Pseudoscience and Psychedelics in the
Church of Scientology
"I'm going to invent a religion that's going to make me a fortune. I'm tired of writing for a penny a word."
- L. Ron Hubbard
"If you leave this room after seeing this film, and walk out and never mention Scientology again, you are perfectly free to do so. It would be stupid, but you can do it. You can also dive off a bridge, or blow your brains out; that is your choice.”
- From the Scientology recruitment film Orientation.
“Hulk want PARTY!!!”
- The Incredible Hulk, upon being denied entrance to the Scientology Halloween party.
“Hey! Do you want to watch a free movie?” a spry older woman
shouted at my back, pouncing onto the sidewalk at the corner of Virginia
and Main. For some time at The BEAST, we’d been toying with the
idea of infiltrating The Church of Scientology. Recognizing an opportunity,
I turned, cordially introduced myself as “Robert Stevens,”
and told the woman that a free movie would be “awesome.” Smiling
broadly, she said her name was Zonnie. I could feel the power of Scientology
oozing from her chapped face. I would come to like Zonnie, an ex-choreographer
from the west coast who curses abundantly when riled. After some small
talk, I was led through an ornate, vaulted lobby to an intimate twenty-seat
projection screen theater. Zonnie pushed a few buttons on a wall console
and said she’d be back in about half an hour, leaving me alone in
blackness. For a moment, panic washed over me as I imagined the room filling
with poison gas. Then the movie started.
Accompanied by a frenetic chorus of tortured, synthesized moans, asteroids whirled toward me in the darkness. Planet earth entered the shot, and optimistic music overtook the terrifying cries. What followed resembled nothing more than a poorly produced infomercial for the prolific ravings of an oddly persuasive schizophrenic, with an unnerving emphasis on the Scientology’s legal status as a bona fide, tax-exempt religion. Even after his death, L. Ron Hubbard’s followers parrot his run-of-the-mill delusions of grandeur and persecution at the hands of a grab-bag of the usual shadowy enemies of siege mentality head cases. In fact, all of Hubbard’s gibberings against psychology seem to be nothing more than an elaborate justification for denying his own painfully obvious neuroses.
Hosted by an unnamed man in a cobalt suit and a late
‘70s haircut (I was amazed to learn the film was made in 1994),
Orientation sets out to convince the viewer that L. Ron Hubbard
was a genius, the preeminent author of the twentieth century, and a near-messiah
sent to save humanity by battling government “mind-control programs”
and psychiatric conspiracies. And of course, through the purchase of his
writings, one can obtain a cosmic wisdom on par with Kirstie Ally or even
John Travolta. And above all: you’re a loser if you don’t