It was a sunny, crisp day in late October as I slowly walked home to my little apartment on East Ann Street. The sky was a bright and endless blue, and little gusts of breeze stirred the leaves on the sidewalk into small whirlwinds. Fall was my favorite season. I liked the nippy bite of the air that made you want to walk faster and brought the blood to your skin and hinted of the frostier winter air to come.
As I entered the apartment, I looked around in satisfaction. I had only been in this apartment two weeks. The apartment had been decorated on my meager student budget, but I hadn't done badly at all, I thought, as I looked around me. With two small cans of paint I had transformed a few old boards into a bookshelf, using some old bricks I had found in the back yard. And an Indian print bedspread from the flea market covered the old worn sofa. Another Indian print fabric served as a tablecloth for the small table against the wall.
Anything Indian was "in" these days with the most "hip" students, the ones I worked with at the coffee house, like my friend Bob who painstakingly taught me to do horoscopes. I had spent my whole paycheck last month buying all the books and tables I needed to cast my charts. And like Tom, a philosophy major who had introduced me to books by Edgar Cayce on reincarnation and past lives.
And my friend Julie, whose brash, cynical personality contrasted sharply with my own shyness. Julie seemed to know everything about the world. Her parents were wealthy, and Julie had always had the best of everything: the best clothes, school in Europe, the most expensive summer camps, even a car. Being accepted by Julie meant you were "in."
I knew Julie because I had been assigned as her accompanist at the beginning of the semester. We were both in music school; she played the cello and I accompanied her on the piano. We had been busy preparing for the recital earlier today in which she played the Lalo Cello Concerto.
Everything had gone fine. Afterwards, as she packed up her cello, she asked me to meet her for dinner at the Chinese restaurant on State Street. "Sure," I agreed, honored by the attention of someone as popular as Julie.
Then, mysteriously, she added, "I have something important to tell you."
"Like what?" I asked curiously, but at that moment her teacher interrupted, wanting to talk to her about her performance.
"Later," she said with a small wave, dismissing me.
Now, relaxing on my sofa, I looked at my watch. Plenty of time to make it to the restaurant. I quickly changed into a wool skirt with a turtleneck sweater and an Indian top to wear over it. And of course, my appleseed necklace that I wore everywhere.
When I reached the restaurant, Julie was waiting. We found a small table against the wall.
"So what's the big secret?" I teased her, after we had ordered.
"Well," she said, "I want to tell you about something really important. This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me. I have just made the most incredible discovery."
"Well, what is it?" I asked her.
"You remember the week I went to California to visit my brother? About a month ago? When I didn't get back on time for Monday classes?"
"Yeah," I replied, "and you sure have been acting different since you got back. You're never around the dorm any more. Everyone's been asking what happened to you."
"You won't believe this when I tell you about it. It's just too unbelievable."
"Well, tell me." I was starting to feel impatient.
"Margery, you just have to find out about Scientology," she said intensely. "It's the most important discovery of the century."
"You're kidding," I looked at her incredulously. "That's the weird lecture we went to. Where they had that little machine they hooked you up to. They asked if anyone wanted to try it. We laughed all the way home," I said remembering the night several weeks before when a group of us had gone to a free lecture on campus about Scientology.
We heard a lecture, something about the mind, and then the lecturer gave us a demonstration of a "meter" that was supposed to be able to read your mind. I didn't remember much of what was actually said at the lecture. I just remember how we all laughed as we walked home, mimicking the lecturer with his little brown box.
"Margery, listen," Julie insisted. "This is serious. This is too important to joke about."
"But you went to the lecture. It was silly. Being able to see into your mind with that little machine."
"I know," Julie said softly. "I thought it was silly too. But I went back the next day because they said they had a free personality test, and I thought it would be interesting to take it. They took me to a house they all live in, and I saw a movie about Scientology, and it explained about how this is a brand new science of the mind, and how they could handle problems that no one else ever could before. Margery, I really think you should find out about this," she looked at me seriously.
"Like what kind of problems?" I asked a little uneasily.
"Look, this is a brand new science. They have a whole new theory about the mind. This is a thousand years more advanced than psychiatry. They really understand the mind like no one has ever done before. They can get rid of all sorts of things. Like headaches. And asthma, or colds. Anything. Even cancer. And it's 100% guaranteed. If it doesn't work, then you get your money back."
"I wonder if it could help me with my anxiety attacks?" I wondered out loud. I didn't know how much Julie knew about my problems.
"Sure. This is a science of the mind. If you really understand how the mind works, then you can cure anything that is psychosomatic, right? The only reason that psychiatry can't cure you is that they don't know how the mind works. If they did, then they could cure you. But they don't. And Scientology does."
I was quiet. No one at the dorm and none of my friends at the restaurant knew the extent of my problems. Last year, my boyfriend had died in a freak car accident. I had been in too much shock to really cry at the time. I just couldn't believe that he was gone.
But shortly after his accident, I had started to have anxiety attacks in the middle of the night. I would wake up covered with sweat, and terrified. I could never remember dreaming anything just before I woke up. But I would wake up in a panic, sometimes frozen and unable to move. This had been happening at least once a week. I was scared that I was going crazy. In between these attacks, I would feel normal, although I felt a general uneasiness about something I couldn't identify.
I had woken up screaming in the dorm one night, and Julie was one of the girls who had appeared at my door, wanting to know what had happened. I was embarrassed, and just told them I had a bad dream.
But the second time it happened, the dorm mother insisted that I go see the school counselor. I had to go once a week to see this lady, who I thought was kind of strange. She would just sit there and not say anything. I didn't like going to see her but I didn't want the embarrassment of any more screaming episodes either.
And this year, other things had started to happen. Sometimes I would be walking to class, or to the music school to practice, and suddenly I would feel vaguely terrified, like something terrible was going to happen. This feeling would usually last for a couple of hours, then it would go away. But I felt uneasy. Something was not right. I was afraid of something, and I didn't know what it was.
"Do you really think that Scientology could help me?" I looked at Julie cautiously.
"I think that if it is a problem in your mind, then Scientology can take care of it," she answered. "Anyway, what have you got to lose? There's no risk. If it doesn't work, then you can go back to your counselor. But yes, I think it can really help you."
"So how do you do it?" I asked. "I mean if I just wanted to try a little of it?"
"Well, first I would have to take you over to the center to get permission to audit you," she started to answer.
"Oh, to `audit' you. That's their word for what they do. It's like counseling but it's called auditing. Audit. Because it has to do with listening."
"Oh. OK, I guess. So how does it work?"
"Well, once I get permission to audit you, then we'll just go to your apartment and I will audit you. When I was in California I took a course, and I am now an auditor," she said importantly. "I learned more in that course than I have in two whole years of college."
"Do I have to be hooked up to that machine?"
"Oh, yeah. That's the E-meter."
"E-meter? What's that?" I asked.
"The E-meter. It's short for electro-psychometer. You hold onto the cans that are attached to it, and your thoughts register on the dial of the meter. I'll show you exactly how it works tomorrow. You'll see. It really works." We finished eating our dinner, paid the check, and Julie walked me home. She came in, and we sat in the living room until 3:00 AM talking about Scientology.
Julie told me that Scientology had been founded by an engineer named L. Ron Hubbard, that he had unravelled the secrets of the mind, that he was a wonderful person who just wanted to help mankind.
She said that the central part of the organization of Scientology was called the "Sea Org," short for "Sea Organization," and that this was a group of mostly young people who lived on a fleet of ships in the Mediterranean with Hubbard, helping him to get Scientology centers started all over the world. The motto of the Sea Org is "We Come Back." This, Julie explained, is because Hubbard and the Sea Org had come to earth thousands of years ago to "salvage the planet," and at that time they had failed to complete their mission. So now they were back to finish what they had started, to help save this planet from disaster.
Julie explained that through auditing, everyone on earth could be "cleared" of their "reactive" minds, the destructive part of the mind that was responsible for all the suffering on earth: for sickness, insanity, war, for all of our negative experiences.
If people could get rid of their reactive minds, Julie said, then there would never be anymore sickness. No one would ever get depressed again. And everyone would get along. There would be no more fighting. No more wars. And it was Scientology that had made this impossible dream possible for the first time in history.
"If you really want to help other people," Julie looked at me carefully, "then you need to find out more about Scientology. As an auditor you will really be able to help people with their problems. You will see miracles right before your eyes. I know, because I have seen them."
"What kind of miracles?" I wanted to know.
"Well, things like fevers going away, colds going away, people being able to take off their glasses and throw them away. I've heard stories in California that some people with withered limbs actually had them grow back right in the auditing session."
"There is nothing on this planet as advanced as Scientology," she continued. "This is the beginning of something really incredible."
Julie talked on about the people she had met in Los Angeles, about how powerful they were. Some of them, she said, even had supernatural abilities to do different things. Some of them, the ones who were "Clear," could travel outside their bodies at will, and could read other people's thoughts and move objects around with their thoughts. And there were levels above Clear, called the "OT levels," where even more incredible things were possible.
"OT levels? What are they?"
"The OT levels are the levels above Clear." She explained that "OT" stood for the words, "operating thetan," "thetan" being the Scientology equivalent of the soul.
"There are eight levels above Clear, and on these levels you learn the secrets of this universe. You learn the history of this universe for millions of years in the past, and you also learn all about your own past, your hundreds of lives before this one. You learn to remember all of them."
Talking about past lives didn't bother me, because I had been reading Edgar Cayce books, so I was familiar with the idea of reincarnation. I could accept the idea of past lives because many of my friends believed in them. Many of the people who worked at the coffee house were into Cayce and past lives, and it seemed to make sense to me. Maybe that was why I had so much talent at the piano, I suggested to Julie. Maybe I did it in a past life.
She agreed, "That's why playing the piano is so easy for you. What you're really doing is just remembering it from some other life."
"Maybe I knew Beethoven," I laughed.
"Who knows," she answered. "Maybe you were Beethoven."
Julie said that we all had hundreds of past lives, going all the way back to the old space civilizations of the past history that wasn't even recorded on this planet, but that you could remember through auditing. "I will tell you a secret," she said. "And this is something I'm not even supposed to tell you at this level. But this planet is really a prison planet. Everyone here has been sent here from another planet a long time in the past. Everyone here is either a criminal or a rebel or revolutionary from somewhere else. That's why this planet is so screwed up."
"But if all this stuff happened to us, why can't we remember it?" I asked.
"Because of the implants," she answered. "See, when people were sentenced to come to earth, it was like being sent into eternal oblivion. It was the worst sentence you could get. Because of implants. A long time ago, the implant stations were set up to keep us captive on earth, to keep us from ever leaving.
"These implant stations are white buildings out in space. When you finish a life here on earth, you leave your body, but you are subconsciously programmed to return to the implant station. In the implant station your memory of the life you just lived is electronically erased with machines which emit high powered electronic beams, then you are programmed to go back to earth for another life. But you will always keep going back to the implant station, life after life. We have been doing this for millions of years."
"So what's different about now?"
"Now there is Scientology. Hubbard is the first person in all these millions of years to have figured it all out. In Scientology for the first time, you can get rid of your return commands so you don't ever have to go back to one of the implant stations. Then you will be free to go wherever you choose."
"Where would you go?" I was beginning to get dizzy with all this strange information.
"Well, to another planet, or to another galaxy. There's hundreds and thousands of other worlds out there. There's no limit to what you can do. There's so much to see. It's exciting. And once you learn to `exteriorize,' then you can go wherever you want."
"What's `exteriorize?'" I had to ask.
"That's when you can leave your body whenever you want to and you can travel anywhere in the universe. You just think of someplace and you are there, instantly. And you can see and hear everything you can do in your body, only better."
I was getting tired, so Julie got up and walked toward the door. "I'll see you tommorow about 1:00," she promised, "for your first auditing session. See you then."
"Tomorrow," I agreed. "Thanks for the dinner."
It was hard to settle down and sleep. I had endless dreams that night about space ships and strange sceneries, bizarre dreams about white buildings up in space with electron guns just waiting to pin me to the wall....
This was my introduction to Scientology. Why did I believe such bizarre stories? Why was I so gullible? Why did no small voice inside me warn about possible danger?
There is no simple answer to this question. Part of the reason had to do with my chaotic and dysfunctional home. I grew up in a family where there was chronic discord. Sometimes it seemed as if my parents were too busy battling each other to notice me. I grew up feeling abandoned and alone. I learned to take care of myself, then later to help take care of my two brothers and baby sister. But there was never a solid foundation to my world. Part of the answer has to do with the fact that I didn't have a strong religious background. I did go occasionally to Sunday school, but that was usually a fairly unexciting experience which I discontinued as soon as I was "on my own."
Part of the reason is that I was an adolescent, and like most adolescents I felt like I knew everything there was to know about life, while actually knowing very little. I was naive. I expected adults to be wise and to know the answers. And I expected that I could trust them. So when Julie told me that this man had discovered some new science, I did not question what she said. I had been conditioned for seventeen years by my family and by the educational system not to question adults. If they said they knew the answers, then they did.
Part of the reason is that I was vulnerable at this time. I was suffering from a form of mental illness which had been terrifying for me, the symptoms strange and frightening. The possibility of finding an answer to this and an end to the suffering was the real bait which caused me to "bite." Once Julie had promised me that Scientology could give me relief, I was hooked. And part of the answer has to do with the fact that I was never warned. The word "cult" was not in my vocabulary. No one had ever told me to beware of strange people with strange stories, free meals, or impossible promises. I walked into the trap full of trust and hope, never suspecting that a noose was slowly being drawn tightly around my mind, trapping me unknowingly and unquestioningly in one of the most dangerous cults ever to exist.