Scientology: Religion Or Bizarre Cult? Essay, Research Paper
New Age Religion or Bizarre Cult?
Many people have heard of the revolutionary new religious practice called Scientology. However, the majority of people who have heard of it, have little knowledge of the principles and practices behind the religion. In fact, there is a dark side behind Scientology, and much speculation that the religion is a brainwashing cult. Many people are opposed to the religion because of its secretiveness, its extreme methods of teaching and its alleged use of mind control.
Scientology, founded in 1950 (Hubbard. What is. 3), “is an applied religious philosophy” (Hubbard. What is. 4), which is a branch of psychology (Fundamentals. 7). Developed by Lafayette Ron Hubbard, Scientology was created “from discoveries resulting from Hubbard’s research into the mind and life” (Fundamentals. 11). Hubbard claimed that “Scientology is for the betterment of man” (Fundamentals. 117), and that Scientology can be used by an average person to bring better order to their life (Fundamentals. 8). Hubbard claimed that Scientology “improves the health, intelligence, ability, behavior, skill and appearance of the average person” (Fundamentals. 8). One of the most fundamental ideas in Scientology is the belief that the individual man is divisible into three parts (Hubbard. What is. 5-6): The Mind, the Body and the Thetan. Hubbard believed that the Thetan, or personality of a person, “is separable from the rest of the mind at will, and without causing bodily death or mental derangement” (Fundamentals. 5-6).
Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska in 1911 (Malko 29). It is known that Hubbard was raised on a Montana cattle ranch by his grandfather (Malko 30), however little else is known about the first thirty years of his life (Malko 29). Hubbard’s past is best summed up by George Malko, “Nothing is ever precise,
and we are never sure when and under what circumstances he did something or went someplace” (Malko 29). There are “highly inflated claims” (Mallia. “Judge.”1) that Hubbard traveled throughout Asia at age fourteen (Malko 31), and that he left college to lead an expedition into Central America (Malko 32). However it is known that Hubbard was a science-fiction writer and was a familiar name to American science-fiction fans before venturing into religious philosophy (Malko 34). Hubbard was a bright man, and accepted by many who read his work and who knew him. Hubbard died of a brain hemorrhage on the 24th of January, 1986 (Corydon 406).
Hubbard’s science-fiction writings, described as “bold and highly imaginative”(Malko 34) are particularly interesting because “they offer insights into Hubbard’s sense of fantasy and imagination” (Malko 34). His science-fiction writings also expose certain parallels to particular Scientology principles and beliefs (Hubbard. Fundamentals. 35). According to Church of Scientology documents, “humans first came to earth from outer space 75 million years ago, sent into exile here by an evil warlord named Xenu” (Mallia. “Sacred.” 1).
Scientology is chiefly employed through the processing of an individual (Hubbard. Fundamentals. 91-92). Scientologists refer to this procedure as auditing, while the person who carries out the processing is called an auditor. (Hubbard. Fundamentals. 92). “The auditor makes people, at their own choice, do various exercises, and these exercises bring about changes for the better in intelligence, behavior and general competence” (Hubbard. Fundamentals. 8). An auditor must follow a strict, and somewhat bizarre set of rules when processing an individual (Hubbard. Fundamentals. 92). These rules, laid out in the auditor’s code, include
“Do not process an individual after 10 p.m.” and “Do not process an individual who is improperly fed or hungry” (Hubbard. What is. 191).
The auditing process is assisted by the use of a specially designed tool called an Electro-psychometer, or E-meter (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2), which helps the auditor “locate areas of spiritual distress or travail” (Baskin 1). Like a lie detector, the E-meter sends a mild electrical current of 1.5 volts through the body while the patient holds a metallic cylinder in each hand (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2). Scientologists believe that the pictures in the mind contain energy and mass (Baskin 1). When a person holding the E-meter electrodes thinks a thought, looks at a picture or shifts some part of the reactive mind, he is changing this mental mass and energy (Baskin 1). It is these changes that influence the E-meter’s flow of energy, causing the needle on its dial to move. “Different needle movements have exact meanings and the skill of an auditor includes a complete understanding of all meter reactions” (Baskin 2). It is then up to the auditor to discharge the harmful energy connected to the patient’s mind (Baskin 2). When this energy lessens, “the person heightens his ability to think clearly in the area being addressed” (Baskin 2). It is believed that as a result of the E-Meter, the patient gains a higher degree of awareness and greater ability to succeed in life. Hubbard claims that “Neither the auditor nor the E-Meter can cure or heal anything, but with their assistance, an individual learns how to help himself get back his personal strength (What is. 42).
Potential Scientologists are lured to the religion through a number of different methods. With books, television and print advertising campaigns, and a 30,000 page Internet site, Scientology uses a wide range of media to gain influence (Mallia. “Church.” 1).The most common technique used by the church is the offering of free
personality tests (Mallia. “Inside.” 3). In the church’s vocabulary, the recruiter is called a “body router,” and the potential converts are “wogs” (Mallia. “Inside.” 3). “The personality test is a gimmick routinely used by Scientology organizations to identify the emotional sore spots of the targets for recruitment” (Mallia. “Inside.” 3). Once the test has determined the recruit’s weakness, the body router then promises to fix it (Mallia. “Inside.” 4). Whatever the problem may be, Scientology is made out to be the answer. One of the recruiting policies constructed by Hubbard was to “encourage his followers to enlist celebrities” (Mallia. “Church.” 1). With notable Hollywood actors like Tom Cruise, Cruise’s wife Nicole Kidman, Kirstie Alley and longtime Scientologist John Travolta, the policy has definitely paid off (Mallia. “Church.” 2).
Scientology is employed through a series of progressive courses that intertwine with each other. The first step towards spiritual advancement is the “Purification Rundown”, which cleanses the individual. This $1,200 detoxification program requires the patient to “drink vegetable oil, take megadoses of vitamins, and sweat in a sauna for several hours a day” (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2). A series of courses are then required to reach a spiritual stage called “Clear”, which is described as a state of great freedom (Hubbard. What Is. 24). Once this stage has been reached, the science fiction content of Scientology is revealed to its members (Devlin 2). It is at this level that the story of Xenu is encountered (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2). It is told that Xenu gathered up the overpopulation of a particular galaxy, brought them to Earth and exterminated them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these murdered people, called “Body Thetans”, are believed to infest the bodies of everyone (Devlin 2). It is taught the Body Thetans “cling to every human body, infecting people with their
warped thoughts” (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2). Only through hundreds of hours of auditing (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2) can the harmful Body Thetans be detached (Devlin 3).
Beliefs that were once kept hidden from the public, are surfacing through the Internet and courtroom documents (Mallia. “Sacred.” 1). Unveiled by Joseph Mallia of the Boston Herald, Scientologist Carlos Covarrubias took a course that required him to talk to inanimate objects like ashtrays (Mallia. “Sacred.” 1). “He was instructed to tell objects to “Stand up” and “Sit down”, ending each command with a polite “Thank you” afterwards” (Mallia. “Sacred.” 2). Scientology officials object when critics highlight some of Hubbard’s more bizarre teachings declaring that “It’s like mocking the Christian view of Jesus’ virgin birth” (Mallia. “Inside.” 2). However it has been proven that Hubbard incorporated brainwashing techniques into Scientology. Hubbard even wrote a “brainwashing manual” which is still in existence today (Corydon 107). Hubbard claimed that the purpose of the manual was to discredit psychiatry, which he did by “presenting psychiatry as a tool of a communist conspiracy to take over the West” (Corydon 109).
Once the final stage of Scientology has been completed, “The Bridge to Total Freedom” has been achieved (Mallia. “Inside.” 4). However very few ever make it this far due to the years of teachings and the $300, 000 price tag (Mallia. “Inside.” 4). Costing up to $520 an hour, Scientology auditing creates “a feeling of well-being” that can even become addictive (Mallia. “Inside.” 5). For these ridiculously high prices Scientologists are promised extraordinary powers like “Controlling the weather and flying without their bodies” (Mallia. “Judge.” 5).
Many people claim that Scientology isolates and alienates its people from normal society, and that it is nothing more than a “money-grabbing machine” (Mallia. “Inside.” 1). Critics speculate that Scientology is guilty of everything from illegally prescribing medicine, to murder (Devlin 8). In 1995, Scientologist Lisa McPherson of Dallas, Texas died during a church retreat in Florida. (Devlin 6). The county medical examiner found that she “died of a blood clot due to dehydration,” and that she had been “denied water for the last five to ten days of her life” (Mallia. “Inside.” 2). The church of Scientology claims that McPherson died accidentally and denies that its members caused her death (Devlin 6). McPherson’s family filed a wrongful-death suit against the church, saying that “she wanted to leave the church but was held against her will during the seventeen day retreat” (Mallia. “Inside.” 2).
One of the most outspoken critics of Scientology was no stranger to Hubbard.
L. Ron Hubbard Jr., Hubbard’s son, has been voicing his opinions against Scientology for many years. Although considered lies by the church, Ron Jr. made the public aware of “the truths” behind the religion and his well-known father. Ron Jr., claims that his father was a heavy drug user, and that drugs spawned many ideas for the principles behind Scientology (Corydon 56). Ron Jr. stated in a sworn affidavit that “Dad gave a lot of his lectures while on cocaine or stimulants of one kind or another. He regularly used cocaine, peyote, and mescaline. He could really get brilliant on the stuff” (Corydon 57). According to fellow writer Lloyd Eshbach, Hubbard was remembered saying “I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is” (Mallia. “Judge.” 3).
Scientology has proven to be a religion that has had an important impact on many peoples’ lives. However Scientology has also had a negative impact on a
substantial number of people. In recent years, many of Scientology’s extreme methods of teaching have been disclosed leading some people to believe that the religion is a destructive cult and that Hubbard is nothing but a fraud. Nevertheless there is still an great deal of interest in the religion. With an estimated 25 million words in books that form the core of his controversial religion, people will still be fascinated and practicing Scientology for many years to come (Malko 175). .As Hubbard boldly states in the last paragraph of Fundamentals of Thought, “The only race that matters at this moment is the one being run between Scientology and the Atomic bomb. The history of man may well depend upon which one wins” (Fundamentals. 117).
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