Courted by Scientologists

Allison and I were walking through Glendale on a rainy day when we passed an ornate building labeled "The Way to Happiness." Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the pitiful nature of my life, maybe it was just curiosity, but something called to me to enter the building and investigate this strange sight further.

The person at the front desk greeted us warmly and invited us to take some literature. I asked a couple of indirect questions about the place to see if I could figure out what it was all about, but she offered no solid clues. The interior was fancy, lined in brass and gold with furniture that rivaled a fancy hotel lobby. Along the walls were children's art, pictures of international service projects, and life lessons. We were most intrigued by the commandment-style decrees posted menacingly along one wall. There were twenty-one rules including "Be Worthy of Trust" and "Fulfill Your Obligations." None of them were out of line, but something still seemed fishy and cultish about it.

I don't remember which of us compared it to Scientology first, but we quickly dismissed it as a joke. In Los Angeles, there are several prominent buildings scattered around that announce themselves to be related to the religion loudly and proudly. Scientologists aren't nearly as ashamed of their identification as they are portrayed to be. One of the commandments even said "Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others," which left me impressed that some group might want to instill positive values in society without having a religious affiliation.

That didn't make it any less dubious. Firstly, who falls for this? How many people walk in off the street and say, "Oh, yeah, I should be a good person!" Secondly, how can they afford this property? Surely this well-intentioned venture would fail. Allison and I whispered about it a little more before bolting for the door.

The lady at the front desk had additional literature and information on classes on the premises if we so desired, but we opted to leave quickly instead. I felt a little guilty about feeling creeped out by a place that was promoting positive values, but I just didn't trust it.

Later, when I recounted the experience to (now former) roommate Dan, he was all like, "Those are totally Scientologists." After I Googled the organization, I found out that he was right. Though The Way to Happiness isn't technically linked to Scientologists, it is funded and run by known Scientologists as a way of spreading their message without having the stigma of the organization. It's a front to pull people in and then switch them to the group.

So that explains the shady atmosphere and ridiculous amount of money being pumped into the Way of Happiness. Freaking out, I called Allison to reveal that we had been wandering in the Scientologists' playground. Allison then went back to read the pamphlet and found the following paragraph:

Jealousy and vengeance are the greater monsters: one never knows when they will cease to sleep. It is all very well to speak of "being civilized" and "uninhibited" and "understanding"; no talk will men ruined lives. A "feeling of guilt" is nowhere near as sharp as a knife in the back or ground glass in the soup.

Do you even understand what any of that means? It's from the chapter called "Don't Be Promiscuous," not that you'd ever guess that from the context. But still - what does that mean? Glass in the soup? Scientologists really are secretive - even their message is cryptic.

But, like, I'm totally going to take some classes at this place. I want to be happy at any cost.

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