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White: I took the Scientology personality test so you don’t have to

Scientology has become arguably the most well known cult in the world. What does it look like to someone being brought into its folds?
The+local+Church+of+Scientology+is+located+in+downtown+St.+Paul.+
Image by Spencer White
The local Church of Scientology is located in downtown St. Paul.

If you’ve driven through downtown St. Paul in the last decade or so, you may have passed the local Church of Scientology. It is a large, eccentric building marked by the silver Scientology symbol — a stylized “S” threaded through a pair of triangles.

When I saw it for the first time a few months ago, I knew I had to get in.

I’ve only interacted with the world of Scientology through readings about the exploits of celebrities like Tom Cruise and the horror stories like the apparent disappearances of current Scientology leader David Miscavige and his wife, Shelly Miscavige.

Shelly Miscavige allegedly hasn’t been seen publicly since 2007, and any comment on her whereabouts from the church seems vague to say the least. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) stated in November 2022 that the missing persons case was closed and LAPD located Shelly Miscavige. David, on the other hand, has disappeared more recently in wake of a civil child trafficking suit. David has been the leader of the church since the death of L. Ron Hubbard.

One often-told Scientology story is the mythos of Xenu, an ancient alien warlord who dropped hydrogen bombs into volcanoes, killing billions of ancient life forms.

If that seems like a ridiculous mockery and oversimplification of Scientologist beliefs, I can assure you that it is not. While the story of Xenu isn’t the be-all and end-all of Scientological belief, it plays a part, to say the least. Little more should be expected from a religion formed by a mediocre science fiction writer with a messiah complex.

“Xenu gets all of the attention because it’s so crazy,” Tony Ortega, a former editor of The Village Voice and a leading eye into the world of Scientology, said.

Ortega posits that there is more behind the scenes of Scientology than strange stories of ancient alien genocide. The basis of Scientology was formed from the book “Dianetics” written by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950. The book flaunts its content as “the modern science of mental health.”

Primarily, it focuses on a distinction between the reactive and analytical mind. According to “Dianetics,” the analytical mind is the rational portion of your consciousness that you can rely on for logical decision making and rational thought. It is responsible for your mind’s positive, intellectual functions.

On the other hand, the reactive mind works against us, and it is quick to lash out and form irrational assumptions. It is a remnant of our animalistic survival instincts. When discussing this, the people of the church have no problem talking distrustfully of medication and psychiatry for dealing with mental anguish.

Before I entered the church, I took the Oxford Capacity Analysis (OCA) test, a personality test that is available for free online at scientology.org.

It seems to be a fairly innocuous personality test, ranking participants in 10 criteria: stability, happiness, composure, certainty, activity, aggressiveness, responsibility, correct estimation, appreciativeness and communication level. These are then scored on a graph where they can be labeled as an unacceptable, normal or desired state.

The test has some fairly cookie-cutter questions about your mental well-being. Think: “Have you felt down or hopeless in the last 30 days?” or “Are you often quick to anger?”

Then you face some more worrisome questions, like “Could you agree to strict discipline?”, “Would the idea of making a complete new start cause you much concern?” and “Would you administer corporal punishment to a 10 year old?”

I answered honestly for the most part, however, I did opt to check some boxes I thought would paint me in a way that might open some more interesting conversations.

My OCA results considered me to be in a largely unacceptable state, only activity being deemed normal and aggressiveness being deemed desirable, and I was prompted to schedule an appointment at the local church. I did so excitedly.

The whole building was very lavish. It was entirely orange and brown, with large indoor waterfalls, countless shelves of books written by Hubbard — all available for purchase in the bookstore, obviously — and large televisions with over-the-top control panels where a remote would’ve done just fine.

I was told by my guide that the choice in color was to match the beautiful Minnesota fall season. Plus, the church sees brown as a very subtle, dignified color.

Despite this exercise in excess, I only saw five other humans during my entire stay.

On those televisions, I was shown a video explaining that memories from your past are saved into your mind as engrams, weaponized forever by the reactive mind unless you achieve a clear, which can only be done through therapy sessions called “audits.”

“In Scientology, it’s all about you. You’re going to find out more about yourself. You’re going to find out more about your personality,” Ortega said.

At first, audits start at a relatively affordable price (I was offered 5 sessions for $125, the first free with the purchase of a copy of “Dianetics”), but, according to Ortega, these only rise in price as you extend deeper into the organization, and it never truly ends.

First, you are recalling memories of childhood. But, before long, you are asked to recall memories from your past lives from millions of years in the past, Ortega said.

And why not? Why worry about fleshing out the lore of your religion when you can let the people you suck in do it themselves?

Before I was given the final Scientology Life Improvement sales pitch and made my exit, I was allowed to try out the E-meter. I never got a straight answer on what the E-meter did, one of the great shames of my life. My guide claimed it was measuring my emotional response to stimuli within my mind, but he wouldn’t elaborate any further.

The E-meter is about the size of a small radio, with two cords running out of it to aluminum cylinders that you hold onto while you are asked questions about great struggles and triumphs within your life.

The readings were all over the place, with no rhyme or reason behind the swinging dial. I found it gave the best results when I started tapping my pinky on the side while my guide looked away.

He would later go on to explain that the failure of the meter was due to the emotional blockage indicated by my OCA results. Of course, he said, this could be remedied with a few audits and a purchase of “Dianetics.”

Scientology is dying. They have been able to live off of money from their members at higher levels, but with their terrible publicity and lack of new members, they don’t seem to have much of a future.

“Based on my ex-Scientologist sources who worked in that building, they said there’s probably 25 or so members in this church,” Joey Peters, a reporter for Sahan Journal, said.

Peters had visited the church roughly five years ago for a story and found the place was struggling to bring in new members and was ineffective at recruiting.

Unless I have a sudden change of heart and decide to drop $25 on the newest edition of “Dianetics,” I must concur.

 

Clarification: There have been allegations that Shelly Miscavige has been missing since 2007. In November 2022, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) closed her missing persons case and stated LAPD had located her. 

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