Well, I was planning to do another Christmas entry, except I seem to be having various technical difficulties right now. So I’m afraid you’re going to be deprived of my wonderful photos of Bloomsbury in the snow. Sorry about that, please remain calm and do not do anything rash.
So in the meantime, let me tell you about my most recent brush with the Church of Scientology. It’s one of those organisations that exerts a strange fascination – not, I hasten to add, in any attractive way. I think it’s the fact that it’s so very sinister and yet maintains that it’s absolutely selfless and benevolent, and doesn’t realise how obvious the charade is. Anyway, a week ago I found our paths crossing once again.
The Church of Scientology has two outlets in London. One is the one near Blackfriars station. The other is smaller but more obvious, being on Tottenham Court Road near Goodge Street Underground. The dudes in Guy Fawkes masks outside are usually a dead giveaway. Anyway, I had a couple of hours to kill before a party last Wednesday, and was walking up Tottenham Court Road when a chap approached me and asked me if I would like a free personality test. I said that yes, that did sound quite japesome and went in. I didn’t expect them to actually invite me in, and I felt a bit like a vampire in an old-skool folk tale.
I was given a personality test to fill out. This was something called the “Oxford Capacity Analysis Test,” which sounds terribly authoritative but has nothing whatsoever to do with the University of Oxford. It consisted of a series of yes/no/maybe questions ranging from “Do you often make tactless blunders?” to “Do you find it hard to consider suicide?” It also asked for my name, address, email and telephone number, all of which I gave, “my” in this case referring to an entirely fictional character developed on the spot.
The test was taken from me and I was invited to sit in a waiting area. There was a plaque on the wall giving people advice on what to do if they’d come here to be treated for illness. Strangely, the advice was not “go back up the stairs and out of the building, cross the road, turn left and keep going until you reach the actual hospital.”
Then the results were fed into a computer and returned to me in the form of a graph. Some would argue that the human mind is a complex thing, and that quantifying it in mathematical terms in under half an hour using a standardised test is a ridiculous notion, but let’s pretend for now. According to this here graph, aspects of my personality that require urgent attention are, in their words:
- Unstable, dispersed
“Inhibited” could do with work and the only things it seemed to think were healthy were “inactive” and “uncertain.” Also my “lack of accord” was a cause for concern, which frankly I take as a bit of a compliment.
Now, the reason I quoted the terms they used exactly was because, as you may have noticed, the terminology was a little odd. For instance, wouldn’t it make more sense to say “certainty” instead of “uncertainty?” Or “responsibility” instead of “irresponsibility?” You’d almost think they were deliberately emphasising the negative side of things. Almost as if they, I don’t know, wanted to skew the whole thing in favour of making people believe they had personality disorders.
After the graph is printed off, you get taken aside by one of the nice volunteers and told what’s wrong with you (everything) and how to cure it (buy Dianetics). In my case, the volunteer seemed a little uncertain as to what was wrong with me, although apparently my results showed one of my flaws to be that I was likely to disagree with the things she said. A cynic might note that that’s a handy way of protecting yourself from criticism. Fortunately I am pure of heart and mind, so it never entered my head.
I was advised that I should buy Dianetics forthwith. For preference, I should buy the special pack containing the book and DVD (presumably because I appear semi-literate). I was informed that the book was superb, and had sold over twenty-one million copies. I asked the volunteer what the success rate was. She admitted they had no way of measuring, but apparently of the two thousand copies she herself had sold, only one person had come back unsatisfied.
I pointed out that high sales didn’t mean anything – Twilight sold massively, and that’s a big pile of shit. She then attempted to get chummy by asking what sort of books I liked. I said that China Mieville was a favourite. She expressed delight and said that she’d read one of his books and it was great. I asked her which one and she went a little blank. She asked me to list his books, as it had been ages since she’d read the book in question (so can’t have been that great). I went through a list of the books he’d written, putting a miniscule pause before The City and the City. This is a sort of Jedi mind trick to get a person to choose one out of a random list. Sure enough, she confirmed that that was indeed the book, and it was fantastic. It would have been churlish of me to point out that that book had only come out this year and so for it to have made such an impact and yet be forgotten was highly unlikely, so I decided to let her continue. But, you know, a Scientologist lied to me, so I just thought I’d throw that out there.
I was pushed towards buying the book, being told that this was one of those occasions when I should be more impulsive. Furthermore, it was emphasised that they don’t do this to make money, it’s purely to help people. They might save money by being a bit less ostentatious, but what do I know? Anyway, I said I would “think about it” and come back the next day.
Haven’t done it yet, but, well, you know how busy it gets around Christmas.
http://londonparticulars.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/an-open-letter-to-the-church-of-scientology/ - My attempt to be nice to the Church of Scientology, based on my last brush with them.
http://mephistolounge.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/encounters-with-mr-hubbard/ - Edwin Bannister is not so nice.
http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/Family_blames_Scientology_for_daughter%27s_death - The story of a young woman who committed suicide after a poor result on the test.
http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/Robert_Vaughn_Young/19970824_Scientologys_Rigged_OCA_Personality_Test.txt - Turns out it is literally impossible to get a perfect result.