Scientology's Way: Linking Soul and Science
THEY now number 7000 here and congregate in the Boston church, one of 53 Scientology churches in North America and one of 141 world-wide.
Jerry Velona grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey and had not heard of dianetics or scientology before coming to Boston to study at the Berkeley School of Music. He joined a band with a few scientologists, became interested in dianetics, a keystone of the faith, and joined the church because he believed it.
"A group of people with a useful technology that could change things for the better," he says. Today he is the church's Minister of Public Affairs and the drummer for "Inferno," a rock band.
"Jerry Velona, there are two to see you," the receptionist said, dressed in a polyester suit. He was sitting behind a bulbous steel microphone, the type that usually summons hospital doctors. The microphone wired his voice throughout the three-story brownstone on Beacon St., the Boston Church of Scientology. The building is not far from the Boston Common, where scientologists often greet passersby with free personality tests, designed to measure "deviation from and progress toward optimum survival" and allow one to discover the "exact barriers to a greater self-confidence."
Velona opened the hollow, plywood door labelled 'Chapel' and sat down in the dimly-lit room near the Scientology cross. The verticle bar of the cross, according to Velona, symbolizes the "transcendence of spirituality over the world," while the four points at the end of the two bars of the cross represent four of the faith's eight dynamics. These eight dynamics stress the dedication and protection of one's self, of the family, the group, mankind, plants and animals, material objects, other spiritual beings and the "supreme being." According to Velona, the questions of right and wrong and all ethical questions revolve around the eight dynamics. In measuring the good one must attempt to consider and respect as many of the dynamics as possible. This "measurement" of good is left up to each individual because "scientology is not dogmatic, it is not a set of dictums that box in the individual."
As "a religion of action rather than dogma," Scientology channels its efforts toward social reform, Velona said. The church's progressive group, the Association of Scientologists for Reform, supports groups aiding alcoholics, the aged, prison inmates, the mentally retarded and "identifies areas in society it sees are in need of reform." Another of the church's groups, the American Citizens for Honesty in Government, pays $10,000 to anyone who can document the corruption of a public official.
ACCORDING to Velona, the "technology" of Scientology allows one to better one's own "intelligence, intellectual capacity and happiness" through a study of the mind and its effects on the body. This study is carried out under the rubric dianetics, which according to Velona are "a set of coordinated axioms which resolve certain problems in human behavior."
Dianetics postulates that there are two aspects to the human mind, the analytical and the reactive. The analytical mind perceives the immediate environment, puts it in the context of past experience, and compels one to act a certain way. It is the conscious part of the mind. The reactive mind operates below the state of consciousness as a stimulus-response mechanism. Through Scientology, Velona said, clasping both of his elbows across His chest,
One breaks down the reactive mind and brings it into one's consciousness."
As in the building's entryway, a large photograph of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's founder, looks out into the room. Hubbard grew up in Tilden, Nebraska and founded dianetics in 1950 after a number of years as a science fiction writer and a stint with the Navy in World War II. According to Velona, Hubbard "affirmed to himself that man is a spiritual being. Whereas dianetics had dealt just with the mind, Hubbard realized it branched off into more of a spiritual philosophy." The first Church of Scientology was founded in Washington in 1954. Hubbard headed the faith until 1966 and now acts as a consultant to the religion and an adviser to all scientologists.
On the third floor, under Hubbard's picture, hangs a placard reading, "You can always write to Ron." The placard states:
Standing Order no. 1
"All mail addressed to me shall be received by me."
Standing Order no.2
"A message box shall be placed in all Scientology Organizations so that any message for me may be received by me."
Standing Order no. 3
"All HCO Personnel and Scientology Personnel should not discourage communication to me."
"I am always willing to help."
"By my own creed, a being is only as valuable as he can serve others."
On the third floor, scientologists participate in drills designed, as Velona said, to "better their skills in communication." Near a window sat two students facing each other and staring directly into each other's eyes. They sat motionless and speechless. "This drill allows one to feel more comfortable when talking to somebody eye-to-eye," Velona said. In the middle of the room two women also faced each other. One said, "Do birds fly?"
"No sweetie, but I like your dress," the other answered.
"But do birds fly?" the one said again.
"I had pancakes for breakfast this morning," the other replied. Velona said the drill teaches a student "to persevere until her question is answered."
In the corner of the room a man kneaded and shaped figures in clay, as Hubbard peered down from a photograph. The student, according to Velona, was taking abstract concepts like fear and anger and shaping them into simple shapes. He was bringing "significant, immaterial concepts down to earth," Velona said.
Just as students simplify and reduct abstract concepts into clay, so does Scientology--according to the church's book What Is Scientology?-- determine accurately the invariable instrumental means." One of the instruments used to measure people's "honest and potential character" is an E-meter. The E-meter console sends 1.5 volts of electricity through two wires to two tin cans held in the hands of the student. The auditor sits facing the student and the dials of the console, and asks the student to consider certain questions. The student's reaction to these questions register on the dial of the E-meter and allow "a trained counselor to determine if a person feels bad in a certain area," Velona said.
THE E-METER, according to Velona, measures the changes of resistance" within a person's body and the person's response to certain concepts or thoughts. "Everything has certain resistance," Velona said, standing over the meter. "All recollections have a molecular mass" which are registered on the E-meter and interpreted by the trained auditor. Velona said that the auditor, however, does not evaluate a person's response but "encourages a person to come to his own realizations."
"The basis of the test is honesty--the individual is his own best counselor and judge," Velona said.
The two individuals continued to stare into each other's eyes. silent beneath a photograph of Hubbard. They were advancing their communication potential.
With the more than five million world-wide followers it claims to have today, perhaps Scientology will continue to grow. After all, Scientology literature claims that Hubbard has applied science to the humanities, unifying the realms of the spirit and the natural sciences. And, as Velona said, John Travolta is a scientologist.