Sep 3, 2016

I took Scientology's personality test, and the results weren't good

SEPTEMBER 3, 2016

Emma Reynolds

news.com.au @emmareyn

 

I’M sat at a wooden desk answering multiple choice questions with a pencil, occasionally erasing my answers and colouring in a different circle.

No, this isn’t a exam, although the rows of shiny books and touchscreen information movies might suggest we were in a particularly well-funded private school.

“Is your life a constant struggle for survival?” the paper asks.

“Do you get occasional twitches of your muscles, when there is no logical reason for it?”

“Is your voice monotonous rather than varied in pitch?”

The 200 questions range from the personal to the bizarre, covering my plans for children, my response to authority and my views on hunting and imprisonment.

I’m filling out a 1950s personality test called the Oxford Capacity Analysis, the Church of Scientology’s number one recruitment tool, which has faced criticism from psychologists for its lack of scientific basis.

I was handed a flyer advertising the “FREE” test a few days earlier, and decided to visit the Sydney branch to find out what it thought about me.

The results, I’m afraid, weren’t good.

I score highly in the depressed, irresponsible and withdrawn categories. I am given 100 out of 100 for “unstable”. My levels of nervousness, uncertainty and unappreciativeness are also “unacceptable”, with only my active and aggressive qualities falling within a normal or “desirable” state.

A man in glasses called Pete* takes me through my results, asking me probing questions about whether I’d had a troubled childhood or difficult past relationships. His usual suggestion for someone like me, he said, would depend on which of my many issues I wanted to work on.

If it was my apparent depression, it would be a course or Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s book Dianetics, a set of theories concerning the metaphysical relationship between mind and body.

The courses are $55 and the books $25, or more with an accompanying DVD.

As someone who has never suffered from depression but knows many people who have, I wonder about the ethics of such recommendations. Another staff member, Tim*, explains that Scientologists don’t believe in “mind-altering drugs” such as antidepressants.

The controversial church, whose followers include Hollywood heavyweights John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Juliette Lewis and Elisabeth Moss, notoriously advocates a drug-free and a “silent birth”, in which mothers in labour avoid making noise, since it could have an adverse affect on the child later in life.

Tim embarks on a long explanation about “toxic residues” left in the body by drugs, alcohol and junk food and how the “Purification” course helps members to recover through talks, runs and various vitamins, particularly B3 or niacin, to “flush out the fatty tissues”.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines doesn’t recommend such supplements, saying they are best only taken by those with a diagnosed deficiency.

There are at least five members of staff dressed in black and white waistcoats and ties drifting around the empty room rather aimlessly, dusting shelves. But they insist there are usually about 80 visitors through the door between 9am and 6pm, with the building open until 10pm for those taking courses or visiting to the private chapel.

Here’s the strangest bit — the people I’m chatting to, who work here all day, are just volunteers. Pete has another job as a chef in the evenings. He says he doesn’t get tired because Scientology has given him the tools he needs to cope well with life. He says he hasn’t given much to the church in the way of donations.

Tim is a fulltime volunteer minister. He suggests I think of him as a “monk”. He lives in a dormitory with other members of all ages, and they are given basic living costs by the church, just not enough for “luxuries” such as cars.

There are perks, however. He’s been to 16 different countries to carry out humanitarian work, working with partnering aid groups at the Fukushima nuclear meltdown site and in poor communities in the Pacific and Africa.

Scientology sponsors a dizzying array of benign-sounding organisations, including the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and Foundation For A Drug-Free World, from which I am handed separate pamphlets on heroin, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, crack cocaine, inhalants, ice, prescription drugs, Ritalin abuse and painkillers.

I leave without accepting the invitation to sit down and watch a promotional video, as my eyes are starting to glaze over and the volunteers seem to be getting a little edgy about all my questions.

I’m told to delete my photos of the documents on the reception desk, which included a pledge for new volunteers, and a flyer advertising an event at the weekend is taken away from me. I am laden down with a heap of DVDs and leaflets instead.

It may be my scattered personality talking, but my visit has failed to persuade me of the value of Scientology, which seems unnecessarily shrouded in mystery and has long been the subject of troubling rumours. Its leader David Miscavige has been described by his father Ron as a man “hooked on power” who lives a lavish lifestylealongside close friend Cruise, while his followers “live like indentured servants”.

Disgruntled ex-members have called it a “cruel and vindictive organisation”, with Hollywood actress Leah Remini becoming the church’s most high-profile detractor, saying she had to do “a lot of healing” after leaving.

Scientology denies the criticisms and has blasted Remini as an “attention-seeker” exploiting the religion for publicity. It has accused Miscavige Sr of falsehoods and “seeking to make money on the name of his famous son”.

Despite my scepticism, I was anxious to know if my results were typical, or if I was an unusually troubled visitor. The consensus from others who have tried the test seems to be that results are generally poor, unless you already think exactly like a Scientologist.

Even those who score well are reportedly encouraged to sign up, and told they will get more out of Scientology because they are doing so well in life.

Matt*, a local office worker who recently visited the Sydney church to try the test, tells me he was also diagnosed as depressed, as well as lacking in aggression when it comes to his goals.

“They showed me a five-minute video on dianetics,” he said. “It was all about how you can be happy, and your sadness is a result of painful experiences from your past.”

He said the man who took him through his results kept “fishing” until Matt said he agreed with the diagnosis.

“I felt really uncomfortable,” he added. “I couldn’t look him in the eye and just wanted out as he kept probing my past.”

Matt was advised to purchase Hubbard’s Dianetics and attend a “how to get motivated course”, before being sent to the back to a woman who gave him a course pamphlet and told him to read the back of the book.

“It was $110 for the book with DVD and the course. She said, ‘How do you want to pay, cash or credit?’

“I said I needed to think about it, but she said, ‘Why? This isn’t a lot of money, just buy the book. If the money is a problem, this course will help you earn even more money.’

“I can see how people are pressured into buying at that point, it even crossed my mind just to get her to stop.”

The volunteers say all sorts of people come through the door — young and old, students and workers, locals and people from overseas. Every religion is welcome. One middle-aged Japanese volunteer minister tells me he’s also a Buddhist. They’ve had a lot of Hillsongers in recently.

It seems there’s no one it won’t help. So why do I still feel so wary?

News.com.au has requested comment from the media spokesperson.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

 

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/i-took-scientologys-personality-test-and-the-results-werent-good/news-story/ce148ef78a6b957dcc4467babac3f454

 

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