On day twelve, of my year long voyage to destination Three Hundred and Sixty-five Things I’ve Never Tried Before, I decided to return to my side mission of getting to the bottom of this whole religion thing. I’ve never really understood much about religion because Religious Education at school was the top subject for staring out the window and daydreaming.
Neil: Hey Gansh, Allah, Buddha and the rest of you – that includes you Jesus, don’t think you’re special Jesus – I’ve got some good news for you all. I’ve got to the bottom of this whole religion thing. Now let’s all go for a nice cup of tea.
Gods: You’re right Neil it’s time we stopped this bloomin’ squabbling. Thanks for putting in the effort to get to the bottom of this once and for all, that’s very considerate of you.
I’m possibly getting a bit carried away. If I can’t put an end to all religious wars, which I’m doubting I can, the bare minimum is to have a chat with some preachers of as many religions as possible; something I’ve never done.
I decided to start with Scientology. Firstly, because I know very little about it and find it somewhat intriguing. Secondly, and probably the main reason, because someone once told me Scientologists believe in aliens – that’s got to be fun surely?
I’ve walked past London’s Dianetics and Scientology Life Empowerment Centre on Tottenham Court Road many times in the past and it’s always caught my eye, mainly because of its location. The Scientology Centre is between a Pret A Manger, the overpriced sandwich shop for the health conscious, and the favourite of the nation’s youth Kentucky Fried Chicken. I always thought this a strange place to find an Empowerment Centre, but I guess to some people fried chicken may also be an empowering experience.
I entered the Scientology building or possible secret alien Earth base with slight trepidation. I was expecting to be pounced on by men in white gowns and dragged off to be sacrificed in candlelit room like a goat to the slaughter, but it wasn’t quite like that. An Englishman possibly of Indian origin and perhaps in his late twenties was sat behind a reception desk. “Hello, how can I help you?”. I suddenly got the fear that you weren’t just allowed to walk-in without being a member of the church or knowing the special handshake. “Hello, I want to learn a little bit more about Scientology” I said in reply. I was expecting him to jump up and down on the spot exclaiming to the heavens (or wherever the aliens hangout) “YES!! We’ve bagged another one!”, but instead he calmly lead me to a bank of video screens to watch an introduction video.
As I sat, alone, in Dianetics and Scientology Life Empowerment Centre watching a very American style information film I soon switched off; as I do with most things. The film was explaining the theory of Dianetics which, as far as I could make out, was based around an idea that all our past major and minor traumas are recorded in our memory banks and affect how we approach life and it shapes who we are. The film went on a bit so I started glancing around the room whilst at same time ensuring the man, who was now sat back at the reception desk, didn’t notice I wasn’t giving the film my full attention in case he got angry and dragged me off to the secret slaughtering room which I was convinced was out back somewhere.
Looking around the room I noticed everything was very clean and ordered, almost too clean and ordered. There was about five very high-tech information video units positioned around the room with crescent shaped seats in front of them. Neatly stacked on shelves, again almost too neatly, were copies of just one book. It was quite a large book. On the front of it was an image of an erupting volcano, and it was called Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard (the now deceased founder of the religion). On one expensive looking wooden wall was a 3D version of their logo. A coat of arms that wouldn’t look out of place on the walls of Hogwarts. I noticed everything looked very expensive, and wondered how they had made so much money with only one book for sale. It’s when I saw a sign to the Testing Room I started to panic and decided to leave.
I headed for the exit, abandoning the film that was still playing. I was nervous and mentally prepared myself for the reception man to rip the skin off his face revealing a hideous hidden alien head. I’d planned to grab one of the many Dianetics books and slam it around his gooey green alien skull then burst out the door back onto the busy Tottenham Court Road. To my surprise he didn’t rip his face off but just thanked me for coming. Just before I left he gave me a personality test to fill in at home with the instructions to post it back so a one-to-one personality consultation could be arranged.
The personality test is still sat on the cupboard in my bedroom. I answered all two hundred questions (the man didn’t tell me there were two hundred questions), but as I was about to put my address and phone number on the back I got the fear once again. What if the aliens come knocking on my door, and what will they do with all the information about my personality?
I’m still undecided if I want to send back the questionnaire and continue researching further into scientology, which I think actually has nothing to do with aliens, but for now I can happily say I’ve been to the Scientology Empowerment Centre and have tried something new.