views updated May 21 2018


SCIENTOLOGY is a spiritual movement that grew out of the ideas and practices advocated by Layfayette Ronald (L. Ron) Hubbard (19111986), a writer and former U.S. naval officer. After his discharge from the navy, Hubbard became a writer of popular fiction, but even before he left the service he dedicated himself to determining both the cause of the human situation and the means of correcting it. His efforts led him to author several book-length manuscripts in the late 1940s and to publish several articles. Then in 1950 his book Dianetics, released by a small publishing house, jumped onto the New York Times best-seller lists.

Dianetics was the name Hubbard gave to the system of thought and practice that grew out of his concentrated exploration of the human mind. He believed humanity's problems were caused by mental aberrations (called engrams ); he proposed a form of counseling termed auditing as the means to rid the self of the engrams. Dianetics teaches that the human mind has a twofold structure: the analytic mind and the reactive mind. The analytic mind thinks, plans, observes the world, and records memories. However, at particular moments, especially at times of severe distress or pain, the analytic mind recedes, and the reactive mind takes over. The reactive mind simply observes, records, and stores memories at times when the analytic mind is not functional. Such memories are generally not available to the conscious self but may be the source of irrational and dysfunctional behavior. Dianetics was designed to rid people of the effects of the reactive mind and bring them to a state of clear.

When Dianetics became a popular movement, Hubbard gathered his most enthusiastic supporters, including a number of physicians, into a board and founded several organizations to structure the movement. He continued to observe people undergoing Dianetic counseling or auditing, which explored individuals' memories. During these processes Hubbard began to encounter memories that seemed to reach to a time prior to birth and even to a previous existence in a different body. This experience and other factors led him to refocus his primary concern from the mind to the human spirit, that permanent part of the self that he believed could continue past death and into reincarnation, a different physical existence in a new body.

Speculation on the human spirit seemed to be suggesting the movement toward religion, a direction that many of Hubbard's associates (including some board members) rejected. Hubbard persisted in developing his thought, however, which as early as 1952 he called Scientology. The first Church of Scientology was founded in Los Angeles in 1954; another opened in Washington, D.C., the following year, with Hubbard serving as its executive director. Other churches soon emerged in New Zealand, South Africa, England, and Ireland.

Scientology Beliefs

Scientology most closely resembles a Western esoteric-Gnostic system. In the early 1950s Hubbard posited the existence of a spiritual being called a thetan that was neither body nor intellect. He hypothesized that the thetan could live apart from the body (a phenomenon he called exteriorization ) and had existed in other bodies prior to the present one. Further, he concluded, it was the essential nature of the thetan to survive, and it attempted to do so around a set of ever more inclusive concerns that he termed the eight dynamics. First, it seeks to survive as an individualfinding expression in creativity, sexuality, and family life. It then seeks to survive by identification with various human groupings, humanity as a whole, all life-forms, and eventually larger concernsthe universe, spirituality, and the infinite or Supreme Being. Hubbard's discussion of the infinite aligns with both Eastern and Western mystical speculations.

Scientology is structured toward grasping the eight dynamics sequentially, beginning with the seemingly mundane issues of individual and social issues, gradually reaching levels at which (in Western eyes) more traditional religious concerns are addressed. The church teaches that until the basic issues of life are set right, the larger issues of spirituality and God are difficult to bring into focus.

Hubbard also set the thetan's path to enlightenment into a fairly familiar myth of entrapment and escape. Thetans are thought to have come into existence billions of years ago. Along the way, they fell into the universe of matter, energy, space, and time (MEST). Although thetans had created MEST, they eventually forgot they were the creators and became imprisoned in their own creation. The thetans as a group also went through several horrendous cosmic events that further stripped them of their abilities and even the conscious memory of what had happened to them. Their various adventures have led them to the present time on earth.

As with other forms of esotericism (alchemy, Qabbalah, hermetics), Scientology proposes an explanation of the human condition, a means of escape, and a way to return to the spiritual world of the pre-MEST thetan. When individuals reach the state of clear, they are no longer bound by the reactive mind and are ready to confront the barriers to complete freedomthose products of the early cosmic events that still affect their lives. Scientology literature describes the cosmic career of the thetans in mythic stories similar to those in ancient Gnostic and Hindu myths. The full content of these myths are revealed only to the church member as they move through the upper levels of church life.

By the time they reach the higher or operating thetan (OT) levels of church membership, members have become intimately familiar with auditing, the basic counseling technique that rids them of engrams and the reactive mind. At the higher levels, auditing is also used to confront additional encumbrances on the thetan produced by its cosmic history. Auditing uses an instrument called an e-meter, a modified whetstone bridge that measures subtle changes in the electrical current moving through the body. In the hands of a trained auditor, it is believed that the e-meter can register changing states in the thetan and greatly assist the process of gaining awareness.

Church Organization

The Church of Scientology is organized hierarchically. At the lowest level are the local churches and missions that introduce people to the church and provide members with basic teachings and auditing leading to clear. Local churches are tied together by the Church of Scientology International, which operates similarly to the Mother Church of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Local churches and missions are autonomous but are bound to the international body by a set of licenses that grant the use of Scientology copyrights and trademarks. Local churches also agree to follow the procedures (called the technology ) laid down in Hubbard's writings in all of the classes and auditing they provide for members. The copyrights and trademarks are held by a unique church structure, the Religious Technology Center, whose chair is considered the true head of the church.

In addition to local churches, there is a set of special church facilities designed to provide the materials, teachings, and services for operating thetans. The basic OT levels (I-V) are provided at the several Advanced Organizations (in Los Angeles, Sydney, Copenhagen, and East Grimstead, United Kingdom). OT VI and VII are delivered through the Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Florida. OT VIII, the highest level available to church members in the early twenty-first century, is offered aboard an oceangoing vessel, the Freewinds. Additional levels are expected to be offered, but their release awaits enough members having attained OT VIII.

Auditorsministers found in every church facilityare trained at the Saint Hill organizations in Los Angeles, Sydney, and East Grimstead, which function as seminaries. In addition the church has developed a special concern to serve individuals in the arts, many of whom lead public lives. To allow such members the privacy to pursue their own spiritual advancement, the church supports a number of celebrity centers where they may go for auditing and other Scientology course work. A number of Hollywood entertainers have joined the church, and a few, such as Tom Cruise, Isaac Hayes, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley, have served as spokespersons.

In 1967 Hubbard created a fraternity of dedicated Scientologists to whom he assigned the exacting task of delivering the higher OT levels to the membership. The group, known as the Sea Organization, evolved into an ordered community (analogous to monastic orders) of men and women who committed their lives to working for the spread of Scientology worldwide. Following the reorganization of the church in the early 1980s, the Sea Organization assumed leadership of the church internationally; everyone who holds policy-making and administrative positions at the continental and global levels is a Sea Organization member.


Controversy has plagued Scientology from its earliest days. Many early participants rejected the change from secular Dianetics to religious Scientology. Many early observers, noting the difference between Scientology and the more dominant Western religions, missed the many religious trappings with which they were familiar. Controversy reached a new height in 1963, when U.S. government agents seized the church's e-meters and accused it of practicing medicine without a license. This action had international repercussions. Scientology was banned for a time in parts of Australia, and other governments began to limit the church's activities. The Guardian's Office was established in 1966 to handle attacks on the church.

Controversy peaked in 1979, when members of the Guardian's Office, in their attempt to locate government records about the church, infiltrated government offices and made copies of official documents. After the arrest and conviction of the office's leadership, the church was completely reorganized under the Religious Technology Center and the Church of Scientology International.

Much of the ongoing controversy concerning the church concerns its structure as an esoteric organization (in which teachings are only revealed to the higher-level members) and its finances. The church works on a basis of reciprocitythat is, members give of their time and energy, and the church delivers its services. Most often members donate money for which they receive auditing or classes. This structure, though widely used among esoteric groups, has caused many, including some governments, to question the church's religious nature and brand it a business operation. Before granting the church tax-exempt status in the early 1990s, for example, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service conducted the longest investigation in agency history to that date.

As the anticult movement emerged in the 1970s, critics of Scientology labeled it a cult and published a number of books and shorter writings attacking it. The church fought back in the courts, and while frequently winning, gained a reputation for litigiousness. In subsequent years, critics have contested every aspect of the church's life, while the church has aggressively defended its founder and program.

In spite of ongoing problems with several European countries and its frequent court appearances, the Church of Scientology experienced steady growth through the first half-century of its existence. Since 1954 congregations and missions have opened in more than seventy countries around the world, and the basic text Dianetics has been translated into more than fifty languages. The church sponsors a spectrum of social programs to combat illiteracy, drug abuse, crime, and the breakdown of social ethics.

See Also

Anticult Movements; Hubbard, L. Ron.


Christensen, Dorthe Refslund. Scientology: Fra terapi til religion. Copenhagen, 1997.

Church of Scientology International. Scientology: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion. Los Angeles, 1998. Includes brief articles by a spectrum of scholars on Scientology.

Church of Scientology International. What Is Scientology? Los Angeles, 1998.

Friends of Ron, comp. L. Ron Hubbard: A Profile. Los Angeles, 1995. A comprehensive biographical work from the Church of Scientology.

Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. New York, 1950; reprint, Los Angeles, 2000.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Church of Scientology. Salt Lake City, Utah, 2001.

Whitehead, Harriet. Renunciation and Reformulation: A Study of an American Sect. Ithaca, N.Y., 1987.

J. Gordon Melton (2005)

Scientology, Church of

views updated May 18 2018

Scientology, Church of

In 1950 writer L. Ron Hubbard announced the discovery of Dianetics as a new system of mental health. Several years later he announced the further development of Dianetics into a comprehensive system of spiritual philosophy and religion, which he termed Scientology. Both Dianetics and Scientology now form the teachings and practice of the Church of Scientology.


Developed in part in reaction to the dominance of behavioral approaches to psychology and then-current psychotherapeutic practices such as electric shock therapy, Dianetics is based upon the idea that the human is identified with the soul (termed the Thetan), and Dianetics identifies what the soul does to the body through the mind. It was first exposed to the public in the article "Dianetics An Introduction to a New Science" in the pages of Astounding Science Fiction (May 1950), a magazine published by one of Hubbard's friends who had become enthusiastic about the possibilities of the new approach. Several weeks later Hubbard's book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was published, on May 9, 1950, and became an overnight best-seller.

Hubbard suggested that the goal of life was what he termed "infinite survival." Pain, disappointment, and failure are the results of actions that do not promote survival, he said. The mind operates to solve the problems relating to survival. From the information it receives, stored in mental pictures, it directs the individual in actions geared toward surviving. Such mental images are three dimensionalthey have energy and mass, they exist in space, and they tend to appear when someone thinks of them, Hubbard said. They are strung together in a consecutive record accumulated over a lifetime Hubbard called a "time track."

The theory of Dianetics is a variation on preexisting concepts of conscious and unconscious mind, using the terms analytic and reactive mind. The analytic mind, according to Hubbard, records the mental image pictures derived from our experiences. However, pictures of experience which contain pain or painful emotions are recorded in the reactive mind. Also, experiences that occur when a person is unconscious (on the operating table, for example) or partially conscious (when inebriated) are recorded by the reactive mind and are not available to the analytic mind, he said.

The problem with the reactive mind is that it stores particular types of mental images called "engrams" (a term borrowed from psychologist Richard Semon to denote a memory trace), creating a complete record of unpleasant or unconscious experiences. It also thinks in identities, equating the various elements of a painful experiences. In the future, when one experiences several elements in the engram, all of the pain and emotion of past experiences will flood back into the present. Over a lifetime, the cumulative effect of engrams can be a set of unwanted and little-understood negative conditions, including, but not limited to, pains, emotional blocks, and even physical illnesses, according to Hubbard. Armed with Hubbard's book, any ordinary individual was considered competent to practice a simple system of psychotherapy superior to those involving specialized training.

Having discovered the nature of the human psyche, Hubbard set out to discover the means of addressing psychological disorders. His techniques are supposed to erase the contents of the reactive mind, rendering them useless in further affecting the person without his/her conscious knowledge.

The aim of the techniques is the production of a "clear," a person whose reactive mind has been cleared, who has no engrams. The primary technique is called "auditing," a one-onone counseling process that uses an instrument called an "Emeter," a modified whetstone bridge that measures the level of electrical resistance in the human body. It is the belief that such resistance is directly related to the focus upon an engram. The process of becoming a clear occurs in a series of classes and personal counseling sessions. Participants record the state of clear in degrees.

Hubbard founded the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in June 1950. He spent the rest of the year traveling and lecturing and the following year opened the Hubbard College in Wichita, Kansas. By this time Hubbard had speculated that human beings are basically spiritual, and that once cleared, have great potential. These insights led to what would be termed "Scientology." The Hubbard Association Scientology International was founded in 1952, and the first Church of Scientology opened two years later. Dianetics became the method of entering the church and discovering its teachings.


Hubbard proposed the existence of engramspainful impressions from past experiences, extending back into innumerable previous incarnations. According to his book The History of Man (1952), the human body houses two entitiesa genetic entity (for carrying on the evolutionary line), and a Thetan, or consciousness, like an individual soul, that has the capacity to separate from body and mind. In man's long evolutionary development the Thetan has been trapped by the engrams formed at various stages of embodiment, Hubbard says.

As soon became obvious in Dianetics, clears were not the fully liberated individuals it had been hoped they would be. The idea of engrams from past lives explained the problem, thus a new concept appeared in Scientologythe "MEST-Clear" (MEST = Matter-Energy-Space-Time). Much of Hubbard's thinking resonates with the concepts of reincarnation and transmigration of souls found in Eastern religions. The goal of Scientology training thus became the final clearing of the individual of all engrams and the creation of what is termed an "Operating Thetan." Among the abilities of the operating Thetan is the soul's capacity to leave and operate apart from the body.

The exact content of the teachings of the Church of Scientology are imparted in the classes attended by church members and are not revealed to the public. Such is especially true of the highest classes (OT-4-7 levels), though jumbled accounts have been presented in books by former members, several of whom left the church with the confidential materials used in the classes and who tried to hurt the church by making these materials available to the general public. As in Dianetics, one progresses through the OT levels on a degree basis, the mastering of one level being a prerequisite to the next.

Scientology's Controversy

Almost from its beginning, Scientology has been a controversial religion. Soon after his announcement of the discovery of Dianetics, Hubbard encountered opposition by the American Medical Association, and in 1958 a two-decade battle with the Food and Drug Administration began. The initiation of these continuing battles had immense consequences, and critics of the church used the actions in one country as a basis for initiating actions elsewhere. Also, government files, not checked for accuracy, were passed to other government agencies and to other countries. Suddenly, in the 1960s, Scientology found itself under attack from a variety of quarters and has spent 30 years in the courts in the attempt to vindicate its existence and program.

Through the 1970s and 1980s, the church fought battles with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States (finally resolved in the early 1990s) and with several former members and anticult organizations who accused it of brainwashing church members. The church itself initiated legal action against publications that it believed libeled the organization and its founder. Important international cases were fought and won in Australia, Canada, and Great Britain, and ongoing cases are pending in Germany, among the most conservative of Western countries concerning religious freedom issues.

In the midst of its fight with the U.S. government, and continually blocked in its attempt to gather documentation of covert government actions against the church, in the mid-1970s several high officials conspired to infiltrate targeted agencies and obtain copies of files on the church. The FBI, CIA, and IRS were especially high on their list. When the plan was discovered, it resulted in a massive raid on the church's headquarters. Several church officials were arrested and convicted of theft of government property.

As of the 1990s, with the solving of its problems with the U.S. government, the church has moved to gain its rights as a viable religion in Germany and to oppose the actions of the Cult Awareness Networkwhich it believes is simply an antireligious organizationand similar groups internationally.

The Church of Scientology reports members in 129 countries and the words of L. Ron Hubbard have been translated into over 30 languages. They also maintain social reform and community activities among services such as the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE), that provide professional groups with strategies to find harmony in the workplace.

For an authoritative account of Dianetics and Scientology, see current editions of L. Ron Hubbard's books Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and History of Man, both published by the Church of Scientology, Los Angeles, and available at local Scientology organizations. Address: US IAS Members Trust, 1311 N. New Hampshire Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90027. Website:


Atack, Jon. A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1990.

Church of Scientology. April 14, 2000.

Corydon, Bent, and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? New York: Lyle Stuart, 1987.

Evans, Christopher. Cults of Unreason. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973. Reprint. New York: Dell, 1975.

Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics 55! Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1954.

. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. New York: Hermitage House, 1950.

. Handbook for Preclears. Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1951.

. Science of Survival. Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1951.

. Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought. Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1956.

. Self-Analysis. Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1951.

. You Have Lived Before This life? Los Angeles: Publications Organization, 1977.

Miller, Russell. Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard New York: Henry Holt; London: Michael Joseph,1987.

Wallis, Roy. The Road to Total Freedom. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.

What Is Scientology? Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1992.


views updated May 17 2018


A quasi-scientific and religious movement founded by L. Ron Hubbard, an American science fiction author. Hubbard's book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (New York 1950), became an international best seller and led, in 1952, to the incorporation of an international organization which later evolved into Scientology. Dianetics initially claimed to be "a science of mental health," but with the creation of the Founding Church of Scientology (offices in Wash., D.C., and in New York, N.Y.) in 1955, the organization took a religious turn. The church has followers in English speaking countries throughout the world, as well as in Denmark, France, and Sweden, and has claimed up to several million adherents.

Although formal religious services play no part in the activities of the organization, Scientology does possess a highly structured system of beliefs and identifies itself as a church. It accepts a doctrine of reincarnation that claims the human being is a thetan, a preexistent spiritual being. In this life human beings possess a body and mind that enable them to travel through the physical universe, called MEST (matter, energy, space, time). Mental functioning is guided by the quest for survival, the fundamental drive of human existence, which divides the mind into "analytic," or conscious, and "reactive," or subconscious functions. Every experience in one's life is said to be recorded as a mental image. Painful experiences, called "engrams," are not immediately available to the analytic mind, but are recorded in the reactive. They may be exceedingly difficult to detect, some tracing their origins back to prenatal injuries in the womb. When stimulated later, Scientology claims, they may lead to irrational behavior.

Therapy proceeds with the help of an "E-meter," similar to a skin galvanometer or lie detector, which identifies emotionally charged words. An "auditor" reviews one's past to help reduce the power of engrams or to convert them into conscious memories. Through long discipline in this procedure, a novice or "preclear" becomes a "clear" and is able to become an auditor to others or a minister of the church.

The church has been criticized for its scientific and religious claims, and for the financial demands it makes on its members. Psychotherapists deny that the unconscious mind can be neutralized by the procedures Hubbard proposed. Although the literature of Scientology and E-meters now carry medical disclaimers, the church has been plagued from its inception by lawsuits filed both by various governments and by disaffected members.

For its part, the church has filed scores of lawsuits against governmental agencies, asserting that it has been a victim of religious persecution. When L. Ron Hubbard died Jan. 28, 1986, at the age of 74, the church was still under investigation by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The church suffered its most serious blow in 1984 when the IRS successfully argued that the church's taxexeempt status should be revoked.

Bibliography: l. r. hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (Los Angeles 1968); The Problems of Work: How to Solve Them and Succeed (Los Angeles 1983). p. rowley, New Gods in America (New York 1971).

[e. j. furton/eds.]


views updated May 29 2018


SCIENTOLOGY. The religious movement known as Scientology originated in the United States with the 1950 publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The book's author, L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), was a popular science fiction writer who envisioned Dianetics as an alternative to traditional therapy. Like other human potential systems, Dianetics promised its followers both enhanced survival mechanisms and new modes of self-expression. Drawing heavily on modern psychology, Hubbard claimed that detailed memory records of past traumatic experiences, called Engrams, are the cause of irrational and aberrant behavior. Subjects could uncover and eliminate their Engrams to become Clear through a process of Auditing, overseen by a practitioner of Dianetics using a device called an E-meter.

The more explicitly religious dimensions of Scientology evolved from Dianetic theory, as Hubbard and his followers began to make wider claims about the nature and meaning of human life. Hubbard posited that in addition to a body and a mind, each person is also an immortal spiritual entity called a Thetan, which spans lifetimes and has the power to create the basic elements of existence: matter, energy, space, and time. With the help of Scientology, church members move along a path to spiritual enlightenment known as the Bridge to Total Freedom. The aim of this spiritual pilgrimage is to attain higher states of consciousness, marked by successive levels of Operating Thetan status.

Since its founding in Los Angeles in 1954, the Church of Scientology has grown steadily, enjoying a high profile

due to its appeal among well-known entertainers. Membership estimates range from fifty thousand to several million. The church operates in more than one hundred countries and maintains an elaborate and well-funded network of institutions dedicated to promoting religious practice, the training of practitioners, and moral and political reform. Scientology has tirelessly sought legal status as a religion and has consistently assumed an aggressive posture toward its critics.


The Church of Scientology International. Scientology: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion. Los Angeles, Calif.: Bridge Publications, 1998.

Jenkins, Philip. Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Miller, Russell. Bare-Faced Messiah: A Biography of L. Ron Hubbard. London: Michael Joseph, 1987.


views updated May 29 2018

Sci·en·tol·o·gy / ˌsīənˈtäləjē/ • n. trademark a religious system based on the seeking of self-knowledge and spiritual fulfillment through graded courses of study and training. It was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911–86) in 1955.DERIVATIVES: Sci·en·tol·o·gist / -jist/ n.


views updated May 09 2018

Scientology. The creation of L. Ron Hubbard, who in the early 1950s, using his theory of lay psychotherapy (Dianetics) as its basis, developed a religious philosophy which was then incorporated into the Church of Scientology. While Dianetics deals in the main with the ‘reactive mind’ (the subconscious), Scientology is concerned with the ‘Thetan’ or everlasting spirit.

The movement has been accused of aggressive and on occasion unlawful methods in its ways of recruitment and its methods of defence against critics, so that its short history has been surrounded by controversy.


views updated May 23 2018

scientology ‘Applied religious philosophy’ based on a form of psychotherapy called dianetics, which was founded (1954) by L. Ron Hubbard in California, USA. It advocates confrontation with, and assimilation of, painful experiences from the past to achieve true mental health. The movement is officially known as the Church of Scientology. It aroused controversy over its methods of recruiting and keeping members.


views updated May 14 2018

Scientology trademark name for a religious system based on the seeking of self-knowledge and spiritual fulfilment through graded courses of study and training. It was founded by American science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911–86) in 1955.

About this article

Church of Scientology

All Sources -
Updated Aug 18 2018 About content Print Topic