Since I attended the opening of the new Scientology building in January, I have been called occasionally by a church member called Will who has been inviting me to Auckland Scientology events. However, I'm in Wellington and so I've been waiting patiently for a local event to be announced.

Finally, this week, I was told that there was going to be a video screening of an anniversary event. The event happened recently on board the Freewinds, Scientology's cruise ship. This is the only place where Scientologists can work on the current highest point of the "bridge", OT VIII. I managed to secure an invite to the screening, and turned up last night at 6pm.

The video featured people talking about how wonderful Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, was, along with reenactments of parts of his life. The standard Scientology line is that L. Ron was an expert at everything he did - sailor, painter, musician, businessman, scientist, author, etc.

This church view of Hubbard appears to be in stark contrast to the facts, and it's a good exercise to contrast the biography on the lronhubbard.org website with the Wikipedia page for Hubbard:

"in March 1942, he assumes command of a convoy escort vessel in the Atlantic, then a subchaser in the Pacific" vs "briefly commanding two ships, the USS YP-422 and USS PC-815. He was removed both times when his superiors found him incapable of command."

"while recovering at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital from injuries sustained in combat" vs "The last few months of his active service were spent in a hospital, being treated for a duodenal ulcer"

The video focused on Hubbard's jaunts around Europe on a boat. Hubbard's "research" discovered that we have lived many lives, going back trillions of years - and that auditing can access these past lives. In an attempt to prove this hypothesis, L. Ron Hubbard decided to take a ship around the Mediterranean and dig up secrets that could only be known by someone who had lived a past life in the area.

Funnily, the video story neglected to mention what is nicely described on Wikipedia:

"His expedition came to an end when Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela all closed their ports to his fleet."

Scientology, despite its denials, seems to run as a cult of personality, with many fantastical claims being made about L. Ron Hubbard. Truths appear to be stretched to breaking point

After the video screening, we talked a little about Scientology and were then given a demonstration of an eMeter. An E-meter consists of a device with dials and a needle, and two "cans" attached to the device via cables that you hold in your hand. It's basically a skin galvanometer. When you hold the cans, you complete an electrical circuit and the needle shows how well electricity from the device is able to pass through your body. In Scientology, these devices are used to measure the energy of a person's thoughts, and are a part of a process called auditing, where people "clear" detrimental thoughts by recounting them until the needle stops moving.

The demonstration of the E-meter was given on a young woman, Louise, who held the cans in her hands and was then pinched on the arm. The pinch caused the needle to move sharply to the right. Then Louise was asked to remember the pinch, at which point the needle moved to the right again. I can imagine how this would be a convincing proof to someone that the machine is, indeed, reading the "charge" of your thoughts.

However, there's a much more mundane explanation that the secretary of the NZ Skeptics found out when we played with the machines in January. He noticed that the tighter you hold the cans, the better the electrical connection and the easier electricity can flow. This makes the needle move. When someone is pinched, they are likely to squeeze the cans in anticipation, causing the needle to move. Similarly, when asked to recount the pain I can imagine a person unconsciously squeezing the cans again.

To test this, I picked up the cans myself and spent a few minutes ever so slightly changing the amount of pressure I was exerting on the cans by my grip. Sure enough, it became easy for me to control the needle and make it move to the left, move to the right or stay still at any point along the dial.

The people hosting the event were very friendly and kind, feeding us with pizza and giving us free pamphlets such as The Way to Happiness:

http://www.thewaytohappiness.org/

The full audio of my evening is here: