Since the dawn of history, Man has been attempting to understand his surroundings, the purpose of his existence, and the mysteries of the universe. The world seemed too big and too complicated to just work all on itself, so Man looked up and wondered if someone (or something) out there has made it. He observed the lands, the oceans, and the rains and asked himself if a greater, more capable being is in control of these elements. And then he learnt about death, and the concept was so bizarre and rather frightening that Man wondered if there’s something afterwards: perhaps we will transcend to a greater form, perhaps it’s just a journey to another world, or perhaps we will come back in different bodies. Along the years, Man’s search for God and a spiritual reconciliation with his own questions and doubts have played a great role in shaping history. Religions emerged and with them some achieved peace and some made war. In this article, we will introduce you to a relatively recent belief. What is scientology and how does it work? What is the new perspective scientology offers? And how do scientologists practice it? Most importantly, what are the controversies one should keep an eye on?
|SEE ALSO: Got a Bit of a Persecution Complex?|
What Is Scientology?
Scientology.org introduces a new visitor to scientology with a very inspiring video with many shots of happy individuals helping around, making a difference, and changing the world. It is natural for any religious community to advocate their hard work and charitable causes. But what is an unbiased definition of scientology? What is scientology from an outsider’s point of view?
Scientology, like any other religion, is a set of beliefs and practices. The word is Latin for “the study of knowledge.” It was created by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, in 1952. Dianetics is the foundation of scientology. It is a self-help program developed by Hubbard who initially only intended it to be a new method of psychotherapy. Dianetics uses a technique called auditing to address patients past traumatic events. The technique systematically exposes the patient to their traumatic past and aims at removing the scars these events left. The process is called clearing, but we will get back to this later.
Dianetics became a widely practiced method and, only a little while later, practitioners reported seeing visions from past lives, and reincarnation and the concept of “thetan” were introduced to the equation. Collectively, these beliefs comprised scientology, as a religious philosophy, although most of the science involved did not gain much approval from scholars.
According to the official website, scientology “offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.” In the following, we will help you figure out the keywords and lingo of scientology practices.
Like most religions, scientology is complicated and you won’t completely grasp the point or the ideas behind it unless you do a lot of reading or practice it first hand. Among the prime scientology beliefs are the following:
- Scientology does not revolve around a dogma; that is, there is no central deity to worship or “accept.” Contrarily, scientology mostly relies on experience and observations.
- Scientologists believe that Man is immortal, and his experiences and history are greater than what he learns or achieves in a single lifetime.
- Scientologists also believe that Man is far more capable than what his present capabilities could offer.
- Despite the fact that scientology is not exactly dogmatic, it does have a concept of God. It is identified as either the “Supreme Being” or the “Eights Dynamic,” both always uppercased.
- Self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being are the 8 dynamics of survival.
- Scientology’s concept of ethics is utilitarian: what is right is what is rational, not exactly what is traditionally moral. An action would be considered ethical if it preserves the survival of each of the 8 dynamics, benefiting the biggest number of people involved, and harming the fewest.
- Scientologists also believe that Man is inherently good and that his spiritual salvation is only achieved through his reconciliation with the 8 dynamics.
So far, these scientology beliefs are not so far off from any normal human development book. But scientology is famous for weird and bizarre beliefs; what are these and where do they come from?
- Scientologists don’t believe in psychiatry. They think psychiatry is evil and is originally a Nazi practice. This of course means that if a member of the Church of Scientology is mentally troubled or has a child who is mentally troubled, they will not receive any psychiatric care or medicine. Alternatively, they use auditing.
- Scientologists are very secretive and they have confidential material that only a selected few can put their hands on. These materials are said to be confidential only to protect those who view it (scientologists or outsiders) from teachings they are not properly prepared for.
- One of these advanced teachings is the infamous story of Xenu, a warlord of the “Galactic Confederacy” who brought billions of people to Earth, 75 million years ago. Xenu supposedly stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The story goes that the “thetans” (souls or spirits) of the dead clustered together and attached themselves to the bodies of the living. These thetans are said to be the reason of the physical and mental illnesses Man goes through. However, the Church of Scientology denies this story.
- Despite their views on reincarnation, scientologists don’t use the word. Instead, they use “past lives.” Scientologists believe that Man comes back in a different flesh after death, and for that, they should be wary of what they do today, because they’ll be there to experience it tomorrow.
As a self-help program, Scientology does seem alright. The techniques of “auditing” are not particularly original and are practiced in different fields of psychotherapy. It is safe to say that Dianetics alone would have sufficed. But The Church of Scientology is a different story. Wikipedia has a whole article on the controversies regarding Scientology, the possible criminal activity, the extortion, and the brainwashing. We will review you on this next.
The Church of Scientology: The Dark Side?
One of the most alarming practices The Church of Scientology is often involved in is how they handle criticism. Every single religion gets harsh criticism out there. In most cases, people either disregard it or voice their dissatisfaction on social media or in social gatherings. For scientologists, it’s a little different and a lot more scary.
Attack the Attacker
Scientologists are taught that their church and their religion are constantly the target of an international conspiracy. Word goes among scientology’s firm believers that each of their critics is originally a criminal, and that the only way for them to survive and protect their faith is to take aggressive measures against whoever criticizes them.
Each critic who publicly spoke of Scientology, almost with no exception, has been pursued for retaliation. Retaliation included legal action, spying, harassment, and counter accusations. In the BBC documentary “Scientology and Me,” the reporter was shown to be harassed, followed around by a car, and called a “bigot.” Watching the documentary, you’ll probably notice yourself the hostile attitude of the Scientology spokesman and his aggressiveness in response to every interaction.
Scientologists also adopt a policy called “fair game.” Those who are declared enemies of the church “may be deprived of property or injured by any means… may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” The quote is taken from a policy letter written by Hubbard himself. This policy was later cancelled and replaced by another. It is said that although the wordings have changed, the practice is still the same. Check Wikipedia’s full article on the fair game policy of scientologists.
Abuse of Members
Unlike most religions that we know of, scientology can be a very costly religion. Members are obliged to pay fees to ascend in their reconciliations with the 8 dynamics. The fees are though called fixed donations. Stories of young members who pay up to thousands of dollars per course are numerous.
Accusations of brainwashing have also gained wide attention. Scientology promotes complete disconnection. Members completely cut off their parents and friends and they end up reliant on the social network of the Church of Scientology alone. The disconnected members are consequently never exposed to any outside critical views of the church, making it extra difficult for them to ever leave.
Because of their rejection of psychiatry, cases of homicides and suicides are reported. Stories of young men and women who either commit murder or have their mental health severely declining are a natural result. Read the story of Lisa McPherson who was mentally unstable and never received proper medical care, resulting in her eventual death after allegedly being physically abused in a healing scientology program called Introspection Rundown.
It would be unfair to claim that an act of a few individuals can be an accurate representative of a religion, but then again, if the crime itself is approved by the religion, we don’t exactly have a choice. Eleven members of the Church of Scientology, including Hubbard’s wife and other high-ranked officials, were convicted for perjury, receiving sentences of 2 to 6 years.
In many FBI raids, the church was found to contain documentations prepared to frame enemies of the church with murder and others to destroy opposing organizations’ reputation. Apparently, according to the church’s code of ethics, crime was justified if it served scientology right.
The previous facts and allegations can be very alarming and one cannot just disregard them and give the befit of the doubt. Here are a few more facts to help you fill the gaps:
- In Germany, Scientology is not recognized as a religion. The German government has labeled the organization an “abusive business masquerading as a religion.”
- Because of the Church of Scientology’s frequent attempts at editing Wikipedia articles to their liking, Wikipedia has banned them from ever editing their articles again.
- Scientology was listed as the first most dangerous cult by The Cult Awareness Network. The Church of Scientology then sued them into bankruptcy. Scientologists now own the New Cult Awareness Network.
- The Scientology’s drug rehab program is labeled by critics and scholars as “medically unsafe.”
- It is claimed that members of the Church of Scientology have to routinely go through long and tedious security checks to confirm their loyalty to the church. Children are not excluded from these checks.
- Finally, the church is also said to have severe punishment systems for its members’ transgressions: including isolation and hard labor in private prisons.
Despite the horrifying facts, many beloved celebrities (including Tom Cruise and John Travolta) have publicly announced their commitment to scientology. Practicing scientologists report that they feel more fulfilled, that it’s the road to real spiritual freedom.
We cannot deny the ugliness. The organization’s website is very friendly and features tens of community projects: education, feeding the hungry, fighting drugs, and more. But publicity is not a game of trust. People would want to draw a pretty picture to advertise for themselves. So be careful. The point of any spiritual activity is to find peace, to learn tolerance and acceptance. Religion is meant to transcend a person above the trifles of human clashes. If you happen to find that your religion of interest promotes for the opposite, if it calls for violence, for revenge, or for manipulation, then you might want to question it, but you’re probably better off anyway.
Whatever is the situation though, if what it takes you to find God and feel good about yourself includes harming and sabotaging others’ lives, then you’re taking the wrong road. We cannot make any claims about God, but we will go on a limb here and say that God is all about kindness and tolerance. Choose your way. Make peace with yourself, but in the process, also make peace with the world.