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Scientology

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Scientology The second half of the 20th century was the time when new, alternative religious movements sprang to life and started their triumphant parade across the world, attracting millions of people to their allegedly innovative concepts of faith and salvation. This religious expansion, unpredicted and unexpected in the middle of the century, the diversity of schools and teachings, as well as their significant impact on the lives of many people are a phenomenon that demonstrates a high potential of such theories and practices. Their evolution was facilitated by spiritual requirements of people who were seekers of new ideas and formats of faith. These people distrusted traditional religions and were often disillusioned and disappointed by orthodox tenets and concepts; they wanted to find more updated and socially adapted religious teachings. Scientology is a dramatic example of a new religion of this kind, and its analysis provides an insight in the complex, controversial, and sometimes perplexing domain of today’s religious and spiritual practices. Officially recognized as religion in the USA, Scientology was denied this status in European countries, for example, the UK, Germany, France, and others. Investigating an impact of this popular religious practice on individuals, groups, and communities is significant for understanding the effects, possible implications, and hazards it has in store for society. The Origin of Scientology and its Founder Scientology, a religious teaching defining its major purpose as “the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, universes, and other life” (Hubbard 5) emerged in the first decade following World War II. It reflected certain aspirations and challenges of a new period of social progress in the post-war world. Unprecedented technological advances during the years of the war enhanced further scientific and technological developments, and these were transforming the world people lived in, their mentality, and lifestyle. Pervasive changes in social reality and new trends influenced the world views of people. Technology, on the one hand, was often looked upon as a form of panacea that would secure the bright future for mankind. On the other hand, the imminent threat of a new war in which atomic or nuclear weapons could be used was a major hazard for mankind’s existence. Scientology arose as a kind of spiritual response at this stage of social development; this religious teaching proclaimed itself to be “precise and exact, designed for an age of exact sciences” (Hubbard 6). Therefore, the origin of Scientology should be attributed to the culture of the new technological era; its birth-place is the United States of America, the heart and citadel of the new age of technological progress and gross mass consumption. Nowadays, Scientologists claim to have millions of their members in 165 countries across the world, 8,500 local churches of Scientology, missions, and outreach groups (Reitman xii). According to the statistics of this organization, 50,000 to 60,000 people annually sign up for a Scientology course or buy a book to get familiar with the teaching. The founding figure of the new religious teaching, Lafayette Ron Hubbard is a typical representative of a personality who had a keen instinct of the urgent issues and exigencies of his time and managed to use these to the best advantage. Born in 1911 in Nebraska, L. Ron Hubbard served in the US Navy during WWII, traveled to different parts of the world, and later embarked on a career of a science fiction and fantasy writer. Hubbard also often portrayed himself as a nuclear physicist and an expert in different disciplines including photography, art, poetry, oriental philosophy, and the study of human mind. Yet these accounts have been often characterized by many of his critics and opponents as false. Later his experience of the pulp fiction writer was extensively applied to developing a new self-help system of Dianetics that allegedly studied “what the soul is doing to the body” (Hubbard 5). It was also referred to as the “modern science of mental health” in many booklets that aimed at recruiting new members to the network (Reitman ix). Dianetics, in its own turn, served as a forerunner and sub-study of Scientology, later extended to the Church of Scientology that acquired the worldwide popularity. Hubbard used his writer’s experience to represent the principles and tenets of the new teaching as based on science and knowledge; concepts, ideas, and terms applied by Scientology resemble motives and plots of science fiction books. These ideas were made into appealing slogans of “the mission of scientology is … civilization” (Hubbard 1) type. Rational approach became the main instrument of the new teaching that claimed its capability of resolving any problems and addressing current social and political challenges. Scientologists postulate that “…all problems of government can be resolved by reason” (Hubbard 1). Errors made by mankind, including the threat of a new war, were attributed to the lack of reason in human actions and decisions. Hubbard, now dead for over twenty years, is regarded by Scientologists as the central entity and guru of their religion, a kind of Jesus Christ of the modern spiritual teaching. His followers often refer to him as LRH or Ron, as if he were a living friend and teacher. His authority is unquestionable, and no doubts are ever allowed about the nature or efficacy of anything this prolific author wrote or stated (Reitman xvi). Central Texts and Tenets of the Teaching Proclaiming spiritual revival its main goal, Scientology makes ample use of terms and concepts that seem to be related to modern science and technology as well as of certain principles of Hinduism. Nevertheless, the proposed interpretation of these looks is superficial, inconsistent, and unscientific. This argument is best proved by analyzing the central texts, content, and practice of the teaching. Scientology was popularized as an instrument of achieving “freedom from ignorance” for the “…man [who] has been a long time on the track to reason.” (Hubbard 2). Research on human mind allegedly carried out by Hubbard and his followers resulted in the development of the central doctrine of the teaching based on the concept of the thetan, “…spirit, the person himself [that] can fully detach, by itself, from both mind and body.”(Hubbard 195). The word is a derivative of the name of the Greek letter “theta” that means thought or life. The “thetan” is senior to the body; it is similar to what other religions define by the terms of “soul” or “spirit”. The thetan is a source of unlimited creativity. According to Hubbard, the thetan exists through a number of lifetimes, undergoing “assumptions”, the idea definitely borrowed from the basic tenet of reincarnation in Hinduism. As pointed out by one of the authorities on the subject, Scientology poses itself as an instrument capable of creating a “stable” exterior state, so that in this way the individual consciously achieves immortality (Atack 372). The experience of previous “lives” has a direct impact on the current one, and with each new rebirth the influence of matter, energy, space, and time on the thetan are getting stronger. Long ago, these thetans that used to be pure entities were trapped, and degraded into conditions in which they see themselves only as body entities. This point reminds of Plato’s philosophy of pure forms. Scientologists utilize a number of other concepts to create the conceptual system of their own teaching, but it turns out to be superficial, demagogic, and inconsistent. For example, they also draw on Freud’s psychoanalysis, psychiatric practice in abreaction therapy, Chinese brainwashing techniques, and “…a smattering of schoolboy science, demon exorcism, and science fiction… All of this disparate material was synthesized through the personality of L. Ron Hubbard” (Atack 370). The symbols of Scientology are no less eclectic than the content of the teaching; similarly to the latter, they combine fragments of other beliefs and faiths to construct their own conglomerate, for theorists of Scientology are incapable of creating their own self-consistent theory and its conceptual basis. The cross used in Scientology, though eight-cornered, cannot be interpreted otherwise than the symbol of Christianity and actually resembles the one used in Catholic Christian services. Another symbol composed of the two triangles intertwined with letter S looks pretentious, though probably appealing, in terms of its image design, and the interpretation that encourages followers of these teaching to improve their communication skills and enhance the process of communicating by developing the necessary characteristics and qualities. Yet eclecticism and manipulations with terms and concepts are only a part of the full-scale manipulations with consciousness of thousands of people who try to find in this “freedom from ignorance” a true and veritable faith. Scientology: Religion or a Vicious Way of Having a Lucrative Business? Scientologists claim that their spiritual teaching is not only true and veritable but also functions as a method greatly increasing human spiritual awareness, intellectual potential, and other abilities. Special auditing sessions are held for the purpose of “clearing” people under the guidance of an auditor who acts as a counselor. Fees are paid by those tutored, and they are continuously encouraged to get to the higher levels by eliminating blocks that impede their personal spiritual progress via practicing special training techniques. Applying these methods, high-ranking Scientologists created an enormous network of organizations that turned their “spiritual” theory and practice into a highly lucrative business. Confessions of ex-Scientologists reveal a relentless organization that goes to any length to have its way and high profits. Their secret methods include shocking examples of brainwashing, sophisticated manipulative techniques, spying, stalking, intimidation, blackmailing, etc. An ex-Scientologist of high status remembers that her twenty-year-long record of service “…involved overseeing the international expansion of the group, years of espionage for them, and well over seven years working with their celebrities and celebrities they wanted to make into Scientologists” (Many 3). The policies of keeping secret “the higher levels of knowledge” facilitates the interior practices that would have been condemned if made public. Scientology is known for aggressive pursuit of its defectors and critics. The teaching that is based on such a conglomerate of myths, ideas and views, and resorts to vicious policies gained, nevertheless, unprecedented popularity due to crafty utilization of specific characteristics of people’s consciousness. The most important of these are disillusionment and disappointment in traditional religions, which, combined with social instability, motivated people to look for a new spiritual panacea; manipulation with modern “scientific” and “technological” ideas, symbols or images of science fiction highly appealing to people; employment of effective psychological techniques at early stages of training and extensive use of psychological pressure methods; effective advertizing and PR policies. Scientology feeds on controversies of people’s lives, consciousness, and social reality; the contradictory and indiscriminate nature of its own system is therefore no hindrance to its popularity. The teaching exhibits features of both modern religion and cult; it is a real threat to society that should be exposed consistently to prevent its harmful effect on many people. Works Cited
Atack, Jon. “A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed.” New York: Lyle Stuart, 1999. Print.
Hubbard, Lafayette Ron. “Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought.” Commerce, CA: Bridge Publications, 2nd edition, 2007. Print.
Many, Nancy. “My Billion Year Contract. Memoir of a Former Scientologist.” Northridge, CA: CNM Publishing, 2009. Print.
Reitman, Janet. “Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion.” New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Print.…...

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