Scientology and Religion
I’ve just associated Jesus and the Buddha strongly with what I’m calling the core philosophy of Scientology, and will be expanding on that in articles to come. In doing so, I might be inviting some readers to take the association further, to connecting Scientology with other established religions and their structures and procedures. I prefer to separate them, not that I have anything against established religion right now.
Before I go further, I’ll interject that I do not question the basis on which corporate Scientology has applied for and gained approved status as a religious body. That they applied for it and got it is entirely the business of the lawyers on all sides, not mine. I have no axe to grind there.
However, a purpose of these articles is to clarify certain things, and, by doing so publicly, to perhaps answer some questions for others. And to encourage further relevant questions.
Corporate Scientology has rather aggressively advanced itself as a religious body, and they’re free to say whatever suits them about themselves. Nonetheless, some clarity is in order, from my perspective as a former member with an abiding interest in the core philosophy. Besides, there is personal history here important at least to me. The word ‘religion’ is a loaded term, apt to be fuzzied.
The Chambers Dictionary gives us its definition: Religion, noun; belief in, recognition of or an awakened sense of a higher unseen controlling power or powers, with the emotion and morality connected with such; rites or worship; devoted fidelity; monastic life; a monastic order.
We can note briefly that the Church of Scientology has some rites (christening, marriage, and death ceremonies) of the usual character, it definitely requires devoted fidelity, and partly practices what they can call monastic life. What else they can demonstrate for regulatory compliance is up to them.
I was a witness to a lot of the work Hubbard did in 1973 on firmly establishing the religious legality of the entire corporate Scientology network. I repeat that I don’t question the validity of any legal process the Church of Scientology undertook. Be that as it may, from what I learned about him over the years I can say with some confidence that he had no interest in, belief in, recognition of, or awakened sense of, a higher unseen power or powers. Nor did I notice any emotion or morality connected with such.
Hubbard did state that Scientology [the philosophy] deals with the human spirit and its travails, and devotes itself to bettering people’s spiritual health and abilities. I agree with this. He argued that this work is the responsibility of the priest or minister who, if he does the job, does not do it to the extent that Scientology can. I don’t deny this point either. He was saying that Scientology’s work can be viewed as religious work because it deals with spirituality and its betterment in humans. He was claiming also that in doing its work Scientology does a better religious job than religions usually do and is in fact picking up on the failures of religions. In that Scientology can routinely produce miraculous improvements in individuals’ conditions, I can’t say I could disagree with him on that either. At the same time, we remember that all kinds of wonderful and miraculous changes and events occur or are at least claimed without any connection to Scientology or L. Ron Hubbard.
Now, the closest that the philosophy of Scientology got to higher unseen power or powers in Life was to mention “The Supreme Being” in its list of eight Dynamics. These are levels or areas of activity in human life, compartmentalized for analysis and convenience in understanding. It’s a workable concept and can be helpful although not claiming to be the last word on the subject. The Supreme Being is the Eighth and last Dynamic, the senior one embracing all others.
In the early days of Scientology, Hubbard made it clear that all individuals were free to think or believe or feel whatever they wanted as regards the reality of the Supreme Being. He had nothing else to say on the subject. Adherence to any established and accepted religious approach was accepted without question in any member of Scientology. He claimed, and I think validly, that the practice of Scientology would complement any religious practice.
It often struck me as interesting that Hubbard wrote or lectured very little on the subject of the Supreme Being [I must confess that I haven’t listened to all of his recorded lectures], and I never had any conversation with him on it nor heard him speak of it to another. He always busied himself about a wide range of interests and talked of them freely. I assumed that he had no belief in a Supreme Being. Years after I left the Church, I saw some materials of what was supposed to be an advanced level of Scientology he had developed concerning the Supreme Being. I didn’t know if it was authentic or not; what I saw of it didn’t interest me.
A heavy pall of corporate, regulatory-compliant religiosity lies over the pure philosophy of Scientology but only by association forwarded falsely, it seems to me, by lazy observation and lack of thought. Corporate Scientology has had much negative attention over the years, brought on by its own actions and omissions. It is now widely known and referred to always as “The Church of Scientology”, thus, I have to suppose, positioning Scientology itself in public eyes as a religion with religious baggage.
The corporate body, then, is open to being thought of as having rites, and worship, and systems of belief just like a ‘normal’ church such as, say, the Roman Catholic Church. I think we can take it that the corporate body is largely comfortable with this image. Nonetheless, the public would mislead itself by believing that the core philosophy of Scientology has anything to do with religious systems and procedures similar to those of a regular established religious body performing holy services in a holy manner with centuries’ worth of holy baggage.
Scientology organizations, like many religious bodies, do have their organization charts and their hierarchies of management along with their operating philosophies and customary interactions with their members. In my early days, all these were tools used mostly for the smooth delivery of the core philosophical practice to individuals in support of their spiritual health, strength, and abilities. And to help the individuals use the results to make their lives happier. Not one individual’s service took place in the presence of or with the assistance of appendages of any conventionally religious nature.
My point here is that there are separations well worth making between
- Any other church and the Church of Scientology;
- The core philosophical theory of Scientology and its practical application as a body of knowledge distinct from any organization entity or activity;
- The minimal organization form and activity necessary to successfully deliver the services associated with the core philosophy;
- Any corporate activity added on to this basic necessary organizational activity;
- The various agendas which give rise to the addition of organization activities over and above the purely necessary;
- The various fusses, flaps, and flying feathers connected to the added but actually inapplicable agendas and to the fights between the agendas’ originators and supporters.
When I think of Scientology I think of the first three. When I think of the Church of Scientology I think of the last three. I rather hotly resent that the last three make up what the general public must feel is the totality of the first three. The media refers to “The Church of Scientology” and to “Scientology” and they mean always the last three, seemingly oblivious to or in denial of the first. Sad.
Next: Some reasons why it helps to know the truth about who and what we are and how we operate, again with some support from other spiritual leaders.