Scientology

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This article is about the belief system and practices. For the organization, see Church of Scientology.
Not to be confused with Religious Science or Christian Science.
Scientology
Scientology Symbol Logo.png
The Scientology symbol is composed of the letter S, which stands for Scientology, and the ARC and KRC triangles, two important concepts in Scientology.[1]
Formation 1954[2]
Type Religion / Commercial[3][4]
Headquarters Gold Base
Riverside County, California[5]
Chairman of Religious Technology Center David Miscavige
Website scientology.org
Remarks Flagship facility: Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles, California, USA

Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), beginning in 1952 as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics.[6] Hubbard characterized Scientology as a religion, and in 1953 he incorporated the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey.[7][8]

Scientology teaches that people are immortal beings who have forgotten their true nature.[9] Its method of spiritual rehabilitation is a type of counselling known as auditing, in which practitioners aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.[10] Study materials and auditing sessions are made available to members on a fee-for-service basis, which the church describes as a "fixed donation".[11][12] Scientology is legally recognized as a tax-exempt religion in the United States, Italy,[13][14] South Africa,[15] Australia,[16] Sweden,[17] the Netherlands,[18] New Zealand,[19][20] Portugal,[21] and Spain;[22][23][24][25][26] the Church of Scientology emphasizes this as proof that it is a bona fide religion.[27] In contrast, the organization is considered a commercial enterprise in Switzerland, a cult (secte) in France and Chile, and a non-profit in Norway, and its legal classification is often a point of contention.

A large number of organizations overseeing the application of Scientology have been established,[28] the most notable of these being the Church of Scientology. Scientology sponsors a variety of social-service programs.[28][29] These include the Narconon anti-drug program, the Criminon prison rehabilitation program, the Study Tech education methodology, the Volunteer Ministers, the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises, and a set of moral guidelines expressed in a booklet called The Way to Happiness.[30]

Scientology is one of the most controversial new religious movements to have arisen in the 20th century. The church is often characterized as a cult, and it has faced harsh scrutiny for many of its practices, which, critics contend, include brainwashing and routinely defrauding its members,[31] as well as attacking its critics and perceived enemies with psychological abuse, character assassination, and costly lawsuits.[12][32][33] In response, Scientologists have argued that theirs is a genuine religious movement that has been misrepresented, maligned, and persecuted.[34] The Church of Scientology has consistently used litigation against its critics, and its aggressiveness in pursuing its foes has been condemned as harassment.[35][36] Further controversy has focused on Scientology's belief that souls ("thetans") reincarnate and have lived on other planets before living on Earth[37] and that some of the related teachings are not revealed to practitioners until they have paid thousands of dollars to the Church of Scientology.[38][39] Another controversial belief held by Scientologists is that the practice of psychiatry is destructive and abusive and must be abolished.[40][41]

Etymology and earlier usage

The word Scientology is a pairing of the Latin word scientia ("knowledge", "skill"), which comes from the verb scīre ("to know"), and the Greek λόγος lógos ("word" or "account [of]").[42][43] Scientology, as coined by L. Ron Hubbard, comes from the Latin scio, which means "knowing, in the fullest meaning of the word" and the Greek word logos, which means "study of". Scientology is further defined as "the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, universes, and other life."[44]

In 1901, Allen Upward coined Scientology "as a disparaging term, to indicate a blind, unthinking acceptance of scientific doctrine" according to the Internet Sacred Text Archive as quoted in the preface to Forgotten Books' recent edition of Upward's book, The New Word: On the meaning of the word Idealist.[45] Continuing to quote, the publisher writes "I'm not aware of any evidence that Hubbard knew of this fairly obscure book."[46] In 1934, philosopher Anastasius Nordenholz published a book that used the term to mean "science of science".[47] It is also uncertain whether Hubbard was aware of this prior usage of the word.[48]

History

Dianetics

Main article: Dianetics
L. Ron Hubbard in 1950

Scientology was developed by L. Ron Hubbard as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics. Dianetics uses a counseling technique known as auditing, to enable conscious recall of traumatic events in an individual's past.[49] It was originally intended to be a new psychotherapy and was not expected to become the foundation for a new religion.[50][51] Hubbard variously defined Dianetics as a spiritual healing technology and an organized science of thought.[52] The stated intent of Dianetics is to free individuals of the influence of past traumas by systematic exposure and removal of the engrams these events have left behind, in a process called clearing.[52]

Hubbard, an American writer of pulp fiction, especially science fiction,[53] first published his ideas on the human mind in the Explorers Club Journal and the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine.[54] The publication of Dianetics in May 1950 is considered by Scientologists a seminal event of the century.[55] Two of Hubbard's key supporters at the time were John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and Dr. Joseph A. Winter. Winter, hoping to have Dianetics accepted in the medical community, submitted papers outlining the principles and methodology of Dianetic therapy to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1949, but these were rejected.[56][57]

May 1950 saw the publication of Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. His book entered the New York Times best-seller list on June 18 and stayed there until December 24 of that year.[58] Dianetics appealed to a broad range of people who used instructions from the book and applied the method to each other, becoming practitioners themselves.[54][59] Hubbard found himself the leader of a growing Dianetics movement.[54] He became a popular lecturer and established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he trained his first Dianetics counselors or auditors.[54][59]

Rutgers scholar Beryl Satter says that "there was little that was original in Hubbard's approach" with much of the theory having origins in popular conceptions of psychology.[60] Satter observes that, "keeping with the typical 1950s distrust of emotion, Hubbard promised that Dianetic treatment would tap dangerous emotions in order to release and erase them, thereby leaving individuals with increased powers of rationality."[60] Hubbard's thought was parallel with the trend of humanist psychology at that time, which also came about in the 1950s.[60] Passas and Castillo write that the appeal of Dianetics was based on its consistency with prevailing values.[61]

Dianetics soon met with criticism. Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and well-known at the time as a debunker of quack medicine, dismissed Hubbard's book.[62] An article in Newsweek stated that "the dianetics concept is unscientific and unworthy of discussion or review".[63] In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners instituted proceedings against the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation for teaching medicine without a license, which eventually led to that foundation's bankruptcy.[64][65][66]

Some practitioners of Dianetics reported experiences which they believed had occurred in past lives, or previous incarnations.[59] In early 1951, reincarnation became a subject of intense debate within Dianetics.[67] Campbell and Winter, who was still hopeful of winning support for Dianetics from the medical community, championed a resolution to ban the topic.[67] But Hubbard decided to take the reports of past life events seriously and postulated the existence of the thetan, a concept similar to the soul.[59] This was an important factor in the transition from secular Dianetics to the more supernaturalistic Scientology, but more to the point, Hubbard saw that Dianetics was about to fail from its inherent individualism which set each person as his own authority. It has been suggested that Hubbard started the more religious mode of Scientology to establish an overarching authority—his own.[68]

Also in 1951, Hubbard introduced the electropsychometer (E-meter for short), a kind of galvanometer, as an auditing aid.[67] Based on a design by Hubbard, the device is held by Scientologists to be a useful tool in detecting changes in a person's state of mind.[67]

Publishers Weekly gave a plaque posthumously to L. Ron Hubbard commemorating the appearance of Dianetics on its bestseller list for one hundred consecutive weeks. One scholar has called Dianetics the bestselling non-Christian religious book of the century.[69]

The 1950 book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health has influenced Scientologists so much that they use a "dating system based on the initial appearance of this book. For example, 'A.D. 25' does not stand for Anno Domini, but 'After Dianetics.'"[69] Scholarly conjecture discusses the likelihood of the Church of Scientology falsifying the numbers of Dianetics books sold; the Church says more than 90 million. Nevertheless, the book has seen very little attention from scholars.[69]

Church of Scientology

The Founding Church of Scientology in Washington D.C.
Main article: Church of Scientology

In 1952, Hubbard built on the existing framework set forth in Dianetics, and published a new set of teachings as Scientology, a religious philosophy.[70] In December 1953, Hubbard incorporated three churches – a "Church of American Science", a "Church of Scientology" and a "Church of Spiritual Engineering" – in Camden, New Jersey.[71] On February 18, 1954, with Hubbard's blessing, some of his followers set up the first local Church of Scientology, the Church of Scientology of California, adopting the "aims, purposes, principles and creed of the Church of American Science, as founded by L. Ron Hubbard."[71][72] The movement spread quickly through the United States and to other English-speaking countries such as Britain, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.[73] The second local Church of Scientology to be set up, after the one in California, was in Auckland, New Zealand.[73] In 1955, Hubbard established the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C.[59] In 1957, the Church of Scientology of California was granted tax-exempt status by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and so, for a time, were other local churches.[62][74] In 1958 however, the IRS started a review of the appropriateness of this status.[62] In 1959, Hubbard moved to England, remaining there until the mid-1960s.[59]

The Church experienced further challenges. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation concerning the claims the Church of Scientology made in connection with its E-meters.[62] On January 4, 1963, they raided offices of the Church of Scientology and seized hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices. The devices have since been required to carry a disclaimer saying that they are a purely religious artifact.[75]

In the mid-sixties, the Church of Scientology was banned in several Australian states, starting with Victoria in 1965.[76] The ban was based on the Anderson Report, which found that the auditing process involved "command" hypnosis, in which the hypnotist assumes "positive authoritative control" over the patient. On this point the report stated,

It is the firm conclusion of this Board that most scientology and dianetic techniques are those of authoritative hypnosis and as such are dangerous ... the scientific evidence which the Board heard from several expert witnesses of the highest repute ... leads to the inescapable conclusion that it is only in name that there is any difference between authoritative hypnosis and most of the techniques of scientology. Many scientology techniques are in fact hypnotic techniques, and Hubbard has not changed their nature by changing their names.[77]

The Australian Church was forced to operate under the name of the "Church of the New Faith" as a result, the name and practice of Scientology having become illegal in the relevant states.[76] Several years of court proceedings aimed at overturning the ban followed.[76]

In the course of developing Scientology, Hubbard presented rapidly changing teachings that some have seen as often self-contradictory.[78][79] According to Lindholm, for the inner cadre of Scientologists in that period, involvement depended not so much on belief in a particular doctrine but on unquestioning faith in Hubbard.[78] In 1966, Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing.[59][80] The following year, he formed the Sea Organization or Sea Org, which was to develop into an elite group within Scientology.[59][81] The Sea Org was based on three ships, the Diana, the Athena, and the Apollo, which served as the flag ship.[81] One month after the establishment of the Sea Org, Hubbard announced that he had made a breakthrough discovery, the result of which were the "OT III" materials purporting to provide a method for overcoming factors inhibiting spiritual progress.[81] These materials were first disseminated on the ships, and then propagated by Sea Org members reassigned to staff Advanced Organizations on land.[81]

In 1967, the IRS removed Scientology's tax-exempt status, asserting that its activities were commercial and operated for the benefit of Hubbard, rather than for charitable or religious purposes.[74] The decision resulted in a process of litigation that would be settled in the Church's favor a quarter of a century later, the longest case of litigation in IRS history.[62]

In 1979, as a result of FBI raids during Operation Snow White, eleven senior people in the church's Guardian's Office were convicted of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. In 1981, Scientology took the German government to court for the first time.[82]

On January 1, 1982, Scientology established the Religious Technology Center (RTC) to oversee and ensure the standard application of Scientology technology.[83]

On November 11, 1982, the Free Zone was established by former top Scientologists in disagreement with RTC.[84] The Free Zone Association was founded and registered under the laws of Germany, and believes that the Church of Scientology has departed from its original philosophy.[85]

In 1983, in a unanimous decision, the High Court of Australia recognized Scientology as a religion in Australia, overturning restrictions that had limited activities of the church after the Anderson Report.[86]

On January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died at his ranch in Creston, California,[87] and David Miscavige became the head of the organization.

Starting in 1991, persons connected with Scientology filed fifty lawsuits against the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a group that had been critical of Scientology.[88] Although many of the suits were dismissed, one of the suits filed against the Cult Awareness Network resulted in $2 million in losses for the network.[88] Consequently, the organization was forced to go bankrupt.[88] In 1996, Steven L. Hayes, a Scientologist, purchased the bankrupt Cult Awareness Network's logo and appurtenances.[88][89] A new Cult Awareness Network was set up with Scientology backing, which operates as an information and networking center for non-traditional religions, referring callers to academics and other experts.[90][91]

In a 1993 U.S. lawsuit brought by the Church of Scientology against Steven Fishman, a former member of the Church, Fishman made a court declaration which included several dozen pages of formerly secret esoterica detailing aspects of Scientologist cosmogony.[92] As a result of the litigation, this material, normally strictly safeguarded and used only in Scientology's more advanced "OT levels", found its way onto the Internet.[92] This resulted in a battle between the Church of Scientology and its online critics over the right to disclose this material, or safeguard its confidentiality.[92] The Church of Scientology was forced to issue a press release acknowledging the existence of this cosmogony, rather than allow its critics "to distort and misuse this information for their own purposes."[92] Even so, the material, notably the story of Xenu, has since been widely disseminated and used to caricature Scientology, despite the Church's vigorous program of copyright litigation.[92]

Membership statistics

Scientology center NYC

In 2005, the Church of Scientology stated its worldwide membership to be eight million, although that number included people who took only the introductory course and did not continue on.[93] In 2007 a church official claimed 3.5 million members in the United States,[94] but a 2001 survey conducted by the City University of New York found only 55,000 people in the United States who claimed to be Scientologists. Worldwide, some observers believe a reasonable estimate of Scientology's core practicing membership ranges between 100,000 and 200,000, mostly in the U.S., Europe, South Africa and Australia.[95] In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey found that the number of American Scientologists had dropped to 25,000.[96]

Scientologists tend to disparage general religious surveys on the grounds that many members maintaining cultural and social ties to other religious groups will, when asked their religion, answer with their traditional and more socially acceptable affiliation. The Church of Scientology claims to be the fastest growing religious movement on earth.[97] On the other hand, religious scholar J. Gordon Melton has said that the church's estimates of its membership numbers are significantly exaggerated.[98] In the UK scientology is declining.[99]

Beliefs and practices

According to Scientology, its beliefs and practices are based on rigorous research, and its doctrines are accorded a significance equivalent to that of scientific laws.[100] "Scientology works 100 percent of the time when it is properly applied to a person who sincerely desires to improve his life", the Church of Scientology says.[100] Conversion is held to be of lesser significance than the practical application of Scientologist methods.[100] Adherents are encouraged to validate the value of the methods they apply through their personal experience.[100] Hubbard himself put it this way: "For a Scientologist, the final test of any knowledge he has gained is, 'did the data and the use of it in life actually improve conditions or didn't it?'"[100]

Body and Spirit

Scientology beliefs revolve around the thetan, the individualized expression of the cosmic source, or life force, named after the Greek letter theta (θ).[101][102][103] The thetan is the true identity of a person – an intrinsically good, omniscient, non-material core capable of unlimited creativity.[101][102]

In the primordial past, thetans brought the material universe into being largely for their own pleasure.[101] The universe has no independent reality, but derives its apparent reality from the fact that most thetans agree it exists.[102] Thetans fell from grace when they began to identify with their creation, rather than their original state of spiritual purity.[101] Eventually they lost their memory of their true nature, along with the associated spiritual and creative powers. As a result, thetans came to think of themselves as nothing but embodied beings.[102][104]

Thetans are reborn time and time again in new bodies through a process called "assumption" which is analogous to reincarnation.[101] Like Hinduism, Scientology posits a causal relationship between the experiences of earlier incarnations and one's present life, and with each rebirth, the effects of the MEST universe (MEST here stands for matter, energy, space, and time) on the thetan become stronger.[101]

Emotions and the mind

See also: Tone scale

Scientology presents two major divisions of the mind.[105] The reactive mind is thought to absorb all pain and emotional trauma, while the analytical mind is a rational mechanism which is responsible for consciousness.[102][106] The reactive mind stores mental images which are not readily available to the analytical (conscious) mind; these are referred to as engrams.[107] Engrams are painful and debilitating; as they accumulate, people move further away from their true identity.[101] To avoid this fate is Scientology's basic goal.[101] Dianetic auditing is one way by which the Scientologist may progress toward the Clear state, winning gradual freedom from the reactive mind's engrams, and acquiring certainty of his or her reality as a thetan.[104]

Scientology uses an emotional classification system called the tone scale.[108] The tone scale is a tool used in counseling; Scientologists maintain that knowing a person's place on the scale makes it easier to predict his or her actions and assists in bettering his or her condition.[109]

Survival and ethics

The Scientology symbol is composed of the letter S, which stands for Scientology, and the ARC and KRC triangles, two important concepts in Scientology.

Scientology emphasizes the importance of survival, which it subdivides into eight classifications that are referred to as dynamics.[110][111] An individual's desire to survive is considered to be the first dynamic, while the second dynamic relates to procreation and family.[110][112] The remaining dynamics encompass wider fields of action, involving groups, mankind, all life, the physical universe, the spirit, and the Infinity, often associated with the Supreme Being.[110] The optimum solution to any problem is held to be the one that brings the greatest benefit to the greatest number of dynamics.[110]

Scientology teaches that spiritual progress requires and enables the attainment of high ethical standards.[113] In Scientology, rationality is stressed over morality.[113] Actions are considered ethical if they promote survival across all eight dynamics, thus benefiting the greatest number of people or things possible while harming the fewest.[114]

ARC and KRC triangles

The ARC and KRC triangles are concept maps which show a relationship between three concepts to form another concept. These two triangles are present in the Scientology symbol. The lower triangle, the ARC triangle, is a summary representation of the knowledge the Scientologist strives for.[101] It encompasses Affinity (affection, love or liking), Reality (consensual reality) and Communication (the exchange of ideas).[101] Scientologists believe that improving one of the three aspects of the triangle "increases the level" of the other two, but Communication is held to be the most important.[115] The upper triangle is the KRC triangle, the letters KRC positing a similar relationship between Knowledge, Responsibility and Control.[116]

Among Scientologists, the letters ARC are used as an affectionate greeting in personal communication, for example at the end of a letter.[117] Social problems are ascribed to breakdowns in ARC – in other words, a lack of agreement on reality, a failure to communicate effectively, or a failure to develop affinity.[118] These can take the form of overts – harmful acts against another, either intentionally or by omission – which are usually followed by withholds – efforts to conceal the wrongdoing, which further increase the level of tension in the relationship.[118]

Cross

Main article: Scientology cross
Scientology cross

The Church of Scientology says that "the horizontal bar represents the material universe, and the vertical bar represents the spirit. Thus, the spirit is seen to be rising triumphantly, ultimately transcending the turmoil of the physical universe to achieve salvation."[119]

Social and antisocial personalities

While Scientology states that many social problems are the unintentional results of people's imperfections, it asserts that there are also truly malevolent individuals.[118] Hubbard believed that approximately 80 percent of all people are what he called social personalities – people who welcome and contribute to the welfare of others.[118] The remaining 20 percent of the population, Hubbard thought, were suppressive persons.[118] According to Hubbard, only about 2.5 percent of this 20 percent are hopelessly antisocial personalities; these make up the small proportion of truly dangerous individuals in humanity: "the Adolf Hitlers and the Genghis Khans, the unrepentant murderers and the drug lords."[118][120] Scientologists believe that any contact with suppressive or antisocial individuals has an adverse effect on one's spiritual condition, necessitating disconnection.[118][120]

In Scientology, defectors who turn into critics of the movement are declared suppressive persons,[121][122][123][124] and the Church of Scientology has a reputation for moving aggressively against such detractors.[125] A Scientologist who is actively in communication with a suppressive person and as a result shows signs of antisocial behaviour is referred to as a Potential Trouble Source.[126][127]

Auditing

A Scientologist introduces the E-meter to a potential student.

Scientology asserts that people have hidden abilities which have not yet been fully realized.[128] It is believed that increased spiritual awareness and physical benefits are accomplished through counseling sessions referred to as auditing.[129] Through auditing, it is said that people can solve their problems and free themselves of engrams.[95] This restores them to their natural condition as thetans and enables them to be at cause in their daily lives, responding rationally and creatively to life events rather than reacting to them under the direction of stored engrams.[130] Accordingly, those who study Scientology materials and receive auditing sessions advance from a status of Preclear to Clear and Operating Thetan.[131] Scientology's utopian aim is to "clear the planet", a world in which everyone has cleared themselves of their engrams.[132]

Auditing is a one-on-one session with a Scientology counselor or auditor.[133] It bears a superficial similarity to confession or pastoral counseling, but the auditor records and stores all information received and does not dispense forgiveness or advice the way a pastor or priest might do.[133] Instead, the auditor's task is to help a person discover and understand engrams, and their limiting effects, for him- or herself.[133] Most auditing requires an E-meter, a device that measures minute changes in electrical resistance through the body when a person holds electrodes (metal "cans"), and a small current is passed through them.[95][133]

Scientology asserts that watching for changes in the E-meter's display helps locate engrams.[133] Once an area of concern has been identified, the auditor asks the individual specific questions about it, in order to help him or her eliminate the engram, and uses the E-meter to confirm that the engram's "charge" has been dissipated and the engram has in fact been cleared.[133] As the individual progresses, the focus of auditing moves from simple engrams to engrams of increasing complexity.[133] At the more advanced OT auditing levels, Scientologists perform solo auditing sessions, acting as their own auditors.[133]

"Bridge to Total Freedom"

Seeking spiritual development within Scientology is undertaken by studying Scientology materials. Scientology materials (called Technology or Tech in Scientology jargon) are structured in sequential levels (or gradients), so that easier steps are taken first and greater complexities are handled at the appropriate time. This process is sometimes referred to as moving along the "Bridge to Total Freedom", or simply "the Bridge".[115] It has two sides: training and processing.[113] Training means education in the principles and practices of auditing.[113] Processing is personal development through participation in auditing sessions.[113]

The Church of Scientology believes in the principle of reciprocity, involving give-and-take in every human transaction.[12] Accordingly, members are required to make donations for study courses and auditing as they move up the Bridge, the amounts increasing as higher levels are reached.[12] Participation in higher-level courses on the Bridge may cost several thousand dollars, and Scientologists usually move up the Bridge at a rate governed by their income.[12]

Space opera and confidential materials

The Church of Scientology holds that at the higher levels of initiation ("OT levels"), mystical teachings are imparted that may be harmful to unprepared readers. These teachings are kept secret from members who have not reached these levels. The church says that the secrecy is warranted to keep its materials' use in context and to protect its members from being exposed to materials they are not yet prepared for.[95]

Scientology cruise ship Freewinds

These are the OT levels, the levels above Clear, whose contents are guarded within Scientology. The OT level teachings include accounts of various cosmic catastrophes that befell the thetans.[134] Hubbard described these early events collectively as "space opera".

In the OT levels, Hubbard explains how to reverse the effects of past-life trauma patterns that supposedly extend millions of years into the past.[135] Among these advanced teachings is the story of Xenu (sometimes Xemu), introduced as the tyrant ruler of the "Galactic Confederacy". According to this story, 75 million years ago Xenu brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do this today. Scientologists at advanced levels place considerable emphasis on isolating body thetans and neutralizing their ill effects.[136]

The material contained in the OT levels has been characterized as bad science fiction by critics, while others claim it bears structural similarities to gnostic thought and ancient Hindu beliefs of creation and cosmic struggle.[134][137] Melton suggests that these elements of the OT levels may never have been intended as descriptions of historical events and that, like other religious mythology, they may have their truth in the realities of the body and mind which they symbolize.[134] He adds that on whatever level Scientologists might have received this mythology, they seem to have found it useful in their spiritual quest.[134]

Excerpts and descriptions of OT materials were published online by a former member in 1995 and then circulated in mainstream media. This occurred after the teachings were submitted as evidence in court cases involving Scientology, thus becoming a matter of public record.[135][138] There are eight publicly known OT levels, OT I to VIII.[139] The highest level, OT VIII, is disclosed only at sea on the Scientology cruise ship Freewinds.[139] It has been rumored that additional OT levels, said to be based on material written by Hubbard long ago, will be released at some appropriate point in the future.[140]

A large Church of Spiritual Technology symbol carved into the ground at Scientology's Trementina Base is visible from the air.[141] Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby wrote, "Former Scientologists familiar with Hubbard’s teachings on reincarnation say the symbol marks a 'return point' so loyal staff members know where they can find the founder’s works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe."[142]

Ceremonies

In Scientology, ceremonies for events such as weddings, child naming, and funerals are observed.[101] Friday services are held to commemorate the completion of a person's religious services during the prior week.[101] Ordained Scientology ministers may perform such rites.[101] However, these services and the clergy who perform them play only a minor role in Scientologists' religious lives.[143]

Influences

The general orientation of Hubbard's philosophy owes much to Will Durant, author of the popular 1926 classic The Story of Philosophy; Dianetics is dedicated to Durant.[144] Hubbard's view of a mechanically functioning mind in particular finds close parallels in Durant's work on Spinoza.[144] According to Hubbard himself, Scientology is "the Western anglicized continuance of many early forms of wisdom." Ankerberg and Weldon mention the sources of Scientology to include "the Vedas, Buddhism, Judaism, Gnosticism, Taoism, early Greek civilization and the teachings of Jesus, Nietzsche and Freud."[145]

Sigmund Freud's psychology, popularized in the 1930s and 1940s, was a key contributor to the Dianetics therapy model, and was acknowledged unreservedly as such by Hubbard in his early works.[146] Hubbard never forgot, when he was 12 years old, meeting Cmdr. Joseph Cheesman Thompson, a U.S. Navy officer who had studied with Freud[147] and when writing to the American Psychological Association in 1949, he stated that he was conducting research based on the "early work of Freud".[148]

Another major influence was Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics.[146] Hubbard was friends with fellow science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt, who explored the implications of Korzybski's non-Aristotelian logic in works such as The World of Null-A, and Hubbard's view of the reactive mind has clear and acknowledged parallels with Korzybski's thought; in fact, Korzybski's "anthropometer" may have been what inspired Hubbard's invention of the E-meter.[146]

Beyond that, Hubbard himself named a great many other influences in his own writing – in Scientology 8-8008, for example, these include philosophers from Anaxagoras and Aristotle to Herbert Spencer and Voltaire, physicists and mathematicians like Euclid and Isaac Newton, as well as founders of religions such as Buddha, Confucius, Jesus and Mohammed – but there is little evidence in Hubbard's writings that he studied these figures to any great depth.[146]

As noted, there are elements of Eastern religions evident in Scientology,[148] in particular the concepts of karma, as present in Hinduism and in Jainism, and dharma.[149][150] In addition to the links to Hindu texts, Hubbard tried to connect Scientology with Taoism and Buddhism.[151] According to the Encyclopedia of Community, Scientology "shows affinities with Buddhism and a remarkable similarity to first-century Gnosticism."[152][153]

In the 1940s, Hubbard was in contact with Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist and member of the Ordo Templi Orientis then led by Aleister Crowley, and there have been suggestions that this connection influenced some of the ideas and symbols of Scientology.[154][155] Religious scholars Gerald Willms and J. Gordon Melton have stated that Crowley's teachings bear little if any resemblance to Scientology doctrine.[154][155]

According to James R. Lewis, Scientology is in the same lineage of supernatural religious movements such as New Thought. Scientology goes beyond this and refers to their religio-therapeutic practices as religious technology. Lewis wrote, "Scientology sees their psycho-spiritual technology as supplying the missing ingredient in existing technologies—namely, the therapeutic engineering of the human psyche."[156]

Organization

The incomplete Super Power Building of the FLAG Scientology complex in Clearwater, Florida.

There are a considerable number of Scientology organizations (or orgs) which generally support one of the following three aims: enabling Scientology practice and training, promoting the wider application of Scientology technology, or campaigning for social change.[157] These organizations are supported by a three-tiered hierarchical structure comprising lay practitioners, staff and, at the top of the hierarchy, members of the so-called Sea Organization or Sea Org.[158] The Sea Org, comprising over 5,000 members, has been compared to the monastic orders found in other religions; it is composed of the most dedicated adherents, who work for nominal compensation and symbolically express their religious commitment by signing a billion-year contract.[158][159]

The internal structure of Scientology organizations is strongly bureaucratic, with detailed coordination of activities and collection of stats – or statistics, to measure organizational and individual performance.[158] Organizational operating budgets are performance-related and subject to frequent reviews.[158] Scientology has an internal justice system (the Ethics system) designed to deal with unethical or antisocial behavior.[158][160] Ethics officers are present in every org; they are tasked with ensuring correct application of Scientology technology and deal with violations such as non-compliance with standard procedures or any other behavior adversely affecting an org's performance, ranging from errors and misdemeanors to crimes and suppressive acts, as defined by internal documents.[161]

A controversial part of the Scientology justice system is the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF).[161] When a Sea Org member is accused of a violation, such as lying, sexual misconduct, dereliction of duty, or failure to comply with Church policy, a Committee of Evidence examines the case.[161] If the charge is substantiated, the individual may accept expulsion from the Sea Org or participate in the RPF to become eligible to rejoin the Sea Org.[161] The RPF involves a daily regimen of five hours of auditing or studying, eight hours of work, often physical labor, such as building renovation, and at least seven hours of sleep.[161] Douglas E. Cowan and David G. Bromley state that scholars and observers have come to radically different conclusions about the RPF and whether it is "voluntary or coercive, therapeutic or punitive".[161]

Practice and training organizations

Many Scientologists' first contact with Scientology is through local informal groups and field auditors practicing Dianetics counseling.[162] In addition to these, Scientology operates hundreds of Churches and Missions around the world.[163] This is where Scientologists receive introductory training, and it is at this local level that most Scientologists participate.[163] Churches and Missions are licensed franchises; they offer services for a fee, and return a proportion of their income to the mother church.[163] They are also required to adhere to the standards established by the Religious Technology Center (RTC), which supervises the application of Scientology tech, owns the trademarks and service marks of Scientology, and collaborates with the Commodore's Messenger Organization to administer and control the various corporate entities within Scientology.[164][165] According to Melton, the Religious Technology Center “preserves, maintains and protects Scientology against misuse or misinterpretation” but is not involved in Scientology daily affairs or management.[166] The RTC's Chairman is David Miscavige, who, while not the titular head of the Church of Scientology, is believed to be the most powerful person in the Scientology movement.[167]

Once an individual has reached Clear and wishes to proceed further, he or she can take OT auditing and coursework with Advanced Organizations located in Los Angeles, Sydney, East Grinstead and Copenhagen.[168] Beyond OT V, the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Florida, offers the auditing and course work for OT levels VI and VII, while OT VIII is offered only by the Flag Ship Service Organization aboard the Scientology ship Freewinds.[169] Since 1981, all of these Churches and organizations have been united under the Church of Scientology International umbrella organization, with the Sea Org providing staff for all levels above the local Churches and Missions.[163][169]

In 2012, the Ideal Center of Scientology for the Middle East opened in a refurbished historic building in Jaffa, Israel.[170]

Technology application organizations

Church of Scientology of Tampa, Florida.

A number of Scientology organizations specialize in promoting the use of Scientology technology as a means to solve social problems.

  • Narconon is a drug education and rehabilitation program. The program is founded on Hubbard's belief that drugs and poisons stored in the body impede spiritual growth, and was originally conceived by William Benitez, a prison inmate who applied Hubbard's ideas to rid himself of his drug habit.[163][171] Narconon is offered in the United States, Canada and a number of European countries; its Purification Program uses a regimen composed of sauna, physical exercise, vitamins and diet management, combined with auditing and study.[163][171]
  • Criminon is a program designed to rehabilitate criminal offenders by teaching them study and communication methods and helping them reform their lives.[163] The program originally grew out of the Narconon effort and today is available in over 200 prisons.[171] According to Melton, it has experienced steady growth, based on a good success rate, with low recidivism.[171]
  • Applied Scholastics promotes the use of Hubbard's educational methodology, known as study tech.[172] Originally developed to help Scientologists study course materials, Hubbard's study tech is now used in some private and public schools as well.[173] Applied Scholastics is active across Europe and North America as well as in Australia, Malaysia, China and South Africa.[173] It supports literacy efforts in American cities and Third World countries, and its methodology is sometimes included in management training programs.[174]
  • The Way to Happiness Foundation promotes a moral code written by Hubbard, to date translated into more than 40 languages.[172]
  • The Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) acts as an umbrella organization for these efforts.[175]
  • The World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE) is a not-for-profit organization which licenses Hubbard's management techniques for use in businesses.[172] The most prominent training supplier to make use of Hubbard's technology is Sterling Management Systems.[172]

The Church of Scientology has also instituted a Volunteer Ministers program to provide disaster relief; for example, Volunteer Ministers were active in the aftermath of 9/11, providing food and water and applying Scientology methods such as "Assists" to people in acute emotional distress.[176][177] The Scientology Volunteer Ministers also used the "assist" to help Haiti quake victims.[178][179] The Volunteer Ministers have also been sent to the site of relief efforts in Southeast Asia in the wake of the December 2004 tsunami and to London Underground stations that were attacked in July 7, 2005 London bombings. Eight hundred were sent to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.[180][181] In March 2010, twelve Volunteer Ministers sailed from Miami to Haiti to bring medical supplies and join the existing 61 volunteers who were already in Haiti. Since the earthquake, the Volunteer Ministers have been a consistent presence in the area, aiding in disaster relief.[182]

Social reform organizations

Scientologists on an anti-psychiatry demonstration.

Some Scientology organizations are focused on bringing about social change.[172] One of these is the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR). Founded in 1969, it has a long history of opposing psychiatric practices such as lobotomy, electric shock treatment and the use of mood-altering drugs.[183][184] The psychiatric establishment rejected Hubbard's theories in the early 1950s.[184] Ever since, Scientology has argued that psychiatry suffers from the fundamental flaw of ignoring humanity's spiritual dimension, and that it fails to take into account Hubbard's insights about the nature of the mind.[183] Scientology holds psychiatry responsible for a great many wrongs in the world, saying it has at various times offered itself as a tool of political suppression and "that psychiatry spawned the ideology which fired Hitler's mania, turned the Nazis into mass murderers, and created the Holocaust."[183][184] In recent years, the CCHR has conducted high-profile campaigns against Ritalin, given to children to control hyperactivity, and Prozac, a commonly used antidepressant.[184] Neither drug was taken off the market as a result of the campaign, but Ritalin sales decreased, and Prozac suffered bad press.[184]

The main other organization in this field is the National Commission on Law Enforcement and Social Justice, devoted to combating what it describes as abusive practices by government and police agencies, especially Interpol.[184][185]

For the "general upgrading of health", Scientologists give support to "the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Cerebral Palsy Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, drug-free blood drives, distribution of Toys for Tots to underprivileged children, drives for public television, emergency Food for All programs, Bryan's House for children stricken with AIDS, and Operation Caring to support the elderly." To mitigate crime, "Scientologists foster a volunteer minister program outlined in Hubbard's Scientology Handbook (1976) to save troubled marriages, resolve community conflict, end gang warfare, promote literacy and study skills and improve business prospects."[186]

Other entities

Other prominent Scientology-related organizations include:

Free Zone and Independent Scientologists

Although Scientology is most often used as shorthand for the Church of Scientology, a number of groups practice Scientology and Dianetics outside of the official church. These groups, collectively known as the Free Zone or as Independent Scientologists, consist of both former members of the official Church of Scientology, as well as entirely new members. Capt. Bill Robertson, a former Sea Org member, was a primary instigator of the movement in the early 1980s.[187] The church labels these groups as "squirrels" in Scientology jargon and often subjects them to considerable legal and social pressure.[188][189][190] More recently, high-profile defectors Mark Rathbun and Mike Rinder have championed the cause of Independent Scientologists wishing to practice Scientology outside of the Church.[191][192]

Dispute of religion status

Scientology status by country

The Church of Scientology has pursued an extensive public relations campaign for the recognition of Scientology as a religion in the various countries in which it exists.[39][193][194] Opinions around the world still differ on whether Scientology is to be recognized as a religion or not,[195] and Scientology has often encountered opposition due to its strong-arm tactics directed against critics and members wishing to leave the organization.[122] A number of governments now view the Church as a religious organization entitled to protections and tax relief, while others continue to view it as a pseudoreligion or cult.[196][197] The differences between these classifications have become a major problem when discussing religions in general and Scientology specifically.[93]

Scientology is officially recognized as a religion in the United States.[23][24][25][26] Recognition came in 1993,[198] when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated that "[Scientology is] operated exclusively for religious and charitable purposes."[199][200]

The New York Times noted in this connection that the Church of Scientology had funded a campaign which included a whistle-blower organization to publicly attack the IRS, as well as the hiring of private investigators to look into the private lives of IRS officials.[74] In 1991, Miscavige, the highest-ranking Scientology leader, arranged a meeting with Fred T. Goldberg Jr., the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service at the time.[201] The meeting was an "opportunity for the church to offer to end its long dispute with the agency, including the dozens of suits brought against the IRS." The committee met several times with the Scientology legal team and "was persuaded that those involved in the Snow White crimes had been purged, that church money was devoted to tax-exempt purposes and that, with Mr. Hubbard's death, no one was getting rich from Scientology."[74] In August 1993, a settlement was reached; the church would receive its tax-exempt status and end its legal assault on the IRS and its personnel. The church was required only to resubmit new applications for exemption to the IRS exempt organizations division; the division was told "not to consider any substantive matters" because those issues had been resolved by the committee.[74] The secret agreement was announced on October 13, 1993, with the IRS refusing to disclose any of the terms or the reasoning behind its decision.[74] Both the IRS and Scientology rejected any allegations of foul play or undue pressure having been brought to bear upon IRS officials, insisting that the decision had been based on the merits of the case.[202] IRS officials "insisted that Scientology's tactics had not affected the decision" and that "ultimately the decision was made on a legal basis".[74] Miscavige claims that the IRS’s examination of Scientology was the most exhaustive review of any non-profit organization in history.[203]

Elsewhere, Scientology has been able to obtain religious recognition in such countries as Australia,[24][204] Portugal,[205] Spain,[206][207] Slovenia,[208] Sweden,[208][209][210] Croatia,[208] Hungary[208] and Kyrgyzstan.[211] In New Zealand, the Inland Revenue Department classified the Church of Scientology as a charitable organization and stated that its income would be tax exempt.[212] It has gained judicial recognition in Italy,[213] and Scientology officials have won the right to perform marriages in South Africa.[14]

Scientology has so far failed to win religious recognition in Canada.[14] In the UK, the Charity Commission for England and Wales ruled in 1999 that Scientology was not a religion and refused to register the Church as a charity, although a year later, it was recognized as a not-for-profit body in a separate proceeding by the UK Revenue and Customs and exempted from UK value added tax.[14][214] In December 2013, the United Kingdom’s highest court officially recognized Scientology as a religion. The ruling was a response to a five-year legal battle by Scientologist Louisa Hodkin, who legally fought for the right to marry at the Church of Scientology chapel in central London. Five supreme court justices redefined religion in law along with the ruling, rendering the 1970 ruling “out of date” in defining religious worship as involving “reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being.”[215][216][217][218]

Since 1997 Germany has considered Scientology to be in conflict with the principles of the nation's constitution. It is seen as an anticonstitutional sect and a new version of political extremism and because there is "evidence for intentions against the free democratic basic order" it is observed by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.[219][220] In 1997, an open letter to then-German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, published as a newspaper advertisement in the International Herald Tribune, drew parallels between the "organized oppression" of Scientologists in Germany and the treatment of Jews in 1930s' Nazi Germany.[221][222] The letter was signed by Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn and a number of other Hollywood celebrities and executives.[222][223] Commenting on the matter, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of State said that Scientologists were discriminated against in Germany, but condemned the comparisons to the Nazis' treatment of Jews as extremely inappropriate, as did a United Nations Special Rapporteur.[223][224] Based on the IRS exemptions, the U.S. State Department formally criticized Germany for discriminating against Scientologists and began to note Scientologists' complaints of harassment in its annual human rights reports,[74] as well as the annual International Religious Freedom Reports it has released from 1999 onwards.[225] Germany will continue to monitor Scientology's activities in the country, despite continued objection from Scientology which cites such monitoring as abuse of freedom of religion.[226] France and Belgium have not recognized Scientology as a religion, and Stephen A. Kent, writing in 2001, noted that no such recognition had been obtained in Ireland, Luxembourg, Israel or Mexico either.[227] The Belgian State Prosecution Service has recommended that various individuals and organizations associated with Scientology should be prosecuted.[228][229] An administrative court is to decide if charges will be pressed.[228][229] In Greece, Scientology is not recognized as a religion by the Greek government, and multiple applications for religious status have been denied, for example in 2000 and 2003.[230]

In 2000, the Italian Supreme Court ruled that Scientology is a religion for legal purposes.[231][232] In recent years, religious recognition has also been obtained in other countries, including Sweden,[24][208] Spain,[208][233] Portugal,[234] Slovenia,[208] Croatia[208] and Hungary,[235] as well as Kyrgyzstan[211] and the Republic of China (Taiwan).[24]

Scholarly views on Scientology's status as a religion

Describing the available scholarship on Scientology, David G. Bromley and Douglas E. Cowan stated in 2006 that "most scholars have concluded that Scientology falls within the category of religion for the purposes of academic study, and a number have defended the Church in judicial and political proceedings on this basis."[143] Hugh B. Urban writes that "Scientology's efforts to get itself defined as a religion make it an ideal case study for thinking about how we understand and define religion."[236] According to the Encyclopedia of Religious Controversies in the United States, "even as Scientology raises questions about how and who gets to define religion, most scholars recognize it as a religion, one that emerges from and builds on American individualism and the spiritual marketplace that dominated 1950's America."[237]

Bromley and Cowan noted in 2008 that Scientology's attempts "to gain favor with new religion scholars" had often been problematic.[193] According to Religious Studies professor Mary Farrell Benarowski, Scientology describes itself as drawing on science, religion, psychology and philosophy but "had been claimed by none of them and repudiated, for the most part, by all."[238]

Frank K. Flinn, adjunct professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis wrote, "it is abundantly clear that Scientology has both the typical forms of ceremonial and celebratory worship and its own unique form of spiritual life."[239] Flinn further states that religion requires "beliefs in something transcendental or ultimate, practices (rites and codes of behavior) that re-inforce those beliefs and, a community that is sustained by both the beliefs and practices", all of which are present within Scientology.[93] Similarly, Jacob Neusner, editor of World Religions in America, states that "Scientology contains the same elements of most other religions, including myths, scriptures, doctrines, worship, sacred practices and rituals, moral and ethical expectations, a community of believers, clergy, and ecclesiastic organizations."[240]

While acknowledging that a number of his colleagues accept Scientology as a religion, sociologist Stephen A. Kent writes: "Rather than struggling over whether or not to label Scientology as a religion, I find it far more helpful to view it as a multifaceted transnational corporation, only one element of which is religious" [emphasis in the original].[241][242]

Donna Batten in the Gale Encyclopedia of American Law writes, "A belief does not need to be stated in traditional terms to fall within First Amendment protection. For example, Scientology—a system of beliefs that a human being is essentially a free and immortal spirit who merely inhabits a body—does not propound the existence of a supreme being, but it qualifies as a religion under the broad definition propounded by the Supreme Court." [243]

J. Gordon Melton asserts that while the debate over definitions of religion will continue, “scholars will probably continue in the future to adopt a broad definition, thus including Scientology in a wider religious field.”[244]

Scientology as a UFO religion

Scientology can be seen as a UFO religion in which the existence of extraterrestrial entities operating unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are an element of belief. In this context, it is discussed in UFO Religions by Christopher Partridge,[245] and The Encyclopedic Sourcebook of UFO Religions by James R. Lewis,[4] while Susan Palmer draws several parallels with Raelianism.[246] Gregory Reece, in his book UFO Religion: Inside flying saucer cults and culture, writes:

Scientology is unique within the UFO culture because of this secretiveness, as well as because of the capitalist format under which they operate. Scientology is also difficult to categorize. While it bears strong similarities to the Ashtar Command or the Aetherius Society, its emphasis upon the Xenu event as the central message of the group seems to place them within the ancient astronaut tradition. Either way, Scientology is perhaps most different from other UFO groups in their attempt to keep all of the space opera stuff under wraps. They really would have preferred the rest of us not to know about Xenu and the galactic federation. Alas, such secrets are hard to keep[247]

Scientology as a commercial venture

Scientology desk near the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

While NRM scholars have generally accepted the religious nature of Scientology, media reports have tended to express the opinion that "Scientology is a business, often given to criminal acts, and sometimes masquerading as a religion."[143][248] During his lifetime, Hubbard was accused of using religion as a façade for Scientology to maintain tax-exempt status and avoid prosecution for false medical claims.[248] The IRS cited a statement frequently attributed to Hubbard that the way to get rich was to found a religion.[249][250] According to Melton, the statement is unsubstantiated, although several of Hubbard's science fiction colleagues do recall Hubbard raising the topic in conversation.[250]

Hubbard grew up in a climate that was very critical of organized religion, and frequently quoted anti-religious sentiments in his early lectures.[251] The scholar Marco Frenschkowski (University of Mainz) has stated that it was not easy for Hubbard "to come to terms with the spiritual side of his own movement. Hubbard did not want to found a religion: he discovered that what he was talking about in fact was religion. This mainly happened when he had to deal with apparent memories from former lives. He had to defend himself about this to his friends."[251] Frenschkowski allows that there naturally were practical considerations about "how to present Scientology to the outside world", but dismisses the notion that presentation as a religion was just an expedient pretense, pointing to many passages in Hubbard's works that document his struggle with this issue.[251]

Drawing parallels to similar struggles for identity in other religious movements such as Theosophy and Transcendental Meditation, Frenschkowski sees in Hubbard's lectures "the case of a man whose background was non-religious and who nevertheless discovers that his ideas somehow oscillate between 'science' (in a very popular sense), 'religion' and 'philosophy', and that these ideas somehow fascinate so many people that they start to form a separate movement. As in the case of similar movements, it was quite unclear to Hubbard in the beginning what Scientology would become."[251]

The Church of Scientology denounces the idea of Hubbard starting a religion for personal gain as an unfounded rumor.[252] The Church also suggests that the origin of the rumor was a quote by George Orwell which had been misattributed to Hubbard.[253] Robert Vaughn Young, who left the Church in 1989 after being its spokesman for twenty years, suggested that reports of Hubbard making such a statement could be explained as a misattribution of Orwell, despite having encountered three of Hubbard's associates from his science fiction days who remembered Hubbard making statements of that sort in person.[254] It was Young who by a stroke of luck came up with the "Orwell quote": "but I have always thought there might be a lot of cash in starting a new religion, and we'll talk it over some time" It appears in a letter by George Orwell (signed Eric Blair) to a friend Jack Common, dated 16-February-38 (February 16, 1938), and was published in Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol. 1.[255] In 2006, Rolling Stone's Janet Reitman writes Hubbard said the same thing to science fiction writer Lloyd Eshbach, a fact quoted in Eshbach's autobiography.[256]

Scientology maintains strict control over the use of its symbols, icons, and names. It claims copyright and trademark over its "Scientology cross", and its lawyers have threatened lawsuits against individuals and organizations who have published the image in books and on Web sites. Because of this, it is very difficult for individual groups to attempt to publicly practice Scientology on their own, independent of the official Church of Scientology. Scientology has filed suit against a number of individuals who have attempted to set up their own auditing practices, using copyright and trademark law to shut these groups down.[257]

The Church of Scientology and its many related organizations have amassed considerable real estate holdings worldwide, likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.[35] Scientology encourages existing members to "sell" Scientology to others by paying a commission to those who recruit new members.[35] Scientology franchises, or missions, must pay the Church of Scientology roughly 10% of their gross income.[258] On that basis, it is likened to a pyramid selling scheme.[259] While introductory courses do not cost much, courses at the higher levels may cost several thousand dollars each.[260] As a rule, the great majority of members proceeds up the bridge in a steady rate commensurate with their income. Most recently the Italian Supreme Court agreed with the American IRS that the church's financial system is analogous to the practices of other groups and not out of line with its religious purposes.[261]

In conjunction with the Church of Scientology's request to be officially recognized as a religion in Germany, around 1996 the German state Baden-Württemberg conducted a thorough investigation regarding the group's activities within Germany.[262] The results of this investigation indicated that at the time of publication, Scientology's main sources of revenue ("Haupteinnahmequellen der SO") were from course offerings and sales of their various publications. Course offerings ranged from (German Marks) DM 182.50 to about DM 30,000 – the equivalent today of approximately $119 to $19,560 USD. Revenue from monthly, bi-monthly, and other membership offerings could not be estimated in the report, but was nevertheless placed in the millions. Defending its practices against accusations of profiteering, the Church has countered critics by drawing analogies to other religious groups who have established practices such as tithing, or require members to make donations for specific religious services.[263]

Controversies

Official German information leaflets from the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution on (from left to right) Islamic extremism, Scientology, and organized crime.[264][265] "Several states published pamphlets about Scientology (and other religious groups) that detailed the Church's ideology and practices. States defended the practice by noting their responsibility to respond to citizens' requests for information about Scientology as well as other subjects. While many of the pamphlets were factual and relatively unbiased, some warned of alleged dangers posed by Scientology to the political order, to the free market economic system, and to the mental and financial well being of individuals. Beyond the Government's actions, the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have been public opponents of Scientology. Evangelical 'Commissioners for Religious and Ideological Issues' have been particularly active in this regard."

Of the many new religious movements to appear during the 20th century, the Church of Scientology has, from its inception, been one of the most controversial, coming into conflict with the governments and police forces of several countries (including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada,[266] France[267] and Germany).[6][35][254][268][269] It has been one of the most litigious religious movements in history, filing countless lawsuits against governments, organizations and individuals.[270]

Reports and allegations have been made, by journalists, courts, and governmental bodies of several countries, that the Church of Scientology is an unscrupulous commercial enterprise that harasses its critics and brutally exploits its members.[254][268] Time magazine published an article in 1991 which described Scientology as "a hugely profitable global racket that survives by intimidating members and critics in a Mafia-like manner."[35]

The controversies involving the church and its critics, some of them ongoing, include:

  • Scientology's disconnection policy, in which members are encouraged to cut off all contact with friends or family members who are "antagonistic" to Scientology.,[99][271]
  • The death of a Scientologist Lisa McPherson while in the care of the church. (Robert Minton sponsored the multi-million dollar lawsuit against Scientology for the death of McPherson. In May 2004, McPherson's estate and the Church of Scientology reached a confidential settlement.)[272]
  • Criminal activities committed on behalf of the church or directed by church officials (Operation Snow White, Operation Freakout).
  • Conflicting statements about L. Ron Hubbard's life, in particular accounts of Hubbard discussing his intent to start a religion for profit and of his service in the military.[35]
  • Scientology's harassment and litigious actions against its critics encouraged by its Fair Game policy.[35]
  • Attempts to legally force search engines such as Google and Yahoo! to omit any webpages critical of Scientology from their search engines (and in Google's case, AdSense), or at least the first few search pages.[273]
  • Allegations by a former high-ranking Scientologist that Scientology leader David Miscavige beats and demoralizes staff, and that physical violence by superiors towards staff working for them is a common occurrence in the church.[274][275] Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis denied these claims and provided witnesses to rebut them.[274]
  • In October 2009, a French court found the Church of Scientology guilty of organized fraud. Four officers of the organization were fined and given suspended prison sentences of up to 2 years. Prosecutors had hoped to achieve a ban of Scientology in France, but due to a temporary change in French law, which "made it impossible to dissolve a legal entity on the grounds of fraud", no ban was pronounced.[276] The sentence was confirmed by appeal court in February 2012.[277]
  • In November 2009, Australian Senator Nick Xenophon used a speech in Federal Parliament to allege that the Church of Scientology is a criminal organization. Based on letters from former followers of the religion, he said that there were "allegations of forced imprisonment, coerced abortions, and embezzlement of church funds, of physical violence and intimidation, blackmail and the widespread and deliberate abuse of information obtained by the organization"[278]

Due to these allegations, a considerable amount of investigation has been aimed at the church, by groups ranging from the media to governmental agencies.[254][268]

Scientology social programs such as drug and criminal rehabilitation have likewise drawn both support and criticism.[279][280][281][282]

Stephen A. Kent, a professor of sociology, has said that "Scientologists see themselves as possessors of doctrines and skills that can save the world, if not the galaxy."[283] As stated in Scientology doctrine: "The whole agonized future of this planet, every man, woman and child on it, and your own destiny for the next endless trillions of years depend on what you do here and now with and in Scientology."[284] Kent has described Scientology's ethics system as "a peculiar brand of morality that uniquely benefited [the Church of Scientology] ... In plain English, the purpose of Scientology ethics is to eliminate opponents, then eliminate people's interests in things other than Scientology.".[285]

Many former members have come forward to speak out about the Church and the negative effects its teachings have had on them, including celebrities such as Leah Remini. Remini spoke about her split from the Church, saying that she still has friends within the organization that she is no longer able to speak to.[286]

Scientology and the Internet

In the 1990s, representatives of Scientology began to take action against increased criticism of Scientology on the Internet. The organization says that the actions taken were to prevent distribution of copyrighted Scientology documents and publications online, fighting what it refers to as "copyright terrorists".[287]

In January 1995, church lawyer Helena Kobrin attempted to shut down the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology by sending a control message instructing Usenet servers to delete the group.[288] In practice, this rmgroup message had little effect, since most Usenet servers are configured to disregard such messages when sent to groups that receive substantial traffic, and newgroup messages were quickly issued to recreate the group on those servers that did not do so. However, the issuance of the message led to a great deal of public criticism by free-speech advocates.[289][290] Among the criticisms raised, one suggestion is that Scientology's true motive is to suppress the free speech of its critics.[291][292]

An Internet-based group which refers to itself as 'Anonymous' held protests outside Scientology centers in cities around the world in February 2008 as part of Project Chanology. Issues they protested ranged from alleged abuse of followers to the validity of its claims to qualify as a state-sponsored religion.[293]

The Church also began filing lawsuits against those who posted copyrighted texts on the newsgroup and the World Wide Web, and lobbied for tighter restrictions on copyrights in general. The Church supported the controversial Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act as well as the even more controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Some of the DMCA's provisions (notably the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act) were heavily influenced by Church litigation against US Internet service providers over copyrighted Scientology materials that had been posted or uploaded through their servers.

Beginning in the middle of 1996 and ensuing for several years, the newsgroup was attacked by anonymous parties using a tactic dubbed sporgery by some, in the form of hundreds of thousands of forged spam messages posted on the group. Some investigators said that some spam had been traced to church members.[294][295] Former Scientologist Tory Christman later asserted that the Office of Special Affairs had undertaken a concerted effort to destroy alt.religion.scientology through these means; the effort failed.[296]

On January 14, 2008, a video produced by the Church of Scientology featuring an interview with Tom Cruise was leaked to the Internet and uploaded to YouTube.[297][298][299] The Church of Scientology issued a copyright violation claim against YouTube requesting the removal of the video.[300] Subsequently, the group Anonymous voiced its criticism of Scientology and began attacking the Church.[301] Calling the action by the Church of Scientology a form of Internet censorship, participants of Anonymous coordinated Project Chanology, which consisted of a series of denial-of-service attacks against Scientology websites, prank calls, and black faxes to Scientology centers.[302][303][304][305][306] On January 21, 2008, Anonymous announced its intentions via a video posted to YouTube entitled "Message to Scientology", and a press release declaring a "war" against both the Church of Scientology and the Religious Technology Center.[305][307] In the press release, the group stated that the attacks against the Church of Scientology would continue in order to protect the freedom of speech, and end what they saw as the financial exploitation of church members.[308]

A protester criticizes Scientology.

On January 28, 2008, an Anonymous video appeared on YouTube calling for protests outside Church of Scientology centers on February 10, 2008.[309][310] According to a letter Anonymous e-mailed to the press, about 7,000 people protested in more than 90 cities worldwide.[311] Many protesters wore masks based on the character V from V for Vendetta (who was influenced by Guy Fawkes) or otherwise disguised their identities, in part to protect themselves from reprisals from the Church of Scientology.[312][313] Many further protests have followed since then in cities around the world.[314]

The Arbitration Committee of the Wikipedia internet encyclopedia decided in May 2009 to restrict access to its site from Church of Scientology IP addresses, to prevent self-serving edits by Scientologists.[315][316] A "host of anti-Scientologist editors" were topic-banned as well.[315][316] The committee concluded that both sides had "gamed policy" and resorted to "battlefield tactics", with articles on living persons being the "worst casualties".[315]

Scientology and hypnosis

Scientology literature states that L. Ron Hubbard demonstrated his professional expertise in hypnosis by "discovering" the Dianetic engram. Hubbard was said to be an accomplished hypnotist, and close acquaintances such as Forrest Ackerman (Hubbard's literary agent) and A. E. van Vogt (an early supporter of Dianetics) witnessed repeated demonstrations of his hypnotic skills.[249]

Auditing confidentiality

Scientology E-Meter

During the auditing process, the auditor may collect personal information from the person being audited.[317] Auditing records are referred to within Scientology as preclear folders.[318] The Church of Scientology has strict codes designed to protect the confidentiality of the information contained in these folders.[317] However, people leaving Scientology know that the Church is in possession of very personal information about them, and that the Church has a history of attacking and psychologically abusing those who leave it and become critics.[318] On December 16, 1969, a Guardian's Office order (G. O. 121669) by Mary Sue Hubbard authorized the use of auditing records for purposes of "internal security."[319] Some former members have said that while they were still in the Church, they combed through information obtained in auditing sessions to see if it could be used for smear campaigns against critics.[320][321]

Celebrities

Hubbard envisaged that celebrities would have a key role to play in the dissemination of Scientology, and in 1955 launched Project Celebrity, creating a list of 63 famous people that he asked his followers to target for conversion to Scientology.[322] In a church policy letter in 1973, L. Ron Hubbard wrote, "The purpose of [the] Celebrity Centre is, to forward the expansion and popularization of Scientology through the arts."[323] Former silent-screen star Gloria Swanson and jazz pianist Dave Brubeck were among the earliest celebrities attracted to Hubbard's teachings; in recent decades, prominent actors—including Tom Cruise and John Travolta—have spoken publicly about their commitment to Scientology.[322][324]

Scientology operates eight churches that are designated Celebrity Centres, the largest of these is in Hollywood, California, called Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International.[325] Celebrity Centres are open to the general public, but are primarily designed to minister to celebrity Scientologists [325] “and to provide a haven for artists and others.” The Celebrity Centre International was the first one that was opened in 1969 and its opening is celebrated the first week of August each year in an evening gala.[326]

See also

References

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Notes

External links

Official site
Scholarly web pages on Scientology