"Scientology is both immoral and
socially obnoxious... it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. It is corrupt because it is
based upon lies and deceit and has as its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard,
his wife and those close to him at the top. It is sinister because it indulges in infamous
practices both to its adherents who do not toe the line unquestioningly and to those who
criticize or oppose it. It is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially
children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they
become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought,
living and relationships with others."
- Justice LATEY, ruling
in the High Court in London in 1984
"As soon as one's convictions become
unshakeable, evidence ceases to be relevant - except as a means to convert the
unbelievers. Factual inaccuracies... are excusable in the light of the Higher Truth."
Scientology is among the oldest, largest, richest, and
most powerful of contemporary cults. The "Church" of Scientology, first
incorporated in 1953, claims to have seven million members, and reserves of a thousand
million dollars. There are nearly 200 Scientology "Missions" and
"Churches" spread across the globe.
During the 1970s, cults became big business and big
news. Yet in the welter of books published about these "new religious
movements," there has been no real history of Scientology. This is rather surprising,
because the history of Scientology is at turns outrageous, hilarious and sinister.
Accurate information about Scientology is scarce because the cult is both secretive and
highly committed to silencing its critics.
A few sociologists have argued that involvement in any
cult is usually short-lived and sometimes beneficial. However, after four years of
research, including interviews with over a thousand former cult members, researchers
Conway and Siegelman came to very different conclusions about Scientology: "The
reports we have seen and heard in the course of our research... are replete with
allegations of psychological devastation, economic exploitation, and personal and legal
harassment of former members and journalists who speak out against the cult
" 1 Making a comparison with the tens of other cults in their
study, they said: "Scientology's may be the most debilitating set of rituals of any
cult in America." 2
Scientology, a peculiar force in our society, escapes
tidy definition. The "Church" of Scientology claims religious status; yet at
times Scientology represents itself as a psychotherapy, a set of business techniques, an
educational system for children or a drug rehabilitation program. Officers of the Church
belong to the largely landbound "Sea Organization," and wear pseudo-Naval
uniforms, complete with campaign ribbons, colored lanyards, and badges of rank, giving
Scientology a paramilitary air. Although Scientology has no teachings about God,
Scientologists sometimes don the garb of Christian ministers. The teachings of Scientology
are held out not only as scientifically proven, but also as scriptural, and therefore
beyond question. Scientology was also the first cult to establish itself as a
multinational business with marketing, public relations, legal and even intelligence
Scientology is also unusual because it is not an
extension of a particular traditional religion. It is a complex and apparently complete
set of beliefs, techniques and rituals assembled by one man: L. Ron Hubbard. During the 36
years between the publication of his first psychotherapeutic text and his death in 1986,
Hubbard constructed what appears to be one of the most elaborate belief systems of all
time. The sheer volume of material daunts most investigators. Several thousand Hubbard
lectures were tape-recorded, and his books, pamphlets and directives run to tens of
thousands of pages.
In 1984, judges in England and America condemned both
Hubbard and Scientology. Justice Latey, in a child custody case in London, said:
"Deprival of property, injury by any means, trickery, suing, lying or destruction
have been pursued [by the Scientologists] throughout and to this day with the fullest
vigour," and further: "Mr. Hubbard is a charlatan and worse as are his wife Mary
Sue Hubbard... and the clique at the top privy to the Cult's activities."
In America, dismissing a case brought against a former
member by the Scientologists, Judge Breckenridge said: "In addition to violating and
abusing its own members' civil rights, the organization over the years ... has harassed
and abused those persons not within the Church whom it perceives as enemies. The
organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to
be a reflection of its founder LRH [L. Ron Hubbard]. The evidence portrays a man who has
been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and
achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism,
greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons
perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile."
The evidence cited by Judge Breckenridge consisted of
some 10,000 pages of material forming part of Hubbard's personal archive, including his
teenage diaries, a black magic ceremony called the "Blood Ritual," and hundreds
of personal letters to and from his three wives. Some of these documents were read into
the record, and others released as exhibits. The picture they reveal is very different
from Hubbard's representations about his life.
Nevertheless, Hubbard's personal history is one of the
great adventure stories of the 20th century. A penny-a-word science-fiction writer who
created an immense and dedicated organization to act out his grandiose ideas on a global
scale, Hubbard commanded the devotion of his followers, who revere him as the greatest man
who has ever lived. At the height of his power, Hubbard controlled a personal intelligence
network which successfully infiltrated newspapers, medical and psychiatric associations
throughout the world, and even a number of United States government agencies. Eleven of
Hubbard's subordinates, including his wife, received prison sentences for their part in
these criminal activities.
There is also something tantalizing in the
psychotherapeutic techniques which are at the core of Scientology. Cult devotees are
sometimes seen as adolescent, half-witted zombies easily coerced into joining an enslaving
group because of their inadequacy. But Scientology has attracted medical doctors, lawyers,
space scientists and graduates of the finest universities in the world. One British and
two Danish Members of Parliament once belonged to Scientology. Even psychologists,
psychiatrists and sociologists have been enthusiastic practitioners of Hubbard's
techniques. And such people have often parted with immense sums of money to pay for
Scientology counselling which can cost as much as $1,000 per hour.
Hubbard's ideas have inspired many imitators, and
several contemporary "psycho-technologies" and New Age movements derive from
Scientology (est, eckancar and co-counselling, for example).
Any assessment of Scientology is further complicated
because it has demonstrably been the target of harassment. A Tax Court judge admitted in a
ruling that the IRS had investigated Scientologists solely because they were
Scientologists. Governments have panicked and over-reacted: for example, for several years
in three Australian states the very practice of Scientology was an imprisonable offence.
The secret inner workings of Scientology have long
been zealously guarded, but in 1982, two years after Hubbard disappeared into complete
seclusion, a purge began and the Church began to disintegrate. Hundreds of long-term
Scientologists, many of whom had held important positions within the Church, were
excommunicated and expelled. They were placed under the interdict of
"Disconnection," whereby other Scientologists were prohibited from communicating
with them in any way. At a rally in San Francisco, young members of the new management
harangued and threatened executives of Scientology's franchised "Missions."
While the newly created International Finance Dictator spoke, his scowling, black-shirted
International Finance Police patrolled the aisles. Huge amounts of money were demanded
from the Mission Holders. In the following weeks, Scientology's Finance Police swooped
down on the Missions collecting millions of dollars and almost bankrupting the entire
Hubbard had styled himself the "Commodore"
of his "Sea Organization," and by 1982, the new leaders, some still in their
teens, were members of the "Commodore's Messenger Organization." Many of these
youngsters had been raised in Scientology, separated from their parents, originally
working as Hubbard's personal servants.
Anonymous letters describing incredible events
circulated among Scientologists. We read about Gilman Hot Springs, a 500 acre estate in
south California, surrounded by high fences, patrolled by brownshirted guards, and
protected by an elaborate and expensive security system. We heard accounts of bizarre
punishments meted out at this supposedly secret headquarters. A group of senior Church
executives had been put on a program where they ran around a tree in near desert
conditions for twelve hours a day, for weeks on end. Some Scientologists gave accounts of
their treatment at the hands of the International Finance Police, where they had been
abused verbally and physically, sometimes signing over huge amounts of money before coming
to their senses.
During this reign of terror, thousands of
Scientologists left the Church, believing that Hubbard was either dead or under the
control of the Messengers. These new "Independent" practitioners of Scientology
were subjected to prolonged and extensive harassment and litigation. Private Investigators
followed important defectors, sometimes around the clock for months. The Church widely
distributed scandal sheets packed with fabricated libels concerning defectors.
The essential question which plagued Scientologists
who had left the Church was whether Hubbard knew what was happening. By the time Hubbard's
death was announced in January 1986, many Scientologists believed his body had been
deep-frozen for several years. Others believed he was still alive, that the coroner had
been bribed, and that his death had been staged to escape the net of the Criminal
Investigation Branch of the Internal Revenue Service, which was investigating the transfer
of hundreds of millions of dollars of Church funds into Hubbard's personal accounts.
As part of its campaign to stem the tide of defectors,
Scientology brought law suits against several former members. In return, multimillion
dollar counter-suits were filed against Scientology. In 1986, a Los Angeles jury awarded
$30 million in damages to a former Church member. On the last day of 1986, a group of over
400 former members initiated a billion dollar suit against the Church.
Former highly-placed Hubbard aides broke silence for
the first time. The documentary evidence referred to by Judge Breckenridge pierced the
self-created fantasy of Hubbard's past. The sinister reality beneath the smiling mask of
the Church of Scientology was at last revealed.
1. Snapping, Conway
and Siegelman, p. 161.
Disease," Conway and Siegelman, Science Digest, January 1982.