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The following is a summary of scientology I have written. I have aimed the summary primarily at the kind of person who comes onto IRC and asks "what is this scientology thing, anyway?" I have written it to give the most concise, yet reasonably informative, account of Scientology I can. I am generally satisfied with it, even though it has gotten longer than I would have preferred, and even though I think it maybe drags a bit in the "Controversy" section.
I have placed it on my web page, at www.netcom.com/~seekon (go to Summary). I think it reads better there than here, and encourage people check it out anyway.
I'm posting it so that people will correct any factual errors I've made, or make whatever comments they have. writing the summary was an interesting exercise — I found I didn't really know the specifics of things that I needed to, or should have. and I spent a lot more time organizing and thinking about what needed to be said than I thought I would. I recommend the exercise to others.
I'd prefer if people posted comments here on a.r.s, where everybody can see them, and maybe comment further. I won't turn down email, however. this is, after all, the lazy person's way of research.
Scientology was created in 1952 by L. Ron Hubbard, a "penny-a-word" science fiction writer, allegedly because "the way to make some real money is to start a religion". more He was successful at least in this part of his endeavors.
L. Ron Hubbard alone wrote or dictated the materials constituting the "scriptures" of Scientology. He was extraordinarily prolific in this regard, producing several hundred taped lectures, and a hundred or so books, and numerous bulletins, orders, and other papers. Scientologists think of this material and Hubbard as "Source" — the fount of a fantastic understanding of life, on which they depend exclusively in all aspects of their lives. To question Hubbard is a literal heresy. One cannot do so for any extended time and remain a Scientologist in good standing.
Scientology does not formally claim to adore Hubbard, but in practice he is idolized as the savior. No org is without a large, prominent picture of him, nor an office reserved for his return. If you ask a Scientologist if Hubbard was perfect, the Scientologist will answer "no". But if you ask what was wrong with Hubbard, he or she will have no answer.
L. Ron Hubbard died in seclusion in 1986. His body was cremated and his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.
Scientology has three major levels of belief. The final level is secret, to be revealed only after sufficient "preparation".
The first level of belief is essentially a pop psychology, as described in the book "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health". Dianetics asserts that the mind has two major components (the unconscious reactive mind and the rational mind), and that all mental and physical ailments are the result of the reactive mind retaining and reacting on bad memories, called engrams. Dianetics claims that the cure to all these ailments is to rid the reactive mind of the engrams by a process called auditing, thereby enabling the rational mind (which is perfect) to take control. The auditing process is reminiscent of Freudian psychoanalysis, and requires the practitioner to think back and locate these memories, whereupon their effect is eliminated. more
The second level of belief is what most practicing Scientologists know. It ascribes the reactive and rational minds to a spiritual entity called the thetan, that is immortal and reincarnates through many lives. The auditing process introduces the use of a simple galvanometer, called the e-meter, to (supposedly) assist the identification of engrams, and extends the location of engrams not just to past this-life experiences, but to experiences in previous lives as well. This process is supposed to produce a "clear", a person with perfect memory and health, clairvoyant, and of immense intelligence. more
The final (secret) level of belief asserts that in fact people are composed of clusters of thetans that are the spirits of dead space aliens, who were brought to earth 75 million years ago by an evil intergalactic tyrant named Xenu, and who were killed with hydrogen bombs in volcanos by him. These spirits were captured afterwards by Xenu on electronic ribbons, and were given implants (a form of engram) that kept them from remembering any of this. Since each of these thetans has a reactive mind, auditing must be performed on all of the millions or billions of these to get them to "blow" (be exorcised), at which point the primary (or operating) thetan controlling the body will realize his godhead, with power over matter, energy, space, and time (MEST), including the power to create galaxies and life. more
Scientology has a distinct theological basis that is at variance with nearly all other religions on one point or another, so it cannot be said that it is compatible with other religions. For example, the belief of reincarnation is not compatible with conventional Judaic, Christian, or Islam theology. And the tenet that there is no single god, or alternately that each person is a god who can recover his powers, is heretical in all of these religions.
In its highest level, Scientology claims that Jesus Christ did not exist, and that religions are simply implants designed to control the thetan.
People may be brought into scientology because they are convinced by enthusiastic family, friends, or acquaintances already in Scientology to try it; or because they become convinced that scientology can help them with some aspect of their life.
The Personality Test is probably the most famous Scientology sales tool. The "mark" is offered the test as a way to scientifically and unambiguously identify the source of their difficulties. Not surprisingly, the test almost always identifies one or another character flaw that Scientology can cure. As used by Scientology, it can be quite seductive. Scientology also proclaims itself the only way to make the world a better place, and plays on those hungers of most people with some effect. more
Scientology also draws people in through various front companies. Sterling Management, for example, is a consulting company whose answer to improving performance includes Scientology training. Narconon is a drug-treatment program whose answer to drug abuse is a Scientology purification routine and training. Applied Scholastics puts forward Scientology "word-clearing", communications courses, and other Scientology training as the answer to educational difficulties.
People will typically enter Scientology as "publics". Publics are people who pay for their courses. Courses are provided only after the payment of large, fixed fees for them, although the fees are called donations. Publics without large cash reserves may take out loans to pay for the courses, or max out their credit cards. Scientology's rapacity for money is one of primary areas of controversy about Scientology.
People without money to pay for courses may become "staff". Staff members perform administrative work, and may receive training to become auditors. In return, they are promised free coursework and auditing Staff members work very long hours for typically very little pay, and additionally find they do not receive the coursework they believe they were promised.
Especially zealous Scientologists may join the Sea Organization, the elite corps of Scientology, and the source of a large amount of the controversy surrounding Scientology. more
Scientology claims to have 8 million followers, but these claims are simply not credible. Best estimates of the number of practicing Scientologists indicate that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 worldwide, with the majority of these in southern California. There are several hundred Dianetics Centers and Scientology "orgs" world-wide, but the number of scientologists at many of these is quite small. more
The primary practice of Scientology is taking courses.
Courses generally consist of blocks of time for the review of various of the Scientology materials related to the belief level of the scientologist, and for auditing to realize the effects of the courses. Early courses are called training routines, and provide effects that convince the scientologist of the reality of the teachings; and (in the Communications course) provide him an intellectual context increasingly at variance with the outside world. The early courses stress that all failures to make sense of the teachings are the result of misunderstood words, and scientologists spend much time looking up words in the Scientology dictionary, until the material makes sense. Scientologists may also "mock up" their engrams with clay models.
For auditing, the scientologist (auditee) grasps the two electrodes (which look much like soup cans) of the e-meter in his hands, while a fellow scientologist (auditor) makes various statements to the auditee and observes the reaction of the e-meter to the statements. The statements made will often be from a specific list, called a "rundown". The auditor will note the reactions on a worksheet. Following an auditing session, the worksheet is given to a "Case Supervisor" for review, to insure that the required results are obtained. In theory, the auditor is not supposed to evaluate the auditee's responses; but it has been observed by some that the auditor in fact guides the auditee to realize the desired response.
Auditing creates in some a euphoria that can be addictive, perhaps similar in nature to a gambling addiction, and "auditing junkies" have been described.
The worksheets go into a "case folder" which Scientology claims to be confidential and privileged, as they reveal the innermost thoughts and most private activities of the scientologist. However, Scientology has on numerous occasions used the contents of the case folders to attempt to coerce scientologists, particularly departed ones.
Most serious scientologists will take the "Purification Rundown" one or more times, purportedly to flush out any effects of drugs or radiation from their bodies. The Purification Rundown entails a several-day regimen of drinking a potent vitamin mixture, and entering a quite warm spa for several hours. The vitamin mixture includes sufficient niacin to create a flush, making the participant feel "it's working", but also with the potential of causing liver damage. The temperature of the spa and time spent in it may also be dangerous for people in a weakened state, and collapses have been associated with the rundown. Michael Jackson's collapse and hospitalization in 1996 are rumored to have occurred while he was participating in the rundown. more
The turnover of public and staff in Scientology is quite high. Most people who enter Scientology will leave after a few years, either because they can't afford it, or because they realize that Scientology will not and cannot deliver the benefits promised, or because they become disaffected by the organization's "ethics". Some people will develop psychological problems, including depression, a nearly paranoid anxiety that they are abandoning the only way to "total freedom", a pervasive fear that Scientology will never let them alone, and psychoses stimulated by the need to fully integrate (i.e., truly believe) the space-opera Xenu cosmology into their cognitive framework.
Some are forced out of Scientology through a trial-like process resulting in their being "declared". People may be declared for nearly any reason, although the primary ones involve embarrassing Scientology in some way, or creating the potential of unrest by questioning it. Each Scientology organization keeps a list of all declared Scientologists, so that it can bar them from the premises, and deny them all services. more
Some who leave or are forced out of Scientology still fervently believe in the Scientology "tech". These people can enter the Free Zone, a loose community of people who use different variants of the auditing practices of scientology.
People do not retire from Scientology. Scientology believes in the Concept of Exchange, that value is obtained only for value given. Scientology does not believe in charity. Staff who cannot meet the demands made of them are said to be "down-stat", and are routed out of the organization.
The incidence of suicide in Scientology is thought to be higher than in society as a whole, even though Scientology attempts to identify and reject people with a history of mental illness. An important number of suicides seem to involve money, either despair at not having enough to take the next course on "the bridge to total freedom", or from the realization that one has squandered one's life savings on what is now seen as a scam or a fantasy.
Scientology is comprised of a bewildering number of interlocking corporations and front organizations. Many of them appear on the surface to have no relationship to Scientology. Almost all of them are operated as a revenue-generating enterprises.
The local "churches", "orgs", and missions, where members take coursework and auditing, and purchase Scientology and Dianetics materials, constitutes the first level of the organization. Typically these are franchises to a higher level "church" corporation. A considerable portion of the fees taken in from scientologists is forwarded in the form of royalties to the Religious Technology Center (RTC) and Bridge Publications, who control the licenses to the copyrights and trademarks of Scientology. Fees are also paid in the form of commissions to the Field Service Member (FSM) who recruited the scientologist that takes a course.
Not all orgs have the staffing to provide all courses, and will have to send members "up-lines" to other orgs to take those courses. In return, they are paid commissions on the courses taken at the up-line org.
There are two primary locations where auditor and other staff training is conducted, and where all courses can be taken. One of these, called "Flag", is in Clearwater (Florida), and the other is at the Cedars Complex in Los Angeles.
Scientology operates a Panama-registered ship named the Freewinds. All courses relating to the highest level of belief (called the Advanced Technology) are currently conducted at sea, aboard the Freewinds (this was not always the case).
Scientology also maintains a number of Celebrity Centers that cater to celebrity performers. Scientology works hard at recruiting celebrities and putting a good face on for them, and considers endorsement of Scientology from celebrities to be a particularly effective recruiting mechanism.
An organization that is not revenue-generating is the Office of Special Affairs (OSA). OSA has responsibility for the public face of Scientology, and releases information to the press and elsewhere in this role. OSA is also the intelligence arm of Scientology, and collects information, conducts investigations, performs "dirty tricks", and generates unfavorable propaganda about its opponents.
There is no clearly definable head organization. The Religious Technology Center, mentioned earlier, appears to have the most power and control. The chairman of the board of RTC, David Miscavige, is the current "ecclesiastic" head of Scientology. It should be noted that a corporation named The Church of Spiritual Technology actually owns the copyrights and trademarks, and licenses these to RTC and Bridge Publications for further dissemination.
Some of the front organizations, like Applied Scholastics, Narconon, and Sterling Management, have been previously mentioned. Many of these organizations are members of, and pay fees to the Worldwide Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE). Approximately 100 other organizations are also members of WISE. The front organizations, like the orgs, pay royalties to RTC and Bridge Publications for the use of Scientology copyrights and trademarks.
The Citizen's Commission on Human Rights, or CCHR, is not a revenue-generating activity. Scientology loathes anything associated with the psychiatric profession, and has the goal of destroying it by the year 2000. CCHR as it's instrument for accomplishing that puts out propaganda, and conducts other activities attempting to discredit psychoactive drugs (in particular). It has been noted that CCHR has no constructive approach to servicing the health needs of the seriously mentally ill in the place of psychiatry. more
Counting all activities, including the front organizations, Scientology is estimated to generate revenues in the neighborhood of $100 million per year. This is down from the 70's and 80's, when the annual revenues may have been several times as large.
Scientology has been embroiled in ongoing controversy since it's inception. The controversy concerns the activities and actions of Scientology far more than the ideology. This summary addresses only a few of the many egregious activities of Scientology. The reader may refer to other sources, such as A Critic's Page to find hundreds more.
L. Ron Hubbard wrote extensively on the conduct of Scientology activities and it's handling of people and affairs. Scientology in following this doctrine religiously (forgive the pun) creates a world and a government essentially separated from, and often in conflict with the institutions the majority of the world live by. The Scientology world is characterized by a preoccupation with the public image of Scientology, a reckless commitment to do things the way Hubbard said to do them without regard to the rest of society, and a willingness to take extreme measures to crush any opposition to the goals of Scientology. Scientology claims the right to do these because of religious freedom.
The lengths to which Scientology is willing to go are perhaps best exemplified by Operation Snow White, in which scientologists infiltrated U.S. and Canadian government offices and removed materials critical of scientology, and performed other espionage. Eleven of the most senior scientology officers were sent to prison for these crimes.
Scientology is also noted for suing for defamation the authors and publishers of materials even remotely critical of Scientology. That they have won almost none of these suits, and have had costly countersuit and sanctions awards against them does not deter them, possibly because they perceive lawsuits as a means to "harass, and if possible destroy" their opponents, and possibly because they have achieved the effect of intimidation in many cases. Scientology is estimated to spend upwards of 30 million dollars annually on lawsuits.
Scientology conducts various campaigns against opponents, especially departed senior members, including threats and instances of physical harm, using "noisy investigations" (e.g. asking neighbors if they knew the opponent was a child molester, knowing he is not) to ruin their reputations, and broadcasting the most scandalous and generally untrue materials (possibly gleaned from the case folders) about them. Scientology justifies these activities by claiming that "anyone who criticizes Scientology is a criminal", and that one need only look to discover their crimes. Scientology frequently uses private investigators (PIs) to conduct these operations for them.
Paulette Cooper, who wrote "The Scandal of Scientology", provides an example of the campaigns of Scientology against individuals. Scientology stole stationary from her office, and used it to frame her for a bomb threat against an Arab consulate. She was finally cleared of the charges by information recovered in an FBI raid on Scientology offices, which also provided the information about Operation Snow White.
Scientologists themselves are not immune to Scientology hubris. One policy, called the "Introspection Rundown", calls for members who are critical of scientology, or who are showing signs of mental breakdown, to be locked up without communications with anyone until they admit their errors and absolve Scientology of any responsibility. Scientology apparently did this to Lisa McPherson, and then forgot about her. She died in Clearwater from dehydration. The medical examiner noted that she had been without food or water for at least 10 days, and had been unconscious for the final 2-3 days. At the end, she was driven 25 miles, past five other major hospitals, to the Scientologist doctor who provided the death certificate. Scientology insists that she was alert on the previous day, and was killed by a staphylococcus infection. Scientology is also suing the medical examiner's office, and conducting a public relations campaign against the Clearwater police department. more
From the beginning, Dianetics and Scientology have advertised themselves as the means to cure physical diseases and disabilities, and Scientology widely trumpets medical cures in the form of testimonials. People claim to have been cured of cancers, of diabetes, and of HIV/AIDS as a resulting of auditing. They also claim to have improved their eyesight, and to have increased their breast size. The danger of this is that scientologists are not infrequently advised to use auditing or take the purification rundown as a cure for what ails them, with the possibility that serious medical conditions are ignored or even aggravated.
Also, the FDA forbids the use of the e-meter in medical situations, and requires a notice be attached to e-meters indicating that they can be used only for spiritual counseling. Scientology has done nothing to reconcile it's "scriptures" to those requirements. Nor is it likely to — Hubbard was Source, and when he died, so did the possibility of change in Scientology practices. more
Money is at the center of a lot of controversy over Scientology. more No one really knows how much there is, where it goes, or how it is used. It is known that Scientology is quite predatory when money is involved. Registrars are taught techniques for getting as much money as possible, as early as possible, from publics. The techniques taught for getting money include getting it from family and relatives, maxing credit cards, draining open accounts, and getting loans, sometimes fraudulently. Members are encouraged to sign up for large blocks of courses in advance, and are promised repayment if they do not take the courses. However, actually refunding money is also a high crime in Scientology, and the person responsible for a refund will likely be punished. A few people, like Ted Mayett, have gotten refunds by embarrassing Scientology publicly, however in Ted's case at least, the money wasn't technically refunded. It was repaid from a special collection at the Las Vegas org.
Departing staff members are frequently handed a "Freeloaders Bill", demanding payment for the courses and training they received (as promised) for free in return for their work. While the validity of such claims have never been upheld in court, many people, who are already in a state of fear and agitation about their departing, will make arrangements to perform repayment.
Where the money goes is also controversial. When Hubbard was alive, he was reported to have smuggled large amounts of cash overseas, and to have deposited as much as a 500 million dollars in Swiss Bank accounts.
The question of where the money goes is particularly relevant to Scientology's relationship with the IRS. Until 1993, the IRS had denied Scientology tax-exempt status as a charitable organization because it could not track the money transfers among the bewildering variety of organizations, and because there was evidence that the money was being used for the inurement of individuals, contrary to the provisions of the law. In addition to widespread litigation against the IRS that taxed even the IRS' resources, Scientology undertook investigations and inquiries into the lives of IRS employees, and engaged in public relations campaigns against the IRS. Finally the IRS convened a committee that directed Scientology be given the exemption without performing the legally required reviews, and issued the exemption with a secret document that is also contrary to applicable law. Interestingly, the law governing charitable organizations essentially forbids remuneration by commission, which even the most cursory examination would have discovered was occurring.
It is known that as much as 30% of Scientology revenues go to legal expenses. Scientology is also constructing large underground vaults at several locations, capable of withstanding direct nuclear blasts; and are placing Hubbard's writings, etched onto platinum sheets for preservation, in them.
Hubbard wrote that "the only way to control a person is to lie to them." more Such doctrine, and its egotistical flip side "What's true is what's true for you," perhaps explain the incredible distortion of reality that pervades Scientology.
It starts with Hubbard himself. Scientology presents Hubbard as a naval war hero, a nuclear scientist, a world explorer, and a great humanitarian. In fact, Hubbard was a malingerer, was considered unfit to be a Naval officer, and was never in a military engagement. He flunked out of college, although he bought a PhD from a diploma mill. He was a bigamist, an occultist who participated in masturbation ceremonies to evoke the whore of Babylon, a substance abuser, and probably an alcoholic. more His exploration expeditions were disastrous failures. Almost nothing claimed by Scientology about Hubbard is borne out by the facts.