VI.I. The Church of Scientology as a New Religion
The Church of Scientology is one of a number of new religious movements which embraces features which correspond in certain respects to some of the trends evident in the mainstream of Western religion (as noted above in Paras. V.I.–V.IV.). It employs language which is contemporary, colloquial, and unmystical; and it presents its dogmas as matters of objective fact. Its conception of salvation has both a proximate and an ultimate dimension. The wide appeal which it has commanded among the public of the advanced countries of the Western world has made it a focus of attention among sociologists and other students of contemporary religion.
VI.II. My Knowledge of Scientology
I began to read the literature produced by the Church of Scientology in 1968, and at one time even projected a study of the movement. Although I did not finally undertake that work, I continued to read Scientology literature. I have visited the Church’s headquarters at Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, and became acquainted with Scientologists. Since that time I have maintained contact with the movement in Britain, and have paid other visits to Saint Hill Manor and to a Scientology church in London. I have continued to take a close interest in the development of the religion as one among a number of contemporary religions which are objects of interest to me as a sociologist. I have read, among other material of a more ephemeral nature, the following works, all of them official publications, and most of them the writings of L. Ron Hubbard:
Handbook for Preclears
Introducing the E-Meter
Dianetics: The Original Thesis
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health
A Test of Whole Track Recall
The Problems of Work
The Creation of Human Ability
The Phoenix Lectures
The Axioms of Scientology
Advanced Procedure and Axioms
Scientology: A New Slant on Life
The Character of Scientology
Ceremonies of the Founding Church of Scientology
The Scientology Religion
Science of Survival
Introduction to Scientology Ethics
The Way to Happiness
Description of the Scientology Religion
What Is Scientology?
The Scientology Handbook
In works that I have written on new religions, I have referred to Scientology on various occasions, and included a short account of this religion in my book, Religious Sects (London: Weidenfeld, 1970), and a longer discussion of the religious character of Scientology in my later book, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990). I have maintained my interest in the movement for the past twenty-six years.
VI.III. Dianetics—The Genesis of Scientology
When, in May 1950, Mr. L. Ron Hubbard first set out the prospectus of Dianetics, from which Scientology later developed, there was no suggestion that he was putting forward a pattern of religious belief and practice. Dianetics, an abreaction therapy, was not set forth in the language of faith. There is no reason to suppose that, at that time, Hubbard envisaged that Dianetics would become a system of religious belief and practice, or that his following would come to describe and organize itself as a church.
VI.IV. Mental Healing and Religion
Therapeutic practice, however, has often manifested a potential for acquiring metaphysical and religious affiliations, as, in different ways, may be seen from Christian Science, the New Thought movement, and yoga techniques. On the other side, established religions have at times developed specialist activities concerned with healing, particularly mental healing, and major churches sometimes have departments organized for this purpose. Dianetics invoked no religious principles at the outset, but as the theoretical legitimation for practice became elaborated, a metaphysical dimension was increasingly recognized and some of the ideas propounded came to be described in terms that were distinctly religious in their implication.
VI.V. How Religions Evolve
All religions are a product of evolution. No religion has come into being as a fully-fledged system of belief and practice at a given moment of time. In this, Scientology is no exception: from a body of therapeutic theory a religion developed. It would be quite impossible to say when Christianity itself became a religion, beginning, as it did, with a loose collection of ethical exhortations and occasional miracles; becoming a popular movement among Galileans; gradually becoming a Jewish sect; and then becoming a distinct religion. Even then, it took centuries for its doctrines to be fully articulated, and its ritual practice has continued to undergo frequent change. In movements of more recent times, the process of evolution into a religion is yet more clearly evident.
All religions are a product of evolution. No religion has come into being as a fully-fledged system of belief and practice at a given moment of time. In this, Scientology is no exception: from a body of therapeutic theory a religion developed.
The Seventh-day Adventist church traces its origins to the widely diffused belief in the very early advent of Jesus Christ which occurred among Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and others in upstate New York in the 1830s: the Church was formed only in 1860. Similarly, it took several decades after the first experience (of the Fox Sisters) of the “rappings” at Hydesville (purportedly messages from the “spirit world”) before a Spiritualist church was formed. Similarly, Mary Baker Eddy had experimented for years with systems of mental healing before her “discovery” of her mind cure in 1866, and even for some years after that date she thought her system would be taken into the major churches rather than becoming the basis for the Church of Christ, Scientist, which she founded in 1875. The Pentecostalists experienced the charismata of speech in unknown tongues, prophesying, healings and other “gifts” from the year 1900, but separate Pentecostal churches formed only very slowly in the course of the next two decades. None of these movements, all of which became separate religions, started as such. Neither did Scientology.
VI.VI. Scientology Doctrine—The Development
of the Metaphysic
It is necessary, even at the cost of some possible repetition in what follows, to set out in broad terms a comprehensive statement of the major teachings of Scientology, and to indicate the extent to which these tenets of belief constitute a coherent religious system. Scientology grew out of a more narrowly focused therapeutic system, Dianetics. It has been suggested that this term was a combination of dia = through, and nous = mind or soul, and thus constituted, even if initially less than wholly consciously, a religious perspective. With the incorporation of Dianetics into the wider framework of Scientology, a much more extensive conception of an encompassing metaphysical system was articulated which made evident the fundamentally religious nature of this philosophy. Whilst the immediate application of Dianetics was—like that of Christ’s teachings during his lifetime—in the sphere of mental healing, the purport of the subsequent teachings, which explained and promoted that therapeutic activity, implicated a growing apprehension of spiritual ideas and values.
The basic postulate of Scientology is that man is, in fact, a spiritual entity, a thetan which successively occupies material human bodies.
VI.VII. Scientology Doctrine—The Thetan
and the Reactive Mind
The basic postulate of Scientology is that man is, in fact, a spiritual entity, a thetan which successively occupies material human bodies. The thetan is an individual expression of theta, by which is understood life or the life source. Loosely defined, the thetan is the soul, but it is also the real person, the continuing and persisting identity which transcends the body which it inhabits. It is said to be immaterial and immortal, or at least to have the capacity to be immortal, and to have an infinite creative potential. It is not part of the physical universe—but it has the latent capacity to control that universe, which is comprised of Matter, Energy, Space and Time (MEST). Thetans are seen as having brought into being the material world largely for their own pleasure (as indeed might also be said of the creation of the world by the Christian God). It is held that, at sometime long past, thetans became victims of their own involvement with MEST, becoming entrapped by it and allowing their own creation to limit their own abilities and to circumscribe their sphere of operations. Thus, man’s activities and achievements in the present material world fall far short of his potential: he is encumbered by innumerable past entanglements with MEST and These are recorded in a reactive mind which responds irrationally and emotionally to anything which recalls painful and traumatic past experiences (which he has suffered or caused to others). The reactive mind functions in defiance of that capacity for control which, were he able to recapture his true native spiritual abilities, he would be able to exercise over his body and his environment. Whilst man is regarded as fundamentally good, and both desirous and capable of survival, his past forfeiture of his abilities has rendered him an endangered species.
VI.VIII. Scientology Doctrine—Reincarnation and Karma
Thetans are believed to have occupied innumerable bodies over aeons of time. Thus, Scientology embraces a theory which, whilst differing in particulars, shares major assumptions with that theory of reincarnation as maintained in Hinduism and Buddhism. The Scientological emphasis on the importance of present (or future) consequence of past actions resembles the concept of karma. Untoward effects result from “overt acts” (harmful acts) which are an aspect of the entanglement with the material universe. The ideal for the thetan is to maintain rational action and to be “at cause” over phenomena: that is to say, to determine the course of events in the immediate environment. This idea has clear analogies with the Eastern concept of creating good karma for the future by wholesome deeds, although Scientologists do not use these terms or concepts. The events of past lives affect the present, but, by the techniques developed in Scientology, these events can be recalled, confronted, and the specific sources of present problems can be located in those events. It is this facility which provides the basis for spiritual healing—that is, it provides the opportunity for altering the “karmatic” effects of past actions.
VI.IX. Scientology Doctrine—The Eight Dynamics
Existence, according to Scientology, may be recognized in eight different divisions in an ascending order of magnitude, each being designated as a dynamic. Briefly described These are: 1st, the self dynamic, the urge of the self for existence; 2nd, the sex dynamic, which incorporates both the sexual act and the family unit and the maintenance of the family; 3rd, the will to existence, which is found in a group or an association, such as the school, the town, or the nation; 4th, the dynamic will of mankind to maintain its existence; 5th, the existence and will to survive of the entire animal kingdom, which includes all living entities; 6th, the urge towards existence of the entire physical universe of matter, energy, space and time; 7th, “the urge towards existence as or of spirits,” which includes all spiritual phenomena, with or without identity; and finally, the 8th dynamic: the urge towards existence as infinity. This dynamic is identified as the Supreme Being, which also can be called the “God dynamic.” Scientology is concerned with survival, and the survival of each of these dynamics is seen as part of the goal of the practice of Scientology. Thus, although much of the initial practice of Scientology is concerned more narrowly with more personal spiritual benefits for those (preclears) who seek Scientological assistance, ultimately the Scientologist must realize that his present life is but a fragment of his continuing existence as a thetan, and that the life of the individual is linked to each of these ascending levels described in the eight dynamics, and so ultimately to the existence and survival of the Supreme Being or infinity.
VI.X. Scientology Doctrine—Therapy and Communication
As in other religions, the primary and initial preoccupation of many of those who are drawn to Scientology is proximate salvation from immediate suffering and travail; this is the appeal of the therapeutic element which is found in many religions—and conspicuously so in early Christianity—alongside the more mystical, metaphysical, spiritual teachings which believers are expected to come to as they grow in the faith (see Hebrews, 5:12–14). Most Scientologists have first learned of the possibility of improving their everyday experience and of enhancing their intelligence (by gaining increasing control of the reactive mind). The possibility of achieving such results, through the process of auditing, is represented in the formulation known as A-R-C. A stands for Affinity, which represents the emotional experience of the individual and his sense of relationship to others through the emotions. R stands for Reality, which is represented as inter-subjective consensus about objective phenomena. C stands for Communication, and great importance is attached in Scientology to communication. When people have an affinity, when they agree about the nature of objective phenomena, then communication can occur very readily. Associated with this triadic concept of A-R-C, is the scale of human emotions, known to Scientologists as the “tone scale.” As emotional tone descends, so communication becomes difficult, and reality becomes badly experienced. Communication itself is, however, an agency which seeks to increase understanding and, effectively and precisely used, it becomes the main therapeutic agency for releasing the individual from the entrapment he has experienced with the material world. The thetan can be enabled to communicate with its own past, recognize the nature of past traumatic experiences, and attain self-knowledge which permits him to escape from these encumbrances.
VI.XI. Scientology Doctrine—Auditing
as an Agency of Therapy
The Tone Scale is the first representation to the individual of the possibility of benefit from Scientology, indicating an ascent from chronic emotional tone, such as apathy, grief, and fear, to enthusiasm (and, at more advanced levels, to exhilaration and serenity). It is to experience benefits of this kind that many are first drawn to Scientology. The technique for such progress is found in auditing, in which a trained Scientologist, by the use of carefully controlled questions, brings back to the awareness of the individual episodes from his own past which have left a traumatic imprint (an “engram”) in his reactive mind and which prevent the individual from behaving rationally. Release from the effects of these impediments to rational thinking is thus the process by which an individual is raised on the “tone scale”, so improving his competencies, but it is also—and herein lies its fuller religious significance—the method by which the thetan might achieve salvation, initially by eliminating the aberrations that it suffers as a consequence of entanglement with the material world, and eventually by gaining total freedom from the ill effects of the MEST universe. Scientologists refer to this condition as being “at cause.” It has clear analogues with the mode of salvation that is offered in Eastern religions. Since they, too, see the individual as encumbered by the effects of past deeds (karma), the conception of salvation which they espouse is also through a process (enlightenment) by which the effect of karma can be broken, liberating the individual. The ultimate goal is for the individual, known as an Operating Thetan, to exist outside the body, to be in a condition described as “exterior” to all physicality. Such a condition is one which at least some Christians would acknowledge as the condition of the saved soul.
VI.XII. Scientology Doctrine—Rational Means for Salvation
The religious philosophy outlined above lies behind the practice of Scientology. Hubbard has himself regarded it as in some ways similar to the philosophy of Eastern religions. In particular, he has cited the Vedas, the hymns of creation which form part of the Hindu tradition, as containing a concept very similar to Scientology’s “Cycle of Action.” The Cycle of Action is the apparent order of life from birth, through growth, to decay and death, but through the knowledge which Scientology makes available, the baleful effects of the operation of this cycle might be avoided. The cycle can be amended from one of creation, survival and destruction, to one in which all elements can be creative acts: Scientology is committed to promoting and increasing creativity and conquering chaos and negativity. It recognizes a continuing “track” or line of descent of wisdom from the Vedas and Gautama Buddha to the Christian message, and claims some affinity with the teachings of all of these. But whereas the wisdom presented, for example in Buddhism, perhaps allowed occasional individuals to attain salvation in one lifetime, there was, then, no set of precise practices which ensured that result; there was little possibility of replication. The attainment of salvation remained subject to random or uncontrolled factors. Salvation was attained by a few, here and there, now and then, if at all. What Hubbard claimed to do was to standardize, almost to routinize, religious practice, and to increase the predictability of soteriological results. Such application of technical methods to spiritual goals indicates the extent to which Scientology adopts modern techniques for the realisation of goals that were once reached only spasmodically and occasionally, if at all. This, then, is the attempt to introduce certainty and order into spiritual exercises and attainments. Scientology seeks to discipline and order the religious quest by the employment of rational procedures. In this sense, it has done in the technological age much of what Methodism sought to do at an earlier stage of social development, by trying to persuade people that the goal of salvation was to be sought in a controlled, disciplined, methodical way. Whilst the actual methods of the Methodists were still couched in the relatively conventional language of current Christianity, the methods advocated by Scientology bear the strong imprint of a society more fully committed to rational and technological procedures. The means which Scientology employs have been likened to the upaya (“right method”) of the seventh stage of the Bodhisattva Way to salvation in Mahayana Buddhism. According to this version of Buddhism, at the seventh stage, the believer becomes a transcendental Bodhisattva who (like the Operating Thetan in Scientology) is no longer tied to a physical body.
VI.XIII. Scientology Doctrine—Auditing as
The means which Scientology employs constitutes a form of pastoral counselling, most specifically organized into the techniques of auditing (from Latin audire, to listen). The specific techniques and apparatus of auditing are organized as a technology which constitutes the core part of Scientological religious practice. This pattern of practice is essential for all who would experience the saving benefits of the faith, and Hubbard’s effort has been to reduce the process of spiritual enlightenment to a set of ordered procedures which systematically reach deeper levels of consciousness. This method, like that of affirmation in Christian Science, is claimed to eliminate both the sense of sin and the effects of past suffering and wrongdoing.
VI.XIV. Scientology Doctrine—Stages of Salvation
The two principal stages in this healing and soteriological process are the conditions described respectively as Clear and Operating Thetan. The preclear who first encounters Scientology is troubled by the mental impedimenta of past painful and emotional experiences. Auditing seeks to bring these items to consciousness, to make the individual communicate with his past, to confront those events which have given rise to emotional discharge, and thereby to bring the individual to a point at which he transcends that discharge and can review these hitherto forgotten disturbances with total equanimity and rational awareness. The baleful effects of such items are thereby dissipated. Mental blocks, feelings of guilt and inadequacy, fixation with past traumas or incidental occasions of emotional upset are overcome. The individual is brought up “to present time,” that is, he is freed from the disabling effects of events that have occurred on the “time track” of the thetan’s earlier present life or past lives. By improving communication, auditing brings the thetan into a condition where past hindrances have been eliminated. He is defined as a Clear, a being who no longer has his own reactive mind, who is self-determined, at least with respect to his own being. The Operating Thetan is at a higher level of the same process, since he has also acquired control over his environment. He is no longer dependent on the body which, for the time being, he occupies: he is said, indeed, to be no longer in a body. In other words, it might be said that the Operating Thetan is a being who has realized his full spiritual potential, who has achieved salvation. The current work, What Is Scientology?
For Scientologists, pastoral counselling is...a systematic and controlled endeavour to promote self-enlightenment and spiritual knowledge.
VI.XV. Religious Roles in Scientology—The Auditor
Religious ministrations are available in Scientology through four related agents, whose roles both complement each other and to some extent overlap. These functionaries are the auditor, the case supervisor, the course supervisor, and the chaplain. The auditor’s role is fundamental: auditing is the vital technique for the acquisition ultimately of that form of enlightenment by which the individual is saved. The auditor is trained in skills with which he helps others, and helps them to help themselves. “All Scientology auditors are required to become ordained ministers” [What Is Scientology? p. 557] and every auditor has taken training courses which fit him for ministry, even though he might not actually take up that role. The auditor learns to deal with the preclear who seeks his help as neutrally and clinically as possible. Unlike the confessor in the Roman Catholic Church, the auditor does not proceed according to his own spiritual apprehensions and on his own personal assessment of the preclear’s needs; rather, he follows in detail the prescribed procedures. The whole thrust of Scientology is towards the elimination of incidental, adventitious, and idiosyncratic elements from its therapeutic and spiritual ministrations. Every effort is made to ensure that auditor emotion does not disturb the standardized procedures and techniques of auditing. Pastoral counselling is thus seen, particularly in the auditing situation per se, as a much more exact technique than it has generally been considered in conventional churches, and much greater and more precise attention is paid to it. For Scientologists, pastoral counselling is not the purveyance of random advice given at the personal discretion or variable competence of one individual to another, but a systematic and controlled endeavour to promote self-enlightenment and spiritual knowledge.
VI.XVI. Religious Roles in Scientology—The Case Supervisor
Responsibility for the correct application of auditing procedures lies with the case supervisor. One of the case supervisor’s most important functions is to review carefully the notes the auditor has taken of the auditing session in question. These notes are highly technical, incomprehensible except to a trained auditor—and consist of notations concerning the auditing procedures applied, the responses indicated by the E-Meter and how the preclear fared. The notes must be sufficiently complete to show that the preclear’s spiritual progress is in accordance with the soteriology of Scientology. The case supervisor is able to understand these technical notes since he himself is a highly trained auditor who has undergone additional specialised training as a case supervisor. He checks that the auditing has conformed to prescribed standards, the techniques have been correctly applied, and that the preclear is making appropriate progress. Should any error have occurred in auditing the case supervisor detects and corrects it. He may require an erring auditor to re-study the misapplied materials and practise the correct procedure to ensure that errors are not repeated. After each session he specifies the next stage of auditing. Since people differ, each case is reviewed individually to determine the appropriate processes to be applied and to ensure that the preclear is making due spiritual progress. The case supervisor’s role thus ensures that Scientology auditing is properly conducted and controlled.
VI.XVII. Religious Roles in Scientology—The
The course supervisor is even more fundamental to the practice of Scientology than the auditor. It is the course supervisor who trains auditors to the exacting standards set forth by Hubbard. The course supervisor is an expert in the techniques of study developed by Hubbard. He is trained to identify any obstacles to understanding and to resolve any difficulties that the student of Scientological literature might encounter. The course supervisor ensures that a Scientology student grasps Scientology theory and by practising drills and exercises, masters its application. Unlike other classroom supervisors, the course supervisor does not lecture, nor does he in any way offer his own interpretation of the subject. This point is important because Scientologists believe that the results obtained in Scientology come only from closely following Scientology scripture exactly as written by Hubbard. Verbal expositions passed on from teacher to student would, no matter how unintentional, inevitably involve alteration of the original material. Thus, the course supervisor is necessarily an expert in recognising the situation when a student encounters a problem, and in directing him to the place where, by his own endeavours, he can find its resolution.
VI.XVIII. Religious Roles in Scientology—The Chaplain
Scientology churches and missions each have a chaplain. He is a trained auditor, and the ministerial course is an essential part of his training. That course presents Scientology as a religion, as an agency by which men may attain salvation. It includes an introduction to the teachings of the world’s great religions; training in conducting services and ceremonies; study of the Creed and codes of Scientology; and instruction in ethics and auditing technology. Perhaps the major aspect of the chaplain’s role is that of pastoral counselling, not in the general sense in which such counselling is provided in the course of auditing, but rather in the more diffuse sense, in listening to problems and difficulties encountered by Scientologists in mastering the teachings and techniques of the faith. Chaplains seek to smooth organizational operations, and, if called upon, seek to interpret moral and even family matters in accordance with Scientological principles. In their functioning within a particular Scientology organisation, they act much as does a bishop’s chaplain in the established church. The chaplain serves as celebrant in the rites of passage performed in the Church (naming, wedding and funeral rites). In weekly services (held, for general convenience, on Sundays), the chaplain orders the service, about which he exercises some general discretion. Within the service, he also fulfils a preaching role, much like that of a Nonconformist minister, and here his function is as an expositor (rather than as an orator). His discourse is always closely concerned with the teachings and application of the principles of the faith.
VI.XIX. Technical Means to Spiritual Goals—A Religion
Not a Science
To understand the operation of Scientology and of its religious professionals, it is necessary to recognise that Scientology conjoins technical means to spiritual goals. Its emphasis on technique, its use of technical language, and its insistence on systematic procedure and detailed order should not obscure the spiritual and soteriological nature of its ultimate concerns. Scientology is a religion that emerged in a period dominated by science; its methods bear the imprint of the age in which it came into being. Part of its fundamental commitment is to the idea that man needs to think rationally, and to control his own powerful but disturbing emotions. Only in this way will man attain the complete free-will and self-determination which Scientologists believe is his right and his necessity. To attain salvation, the individual must make a consistent and stable application of well-articulated formulae. Like Christian Science, Scientology seeks to deal in certainties. Scientology’s ultimate goals would seem to transcend empirical proof, and the beliefs of its followers are transcendental, metaphysical, and spiritual even though the religion emphasizes personal experience as the route to personal conviction or certainty. The scientific style of Scientological discourse does not derogate from its religious status and concerns.