"Man is an immortal spiritual being.
His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.
His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realised."
This intense belief system belongs to the Church of Scientology, founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Scientology is a controversial religious movement that has been criticised for its secretive practices, aggressive litigation against its critics, and claims of abuse and exploitation of its members. While it claims to offer spiritual enlightenment and personal empowerment to its followers, Scientology has faced opposition and scepticism from governments, former members, and human rights organisations due to its dangerous tendencies and unethical behaviour. Its severe manipulation of its members, coercing them into paying large sums of money for courses and services that turn out to be scams, and silencing disputers with lawsuits and intimidation tactics, has caused the Church of Scientology to be deemed a dangerous cult-like organisation.
Origins of Scientology:
Scientology is relatively new, nonetheless, it managed to grow faster than any other modern religion. Its belief system was first proposed by famous writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1950 with the publication of a book called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health". The book was, at its core, a self-help book that offered a sense of "psychological enlightenment" through a concept called mental auditing (more on that later). At the time of the writing of Dianetics, and the founding of Scientology, many Americans were interested in new religious experiences. Small churches grew quickly, gaining more and more members by the day. Self-help and psychology were generating lots of interest as well, with many people trying to improve their lives and relationships. In the 1950s, the USA was the fertile soil needed for the seeds of Scientology to grow. People thought: "Hey, here's an opportunity for me to achieve all my hopes and dreams, and live my best life", and that is precisely how the church baited its members. The time was right for a religion that addressed personal concerns and proposed the overlapping of faith and science.
In keeping with its secretive tendencies, Scientology does not advertise some of its core beliefs to outsiders. Experts on the religion say that church officials avoid discussing some of these beliefs with new members until they have been a part of the religion for a long time. Some (former) members of Scientology you might recognize include Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Elizabeth Moss, Anne Archer, and many others.
Beliefs and Language of Scientologists:
You can identify a member of Scientology just by having a conversation with them. Similarly to other known cults, the language used by members of Scientology is characterised by its unique terminology and concepts that relate to the beliefs and practices of the church. Some of these terms include "auditing", "clear" and "thetan". "Auditing" in Scientology refers to the process whereby an individual is taken through times in their current or past lives so they can rid the individual of negative influences from past events or behaviours. This can be done either through conversation or through the use of an "E-meter". The E-meter picks up signals from the body, in the same way that a polygraph lie detector might, and shows what phrases or memories trigger negative feelings in them. In the church, "auditing" is a process while "Clear" is the objective. Achieving "clear" means a person has successfully overcome their "reactive mind" and has complete control over their analytical mind, having suppressed any and all negative experiences from their memory and consequently disabling any detrimental effects those experiences may have caused them.
To put it generally, members of Scientology are expected to suppress, disconnect and neutralise any negative experience or feeling from their past, so they can ultimately become an "improved" member of society. At the heart of Scientology is the idea of a thetan, a spiritual being not belonging to a physical body, that floats through the universe looking for a host. Scientologists believe that at the time of a child's birth, a thetan comes down and attaches itself. It is believed that a person's character and behaviour is determined by the thetan. When attached, these thetans bring baggage from their past lives, and it is the role of the scientologist to increase their thetan level, or soul power, to resolve the thetan's past trauma and to become "clear". (Pretty eerie if you ask me).
The ultimate goal of anyone in Scientology is to go "clear" -to ascend to L. Ron Hubbard's highest level of enlightenment. The church dangles this ambition above all its members, however, its complex hierarchy of levels, that secretly goes on forever, ensures that going clear is not actually possible. Just when you arrive at what you have been led to believe is the finish line, they reveal that there is more. More books, more courses, and hence, more money flying out of your pocket. Now, you have no choice but to climb to the next level. Your superiors would insist. And where it once cost $5,000 to move up a level, it now could cost $100,000. Members of Scientology would inevitably go through the sunk cost fallacy, the tendency to continue an endeavour simply because it involved investing loads of money, effort, or time, prohibiting them from quitting. Not to mention the fact that members are led to believe that quitting would be cause to attract misfortune, disease, or even death.
Hubbard, founder of Scientology, is painted by Scientologists as "God's gift to humanity". Since the church operates on the logic that Hubbard's belief system is flawless, if you are in the church and unhappy, then it is your fault, and you did something to "pull it in". This is a classic thought-terminating cliché, a technique used by religious, political, and especially cult leaders for decades to put an end to any sort of discussion, debate, or questioning of their own belief system. Some examples of thought-terminating clichés you may have heard of are "it is what it is", "we'll have to agree to disagree", or "you only live once". While this language isn't always used in a negative light, cult leaders often are successful at using it to brainwash their members. In the case of Scientology, the biggest thought-terminating cliché is: "whatever negative experience you may be having, it is no one's responsibility but your's". "You made it happen". In Scientology, if you happen to have an issue with your marriage, a friend group, or a colleague at work, it is your fault, and you probably did something to attract that person's negativity. You are then expected to either "disconnect" from them entirely, or "get them on the bridge"- meaning convert them to Scientology.
The "cult" is so masterful when it comes to the language they use to manipulate their members, that they even have a term for those who aren't a part of the church. These are labelled "SPs" or "suppressive persons". If a Scientologist is in contact with friends or family who are critical of Scientology, they can be ordered to "disconnect" and completely sever contact with them. Scientologists are told that those friends or family are "SPs", and that they must disconnect to avoid them becoming a "Potential Trouble Source", or "PTS" and make them struggle to reach their "full potential". This is the church's way of making its members look at people who aren't in Scientology as less-than. Any criticisms of the organisation were labelled as "hidden crimes".
The Church of Scientology is controversial, to say the least. Many groups and individuals have challenged Scientology’s legitimacy as a religion, and it has faced opposition not only from the medical community over the religion’s claims about mental health, but also from the scientific community over its claims about its E-meter devices, and other religious groups about its status as a religion. Many members say the church is largely about self-improvement, while outsiders and former members who were able to leave the church are much more hesitant to defend it. Overall, the Church of Scientology remains a highly contentious and concerning group, and it is important for individuals to be cautious and sceptical when considering involvement with this organisation.