I have always been curious about different religions and cults and what compels people to follow them. Scientology falls somewhere on the fringe of both, and so when an opportunity came up to do a little investigative research, I was up for the challenge. My companion at the time had taken a couple of courses from Scientology and thought they were great, however when he chose not to sign up for additional lessons, letters from the organization turned from friendly to ugly.
The Church of Scientology, as you probably know, was founded by L. Ron Hubbard who said “If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” Hubbard was fascinated with ritual magic, the occult and hypnosis and took an interest in Freud’s theories, Buddhism, and other philosophies. He was also a voracious writer, and his book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health became a best seller. A technique Hubbard developed, known as auditing, became a focal point in Scientology’s teachings and beliefs.
In Dianetic practice, auditors use an E-meter (similar to a lie detector) to clear patients of any negative effects from painful experiences by repeatedly recalling those experiences until they are erased. While in a trance state, patients began to recall similar painful experiences in past lives, leading Hubbard to believe he had discovered the human soul and that Scientology would free souls from entrapments of the physical world and restore their supernatural powers. His second book Science of Survival embraces that philosophy. Scientology maintains that after a thorough auditing, patients will attain a “clear” state, free from all mental and physical ailments.
My companion and I visited the Ottawa chapter of Scientology to get a firsthand look at what this organization was all about. Upon entering the upstairs establishment, we encountered a small group of young Scientologists sitting at a table, reading. They looked at us suspiciously and asked what we wanted. We explained we were there to find out more about Scientology and so one of our hosts escorted us to a small theatre room at the back of the hall and left us alone. Soon after, a movie came on about the history of Scientology and its founder.
The most intriguing part of the film was Hubbard’s office at Scientology Headquarters in Phoenix, still untouched many years after his death and a virtual shrine to the founder. A startling message came at the end of the film when the camera closed in on a man standing at the end of a pier. He said something to the effect, “Now that you know about Scientology, if you don’t join our organization, you might as well jump off a pier!”
A second encounter with Scientology took place in Clearwater, Florida where the “flagship” of the organization is located. The closer we got to the downtown location, the more Scientologists we spotted – young men and women dressed in navy blue suits with briefcases chained to their wrists. The briefcases are said to contain auditing files of their patients. A man stationed at the front door was screening visitors and so we waited until he was busy with another couple and walked on in as though we knew what we were doing. While my companion sat and read some of the material on hand, I studied a huge chart on the wall showing the various levels of study that Scientologists go through to reach the top level. Courses takes years to complete and can cost upwards of $300,000 to $500,000 or more.
The whole time I felt like I was being watched. A young woman appeared and stood very close to me, all the while staring into my eyes as she asked questions. I must have passed the test because she told us we could walk around and left us to wander. The building is quite extravagant with its own theatre, auditorium, gardens, pool, and lavish suites for families to stay in while they study or visit. An impressive facility with all the trappings of a luxury hotel.
I had heard horror stories from a friend whose companion had been a Scientologist for many years. Some of his children worked for the “org” in California and when he left Scientology, they no longer spoke to him. This is common among Scientologists and in fact encouraged. He was eventually whisked away to Florida for a “debriefing” and eventually got back into the organization. Stories of physical and mental abuse are surfacing as Scientologists flee the organization. A large number of them have formed an independent branch of scientology to continue practicing what they have learned. The Church of Scientology denies that this group exists.
My own research tells me that Scientology is based on fear rather than love – that tactics are used to intimidate, control, manipulate, harass, and even sue members to keep them quiet and fearful. But ex-members are coming out in force to share their stories. The Passionate Eye’s documentary ‘Scientologists At War’ tells the story of a high level Scientologist who left the organization only to be harassed by the same methods he once condoned. Members camped outside his door, harassing him and his family until they moved from the area.
What’s up with that Doc Hubbard? Don’t you know that this raises red flags? That it tells us there is something unhealthy and unpleasant going on in the underbelly of Scientology?
Have you or someone you know had an experience with the Church of Scientology? What are your thoughts on this “non-profit” organization that rakes in billions of tax-free dollars?