianetics’ book – a gigantic tome outlining the problem with engrams, their impact on our lives and what we can do about them.
‘Read these books’
‘No, take them away and read them. Cover to cover. It’ll blow your mind’
(Rohan- flicking through the book): ‘How much research has been published on this?’
‘It’s all in the book’
‘Read the book. It’ll blow your mind’.
(Me): ‘what’s with the volcano?’
She picked up the books, our survey forms, and we took this as our cue.
As we left, we saw a woman and her family sitting beside us who had clearly also just been ambushed, only she was writing several cheques to the ‘Church’ for hundreds of dollars. I guess she bought the books.