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Thread: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

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    Talking We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    My friend and I - both high school students from abroad - visited the London org to buy a couple of the books.

    I've had a certain fascination with Scientology, primarily because it treads the line between being a cult and an established religion. It survived the death of its founder and is now mostly made up of the 2nd/3rd generation of believers. For two years now I've been watching people like Chris Shelton and read dozens of testimonials from all levels of Scientology - the public, the celebrities, the sea org, the execs, the folk over at RPF, the lot. For a few months, I've shared plenty of this with my friend so that there is no chance that a single conversation with a Scientologist would in any way risk buying into their narrative.

    We're both sceptics of religion in general anyways, so even the basic statement "Man has a soul" would take much more than a few indoctrination videos to bring us to an agreement.

    Now, we briefed ourselves quite abundantly days before entering. Fully knowing that these people take courses on manipulation, it was important to have a plan.

    1. Time the visit so that there is an external hard limit on the time spent in the building (< 30 minutes). By visiting right before very real social commitments we'd genuinely have a lot of trouble wriggling ourselves out of, we were under a much lesser risk of somehow ending up stuck there. I put up an alarm on my phone when I had to start leaving before entering the building.

    2. We agreed to use false last names - should any be needed. We'd be open about the country we were from but agreed to use a false town. It was a town of a similar size, but much further away from the Capital. Since we're from a country with only a Scn mission, and that mission is an 8 hr train journey from the town we pretended to be from, we had a solid excuse to not establish any further communications. The key idea was to keep the cover story simple and tell the truth whenever possible. No need to create any suspicions. "Tell them the truth. The whole truth? Absolutely not!"

    3. We would only take so much money we intended to spend, in cash. Our wallets were buried deep in my friend's backpack. This way there would be physical constraints to us spending any extra - and that's extra seconds to think about what the hell you are about to do.

    4. If anything strange happened, we'd speak our native language with each other. The chances of there being a single person in the building who speaks that language were so abysmal, that it would work almost as well as a 32-bit encryption.

    5. We'd be absolutely sure to not admit to any weaknesses. The "finding the ruin" tactic is something we were well enough aware of, so we'd make it appear that any area of our lives they would ask about was in perfect shape.

    Manipulation usually does not rely on forcing you to do something, but rather making you want to do it. This is why it's important to place physical restraints.
    We're both relatively tall (taller than the salesman, at least), and there were the two of us - this would make it far harder to achieve any sort of a power dynamic. Although we're high schoolers, the staff did not seem to be more than a couple years older than us.

    It was surprisingly simple:
    A woman greeted us as we opened the door, and I explained to her we'd like to buy some books. She looked by no means unhappy with that intention of ours, so to say. I suppose more "revenue in" makes it a tad bit more likely she'll actually get paid this week. She had us sit down while she'd call up someone to take us upstairs. The air was hot and had a very distinct smell to it. The warm lighting made it feel like the entire building was heated to 80C.

    In a couple of minutes, an enthusiastic man in a suit walked up from the back room and greeted us. As we shook hands, we told him our names - deliberately pronouncing them fast and making it clear they weren't English - and walked up. This way he could hardly find a non-awkward way to ask our surnames if he didn't even catch our first names. He asked us where we're from, and we told him that without much hesitation. It's a small country which he evidently knew nothing about, which once again put us in a slight "information asymmetry" vantage point. These small details aren't exceedingly important, but I thought to stack all the advantages I could get, just in case.

    Might I say - I have never in my life seen anybody as enthusiastic as he was. He was jumping up the stairs in three or four paces, and did not blink a single time during our little visit. I can see why someone would look at that and think "Wow! Scientology must really be onto something!" At the same time, it all appeared just a tad bit forced and artificial. Knowing the conditions the staff really work in, his enthusiasm certainly was amplified by things-other-than-the-sheer-power-of-Dianetics-and-Scientology. Still, purely superficially that guy was the embodiment of tone scale 40!

    The young man took us to the exhibition and asked us to take a look. I snapped back, saying we only had 15 minutes left and wanted to buy the books. He asked us where we were going afterwards, and we gave a truthful (though vague) answer. He wondered whether we'd have time in the following days, and we said that our schedule will be quite tight, but we aren't sure. Another vague truth. It seemed that he quickly understood that any extra exhibitions would end up cutting down on his selling time, and we got to business.

    We already had in mind the books we wanted to buy - to our surprise, the books were about 1/3 of the price they are on Bridge Publications website. Therefore we ended up picking up one more of his recommendation, adding up to a total of three books: DMSMH, Problems of Work, and the Fundamental of Thought. (The latter is the one he suggested. It's the simplest of the books, so it's a sensible enough suggestion.) He was quite proud that he had the books on offer in our native language, but we opted to buy them in English. After all, why wouldn't we want to witness LRH's sticky use of language in its full original glory? Though I phrased it a bit differently.

    He asked us where we'd heard about Scientology. Once again, we told them a part of the truth - we'd read about it online, and wanted to see the works themselves. I didn't mention the fact that I'd already read most of the OT materials online and quite possibly knew more about Scientology than he did. Regardless, he seemed very happy with this answer and asked us no more about it. Knowing we were students, he, of course, marketed Study Tech. I said I'd read an overview on it already, which seemed to slightly take him aback. I think he said something along the lines of "you seem to know quite a bit about Scientology already." He then asked us if we hade any problems with our studies, to which I instantly - and truthfully - said none whatsoever. Both my friend and I are quite high achievers and are doing very well indeed. This closed off his only real way to try and look for something specific to us Scientology could help us with - another small win in my books.

    While getting the books from the shelf, the first thing that really took me aback happened - he was absolutely insisted that we'd get copies with the seal unbroken. He went through the seals carefully, ensuring it was absolutely broken. He had to go through 2-3 copies before he found one that passed the test. Halfway through this process of finding the "perfect copy" for the second book, I said we'd be opening them anyway in a few hours, so it didn't matter. This did not deter him in the slightest.

    Why is this? The first thing that comes to mind is that he wants to make sure we are "absolutely getting the unaltered word of LRH", but why are they even keeping those broken ones on the shelf? It seemed a bit mysterious.

    The second thing that seemed a bit out of the ordinary was the payment process. We wanted to pay cash, which he enthusiastically (he did everything enthusiastically) accepted. Then, however, he noticed he'd run out of receipt paper. ("A truly ideal org in every possible way" was clearly well equipped.) He asked us if we'd like to pay with a credit card. I wasn't particularly keen on them having my personal information. Instead, I simply said I didn't need a receipt - what I think was a pretty smooth way out of the situation, given that I only took half a second to think it up. He was perfectly fine with that and ran downstairs to get the change - 1£ 50p.

    This, too, surprised me. You'd think they would have that kind of money upstairs at the bookstore, wouldn't you? But no, he had to go to the Staff Only area to get the coins. Perhaps they can't always keep a staff member by the bookstore (although when we went there, another staffer was already there) and keep the money in the staff room just in case someone goes upstairs unnoticed. Or maybe they have to register the 40£ first to some central vault before getting access to the coins, lest a staffer pinches a few pennies to feed themselves. I'd be interested to know the real reason behind it!

    We calmly followed him downstairs and waited a minute or so. Then he burst out from the door with the coins, visibly surprised that we had followed him down. I'd thought it a good idea since this little surprise would once again put us in control of the situation, and - most importantly - bring us right by the exit. We took the money, shook hands, and opened the door. He said we could register our details if we wanted further communication but explicitly stated that it wasn't necessary. This was a bit surprising, given that the names added to their central register, let alone the endless leaflets and letters they could then bombard us with, add up to their stats. Maybe it was the surprise of us behaving unexpectedly, maybe the fact that we literally had one foot out the door already. In any case, we wished him a very nice day and walked quickly towards the tube station.

    You might say that we missed a lot of the building and the exhibits - which is probably true. In the end, however, that has been documented with hidden cameras over and over again, so we didn't feel the need. Fully aware that having two much bigger guys together would make it hard for a small staff member to gain control of the situation, we were quite keen on ensuring there was no way to split us up.

    Some may say we took too many precautions, and there isn't a staff member in the world who wouldn't want to sell books. Probably true - however, I could find no accounts of anyone else doing a similar thing, so we weren't entirely sure what to expect. We'd read half a dozen accounts of people going in to tour the building or take the personality test, which gave us much valuable insight. We decided to play it safe and expect the worst - and come out the other side feeling over-prepped. On the other hand, many wiser men with twice or thrice our life experience have fallen into their tactics. Going into buy books from cult recruiters - books you could just as well read online - is stupid enough. Going in unprepared is just gratuitous self-harm.

    I hope you found this interesting or entertaining, and I'd really be interested in hearing the answers to the two questions that came up:
    1. Why was the seal on the books so important?
    2. Why was the money held in a completely separate room from the book shop?

    Thank you for reading!

    BR,
    Swundel

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    Gold Meritorious Patron TheOriginalBigBlue's Avatar
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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    I'm impressed!

    Should be included as a practical drill for High School anti-cult course.

    Bookstore sales and funds are handled very separately from services. They may have kept that money in another place just so it didn't get co-mingled with another account or accounting work was being done with it at the time.

    As for the seals, I guess one would have to ask why are they sealed in the first place? Maybe so people can't write some J&D stuff in there and try to return them?

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    Comfortably Numb strativarius's Avatar
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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    Can't answer your questions, sorry. For an 'overseas visitor' your command of the English language is astonishing. Probably better than mine. Hmm...
    To err is human, to purr is feline - Alexander Pope

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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Swundel View Post
    I hope you found this interesting or entertaining, and I'd really be interested in hearing the answers to the two questions that came up:
    1. Why was the seal on the books so important?
    2. Why was the money held in a completely separate room from the book shop?
    On 1: I don't think the seal was important. I think he was putting on a show about how much they cared about people getting "pure LRH".

    On 2: Most likely all financial transactions had to be invoiced in the Treasury office, which is where all cash would be kept. Yes, it is a very inefficient procedure. Then again, how many actual book sales do you think they make these days?

    You were being given a rehearsed "show", with the objective of keeping you around for as long as possible, letting their sales patter work on you until they could sign you up for a course. Why do they do it a particular way? Because at some point it worked, and got written up as a "successful action", and became "standard procedure".
    “The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.”
    ― Ayn Rand,

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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    There is a Scientology policy that talks about levels of exchange. These go from a criminal level of ripping people off, through giving something worse than was paid for, giving exactly what was paid for, to giving something better than was paid for.

    The example given of that final highest level is that someone buys a diamond, but the seller delivers them a blue-white diamond.

    Speculation:

    I wouldnt be surprised to find the above policy as a part of the bookstore officer's training pack. It's also quite possible that the trainee bookseller had to come up with examples of how he might apply this to his post.

    My guess is that he was trying to deliver the highest possible level of service by giving you pristine sealed books.

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    Squirrel Extraordinaire Dulloldfart's Avatar
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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    Yes, as Strati said, your English is astonishing for a high-school student from another country.

    Book seal? No obvious reason. There was a story in the news in the past week about hand-written notes in Chinese goods saying Help! I'm a prisoner, work 15 hours a day for little pay, don't get enough food. It reminded me of the Sea Org! I doubt he was worried a random book on the shelves would have such a note inside slipped in by who-knows-who, but it's not impossible.

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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Enthetan View Post
    On 1: I don't think the seal was important. I think he was putting on a show about how much they cared about people getting "pure LRH".

    On 2: Most likely all financial transactions had to be invoiced in the Treasury office, which is where all cash would be kept. Yes, it is a very inefficient procedure. Then again, how many actual book sales do you think they make these days?

    You were being given a rehearsed "show", with the objective of keeping you around for as long as possible, letting their sales patter work on you until they could sign you up for a course. Why do they do it a particular way? Because at some point it worked, and got written up as a "successful action", and became "standard procedure".
    Given what that while he was shuffling through the books, he was definitely marketing the courses, that seems like a very likely solution. That said, he might've well been a true high flyer and caught two birds with one stone, since Edwardo's theory doesn't seem impossible.

    The fact that I already knew everything he had time to tell me about the courses - and sometimes even helped him complete his point - really took the wind out of his sails when it came to that part. I didn't make it very easy for the poor guy - he didn't have a specific time or a specific course to try and sell me. I helpfully pointed out that many of them are also available online, after which he dropped the subject. I don't think they expect the raw meat to help them sell courses to themselves.

    It's good that they have prepared themselves for the "masses" overwhelming their organisations by streamlining their transaction procedures to the fullest. Welp, right now the staff still outnumber the public, so all is well. I suppose.
    There was a big poster on the wall saying "We're going Saint Hill size! Join staff now! Contact...." I find it telling that they are putting all their efforts into increasing the size of their staff rather than the number of parishioners.

    They slipped into the bag a free personality test (only one, though. And his body language suggested it was for my friend! I guess he either forgot about me or sensed that I knew too much) and a hilarious "YOU CAN WIN A FREE COURSE" (with the word "FREE" in this extravagant 3D golden lettering). The idea is that you introduce a friend, and if they start a service, you get a free course of the same price. That doesn't seem to be worth very much, though, unless you can somehow convince them to take the purif first.


    Thank you for all the comments about my grasp of the English language. Most people are really only surprised when they hear me speak - for some reason they don't expect to hear an overseas high schooler to speak near perfect Oxford English/RP. Many instantly assume that my family is partly English, which it isn't. I suppose this is yet another thing to help throw them off from their carefully practised act.

    I've come to realise that I did not ask a single question during the entire visit. I wonder how he felt about that?

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    Goldenrod SP ThetanExterior's Avatar
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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    At the next staff meeting that guy will stand up and tell everyone that two people came in after having read about Scientology on the internet and wanting to find out more. They were so impressed that they bought 3 books and left feeling very pleased.

    The staff will take this as a great win and proof that the Scientology message is getting out to the general public.

    Their stats of income and book sales have been boosted. They are very happy.

    This is the opposite result of what most people on this message board are trying to achieve.

    Just thought I'd add a little perspective to this tale.

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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    This is an excellant read on many levels. Very commendable reasoning...stay away!

    Very glad to see the wealth of information out there - methinks the cult is truly dead.

    Wish that I had had information available to me when I first became acquainted.

    I am a casualty and you are brilliant. Do not become a casualty!

    The real danger is not the people in those buildings...it is the words in those books.

    Beware! Protect and nurture that brilliance!
    "Religion is free; Scientology is neither."

    "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." - George Orwell, 1984

    "L. Ron Hubbard is the cult leader for the crime that is Scientology." - Cleverbot

    "And while we're at it I might as well toss this in for a good laugh. We were doing a lot of "research" on Rockslams at that time and one of the Hubbard thing's rockslamming items was...(oh you're going to love this)...'unlimited wealth'" - Mystic

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    Default Re: We went to the London CofS to buy books - what happened & a few questions

    I'm sure that this did help CofS in some ways. Maybe that's immoral in some ways. In the end, however, I don't think social causes should be primarily driven by consumers - that's what we have legislation for. I know some disagree with me on this and will call me selfish, but it is my belief in this and most other matters.
    I find this quite comparable to visiting North Korea - yes, some will say it is helping perpetuate the regime. In the end, the effect is so small though that the value it gives me personally outweighs that cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by guanoloco View Post
    The real danger is not the people in those buildings...it is the words in those books.
    On some level I disagree - I've now read the Fundamentals of Thought about halfway, and without a staffer looking over my shoulder and insisting I go back and find my "misunderstoods" for the umpteenth time in the same chapter, the texts seem quite ridiculous. That said, they are the primary tool of brainwashing the recruits, and that's very important to bear in mind.

    LRH is constantly saying something is a "scientific fact" without providing any evidence to it whatsoever. And, as said, being a materialist myself, I am missing the most basic beliefs it would require for me to actually buy into it.

    A more spiritual person would definitely be sucked in if they seriously go back and word clear everything whenever they disagree. I'm making use of the glossary at the back of the book to see the meaning of all the Hubbardisms that appear here and there. The fact that it only contains the meaning in which it was used in the book seems like a lightweight thought stopper, though - why is there only "one true meaning" of those words in the context they appear?

    I am reading these primarily because I am interested in the false 'science' they work with. It seems really quite intricate, and some level of understanding of it might make it easier to see why the organisation behaves the way it does. It's also a great case study on crazy ideologies, and I think an understanding of it can help me identify and engage with falsehoods I carry with me on purely secular matters.

    Here are my thoughts on the chapters I've read from the Fundamentals of Thought. I can post the rest as I read them if you are interested. Be sure to warn me if I agree with something dangerous. I'd also love to hear further analysis on the purposes each of these concepts serve in brainwashing the reader!

    I Basic principles
    - pretty much a second foreword. The end "IT IS POSSIBLE TO KNOW ABOUT..." thing might be quite exciting for some, but mostly left me sceptical.
    II Cycle of Action
    - so, destruction is also a creative process. ..fine. But not being party to the creation of a wall makes the wall not exist? We're straight off to cuckoo land, it appears. This whole chapter seems to be redefining the word "create" - it doesn't appear on the glossary, though. To me it intuitively means "bring something to a state of existence from a state of non-existence", but the bolded bit definitely doesn't fit with the way it is used in the chapter.
    III The Conditions of Existence
    Such a short chapter and so full of Hubbardisms. "Havingness" is hardly a word in standard English. I see it as a half decent way to break down our perception of life. I think there could be some new angles created, though, that would not fit the three defined here. "Knowingness", for instance, doesn't seem to fit in in a neat way. What we know and remember is an important part of not just what we think, but who we are. We have the information but are the memories, one could say. Maybe I should start a religion, too!
    IV The Eight Dynamics
    I was previously familiar with the concept, and the chapter taught me very little. it's an okay (if strange) shorthand to describe different groups based on an idea where you are the centre of the universe. I mean, the picture quite literally shows that.
    V The ARC triangle
    The closest I have come to an agreement with the book. It seems workable enough when dealing with people or organisations and their relations. Fails to account for ulterior motives, but works in their absence. Can't see communication being the universal solvent, though. Perhaps if we could completely communicate our entire backgrounds, it would in theory work. 100% communication = 100% understanding. To assume that 50% communication = 50% understanding would be quite wrong, though. The path is by no means literal. Take an example of two members from two militant groups who hate each other. So long as they are unaware of each other's affiliations, there is understanding on other issues, and the two are likely to be friendly enough. If this key piece of information is then communicated, violence may ensue.
    VI The Reason Why
    What a mysterious title! In the end, we are comparing life to a game. The idea of being senior/junior to a conflict is interesting, and I'm fine with the pan-determinism/self-determinism idea for the most part. Pitting dynamics against other dynamics seems a bit strange, though. Maybe Chapter VII will make that clear.

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