Visit the Church of Scientology’s website, and you will be welcomed by flashy videos that invite you to discover yourself and your full potential through the “intersection of technology and spirituality.” It promises higher states of existence and runs off the belief that everything is possible whilst showing frames of modern life, nature, and smiling individuals at desks holding the silver cans of E-meters (the religion’s own version of a lie detector).
The site suggests that through Scientology you will “know yourself” and “know life.” Faith is not required as proof is provided by applying its principles and observing its results (like proper science). Dig further, and you’ll discover initiatives for drug rehabilitation, criminal reform, and worldwide human rights awareness. Its messaging is individualistic, hopeful, and vague.
The deceit is that none of this supposed enlightenment and freedom is free, and the cost is one’s wealth, relationships, personal rights, and safety. Many believe Scientology to be a perfect example of a modern day cult because of this deceit, its secrecy, and its oppressive practices that continues to deny its existence. It’s pay-to-play… and the game’s rules are rigged.
Scientology starts with L. Ron Hubbard and Dianetics. Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Evolution of Science described a new branch of self-help psychology influenced by psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. It put forth a theory that human fears and psychosomatic illnesses arise in us due to painful memories called engrams. Some of these engrams are prenatal or from previous lives. They can, however, be removed through an interrogative therapy called “auditing,” which uses an E-meter and ultimately “clears” you (meaning you’ll become a person free of emotional and physical sickness).
From this, Hubbard would go on to found the Church of Scientology, for which he constructed a rigorous ranking system called the “Bridge to Freedom.” Successful auditing to enter the ranking system costs hundreds of dollars per session and leads to higher levels which grant more knowledge of the secrets of life, along with a higher occupation in the organization.
Dianetics though, is actually a debunked pseudoscience, owing in large part to Hubbard’s disregard for the scientific method and a complete lack of empirical evidence. Even Joseph Winter, a doctor and former partner in the failed Hubbard Dianetics Foundation, admitted in his own report that Dianetics needed to be properly tested and that he objected to Hubbard’s authoritarian leadership. Scientology having Dianetics as a central process certainly sheds doubt on the religion’s promise of proven results. While we’re already in cultish territory, the rules to this game get even more complicated.
With Scientology came a mythos of Hubbard’s creation, an intergalactic space-opera about Xenu and the Galactic Federation dubbed the “Wall of Fire.” A mere 75 million years ago Xenu, the dictator of the over-populated Galactic Federation, brought billions of his people to Earth in spacecraft similar to the DC-8s we have now. He rang his people around volcanoes, where he detonated hydrogen bombs, sending their souls into the atmosphere. Not one to leave a gun half-cocked, he captured their souls and subjected them to a 36-day long film that stripped them of their personal identities.
In their confusion and pain, these souls –– thetans, as he calls them –– cling to us human beings, causing our unhappiness and sicknesses… and it is only through Dianetic auditing that we might be cleansed.
Before his venture into Scientology, Hubbard was a sci-fi writer for the hit magazine, Astounding Science Fiction where he also published his views on Dianetics. It’s quite telling that Dianetics and the “Wall of Fire” came from one already so well-versed in the art of spinning yarn. The church continues to deny that the “Wall of Fire” is part of its teachings, even though it was discovered in leaked Hubbard notes and recordings. This mythos is a colorful fiction that’s easy to scoff at, and certainly raises our cult-suspicious eyebrows. But it’s the action behind these beliefs that is the most audacious and startling.
What is truly devilish and cult-like about Scientology are its policies that keep people indoctrinated, intimidated, and powerless. It promotes disconnection from anyone in a member’s life that disagrees with the lifestyle or otherwise interrupts with the member’s responsibilities to the church. The church should always come first before friends and family. It teaches that the world is sick and that Scientology is the only solution to that sickness.
After having spent time disconnected from anyone outside of their world (which becomes quite an easy task with all the parishioners’ required duties and expensive studies), Scientology quickly becomes all its members know. With life outside so threatening, especially for those that joined at a young age, dropped out of school, and fully gave their lives to the organization, it can become very hard to ever leave. Members are brainwashed to believe that the hefty price is worth their salvation and saving the world.
If you do, however, choose to leave the church or threaten it in any way, you will be labeled a “suppressive person.” Friends and family in the church are told to disconnect from you and stop all contact, that you’re evil and have committed acts of adultery, are lazy, or simply irresponsible. The church retaliates through a policy they call “fair game”: enforcers are sent to harass and stalk suppressive persons and private investigators are hired to document their daily activities.
When a member so much as expresses the smallest doubt about their belief or the organization (particularly its leadership), they are subjected to “reconditioning” in long sessions of intense interrogation or seclusion from other members in dirty, crowded housing with days of forced labor. In cases of emotional, physical, or even sexual abuse between clergy and parishioners, they tend to handle things internally, with little to no recourse for victims. It’s these scare tactics and rights abuses that destroy lives and families, qualifying Scientology for many as an oppressive cult.
The Church of Scientology is a charade that demands the courageous to stand up and speak out. There is no hard evidence of abuses within the church, only the statements of former members in books, interviews, and documentaries. With no course for legal action, we must depend on the power of media to save people from Scientology’s alluring charlatanism. Every article and film sheds light on the dark corners of Scientology’s vaulted domain. If the game is rigged, the best way we can help is to convince the world not to play.
Jeremiah French spends most of his time dissecting and consuming human-built worlds in multimedia, from written fiction to simulated spaces. When he isn’t doing that, he’s making his own in podcast and print. Occasionally he remembers he’s a musician, so he’ll do that too. Check out his musings on interactive entertainment at drunkenmarmoset.com, and his primary action-fantasy podcast, Gafgarn: The Eternally Unfurnished, anywhere podcasts are available.