Church of Scientology

This document is published by INFORM (Information Network Focus On Religious
Movements).

Church of Scientology

What is the movement called

The Church of Scientology is the general title of a movement which includes
numerous legally incorporated bodies, all of which disseminate the teachings
and practices of the late L. Ron Hubbard. Administrative control over
individual centres is in the hands of the International Church of Scientology
in Los Angeles, USA. The main centres of Scientology in the UK are in East
Grinstead (headquarters), Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh, London, Manchester,
Plymouth, Sunderland and Poole.

Where did the movement come from?

L. Ron Hubbard (1911-86), the founder of Scientology, was originally known as
an American author of best-selling science fiction stories. Indeed, his 1950
book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, developed out of
his interest in science fiction but it quickly created interest in its claim to
be ‘the common people’s science of life and betterment’. Hubbard’s response was
to add more clearly religious or spiritual aspects to Dianetics, thereby
creating Scientology in the early 1950s as ‘an applied religious philosophy and
technology’. The Church of Scientology, founded in 1954, is the organization
responsible for marketing and controlling not only the psychological theories
of Dianetics but also the spiritual programme of Scient elegy,

The world headquarters of the movement was located at Saint Hill Manor in East
Grinstead between 1959 and 1964, before Hubbard was banned from re-entering the
UK. He then ran the movement for some years from a flotilla of ships in various
parts of the world before retiring from public view in Southern California.
Hubbard’s science fiction stories continue to be best-sellers and to generate
income for the Church of Scientology. His period of withdrawal and his death
created turmoil, recrimination and a struggle for power, from which the
organization continues to emerge slowly in the mid 1990s.

What do Scientologists believe?

The main aim of Dianetics was to free people from self-imposed limitations so
that they could enhance their quality of life. Hubbard devised mental exercises
for training his followers to apply Dianetics to their everyday life. Starting
from the assumption that humans are ‘spiritual beings’ or ‘Thetans’,
distinguishable from their bodies, Hubbard claimed to have worked out the
conditions which either promote the soul’s survival and realization of full
potential or make it succumb and wither. The key belief is that humans can be
trained to overcome painful memories, to release their potential for greater
happiness, and to create a world free from insanity, war and crime.

‘Auditing’ is the process whereby Scientologists train themselves to respond to
probing questions about their past life without losing their composure, thereby
demonstrating that the Thetan can eventually ‘go clear’ of the physical world
and become ‘at cause’ in any situation, i.e. it can accept total responsibility
for its own actions. Further courses of counselling and training, at
progressively higher levels and prices, are designed to cultivate even more
elevated spiritual states. The enhanced sense of inner potential is supposed to
lead to greeter success in whatever the trained Scientologist chooses to do. A
‘purification’ régime of vitamin supplements, jogging and saunas is
regarded as a further aid to success. Hubbard also claimed that Scientology had
a civilizing mission for whole societies. Campaigns to reform institutionalized
mental health care, to eradicate addictions, and to combat abuses of human
rights have had high priority. Scientologists believe that all serious social
problems can be traced back to ‘anti-social personalities’ who fail to make
productive connections between emotion, reality and communication.

What do Scientologists do?

Scientology is a combination of training the mind to realize its full potential
and of applying the expected gains in self-understanding and effectiveness to
everyday life. It claims to be a religion because it emphasizes the spiritual
nature of humans and the immortal life of the Thetan. The Church of Scientology
trains its members to administer a wide variety of pastoral and training
services, largely on a fee-paying basis. There are Ministers of Scientology,
prayers, Sunday services and rites of passage. But not all Scientologists
choose to participate in these religious activities. Most prefer simply to
follow courses of instruction, to undergo training or counselling, and to help
organize activities in their local group. Relatively few of them work for the
Church on a full-time or even part-time basis, although it is quite common for
Scientologists to spend some part of their adult life ‘on staff’, working in
administration, social reform campaigns, publishing or training and
counselling.

Scientology Ei not communitarian, but junior members of staff at Saint Hill,
for example, live in local Scientology-owned houses and hostels. The Church
provides accommodation for members of Scientology’s elite ‘religious order’ –
the ‘Sea Org’, but most other members, including senior staff, continue to live
in their own homes. The majority of Scientologists, who are not staff members,
remain in employment outside the movement.

How is Scientology organized?

The headquarters were located briefly in Florida after the phase of running the
movement from a sea-borne flotilla was abandoned in the mid-1970s. Since then,
operations have been centred on Southern California. In principle, authority
was distributed among many different agencies of the Church, but Hubbard’s
personal assistants always exercised a greet deal of power on his behalf. The
Guardians’ Office (controlling public relations, finance and legal matters) has
also been effective in clarifying official policies, deterring dissent, and
combating opponents. There was a purge of staff members in many branches of the
Church following the conviction of Hubbard’s wife and eight other officials in
1979 for various offences connected with burglary of US Federal agencies. The
headquarters’ staff is now reorganized in two parts: one is responsible for
training and counselling programmes, while the other administers Hubbard’s
literary estate. In 1993 the Church of Scientology and affiliated corporations
won tax exempt status in America as religious and charitable organisations.

Among the many organisations affiliated to the Church of Scientology, the most
widely known are Narconon, concerned with drug rehabilitation, and Criminon,
specialising in the reform of criminals.

Who joins?

The Church of Scientology claims a worldwide membership of 8 million people,
and it is likely that this number may have taken at least one Scientology
course at some time, It is safe to assume that the number of people who have
continued to take lots of courses in the UK over many years, and who have
worked periodically ‘on staff’, is in the tens of thousands. The number of
staff members in the UK in 1990 was said to be approximately 650, and worldwide
about 10,000. There does not seem to be anything strongly unusual or
unrepresentative about the social background of either casual or committed
Scientologists. Most of them make initial contact with the movement through
friends, reading the movement’s literature or accepting the offer of a free
personality test at a Scientology centre.

Problems, controversies

The Church of Scientology has given rise to considerable public concern about
some of its activities, For example, the practice of charging fees which
escalate sharply with the ascending level of training courses is criticized,
especially when large debts are incurred by Scientologists who wish to complete
the next course on offer. There have also been serious misgivings about the
Church’s readiness to retaliate aggressively against its opponents, including
ex-Scientologists and agencies of various states, Some ox-members have
complained about high levels of psychological pressure on Scientologists to
work excessively hard for minimal payment, and on potential dissidents and
defectors to comply with the robust style of leadership, It is not surprising,
then, that Scientology has been the subject of considerable litigation. The
movement often defends itself by claiming to have played a leading role in
exposing abuses in institutional psychiatry, establishing successful programmes
of rehabilitation from addiction, challenging secrecy in government, and
defending the right to freedom of religion.

Further reading

Hubbard, L.R. (1950, 1973) Dianet,cs: The Modern Science of Mental Health

and What is Scientology? (1992) both Copenhagen: New Era
Publications and both official Scientology publications,

Roy Wallis The Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of
Scientology.
London, Heinemann, 1976

For a more critical approach:

Miller, Russell (1987) Bare-Faced Messiah, London: Michael Joseph

There is also a booklet by Jon Atack – The Total Freedom Trap:
Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard
. Available from the
author at Theta Communications Limited, Avalon, Cranston Road,
East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 3HQ.

UK address: Church of Scientology, Saint Hill Manore, East Grinsteod, West
Sussex RH19 4JY Tel: 01342 324571

INFORM

Further information about Scientology, and about other new religious movements,
may be obtained from:

  INFORM

  Houghton Street,

  London,

  WC2A 2AE

  Tel: 0171-955 7654

New Religious Movements: A Practical Introduction (London: HMSO,
revised 1995) has been written by Professor Eileen Barker to provide practical
suggestions for parents, ministers, teachers and students, as well as general
background information for anyone interested in the beliefs and practices of
the movements. Obtainable from bookshops or the INFORM office (price £17
including p&p)

How INFORM can help you

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  • by putting you in touch with a nation-wide network of experts who know
    something about the movements
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with the support of the Home Office, the London School of Economics and the
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