I knew Jenny from the dorm two years earlier. Jenny was a cellist and a student at the music school at the University of Michigan. She was a gregarious and popular student, and in the dorm all the other residents would gather in her room at night for stories and laughter.
Two years later, Jenny was still at the music school. I was surprised when she asked me to accompany her on a Lalo Cello Concerto for an upcoming recital, but I readily agreed. We had a couple of practice sessions and then did the recital.
Jenny said she wanted to take me out to dinner as a way of thanking me for accompanying her. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Ann Arbor that was frequented by the students.
Jenny told me that she had just come from a trip to California to visit her brother and she said she had something she wanted to talk to me about. She said that when she was in California she had found out about something called Scientology, which was a self-help psychology that could help people with emotional problems. (Jenny knew something about my problems.) I was vaguely interested.
Throughout our meal, Jenny kept repeating over and over, "Margery, you really should find out about Scientology." I did not know at the time that she was consciously using a "repeater technique" on me that she had been taught in Scientology. The effect of the technique was to induce a light trance state.
It worked on me. After she had repeated herself about twenty times, I experienced a peculiar sensation. I felt the room shift around me. It was as if someone had taken the room and just shifted it about thirty degrees. It was a strange sensation and it got my attention. I knew it had something to do with what Jenny was trying to tell me.
"Maybe you should tell me about Scientology," I told her. That was my undoing.
At that time I had a small apartment in Ann Arbor.
"Let's go to your place," Jenny suggested. "Then I can tell you all about it." So she paid our check and we left the restaurant.
Back at my apartment, Jenny began to go into a detailed explanation of Scientology. She told me about a group of young people who lived on ships in the Mediterranean with the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. They were known as the Sea Organization. They sailed from port to port spreading the gospel of Scientology.
Jenny also said that when you signed up for the "Sea Org," you signed a billion year contract. That was how long it was going to take to "clear" up this planet and all the other inhabited planets of their problems.
Scientology, Jenny explained, was a new science that contained the cure for all psychosomatic illnesses and emotional and physical problems. It was a thousand years ahead of psychiatry, she explained. In fact, psychiatry was the main enemy of Scientology, with its backward practices of shock treatments and lobotomies.
She didn't have to convince me of that. I had seen it for myself. Images of Matthew came back to my mind, and the two women I had seen in occupational therapy after their lobotomies.
The more Jenny talked, the more interested I became.
The history of the earth, she explained, was actually millions of years old. There had been ancient civilizations that had come and gone. Scientologists had come to earth about thirty thousand years ago in space ships to try to help this planet, but they had failed. They were now back to complete the job.
Jenny also told me about the Scientology theory of "implanting." "There is no heaven or hell," she told me. After you die, your soul separates from your body and it is programmed to return to an "implant station" out in space to be programmed for its next lifetime on earth. All memories of one's previous life are electronically removed from one's mind.
These implant stations had been set up millions of years ago by evil forces. The nearest one was on the planet Venus. It was only through Scientology counseling techniques, called "auditing," that one could escape the deadly implanting cycle.
We talked until three in the morning. I told Jenny about my recent experiences in the mental hospitals, and about my terrifying panic attacks which were still a problem for me from time to time.
Could Scientology really help me get rid of the panic attacks? "Sure," Jenny said. "They have an 100% effective psychology of the mind. It's guaranteed. If it doesn't work you get your money back. But that has never happened."
I was hooked. I would try anything that promised to restore my sanity.
"How can I get this auditing?" I asked her.
"Simple," she said. "We'll start tomorrow. I'll audit you. And it won't cost you anything."
So she left. That night I had fitful dreams all about UFOs and strange people who had come to earth to save the planet. Could it be possible that I was one of them?
The next day, Jenny showed up at my apartment with a small brown box under her arm and a bag of supplies. I had a small table and we used that for the auditing.
She set up the box on the table and explained that this was an E-meter, or electrogalvanometer, that was used in all auditing.
She showed me the dial on the meter. Across the dial a needle was floating lazily back and forth. Then Jenny attached two small V-8 cans to electrical leads that hooked up to the meter. She told me to sit down and hold the cans in my hands. Then she calibrated the meter and took out some paper and a pencil.
"The meter sees just beyond your conscious thoughts," she explained. "When it comes across an area of `charge' in your mind, it reacts and I can see it on the meter. Then I will ask you questions and you just answer whatever comes into your mind."
She began by asking me some routine questions. My name, how was I feeling, had I eaten that day, did I have anything alcoholic to drink within the last twenty four hours, etc.
Then we were ready to begin.
Jenny began asking me about the panic attacks. She asked me questions about my past, especially questions about my life as a child and about my parents. She would frequently ask me the question, "Is there an earlier incident in which you experienced a panic attack?"
I told her everything I could think of. We went on in this way for a couple of hours, but nothing dramatic happened. I was actually disappointed when Jenny ended the "session." I had expected something more dramatic.
"It's just the beginning," Jenny explained. "It may take many hours of auditing to find out the actual source of your panic attacks."
Jenny had been taking notes during our session together. She now explained to me that she had to turn her notes in to a person known as a "case supervisor," who would review the notes and give Jenny instructions for the next session.
We walked together to a house in Ann Arbor which was the local headquarters for Scientology. I was led into a small room to see the "Examiner." It was explained that after each session I would see the Examiner and he would check out my reading on the E-meter, and I would be free to make any comments I wanted to make on the session we had just had.
The Examiner asked me to "pick up the cans," and I sat quietly while he watched the face of his meter.
"I would like to indicate to you that your needle is floating," he said mysteriously. Then, "You may go now."
I walked out of the tiny room, and there were several people in the room, sitting around waiting for sessions.
"Margery just had her first auditing session," Jenny announced. Everyone cheered from where they were sitting. I blushed at the attention, but I was pleased.
That night, Jenny asked me to go to a cello concert with her at the University. I sat through the concert, vaguely entertained, but my mind was really on the events of the day and the new experiences I had had.
After the concert, I went into the restroom. While I was washing my hands, I looked into the mirror. Then, suddenly, I felt myself separate from my body and I experienced a blissful floating sensation.
"Jenny was right," I thought. "I really am not my body. I am a spirit. There is something to this Scientology after all."
My ecstasy continued all the way home. I told Jenny about it. For some reason she seemed excited. "I think you have just had a `clear cognition'," she told me. "That is a really good sign."
Back at her apartment, she made a phone call to California, to a man named Mario who she said was her contact at the California Scientology headquarters. Mario was a concert pianist.
When she hung up the phone, she came in to where I was sitting with a curious look on her face.
"I can no longer audit you," she said. "You need to be audited by someone with higher qualifications than I have. You will have to go to California to continue your auditing where they can properly take care of you."
I was dumbstruck. But I didn't have to think about it for long. If it meant getting cured of my anxiety attacks, I was willing to go to the end of the earth.
"I'll go," I told her. "Just as soon as I can get packed."
The next day, I called my mother in Lansing and told her I was going to California. She drove over and we packed up my few belongings and she took them back to Lansing to store for me.
She tried to ask me some questions about where I was going, and I excitedly told her about Scientology.
"I've finally found a cure," I told her. "They can cure my anxiety attacks. It's 100% guaranteed. It's a thousand years ahead of psychiatry." I was already quoting the party line.
I remember little of the flight to California. I do remember that when we landed, I looked out the window to a pea soup below us into which we were descending. The famous Los Angeles smog.
In descending into that smoggy city, I was descending into another adventure, my relentless quest for the sanity and peace of mind that had eluded me for so many months. I was grasping at straws, but for now it was all I had.