What is Scientology, Anyway?

During the past few days if you have turned on the TV, read the newspaper, glanced at a tabloid at the grocery store, or otherwise tuned into US media; you may be asking yourself, “What is Scientology, anyway?” Although I am usually loathe to be involved in celebrities’ lives, or even interested, I became curious about whether Scientology is a science, religion, or some mixture of both, and decided to get the information from the source rather than the news media. Here is what I found, all of the information being from www.scientology.com:
Scientology is “an applied religious philosophy” meaning that it is not so much a belief system as a guide for behavior and actions, a “means of spiritual transformation.” More definitively, it is “the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, universes, and other life.” “Handling” is a major theme in Scientology, in that one is very deliberate about actions and reactions. It is claimed on the website that Scientology is the fastest-growing religious movement on Earth, with over 3,200 missions and groups in 154 countries.

L. Ron Hubbard–The Founder of Scientology
The founder of Scientology was L. Ron Hubbard, (1911-1986), whose birthday is celebrated by followers on March 13. Mr. Hubbard traveled extensively, and studied engineering and atomic and molecular physics at George Washington University. His professions are listed on the website; from composer and balladeer to archaeologist, mineralogist, master mariner and horticulturalist. His first book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health approached the question of psychiatry by “working with the invariability of physical science in the field of the human mind.” In the work he named “Survive!” as the dynamic principle of existence, and concluded that the source of all human “aberration” is the “reactive mind and its engrams;” engrams being a record of details that your mind conceives during “unconsciousness.”

Mr. Hubbard was gradually more and more concerned with the problems of society, mainly political upheaval, social putrefaction, violence, racism, illiteracy, and drugs. Out of his quest to answer questions about these problems came Scientology, contained in 40 books and 2,500 tape-recorded lectures, which constitute the philosophy’s scripture. The website is somewhat vague about Mr. Hubbard’s process, but claims that he created a “workable technology” so that needed changes could occur. The aims of Scientology became a “world without insanity, criminals, or war; where the able can prosper and man is free to rise to greater heights.”

Among other solutions, Mr. Hubbard identified three “barriers to study” that he felt affected the public education of children in America. He called these the “absence of mass” (as in tactile learning), “too steep a study gradient,” and the “misunderstood word” that confused students and made them stop paying attention. It is not evident that Mr. Hubbard actually had teaching experience though, and the website is vague about the source of his expertise on many subjects, citing in the timeline when he studied various subjects on his own.

They are firm in the belief that you need not believe any of Scientology’s tenets without finding them to be true for yourself. For example, Scientologists mostly believe in God, but do not worship Him in services. However, Scientologists believe that through total enlightenment one can discover and understand the Supreme Being. This seemingly contradictory stance is echoed in their belief in reincarnation, stating that it is not a dogma, but “generally Scientologists experience a past life and know for themselves that they have lived before.”

Practicing Scientology
The first Church of Scientology was established by people practicing Mr. Hubbard’s philosophy in Los Angeles, in 1954. The website implies that Mr. Hubbard did not see himself as a religious figure, but was perceived as such. It also implies that the churches were and are instituted by followers of Scientology, rather than by Mr. Hubbard himself, although he did train Scientologists in the early 1960s in London, with the belief that they would carry the religion to other parts of the world. The practice of Scientology was really begun then, in the 1960s, as more and more people flocked to someone who claimed he had all the answers.

One claim that must have enticed people to try Scientology was that you could experience spiritual improvement with absolute certainty by following its practices, according to the website. The practice involves becoming an “auditor” who studies Scientology. Auditing is an experience in which you listen to and read the works of L. Ron Hubbard, as well as have meetings with a minister of Scientology who has been ordained. You may also experience confession, as well as readings by the electropsychometer, or “E-meter.” The E-Meter is a religious artifact used as a spiritual guide in auditing to help the “preclear” (pre-enlightenment) locate and confront areas of spiritual upset.

In Scientology there are three parts of man: the man, body, and Thetan; the Thetan being the “immortal spiritual being.” He (the Thetan) has a mind, with pictures he has created, that have mass and weight, which can impinge on the person when he is emotionally upset. The E-Meter reads the impingement against the body of such pictures by sending a very small electrical current through the body. When you re-experience an event or shift the pictures, you move and change your mental mass and energy, which affects the tiny flow of electrical energy generated by the E-Meter. These changes are, according to Scientologists, caused by the spiritual being. The E-Meter is used to help uncover truth–areas of spiritual or mental trauma; that may help the auditor decide what to address in the process of studying Scientology. Like Mormonism, Scientology has certain confidential scriptures that can only be accessed after intense study; they believe that premature exposure could impede spiritual development.

Scientology, like any religion, also has its symbols, including an eight-pointed cross. The eight points on the cross symbolize the dynamics of life, which include the urge towards existence as a self, to survive as a spiritual being, and existence as infinity. They also use an “S” (for Scientology) and a double triangle, the lower triangle having the acronym ARC for Affinity, Reality, and Communication, while the upper triangle’s acronym is KRC, for Knowledge, Responsibility, and Control. Besides celebrating March 13 as L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, Scientologists also celebrate May 9, the original publishing date in 1950 of Dianetics, Auditor’s Day, which is the second Sunday in September, and October 7, which is the founding of the International Association of Scientologists.

Scientology and Drugs
If you have been paying attention to the media, much of the fanfare surrounding Scientology (and Tom Cruise’s portrayal of it) regards the use of drugs and the practice of psychiatry. While I could find nothing specifically about psychiatry on the website, it does say the following about drugs: Scientologists do not take street drugs or mind-altering psychiatric drugs. I would infer from that language that any anti-depressant or drug such as Ritalin falls into the category of “mind-altering.” Scientologists do use prescribed drugs as part of medical programs from competent physicians, and in fact are encouraged to see medical doctors who handle the physical aspect of any illness or injury. I would also infer from that language that naming the “physical aspect” removes mental aspects from possible treatment. Auditors are also discouraged from drinking alcohol 24 hours before any religious service; they claim its effects make benefiting from the services impossible. In taking a “How Toxic are you?” quiz I discovered I am apparently very toxic; my prescription was to sweat (exercise) and take minerals and vitamins, as Tom Cruise prescribed for Brooke Shields’ post-partum depression. It seems ironic that the medicines for depression release endorphins and dopamine into your system, just as running does–apparently, for Scientologists, natural highs are okay but those induced by FDA-approved prescription drugs are not.

An interesting off-shoot of Scientology is the Sea Organization (named for L. Ron Hubbard’s fascination with the ocean) which is a fraternal organization, begun in 1967, that dedicates their lies to Scientology and its service. They also sign a billion-year contract, to symbolize their unerring faith.

In the end, it seems to me that Scientology, except for being created in the past 40 years, is like any other religion. It has its contradictions, its bizarre beliefs, and has some members who are zealots and others who are not. The belief that “man is an immortal spiritual being, his experience extends well beyond a single lifetime, and his capabilities are unlimited even if not presently realized” is common of almost all religions. If only that kind of tolerance extended between and among religions.

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