Another of the forms in which religion is currently defined in the social sciences is in the analytic manner, that is, characterizing it by the different ways in which the religion manifests itself. From this perspective there is considered to exist considerable consensus among all religions regarding the forms through which the religious person expresses his religiosity, by which it becomes possible to establish those aspects which constitute such religiosity. These aspects include:
a) Sharing the beliefs which constitute the body of doctrine of the group; b) Participating in rituals and acts of devotion; c) Experiencing direct contact with ultimate reality; d) Acquiring religious information and e) Experiencing changes or results in quotidian life derived from the other aspects of religiosity (Stark and Gluck 1985).
From this point of view to ask if Scientology constitutes a religion is the equivalent of investigating if the Church of Scientology as an institution expects that its adherents will be religious, which is to say that they manifest religiosity in the different ways which are considered universal.
IV.I. SHARING A BODY OF DOCTRINE
It has been maintained that religious institutions expect their adherents to share their doctrinal principles. (Stark and Gluck 1985:256) In this respect it can be observed that the Church of Scientology propounds an interrelated whole clearly structured so that its adherents acquire its body of doctrine. In effect, the practice of Scientology is composed in equal parts of auditing and training in its principles. The Church affirms that while auditing permits one to see how something happens, training teaches why.
The material used in the courses of training consists of books, publications, films and recorded lectures of the founder of the Church which are studied in a pre-arranged order. This material has the equivalent status of scriptures of traditional religions: It is not interpreted or explained. On the contrary, considerable attention is placed on the disciple receiving the word of the founder in its “pure form.” Scientologists believe that Mr. Hubbard found an exact and workable path to spiritual salvation: If following one of the procedures of the founder of Scientology does not achieve the expected results it is because it was not understood or applied correctly. Thus, the possibility that there could exist an error in the original version of the word of Mr. Hubbard is not considered.
Those who direct training in Scientology are called “supervisors” and are recognized as experts in the technology of study and skilled at finding and resolving the obstacles that the students may encounter. The role of the supervisor is also defined as ensuring that the doctrine is properly imparted and does not produce different versions or divergent interpretations. The supervisor does not give lectures and does not propound to the students his own version of the subject. It is scrupulously forbidden that the supervisor propound any type of verbal interpretation of the materials to prevent any alterations of the original.
IV.II. PARTICIPATION IN RITUALS
AND ACTS OF DEVOTION
Another of the forms through which religions seem to expect that their adherents demonstrate their religiosity is through participation in rituals and acts of devotion. In this respect, it is possible to observe in the first place that the Church of Scientology celebrates the same rituals as other religious institutions such as Sunday services, weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies for newborn children.
However, these are not the only activities which are ritually structured in Scientology. Auditing, the central practice of Scientology, is a ritual activity in the sense that an anthropologist gives to this term: a highly structured procedure which fits rigorous rules and is repeated meticulously. In effect, auditing is accomplished through a series of carefully established steps developed by the founder of the Church which are to be followed without variation. For the Church of Scientology, auditing demands a precise path, an exact route to reach higher states of awareness. Auditing is defined as a precise activity, precisely codified and which follows exact procedures:
“Auditing uses processes—exact sets of questions asked or directions given by an auditor to help a person find out things about himself and improve his condition. There are many, many different auditing processes, and each one improves the individual’s ability to confront and handle part of his existence. When the specific objective of any one process is attained, the process is ended and another can then be run to address a different part of the person’s life.
“An unlimited number of questions could, of course, be asked—which might or might not help a person. The accomplishment in Dianetics and Scientology is that L. Ron Hubbard isolated the exact questions and directions to invariably bring about improvement.” (What Is Scientology? 1992:156)
It can thus be observed that auditing is an exact ritual and the repeated participation in this rite is a condition for an individual to be considered a Scientologist.
IV.III. DIRECT EXPERIENCE OF ULTIMATE REALITY
It has been suggested that most traditional religions expect that their adherents will reach at some moment a more or less direct experience of ultimate reality. This dimension of religiosity relates to the substantive definitions of religion and we have expounded on this in reviewing the substantive definitions of religion. We therefore mentioned that religious experiences which are not ordinary or quotidian have a central place in Scientology. As with other religions such experiences are encouraged in accordance with and interpreted under the doctrines of the religion and are also taken as evidence of the correctness of the group’s cosmic vision.
Scientology presents itself as a gradual, clearly defined and certain route to improve awareness guiding individuals from a condition of spiritual blindness to the happiness of spiritual existence. It promises to its adherents that such increased awareness will enable them ultimately to become aware of their own immortality, achieve total freedom, omniscience and understand directly the meaning of life, death and the universe.
Scientology presents itself as a gradual, clearly defined and certain route to improve awareness guiding individuals from a condition of spiritual blindness to the happiness of spiritual existence.
The stated aim of Scientology is to achieve the complete and total rehabilitation of the innate capabilities of the individual as an immortal spiritual being. Such capabilities would put him at cause, with full knowledge, over matter, energy, space, time, thought and life. By reaching this state, the individual would be capable of a direct understanding of the infinite:
“At the level of Operating Thetan one deals with the individual’s own immortality as a spiritual being. One deals with the thetan himself in relationship to eternity; not to the eternity that lies behind him, but to the eternity which lies ahead.” (What Is Scientology? 1992:222)
We can note therefore that the Church of Scientology expects that its adherents, through their participation in its practices and training in its doctrine, attain a gradual improvement of awareness resulting ultimately in a direct experience of ultimate reality.
IV.IV. RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE
The analytical definitions of religion hold that religious institutions expect that their adherents have a modicum of information about the basic postulates of their faith, its rites, its scriptures and traditions. In relation to this expectation we note that the practice of Scientology consists of equal parts of auditing and training. The commitment expected of its adherents includes that they acquire knowledge of its principal doctrines. In this respect the Church states:
“Through auditing one becomes free. This freedom must be augmented by knowledge of how to stay free. Scientology contains the anatomy of the reactive mind in its axioms and the discipline and know-how necessary to handle and control the laws of life. The practice of Scientology, then, is composed in equal parts of auditing and training in Scientology principles which includes the technology of their application. Knowing the mechanisms by which spiritual freedom can be lost is itself a freedom and places one outside their influence.
“Auditing lets one see how something happened, training teaches one why.” (What Is Scientology? 1992:164)
It can be noted therefore that, like most religious traditions, imparting the teachings of the movement is viewed favorably by the Church of Scientology. The acquisition of religious information is assured by the same doctrine through the symbolic reward for those who grasp for it: Whoever acquires knowledge of its principles can control the laws of life and be free of the dangers which threaten his spiritual freedom.
IV.V. CONSEQUENCES IN QUOTIDIAN LIFE
It has been noted that most religious institutions expect that their religious beliefs, the participation in rituals, religious experience and knowledge of the principal doctrines will have consequences in the daily lives of their adherents. As discussed in referring to the functional definitions of religion, Scientology postulates that through its practice and training people free themselves from irrational fears, psychosomatic illnesses, become more calm, achieve a better state of equilibrium, energy, communicate better, repair and revitalize their relationships with others, achieve personal goals, discard their doubts and inhibitions acquiring confidence in themselves, feel joy and clearly understand how to achieve happiness.
Another change which the Church of Scientology expects of its adherents is that they will help others to change conditions that they wish to improve, urging them to become auditors:
“The need for auditors is great since it is plain that individuals can be salvaged only one at a time. Unlike congregational religions, this salvation ultimately occurs in Scientology in the one-on-one relationship between auditor and preclear. Many Scientologists train to become auditors, and anyone who wishes to help his fellow man can do the same. But of no less importance, one can gain greater skill in handling life than he ever thought possible. There is no more worthwhile purpose than helping one’s fellows and no better way to accomplish this purpose than by becoming an auditor. Auditors apply what they have learned to help others with auditing and to change conditions wherever they find that conditions need improving.
“This is the mission of the trained Scientologist, and it is in his understanding, his compassion and his skill that the dreams of a better world reside.” (What Is Scientology? 1992:169)
It can be observed therefore that like most religious institutions, the Church of Scientology expects that sharing its beliefs, participating in its rituals, directly experiencing ultimate reality and knowledge of its principal doctrines will have consequences in the daily lives of its adherents. These consequences include improvement of the ability to handle their own lives, improvement of their own abilities and an improved disposition and ability to help others.
In summary, it can be observed that the Church of Scientology expects that its adherents will be religious persons, in the sense that the analytic definitions of religion give to this term. In effect: It provides a framework so that its adherents may share in its principal doctrines and expects that those who participate achieve a direct experience of ultimate reality, acquiring information on the principles of their faith and experiencing consequences in their daily lives. Therefore, per the analytical definitions of religion, the Church of Scientology constitutes a religious institution, since its expectations in relation to its adherents correspond to what such institutions expect of religious individuals.