The Crux Project Archives: Religion
DUNNO MUCH SCIENTOLOGY
"You don't have to give something up to become a Scientologist . . .
We have people of all denominations study with us."
-Mike Klagenberg, Scientology administrator
With all the trigonometry and biology you’ve forgotten since school, are you also having trouble recollecting anything about Scientology? If so, you’re not alone.
For most people, scientology didn’t become a blip on the radar until the "Cruise strike" on Access Hollywood. It was there that Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for using Paxil to treat post-partum depression. That was followed by the soiree with Matt Lauer, in which Cruise counseled Lauer about the evils of psychiatry and the dangers of therapeutic drugs.
But the real shocker came when Cruise—in punch-drunk love over Katie Holmes—buzzed the Oprah Winfrey Show, pounding the floor, jumping on the couch, and wrestling his hostess in an unbridled display of puerile euphoria.
Where did Tom get all this medical sapience and uncontained passion? From Scientology, of course, which Cruise also credits with helping him think and make decisions, not to mention curing his dyslexia. Ever since Cruise appointed his sister (and fellow Scientologist) as his publicist, Tom has become Scientology’s top-gun crusader.
Why is he doing this? As Cruise told the Access Hollywood audience, "Because I care, man. I care. I care about you . . . every one of you. And I mean it. That is not just words to me."
Other celebs coming out in praise of Scientology include Kirstie Alley, who claims it helped her kick drug addiction, and John Travolta, who says it helped make him what he is today. With that kind of star power, you’ve got a potent gospel. After all, isn’t that what we all want—to be better people, freed from our addictions? At least one young woman thinks so.
When asked about Tom’s Cruise-ade, a young admirer commented that if scientology has helped him to become a more effective, more caring person, she would like to learn more about it. If she’s reading, maybe this will help.
The making of a religion
In 1950, sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, debunking traditional psychotherapy. According to Hubbard, all man’s ills, from wrinkles to cancer, are due to past traumatic experiences called engrams.
The dianetic technique involves "clearing" embedded engrams through an "auditing" process. Once "clear," a person is liberated to experience increased levels of self-actualization. The whole process is both long (decades to a lifetime) and expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars).
Dianetics quickly became a bestseller. Yet, by 1954, Hubbard’s funds began drying up. It was around that time Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology. In a candid interview in 1983, Hubbard’s son admitted that his father’s motive was money: "He told me and a lot of other people that the way to make a million was to start a religion." Hubbard manufactured his religion by taking the principles of Dianetics and expanding them from the physical and psychological to the spiritual.
One important insight is though Hubbard publicly, and in his teachings, denounced the use of drugs—therapeutic, as well as, recreational—privately, Hubbard was a drug user from an early age. High levels of therapeutic drugs found in his post-mortem autopsy revealed that Hubbard’s drug use extended throughout his life.
Despite such incongruity, Hubbard’s brainchild now claims 700 churches in 65 countries with a worldwide membership of 8 million, though critics believe that number is highly inflated, being more like 50,000.
While many take issue with its religious designation, Scientology, like all other religions, has its spin on the great questions of life: How did it all begin? What went wrong? Is there a solution? And how will it end? The same themes of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration found within the more familiar Christian tradition.
Although Hubbard’s account of these themes is irreconcilably at odds with Christianity, Tom Cruise insists that one "could be a Christian and a Scientologist." In fact, Mike Klagenberg, a Scientology director in Sacramento, describes himself as a Christian. So is Scientology compatible with Christianity or not? Let’s take a look.
How did it all begin?
The biblical narrative says that "the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible." Everything that exists is a product of the non-contingent, eternal Word who spoke the cosmos into being ex nihilo (from nothing). Included in his creative act is man, a being with physical existence created Imago Dei (in the image of God).
To understand the creation narrative of Scientology, one must first understand the nature of man. Scientology teaches that man is a "thetan," an inherently good being that is both eternal and spiritual. Like the Hindu Atman, a thetan passes from life to life through death and re-birth. Collectively, thetans comprise a pantheistic version of God.
Hubbard’s account tells of restless thetans who, some gazillion years ago, began mentally emanating a plethora of universes to fight boredom. The universe we inhabit—a mental projection with no objective existence—is but one of those creations.
What went wrong?
The biblical narrative continues with the story of the Fall. Man is given the powers of reason, creativity, and self-awareness with knowledge of transcendence and finitude. But he is also given the dignity of moral accountability through the exercise of free will.
Man’s exercise of choice soon leads to a chasm between God and man. In an original act of rebellion, a contagion was introduced into God’s universe and, like a spiritual AIDS, began infecting everything it touched. The corruption in man inclines him to exalt self above God, his fellow man, and all else, leaving the whole creation groaning for relief and repair.
In Hubbard’s narrative, thetans eventually became so enamored with their creations that they forgot their true nature and became enslaved into the material existence they had projected. Add to that the countless engrams accumulated over eons, and their once omnipotent, spiritual essence was reduced to that of physical response mechanisms. This "fall," through pandemic memory loss, is responsible for all human suffering and misery.
Is there a solution?
For the Christian, the pressing effects of evil like war, poverty, crime, and environmental pollution are rooted not as much in the mind of man or his institutions as in his heart.
Therefore, the solution to evil is not information, technique, or improved social programs, but re-creation—an extreme makeover initiated by a graceful God through the redemptive act of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only through inside-out re-creation can evil be overcome by good.
Scientology, on the other hand, says that because man is basically good and evil is the product of universal amnesia, we don’t need redemption; rather, we need remembrance. It is not the grace of a merciful God but the work of enlightened "auditors," that enables us to rediscover our divine identity and apply our omnipotence to make evil obsolete.
How will it all end?
The end of the story is Christ’s physical return to Earth, his final victory over the powers of evil, and the restoration of all things. With all enemies removed, Christ receives his church into a world made new—where joys await that “no eye has seen nor ear heard, or mind conceived what God has prepared for them who love him.”
In Scientology, the end comes not by the hand of God but by the power of man. And, for a movement that claims to be Christian-friendly, the source of that power comes from our ultimate adversary.
According to Ron Jr., his father was a friend and admirer of the famous occultist Aleister Crowley. Crowley’s plunge into the occult was so deep that he identified himself as the Antichrist. After Crowley’s death, Hubbard assumed the mantle of his mentor, writing in reference to the end times " . . . the anti-Christ, will reign and his opinions will have sway . . . My mission could be said to fulfill the Biblical promise represented by this brief anti-Christ period."
The whole of the law
Gizmos and gadgets come with operating instructions. Manufacturers understand that their devices work best when run in accordance with their design. The same is true for us. We work best when we operate in a manner consistent with our make-up.
The gospel writer, Luke, tells of a hotshot lawyer who asked Jesus how he could gain eternal life. In their familiar exchange we learn that it is by loving God and loving neighbor. That is a laser point of light on our design. By putting God first, others next, and self last, we are in harmony with our design, and aligned to experience the true joy for which we were created.
L. Ron Hubbard, in co-opting the code of Aleister Crowley, inverts the designed order placing self first, others next, and God across the chasm. Such has been the tendency of man since the Fall. •
© 2014 Salvo magazine. Published by The Fellowship of St. James. All rights reserved.