Recently, Scientologists set up tables near the Student Services building in an attempt to corral passersby into free stress tests. Being one to rarely pass up anything free, I decided to investigate. The investigation led me to question some of Scientology’s practices.
A few Scientologists known as auditors are usually on hand to administer the tests using an “e-meter,” a device named by the organization’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
The e-meter consists of two metal cans attached with wires to a device that looks similar to a multimeter, which is used to measure voltage, current and resistance.
“The e-meter is used to demonstrate that the mind has energy so you can spot mental mass shift and change in thought. It can be used to spot areas of upset,” said Aaron Doerges, an eager Scientologist who described the use of the device.
This is quite a bold claim for such a bland and familiar-looking device. For the sake of argument, however, I assumed there was something surreptitious and magical about the black box.
Unfortunately, a quick call to a Scientology center confirmed that e-meters are merely devices used to measure electrical resistance, stamped with names such as “Mark Super VII Quantum E-meter.” These devices normally sell for less than $300 at electronics supply stores — Scientology institutes sell them for around $4,000.
In addition to stress tests, e-meters are used as part of the Scientology “tech,” the practices developed by Hubbard for the church.
The “tech” was first developed in 1950 when Hubbard published “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” in Astounding Science Fiction magazine. Dianetics is now pervasive within the church and used to describe the set of practices and beliefs developed by Hubbard before and during the establishment of Scientology.
According to the church, the purpose of Dianetics is to rid the mind of negative mental images known as engrams. Engrams are thought by Scientologists to cause pain and threaten survival, and elimination of these images is the primary reason members undergo costly auditing sessions.
There are up to 28 processing steps that require a mix of intense training, auditing and a surrender of reason before a Scientologist can reach Operating Thetan Level VIII, the highest level attainable.
What this actually means remains unclear. What is clear, however, is that the total discounted rate for Scientologists to achieve this perceived goal is $277,000, the ASHO Official Scientology Price List reports. For this and other reasons, such as paying members 10 percent commissions for new recruits, Scientology has been denied non profit status in other countries.
I take no issue with organizations peddling snake oil as long as they don’t take themselves seriously and have a visible disclaimer that reads, “For entertainment purposes only.” Unfortunately, the problems that persist within Scientology go even further than selling its business as a religion.
Some may chide me for being intolerant. I consider these critics reassuring. Tolerance of misdirection and misinformation is no virtue.
Several ex-Scientologists have spoken out against the organization for its unethical practices. Jenna Hill, the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige, was adversely affected by Scientology from birth. Her parents officially left the church in 2000, but at age 16 she was entrenched with the beliefs and practices of the church and stayed until 2005.
“If you flunked your uniform inspection, sometimes if you were late … you would be dumped with a five-gallon bucket of ice water,” she told the New York Post. She also said the church would only allow her to see her parents once a year at most, and she was not able to answer any phone calls.
Scientology’s dark record extends beyond personal accounts. The church’s most well-known scheme occurred during the mid 70s and was known as Operation Snow White. The plan involved illegally infiltrating and attempting to purge documents from more than 136 government agencies. The FBI led an investigation that exposed the plan after a raid on the church’s properties. Ten high-ranking Scientologists, along with the founder’s wife Mary Hubbard, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five years in prison, according to the Phoenix New Times.
Scientology’s fair game policy states that if one is declared an enemy they may “… be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed,” according to xenu.net/fairgame-e.html.
What starts as a seemingly innocuous stress test may end with harmful consequences. Rejecting science and empiricism outright is nearly forgivable. The violation of basic ethical principles, however, is not. Acceptance and admission of destructive philosophies, practices and policies in our lives under the pretense of tolerance is reprehensible at best.
Daniel Dunn is a junior majoring in philosophy.