[Fringe Friday is a weekly examination of the Internet’s id]
Scientology is the much-maligned religion that leads people to tranquility, total mastery of their bodies, and telekinetic powers. Though you may scoff at this, levitation should indeed be possible for anyone lifted of the huge amounts of cash necessary for advancement within the faith. This week we’re going to delve into their holiday catalog, which I have to remind you is definitely not put out by a totalitarian cult that exploits its members for huge financial reward. Click below so you can follow along with me as I go page-by-page.
For those of you rusty on your Scientology lingo, ‘Dianetics’ is the system of mental therapy created by L. Ron Hubbard before he founded his church. It was originally put forth in his 1950 Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which sold many copies but had only temporary impact on society as people moved on to other nonsense. His book was scorned by psychiatrists as nothing but pseudoscience, which probably has no connection to Hubbard later naming psychiatrists the greatest enemies of Scientology.
Now with that out of the way, the cover for this beast looks like something designed if a Russian oligarch knew how to work Photoshop. Gold on gold on gold with a logo that’s the most phallic arrangement of books I’ve ever seen. Also, I’m happy to see that prices on these items increase after the January 1st, because it’s basic economics to wait to raise prices until after everyone has bought their holiday gifts.
“We are extending to you the precious gift of freedom and immortality – factually, honestly.” Well, I have to say that’s true: as a Scientologist you’re obviously free from logical thought and your debt will outlive your soul. Here also we’re confronted with a block of text containing lots of Scientology Newspeak; but don’t worry, your lack of understanding for L. Ron’s argot will soon be remedied. The phrase ‘give them the priceless technology of Dianetics and Scientology’ appears, however, with which I must disagree. These items of ‘technology’ have prices and very much so: the first listed item is a $5,000 E-meter that features both a less-impressive read-out screen than my ’97 Tamagotchi and some re-used dials from egg timers.
‘But Bowtied Nomad, what’s an E-meter?’ Well, an E-meter measures galvanic skin response of someone holding the two cans you see pictured. E-meters are used during Scientology’s auditing sessions, in which a person moves past the hang-ups of the alien souls trapped in their bodies with their auditor leading them through questions and memories and measuring the response of the needles and yadda, yadda if you aren’t familiar with Scientology’s weirdness already I don’t have a ton of time to teach you – see the books listed at the bottom of the page if you want to jump into that rabbit hole. Anywho, you can build an E-meter yourself for under $100 easy and schematics exist online, yet Scientologists are only allowed to use those machines manufactured by the church; even placing an old E-meter on eBay is enough for the church’s lawyers to zap you cease-and-desist letters for copyright infringement. Not shown in the magazine’s glossy spread is the sticker Scientology is required to place on all E-meters stating that they are solely religious artifacts and have no medical uses. It’s entirely possible that’s a result from an F.D.A. raid a few decades ago.
It seems a bit cruel to offer a $75 dictionary of Scientology terms to the neophytes who can’t advance without knowledge of ‘Student Hat’, the highly-intricate system of nonsense words used to distinguish Scientologists from ‘wogs’, the term L. Ron Hubbard used to describe all non-Scientologists. Fun fact: ‘wog’ is also an insanely offensive racist term in British English! Yet Scientologists still use it! In addition to racism and jibberish, the Student Hat dictionary also gives the definitions for things such as ‘aircraft’ – priceless*.
*Not priceless, all major credit cards accepted – call now!
Ah yes, the full Academy Lectures of L. Ron, the ‘fundamentals of fundamentals’ for auditors; though one wonders why this would be a necessary item for an auditor who’s assumedly already gone through extensive, very expensive training. As the lectures appear to come in lunchboxes, I suppose one could say there’s no free lunch!
I hate myself.
But still, on the subject of the lunchboxes, it’s interesting that a male lion was chosen (Aslan, is that you? Well, I see you’re still living in a fantasy) as it’s the lionesses of the pride who do the vast majority of hunting while the male stays behind to reap the hard-won fruits of their labor… oh wait, I see a parable for Scientology here.
For a terribly secretive church, Scientology just chucks its cards on the table with this one: ‘indoctrination’ is in the goddamn name. One only has to skim the info blurb to the left to learn that ‘Preclears* will even find these packs fascinating to read in between sessions – over and over [you bet your ass emphasis has been added]‘. One of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble…
Also, Scientology, pro-tip: make your indoctrination materials dirt cheap or free so you can reel people in for the expensive product once they’re hooked. Street-level drug dealers know this, why don’t you?
*Preclears are novice Scientologists
Not much to say here besides the fact that those covers look like rejected illustrations for an Ayn Rand novel.
Have you ever paid $20 for a paperback that didn’t come from an academic press? Well now you can bypass Amazon, eBay or literally any cheaper option and buy the Beginning Books directly from the church. They’re available in 50 languages, ‘thus opening the gates of freedom to no less than 90% of Earth’s population’. Also open are 100% of bookstore bargain bins for these door-stoppers.
Don’t worry, the church is also selling audio versions of the Beginning Books, because if you’re a member of Scientology you’re probably not great at reading fine print anyway.
‘Dianetics is the only way to eliminate the reactive mind, and this kit allows you to master the subject of Dianetics for yourself.’ Interesting that ‘reactive’ is used where one would expect to see ‘reactionary’. Then again, heaven knows we don’t want people capable of reacting to anything but fundraising appeals.
Normally if I’m seeing a book on film it’s Jurassic Park or Prisoner of Azkaban, not a group of Blu-Rays with summaries that read as vague generalizations. Also, did the person who designed all of this box art also create that of all the $5 PC games in Office Depot bargain aisles?
These interviews are much like TED Talks, except without standards.
‘The world may define a classic as “A literary work of the first rank and of acknowledged excellence” but the Classics of L. Ron Hubbard redefine the word’ – well, it would obviously have to redefine the word if anything by L. Ron is to be called ‘classic’. Oh, who am I kidding here, we’re as familiar with these lectures as we are with The Wizard of Oz. ‘History of Clearing’… ‘Randomity’… and of course ‘Org Board and Livingness’! Honestly I feel like selling these is a futile exercise as all of us know these classic lectures by heart.
Well this is awkward… guys, maybe you should retitle ‘The Golden Dawn Lectures’ so your $300 DVD set doesn’t share a name with a violent neo-fascist party in Greece. Also, I see that you’re offering the same model of $15 CD player I used to study for my 2001 Bar Mitzvah for $400. I feel like an idiot for not keeping mine, I always forget how much electronics appreciate in value.
I paid $500 for a foot-and-a-half-tall stack of books once, but I had a bunch of science courses that semester and they were all new editions. God knows they didn’t come with 75 L. Ron Hubbards poems and songs, though. 🙁
This section is an overwhelming array of book collections, then lecture collections, then a book collection but bigger and betterer than the last, then a lecture collection but bigger and betterer than the last, then all those same books but, like, super-nice and leather-bound. How do you know they’re super-nice? Because in a magazine that unashamedly charges $5,000 for E-meters and $400 for CD players the price isn’t even listed. Honestly, these 20 pages are like Madonna’s image the last few decades – it’s just the same shit repackaged multiple times*.
And, for those of you at home keeping track of megalomaniacs’ literary ouput, L. Ron Hubbard wrote about 250 books in his lifetime – only one-sixth of the claimed 1,500 books that Kim Jong-Il wrote during his 3 years at Kim Il-Sung University. Step up your game, Hubbard.
Much like how Steve Jobs had ‘one more thing’ and Def Leppard waits until the encore to play ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’, so does the Scientology holiday catalog wait until the end to unveil its pièce de résistance: the same damn E-meter from the first listing but this time in a commemorative edition which means it’s available in the same 3 shades of color as hairdryers on sale at CVS. Is it truly an ‘iconic, awe-inspiring beauty like no other’? Is ‘the true reward of owning this extraordinary meter… knowing [that] you have made a significant difference in planetary dissemination’? Does the fact that ordering one involves contacting either a Planetary Dissemination Department or the Freewinds (a cruise ship only available to high-ranking Scientologists) raise an eyebrow? I think we both know the answers to these questions.
May Xenu be with you this holiday season!