Scientology began in 1950 when science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard wrote the book Dianetics. The philosophy from the book caught on as it’s popularity spread like wildfire. Hubbard expected the book to sell just a few thousand copies, but the book jumped to the top of the bestsellers list for weeks. Building from the techniques taught in the book, the first church was founded in 1954. All of the writings and lectures done by L. Ron Hubbard became the scripture for Scientology.
What is the current influence and cultural view of Scientology? Scientology boasts of being the only major religion to start up in America in the 20th century. It is modern in every aspect, using technology and architectural attraction to give an appealing and relevant feel to members and outsiders. Celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta seek to push the cultural image of Scientology up as they support it with charisma and confidence. Today, the influence is strong but the membership is (debatably) low. Current leader David Miscavige claimed the membership was 10 million. US surveys have found the membership to be just 25,000 to 40,000 (US only). Whatever the membership, the fascination in Scientology is high.
What is the goal of Scientology? To understand the goal, first man’s problem and place needs to be defined. Man is the vessel for extra-terrestrial spirits called Thetans to dwell. The Thetan needs to be freed to live effectively through the person. The Thetan comes through accurately through the analytical mind. So the key goal of Scientology is for the person to use the analytical mind, as opposed to the reactive mind. The reactive mind does not reason, and the analytical mind reasons with no error.
What is the reactive mind? The reactive mind is used whenever a negative memory triggers a bad (irrational) response to a situation. These painful and negative memories are stored in our bodies (on the cells, as the theory goes) as “engrams”. These engrams come alive when the person is subcontiously reminded of the event through one of the senses. The subconscious reliving causes the person to react in a similar way to the original negative event.
So, according to Scientology, man is basically good, but has been filled with these engrams that restrict their ability to live to their fullest potential. The process of ridding the body of its engrams is called auditing. Auditing can be done with a trusted friend, but is thought to be more successful through more advanced “Operating Thetans” (OTs).
Auditing is quite simple; one person (the pre-clear) relives negative/ painful experiences while the other person (the auditor) encourages them to continue reliving it and talking through it. The person is cleared of that engram when they no longer have negative feelings when reliving the event. The engram doesn’t get eliminated, it gets transfered from the reactive to the analytical mind.
The ultimate goal of auditing is attaining “clear”- the elimination of all engrams. To do this, the foundation of all the engrams has to be found. Usually this first engram is from an experience before birth. So prenatal experiences need to be reached for most (if not all) people to attain clear. Once clear, the person is “who they really are” and the Thetan is purely living through the person.
While theology forms the foundation of nearly all religions, it seems strangely absent from Scientology. The reason is probably because Scientology seeks to have the ability to blend with other religions. In Scientology’s brief theological doctrines, they speak favorably of the idea of a higher power. This higher power is known as the 8th dynamic. It is a life force more so than a personal being with a specific will. They teach people to follow the God of their own understanding. Each person must figure out who God is for themselves.
While most religions can’t avoid the most influential man in history, Scientology has left Jesus Christ completely out. It seems that sooner or later they are going to have to form an opinion that works with society concerning Jesus Christ. As it stands now, Jesus is only an implanted idea, thus should have no influence in a life.
There are few ways to go about responding to Scientology: philosophically, evidentially, and biblically.
Philosophically, the main problem is its lack of theological framework. This causes it to be shallow in the area of metaphysics. Theology would also give it a foundation and starting point for it to work towards its ultimate goals. Without God clearly defined, moral standards go reasonably undefined (See the moral argument blog). Therefore clear goals about what to live for are left unclear. Without defining the nature of God, the nature of man and his destiny is left in the dark. So, even though Scientology claims to be the highest form of religion, for this reason it is seriously handicapped.
Scientology works from the assumption that painful memories can never work for a good thing. It is assumed that feeling hurt from situations is a feeling that should never be had. I would argue that pain and hurt are very powerful and meaningful to our lives. It is meaningful in demonstrating the love of Jesus. Similarly, we show love through what we are willing to suffer through, and the suffering can be evidence of love lost. Pain can also be a valuable warning sign to us.
If the Scientologist eliminates the painful, I don’t understand why the pleasant may not also be eliminated. If an engram is a physical defect, then how does it know the difference between a good memory and a bad memory? If it is something that comes to us physically and naturally, then who’s to say they are not supposed to be there just like the rest of our physical being? Because they are unpleasant? Who’s to say that the unpleasant isn’t supposed to be there? Who’s to say that there’s even a concept of what is supposed to be there? A clear theology is the only way to clear these things up.
Now to blend the philosophical and the evidential, I want to introduce the principal known as non-falsifiability. Something is non-falsifiable when its criteria are not testable; for example, the existence of invisible, non influential objects ( non falsifiable if not logically contradictory). The weakest theories are the ones that are non-falsifiable. I bring this up because Scientology contains a lot of non-falsifiable principles. Don’t get me wrong, Christianity has some non-falsifiable things as well. But there needs to be good reasons to believe the non-falsifiable through what can be tested. To use this practically, then, we should recognize the things that are merely from the imagination of a science fiction writer, point them out as non-falsifiable, and move on to more foundational things.
Outside of personal testimonies, there is nothing evidential to Scientology. No one has seen an engram. No one would expect to see a Thetan. Scientology catches on because they say it works to accomplish what they say it should accomplish.
Here is a picture of the attainment of the goal of Scientology:
“How do you feel?”
“You are now clear.”
“So, how do you feel?”
“I feel clear.”
“Now that you’re clear and an Operating Thetan, you can help other people attain clear.”
“Ah! Now I have a sense of value and purpose.”
Scientology teaches us to go as high as man can go, while the Bible teaches us that man cannot go high enough, and that his attempts are detestable and disgusting to God (Isaiah 64:6). Man is not good in their hearts or deeds (Jer. 17:9, Rom. 3:10). Scientology says to train the mind through auditing and eliminating negative engrams, while the Bible says to submit the mind to the Lord (Psalm 16:8, 2 Cor. 10:5) and to love Him with all your mind (Matt. 22:37). This is hardly compatibility.
Ultimately and most tragically, Scientology completely avoids Jesus Christ, the very manifestation of God, their supposed undefined 8th dynamic. The promise of salvation came to us through Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal in life is defined by God and his goodwill and purpose for us- to know Him (John 17:3). Our lives have true meaning because of Him. We don’t have to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours retelling horrific events of our past. We can be washed clean freely by claiming the blood of Jesus, the resurrected Lord and Savior, over our lives.