Scientology and the Search for Significance
What do Scientologists believe? How can we learn from them?
BY: Jim Denison
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, known as L. Ron Hubbard or LRH, was born in Tilden, Nebraska in 1911. His family was Methodist. Scientologists call him "Source."
He claimed to have obtained a college degree in civil engineering, but his transcript shows two years of school and no degree. In 1938, during a dental operation, he received a gas anesthetic which he says caused his heart to stop and his spirit to understand the secrets of existence.
In 1941 he volunteered for service in the Navy, but was found unfit for duty and returned to the U.S. In Miami, he contracted gonorrhea. Later he was given a ship to command, but was soon relieved for firing on an ally. The church claims that he won a Purple Heart with a Palm, but the military states that the Purple Heart has no palm, and has no record of the wounds he supposedly received in the service.
Hubbard had seven children by three women; he was married to his second wife without divorcing his first, making him a bigamist. He had sexual relationships with a large number of women over the years, many of whom were his subordinates in the church. Several women, including his wives, claimed that he beat them physically and berated them emotionally. At one point he abducted his daughter from his second marriage and fled to Cuba.
His oldest son claimed that Hubbard founded Scientology on "black magic." Several who knew him questioned his sanity; one disputed document, apparently written by Hubbard himself, states that he was inspired by a spirit-being he called his "Guardian" whom he named the "Empress." He claimed that she dictated Dianetics to him.
At one point he became convinced that the evil organization SMERSH, described in James Bond novels, actually exists, and that it was attacking Scientology. In 1973 he was convinced in absentia for fraud in France and sentenced to four years in prison. By 1980, Hubbard was the subject of subpoenas from three grand juries and 48 lawsuits. So he fled from public view and lived as a recluse in an RV called the Blue Bird.
He explained that at death, the thetan is taken to a "between-lives" area, usually the planet Mars. It is given an implant to forget its past lives, then sent back to Earth to pick up a baby as soon as it's born. Sometimes a thetan follows a pregnant woman, waiting for birth so it can inhabit the body. On January 24, 1986, Hubbard died from a stroke he experienced eight days earlier.
Hubbard published more books than any other author in modern history, with 1,084 titles to his credit. To this day, every church or mission maintains an office for the day Hubbard returns to Earth. A pen and yellow legal pad are waiting for him at each of his desks; his personal bathrooms have toothbrushes and sandals. A full-time staff attends his residence in California, where his clothes are regularly laundered. His cars are in the garage, gassed up, with keys in the ignition. A dining table is set for one.
Since his death in 1986, the church has been led by David Miscavige; he has frequently been accused of physically abusing his subordinates, even locking them in a trailer called "the Hole." The church denies these allegations.
Over the years, a number of Scientology practices have been criticized. Among them:
"Silent birth": the delivery room should be silent lest the newborn associate words with the trauma of the birth experience and thus induce engrams in the baby. "Barley Formula" (which Hubbard claims to have learned "in Roman days") is a suitable substitute for breast feeding (though it has been much criticized by health professionals for lacking important vitamins).
Ceremonies for marriage, birth, and death are performed by an ordained Scientology minister. Most are found in Ceremonies of the Church of Scientology. At a funeral, the minister speaks specifically to the thetan and grants forgiveness for anything the deceased has done.
Followers are encouraged to practice "disassociation" from antagonistic family members or friends. They are not allowed to participate in the activities of other religions (though Scientology claims to be compatible with all religions).
The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in Camden, New Jersey in 1953. When a Scientology Mission reaches the size required to administer all courses and auditing to reach the State of Clear, it is considered a church. There are 142 Churches in 28 countries around the world, and over 300 missions in 50 countries. Advanced Organizations are located in Los Angeles; Clearwater, Florida; the United Kingdom; Sydney, Australia; Copenhagen, Denmark; and the cruise ship Freewinds. Organizations such as Narconon (to deal with drug rehabilitation) are associated with Scientology.
Celebrities are especially central to Scientology's popularity. Hubbard helped form a special Church of Scientology for artists, politicians, industry leaders, and sports figures. Eight throughout the world are called Celebrity Centers; the largest is in Hollywood.
Among the best-known celebrity Scientologists are John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jason Lee, Isaac Hayes, Tom Cruise, Anne Archer, and Greta van Susteren. James Packer (Australia's richest man) is a Scientologist. David Miscavige has been best-man for two of Cruise's weddings. The church targeted celebrities from its inception, seeing them as a short-cut to social standing and significance. It offered classes on acting and promised connections that would promote an actor's career.
Germany considers Scientology a business; many other European countries do not recognize it as a religion. The church's practice of "disassociation" has been much criticized. The "Fair Game" policy which encourages the abuse of critics has been exposed. And L. Ron Hubbard's reported intent to start a religion for profit has been critiqued.
Attempts have been made to force Google and other search engines to omit any articles which are negative toward Scientology. Auditing confidentiality has been much criticized. And Scientology's rejection of psychology has been blamed for numerous suicides and other violence within the church.