Introducing a New Religious Movement, one must be as objective as possible. I, for instance, could choose to tell you that L. Ron Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology in 1954 and marketed it as an organization for social reform that essentially became the global force it is today, with (young, professional, stylish, racially-diverse) adherents providing positive sound bites on Scientology.org that promote (in naturalistic, community-oriented settings) the religion as a confidence booster, a tool for improving grades, and a way to help the community. I could also introduce it by noting Hubbard's now notorious admission (cited in numerous letters and interviews in Russell Miller's Bare-Faced Messiah as well as in science-fiction writer Lloyd Arthur Eshbach's autobiography Over My Shoulder and reported by investigative journalist Eugene Methvin in 1980) that "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion" (Lindsay; Methvin). To view Scientology as objectively as possible, this paper will compare, contrast, and analyze an insider's view with an outsider's view of the religion.
An Insider's View of Scientology
According to the International Church of Scientology official website, Scientology "is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one's true spiritual nature and one's relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being" ("What is Scientology?"). It attracts by attacking the socio-political talking points of the day generally derided by conservative-minded individuals: a Scientologist "believes that Man is far more than a product of his environment, or his genes" ("What is Scientology?").
While there appear to be certain tenets of Scientology (for example: "Man is an immortal spiritual being," "His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime," "His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized"), the religion also appeals to the Protestant, non-sectarian ethos by proclaiming that it "is not a dogmatic religion in which one is asked to accept anything on faith alone. On the contrary, one discovers for oneself that the principles of Scientology are true by applying its principles and observing or experiencing the results" ("What is Scientology?"). Finally, Scientology appeals to the Romantic/Enlightenment doctrine of the French Revolution -- which has essentially formed the bedrock of all modern philosophy (with its motto "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality") -- by stating that "the ultimate goal of Scientology is true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for all" ("What is Scientology?").
Scientology also claims to "bridge Eastern philosophy with Western thought" -- and, yet, it "is something one does, not something one believes in" ("What is Scientology?"). Therefore, while it proclaims to be a "religion," it does not proclaim to set forth a creed. It attempts to show itself as a way like Buddhism and a "religion" that is more along the lines of the John Birch Society or Freemasonry.
Then again, as one goes deeper into the Scientology website, one comes across the actual Scientology creed. Is this a mistake? What is a creed if not an expression of belief, coming from the Latin credo, or "I believe"?
The confusion one may experience, however, is somewhat reduced by the perception that Scientology is built on the philosophy formed in Hubbard's Dianetics. In Dianetics, Hubbard defines man as a spirit that happens to have a mind and a body. People who read Dianetics were impressed by Hubbard's arguments. Several foundations were established to assist Hubbard with further research into mind, body, and spirit. It is this spirit that Scientology addresses. And since the spiritual had long been associated with the religious, Scientologists in Los Angeles established "the first Church of Scientology in February 1954" ("What is Scientology?").
However, what exactly Scientology is the Scientology website fails to answer precisely. The creed, once it is finally reached, reads more like the Declaration of Independence than the centuries old Nicene Creed of the Catholic Church -- which sets forth specific dogma. Far from explaining its ethos, Scientology.org instead relies upon positivistic jargon and the extensive collection of research by its founder as credible proof of its rational and scientific basis: "The full story of the development and codification of Scientology can be found in scores of books, more than 15,000 pages of technical writing and more than 3,000 taped lectures" ("What is Scientology?"). Essentially, Scientology is a library unto itself -- and for those who do not have the inclination to explore that library, Scientology offers its various creeds (the creed of the Church, of True Group Member, and of the Good and Skilled Manager) and codes (there are four of them), which effectively serve as a simplification of the results of Hubbard's work.
To use one example of a Scientology code, I will look at the Auditor's Code. In this code are several terms given new definitions by Hubbard: Auditor, for example, is not used in the context of taxes, but in the sense of one who merely examines; likewise, there is mention of the "Clear" and the "preclear" -- words that are not defined within the Code itself. Nonetheless, the first article of the Code establishes the absolute authority of the preclear: "I promise not to evaluate for the preclear or tell him what he should think about his case in session." Further examination implies that a preclear is a kind of novice on the beginning road to Scientology. The object of the Auditor, so it appears, is to guide the preclear in the same way a physician would attempt to help a patient -- but as in Freudian psychoanalysis, the preclear is expected to arrive at conclusions himself, as revealed in article 25: "I promise not to advocate Dianetics or Scientology only to cure illness or only to treat the insane, knowing well they were intended for spiritual gain." Overall, the Auditor's Code resembles in some respect the seal of confession to which a priest is bound.
Perhaps one of the most famously recognized Scientologists is Tom Cruise. To elaborate upon what a Scientologist believes and the conviction with which it is believed, I will give a few examples of an interview with Tom Cruise on Scientology. According to Cruise, a Scientologist "has the ability to create new and better realities and improve conditions…Being a Scientologist, you look at someone and you know absolutely that you can help them." Cruise thus appears to relate esteem, confidence, and power with Scientology. He describes his conversion to Scientology in this manner:
So for me it really is KSW ["Keeping Scientology Working"] and it's just like, it's…it's something that, uh…I don't mince words with that, you know, with anything that LRH ["tech" -- Scientology policy] does -- but that policy to me has really gone pfft [makes a motion of cutting the air with his hand like a knife] -- boy -- and I -- I -- there was a time I went through and I said you know what…when I read it I, you know, I -- just went, phoo! -- this is it, it's exactly it. ("Tom Cruise Scientology Video")
Cruise goes on to offer an analogy of what being a Scientologist is like -- and it appears that being a Scientologist is like a being a duty-bound Samaritan in a role superior to that of ordinary citizens: "Being a Scientologist…when you drive past an accident…it's not like anyone else -- it's you drive past, you know you have to do something about it because -- you know you're the only one that can really help" ("Tom Cruise Scientology Video").
Cruise also gives an interesting view into the psychology behind Scientology and its mission, at least as he perceives it to be:
I won't hesitate to put in ethics on someone else, you know…'cause I put it ruthlessly in on myself…and I think that, uh…I respect that in, in others…and…uh, you know, I'm there to help, and we're here to help…and my opinion is -- is that, look, you're -- you're on board, or you're not on board -- okay? -- but just -- if you're on board, you're on board just like the rest of us -- period…. We are the authorities on getting people off drugs. We are the authorities on the mind. We are the authorities on improving conditions; Criminon [a group that works with convicts]…we can rehabilitate criminals…. Way to happiness -- we can bring peace…uh…and unite cultures…uh…that, once you know these tools and you know that they work, it's…it's not good enough that, uh, I'm just doing okay. ("Tom Cruise Scientology Video")
The impression Cruise gives of the Scientologist's mission is that it is to help. How it is to help is, presumably, through its various social reform programs. But to find out more about these programs, one must look elsewhere.
ScientologyReligion.org gives the goal of Scientology, which is strikingly utopian: "A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings…