In 1954, an American science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) developed the school of Dianetics, a system of psychotherapy derived from a combination of personal experience, elements of Eastern philosophy, and the work based on psychoanalysts such as Freud. The book became the canonical text of the Church of Scientology, and is colloquially referred to as Book One. Dianetics divides the mind into three parts: the conscious ‘analytical mind’, the subconscious ‘reactive mind’, and the ‘somatic’ mind. The goal of the discipline is to erase the content of the ‘reactive mind’, which Scientologists believe interferes with a person’s ethics, awareness, happiness, and sanity. The Dianetics procedure to achieve this erasure is called ‘auditing’. The auditor asks a series of questions to elicit answers, which is supposed to help a person locate and deal with painful past experiences, which is the content of the ‘reactive mind’. Practitioners of Dianetics believe that the primary principle of existence is to survive, and that the basic personality of humans is sincere, intelligent, and good. The drive for goodness and survival is distorted and inhibited by aberrations ranging from simple neuroses, various psychotic states, and sociopathic behavior patterns. Hubbard claimed that Dianetics could eradicate these aberrations, provided its practitioners submitted to the discipline without reservation. In addition to psychological aberrations, conditions that could purportedly be treated were arthritis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, ulcers, migraine headaches, sexual deviation, and even death.
L. Ron Hubbard
In April 1950, Hubbard, including Marjorie Cameron, De Mille, Art Ceppos, AE Van Vogt, Joseph A. Winter, MD., established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to coordinate work related to the forthcoming publication of DMSMH (Dianetics: The Moderns Science of Mental Health) by Random House in May 1950. Through the marketing efforts of Hubbard’s friend and mentor, John W. Campbell Jnr., editor of the Astounding Science Fiction magazine, Hubbard’s articles on Dianetics hit the New York news-stands and became an overnight sensation.
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 was quickly resolved when the courts were made aware that the Foundation deputy director Winter was registered as an MD in the state of Michigan and New York. In 1952, the Foundation entered bankruptcy, causing the proceedings to be vacated, but its creditors demanded settlement of outstanding debts. To avoid court bailiffs, Hubbard escaped to Phoenix with all his Dianetics material. Within a year, he repackaged Dianetics under the label of the Church of Scientology.
L. Ron Hubbard originally intended for Scientology to be considered a science, as stated in his writings. Scientology was organized to put this intended science into practice, and he published a new set of teachings as Scientology, a religious philosophy. Marco Frenschkowski quotes Hubbard in a letter written in 1953 to show that he never denied that his original approach was not a religious one.
“Probably the greatest discovery of Scientology and its most forceful contribution to mankind has been the isolation, description and handling of the human spirit. I established, along scientific rather than religious or humanitarian lines, that the thing which is the person, the personality, is separable from the body and the mind at will and without causing bodily death or derangement. (Hubbard 1983: 55).”
In April 1953, Hubbard wrote a letter proposing that Scientology should be transformed into a religion. As membership declined and finances diminished, Hubbard reversed his previous hostility to religion advocated in Dianetics, and embraced the legal and financial benefits of having a religious status. He outlined plans for setting up a chain of ‘Spiritual Guidance Centers’, charging customers $500 for twenty-four hours of auditing, saying, “That is real money … Charge enough and we’d be swamped.” He later added:
“I await your reaction on the religion angle. In my opinion, we couldn’t get worse public opinion than we have had or have less customers with what we’ve got to sell. A religious charter would be necessary in Pennsylvania or NJ to make it stick. But I sure could make it stick.”
In 1954, L. Ron Hubbard defined Scientology as a religion that is focused on the spirit, differentiating it from Dianetics, which he defined as a science that addressed the physical being. He stated that Dianetics is a science which applies to man, a living organism, and Scientology is a religion. However, the lure of what he perceived was a source of wealth through his treatments was too strong to ignore.
In 1966, Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing. The following year, he formed the ship-based Sea Organization or Sea Org, which operated three ships: the Diana, the Athena, and the flagship the Apollo. 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 that supposedly provided a method for overcoming factors inhibiting spiritual progress. The material was first disseminated to clients on the ships, and later propagated by Sea Org members to various Scientology churches on land.
In 1972, facing criminal charges in France, Hubbard returned to the United States. In 1979, faced with possible indictment, he went into hiding in California, maintaining contact with his organization through ten trusted Messengers. In February 1980, he disappeared, accompanied by two trusted Messengers. In 1979, in FBI raids, 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. On January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died at his ranch in Creston, California, and David Miscavige emerged as the new head of the organization.
Space Opera and the Wall of Fire
The Church of Scientology maintains that only the higher level initiates, the OT levels, a step above Clear, can be indoctrinated into the mystical teachings harmful to unprepared readers. These teachings are kept secret from other members who have not reached this level. The church states that secrecy is warranted to protect its members from being exposed to material they are not prepared for. The OT level teachings include accounts of various cosmic catastrophes that befell the thetans. Hubbard described these early events collectively as ‘space opera’. He explains how to reverse the effects of past-life trauma that supposedly happened millions of years ago. Among these advanced teachings is the story of Xenu, 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, placed them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs inside the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, attached themselves 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.
In 1995, excerpts and descriptions of OT material were published online by a former member and circulated in the mainstream media. This occurred after the teachings were submitted as evidence in court cases involving Scientology, thus becoming a matter of public record. There are eight publicly known OT levels: OT I to VIII. The highest level, OT VIII, is disclosed only at sea on the Scientology cruise ship Freewinds. It has been rumored that additional OT levels, said to be based on material written by Hubbard, would be released at some appropriate point in the future.
A large Church of Spiritual Technology symbol carved into the ground at Scientology’s Trementina Base is visible from the air. 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.”
Church or a criminal organization
Reports and allegations have been made by journalists, courts, and government bodies of several countries, that the Church of Scientology is an unscrupulous commercial enterprise that harasses its critics and brutally exploits its members. A considerable amount of investigation has been aimed at the church by various groups, ranging from the media to governmental agencies.
The controversies involving the church and its critics, some of them ongoing, include:
Criminal behavior by members of the Church, including the infiltration of the US government.
Organized harassment of people perceived as enemies of the Church.
Scientology’s disconnection policy, in which some members are required to shun friends or family members who are antagonistic to the Church.
The death of a Scientologist Lisa McPherson while in the care of the church. Robert Minton sponsored the multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Scientology for the death of McPherson. In May 2004, McPherson’s estate and the Church of Scientology reached a confidential settlement.
Attempts to legally force search engines censor information critical of the Church.
Allegations the Church 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. Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis denied these claims and provided witnesses to rebut them.
Scientology social programs, such as drug and criminal rehabilitation, have likewise drawn both support and criticism. Much of the controversy surrounding Scientology stems from the criminal convictions of core members of the Scientology organization.
In 1978, a number of Scientologists, including L. Ron Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue Hubbard, who was second in command in the organization at the time, were convicted of perpetrating what was at the time the largest incident of domestic espionage in the history of the United States, called “Operation Snow White”. This involved infiltrating, wiretapping, and stealing documents from the offices of Federal attorneys and the Internal Revenue Service. L. Ron Hubbard was convicted in abstentia by French authorities of engaging in fraud and sentenced to four years in prison. The head of the French Church of Scientology was convicted at the same trial and given a suspended one year prison sentence.
An FBI raid on the Church’s headquarters revealed documentation that detailed Scientology’s criminal actions against critics of the organization. In “Operation Freakout”, agents of the church attempted to destroy Paulette Cooper, author of The Scandal of Scientology, a book critical of the movement. Among these documents was a plan to frame Gabe Cazares, the mayor of Clearwater, Florida, with a staged hit-and-run accident.
In 1988, Scientology president Heber Jentzsch and ten other members of the organization were arrested in Spain on various charges, including illicit association, coercion, fraud, and labor law violations. In October 2009, the Church of Scientology was found guilty of organized fraud in France. The sentence was confirmed by appeal court in February 2012. In 2012, Belgian prosecutors indicted Scientology as a criminal organization engaged in fraud and extortion.
Many people believe that the Church of Scientology is neither a church nor a religion. It is organized crime. Many former members agree with that, and have written numerous articles and books debunking Scientology, incurring its wrath through using lawsuits, criminal frame-ups, and character destruction. Yet incredibly, this organization had managed to survive and attract followers.