Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

My Tour of the Church of Scientology in Dupont Circle

I'm penciling the words "Kyle Gaffney" as my first and last names and my buddy is nervously scrawling the bogus "Frank Stafford" onto the two-page questionnaire given to us by the glazed-eyed, grinning receptionist at the only Scientology church in the Washington DC tri-state area.

I'd passed it a hundred times on foot and never stepped into their building on 19th Street. But today my friend and I have been left with nothing to do. Hurricane Ernesto has given us a 48-knot middle finger for today's long-planned sailing trip so we're wandering around looking for somewhere to eat when we pass the "Open for Tours!" sign.

"We have to fucking go in that place. WE HAVE TO GO", my friend urges.

Inside the Church of Scientology in Dupont Circle, you can't see much of the walls. They're mostly covered with framed pictures, quotes, books or news clippings by the their late founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

When talking about Mr. Hubbard, our tour guide has that too-enthusiastic chipperness that you only find in the very coked-up or the very religious. But she assures us that Ron isn't their cult leader. Oh Nooo...

"And, and, here's a newspaper article about the time he roped a bear in Alaska. He, like, roped a kodiak bear and fought it onto a boat. Can you imagine roping a bear?? CAN YOU?? I can't ...", she chatters on, as we listen in quiet awe.

We're led through elaborate rooms lined with dark wood and fireplaces until we come to a large well-lit office, closed off from the rest of the church by a thick glass door that slides into the wall. As we enter, a smell of eerie cleanliness surrounds us and I feel---for a moment---like I'm in the Oval Office.

Apparently, it's in an exact replica of L. Ron Hubbard's original study. It's the kind of office I'd expect uber rich people to have: leather bound books, a massive wooden globe, artifacts from Africa, expensive-looking items neatly laid on his dust-free desk, a full set of Joseph Conrad books shrink-wrapped in plastic ... wait, shrink-wrapped books?? Yes, that's how pristine this room was; hundreds of classic novels were wrapped in corrosion-proof plastic.

Our curiosity led us to ask about a strange 70s-looking electronic contraption in the corner.

"What's that?", we asked.

"That's the most important device invented by humans", she says confidently. We're dying to find out what the hell this thing does. (image -->)

Next I know, we're in the basement, each of "Frank's" hands are clasped around cylindrical metal nodes, and our excited guide-lady is asking him new-age psycho-babble questions about energy flows and auras. And apparently, The Most Important Device Invented by Humans can measure whatever he's thinking each time she asks something personal.

But we discovered that the meter on the contraption was sensitive to every reflex, no matter how slight: if we squeezed the metal nodes hard, the meter increased, and our guide would inform us that we were "stressed". Conversely, if we consciously relaxed our hands, the meter would show less "stress".

100% pseudoscience.

At some point, we became overloaded by psycho-babble and got an itching feeling to leave. IMMEDIATELY.

We were repeatedly urged to visit the Scientology museum down the block where we could see every trinket associated with L. Ron Hubbard's life (including his Boy Scout medals - no joke), but we thanked our guide and were on our way.

I know very little about this religion, but it seems full of the same trappings that all religions have; it's only interesting to an atheist like me for kitsch value. But if you're passing by 1812 19th Street in your nation's capital on a rainy day, it's worth the 45 minute tour ... at least until the smell of cleaning solvent and zealous cult worship become overbearing.
Comments:
I like how the ticket says 'UNLOCK YOUR MIND, and discover yourself'...then again at the bottom, it talks about discovering your unlocked mind or something.

Do you think they want you to unlock your mind and discover yourself? Maybe they should say 'Lose Your Mind by Unlocking your Beliefs' or something clever like that.
 
too weird. i was just perusing www.whatisscientology.org last night to curb my curiosity as well. I read through MANY pages and I STILL dont know what scientology is. Something about improving your life by means that you see fit (paraphrased of course)

It seem sto vague for me.
 
i hear that they give visitors free wine and snacks...is it true?
 
We received no wine or snacks---only Kool Aid ...



wait a second ...
 
lol..they just accosted me on the streets of hollywood today! lol.. glad it was YOU and not me that went in to "taste the kool aid"!!
btw..good luck on your new gig!!!!
 
Ah, man, sorry to hear about your sailing trip. I wonder how many walk-ins the church got this weekend because of the weather?

You shoulda gone through with it as far as you could until they asked for money ...
 
Jeff,

They did ask for money. The Dianetics book is $8, and they try and push it on you. At that point, we split.
 
You went in there? I'm terrified of that place!!!!
 
He forgot to mention the shouting and cheering coming from some other place in the basement.

There were some VERY excited people somewhere in that building.
 
I'll have you know that you've violated several church trademarks by putting those images up on your website (have you ever heard of a "church" having trade secrets?).

The Scientology lawyers are going to be coming after you.
 
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