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[From Olav Hammer and Mikael Rothstein, eds. The Cambridge Companion to
New Religious Movements. Cambridge University Press 2012, pp. 133-149]
Scientology: Up Stat, Down Stat
James R. Lewis
Scientology has probably received the most persistent criticism of
any church in America in recent years. But ?Scientologists bear some of
the responsibility?. ?They turn critics into enemies and enemies into
dedicated warriors for a lifetime.?
The Church of Scientology is a psychotherapeutically-oriented
religion founded in the mid-twentieth century by L. Ron Hubbard
(1911-1986). Hubbard?s extensive writings and taped lectures constitute
the beliefs and the basis for the practices of the Church. Hubbard was
a talented fiction writer and adventurer deeply interested in the human
psyche. Scientology grew out of Dianetics, a popular therapy movement
founded by Hubbard in the early 1950s.
Rather like ancient Gnosticism, Scientology views human beings as
pure spirits (?Thetans?) trapped in MEST (the world of Matter, Energy,
Space and Time). Humanity?s ultimate goal is to achieve a state of
total freedom in which?rather than being pushed around by external
circumstances and by our own subconscious mind?we are ?at cause? over
the physical universe. Unlike traditional Gnosticism, achieving this
exalted state of total freedom does not require that we distance
ourselves from everyday life. Instead, the greater our spiritual
freedom, the more successful we will be at the ?game of life.?
Though other non-traditional religious groups that have been
involved in dramatic incidents have attracted more public attention for
short periods of time, the Church of Scientology is arguably the most
persistently controversial of all contemporary New Religious Movements
(NRMs). As a consequence of its involvement in numerous legal
conflicts, Scientology has acquired a reputation as a litigious
organization, ready to sue critics or anyone else who portrays the
Church in an unfavorable light. Partly as a consequence of this fierce
reputation, academicians have tended to avoid publishing studies about
Scientology outside the esoteric realm of scholarly journals.
Thus, at present, there exist only a handful of scholarly,
English-language books about the Church, Roy Wallis?s The Road to Total
Freedom (1976), Harriet Whitehead?s anthropological study, Renunciation
and Reformation: A Study of Conversion in an American Sect (1987), J.
Gordon Melton?s short (80 pages) treatment, The Church of Scientology
(2000), and James R. Lewis?s anthology, Scientology (2009). The church
has generally not interfered with the publication of academic papers,
and the bulk of the scholarly literature on Scientology is in the form
The Founder and the Early History of the Church
L. Ron Hubbard grew up mostly in Montana, but also lived in
Nebraska, Seattle, Washington, and Washington, D.C. According to his
official biography, he informally studied psychology, philosophy, and
religion during his youth. In 1929 he enrolled in George Washington
University, studying mathematics and engineering. The Church of
Scientology often calls attention to the fact that Hubbard took one of
the first courses in nuclear physics, but neglects to mention that he
failed the course and dropped out of college before receiving a degree.
He began a literary career in the early 1930s. He published
numerous stories and screenplays in various genres, including adventure,
mystery and science fiction. Hubbard served in the United States Navy
during World War II. He was injured during the war, and it is claimed
the he used some of his own theories concerning the human mind to assist
in his healing. Scientology has its roots in the ?cultic milieu? of
the mid-twentieth century industrialized West (the milieu that later
evolved into the New Age Movement) and draws on certain themes in
American popular culture. It clearly bears the imprint of American
culture?s interest in self-help psychology and popularized
psychoanalysis. Though the Church asserts that its closest relative
among the world religions is Buddhism, Scientology is more indebted to
the New Thought movement for its focus on the solution of practical
problems. Hubbard was also influenced by Will Durant?s popularized
history of Western philosophy, The Story of Philosophy (1926),
particularly Durant?s presentation of Spinoza?s psychology. Though
critics have accused Hubbard of having been influenced by the
controversial occultist Aleister Crowley, Hubbard?s teachings bear
little resemblance to Crowley?s.
In 1950, Hubbard published Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental
Health. This book presented techniques aimed at ridding the ?reactive
mind? (Scientology?s term for the subconscious) of the residues of
traumas that Hubbard postulated lie at the source of irrational
behaviors and psychosomatic illnesses. Dianetics quickly became a
bestseller, and groups were soon formed to practice Hubbard?s
techniques. He lectured extensively and wrote more books. In 1951 he
announced Scientology, described as different from Dianetics because it
dealt not only with the mind (the focus of Dianetics), but also with
humanity?s spiritual nature.
In 1954, the first Church of Scientology was established in Los
Angeles, California. In 1959 Hubbard moved to Saint Hill Manor, in
Sussex, England, and the worldwide headquarters of Scientology was
re-located there. In 1966, Hubbard resigned his position as Executive
Director of the Church and formed the Sea Organization (often referred
to as the ?Sea Org?; upper level Scientology Organizations are referred
to as ?Orgs?), a group of dedicated members of the Church who lived
aboard large, ocean-going ships. In 1975 these activities outgrew the
ships, and were moved onto land in Florida and California. From this
time forward until his death in 1986, Hubbard continuously wrote and
published materials on the subjects of Dianetics and Scientology, as
well as a number of works of science fiction.
Hubbard has the distinction of being the world?s most translated
author. His publications number over a thousand (all of his lectures
were recorded and later transcribed into publications). They cover a
wide variety of subjects from communication and the problems of work to
past lives. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health has
continued over the years to be a best seller.
Hubbard was a complex character. On the one hand, he was brilliant
and charismatic. On the other hand, he was controlling and overly
sensitive to criticism. He has often been accused of being a power- and
money-hungry charlatan. In response to the oft-cited but probably
apocryphal Hubbard remark?about how, ?If a man really wanted to make a
million dollars, the best way would be to start his own
religion??Harriet Whitehead offered the observation that:
Elements of hype and razzle-dazzle, however, do not necessarily a
con artist make. Taken in the context of Hubbard?s long-term commitment
to the elaboration, promulgation, and defense of his idea system, even
during financially unrewarding years, and also in light of the
barricades of secrecy, conspiracy theory, and defensive litigation with
which he surrounded his embattled organization (see Wallis
1976:190-241), these traits seem less indicative of greed for gain than
part of an egoistic complex that often characterizes visionaries, cranky
Beliefs and Practices
Up until the middle of the twentieth century, most people accorded
science and science?s child, technology, a level of respect and prestige
enjoyed by few other social institutions. Thus any religion claiming to
be scientific drew on the prestige and perceived legitimacy of natural
science. The appropriation of the term ?science? by groups such as
Christian Science and Science of Mind embody this pattern. The Church
of Scientology is in this same lineage, though Scientology takes the
further step of explicitly referring to their religio-therapeutic
practices as religious technology?in Scientology jargon, the ?tech.? In
much the same way as the 1950s viewed technology as ushering in a new,
utopian world, Scientologists see their psycho-spiritual technology as
supplying the missing ingredient in existing technologies?namely the
therapeutic engineering of the human psyche
The Church of Scientology believes that ?Man is basically good,
that he is seeking to survive, (and) that his survival depends on
himself and upon his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the
universe.? This is achieved in Scientology by two methods, referred to
as ?auditing? and ?training.? Dianetics and Scientology auditing
(counseling of one individual by another) consists of an ?auditor?
guiding someone through various mental processes in order to first free
the individual of the effects of the ?reactive mind,? and then to fully
realize the spiritual nature of the person. The reactive mind is said
to be that part of the mind that operates on a stimulus-response basis,
and is composed of residual memories of painful and unpleasant mental
incidents (termed ?engrams?) that unconsciously exert control over the
individual. When the individual is freed from these undesired effects,
s/he is said to have achieved the state of ?Clear,? which is the goal
of Dianetics counseling. An individual can then go on to higher levels
of counseling dealing with his or her nature as an immortal spiritual
being, referred to in Scientolgy as a ?Thetan,? and eventually achieve
the state of ?Operating Thetan? (usually abbreviated ?OT?).
Scientologists believe in reincarnation?specifically, that a Thetan has
lived many lifetimes in a human body before this one and will live more
lifetimes in the future.
Scientology training consists of many levels of courses about: 1)
improving the daily life of individuals by giving them various tools
(e.g., concerning communication), and 2) learning the techniques of
auditing so that one can counsel others. Scientology teaches people
enrolled in its courses a rather elaborate system of practical
psychology, along with a new vocabulary involving such notions as the
?tone scale? (which arranges various emotional states into a
hierarchy), the ?eight dynamics? (a hierarchy of increasingly more
general levels of the urge to survive), the ?e-meter? (a device based
on lie-detector technology that helps auditors locate a client?s
psychological and spiritual issues), to the ?ARC? triangle (affinity,
reality, and communication), and the like. Progress along the
Bridge?Scientology?s spiritual path?is also arranged into a hierarchy of
levels, from pre-Clear, to Clear, to eight Operating Thetan levels
(Hubbard actually delineated more than eight levels, but these higher
levels were never released).
Unlike many other NRMs, its membership includes people from a wide
variety of ages and backgrounds. There are also numerous community
action and social reform groups affiliated with Scientology that concern
themselves with literacy (the World Literacy Crusade), education (the
Study Tech), drug rehabilitation (Narconon), the rehabilitation of
criminals (Criminon), and other issues.
Scientologists refer to a Supreme Being, but do not worship any
deity as such, instead focusing on the application of Scientology
principles to daily life. One unusual aspect of the Church is that
members are not discouraged from actively participating in other
religions, though few upper level Scientologists or full-time staff
actually do so.
Many critics have focused on the so-called ?space opera,? which
involves secret teachings only revealed to Scientologists at the OT III
level. The reasoning behind these critics? focus appears to be that?as
captured in Mikael Rothstein?s words?it seems ?so utterly stupid that it
unwittingly provides the best argument why people should denounce L.
Ron Hubbard?s teachings and altogether avoid the organization he
founded.? Another sore point for critics is that Scientologists who
have reached the OT III level routinely deny the existence of these
inner teachings (what has been referred to as the Xenu narrative) rather
than simply stating that they are not permitted to discuss it.
Part of the problem appears to be that upper level Scientologists
take these teachings literally, as potent information that must be kept
secret from the uninitiated. However, as Whitehead points out, ?Hubbard
was careful to emphasize that these accounts are speculation, not
established fact,? and that he often presented this information in a
?tongue-in-cheek tone?.Hubbard?s interest in the universal incidents was
less in their character of unalterable revelation than in their
usefulness as a springboard for his technical abstractions.? In the
case of the Xenu narrative, Hubbard?s purpose was likely to provide an
etiology for the ?body thetans? that are exorcised during OT III
processing rather than to reveal timeless truths.
One of the first new religions in the second half of the twentieth
century to be embroiled in controversy, Scientology eventually prevailed
in the majority of its legal suits in North America and played a leading
role in destroying the Cult Awareness Network, the most important
anti-cult organization in the United States. While earlier
controversial religions like the Jehovah?s Witnesses had attracted
controversy as a consequence of their very public proselytizing,
Scientology?s initial point of friction with the larger society was its
challenge to the medical and psychotherapeutic establishments. During
the initial stages of the Dianetics movement, Hubbard naively contacted
medical and psychiatric associations, explaining the significance of his
discoveries for mental and physical health, and asking that the AMA and
the APA investigate his new technique. Instead of taking this offer
seriously, these associations responded by attacking him. The
subsequent popular success of Dianetics did nothing to improve the image
of Hubbard in the collective mind of the medical-psychiatric
establishment, and was likely instrumental in prompting an FDA raid
against the Church.
On 4 January 1963, the Founding Church of Scientology in
Washington, DC, was raided by United States marshals and deputized
longshoremen, acting in behalf of the Food and Drug Administration.
Five thousand volumes of Church scriptures, 20,000 booklets and 100
e-meters were seized. In 1971, after years of litigation, the U.S.
District Court for the District of Columbia issued the Founding Church
of Scientology v. United States decision. The Food and Drug
Administration was ordered to return the books and e-meters that had
been taken in the 1963 raid. In its decision, the court recognized
Scientology?s constitutional right to protection from the government?s
excessive entanglement with religion. Though the raid was declared
illegal, the seized documents remained in government possession and were
open to public scrutiny.
According to these documents, the Church was keeping files on
people it considered unfriendly. The documents also revealed that there
had been various attempts by Scientology to infiltrate anti-cult
After the raid, the Church?s Guardian?s Office sent a number of top
officials incognito into selected government agencies that were
collecting data on Scientology. Several members were eventually
indicted and convicted for theft of government documents. The convicted
members were released from their positions within the Church. The
Church of Scientology then closed the Guardian?s Office, which had been
responsible for initiating illegal activities. It was thus made to
appear that the Church of Scientology had disbanded a rogue office.
However, the Church?s Office of Special Affairs, which was the
organizational successor to the Guardian?s Office, has subsequently been
accused of continuing most of the objectionable practices of the
In 1991, Time magazine published a front-page story attacking
Scientology, which subsequently responded with a massive public
relations campaign and with a lengthy series of full-page ads in USA
Today. Early in 1992 the Church filed a major lawsuit against Time,
after discovering that the maker of Prozac?a psychiatric drug
Scientology had been active in opposing?had been the ultimate prompter
of Time?s assault on the Church. This suit was eventually dismissed.
The Church of Scientology was also involved in extended conflicts
with the Australian, French, and German governments, and problems with
the IRS through the 1980s and 1990s. Hubbard was charged with criminal
tax evasion, and the IRS often moved against the Church in ways that
questioned its tax-exempt status. These problems terminated in a
landmark decision in 1993, when the IRS ceased all litigation and
recognized Scientology as a legitimate religious organization.
Following this decision, the Church redirected its legal resources
against the Cult Awareness Network, and managed to sue the group out of
existence by 1996. Scientology in North America then entered a period
of relative calm, but more recently the Church has been in the news
again because of the public activities of Scientologist Tom Cruise, a
high-profile episode of the TV show ?South Park? that led to the
resignation of the late Isaac Hayes (another celebrity Scientologist)
from South Park, and an expos? article that appeared in Rolling Stone
in early 2006.
In 2008, an Internet group calling itself Anonymous began a
campaign against the Church of Scientology that involved, among other
strategies, picketing Church facilities and harassing Scientologists.
The most recent controversy involves Scientology?s current leader, David
Miscavige, who has been accused of abusing Church members. The source
of these accusations has been numerous high-level defectors who have
taken their stories to the press. There was a particularly notable
series of articles based around interviews with these ex-members
published in the St. Petersburg Times in 2009.
The St. Petersburg Times expos? subsequently prompted a number of
TV news programs?BBC?s Panorama and CNN?s AC360?to air special programs
based around the physical and psychological abuse of these ex-members.
Patterns of Organizational Self-Sabotage
In the majority of conflicts, the Church of Scientology has proven
to be its own worst enemy. Thus, for example, the covert infiltration
of U.S. government agencies has been responsible for generating some of
the Church?s worst publicity.
The Church has also frequently employed the strategy of attempting
to block publications?both popular and scholarly?judged to be critical
of Scientology. Once again, this aggressive tactic has produced far
more negative publicity than if the Church had simply ignored these
One of the more heavy-handed practices has been to declare anyone
who criticized Scientology a ?suppressive person? (S.P.). As
originally formulated, suppressive persons were ?fair game,? meaning,
among other things, that they could be ?Tricked, sued or lied to or
destroyed.? The fair game policy was terminated only after Hubbard
concluded that it resulted in ?bad public relations,? though he added
that this does not ?cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an
In more recent years, the Church of Scientology has waged a
vigorous campaign against online critics, which has led Scientology to
become one of the most attacked religions on the Internet. Church
leaders appear to believe that they can use the same unproductive tactic
they have used over and over again in the past to obtain a different
result in the present. Whitehead observes that distortion often enters
into the Church?s conflicts as a result of its ?overreaction to threat
and its unwillingness to examine its role in provoking or exacerbating
hostile reactions. Conflicts, rather than being defused, are often
In addition to attacking the Church?s critics, Hubbard also adopted
harsh policies regarding ex-members. As part of declaring a former
member to be an S.P., individuals who had been personally close to the
ex-member (e.g., family members, close friends, or even a spouse) were
required to cut off all communication. Though comparable to the Amish
practice of ?shunning,? Scientology disconnections involve additional
practices, such as former associates sending ?disconnection letters? to
ex-members. In recent (2011) media interviews, current members of the
Church of Scientology have adamantly denied the existence of the
Church?s disconnection policy.
This ill-advised policy has helped transform many otherwise
neutral-to-moderately-critical ex-members into devoted enemies of the
Church. Research on apostates from other alternative religions has
demonstrated that, on the whole, ex-members generally tend to be at
least mildly positive about their membership years. In my own research,
I have also observed that many individuals who drop out of full-time
involvement in a new religion would prefer to remain linked to the group
as a part-time participant?if that option is available to them?and
sometimes will later rejoin as a full-time member after a longer or
shorter period of reflection outside of their former group. This
scenario is obviously far less likely in a religious organization that
adopts an attitude of sustained hostility toward former participants.
These policies help to explain the emergence and growth of the
?Free Zone.? The Free Zone refers to the large, but loosely-organized
community of people who consider themselves Scientologists, but who are
not members of the Church of Scientology. Across the course of the
sixty years of the Church?s existence, tens of thousands of
Scientologists have left the fold. Many of these former members left
for personal or for organizational reasons, and continue to believe in
Scientology as a religious philosophy. Because of Church policies
toward ex-members, rapprochement with the Church of Scientology is
extremely difficult, creating the conditions for the emergence of an
independent Scientology community.
Over the years there have been numerous schisms and alternative
organizations, some of which have been sued out of existence by the
Church. At one point, Hubbard?s own son left the Church to set up a
more profitable private practice. This led Hubbard to begin utilizing
e-meter technology for ?security checks? that identified potentially
disloyal staff members. Hubbard also regularly sacked high-ranking
Scientologists (most of whom subsequently left the Church) who he
thought might one day challenge his authority. One result of this
preemptive policy?in combination with certain other ill-considered
actions, such as the Mission Holder?s Conference that led to the schism
of 1982/3 ?was to place numerous highly-trained, upper level
Scientologists outside of Church control.
The emergence of the Internet within the past couple of decades has
been a boon to the Free Zone. It has not only provided Freezoners with
a forum for airing grievances against the Church, but the Internet has
also provided more recent ex-members with points of contact for becoming
affiliated with the Free Zone. Given the decline of the Church in
recent years, it may well be that independent Scientologists will one
day outnumber members of the Church of Scientology.
NRM Scholarship on Scientology
The field of NRM studies as we know it in Western countries came
into its own in the 1970s, though NRM studies had emerged several
decades earlier in Japan in the wake of the explosion of religious
innovation following the end of the second world war. Even the name
?new religions? is a direct translation of the expression shin shukyo
that Japanese sociologists coined to refer to this phenomenon. Though
the generation of new religious groups has been an ongoing process for
millennia, the study of such groups and movements was the province of
pre-existing academic specializations (e.g., social anthropology) in the
West until the Seventies.
However, when a wave of non-traditional religiosity emerged out of
the declining counterculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s,
academicians at first perceived it as representing a different
phenomenon from prior cycles of religious innovation, and NRMs initially
attracted scholars from a wide variety of disciplines who were
interested in assessing the broader cultural significance of New
Religions. It was at this juncture that the study of NRMs began to
develop as a distinct field of scholarship in Western countries.
This academic landscape changed over the course of the Seventies.
By the latter part of the decade, it had become clear that new religions
were not indicative of a broader social transformation?or at least not
the kind of transformation observers had anticipated. Also during the
Seventies, issues raised by the cult controversy?issues like conversion
and ?brainwashing??gradually came to dominate the field. Because social
conflict and social control are bread-and-butter issues for sociology,
more and more sociologists were drawn to the study of new religions. By
the end of the decade, the study of NRMs was a recognized specialization
within the sociology of religion.
The Church of Scientology was one of the first modern NRMs to be
utilized as a case study in this new field. Some of the earliest
serious research was carried out by Roy Wallis. In his classic The Road
to Total Freedom, and in some of his articles, Wallis used his research
on Scientology as the basis for his theory of ?sectarianization,? which
was a way of interpreting Scientology?s transformation from an
individualistic cult to an authoritarian sect. Wallis was also
interested in developing a new typology for NRMs. In his schema,
Scientology was a prominent example of a ?world-affirming? (as opposed
to a ?world-rejecting? or a ?world-accommodating?) movement.
In their ?Of Churches, Sects and Cults,? Rodney Stark and William
Sims Bainbridge put forward another influential typology that classified
cults into audience cults, client cults, and cult movements. Comparable
to Wallis?s use of the cult-sect distinction, Stark and Bainbridge?s
tripartite classification was utilized by Paul Schnabel to describe the
evolution of Scientology from the period of Hubbard as an audience cult
leader (when his following was confined to readers of Dianetics and
other early titles), to the formation of his fully-blown cult
movement?the Church of Scientology. More recently, David G. Bromley
has utilized the Church of Scientology to exemplify a ?prophetic,
contractual religion,? which is a classification in his typology of
When new religious movements first became the subject of serious
social-scientific inquiry in Western countries in the 1960s and 1970s,
researchers initially focused on trying to understand how and why
members became involved. Though the topic of conversion was gradually
displaced from the center stage of NRM studies, it is still the single
most discussed subject in the field. There is general agreement among
researchers that such converts are disproportionately young. In Lorne
Dawson?s survey of NRM conversion studies, he briefly covers the
psychology of why people join alternative religions. Both of the
studies he summarizes?Eileen Barker?s study of the Unification Church
and Saul Levine?s longitudinal study of NRM members ?portray involvement
as a crisis of youth. However, data from James Lewis?s and Nicholas
Levine?s recent (2010) study of a high-demand group indicating that the
average recruit is middle-aged calls this generalization into question.
There were, however, much earlier studies which should have prompted
researchers to question the youth-crisis model decades ago, particularly
the research reported in Wallis?s Road to Total Freedom, which
determined that the average age at which people joined Scientology was
32 years old.
As a major new religion that neither claims continuity with any
prior religion (except for a tenuous parallel with Buddhism) nor asserts
that it grows out of a special revelation, Scientology is an especially
interesting case study for researchers analyzing this movement?s claims
to authority. Some observers have examined Scientology?s appeal to the
charismatic status of L. Ron Hubbard as a uniquely gifted individual.
A number of other observers have pointed out how Scientology appeals to
the authority of science rather than to a religious tradition. This
mode of analysis has been brought to bear on the question, hotly debated
in some countries, of whether or not Scientology should be regarded as a
religion. Additionally, the Church of Scientology is an obvious case
study for the analysis of ?invented traditions.? Because it is so often
embroiled in conflict, Scientology is also a useful case study for
analyses of the ?cult? controversy. As part of a larger effort to
discredit Scientology, critics have, as mentioned earlier, called
attention to what they regard as the transparent absurdity of the
Church?s secret teachings. Scholars of religion normally feel bound to
respect such prohibitions, but the fact that Scientology?s ?secret?
teachings are now widely available on the Internet places them in a
unique category. Mikael Rothstein has recently put forward an argument
for why researchers should make the Church of Scientology an exception
in this regard. Additionally, the Church?s efforts to control its own
image have extended to academicians, which has provoked resentment and
influenced at last some scholars to avoid researching Scientology?and
even, in a few cases, to become dedicated critics of Scientology.
The Future of Scientology and the Future of Scholarship on
Prediction is always a problematic business, especially with regard
to dynamic situations in which many variables can affect outcomes. Yet
it is probably safe to assert that the quantity of scholarship on
Scientology will increase. Scholars avoided undertaking extensive
research projects on the Church for many years, in large part because of
the kinds of interference Wallis and others encountered during their
research. However, Church officials finally seem to have realized that
their efforts to control what academicians write about Scientology does
them more harm than good. Thus, for example, the most recent
book-length treatment of the Church?my edited volume, Scientology
(2009)?contained material judged to be ?blasphemous? by members, yet
neither I nor my publisher were threatened with legal action. This
bodes well for the future of research on Scientology.
The future of the Church itself is less certain. I have observed
this organization for over two dozen years. For most of that time, it
seemed Scientology confronted every challenge, emerged victorious more
often than not, and continued to grow and even thrive in the face of
adversity. However, the relatively recent defection of large numbers of
long-time, high-level Scientologists?some of the most experienced
administrators and others with expertise in the highest levels of
Scientology technology?bodes poorly for the future of the Church. In
particular, the pattern of solid growth I analyzed just a few years ago
seems suddenly to have ground to a halt.
Based on the upgrading and expansion of its various worldwide
centers over the past several years, the organization appears to be
healthy from the outside. But funds for the upgrading of Church
facilities (for the so-called ?Ideal Orgs?) have been generated almost
entirely from new strategies for amplifying donations from current
members. For instance, new, slightly ?corrected? editions of Hubbard?s
basic books have been issued, and Scientologists have been asked to
purchase as many sets of volumes as they can afford so that complete
sets can be donated to libraries across the globe. This has all been
done in the name of the utopian ideal of ?clearing the planet.? But
placing books in public libraries is a poor strategy for spreading any
sort of message in a digital age.
Unless the Church is able to stop hemorrhaging top talent, stop
burdening its congregants with increasingly heavy donations, and, more
positively, develop better strategies for reaching new clients for
Scientology services, it appears to be headed for a sharp decline in
strength and numbers.
James R. Lewis, ed., Scientology. New York: Oxford University
Press, 2009. J. Gordon Melton, The Church of Scientology. Salt Lake
City, UT: Signature Books 2000. Hugh B. Urban, The Church of
Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2011. Roy Wallis, The Road to Total Freedom: A
Sociological Analysis of Scientology. New York: Columbia University
During his tenure as organizational head, L. Ron Hubbard
established the tradition of each branch of the Church sending in
reports on Thursdays. He then spent Fridays reading them. This is the
origin of the ?Thursday Report? that is the bane of many staff members.
The ideal Thursday Report embodies a measurable increase over the
preceding week?s report, which is referred to as being ?Up Stat.? A
decrease is referred to as ?Down Stat.?
Douglas Frantz, ?Boston Man in Costly Fight with Scientology,? New
York Times, 21 December 1997, 24. Cited in Douglas Cowan, ?Researching
Scientology: Perceptions, Premises, Promises, and Problematics.? In
James R. Lewis (ed.), Scientology (New York: Oxford University Press,
2009), p. 73. The quote is from an interview with J. Gordon Melton.
For general information, refer to J. Gordon Melton, The Church of
Scientology (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books 2000); Lewis,
Scientology; Dorthe Refslund Christensen, ?Rethinking Scientology:
Cognition and Representation in Religion, Therapy and Soteriology.?
Ph.D. dissertation, University of Aarhus, Denmark 1999; Roy Wallis, The
Road to Total Freedom: A Sociological Analysis of Scientology. (New
York: Columbia University Press, 1976); Harriet Whitehead, Renunciation
and Reformulation: A Study of Conversion in an American Sect. (Ithaca,
NY: Cornell University Press, 1987).
Hubbard likely drew this expression from the title of Florence
Scovel Shinn?s 1925 popular New Thought book, The Game of Life and How
to Play It, though his notion was significantly different than Shinn?s.
For an overview of Hubbard?s notion, refer to Harriet Whitehead,
?Reasonably Fantastic: Some Perspectives on Scientology, Science
Fiction, and Occultism.? In Religious Movements in Contemporary
America, ed. Irving I. Zaretsky and Mark P. Leone, pp. 547-87.
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974) and Whitehead,
Renunciation and Reformulation.
Cowan, ?Researching Scientology.? In Lewis Scientology, pp.
Wallis, Road to Total Freedom, 21, footnote #1.
Colin Campbell, "The Cult, the Cultic Milieu and Secularization."
In A Sociological Yearbook of Religion in Britain 5 (London: SCM Press,
1972), pp. 119-136.
Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy. The Lives and Opinions of
the Greater Philosophers. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1926).
Gerald Willms, ?Scientology: ?Modern Religion? or ?Religion of
Modernity??? In James R. Lewis (ed.), Scientology (New York: Oxford
University Press, 2009), pp. 245-265.
L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.
(New York: Paperback Library, 1950).
Many critics, including certain national governments, have rejected
Scientology?s status as a religion. In part, this seems to be based on
the ?misunderstanding that once the label is granted to Scientology,
then somehow one has approved of its basic goodness.? (Andreas
Gr?nschlo?, ?Scientology, a ?New Age? Religion?? In James R. Lewis
(ed.), Scientology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 227.
Once the ?goodness? issue is set aside, it is obvious that Scientology
is a religion ? and it certainly functions as a religion in the lives
of most members of the Church of Scientology (refer to the discussion in
Ibid., p. 227). On the other hand, Hubbard regarded
Dianetics-Scientology as a science rather than as a religion (as
discussed in Willms, ?Scientology?), meaning that Scientology was
incorporated as a religion for pragmatic purposes.
Whitehead, Renunciation and Reformation, pp. 53-54.
Mikael Rothstein, ??His name was Xenu, He used renegades?: Aspects
of Scientology?s Founding Myth,? In Lewis, Scientology, p. 383.
Whitehead, Renunciation and Reformulation, p. 170.
Ibid,, p. 172.
Ibid., p. 185.
James R. Lewis, Cults: A Reference Handbook (Santa Barbara,
John Bowen Brown, ?The Scientology Critic Group Anonymous: A
Research Paper.? A paper presented at The CESNUR Conference, Salt Lake
City, Utah, June 11-13, 2009.
L. Ron Hubbard, HCO Policy Letter, 18 October 1966. Cited in
Wallis, Road to Total Freedom, p. 144.
Sir John G. Foster, Enquiry into the Practice and Effects of
Scientology (London: HMSO, 1971), p. 129. Cited in Wallis, Road to
Total Freedom, p. 144.
Whitehead, Renunciation and Reformulation, p. 223, footnote #3.
As discussed in Wallis, Road to Total Freedom, pp. 144-145.
James R. Lewis, Seeking the Light (Mandeville Press, 1998); James
R. Lewis and Nicholas M. Levine, Children of Jesus and Mary: A Study
of the Order of Christ Sophia. (New York: Oxford University Press,
Wallis, Road to Total Freedom, p. 148.
Ibid., pp. 154-5.
Jon Atack, A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron
Hubbard Exposed (New York: Lyle Stuart Books, 1990), part 7, chapter 1.
It is generally agreed that it was the fallout from the Mission Holders?
Conference that led to the emergence of Free Zone Scientology.
James R. Lewis, ed. Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).
Wallis, Road to Total Freedom; Roy Wallis, ?Scientology:
Therapeutic Cult to Religious Sect.? Sociology, Vol. 9, No. 1,
(1975), pp. 89-100; Roy Wallis ?A Comparative Analysis of Problems and
Processes of Change in Two Manipulationist Movements: Christian Science
and Scientology.? In Contemporary Metamorphosis of Religion: Acts of
the Twelfth International Conference for the Sociology of Religion, pp.
407-422.( Lille, France: Edition du Secr?tariat CISR, 1973).
Inspired by Richard Niebuhr?s theory of ?denominationalism? as
presented in Niebuhr?s classic study, The Social Sources of
Denominationalism (New York: H. Holt and Company 1929).
Roy Wallis, The Elementary Forms of the New Religious Life (London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984).
Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, "Of Churches, Sects and
Cults," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 18 (1979), pp.
Paul Schnabel, ?Tussen stigma en charisma: nieuwe religieuze
bewegingen en geestelijke volksgezondheid/Between stigma and charisma:
new religious movements and mental health.? Erasmus University
Rotterdam, Faculty of Medicine, Ph.D. Thesis. (Deventer, Van Loghum
Slaterus, 1982, p. 82 & pp. 84-88).
David G. Bromley, ?Making Sense of Scientology: A Prophetic,
Contractual Religion.? In Lewis Scientology, pp. 83-101; David G.
Bromley, ?A Sociological Narrative of Crisis Episodes, Collective
Action, Culture Workers, and Countermovements,? Sociology of Religion
58 (1997), pp. 105-140.
Lorne L. Dawson, ?Who Joins New Religions and Why: Twenty Years of
Research and What Have We Learned?? In Lorne L. Dawson, ed. Cults and
New Religions: A Reader. (Oxford, UK: Blackwell 2003), pp. 116-130.
Eileen Barker, The Making of a Moonie: Choice or Brainwashing?
Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1984.
Saul V. Levine, ?Cults and mental health: Clinical conclusions.?
Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 26:8 (1981), pp. 534-539; Saul V.
Levine, Radical Departures: Desperate Detours to Growing Up. (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984).
Lewis and Levine, Children of Jesus and Mary.
Dorthe Refslund Christensen, ?Inventing L. Ron Hubbard: On the
Construction and Maintenance of the Hagiographic Mythology on
Scientology?s Founder,? In James R. Lewis. & Jesper Aagaard Pedersen,
eds., Controversial New Religions (New York: Oxford University Press
2005), pp. 227-259.
E.g., William Sims Bainbridge, ?Science and Religion: The Case of
Scientology.? In The Future of New Religious Movements, edited by David
G. Bromley and Phillip E. Hammond (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University
Press, 1987), pp. 59-79; Lewis Legitimating New Religions; Mikael
Rothstein, ?Science and Religion in the New Religions.? In Lewis The
Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements; James R. Lewis, ?The
Science Canopy: Religion, Legitimacy, and the Charisma of Science.?
Temenos 46:1, 2010; R?gis Dericquebourg, ?Legitimizing Belief through
the Authority of Science. The Case of the Church of Scientology.? In
James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer, eds. Religion and the Authority of
Science. (Leiden: Brill, 2010).
E.g., Gerald Willms, ?Scientology: ?Modern Religion? or ?Religion
of Modernity??? In Lewis Scientology, pp. 245-265.
Mikael Rothstein, ?Scientology, Scripture, and Sacred Tradition.?
In James R. Lewis and Olav Hammer, eds. The Invention of Sacred
Tradition (Cambridge University Press 2007), pp. 18-37.
E.g., Anson Shupe, ?The Nature of the New Religious Movements -
Anticult ?Culture War? in Microcosm: The Church of Scientology versus
the Cult Awareness Network.? In Lewis Scientology, pp. 269-281; James
T. Richardson, ?Scientology in Court: A Look at Some Major Cases from
Various Nations,? In Lewis Scientology, pp. 283-294; Susan J. Palmer,
?The Church of Scientology in France: A History of Legal and Activist
Responses to the Forces of Anti-cultism and the Government-sponsored
?War on Sectes?.? In Lewis, Scientology, pp. 295-322.
Rothstein, ?His name was Xenu,? pp. 365-387.
Cowan, ?Researching Scientology.?
Lewis ?The Growth of Scientology.?
Geir Isene, a Norwegian OT VIII who left the Church not too many
years ago, has been highly critical of the emphasis on new buildings
that constitute the centerpiece of the Ideal Org program, accusing the
new building program of being itself a covert strategy for enriching the
Church. In Isene?s words, ?I find the Ideal Org program to be a scam
where the church tries to add to its value of assets by pressuring its
public for money with no exchange back.?
(http://www.isene.com/GeirIseneDoubtCoS.pdf.) He cites L. Ron Hubbard
in support of his critique: ?When buildings get important to us, for
God?s sake, some of you born revolutionists, will you please blow up
central headquarters.? Hubbard Tape: The Genus of Scientology, 31
December 1960 (from: The Anatomy of the Human Mind Congress).
According to the pseudonymous ?Plockton,? who contacted the ARIS
(American Religious Identification Survey) researchers directly, the
ARIS estimate for the number of Scientologists in the U.S. for 2008 was
25,000. This contrasts sharply with the 55,000 figure from the 2001
ARIS survey. (?2008 ARIS Study on Scientology Membership in US ?
Important Data.? Posted March 28, 2009 at:
http://ocmb.xenu.net/ocmb/viewtopic.php?t=30372.) The drop in total
numbers was likely less dramatic than these figures indicate (due to
sampling issues discussed by Plockton in his posting). In 2011, there
will be national censuses in the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia,
all of which will produce figures for total numbers of self-identified
Scientologists. It will thus be relatively simple to contrast these
numbers with comparable data from the 2001 censuses (for Canada and the
UK) and from the 2006 censuses (for Australia and New Zealand). The net
figures derived from these comparisons should indicate decisively
whether membership in the Church of Scientology is growing, declining,
Homer Wilson Smith Clean Air, Clear Water, Art Matrix - Lightlink
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