A Reflection on Scientology
The Church of Scientology did not begin as a religion but as a mental health therapeutic theory called Dianetics, which the accompanying book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, came off the press in 9 May 1950, from a science fiction author named Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986), or L. Ron Hubbard (DeChant and Jorgensen 304). The Hubbard Association of Scientologists was established in 1952 (305). It was a new religious movement, with its tax-free claim over revenues, which the American society came to view as a religious cult (Blythe 2). However, as far as the U.S. Internal Revenue Service was concerned, it was a ‘for profit’ business and not a non-profit religious organization. So for three years battle with the federal government raged on as Scientology instituted adaptive measures, such as publishing new prayer books, using cross symbols in their meeting places, etc. And, they won with the federal government recognizing it as a tax-exempt religious organization (3). Only four years later in 1954 that the first church of Scientology was founded in Los Angeles. The Church of Scientology as a recognized religion was finally born. However, according to Eugene Methvin, the primary intension is based on the understanding that establishing a religion as where the money is (Methvin 1). This reflective essay aims to understand the major religious tenets of Scientology, its concept of God and of the human relationship with God, its current historical developments, and its cultural stand on positive social change and human equality.
Major Tenets, Doctrines, and Dogmas
The Thetanian Mythology: Scientology teaches that the “theta” is the cosmic force and source of life and “thetans” as the individualized expression of theta (DeChant and Jorgensen 307). Thetan is the true identity of mankind: intrinsically good, omniscient, omni-creative, and immaterial (308). Thus, humans as thetans are pure spirits, immortal, and god. The story goes that, in the primordial past, the thetans the physical MEST universe. However, over time, the thetans came to identify and got enmeshed with the MEST and forgot their true Thetanian identity as well as their powers (309). Consequently, the thetans became trapped in the MEST to such extent they even failed to realize that they are thetans, believing that they are mere physical beings. Because they are immortals, as their bodies deteriorate to death, thetans are repeatedly reborn into the MEST until salvation intervenes. Each lifetime is stored in the thetan’s “reactive mind” (similar to the Freudian “unconscious mind”) as “engrams” (images). These engrams accumulate in the reactive mind each lifetime, moving the thetan further and further away from realizing his true spiritual identity. The objective of Scientology is to save the thetan and restore his awareness to his true spiritual identity.
The ARC Triangle: For salvation to occur, the thetan should acquire a special knowledge that allows him to understand the basic workings of the MEST universe (310). This knowledge is fully embodied in the ARC Triangle. The triangle consists of three interdependent concepts: affinity (degree of affection; the emotional state), reality (agreement of what truly exists), and communication (interchange of ideas). Communication is believed the most important element in the ARC Triangle. Human survival problems have their roots in ineffective communication (311).
The Bridge to Freedom: The concept of the Bridge constitutes the religious means whereby the mastery of the ARC Triangle is achieved. It has dual components: “Training” (religious education) and “Processing” (personal spiritual development). Both components increase spiritual awareness. The first discipline (the Training) frees the thetan from the limitations of the MEST universe. The second discipline (the Processing) restores to the theta all lost or forgotten powers of godhood. Each advance in spiritual awareness moves the thetan into higher levels of mastery of the ARC Triangle. The thetan progresses from the “PreClear” state (the bound state) to the “Clear” state (the state freed from engrams) (312). Thetans in Clear state are ready to start reacquiring their lost powers (313). The final stage is the “Operating Thetan (OT)” state wherein the thetan is learning to harness his analytical mind (instead of the reactive mind) to gain mastery over the MEST. The OT who has successfully functioned under the eight dynamics of existence acquires total spiritual freedom, including the freedom from the endless cycles of birth-death-rebirth, and starts to take on greater and greater cosmic responsibility (314). Scientology aims to “clear” the planet and restore mankind to its true Thetanian identity.
The Eight Dynamics: Scientology believes in the basic command of life, which is “Survive!” This imperative is divided into eight compartments called dynamics (meaning, “urge,” “drive,” or “impulse”) that are used to inspect and understand a person’s life.
(A) First Dynamic, SELF: This refers to the basic drive to survive as an individual and to be an individual with a personal body and mind. It aims to fully express individuality.
(B) Second Dynamic, CREATIVITY: This refers to the impulse to make (“create”) things for the future or survive through a small unit. It includes the establishment of a family unit, raising children, sex, and other family activity.
(C) Third Dynamic, GROUP SURVIVAL: This refers to the urge to survive through a larger group of individuals outside the family, such as a community, friends, a social lodge, a state or nation, a race, and the like.
(D) Fourth Dynamic, SPECIES: This refers to the urge toward survival through all mankind and as all mankind, encompassing all men and women.
(E) Fifth Dynamic, LIFE FORMS: This refers to the urge to survive as life forms and with the help of other life forms (e.g. animals, birds, insects, fish, vegetation, and all other living things).
(F) Sixth Dynamic, PHYSICAL UNIVERSE: This refers to the urge to survive of the four components of the physical universe: matter, energy, space, and time.
(G) Seventh Dynamic, SPIRITUAL DYNAMIC: This refers to the urge to survive as spiritual beings and anything spiritual; the ability to destroy or pretend to be destroyed. It involves the survival of the life source itself, which the seventh dynamic is.
(H) Eight Dynamic, INFINITY: This refers to the urge to the existence as Infinity, to actually embrace the all-ness of all, comparative with the concepts of God, the Supreme Being or Creator.
The Concept of God
The concept of God in Scientology refers to the concept of the Eight Dynamic (Infinity) (“Does Scientology Have a Concept of God?” n. p.). This dynamic refers to the urge towards the existence as Infinity or as God, the Supreme Being or Creator. Thus, God for Scientologists is not a person or an entity but an urge towards or of Infinity. In fact, in this concept of God, it is the human or the thetan who achieved the Eight Dynamics who becomes God himself (“The Eight Dynamics” n. p.). Its concept of God is the human becoming God. But, unlike Christianity wherein the God-Man came to pay for the salvation of mankind, the Scientologist ‘Infinity’ became human because he became bounded to the MEST he created. Thus, the Scientologist ‘god’ made a mistake and became human. He mistakenly lost his thetan-hood or godhood. Thus, achieving the Eight Dynamic is simply reclaiming that godhood once more.
In essence, its concept of the Eight Dynamic is similar to the Mormonist doctrine of ‘celestial progression’ wherein the spouses themselves can become god. There are many differences though between these two religions. First, while Scientology contented itself with achieving only the peak of thetan-hood, the Infinity, Mormonism goes beyond becoming the God the Father to becoming even the Father of the God the Father, and logically in a quite similar sense, having God the Grandfather or a God ancestry (Smith 613-614). Scientology is not clear about the social side of godhood as the Mormons are. Second, the Scientologist concept of becoming human is a humanization by mistake or assimilation to the MEST (the created universe); while Mormonists look at humanization and dying as a prerequisite to godhood.
As far away from the Christian concept of God as the Mormons, Scientologists need more creative and science fictionist thinking for their concept of God to get near to the Christian God because the chasm of differences is just so wide and deep to be bridgeable. As a point of fact, though, neither concept of God contradicts the Christian concept of God; and thus not of an authentic Christian religion.
The Concept of Personal Relationship with God
Unlike the Christian concept of a personal relation of man with God, the Scientologist concept of that relationship is practically nothing because its doctrine on the Eight Dynamics simply insists that the thetan (freed and infinite human) is god himself. Thus, in essence, the Scientologist concept of the ‘God-man’ relationship is a ‘Self-self’ relationship. Since the thetan (human) is himself god his relationship with god is a relationship to himself. Thus, while the relationship between a Christian and God is a relationship between a child and the Father, the Scientologist relationship with god is essentially a self-directed relationship if such can be called a relationship at all.
Some Historical Developments
Scientific Uproar: Less a year after the publication of Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950, which claimed that Dianetics was based on careful research, the medical and psychiatric associations in America demanded that Hubbard submit to the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association a copy or copies of his research on the ‘new’ mental health therapy; and when he failed to do so, recommended that the use of Dianetics be confined to the research milieu (Freeman 19).
The “Fair Game” Policy: An HCO Policy Letter signed by Hubbard on 18 October 1967 ordered an action called “Fair Game” against Scientology “ENEMY”, referred to as “SP” (Suppressive Person, or critic), which involved deprivation of property or injury by any means, or be tricked, sued, lied to, or destroyed (“Fair Game” n. p.). A year later, on 21 October 1968, another HCO Policy Letter came off cancelling the “Fair Game” policy as entry of its ethics code while affirming the same practice to continue.
Practice of Medicine without License: Scientology received a suit in 1995 for non-licensed practice of medicine after the death of Lisa McPherson under psychiatric treatment by the church for 17 days at Fort Harrison (Farley n. p.). Churchmen removed her, against the doctor’s advice, from the care of Morton Plan Hospital where she volunteered admission. Her condition deteriorated under Scientology care and died on arrival at a 45-minute drive hospital outside the Fort. The death suit was settled in 2004.
Cultural Position on Positive Social Change and Human Equality
Scientology is an exclusive and secretive religious organization with its own distinct sets of cultural features. It has its own exclusive dictionary of terms (e.g. “thetan,” “clear,” “MEST,” or “auditing”), calendar of holidays (e.g. “Auditor’s Day”), and locations of great religious significance (e.g. Hubbard’s Saint Hill Manor in England; Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization in Florida) (Pentikainen and Pentikainen 10). Social change is often viewed in the context of the internal lifestyle of its members and through its central process of “auditing” as the primary, if not sole, means of personal and social change. Its aim is always to progress from the First Dynamic to the Eight Dynamic, a process that even goes beyond the context of human society and into celestial, or perhaps extra-terrestrial, society.
Towards the society outside Scientology, its Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) has offered its auditing services, such as Narconon (to combat drug addiction), Criminon (for criminal reform), and Applied Scholastics (for Scientology scientific education), to schools, businesses, and community groups as secular approaches for social betterment without demand or expectation for membership (DeChant and Jorgensen 299). In essence, its approach to social change is interventional using the Scientologist processes in achieving social change and often under the cultural environment of Scientology.
Moreover, its concept of human equality goes beyond the issue of gender and racial color. It operates within the assumption of equality between thetans whose racial or gender characteristics are out of question and rarely an issue (DeChant and Jorgensen 325). Although, it attempted to somehow conform to secular requirements of non-discrimination by trying to improve its organizational gender ratio, Scientology admitted that a large number of advanced members are largely males.
Furthermore, the behavior of Scientology members is strictly governed by its ‘technology of ethics’, which is founded on discipline, justice, and honor (Pentikainen and Pentikainen 10). An individual can be trusted with ethics but not with justice, which only the organization can administer. It teaches, however, that if ethics are well in place, justice is often unnecessary. In addition, ethics is about “integrity and honesty and doing what is right” (“Improving Conditions in Life”).
Compared to the Christian Beatitudes as quoted in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verses 2-10 and expounded in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount from verses 11 to 48 (Jones NT 20-21), the Scientologist ‘technology of ethics’ has superficial similarities and dissimilarities (of course, a better comparison will be achieve with access to its full ethical codes, which is not possible unless to members). Both codes agreed in the importance they give on being happy (verses 2-10), doing what is right (verse 6), being peacemakers (verse 9), and getting involved in the cause of right (verse 10).
However, while the direction of the Scientologist ethics is towards happiness, prosperity, and survival, the essence of the Beatitudes revolves around poverty and deprivation, gentleness and peacemaking, compassion and mercy, and happiness in persecution. In many areas, except for happiness, both viewpoints contrast each other: Scientologist ‘prosperity’ vs. Christian ‘poverty’; ‘survival’ vs. ‘gentleness and peacemaking, compassion and mercy, and happiness in persecution’. In fact, its focus on survival both governs the centrality of their doctrine of the Eight Dynamics and their historically vicious behavior against critics (DeChant and Jorgensen 330). While the essence of the Sermon of the Mount highlighted an imitation of the sacrificial nature of Christ’s spirituality, the essence of Scientology is survival, of the fittest if you may, an urge towards life not death.
The general concept of life between Christianity and Scientology in the sense of finding and keeping it similarly points to ‘eternity’ in Christianity or ‘infinity’ in Scientology. Both terms are essentially comparable and interchangeable as eternity is essentially infinity and vice versa. However, the approach towards this eternity or infinity diverged in an opposite direction, conditioned by the divergence of their theology. Where Christianity proposed the path of sacrificial death in obedience to the will of God, the Scientologist path insists on not dying (that is, on survival) and instead being transformed into a god (thetan) with physical life intact. It is, however, unclear how Scientologists justify the death of its founder Hubbard as a proof of survival. There is a clear pitfall in justifying Hubbard’s death as an interpretation of reaching the Seventh or Eight Dynamic because it will have an implication that death by suicide may be justified to reach the last two highest Dynamic.
Lessons from the history and teachings of Scientology are something that seekers of religion need to ponder deeply with eyes widely open. Being a cultural phenomenon, religion involves and thrives through the strong emotions of its members. Once a passionate part, a person tends to evaluate the religion based on emotional parameters, instead of objective grounds. From the perspective of the unreligious Scientology promises a powerful religion, which can transform mortal men into immortal gods. It is the ‘best’ of what science and religion can offer. However, to those who are serious in the spirituality, such as Christians, the contrast between its doctrines with that of Christ can easily give an impression of science fictionist tone in the theories proposed, not to mention the primal passion for survival often at the cost of its opponents. The guarantee of safety and authenticity of religion, however, can only be gleaned upon its stability and soundness of doctrine through time, not by rhetoric or even science.
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