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Inside Scientology: Is it a religion, a science fiction fantasy, or just another cult?

Title: Inside Scientology: Is it a religion, a science fiction fantasy, or just another cult?
Date: Wednesday, 9 June 1982
Publisher: News-Herald (Santa Rosa, California)
Author: Dennis Wheeler
Main source: link (420 KiB)

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The year was 1950.

The book was Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, written by a 39-year-old "pulp" writer of science fiction, L. Ron Hubbard.

A few months earlier, Hubbard had outlined the book's tenets in a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction. And a year before that, at a lecture for science fiction writers, Hubbard had mused, "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."

Hubbard's followers now say he was only "joking" when he made that observation. But before long, the red-haired writer from Nebraska had indeed started his own religion, and was well on his way to making the first of many millions of dollars.

Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health became a best-seller, back in those days before "self-help" books were found at every grocery checkout counter. The word dianetics, Hubbard says, is from the Greek dia (through) and noos (soul), thus meaning "through the soul." It's described as "a system for the analysis, control, and development of human thought which also provides techniques for increased ability, rationality, and freedom from the discovered single source of aberrations and psychosomatic ills."

The book emphasizes therapy between an "auditor" and a novice or "preclear," during which the latter learns to increase the power of the "analytical" mind and remove engrams (painful impressions from past experiences) from the "reactive" mind (the analytical and reactive minds correspond roughly to the conscious and unconscious of psychoanalysis). When all the engrams have been erased, the person is called a "Clear."

Nowadays, some readers may find parts of the book quaint or old-fashioned, or sprinkled with fallacies. For instance, Hubbard writes, "A large proportion of allegedly feeble-minded children are actually attempted abortion cases, whose engrams place them in fear paralysis or regressive palsy which command them not to grow but to be where they are forever."

And, calling homosexuals "perverts," Hubbard declares, ". . .the pervert is always a very ill person in one way or another, whether he is conscious of it or not. He is very far from culpable for his condition, but he is also so far from normal and so extremely dangerous to society that the tolerance of perversion is as thoroughly bad for society as punishment for it. . .the pervert, containing hundreds and hundreds of vicious engrams, has had little choice between being dead and being a pervert."

But auditing, according to Dianetics, could even help perverts. Originally it was performed while the preclear was in a trance-like state called "dianetic reverie." But as "Dianetics Foundations" were set up across the nation in response to the book's success, an "E-Meter" (a skin galvanometer or crude lie detector) was approved for use during auditing.

And between 1952 and 1954, Dianetics spawned a religion.

Hubbard named his new church "Scientology," supposedly from the Latin scio (kriowing) and the Greek logos (study), thus meaning "knowing how to know" (although there's evidence he lifted the name from a 1934 book by a German social psychologist, entitled Scientologie: Science of the Constitution and Usefulness of Knowledge/Knowing.) Hubbard's Scientology is described as "an applied religious philosophy and technology resolving problems of the spirit, life and thought."

What attracted people to this unusual new religion? According to Brooks Alexander, co-editor of Scientology: The Technology of Enlightenment, "Hubbard realized that in a largely secularized culture, ultimate human concerns could be addressed in a 'scientific' and 'therapeutic' way, rather than from a traditional religious standpoint. After years of dabbling in occultism and Eastern religion, Hubbard demythologized the Eastern occult world view. He stripped away the gongs, incense, shaved heads and other culturally alien trappings and replaced them with business suits, electronic gadgetry and the jargon of self-improvement."

Membership in Scientology increased, but Hubbard's pronouncements strayed farther and farther from the relatively innocuous beliefs outlined in his original book. The new church introduced to Dianetics the role of the Thetan in the physical universe, which itself is conceived as MEST (an acronym standing for matter, energy, space and time). Thetans (similar to the more traditional concept of "souls") are trillions of years old, and through countless eons are reincarnated in animals and human beings.

As Hubbard's "research" into the matter continued, he announced that Thetans are descendants of the builders of an ancient galactic civilization called the Marcab Confederacy. Most of the empire's heroes were slaughtered by evil forces some 40 trillion years ago on the planet Helatrobus. The defeated Thetans — primarily the geniuses and criminals of the empire — were exiled to the "prison planet" which we now call Earth. We ourselves, in fact, are the Thetans. But we've been stuck here, in ignorance, until Hubbard and Scientology came along to cast off our shackles and lead us to our rightful place in the realm of the stars.

The state of "Clear" originally was the top level of spirituality in Scientology. But as Hubbard continued his research he announced that he'd discovered the existence of higher levels — such as "Operating Thetan," or "OT" — and then OT I, OT II, and so on up to OT VIII, with even higher levels above that.

The road to these rarefied states of existence is paved with numerous courses and auditing sessions on the E-Meter. Newcomers to Scientology are rarely told about the Marcab Confederacy, MEST, or other elements of the church which might be deemed science fiction. Instead, they usually encounter Scientology first through its "Communications Course" in which religious or philosophical goals take a back seat to "self-improvement."

After graduating from the "Comm Course," budding Scientologists progress through such things as the "Purification Rundown," the "Solo Auditor's Course," and the "Sunshine Rundown." An advertisement for the OT IV process says, "Break out of the mind-crippling soul-enslaving effects of whole track drug incidents and surge to the Stars and beyond with New OT IV." These advanced courses, the ad continues, "rehabilitate the Thetan to his OT abilities and last forever and give immortality. From OT I where you 'learn to walk' as a Thetan through OT III and the Wall of Fire, you will expand your abilities beyond your wildest dreams."

All are offered for a price, of course. While the "personality test" usually given to newcomers is free, the Comm Course varies in cost from approximately $10 to $50. Prices escalate steeply from there. As of late last year, 12 "Technical Volumes" cost $614.25, and a two-year subscription to "Professional Auditor's Bulletins" costs $145. Twelve and a half hours of "intensive regular auditing" cost $1,530.15. Individual levels of the "Saint Hill Special Briefing Course" cost $987 each; all six levels cost $5,880. A notice on the price list for the above courses indicates, "On January 1 donations for processing go up a full 10 percent. The processing donations will go up another 10 percent on February 1 and March 1."

Some of these courses can only be taken at the church's headquarters in Los Angeles, called the "Sea Org" (named for the flotilla of Hubbard's ships called the Sea Organization); at the "Land Flag Base" in Clearwater, Florida; and at Saint Hill Manor in Sussex, England. Beneath these in the Scientology superstructure are orgs, or organizations, and lowest on the ladder are "missions." In Santa Rosa Scientology operates a mission at 721 Mendocino Avenue (next to the Belvedere Building). The nearest org is located at 83 McAllister Street in San Francisco.

Membership statistics? In 1977 Scientology claimed more than five million members worldwide, of whom 75 percent dwell in North America, and 38 United States churches and 172 missions. More accurate estimates are supposedly unavailable "because of rapid growth." But some observers have estimated Scientology actually has only 3,000 fulltime staff members and no more than 30,000 followers in the United States.

And over the years, the cult has made thousands of enemies. As early as 1950, in fact, Hubbard aroused the suspicions of doctors and mental health officials by some of the pronouncements in his book.

For example, he claims that "dianetic therapy" can cure "psycho-somatic illnesses" which he defines as "those which have a mental origin but which are nevetheless organic. . .About 70 percent of the physician's current roster of diseases falls into the category of psycho-somatic illness." Dianetic therapy, Hubbard continues, cures "arthritis, dermatitis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, bursitis, ulcers, sinusitis, etc." plus migraine headaches and impotence. "Clears do not get colds," he says bluntly, and "Clears rarely have accidents." He continues with suggestions that future research in Dianetics may lead to cures of cancer and diabetes.

According to a Scientology publication copyrighted this year, "The Dianetic auditor has no other skill or tools than his understanding of mental image pictures, such as locks, secondaries and engrams and the time track. With these tools he produces many miracles. Broken bones heal in two weeks instead of six, withered limbs restore, burns vanish, swellings reduce visibly to nothing, lives wrecked by grief and loss recover, women lose their aging wrinkles and sought-after abilities return."

[Picture / Caption: The official logo of the Church of Scientology]

In Scientology, the Fundamentals of Thought, Hubbard states that Scientology "is the only science of study known which is capable of uniformly producing marked and significant increases in intelligence and general ability. Scientology processing amongst other things can improve the intelligence quotient of an individual, his ability or desire to communicate, his social attitudes, his capability and domestic harmony, his fertility, his artistic creativity, his reaction time and his health."

Most doctors take a dim view of these grandiose claims. Even the British government stepped into the act in the '60s when Hubbard allegedly began pushing a pill called "Dianezena" which supposedly would correct any harmful effects caused by radioactivity.

And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also began tussling with Scientology in the courts. By the time the dust had cleared, most of Hubbard's books were prefaced with the following note:

". . .Although the Church, as are all churches, is free to engage in spiritual healing, it does not, as its primary goal is increased knowledge and personal integrity for all. For this reason, the Church does not wish to accept individuals who desire treatment of physical illness or insanity, but refers these to qualified specialists in other organizations who deal in these matters."

The same note also assures the reader, "This is part of the religious literature and works of the Founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. It is presented to, the reader as part of the record of his personal research into Life, and should be construed only as a written report of such research and not as a statement of claims made by the Church or the author."

But the FDA wasn't the only organization interested in Scientology. The IRS, for instance, has battled the cult over its tax-exempt status. And in 1977 the FBI made one of the largest raids in its history, simultaneously invading the Los Angeles and Washington D.C. headquarters of Scientology. Uncovered were numerous documents believed stolen from government offices — plus two pistols, a blackjack, electronic eavesdropping equipment, a lock-picking kit, vials of knockout drops, and something labeled "vampire blood."

In the mid-'60s, Scientology began reacting to its critics with a number of controversial new policies. Amongst them were use of the E-Meter for "security checks"; the labeling of certain people as "Fair Game" or "Suppressive Persons"; and the "Attack the Attacker" policy. Each involves "fighting back." Anyone labeled "Fair Game," for instance, "may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."

"Don't ever tamely submit to any investigation of us," Hubbard told his followers in a 1966 policy letter. "Make it rough, rough on attackers all the way. . .Attackers are simply an anti-Scientology propaganda agency so far as we are concerned. They have proven they want no facts and will only lie no matter what they discover. So banish all ideas that any fair hearing is intended and start our attack with their first breath. Never wait. Never talk about us — only them. Use their blood, sex, crime to get headlines. Don't use us. . .Shift the spotlight to them. No matter how. Do it!"

These policies will be examined more closely in a future News-Herald story. But most controversial of them all is probably the "R2-45" auditing process. It's defined in Hubbard's book, The Creation of Human Ability — a Hand-book of Scientology, as "an enormously effective process for exteriorization, but its use is frowned upon by this society at this time."

"Exteriorization" in this usage refers to death. The policy itself refers to shooting a person in the head, twice, with a .45 pistol. Hubbard demonstrated the R2-45 auditing process at a 1954 meeting of Scientologists by firing a shot into the floor. And attorneys have uncovered evidence to suggest that between 1975 and 1977, during the FBI's investigation of the cult, meetings of Scientology executives were held in which there were discussions relative to "auditing" high-level FBI members with auditing process R2-45.

Scientology members claim the R2-45 policy was "just a joke," and that all these policies have been abandoned anyway. Recent defectors, however, claim such policies are still discussed, if not by the same names.

And what is the status of Scientology today?

Its members claim the Church is growing more than ever. They've reportedly given themselves only five more years to "clear" the entire planet. And amongst their members they count celebrities such as John Travolta, Cathy Lee Crosby, Chick Corea, John Brodie and Diana Canova.

Rarely, however, do they mention Charles Manson who, while in prison before committing his infamous murders, listed Scientology as his religion and claimed to have reached the state of "theta clear." According to attorney Vincent Buglioso in his book, Helter Skelter: "What effect, if any, Scientology had on Manson's mental state cannot be measured. Undoubtedly he picked up from his 'auditing' sessions in prison some knowledge of mind control, as well as some techniques which he later put to use in programming his followers."

Despite Scientology's alleged expansion, some cult-watchers believe the organization is in its death-throes. Recent hearings at the Church's headquarters in Florida, they say, have prompted mass defections and "deprogrammings." Hubbard's third wife, Mary Sue, has been found guilty with eight other top Scientology officials of theft or conspiracy charges arising from a plot to break into offices of the federal government. And Hubbard's oldest son, who defected from the cult in 1959, has resurfaced and is telling horror stories about his father and the early days of the church — sordid tales of drug abuse, black magic rites, and sadomasochism.

Hubbard himself, now 71, is in hiding, although his son suspects he died several years ago and his death has been kept secret. Other cult-watchers believe he lives at a former resort ranch in Southern California, and still others say he resides in England in a 30-room mansion that once belonged to the Maharajah of Jaipur.

"After endless millenia of ignorance about himself, his mind, and the Universe, a breakthrough has been made," says Hubbard in Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought. "Other efforts man has made have been surpassed. The combined truths of Fifty Thousand years of thinking men, distilled and amplified by new discoveries about Man, have made for this success.

"We welcome you to Scientology."

Next week: The "Communicators Course" held in Santa Rosa — the first step into Scientology.

Copyright 1982
News-Herald News Service