Welcome to part 2 of this series on ‘Religious Sects & Cults.’ In this entry we familiarize ourselves with some of the important views held by Scientologists.
1952 saw the advent of the religion of Scientology under its founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986). Hubbard worked in the navy and commanded ships during WW2. He struggled with depression and injuries as a result of the war, and spent much time in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in California (1).
After engaging in some unique occupations, which included being a swami working in Hollywood and a hypnotist, Hubbard created a system he called Dianetics (2). Dianetics includes ideas and practices relating to the metaphysical relationship between the mind and the body. Hubbard penned two books in 1950 on the subject, Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science and Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, with the latter becoming a big seller (3). These were intended to form the basis of a new form of psychotherapy. It was believed that human beings hold on to the things they have experienced in life and that these experiences, notably the negative ones, could return and affect them (4). Hubbard invented a counseling method called auditing, by which a person helps another individual (defined as a “preclear”) to bring up past events as a means to re-experience them (5). This technique was deemed to help the individual move on from traumatic, negative past experiences and memories (called engrams) and become “clear.” The medical science profession wasn’t very accepting of Hubbard’s views and thus rejected them despite Hubbard posturing it as “an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences” (6). It was widely deemed “unscientific and unworthy of discussion or review” (7). Soon Hubbard lost the trademark and copyrights to Dianetics and became bankrupt after teaching medicine without a license.
Hubbard came up with the idea of a “thetan,” a major component in Scientology’s theology, which he defined as an immortal being analogous to the soul (8). Hubbard’s following grew and the movement expanded with churches opening in a number of different countries. Interestingly, in hindsight it was Hubbard’s original intention for Scientology to be considered a science, and did not initially intend for it to become a religion. However, in 1952 he came up with new teachings for the movement which touched on applied religious philosophy because its included metaphysics, psychology, and views on morality. Additionally, Hubbard saw beneficial prospects for his movement becoming a religion due to legal and financial benefits of religious status (9). In 1954, the first local Church of Scientology came into being which was followed by a created parent church located in Washington D.C. (10).
Roughly 10 years later Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology and went on to devote himself to research and writing (11). He also formed a ship-based Sea Organization, and after much hiding as a result of facing criminal charges in France, Hubbard died in 1986. He was followed by David Miscavige who became the new head of the organization (12).
The Church of Scientology
The church of Scientology is a movement and worldwide community that identifies itself as a “kind of religion” that claims to be the truth (13). The church possesses a particular unified ecclesiastical structure that is home to a number of spiritual and communal activities (14). These include ministering, religious services and practices, proselytization, ecclesiastical management, relay of communication, production of dissemination materials, and other functions (15). According to the church, “the Scientology religious community is united both by common beliefs and practices and an organizational form uniquely suited to its religious mission.” This involves different levels of participation within the church hierarchy (16). For example, on the “lower levels” there are individual field ministers, Scientology religious groups, and Church missions involved in ministering and in beginning auditing and training. At the upper level there are larger Church organizations that minister the advanced levels of auditing and training religious services.
Scientology’s View of God
The church has a somewhat undefined concept of God which it refers to as “the Supreme Being” (17). They refer to it by different names which can include “Infinity,” “the Eighth Dynamic,” and “all Theta” (life). According to the church it has “no set dogma concerning God that it imposes on its members… Accordingly, only when the Seventh Dynamic (spiritual) is reached in its entirety will one discover and come to a full understanding of the Eighth Dynamic (infinity) and one’s relationship to the Supreme Being” (18). What and who God is open to interpretation for Scientologists.
Scientology’s View of Good and Evil
There is also a particular view of good and evil according to Scientologists (19). Actions that enhance survival on the majority of the eight dynamics of life are deemed morally good. Actions that prevent progress in the eight dynamics of life or deny them are evil. According to the church, “Good may be defined as constructive. Evil may be defined as destructive” (20). Hubbard explained that “Dishonest conduct is non-survival. Anything is unreasonable or evil which brings about the destruction of individuals, groups, or inhibits the future of the race” (21).
Scientology’s View of the Person and the Mind
A fundamental tenet of Scientology and its church is that man is basically good and divine, and that man is an immortal spirit, which it refers to as a thetan (22). A thetan is an individual person who as a spiritual being separate and distinct from the mind and body. The church also promotes the idea that human beings have forgotten their identity, and that through its practices Scientology can free the thetan to realize his or her true nature and powers, heal the mind, and free the spirit (23). Sin does not exist according to Scientologists but they do hold that man is ignorant of his own perfection (24). This was the result of a kind of “Fall.” Scientologists believe that trillions of years ago thetans became bored, and subsequently emanated mental universes for their pleasure to play in and amuse themselves with (25). Consequently, the thetans became too attached to their creation and were so conditioned by the manifestations of their own thought processes that they lost all awareness of their true identity and spiritual nature. As a result human beings are trapped in “MEST,” an acronym for matter, energy, space, and time (26). Human beings are a sort of trapped creature often ignorant of their divine nature.
Man is also seeking to survive, as explained in the organizations eight dynamics. These dynamics include eight parts of life through which each individual is striving to survive (27). Although fulfilling all eight dynamics results in a person being at his or her best or happiest (also referred to as an “operating thetan”), emphasis is placed on the 7th dynamic which is the urge to survive as spiritual beings. The church explains that “Anything spiritual, with or without identity, would come under the heading of the Seventh Dynamic… The Seventh Dynamic is life source. This is separate from the physical universe and is the source of life itself.” Only when this dynamic is “reached in its entirety will one discover the true eighth dynamic, the creator” (28).
Importantly, there is a subjective element to the church’s doctrines (29). For example, they believe that each person has the answers to the mysteries of life. They hold that through thinking for oneself, a person can become more understanding, able, happy and healthy. People are only expected to study and apply Scientology’s religious principles and practices to themselves in order to determine whether or not it works.
Accordingly, the mind itself forms a big part of the church’s practices. They view the mind in two ways. On one hand, there is the reactive mind (30). Scientologists believe that this is what records and collects an individual’s emotional traumas. On the other hand, the analytical, conscious mind is a rational mechanism that is conscious (31). The former reactive mind stores mental images not immediately available to the analytical mind. These images are called engrams (32). Hubbard described this process and proposed a means to overcoming the trauma, which is what the goal of Dianetics is.
Scientology’s View of Holy Scripture
Scientologists don’t believe that God personally revealed truths to inspired writers and that these truths were translated into a book or collection of books (such as the Bible, or the Torah). Rather, according to the church, their scripture is “The written and recorded spoken words of L. Ron Hubbard on the subject of Scientology” (33). These objects, including Hubbard’s writings, books, films, and recorded lecturers are what “collectively constitute the scripture of the religion.”
Scientology’s View of the Afterlife
According to the church, Scientologists believe that human beings “are immortal spiritual beings who have lived before and who will live again, and that their future happiness and immortality as spiritual beings depend on how they conduct themselves in the here and now” (34). They do not believe in heaven or hell but rather view death as a release of the soul from the body. Death is also viewed as a rather ordinary event which each individual human being has passed through trillions of times (35).
Scientology’s View of Jesus Christ
Scientologists and the church do not view Jesus as God incarnate or that he was resurrected to pay for humankind’s sins before God. Rather, they view Jesus, and other religious leaders, as honorable and great leaders of the past (36). They deem them as such because of how they brought wisdom to the world and made human beings aware that there is a spiritual side to their existence. They also showed that there is hope in that this life is not all there is. Hubbard explained that these men (Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha etc.), “I consider great spiritual leaders, because they gave to Man, on down through the years, the hope that life could go on, that there was a spiritual side to existence, that the business of barter and gain was not all there was to life” (37).
1. Hubbard Chronicle: 1941-1945. Available.
2. Hubbard, L. 1998. What is Scientology? p. 529.
3. Kent, S. 1999. The Creation of ‘Religious’ Scientology. Religious Studies and Theology 18(2): 97-126.
4. Scientology.org. What Is Auditing? Available.
5. Scientology.org. What Is Auditing?
6. Miller, R. 1987. Bare-faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard. p. 151.
7. News Week. 1950. Poor Man’s Psychoanalysis. Available.
8. Scientology.org. The Thetan. Available.
9. Kent, S. 1999. Ibid. p. 97-126.
10. Miller, R. 1987. Ibid. p. 140–142.
11. Lewis, J. 2009. Scientology. p. 87.
12. Scientology.org. David Miscavige. Available.
13. Scientology.org. What Is Scientology? Available.
14. Scientology.org. How Is The Church Of Scientology Structured? Available.
15. Scientology.org. Ibid.
16. Scientology.org. Ibid.
17. Scientology.org. What Is Scientology?
18. ScientologyNews.org. Does Scientology Have A Concept Of God? Available.
19. ScientologyNews.org. Does Scientology Recognize Good And Evil? Available.
20. ScientologyNews.org. Ibid.
21. Scientologynews.org. What Is Scientology’s System Of Ethics? Available.
22. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Believe Man Is Sinful? Available.
23. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. SCIENTOLOGY: Its Cosmology, Anthropology, System of Ethics and Methodologies. Available.
24. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. Ibid.
25. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. Ibid.
26. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. Ibid.
27. Scientology.org. The Eight Dynamics. Available.
28. Scientology.org. Ibid.
29. Scientology.org. Can’t God Be The Only One To Help Man? Available.
30. Scientology.org. The Solution To The Reactive Mind. Available.
31. Scientology.org. Ibid.
32. Scientology.org. Ibid.
33. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Have A Scripture? Available.
34. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Have Doctrines Concerning Heaven and Hell? Available.
35. Hubbard, R. 1958. Have You Lived Before This Life?
36. Scientologynews.org. What Is Scientology’s View of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, The Buddha, And Other Religious Figures Of The Past? Available.
37. Scientologynews.org. Ibid.