Scientology: An Overview

"I think about my fear of motion
Which I never could explain
Some other fool across the ocean years ago
Must have crashed his little airplane."

- Indigo Girls, "Galileo"

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The beginning: Dianetics

The Church of Scientology is a New Age-ish, self-help religous movement founded in 1952 by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard.

Hubbard made his debut as a self-help guru in May 1950, when John W. Campbell's science fiction magazine Astounding published his 40-page article about "Dianetics," a new "science of the mind." Later that year Hubbard expanded the article into a full-blown book entitled Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The book was an instant bestseller, and thousands of science fiction fans began practicing Dianetics on each other.

The thesis of Dianetics is that all of man's problems, or aberrations, stem from traumatic engrams. Engrams get recorded in the subconscious "reactive mind" at times when the victim is unconscious and subjected to pain. Later, when part of the engram is cued by a similar experience, the victim, or preclear, re-enacts other parts of the engram as mental or physical conditions such as kleptomania or asthma.

The cure for engrams is a therapy called auditing. In auditing, the preclear assumes a state of relaxation Hubbard called reverie. The auditor then asks the preclear questions that are supposed to help the preclear recall engrams, hidden away in the reactive mind, and transfer them into the conscious memory bank of the analytical mind, that part of the brain that does all the thinking and computing. Once an engram is stored in the analytical mind, it becomes a normal memory and poses no further threat to the preclear. Later, Hubbard replaced the Dianetic reverie with an electronic device called an e-meter, a sort of crude lie detector.

The ultimate goal of Dianetics auditing is to produce a Clear, who has rid his reactive mind of all engrams and is no longer affected by them. Supposedly, Clears are free of mental and physical abberrations and exhibit superior abilities such as 20/20 vision, perfect memory, increased intelligence, and freedom from physical ailments.

Enter Scientology

In 1952 Hubbard turned Dianetics into a religion and called it Scientology. Where Dianetics addresses the human mind, Scientology is supposed to address the human soul. According to Scientology teaching, we are all spiritual creatures called Thetans who inhabit physical bodies. Sadly, after eons of travelling from body to body (Scientology cosmology goes back literally trillions of years and greater orders of magnitude) we have forgotten about our true nature as spiritual beings. Scientology claims that we can regain our awareness of ourselves, and become Operating Thetans, in possession of the extraordinary abilities that we have lost. These include the ability to communicate with other forms of life through telepathy, leave the body at will ("exteriorize") and control physical reality through pure thought. Many of Scientology's advanced "sacred scriptures," such as the Operating Thetan levels, are exercises supposed to develop these powers or re-establish the right relationship between the Thetan and the physical realm.

Dianetics auditing only takes care of engrams from our present life. Scientology's processes go farther, to release us from engrams implanted in past lives and carried over to the present. One well-known example is the so-called Incident Two: seventy-five million years ago the emperor of the Galactic Federation, a despot named Xenu, solved overpopulation on his planet by freezing its inhabitants, shipping them to Earth in spacecraft resembling DC-8s, and dropped them into volcanoes in Hawaii and other places. He then detonated the volcanoes with atomic bombs and captured the suddenly-disembodied Thetans with an electronic device. The hapless Thetans were then forcibly restrained and implanted with movies. The themes of these movies acted as a sort of racial post-hypnotic suggestion and ultimately manifested themselves in the form of twentieth-century British culture. Why Xenu couldn't just shoot his excess population isn't actually explained. Incident Two is strikingly similar to the Ludovico Technique of A Clockwork Orange, though. Maybe Anthony Burgess was just restimulated.

To add insult to injury, some Thetans became confused when they were exploded, and rather than finding a body of their own, merely attached themselves to someone else's body. These Body Thetans are spiritually detrimental and must be audited away for the person's spiritual condition to improve. Some of the upper OT levels and NOTs are supposed to deal with the detrimental effects of BTs.

In summary, advanced Scientologists believe that they are spirit creatures with god-like super powers, who unfortunately need to exorcise the disembodied spirits of murdered space aliens from their bodies in order to realize their full potential.

This is kooky, but by itself it's pretty harmless. The majority of the controversy surrounding Scientology lies not with their beliefs but their behaviour - the Church as a group has a very thin skin and doesn't take criticism or dissent very lightly.


Warning! The Bridge is Out  * Scientology: An Overview  * Scientology, Free Speech and "Religious Persecution"  * The Amoral Cult
For More Information  * Glossary  * History

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Created January 26, 1998 (Dead Ron Day) by Scott McClare. Revision A04 April 3, 1998

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