Having come to Los Angeles to study Improv and Sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade, I find myself about three times a week standing right opposite the Scientology Celebrity Centre and eventually felt compelled to do the tour. Looking at the centre, I am fascinated with the seemingly endless ways the human psyche can rupture itself and disrupt society. In addition, over the years I've read as much as I can about cults and serial killers, narcissistic personalities, psychopaths, emotional intelligence, empathy and lack thereof. L Ron Hubbard seemed to have all the traits of a person with, at the very least, some kind of narcissistic personality issue.
The Celebrity Centre, (with a British 're', not Amercian 'er') have tours all day, everyday. Personal tours. I managed to persuade my friend to come with me. A man greeted us at the gate with effusive generosity. He asked for my name and address and my inner strength already started buckling. What would they do with my name, would I be the endless recipient of mail to my address extolling the wonders of Scientology? I asked why and he smilingly said, 'Well you are coming into my church, that seems reasonable'. Of course it's unreasonable but I was intimidated. I could feel my boundaries slipping away in the wake of the majesty of the building, his non-hipster bearded charm and my knowledge about their propensity for litigious harassment that befalls the suppressive person. The suppressive person being anyone that stands in the way of L Ron Hubbard's world view. Sometimes I think if I were held captive by terrorists I'd give away state secrets for a cup of tea and a biscuit. One false name later, 'Smith', really Adrienne? argh... and we are swept into a glorious castle of a building that apparently was once a stately retirement home for Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and other aged movie stars of a bygone era.
Upon arrival we are handed over to a much less intimidating young woman who was perfectly lovely. About twenty five years old, nicely self possessed and attractive, she proceeds to give us a form to fill out wanting more of our personal details. For someone like me, with a fear of authority, I was already negatively beholden, snared and slightly anxious about my inner compass which seemed to be flapping about like a duck. What did I want to learn about? There were so many boxes to tick, we chose two. My friend who initially was totally reluctant was maintaining complete composure and sense of self, whilst I, primed on my daily coffee, was all asunder. Meanwhile my friend asked straight up, 'So what do you think about people who say you are a cult?' We got the stock response, 'You know how the media are, they like to exaggerate and blow all things out proportion'.
We were shown two videos. Introduction to Dianetics and Introduction to Auditing. There was some common sense in there. It's possible we do have imprinted trauma memory that informs our present. It's also possible it can be cleared. Scientology believes a process called auditing with an e-meter will 'clear' these trauma memories and set us on a path to freedom, liberation and wholeness.
My friend and I then took turns on the e-meter with the attractive and self possessed young woman acting as our auditor. The e-meter apparently works like a lie detector and picks up stress when holding the cylindrical electrodes ("cans") that register an electrical impulse which then gets transmitted to the needle. 'Think about something that is bothering you'. My friend went first: she is having an issue with her boss and every time she thought about him the needle went to the extreme right. Then it was my turn. For reasons fortuitous I am not having any concerns of late apart from my immediate concerns about being trapped inside the Scientology Celebrity Centre and the e-meter, did...well... nothing. A flicker. 'What are you thinking about?' she said, I said, 'Well I thought about my family'. No problem there. After much tweaking, twiddling and fiddling of dials she asked me to think of about something again. Before I had a chance to think the needle flung itself about like it was on fire. She was pleased. 'What were you thinking about?' I said I'd not even had a chance to formulate a concern. But the e-meter had found one. Quite clearly I was stressed and in need of some auditing.
I had no intention whatsoever of letting them know I had ever read a book about Scientology, which I have, or even knew a Scientologist, which I did. One of my closest friends and my room mate in our early twenties became a Scientologist in his late twenties and stayed that way for about fifteen years. He was fully committed. Like so many others before him who have a conversion experience, he instantly developed that sense of liberation, with a born again glassy glint in his eye. He was all at once set free and simultaneously psychologically trussed up like a chicken. He called his ex girlfriend in the middle of the night in Australia when he was being 'audited' and doing some 'clearing' of his 'engrams' to ask if they had taken 'real' acid back in the day. She was like, 'I don't know and I don't care. I'm going back to sleep'. He was frantic. He had been told if it was real acid, then he was polluted forever and could never ascend any further.
From there we were taken back downstairs and in the foyer were two book shelves with about sixteen large hard cover books. Each one sporting a photo of L Ron Hubbard on the cover in various guises.
L Ron Hubbard, Sailor, L Ron Hubbard, Philanthropist, L Ron Hubbard, Author, L Ron Hubbard, Engineer, L Ron Hubbard, Mathematician, L Ron Hubbard, Humanitarian, L Ron Hubbard, Adventurer, L Ron Hubbard, Horticulturalist, L Ron Hubbard, Screenwriter, L Ron Hubbard, Artist, L Ron Hubbard, Explorer, L Ron Hubbard, Photographer, L Ron Hubbard, Awesome Guy. Etcetera.
L Ron Hubbard displayed many of the characteristics of a narcissist. He was grandiose, a charmer, a fantasist, boastful, his feelings were easily 'hurt', he raged, and was charismatic. He also followed the predictable cycle of all cult leaders by riding high on his messianic glory followed by rapid collapses into paranoia when challenged, which set him off on his mission to litigate and subsequently isolate himself from society. He was a split self - divided between the 'ideal' and the 'war' he was fighting with the world. Through a cycle of reward and punishment Scientology manages to keep people in and out of favour on an ever revolving wheel of distraction much like Chairman Maos' constant revolutions. One day you are Queen of the Hill the next day you can be in Florida wearing a blue boiler suit, with people instructed not to look at you, scrubbing floors, eating table scraps out of buckets and sleeping on the floor in the bowels of a building.
Of course I imagine it's not quite so unpredictable for the Celebrities that grace the Celebrity Centre. No doubt they are detoxed, audited and cleared on a fast track to an engram free life. Just to the left of the garden exit at the Celebrity Centre is the restaurant where they serve brunch for $12 on Sundays. Now thats more like it. The way to my heart, brain and religious conversion is most definitely through my stomach. So I shall return to partake of their all you can eat $12 buffet and I might even spot a brunching Scientology Celebrity.
'Would you like to smell the most amazing perfume in the world?' says a rather creepy possibly botoxed face which sits askew his skull.
"I'm not sure' I say.
He pulls out a smelly litmus paper and waves it under my nose.
'Don't you want to drive men crazy?' he says.
'Not really, I've had a few crazy men, I didn't like it.'
'Don't you need a new perfume, don't you need a secret weapon, just one day a week, a secret weapon?'
'No' I say. 'I don't think a weapon is the arsenal in which I need to find a man'
'But don't you want to drive men crazy just one day a week with a secret weapon?'
'No' I say sniffing the paper which smells like cheap air freshener. 'I do not want an arsenal of this product as a weapon to make a man crazy. No, thank you'
By this stage I wonder what on earth the perfume is he is trying to flog. I walk over to his counter.
There it is, the glorious weapon that will drive a man crazy.
'Sexual'. Really? Thats the name. Yes. 'Sexual.' Subtle and understated.
Nothing to see or smell here.
Conway and Siegelman are two of America’s foremost experts on the mind-altering communication practices of destructive cults, fundamentalist sects, and extremist political movements. In their first, widely acclaimed book, SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change they decoded the powerful communication practices employed by controversial cults and sects, extremist political groups, popular self-help therapies, and commercial training enterprises to engineer sudden changes of awareness and personality. They unveiled the intimate domain of human communication where the “snapping” phenomenon is occurring, where its unprecedented changes of mind and personality are communicated from one person to another, and where its widening threats to individual thought, belief, and all our freedoms are translated into deadly real-world action.
By Chuck R. In response to Andrew Cohen, Evolutionary Enlightenment and EnlightenNext - is it a cult? When one is uncertain, perhaps stressed by unsolved or insoluble issues, anyone who appears to be certain, to have positively true answers to difficult problems, is highly attractive. Uncertainty can be painful. Gurus who claim to “know” the (capital T) “Truth” can look like ports in a terrible storm.
Unfortunately, uncertainty is our lot in life. Certainty is often a delusion, a con, or a self-delusion. The human neurological system evolved to produce certainty, whether or not the certainty is warranted. Such certainty is of great use in fight-or-flight situations where speed is essential and extended cogitation can be lethal. But in more intellectual pursuits – philosophy, theology, human relationships, “evolutionary enlightenment”, etc. – it can be a unexpected hazard. Certainty arrived at through intuitive experiences such as the AHA! experience should always be treated skeptically. If you can find additional evidence to support such certainty, fine. If you can’t, you’d better set aside such certainty.
Certainty is a *feeling* or a *sensation*, not an idea or intellectual conclusion. As such, it is no more reliable than any other feeling such as fear, love, disgust, hatred, etc.
Doubt and uncertainty can be painful, but they are better than the soporifics of false “truth” and phony “knowledge”.
Check out the book “On Being Certain” by Robert Burton, MD. (2008) You’ll find yourself less addicted to seeking certainty and “knowledge” of “deep truths” than you may now be. (I have no connection to this book other than admiring it.)
I am just starting the lengthy and arduous process of learning Icelandic. I want to watch TV! It will take a while - I need about three mouths. Some languages have plenty of vowels to wrap you mouth around and separate the next consonant but Icelandic has ð which sounds like ´th´and þ which sounds like ´th´and then they string them all together with nary enough vowels.
It becomes a lisping tongue twisting exercise. However they do speak very fast and therefore 'Ég ætla að' can become 'Yetlath' without too much fuss. Meaning 'I am going to....
The plus side is it really feels like medieval English and a history lesson rolled into one. It has been so untouched by other Scandanavian language developments that it is both unique, old and let's face it, obselete. As My Dad says, ít will be very useful in Melbourne.'
But when listening to it, I can barely make out it is a language at all, rather a sequence of random entertaining noises, and like the DaVinci Code. it deserves to be cracked.
All the nouns change when something happens to them, god forbid you should pick up a plate, or turn on a lamp, and then who is doing the turning on, man, woman, inanimate, again it all shifts again.
Takk fyrir - Duck fairy - Thank you.
Female Eye Film Festival Toronto Canada, March 16 - 20th, 2011
Byron Bay International Film Fesitval, Australia, March 4 - 13, 2011.
Chris Carlone is a friend from NYC and he is a great musician and artist. Please enjoy his creativity and go and like his new Facebook page
Well to be a Weird Girl for one.
I never in a million years thought I would end up in Iceland, I mean it really it is the land that my mind map of the world forgot. However I discovered it to be suitably exotic, interesting and off the beaten track enough to hold my interest. It is small enough to navigate through the museum getting a easy to comprehend timeline of history.
All my women friends know how to pick berries, make jam and what herbs to pick for their health. When abroad they miss the dried whale meat that I am only willing to imagine.
The language is medieval and when slightly more examined it is simply like the oldest English in the world, full of thou's and thy's. Initially it sounded incomprehensible, then when I was at the cinema I could not grasp any grammer when I read the subtitles. Nowadays I can see the grammer in the structure and am starting to make sense of it and even enjoy the challenge of learning.
A land decorated by the austerity of poverty in the first half of the 20th century and by Ikea in the second.
A nobel prize winning author, Haldor Laxness, who no doubt would have become one of the most widely studied and revered men in literature had he been translated sooner. Independent People and Iceland's Bell are two of his exceptional works.
A land where every farmer could turn his nose up at a rhyming couplet, preferring the complicated rhymes of poetry that make jazz look simple.
Where jokes abound about the conservatism of other Scandinavian countries.
If you give a Swede a million dollars he will put it in the bank. Give an Icelander a million dollars and he will go to the bank and ask for another million.If you want to go to the movies with a Dane then you must book in their diary two months ahead.
Where the Vikings managed to uproot every tree in the space of 100 years building longships and houses. If you are lost in a forest in Iceland, how do you get found? Stand up.
A land where creativity and economics are perceived as boundless and limitless in equal measure, causing the rise of Bjork, Sigur Ros and a plethora of incredible music and art in the first instance and it's own financial downfall in the second.
Sometimes common sense is not fully operational, over run by an enthusiasm that is infectious. Think of the dozens of Icelanders rescued when trying to make the five hour hike up the lava spewing volcano only to discover that it can get quite chilly in jeans and a t-shirt halfway up a mountain even if zillion degree heat is waiting for them at the top.
Geothermal energy makes for under street heating and all the hot water smells like sulphur. Greenhouses abound, in fact in the event of a disaster, (volcanic not-withstanding) they could feed themselves if they had enough greenhouses running from geothermal power. They even grow pineapples in them.
They also eat liquorice chocolate bars, which sounds a bit icky but are actually very nice. Um.... and puffins and horses. Those cute little horses, (don't call them ponies) that are delightfully explained in the tourism film on Iceland Air neatly leaving out the bit about how delicious they are.
Where it is dark half the year and all the drivers squint into the sun as it only lazily lifts off the horizon line for a while before dropping back down a few hours later. This time of the year I sit in the outdoor hot tub after my swim in the afternoon and the sky is pitch black. I can see the Reykjavik church spires and hear the old men talking about their day as they rejuvenate after a gentle swim and workout followed by a sauna and ending with a soak. I thought I would hate the long dark days, but it is kind of cosy. And I really appreciate the light and the sun. It is very still at the moment and blue sky.
Then there is the other half of the year where children play outside up to 10pm at might in broad daylight and parties go on for ever. Some Icelanders are like bears, they sleep long in the winter and little in the summer.
If you want to play in this life, Iceland is a playground, a creative conundrum, a magical moment. Unique in it's spirit, it is a magnet for some foreigners that have been captivated enough to come and make a whole new life here. It is infinitely fascinating.
Iceland's Weird Girls Project are part of the magic and I can't wait for April.
I have been contemplating lately the idea of an ultimate theory of everything. I came to the conclusion that in all probability, it cannot exist.
Many cult leaders and religious maniacs have an ultimate theory of everything. The closed mind, closing the door of further possibility is the end of......being open. It would be the end of all discovery. The End.
Perhaps the person with the TRUE ultimate theory of everything would disappear right out of existence upon immediate discovery.
Perhaps that would be how we could measure validity. Anyone that completely removed all trace of themselves would have discovered the Ultimate Theory of Everything. But as we are all connected, by 6 degrees apparently, and a few other holographic and string theories, that would mean ultimately the entire universe would disappear and nothing and no one would be would be left to prove him, or her, right.
Therefore the desire to know, or believe in, The Ultimate Theory of Everything might be a kind of anti-life death wish masquerading as exploration.
Giovanni Amelino-Camelia, (born 14 Dec 1965) is an Italian physicist at the University of Rome La Sapienza and he also does not like the idea of the Ultimate Theory of Everything. He says, 'A theory of everything would endow us with God-like powers, masters of the laws of the Universe. I can see that this could appeal to some.'
He goes on to say 'It would be interesting to provide a toy model of an “ultimate theory of not everything”. A scenario I can vaguely describe to illustrate the type of mathematics that could serve this purpose is the one of a toy Universe with logical structure resembling the one of Matryoshka nesting dolls, but an infinite series of nesting dolls and in a multitude of dimensions (amount of energy, amount of complexity, amount of classicality of the apparatus...).
From “within” each doll it should only be possible to get information on neighboring dolls, even arriving at the point of fully mastering some of the neighbouring dolls, which would then be the starting point for the next step of exploration. I hope a mathematician will soon have (or tell me of the previous existence of) such a toy model for the ultimate theory of not everything, but I have none to offer at present.'
Finally he states, “The diversity of phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.”
So, if you wake up one day and find yourself gone, then you will have discovered it! Then again, maybe someone else made the discovery and took you and everything out of existence. Right out of life and all it's living, pulsating, feeling, mysteriousness.
Over $7,000 has been raised on Kickstarter and I am so grateful and pleased. I had to develop nerves of steel to persist.
I think I will wait quite some time before I spend every waking minute trying to raise microgifts from anyone with a pulse.
It is not for the fainthearted. But thanks you so much to everyone who believes in the project. I am going to have a small rest now.