Wednesday, September 7, 2011

eighty-eighth visit: Sept 7th 2011 Scientology

2:00pm wednesday
Scientology Pittsburgh
1906 East Carson St, Pittsburgh PA 15203
southside flats

Yes, I know this is one of controversy. And questions are laced throughout my visit, proving to be kind of interesting in the end, I think.

Last week, Shawn at Scientology Pittsburgh answers my call. I explain gatherings. He responds that if I want to attend a service, a worship-gathering having to do with Scientology, I should go to Cleveland or Columbus. "We don't do anything like that here." There was a curious tone in his voice that now makes sense to me.

It helps to have the full back story:

In my household, there has been a running debate as to whether Scientology should be included in this project at all. One side of my household has done some web research on the topic that led him to conclude that, because of its structure, Scientology is not a religion and therefore should not be included in gatherings. The other side of the debate... the side connected to the fingers typing this post, says that this project is not about judging whether people who say they are worshiping, are or are not worshiping. It is about exploring the relationship between art and spiritual belief, if there is any at all. BTW, it happens that France, Germany and the UK agree with my husband. However, it happens that the USofA does recognize Scientology as a religion, so I feel that if I excluded it, it would indeed be just that: an exclusion, and I would be acting against the principles of this project. And so for these reasons, I go.

And I'm not afraid to be this blunt about the above. Because I know I'm not offending anyone at Pittsburgh Scientology. And this is a project about Pittsburgh. And Robert at Scientology Pittsburgh says "Well, you can call... call it a religion... if you want to... but you see personally I'm a Christian. And Scientology plays a separate role in my life. But you can certainly see it as a religion if you want to." And some people do. In other cities, and from other followers of Scientology, you would receive a more emphatic answer.

There is a lot written a lot about Scientology. To start, the office I visit is chock full. Books floor to ceiling, wall to wall, most by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. There's also a lot written and posted on the web by those who are, and are no longer involved in Scientology. And by general theologians and their stance. It's there, to digest and use to arrive at your own conclusions as to where you stand on this debate. And it's important to do that. But as content, that part does not belong in this blog. Instead I'll just tell you about my experience visiting Scientology Pittsburgh.

When I arrive, Shawn is in the back room with a client, so I don't get to meet him face to face.

My time is spent with Robert, who invites me to sit and watch a DVD about the basis of Scientology—an interview conducted with Hubbard in the late 1950's.

These are the main points that I walk away with:
--Hubbard began his work with the intent of discovering the essence of what it means to be human; to find truth(s) common to all humans, across all races, nationalities, and cultures. Hubbard first established Dianetics, a self-help program. Scientology expanded from this, differing from Dianetics in that it addresses not only the mind, but also the spirit.
The goals of Scientology involve:
--making sense of your own life, coming to know yourself, doing one's part to make a better world for all to live in, overcoming obstacles, and finding happiness. Finding and creating a better way of living. Finding happiness through success.
--addresses the value of becoming introverted in order to then become extroverted and express the knowledge of your true self.
In this way, it draws from principles of Buddhism—in reference to the benefit of achieving an awareness in order to gain control over the subconscious. Belief that a subconscious that wanders out of control (called aberration) can be a source of our general and specific anxieties.
--Hubbard does not intend for Scientology to be associated with psychology or psychiatry in any way; he is very against this. He feels psychology puts humans into the category of animals. (It's implied he's referring to his perception that psychology and psychiatry view one's personality as the result of brain-chemical interactions.) Scientology has evolved to instead address the physical being as well as the spiritual being.
--He does not feel strongly that it should be recognized as a religion. "It does not have to be seen that way." But he feels it can be compatible with all religions, and can be a part of all religions.
He also feels that the principles of Scientology have been absorbed into the medical field and are responsible for successes in achieving health. ...although he did not set out to provide medical treatment, and Scientology does not intend to serve this purpose.
I also watch a section on the importance of and ways in which to uphold human rights, and racial and ethnic equality.

After an hour and a half, I thank Robert and head home.

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