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Andreas Fincke {*}

A Chimera of Freedom of Religion

What is Scientology really?


Aus: Herder Korrespondenz, 5/2007, P. 251-256
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


    Scientology is a variant of that ideology which in the modern times is being told time and again: the story of the new man. In it the wide-spread faith in the total control of life is reflected - exaggerated into the grotesque. Consequently vigilance is required, but vigilance with sense of proportion.


At the beginning of the year the disputed Scientology organization opened its new representative office in the capital. On invitation cards was pompously announced: "Don't miss this important meeting, with which a new age for Europe begins". Scientology people gladly conjure up new ages. Some years ago the chairman of the board of the so-called "Religious Technology Centre" of Scientology, David Miscavige, in the Shrine auditory before thousands of followers likewise proclaimed a new time. "We enter a golden age. We are golden men. We are the new men, the new intellectual leaders of the earth. We will prosper to the extent we work. We will be rich in peace and palaces to the extent we maintain good order and reasonable behaviour and maintain or even create the mental health of man. You have been waiting for these teachings for many centuries. (...) You are the creators of new countries and new prosperity, of new people and new life". (International Scientology News No. 3/1997, 13).

One may be inclined to attribute the hubris of such visions to the aura of the place. For the Shrine auditory is the stronghold of the Show Business in Los Angeles. Here the great stars make their appearance and here annually the desired Grammies and the American Music Awards are awarded. Is everything then only intoxication, enticing the speaker, who after all is representative of an organization that calls itself church, to describe himself and his friends as creators of new countries and new life? By no means! The visions are meant seriously, very seriously. What David Miscavige here remarked - a quotation of the founder and mental father of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) -, summarizes quite well the ideological essence of this organization.


The book "Dianetics. The Modern Science of Mental Health", published in 1950 by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, stood at the beginning of the Scientology organization. Up to then Hubbard had made a name for himself as Science Fiction author. With "Dianetics" the author scored a first greater success. In the USA the book was in high esteem as self-help guide and soon became a best-seller. In Europe for the time being one did not take note of the book. Only in 1974 a translation appeared under the title "Dianetics: The modern science of mental health." In the course of the years the made-up word "Dianetics" became established; it means as much as "by the spirit" or "concerning the spirit". Hubbard believed he had found a consistent explanation of the human intellect, so to speak the absolutely valid and right science of the human mind.


"Better dead than incapable"

In the book 'Dianetics' the human mind is described as consisting of two parts. Hubbard called the one part "analytic mind", the other "reactive mind". The analytic mind is like a perfectly working data base, in which all memory contents and all that has ever been learned is stored. This part of the intellect works correctly and without any faults.

According to Hubbard all the problems man has originate in the reactive mind. It stores the so-called "engrams", which can be described as unconscious contents of memory.

These engrams overshadow the analytic mind and so limit its possibilities. If we continue to follow Hubbard, then these engrams usually come from pre-natal time or early childhood. He mentions as examples: memories of the foetus of its own conception, abortion attempts, birth, but also pain with operations and other traumatic events.

For Hubbard those engrams are the key to understand man's problems. They are the cause of nearly all diseases, addictions, psychological impairments etc. Also social conflicts, such as criminality, enmities or wars, would not exist if engrams did not overshadow the perfect work of the analytic mind.

Hence man's liberation from its engrams is of pre-eminent importance. With Scientology the way to the deletion of the harmful engrams is called "bridge to total freedom". The decisive instrument is the so-called "Auditing" (lat.: audire = listen), a setting of question and answer between the auditor and his/her client. People who are audited with Scientology are called "Preclears". Preclear means as much as not yet clarified not yet liberated. Someone who by means of auditing is liberated from his/her engrams, is called "clear".

'Clear' is something like the first stage of salvation; today there is an abundance of further stages of salvation with Scientology. Persons affected describe 'auditing' as a psycho-technique that manipulatingly intervenes in the inner life of the client and makes him/her gradually dependent on his/her auditor and thus on the Scientology organization.

In Hubbard's writings it is quite discernible that auditing is a technique with which people can be manipulated. On 7 February 1965 he wrote: "When Mrs. Schmusekuchen comes to us and wants to be trained, transform that roaming doubt in her eyes into a firm, decided brightness. (...) The correct training attitude is: "You are here, hence you are a scientologist. Now we will make you an expert auditor whatever happens. We rather want to have you dead than incapable."


The Utopia of Total Liberation

The Science Fiction author Hubbard was a child of his time. Scientology tells the story of man's self redemption, if he only finds and uses the correct technique. Approximately at the same time when in the USA Hubbard invented his dianetic as way to the improvement of world and man, Stalin propagated his Communist superman: Soviet power plus electrification makes Communism, in which equation Communism was a synonym for the paradise on earth. A preclear plus auditing makes the totally liberated man as creator of new countries and new prosperity.

That scientology later became a sect has its roots in the reduction of most different questions to one solution. Sects will often develop when the diversity of questions is to be solved by a "patent remedy", by an unsurpassable formula.

Until today Scientology holds on to the completely outdated, due to that time elements of auditing. The modern research on psychotherapy for instance ascribes a high standing to the aspect of the relationship between therapist and client, whereas Hubbard and the present Scientology insist that all depended only on the right technique and body language, sympathy and thus the central topic transference and counter-transference - were insignificant for the process of auditing. That is not only completely wrong but even dangerous, for it obstructs the auditor's view at his/her client and the world of his/her problems.



The exact way of Dianetic to the rank of a church is nebulous

Already in 1950 no less a person than Erich Fromm in a review on "Dianetics" pointed to the abysses of such thinking: "Hubbard's book can hardly be taken seriously as contribution to the science of man. But it has to be taken seriously as symptom of a dangerous trend. (...) "Dianetics" shows (...) neither reverence nor understanding for the complexity of personality. Man is (with Hubbard - A.F.) a machine; and rationality, value-judgments, mental health and happiness are achieved by an engineer's activity." Furthermore Fromm talked of a "crude biologism", he found "excessive simplifications, half-truths and trivial absurdities" (International Erich Fromm Society [Editor]: Forum Fromm - Fromm Forum No. 2/1998, 11).

Spurred on by the success of his "Dianetics" Hubbard in the next years issued more and more new publications about the one topic. Basically we here find hardly anything new, but Hubbard lost more and more sight of his self-help approach and connected the realization of his ideas to an institution that was to be established by him. The exact way of "Dianetics" to the rank of a church is nebulous. In 1954 in California the first Scientology church was founded.

This step surprises, since Hubbard's psycho-technique had up to that time nowhere appeared as religion. Probably the sale of the psycho courses had called the tax authorities to the scene, what might have given Hubbard the idea to camouflage his business as church. A remark of Hubbard is circulated according to which it was foolish to write even a single word for a penny - "if one really wants to earn a million dollars, the better way was to found one's own religion."

Starting from the middle of the fifties Hubbard enriched his Dianetics with occult elements. Dianetics became Scientology. He continued to heighten man's image. The mind, which at first was conceived as computer-like machine, was now described as spirit not depending on matter, as so-called "Thetan". 'Thetan' is the actual essence of the nature of man. It contains reason, memories and abilities, but also the harmful engrams. The human body is only thought as the earthly cover of Thetan. Thetan is the divine spark in man, which must be freed by the technique of Scientology. Who treads the "bridge to total liberty" liberates his/her Thetan and as Thetan him/herself can become divine.

The problems in gaining the higher levels of reality are now no longer only based on engrams from the early childhood, but above all in mental energy pictures (in the language of Scientology: facsimiles) of Thetan's earlier incarnations. That is Scientology knows ideas of reincarnation; sometimes facsimiles can be several million-years-old. These facsimiles are to be eliminated by auditing, by remembering them and so as it were "discharging" them.

Thus one frees one's own Thetan and gets closer to the aim of salvation, to be an (unreservedly) "operating Thetan" (OT). This OT leads a self-sufficient existence in infinity and has such sweeping abilities that it has power over "matter, energy, space, time and thinking". Hence Scientology's aim of salvation in the end is the liberation respectively deifying of one's Thetan. One could call this OT superman.

Scientology is a variation of that ideology which is time and again told in the modern age: the story of the "new man". The new man who creates himself, ennobles himself and finally overcomes his - each time in different ways imagined - alienation. In the twentieth century there were innumerable examples for it; here only the new, socialist man may be recalled, as it since 1960 was to be created in the GDR by the SED. At that time they believed that "in the socialist brigades, collectives and households (...) the socialist man grows up."


Into the Paradise through Expensive Psycho Courses

The difference is that the 'real-socialist' visions were related to the collective and the key to redemption was looked for in the elimination of private property. With Hubbard engrams and facsimiles are to blame for all evil; in East Berlin the capitalists were to blame. Both world views laid claim to infallibility and thus to total subordination. The party, it then said in the GDR, "is always right". It gave "us everything, sun and wind, and was never mean " Scientology says: "We have all answers to the questions of life, universe and immortality. Now the clarification of the planet and our own personal liberty completely depends on how we use them in accordance with their standard. (...) By precise and perfect technique of auditing we will take people out of darkness into light - the light of a new golden age." (Scientology News No. 2/1996).



In Moscow at the same time Olga Lepesinskaja (1871-1963) presented to the aging Stalin an extremely absurd parallel to Hubbard's vision of the new and immortal man. She believed to be able to prove that only the bourgeois biology attaches life to aging cells, whereas the new, socialist biology had as object the new man, and so also had new natural laws at its disposal. And thus the Communist Olga Lepesinskaja believed she had found a formula that extended human life into unknown dimensions. Lepesinskaja's ideas have fallen into oblivion, Scientology makes up to this day work contracts "for the next millions of years" (!).

With Scientology the way into the Paradise leads step by step through increasingly expensive psycho-courses. The communication course usual as initiating course at present costs about 150 Euro, the mandatory 12.5 hours of Auditing 8500 US Dollar, i.e. more than 500 Euro per hour. Furthermore there are special courses for almost all imaginable situations in life. The OT-stages each time cost between 10.000 and 25.000 dollars. The Preclear on the average invests between 40.000 and 50.000 dollar on the "bridge to total liberty".

Not only the adventurous fees are responsible for explosive power but also the circumstance that Scientology under constantly changing names occupies new topics. So under the name "Narconon" one is active in the drug rehabilitation, under "Applied Scholastics" one offers coaching for inefficient pupils and uses the company name of "Youth for Human Rights" in the human rights work. In the German-speaking countries alone dozens of initiatives and homepages can be named the proximity to Scientology of which one as an outsider does not notice and which nevertheless pursue only one aim: To lead people to the ideology of Scientology.


What strengthens Is Good

Scientology is an organization with an enormous claim to power. The logic is simple. "Since Scientology brings total liberty, it has also the right to demand total subordination" (Hubbard). Everyone who blocks Scientology's path or asks critical questions, is regarded as an enemy and criminal. "We never found", it is said, "critics of Scientology without a criminal past".

Apostates and critics of the organization are called "anti-social personality" or "suppressive persons". Without hesitating it is said that such "enemies" are to be destroyed: "A person who has been downgraded to the ethical status of 'enemy', is regarded as outlawed: One is allowed to take away its property, to hurt it in any possible way, without being punished by a Scientologist. One may play it tricks, sue it, lie to it or destroy it."

In the meantime this instruction has been repealed by Scientology; probably because it was often quoted by critics. But with regard to the issue such formulas still show by which spirit Scientology is haunted. If one follows the logic of Scientology, then all non-Scientologists are inferior human beings or "criminals". The founder of Scientology turns out to be visionary: "Perhaps in the distant future the civil rights will only be given to non-aberrated (i.e. Scientologist - A.F.). Perhaps sometime in future the aim will have been reached, when only the non-aberrated can obtain citizenship and profit from it. These are worthwhile aims the achievement of which would be able to substantially increase the ability to survive and the fortune of mankind." (L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetik, 487)

Deprivation of citizenship for dissidents - the SED dared this only in the "Biermann case". For Scientology it is a political vision. So it is hardly surprising that the question arises whether Scientology is still in accordance with the Basic Law.

Scientology sees itself as "applied, religious philosophy", as "religion of the religions", as well as "church". The question, whether Scientology is rather church or combine, business or totalitarian ideology is judged in different ways, lately however a critical attitude is asserting itself. In 1991 the Federal Constitutional Court had stated: "The mere assertion and the conception of oneself that a community confessed a religion and was a religious community do not justify the refererence to this guarantee of (corporate religious) freedom, it rather has also really to be - in mental content and outward appearance - a religion and a religious community" (2 BvR 263/86).

In the discussion about Scientology a judgement of the Federal Labour Court of 1995 was of great importance: There it says Scientology was "an institution for the marketing of certain products" and thus no religion or world view community in the sense of the Basic Law. The court saw the religious and ideological theories of Scientology only as a "pretext for the pursuit of economic goals." An expert's report drawn up in 1996 by Hans Gerd Jaschke, came to the result Scientology was "a political organization" with "long-term political objectives", and "its central aim was the creation of a society according to Scientology's principles" (Scientology - a danger for democracy, Düsseldorf 1996, 56).

The expert coined the frequently quoted formula, according to which with Scientology it is about "a new form of political extremism", since Scientology is oriented towards the "ideas of the absolute, heroic superman who removes the annoying chains of liberalism and democracy on the way to a world domination built on totalitarian principles that are incompatible with a democratic constitution." (59)



Jaschke referred to the code of honour of the Scientologists, where it says: "As Scientologist I promise (...) to take over my part of responsibility for the task that Scientology wins noticeable influence in the world." Finally Jaschke stated that "at least a whole set of indications" support the assessment that Scientology "at longer term has hostile to the constitution objectives" and "as totalitarian organization has points of contact with political extremism" (61 f.).


Scientology as Phenomenon of the Spirit of the Age

In summer 1997 the Ministers of the Interior reached agreement on having Scientology observed in nearly all Lands of the Federal Republic by the Office for the protection of the constitution. Scientology reacted very aggressively to this development. To the Federal Government was imputed that it wanted to smash a blameless religious community. In a brochure Scientology compared the media scene of the German Federal Republic with that of the NS-state. In US-American newspapers full-page announcements appeared suggesting that Scientologists in Germany were persecuted like once the Jews in the so-called Third Reich.

The assessment of Scientology is made more difficult by the fact that different levels are to be held apart. If one looks at the numerous counselling offers, then Scientology belongs to the environment of the alternative psycho-scene with its often excessive salvation promises. Here the organization is one bad supplier among many others. Judged by its social reality the Scientology organization is a sophisticated marketing system, which financially and psychologically pockets people. If one looks for a religion-scientific category, then one realizes that Scientology has nothing, indeed nothing at all to do with a religion or a church.

From the Christian perspective one must state: There is no greater contrast than between the Christ suffering on the cross and a Thetan completely freeing him/herself. If one nevertheless looks for religious traits, then one could describe Scientology as occult magic technique of self-redemption. If one finally asks about the ideological content, then with the system of Scientology it is about an aggressive social Darwinism in the form of a para-scientific ideology.



One can shake one's head over it - but just this simple ideology is the recipe for success. The Scientology organization has success because it conveys scientifically dressed up simple promises of liberation and the promise of super-humanity. The temptation of Scientology is that some of its training methods are quite effective in producing insensitivity and the ability to assert oneself, and that Scientology - although in an exaggerated mania - with its power promise excellently fits into a highly competitive society that is oriented towards self-optimization. That's probably why Scientology is relatively wide spread in the USA among actors and musicians. Also the Scientology's fascination for many people in Eastern Europe is to be explained by this promise. Who wants to get in contact with the western societies easily succumbs to the temptation of Scientology.

Scientology reflects the wide-spread faith in the possibility of total control of life and exaggerates it in a grotesque way. Hence watchfulness is required, but watchfulness with a sure eye. May be that Scientology would like to infiltrate the society of the German Federal Republic - that will not succeed. Even the new capital office for representative purposes in a frightening large office building with a surface of 4000 square meters on six floors will not alter that.

Nevertheless the challenge is great. Scientology pursues a skilful PR-work, makes its appearance under constantly changing name, addresses pupils, students and disseminators and generously sends materials to libraries. Scientology expands in Eastern Europe and knows that sometime all excitement will calm down. Then it will be said: In Berlin one got accustomed to us a long time ago. One must contradict that. Scientology's image of man is dangerous and challenges the Christian churches. It is unfortunate that at present the two large churches reduce their engagement within the area of world-view questions. More and more often people who are looking for advice need a very long time until they get competent information.

There is no patent remedy against Scientology. We meet in the "new, intellectual leaders of earth" a new form of political extremism, a distorted image of the western competitive society and in a certain way a chimera of freedom of religion.


    {*} Andreas Fincke (born in 1959) attained a doctorate in theology and is since 1992 pastor and representative for questions of sects and world-views of the Protestant Church of Church Province Saxony and likewise since 1992 scientific adviser at the Protestant central office for world-view questions (EZW). Numerous publications about religion and world-view questions.


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