Scientological writings provide some arguments to validate (legitimize) the Scientology religious doctrine of L. Ron Hubbard, which is called an “applied religious philosophy.” A reading of the argumentation shows that integration exists between Scientology and the ideals and practices of contemporary occidental society.
Scientology doctrine—which is not conceived as a revealed morality but rather as the result of the right use of human reason—takes on the ideals and values of liberal society: individual success, a morality of competition between individuals in order to avoid savage behaviour, the rise of economic power and science and technology which provide improvements in personal well-being, faith in the continuous progress of civilization, in Man and his potential, in the possibility of harmony between personal aims and those of civilization as a whole. Faith in these ideals is justified by the nature of Man: Man is good and, consequently, aspires to that which is good, i.e., optimum survival. If he fails to become more powerful or to practice a morality which encourages progress in civilization, this is because he suffers from aberrations which can be cured by means of certain techniques.
To summarize, Man may return to the omniscience and omnipotence of the primordial spirits and produce a human race like that in the beginning of the world. This is a kind of regressive utopia which spiritualizes progress by making it a pilgrimage towards a world of perfect people which existed at one stage in the past. The Scientology doctrine appeals to Man’s responsibility and offers him a choice between an increasingly savage society if they do not change and a powerful society without war or violence if they agree to treat their aberrations. We can see that L. Ron Hubbard proposes an ethos of personal responsibility, a way to happiness, efficiency, prosperity and personal development which is not far from the philosophy of the Enlightenment which dominates our highly developed societies.
We can see that L. Ron Hubbard proposes an ethos of personal responsibility, a way to happiness, efficiency, prosperity and personal development...
Therefore, we can see how the Scientology doctrine corresponds to empirical reality as far as the content of Western capitalist societies is concerned. It also corresponds in its means of acquisition and structure. The method of religious training conforms to the learning methods used in most systems of education: lessons, courses, practical exercises. Scientology’s doctrinal edifice resembles the knowledge adherents have already acquired: the members think it is rational (it is presented like a scientific proof with concepts, hypotheses and axioms) and scientific (there is a collection of thick books documenting the discoveries of L. Ron Hubbard together with his various experiments, mistakes, problems and results). The system also allows each person to acquire techniques which they can immediately put into practice according to a clear order of precedence with predictable results. This type of training is similar in form to the training that Scientologists received in their earlier school or university system.
Many Scientologists are managers, company directors, professional people, sportsmen and show business personnel. They have usually reached at least A-level in their general education, often higher. The characteristics of Scientology which we have just described allow the members to feel at home because of the education they have already received. We can add that Scientology also speaks to the fears common in contemporary society—violence, wars, nuclear threat, pollution, etc.
On the other hand, the life force required to achieve these goals is identified with God, which gives the movement spiritual legitimacy. During the Sunday services the chaplain announces that “the ascension to Survival is in itself an ascension to God.” We can find here an energetic vision of the divine common to many different metaphysical movements.
Secondly, to Scientologists, the validity of Scientology comes from the workability of its technology. Scientology holds that the man who applies the ethics technology and uses Scientology will inevitably have a better life and increased well-being and healing which indicate success. An instance of the absence of positive results does not discredit the technology. Rather, any apparent failure invites the user to examine his own resistances, his relationship problems within society or his faulty use of the technology. In either case, he is invited to persevere because Scientologists believe there is always a technical solution to any problem. Scientology works if followed correctly. Standard technology can be consulted in Scientology texts. The application of the technology is strictly standardized; one need only follow the instructions step by step to achieve the desired result, learned by training in the religion. Certainty of the validity arises from experiencing the techniques.
Scientology holds that the man who applies the ethics technology and uses Scientology will inevitably have a better life and increased well-being and healing which indicate success.
Success proves the legitimacy of the technology and therefore also the applied religious philosophy and the spiritual concepts which go with it.
We wanted to know if the legitimation of Scientology as it is described in the official literature was the same as that used by the members. For this reason we interviewed 15 Scientologists. We asked them why they thought Scientology was true. The members interviewed had been in the movement for between five and 20 years. They were all highly educated. Their arguments can be divided into several categories.
III.I. Pragmatic Legitimacy
The Scientologists questioned thought that their beliefs were valid because they brought tangible improvements in their lives, sometimes changing their situation completely. They claim that their health has improved, that their family life is more harmonious. They continued in the movement because they saw definite results right from the start. For the members, Scientology is a useful religion.
III.II. Probability in Belief
Personal verification of the validity of Scientology principles leaves an “unverified” realm. Many Scientologists admit that they have not personally verified all of L. Ron Hubbard’s doctrines for themselves and that there remain some zones of hypothetical belief.
Belief in God is much discussed. For some, the existence of a Supreme Being is not in doubt. They speak of an inner conviction, evidence of God’s existence which made them make up their differences with the “God of the Catholics” of their childhood. Others have been marked by contact with their past lives during auditing which led them to the idea of an infinite being. For example, “To start with I wasn’t aware of it, but as the auditing went on I realised that there really was an eighth dynamic which is infinite and which exists; at first I didn’t know about it, but now I know it exists.” However, for most of them, God (in their vocabulary—the eighth dynamic) needs to be verified in the same way as the other beliefs. At the same time, they consider God a probable hypothesis: for one thing, if they have checked a part of L. Ron Hubbard’s teaching, there is no reason why the rest should not be true. For example: “I know that there is a creator of all things, of the universe… I believe that there is a Supreme Being, it’s just a question of time. Does he still exist? At the stage I’ve reached now I have no means of knowing. It’s partly faith and partly knowing, because when you’ve verified for yourself 70 percent of a subject, you think the rest is probably true.”—Scientologist of 20 years, age 47. Still others think that if Scientologists at higher levels have found God, then he must exist.
At the same time, they admit that they are on a search which may not end for them with the same discovery. For many Scientologists “the eighth dynamic” remains a world which must be explored personally to be fully believed. For the moment they are waiting. God is probably there. This can be called faith in probability.
III.III. Relative Truth
Where personal exploration dominates, truth is always relative to the stage reached along the Scientologist’s path of spiritual development. Two truths mentioned by one of those questioned illustrate this relativity: the one which is beyond time and words and the truth of “here and now.”
Scientologists state that their belief is relevant to reality. One spoke about being in tune with reality, while at the same time admitting that he created it himself and that it had become natural for him. For example, one of them perceived Scientology ethics as adequate for understandings with others and for dealing with them. Another believer said that she had found a satisfactory method of social reform. Before her involvement with Scientology she had been a militant socialist. She felt that she had found in Scientology technology the tools she needed to “thoroughly reform society.”
III.V. The Meaning of Life
Members claim to have found a meaning for their lives. One of them described himself as a sailor drifting on the ocean under a cloudy sky with no compass and no landmarks to guide him when he found a map and all the navigational equipment he needed. Scientologists think they have found the meaning of life and the way to go forward. One of them, who gave up studying medicine, admits that he could not see the point of all the effort he was making, because the comfortable, middle-class existence he was heading for seemed to be inconsistent with what he felt was the meaning of life, meaning he said he had found in Scientology.
III.VI. References to Science
In our interviews we found no references to accredited sciences as proofs for the doctrine or the technology of the Scientologists. This is in direct contrast with:
a. The expert knowledge required by leadership and mentioned above.
b. L. Ron Hubbard’s statement that “I have to face up to the fact that we have come to the point where science and religion meet, and from now on we should stop pretending to have exclusively material aims. We cannot treat the human soul if we close our eyes to this fact.”
We can form the hypothesis that:
a. Compatibility with the accredited sciences is an official doctrine considered as an accepted fact and which Scientologists do not feel the need to justify. Or,
b. The legitimation of this belief is a question of personal experience rather than attachment to an official position.
c. That Scientological technology replaces science.
We should also note that the Church of Scientology has changed from its formative years. It describes itself as a specific religious movement; the legitimacy that the Church seeks nowadays is less positioned on a scientific level than before.
III.VII. The Importance of Scientological Technology
Scientology is not so much believed as practiced. The phrase “doing Scientology” was used several times. In an earlier series of interviews on the subject of defining what is Scientology, the members stressed application of the technology. During the current series of interviews, validity relied on the workability of the technology.
Scientology appears to be a practical religion.
III.VIII. Reference to a Religious Tradition
Those questioned only talked about religious traditions to point out their shortcomings. No one mentioned the link between Buddhism and Scientology although it is asserted by L. Ron Hubbard. He underlined their common points but lamented Buddhism’s lack of effectiveness in the world.
This omission accompanies the omission of science. The faithful do not seek to legitimize their beliefs by referring to external factors. That which they have confirmed for themselves seems to suffice. They do not feel the need to support their beliefs to others in theological terms, nor to place themselves in a tradition of religious thought, even if L. Ron Hubbard perceived similarities between Scientology, Buddhism and various ancient wisdom religions.
The legitimation of Scientology by some members differs slightly from official documents. The “science based on certainty” is rather a “science based on certainties,” which are only accepted after being confirmed by personal experience. It follows that faith is based on probability and is relative to the stage reached by the member on the spiritual scale. On the other hand, doctrinal affirmations with regard to the technology of the movement are accepted. We are not dealing with discernible proof of the truth which leads to a form of behaviour as in cases of conversion in religions with a doctrine of salvation. In those religions, believers pray because they accept the belief structure which recommends prayer. The Scientologist adds one certainty to another until he obtains sufficient evidence for the truth. One Scientologist told me that he preferred to talk about “continuous conversion.”
It also appears that their faith is a fides efficax as the believers claim to have found in Scientology a means of understanding society and to transform both it and the whole world.