Throughout the past month or so, I have been doing some intensive research on the church of Scientology. The thing with Scientology is that not many people actually know what it’s even about, including its members. Think about what you or the average person knows of the organization. Science? A creepy cult? Tom Cruise and John Travolta? Those were my thoughts too. So I took it upon myself to learn about where it comes from, what they practice, and all their dirty little secrets.
The church of Scientology was founded by a struggling author by the name of L. Ron Hubbard in 1954. Hubbard would write a wide array of science fiction novels and short stories, and actually holds the record for most books ever written and/or published, about over a million. He wrote day and night as at the time they would only pay writers one cent per word, and he needed the money to survive. After resigning from the U.S Navy in 1950 due to “war injuries” that later on turned out to be a total lie, Hubbard wrote one of his most iconic and important pieces of literature – “Dianetics – The Original Thesis”. This book is the basics of what Scientology is, if you can even understand it. The “movement” shall I call it, was a fad that was popular for a short while and then everyone just lost interest. This propelled Hubbard to create a new movement, which we know now as Scientology.
An interesting fact about Scientology is the reasoning behind why L. Ron Hubbard wanted to create a religion in the first place. In his 20’s, he would gather once a week with fellow authors living in the New York City area and they would discuss each other’s books and mingle I guess. A conversation had come up by Hubbard stating that he was dreading to pay his taxes as he could barely even afford it. A friend who overheard him piped up and told him as a joke that he should create a religion, as religions do not pay taxes. Being the man he was, Hubbard did exactly that.
As I understand, most Scientologists actually do not know what their religion preaches before spending years and lots of money to find out. I learned the basics of it in about an hour by googling it. The true backstory of Scientology (or Dianetics) is that billions of years ago, a galactic alien overlord named Xenu created 76 planets orbiting the stars with civilians similar to how our human beings were in the 1950’s. Apparently, these planets were severely overpopulated, so Xenu or whoever brought these beings to planet earth and dropped them in a volcano near Hawaii. Great population control technique. The theory is that each human being is comprised of Thetans, which is like a soul. It is believed that all our troubles, issues, anxieties, addictions etc are bad thetans that we absorbed at birth from those people that were tossed in the volcano ages ago. And the practice of Scientology is meant to rid you of your bad thetans so that you can live life to the fullest and be your best self. No, this is not the plot line of an episode of Doctor Who.
To liberate your inner thetans, they have a process called “auditing”. Auditing sessions happen to each Scientologist weekly/daily and are sort of like a twisted therapy. What basically happens is that an auditor will ask the Scientologist questions such as “Do you have a present time problem?”, “Is there anything you failed to reveal?”, “Is there anything you have been careful of?” and so on. A machine created by Hubbard called “E-Meter” which is strikingly similar to a lie detector is used by an auditor during this procedure. A small screen with “rise”, “set”, “fall”, and “test” and an arrow is used to indicate whether the person is being honest with their auditor or not. Similar to a simple lie detector, you hold the two metal cans which apparently monitor your pulse and brain waves or something like that. Through lengthy periods of questioning and answering, the auditor is supposedly able to find thoughts and memories from your past thetans (lives) and once they are rid, you are able to live a much happier and fulfilled life.
Auditing is really expensive. The church tends to amp up the price and time of a session each time, meaning that you could pay from $75 to $10,000 and up for your sessions. Another part of auditing is that the more you do it, the more seniority you gain in the religion. Once you reach your highest state possible, you become an Operating Thetan (OT). An OT is described to be in “a spiritual state above clear” meaning that you have full control over your physical and mental state. There are eight OT levels which one can achieve, and each one gives you more information on the backstory of Scientology. All auditors are OT’s and have much experience in the church. The average hourly wage of an auditor is an approximate $14.44 and is a career for many people with high OT levels in the church.
There are many career options inside Scientology, with the most popular one being the Sea Organization (Sea Org). The Sea Org was originally created in 1967 as a private navy for Hubbard to basically be his staff on his crusades through the world’s oceans. When you join the Sea Org, you are obligated to sign a “billion-year contract”. It is possible to leave the Sea Org, but breaking that billion year contract is pretty tricky. Sea Org members belong to Scientology in a sense like how nuns belong to Christianity. They are responsible for many things, from organizing all activities and gatherings in the church to cleaning and hard labor. Sea Org members are forced to live, eat, sleep and coexist together in designated buildings by the church. They are paid very little for their services, and have a long history of being abused and wrongly treated by people of power in the church.
While we are on about abuse, let’s talk about David Miscavige. The snake of all snakes. This man is the current leader of Scientology, as well as Tom Cruise’s best friend. He wasn’t really appointed by Hubbard or anyone but with much backstabbing, lying and abuse he weaseled himself to the top. Being born into the church, Miscavige became a deputy to Hubbard during his teenage years. One year after Hubbard’s death (1987) Miscavige became the official chairman of Scientology. But with a big fancy important title comes a lot of drama. David Miscavige is known to have a pretty slimy reputation. Many ex-Scientologists have come out with their experiences on being abused and publicly humiliated by Miscavige, who seems to never hold back. He is described as a cold hearted man who will do anything for money and success who holds a very believable facade for all his devoted fans who worship his existence. His wife, Shelly Miscavige, has not been seen publicly since August 2007. There are many theories as to where she is and what her husband has done to her. Much effort has been put in to find her whereabouts, like when ex-Scientologist Leah Remini filed a missing person report to the LAPD, was closed and classified as “unfounded”.
Most religious groups tend to dislike it when their members leave, but Scientology REALLY dislikes it. Similar to herpes, depression, and glitter, once you’re with Scientology it’s pretty hard to get rid of it. When someone decides to leave the church, they are treated like a convict. Scientology says that you are allowed to leave whenever, but once you’re gone it is against the rules to communicate with your family, friends or anyone who still is in the church. There are endless stories of mothers and fathers not being able to see their children ever again, or best friends being forever separated because of this rule. If you do happen to try and secretly communicate with them, you will eventually be caught and kicked out too. In Scientology lingo, this is called being declared, or being a suppressive person. Once you are declared the entire church shuns you and treats you like a criminal, as Scientologists think that being declared means that you committed a crime towards the church.
The church, Miscavige in particular, is so incredibly concerned about their image and bad press. Any little speck of bad PR needs to be removed, from a blog post dissing their practices and people to the popular tv show South Park making an entire episode mocking them. Many people and their families have been stalked and harassed by Scientology employees for spreading negative news on the church.
Recently, many Scientologists of importance have left the church and have been using their power to expose it. Celebrities such as Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman (both ex-wives of Tom Cruise) have left, as well as Leah Remini who is now working on the exposure of Scientology and using her fame for good. With the help of Mike Rinder, also known as the former senior executive of the Church of Scientology, Remini has created a tv docu-series on her’s as well as many other victim’s experiences with the church. Her goal is to educate people on what truly goes on at Scientology and to eventually shut it down. Leah Remini and Mike Rinder aren’t the only ones who are working on exposing Scientology, as many other networks, journalists, and everyday people have been spreading the message during the last few decades that the Church of Scientology is truly despicable.
Today, the church of Scientology allegedly has over 10 million members worldwide (although recent studies show that the number is a bit closer to 40,000). There are many churches (or Organizations as they call them) throughout the world, but the most notable ones are the flagship church in Clearwater, Florida and the Pacific Area Command Base in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles has the largest amount of Scientologists worldwide, making their presence a lot louder there. The Church of Scientology also managed to have an entire block named L. Ron Hubbard Way, which is where the Hollywood organization is.
There is also a “celebrity center” in Hollywood, which is where the religion’s biggest asset goes; the celebrities. Whether you know a single thing on Scientology or not, almost everyone knows the celebrities who are or have been linked to it. The two biggest names in Scientology are actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Hubbard’s main interest it seems was to gain new and popular celebrities to his religion, as who doesn’t want to copy their favorite actor or musician?! The celebrity center is everything and MORE you would expect for their precious celebrities. I myself have driven past it, and to be honest I was absolutely captivated by the stunning white castle-like building with gold trim that they oversee.
Scientologists everywhere believe that someday, somehow, their savior L. Ron Hubbard will come back from the dead (or wherever they believe he is) and continue his oh so needed work. In each Organization, a beautifully decorated and personalized office awaits for Hubbard so he can get back to work as soon he comes back. There is also an empty mansion in Western California awaiting his return, just in case he needs somewhere to live too.
Learning about the Church of Scientology has been really interesting, yet also very disturbing. I am glad to have gained this knowledge, and I certainly do know now that no matter how awful my life is, I will never become a Scientologist. I’ll just watch from a far instead.