The Church of ScientologyHistory To understand Scientology’s history, one must understand L. Ron Hubbard’s past as well. Hubbard is the self-proclaimed founder, and whilst living, autonomous leader of the Church of Scientology.
Hubbard’s religion was once under an alternate name in its early stages. Hubbard, while recovering from a near death experience, claims to have had such a shock that he had an epiphany about life and the underlying truths of life. He wrote these newfound teachings in a book called Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science. Hubbard would use Dianetics as a cornerstone for the future teachings of Scientology. However, as Hugh B. Urban states, “When L. Ron Hubbbard unveiled his “revolutionary new science of the human mind” … he made no particular claim that it had anything to do with religion.” (Urban 3).
Nevertheless, with Dianetics came pertinent terms that would cross directly over to Scientology; such as Auditors, engrams, the Thetan, and the E-Meter. Hubbard’s teachings of Dianetics supposed that a trained individual, respectively called an Auditor, would measure someone’s mental trauma (engrams) using an -often disreputable- machine called an E-Meter. Lastly, a person’s Thetan is comparable to the idea of a ‘soul’; with the key exception being that a human body is a vessel for the Thetan and not one with the body (Wallis 95). Dianetics earned a respectably sized following who applied the book’s methods to help “treat” those who adhered to the teachings. This application of “treatment” by followers was pivotal to the transformation of the Church. Many professionals dismissed Dianetics completely saying, “it is a serious menace to public health and yet another mind-healing cult.
” (Wallis 94). The New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners began proceedings in 1951 against Hubbard and his group for teaching medicine without a license; which in turn led to the organizations bankruptcy and prompt demise. The following year, Hubbard recreated his ideology under a new guise in his newly published Scientology, a religious philosophy. Still, at this point, Hubbard claimed his teachings were nothing more than a science. However, after a year ridden with sharp membership decline and a considerable loss of monetary influx; Hubbard declared his work a newfound Religion. However, there were many skeptics of this ‘religion’ often attacking it calling it,” …a cult, a business, a pyramid scheme.
” (Urban 16). With the new religion moving full steam ahead; came the development of physical churches. The first Church of Scientology was built in Camden, New Jersey, where members would pay $500- a considerable sum in the 1950’s- to begin their studying and auditing services. Much after this remains the same with the Scientology we know today. Notable differences today include the introduction of splinter groups, the continuation of leaders of the church beyond Hubbard, and wide-reaching influence on a global scale. Comparison Surely, comparisons can be made between Christianity and Scientology.
There are visible likeness and stout differences abound between the two. Looking at these differences allows better understanding of the two religions. Most notable include the differences between a “higher power”, a voice on Earth, and the ‘soul’. Both Christianity and Scientology have a presence of a higher power. Christianity’s higher power is God, an eternal being who created and preserves all things. God is believed to be both transcendent and immanent and is revered as a supremely powerful, loving, and righteous being. In Scientology the higher being takes place as the Eighth Dynamic and is identified as the Supreme Being. There are no set dogma concerning the Supreme Being like that of God.
Furthermore, Scientology does not ask individuals to accept the Supreme Being on faith alone, but he can be found through auditing and training wherein the discovery can be found. The voice on Earth is who has, or had had, human authority in respect to the religion. In Christianity this figure would be Jesus; and in Catholicism, the Pope. Christian’s believe that Jesus was the literal, physical embodiment of God along with being the Son of God. Jesus was able to perform miracles and even rise from the dead. Jesus was the voice on Earth due to him being in a way God and his ability to minister the Christian faith whilst alive. He had divine influence and unparalleled knowledge when it came to how to properly worship, teach, and spread the word of God.
In Catholicism, the Pope is a human figure who is the successor of Saint Peter and the head of the Church. He has the highest power on Earth when it comes to Christian matters and is sought to as the religion’s leader. Scientology, however, has a very different role in portraying the voice. L. Ron Hubbard solely portrayed the voice while living; founding and spreading the Religion. He had autonomous power over what was considered canon in the Church’s writings and practices.
However, since his passing there have been predecessors who act as the new head of church. Christianity’s concept of a soul generally follows that God imbued every human life with a soul during or immediately after conception. This soul is separate from the body but also one with the body. Ancient theologians such as Augustine believe in the trichotomy of the human; meaning the soul contains a body, the soul, and a spirit. Although, many modern Christians view the soul and spirit to be interchangeable terms. The role that most Christians believe the soul plays, is that once a person dies their soul goes to be judged. Once judged, which is based on human actions of sin or repentance, the soul will either be granted unto heaven or damned in hell for all eternity.
Scientology’s belief is that of a Thetan. The Thetan is similar to the soul; except the major difference of it being “the source of life, or life itself” as Hubbard explains. He supposes that Thetan’s are the life source of all living things; and without a Thetan, the thing would not be. Thus, humans are simply a host, or vessel, for the Thetan and humans are not one defines the being but rather the Thetan traveling within it. This then suggests that Thetans can be shared, passed on, and in turn cause reincarnation in a sense. Dimensions Ninian Smart compiled a list of seven dimensions in which religions can be expressed in. One of the most fascinating ones is the Mythic Dimension, in which stories are told and can be worked with or interpreted in many ways.
The most controversial and striking mythos within Scientology is the creation myth of the Space Opera and the Wall of Fire. The entirety of the Space Opera is broken into distinguishable historical segments called “Incidents”. The most oft discussed is Incident 2 which revolves around an evil dictator named Xenu. The narrative goes that around 75 million years ago, the Galactic Confederacy brought billions of citizens on spaceships to the planet Teegeeack (Earth) due to overpopulation. Upon arrival, Xenu lined the spaceships around volcanoes, near Hawaii and the Canary Islands, and set off a series of hydrogen bombs within the volcanoes killing the people and releasing their Thetans. The Thetans were in complete disarray and latched onto any living being including sea creatures and ancient humans.
These Thetans from the destroyed citizens are the cause for human’s pain, confusion, and mental trauma within our lives today. The importance of this mythos is that this tale alone brings about much of the modern hatred and disbelief of Scientology. The Mythic dimension is incorporated into religion to bring about explanation of some worldly function; as in this case Creation. However, the outlandish and downright ludicrous features of the mythos have caused several parodies of the religion; such as popular television show South Park does in the episode “Trapped in the Closet” (Parker and Stone).
Therefore, I assert that the Mythic Dimension has caused nothing but schism, skepticism, and disbelief within the Scientology community. Next, the social dimension of Scientology connects with how the religion is formally organized and how the religion plays into people’s lives. The main institution within Scientology are of courses the Churches in which auditing and learning takes place. The main institutions are Churches or “Spiritual Guidance Centers” in which adherents pay sums of money to be tested and audited. There is a chain of command of sorts within the Church; wherein the Head is called the Chairman of the Board, followed by trained Auditors, and then common adherents to the religion.
An off-shoot from the main branch of Scientology includes an organization called the Sea Org. The Sea Org was founded late into Hubbard’s life and is a paramilitary idealist group who believe they have found the true way to experience life – at sea. The current Chairman of the Board, David Miscavige, is also the highest ranked member of the Sea Org with the rank of Captain. The social dimension of Scientology had caught much opposition over the years, even from the very conception of the religion. Churches and centers do not hold any standard form of worship or religious practice; the main service provided only includes educational training from professionals and auditing. The chain of command system itself is never truly explained and is shrouded in secrecy.
Due to this, the social dimension is lacking in many ways as to what a religion should provide for its followers. This had led many to accuse the Church of being nothing more than a façade for a large, manipulative, money-making gambit. Lastly, the material dimension focuses on physical structures, instruments, and icons to express the religion. Scientology features the E-Meter device which is, outside of psychotherapy quackery, exclusively used as an instrument used by trained Auditors. The E-meter performs a vital function to measure the amount of mental confusion within a person’s body.
This ties into of course the religion’s base beliefs and values. Furthermore, the only key symbol of Scientology is the S wrapped within two triangles. Symbolizing ‘S’ for Scientology and the two triangles as two trains of existence thought to be intrinsically within everyone’s Thetan.