The shenanigans of the Scientology crowd have been on display for some time. As far back as the 1970s, Scientology began to gain a lot of publicity because of its celebrity members. But they also received a lot of unwanted attention because of some of their tactics.
Scientology has long had a policy of going on the offensive against any who would oppose them. They have been quite vicious toward critics by filing lawsuits, making unwarranted public accusations of personal wrongdoing, making threats and engaging in various kinds of harassment. They have also been involved in criminal activity in numerous places around the world, including such things as domestic espionage, medical fraud, staging hit-and-run accidents and various other means of trying to ruin people’s lives.
They have also been accused of brainwashing and mistreating their own members (even to the point of being culpable in the deaths of several), urging members to sever contact with family members who are critical of Scientology, abusing donations to the organization and treating celebrity members differently than others.
In more recent times, Scientology has been getting a lot of publicity because of the strange antics of Tom Cruse – its current most high profile member – as he jumped on Oprah’s couch, denounced Brooke Shields for taking anti-depression drugs, had his child’s first bowel movement bronzed, not associating with people who are not Scientologists, and so on.
It is one thing to be aware of the activities of the church and some of its followers, but just what is this religion and what is it all about?
Scientology was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. He was generally not very successful in his trade until he wrote a book called Dianetics in the early 1950s . This was purely a made up self-help process, but he got a huge response from it and his teachings began to take off and made him a great deal of money. In 1952, he began to turn his system into a new religion, establishing the first Church of Scientology in December 1953 in Los Angeles, CA.. Between 1952 and his death in January 1986, Hubbard developed Scientology’s doctrines.
Seemingly, he saw religion as a means of gaining wealth. He once told some friends, and this has been confirmed by his son, that writing isn’t worth the cent a word that you get paid. If you really want to become rich, you should start a religion. With that in mind, he founded what has become a multi-million dollar business. As opposed to most religions, people pay to become Scientologists and pay even more to advance through the ranks.
From the very beginning, Hubbard constituted his organization into a church in order to take advantage of the tax benefits. Scientology churches are very aggressive in going after converts. The recruiting methodology starts out with a free introductory lecture followed by a personality test. This test is designed to lead a person to believe they are in great need of help from The Church of Scientology.
The help comes in the form of a course that people can take. There is a fee for the course and a significant amount of pressure is put on a person to sign up. In fact, recruiters are paid a commission for bringing people in. Individuals are told that their lives will stay messed up unless they do it.
For those who decide to enter the Scientology program, the initial course is only the beginning. There are more and more advanced levels a person can attain and each level costs more than the previous. It is not unusual for people to pay thousands of dollars as they opt to go to the higher levels.
The Church of Scientology is also quite aggressive in going after its enemies. Over the years there have been numerous accounts of people who have been wronged by the church. In almost every case, Scientology has aggressively worked to suppress the negative information. It has no hesitation in using threats, law suits, and mis-information to further it’s ends.
Scientology claims to be compatible with all religions, but this is merely a ruse to entice people in. Most Scientologists do not have any idea of the full scope of Hubbards teachings until they reach more advanced levels. As new people are processed into the group, the emphasis is almost entirely on trying to solve the problems associated with having unwanted “engrams” attached to their lives. It is only as people reach the higher levels of training, and have already bought into Scientology’s teachings, that they are exposed to the instruction which unveils the true nature of the religion.
Since Hubbards death, there has been no slowdown in the activity of the church. Today, there are said to be over 4,200 Scientology groups, missions and churches. These are located in 156 countries around the world and serve some 10 million Scientologists (though there are some who say that these figures are greatly exaggerated). Some well known people who have become involved in Scientology include John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley, Beck Hansen, Chick Corea, Jason Lee, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes.
Basic Beliefs and Practices
The word Scientology literally means “the study of knowledge or truth.” It teaches that the essence of all human beings are their immortal souls, called thetans. These thetans are eternal and become attached to physical bodies in order to live out life in the physical world. When one body dies, the thetan is reincarnated into a new body and continues its existence. These souls, though, were are not originally from this planet. Humans were, in fact, brought eons ago and transplanted to earth.
The basis of the Scientology story comes straight out of the science fiction writings of Hubbard. It is based on the story of Xemu, an evil alien who was in charge of seventy six planets. Seventy five million years ago, Xemu tried to solve an overpopulation problem on his planets by hauling the extra people to earth. After bringing them here, he put them in a volcano and destroyed them with an H-bomb. The souls (thetans) of these individuals were then captured and indoctrinated. The story goes that Xemu was later captured because of his evil deeds and imprisoned in a mountain on another planet where he is currently held prisoner by a force field with an eternal battery. According to Hubbard, there have been many other such incidents, and alien involvement in Earth’s affairs is still ongoing.
The problems that exist among humans on earth are said to be the result of what Xemu did to the humans he killed with the H-Bomb. After he indoctrinated the thetans of those who were killed, he set them loose on the people (the physical individuals on earth) who survived the atomic blast. As these thetans attached themselves to those individuals, they created engrams (negative impressions lodged in the mind) in those who were affected.
Scientology teaches that the reason for the problems individuals have in reaching their full potential is that over the millennia, and through numerous reincarnations, many bad memories have become attached to the thetans. These bad memories come from pain and various kinds of brainwashing which each thetan has experienced in past lives. The result of all of this is a destructive energy blockage (engrams) on the lives of every person in the world. As indicated above, this all started with the destruction of the people by Xemu and has continued to increase from generation to generation.
The result is that thetans today are severely unbalanced by billions of years of mistreatment in past lives. This is said to be the cause of many of the mental and physical problems that people experience today, and even the cause of war. Scientology’s goal is to clear the engrams from people’s minds and set them free to live full and complete lives.
The “clearing” process, in Scientology, is called auditing. During auditing sessions, individuals are regressed through a series of past lives and key incidents which they may have experienced. As the auditor encounters engrams, they are cleared from the person’s thetan core. Once a person achieves “clear” (elimination of the engrams), they are then permitted to advance to higher levels.
To get at the worldview foundation of Scientology, it is necessary to understand what Scientologists believe about the three worldview essentials – God, man and salvation.
Scientology’s understanding about God is rather vague, which leads to their ability to pass the belief off as a “non-sectarian” practice. They often make the assertion that it doesn’t matter what belief system you come from, Scientology can help you. They say that anyone can benefit from Scientology just to get rid of the bad engrams that are attached to their life and still keep their own religion. But if you dig a little, you find that Hubbard taught that ultimate reality (God) is an impersonal life force which is the source of all light, energy and life.
When it comes to Scientology’s teachings about Christ, Hubbard tends to be somewhat contradictory. In earlier writings he states that Christ never existed but was only an idea implanted in human minds as an engram. Later he acknowledged Jesus as an actual person but had very negative things to say about him. In Scientology, there are no particular human incarnations of God, as the universal life force (the Theta) is impersonal and is inherent in all things.
Man, in Scientology, is seen primarily as a conscious spiritual life force called a thetan. This life force is eternal and attaches itself to different physical bodies as it reincarnates throughout history. When the physical body it is attached to dies, the thetan continues living and simply attaches itself to another body.
Scientology teaches that humans are immortal beings who have become trapped by matter, energy, space, and time (MEST). Salvation, for Scientologists, occurs when that immortal thetan is finally freed from all of the bad engrams (negative impressions from previous life experiences) which are attached to it.
The process for eliminating the engrams comes through the practice of “auditing.” The auditing process is done under the supervision of a Scientology practitioner who uses a hypnotic type process to take individuals back through previous lives to discover and remove the engrams.
The path to salvation includes achieving states of increasingly greater mental awareness. This is all done through higher and higher levels of classes which individuals pay to participate in. Until ultimate salvation, each thetan is continuously reincarnated. Once the highest state is finally achieved, a person will become a “free being” with no engrams attached to his life. At that point he is able to continue forth in life without the restrictions of the human body and without need for further reincarnations.
What Worldview Does Scientology Represent?
How Scientology Answers the Seven Worldview Questions
In order to understand more fully the worldview of Scientology, we need to see how it answers the seven worldview questions.
1. What is the most fundamental reality? (Ultimate reality)
Scientology teaches that there exists an impersonal life force (theta) which is beyond and within all. This life force is believed to be the ultimate source of light, energy and life.
2. What is the nature of our material reality? (Material reality)
Everything, including the material universe, is understood to be a manifestation of the impersonal life force. There is no specific teaching as to the ultimate origin of material reality, but it has somehow been manifested from the life force.
3. What is a human being? (Humanity)
All humans are immortal spiritual beings (thetans) who possess a mind (the accumulation of life experiences, memories, perceptions, decisions and conclusions) and a body (which includes the brain). Thetans came into being out of the impersonal life force by self will. The thetan is the soul, or the “true essence” of the person, and can exist independently of the body and the mind and, in fact, originally existed in that state. But at some point in history, the thetans became trapped within the material universe. The independent and free state can be regained, though, by achieving the level of a “free being.” Once this level of “free being” is achieved, thetans are believed to be capable of rising to a nearly godlike state.
An individual’s thetan is believed to have lived through many past lives and will continue to live beyond the death of one’s current body. Scientology teaches that a person is considered to be basically good, but becomes unbalanced by moments of pain and unconsciousness in the process of living life. This pain and unconsciousness is the source of the engrams which attach to individual’s lives and are passed on from lifetime to lifetime.
4. What happens to a person at death? (Death)
Death, in Scientology, is known as “dropping the body.” The belief is that at the death of the physical body, the thetan, will return to an “implant station” somewhere in outer space. At this station, the thetan will have all memories from the most recent lifetime electronically erased. It is, then, sent back to earth to “pick up a new body,” and start another life.
Rebirths continue until an individual finally consciously confronts all pre-birth, current-life, and previous-life traumas (using Scientology auditing). When all of these traumas (engrams) have been eliminated, the “return command” is removed and the person does not have to go back to an implant station again. At that point, an individual becomes a “free being” and is able to operate independently of the physical universe. At this state the thetan becomes one with God.
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? (Knowledge)
There is no particular reason why it is so, but knowledge is an innate part of the essence of all thetans.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong? (Morality)
The writings of Ron Hubbard define right and wrong in every area of life.
7. What is the meaning of human history? (History)
In Scientology, reality is believed to exist in a state of eternity. History is cyclical in that the essence of individuals (thetans) keep reincarnating and returning to earth until they are able to break the cycle. At that point they become able to operate independently of the physical universe. There is no transcendent meaning in history. Meaning is a personal matter and is achieved by advancing closer and closer to becoming a “free being.”
What is Scientology’s Worldview?
Based on the answers to the seven worldview questions, it becomes clear that Scientology is a hybrid worldview belief.
One of the clear elements of the belief comes directly from Far Eastern Thought. The belief in an impersonal life force and the element of reincarnation clearly comes from this worldview foundation.
There is also a strong Naturalistic bent to Scientology. The use of psychological techniques to manipulate people’s minds expresses a Naturalistic understanding of the nature of human beings. Even though ultimate reality is understood to be impersonal, humans (thetans) are seen to be personal.
As with all hybrids, the combination of multiple worldview elements within one belief system creates an irreconcilable internal contradiction. Scientologists, however, seem to be able to ignore these contradictions in order to assert their beliefs.
Sceintology’s Authority Foundation
Every faith system has some ultimate authority that it bases its beliefs upon. Scientology is no exception. It is entirely based on the writings of Ron Hubbard. His primary work detailing the basic practice of Scientology is found in his book Dianetics. He has many other writings, however, and everything he wrote and said is considered to be the source of the real truth about the nature of reality.
How Can We Evaluate the Viability of Scientology’s Authority Foundation?
Other than the fact that Ron Hubbard asserted it and his followers continue to teach it, there is no objective evidence that Hubbard’s version reality is the way that it is actually structured. The whole concept of thetans, reincarnation, engrams, and the like, have no objective basis of verification. The only evidence is the word of Hubbard and his followers. Hubbard, himself, never shared how he came into possession of this knowledge.
The Practical Implications of Scientology’s Worldview
The practical implications of Scientology have been played out for the world to see. There is no doubt that there are some very good people who have become Scientologists, just as there are good people who follow virtually every other belief system in the world. But there is also a strong tendency for bad, as well.
In reading Hubbard’s writings, it is evident that he instructed his followers to do virtually anything necessary to eliminate perceived threats and opposition to his church. One only need look back at some of the documented practices of the church and its followers to see that it has led to much illegal activity, harassment of opponents, psychological problems and even death of some followers, questionable accumulation of massive amounts of money, and people distancing themselves from family.
From a theological perspective, Scientology’s teachings cause individuals to focus entirely on self. The ultimate goal of life is to achieve godlike status for oneself. There is no moral compulsion to look out for the interests of God (since there is no personal God), or to be interested in the needs of others.
Interacting with Scientology’s Adherents
Interacting with those who are relatively new to Scientology should not be very difficult. In the early stages, individuals are simply looking for a way to get rid of many of the personal problems that they are experiencing in life. When interacting with these individuals, having a grasp of the worldview foundation of Scientology and creating an opportunity to tactfully confront them with the problems related to their beliefs may be enough to help them understand the problems associated with this belief system.
Once a person has been in the religion for a time, though, and spent hundreds to thousands of dollars, it becomes much more difficult for those individuals to admit that there may be a problem. Once a person completely buys into the belief that there is such a thing as engrams which need to be eliminated, and they go through the auditing process, a psychological dependence begins to form which is much harder to break.
As with any sharing situation, the first, and most important, thing that must be established is a mutual non-judgmental relationship with an individual. This does not mean that you simply live and let live. But it does mean that you are willing to be a true friend in spite of the fact that you don’t agree with Scientology.
This can sometimes be difficult as Scientologists are taught to avoid significant relationships with people who do not agree with them. Once you demonstrate that you have no interest in their belief, the tendency will be for them to distance themselves from you.
The other element that you must have in place is a solid understanding of the beliefs of Scientology. This gives you the tools to begin poking holes in their beliefs. Typically, though, you will not be able to do this with a frontal assault. If they perceive that you are attacking them, they will simply drop their relationship with you. Rather, it will be more effective to simply ask them questions which, when answered, reveal the problems and discrepancies in their beliefs.
Scientology, as a belief system, does not have a leg to stand on. There is no objective evidence that reality is structured the way that Ron Hubbard has described it. That being said, there are thousands of people who have been sucked into this religion.
As Christians, we have an obligation to share the gospel with everyone we possibly can. If we are uninformed about our own faith and the faith of others, this becomes an impossibility. By understanding the worldview foundation of Scientology, we put ourselves in a position to confidently and naturally help others understand the actual truth that God has revealed himself to mankind and that we can know him through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
© 2008 Freddy Davis