David in the Lion's Den(About 3:00pm Sunday, 25 June 1995)
The ObsessionI had to do it. It became an obsession with me. I had to go down to my local org and pick up a copy of the notorious Freedom magazine issue on the Internet.
As my big, gas-guzzling 1972 Mercedes sedan whizzed to and fro down twisty Mulholland Drive, my thoughts were filled with apprehension. Would I be able to stand up to the Scientologists, or would I be sucked into the dreaded cult, their vacuum cleaner-like operation working in perfect concert?
Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CaliforniaImmediately to my right are the giant blue buildings of the main Scientology org. All around me is evidence of construction activity - apparently the CoS is shoring up its collapsing real estate once again.
I march into the first building I see, hoping to see the bookstore and a copy of the infamous History of Man, which has been described so vividly on ars. Instead, I see about a million copies of a nicely printed hardcover edition of Dianetics ($ 25; I got my hardcover edition from a used bookstore for $ 2). There are also numerous other books, courses, tapes and other materials, including a massive box of unknown stuff (having something to do with volcanoes, based on the cover picture) selling for $ 99.95.
No History of Man, however. And nothing that looks even vaguely like Freedom.
The construction activity all over the place makes me wonder if Woody was right, and the Church was in fact expanding. Curious, I circle the massive complex on foot. The look is rather revealing.
Even the newish buildings look run down. The massive HQ building, with the gigantic "SCIENTOLOGY" sign in front, appears in imminent danger of collapse. Everything looks rather shoddy, although the few Scientologists who appear are quite dapper in their odd blue uniforms. In the parking lot, I hear a strange monologue: "Stand up. Thank you. Sit down. Thank you. Stand up. Thank you." Sure enough, someone is following the directions, standing up and sitting down repeatedly. So this is a "TR".
It is so weird to see all this in the flesh, see all the Hubbard books and Hubbard tapes and Hubbard auditing tech, actually practiced. It's so strange to believe this really exists, and we're not battling non-existant entities.
I notice a sneaky Scientology tactic: The main org building has addresses on Catalina St, Sunset Blvd and one other street I have forgotten, and each "different" address is for a different front company. So at the front it's the Church of Scientology, in back, it's some computer consulting outfit, and on the side it's the Sea Org. The bewildering galaxy of organizational names is all around me; I see the "American Saint Hill Organization", the "Freewinds" (with a nice gold logo in elegant script), the "Sea Org" (Many are called, few are chosen), and many others.
Some kind of advanced training organization whose name I have forgotten has a bookstore.
I walk up the stairs, which are split at akward places by some very ugly looking cracks. A large notice says that a Renovation is being performed by another one of their impersonal three-letter acronym organizations, which seem to be multiplying by the minute. I hope the renovation finishes before I have to go down those stairs again. Once up there, I check out the massive display of LRH books and training tapes. I pick up a box, curious to see how much they want for it; no price is listed. A female CoS representative comes up to me and asks if she can help. (She probably would be quite attractive if she didn't have a distinctly troglodyte look to her; she reminded me of Cerberus' description of Woody). When she finds that I am not a Scientologist, she quickly leads me away from the books I was looking at; seems that their sale is restricted. I tell her that I'm looking for the Internet issue of Freedom.
She perks up and gives me directions to a place in the bowels of the ancient building, where it might be found. As I pass through the entrance, I hear some odd music. It actually doesn't sound that bad, but I had low expectations; it seems to be the Apollo Stars stuff. I was lucky; later on I hear some of it again, and it was about as hideous as other people have said. They apparently have learned something: They still have a cheesy sound system, but this time they are playing it at moderate volume, not loudly as previously reported. I go down a flight of stairs and enter the structure; the interior looks as ramshackle and shoddy as the exterior. I see a food store with a wide variety of wretched looking stuff (apparently called a "Canteen" in their language), but no sign of Freedom.
After wandering around for a while, trying to figure out where Freedom might be hiding, I run into the same girl (or, more likely, she runs into me on purpose). She points to an empty dispenser and says "Oh, I guess they've sold out." She does, however, have another idea. I follow her out of the building and into another, even more ramshackle convenience store. There, issues of Freedom are available, including the Internet issue.
Incidentally, she has no idea who Woody is. I daresay they live sheltered lives in there. :-)
Anyway, I now have a copy of Freedom. I must say that it wasn't really worth the effort to get it; pretty much everything relevant has been posted on the net already.
However, there are two things that might amuse those of you who have gotten through this:
(1) Freedom is printed on quite lovely glossy paper in an extremely slick style. I'd hire their printer; the print job is gorgeous and the paper superb.
(2) Unfortunately, the excellent printing just highlights the banality of the hideous illustrations and graphics.
(3) The subscription solicitation on the back cover is truly breathtaking in its chutzpah. Here's a rough reproduction:
H o n e s t y