1952 witnessed the emergence of a new religious movement in the form of Scientology under its founder Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986).
Hubbard worked in the navy during the second world war. He struggled with depression and injuries due to the war and spent much time in California’s Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. He later became a swami working in Hollywood, then a hypnotist, and then created a system he called Dianetics on which he penned two books: Dianetics: Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science and Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Dianetics, which denotes ideas and practices related to a metaphysical relationship between the mind and the body, were purposed by Hubbard as a basis for a new form of psychotherapy. At its foundation was the conviction that human beings held onto things they experienced in life and that these experiences, notably the negative ones, could return in the future to adversely affect them (2). Hubbard’s remedy for this was auditing, a counseling method which assisted an individual (a “pre-clear”) in bringing up past events in order to re-experience them. Auditing purportedly aided the pre-clear individual by helping her move on from traumatic past experiences and memories (called engrams) to become “clear.”
The medical academy, however, was not particularly accepting of this method despite Hubbard positioning it as “an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences” (3). It was viewed as unscientific while Hubbard would experience further difficulties after losing copyrights to Dianetics and then facing bankruptcy after teaching medicine without a license.
Hubbard proposed the idea of a thetan, an important concept within Scientology’s theology, which he defined as an immortal being similar to an understanding of the soul (4). Hubbard’s following grew and his movement expanded as churches opened up in a number of countries. Hubbard’s original intent for Scientology was for it be considered a science, and he evidently did not intend for it to become a religion.
In 1952 Hubbard proposed new teachings that touched on religious philosophy and included concepts from metaphysics, psychology, and ethics. He saw the advantage in his movement becoming a religion because of the legal and financial benefits religious status offered (5). In just two years the first Church of Scientology was founded followed parent church in Washington D.C.
Hubbard later stepped down as director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing. He formed a ship-based organization, Sea Organization (or Sea Org), and later faced criminal charges in France. He died in 1986, and was followed by David Miscavige who became the new head of the organization.
The Church of Scientology
The Church of Scientology is a movement and community which identifies as a “kind of religion” that claims to be the truth (6). The church has a unified ecclesiastical structure and is home to several spiritual and communal activities including ministering, religious services, practices, proselytization, ecclesiastical management, relay of communication, production of dissemination materials, and other functions (7). The Church explains that the “Scientology religious community is united both by common beliefs and practices and an organizational form uniquely suited to its religious mission,” and that this involves different levels of participation within its hierarchy: the “lower levels” consist of individual field ministers, religious groups, missions involved in ministering, and beginner training and auditing. At the upper level there are those who minister the advanced levels of auditing and religious services.
View of God
The Church refers to God as “the Supreme Being,” and refer to it by names which include “Infinity,” “the Eighth Dynamic,” and “all Theta” (life) (8). The Church claims to have,
“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” (9).
What and who God is open to interpretation for Scientologists.
View of Good and Evil
Scientologists believe that actions which enhance survival in the eight dynamics of life are 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” (10). 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” (11).
View of the Human Being and the Mind
Fundamental to Scientology and the Church is that human beings are thetans who are immortal, good, and divine (12). A thetan is a spiritual being separate and distinct from the physical mind and body. The Church teaches that human beings have forgotten their identity, and that Scientology’s practices can free the thetan to realize its true nature and powers; this includes the healing of the mind (13).
Sin does not exist according to Scientologists; rather but humans are ignorant of their own perfection (14). This is the result of a kind of “Fall” in which trillions of years ago thetans became bored and then went on to emanate mental universes for their pleasure to play and amuse themselves with. The thetans became too attached to their creation and, so conditioned by the manifestations of their own thought processes, they lost all awareness of their true identity and spiritual nature. Human beings are now unfortunately trapped in MEST, an acronym for matter, energy, space, and time. Human beings are understood to be a trapped creatures ignorant of their divine nature.
Humans are also seeking to survive, and the eight dynamics outline eight parts of life attempts at this survival are taking place (15). Although the fulfillment of all eight dynamics results in an individual being at her best or happiest (referred to as the “operating thetan”), emphasis is placed particularly on the 7th dynamic and its urging for people to survive as spiritual beings. According to the Church,
“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” (16).
There is a subjective aspect to the Church’s doctrines because it claims that each person has the answers to the mysteries of life, and that people are only expected to study and apply Scientology’s religious principles and practices to themselves in order to determine whether or not they work.
The Church views the human mind in two ways: as reactive and analytical (17). The reactive mind records and collects an individual’s emotional traumas while the analytical mind is a rational mechanism that is conscious. The former mind stores mental images, called engrams, not immediately available to the analytical mind.
View of Holy Scripture
Scientologists don’t believe that God has 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 the Church’s scripture is “The written and recorded spoken words of L. Ron Hubbard on the subject of Scientology” (18). These objects, including Hubbard’s writings, books, films, and recorded lecturers are what “collectively constitute the scripture of the religion.”
View of the Afterlife
According to the Church, 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” (19).
Scientologists do not believe in heaven or hell but instead view death, which each individual person is believed to have passed through trillions of times, as a release of the soul from the body.
View of Jesus Christ
Scientologists and the church do not view Christ as God incarnate or that he was resurrected as an atonement for humankind’s sins; rather Christ, and other religious leaders, are honorable, great leaders of history (20). They are honorable because they brought wisdom to the world that brought an awareness to the spiritual side of human existence. According to Hubbard, referring to Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, and others,
“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.”
1. Hubbard, L. 1998. What is Scientology? p. 529.
2. Scientology.org. What Is Auditing? Available.
3. Miller, R. 1987. Bare-faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard. p. 151.
4. Scientology.org. The Thetan. Available.
5. Kent, S. 1999. The Creation of ‘Religious’ Scientology. Religious Studies and Theology, 18(2): 97-126.
6. Scientology.org. What Is Scientology? Available.
7. Scientology.org. How Is The Church Of Scientology Structured? Available.
8. Scientology.org. What Is Scientology?
9. ScientologyNews.org. Does Scientology Have A Concept Of God? Available. https://www.scientologynews.org/faq/does-scientology-have-a-concept-of-god.html
10. ScientologyNews.org. Does Scientology Recognize Good And Evil? Available.
11. Scientologynews.org. What Is Scientology’s System Of Ethics? Available.
12. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Believe Man Is Sinful? Available.
13. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. SCIENTOLOGY: Its Cosmology, Anthropology, System of Ethics and Methodologies. Available.
14. Dericquebourg, R. 1995. Ibid.
15. Scientology.org. The Eight Dynamics. Available.
16. Scientology.org. The Eight Dynamics.
17. Scientology.org. The Solution To The Reactive Mind. Available.
18. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Have A Scripture? Available.
19. Scientology.org. Does Scientology Have Doctrines Concerning Heaven and Hell? Available.
20. Scientologynews.org. What Is Scientology’s View of Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, The Buddha, And Other Religious Figures Of The Past? Available.