In this new century with the advancement of science, technology, and hybrids of new religions, what better religion to delve into then the notorious religion/cult in question, L. Ron Hubbard's, Scientology. I choose this topic of Scientology for its mystery and intrigue, as well, for my utter ignorance in this particular religion. Having driven past the Celebrity Center of Scientology in Hollywood numerous times, I always questioned what sort of religious rituals were occurring within the walls of such a lavish estate. What kind of sacredness lies in a building that shares a great resemblance to the grandeur of an eloquent California Hotel? As I further inquired to my friends about this unique religion my curiosity was further stimulated by numerous rumors of abduction, lawsuits, blackmail, and big celebrity names, that this religion, was known for. So, with all these questions unanswered I decided to extinguish this curiosity of mine by further investigating Scientology and entering its controversial realm.
Initially, when I conducted this project I decided to bring a companion, just incase these rumors of abduction were accurate. With my lucky comrade, Frank, by my side, I made the call to the Celebrity Center, and scheduled an orientation. Fortunately, this orientation included a tour around the center as well as a visual presentation. Thus, this enabled me not only to conduct an emic research of Scientology, but as well, a thorough interview of a participant of this religion (our tour guide).
The onset of my big Scientology date was filled with anxiety, fear, and excitement, that Frank further ignited by warning me not to give them my name or address and to park far away from the establishment just in case "they" try to follow us. (Was he serious?).
As we walked, walked, and walked some more towards the building I was completely in awe by the grandness of the Celebrity Center. It really did look like an old mansion that was further enhanced by its outside patio dinning and garden. As we entered the building it felt as if we were walking into the Beverly Hills Hotel, everything from the plush beige carpet, to the grand piano in the lobby, wreaked of wealth and prestige. Immediately we were greeted at the door by a young woman in a business suit who informed us that she would be our tour guide for the day, and introducing herself as Liz. As we followed her into the greeting room I took notice of the abundance of hidden cameras that were in the building. When I questioned her about the necessity of such cameras she informed me it was due to security purposes. When we entered the room she asked for our personal information and our bags. We politely refused to give her such information and she kindly accepted. The first item on the agenda was the visitation of L. Ron Hubbards office (the founder of Scientology), which is built in all Scientology Churches to pay tribute to its founder. When we asked her if Mr. Hubbard had ever actually visited any of these offices, she informed us that he had not. Next on our tour was a trip to the bookstore. there she educated us about the full body of knowledge that the religious scriptures of these books contained in more than 40 million spoken and written words on the subject of Scientology, all written by L. Ron Hubbard. Liz touched upon his doctrines highlighting the use of auditing, the e-meter, and eventual enlightenment.
The following is what was learned about the specific doctrines of Scientology: auditing: the central practice of Scientology, by which the truths of Scientology are applied. Similar to a therapy session, however the auditor does not offer solutions, advice, or evaluations, the highly trained auditor (from the Latin word "one who listens") simply listens to the words of the person being audited. By listening and using the enhancement of the E-meter the auditor is able to gauge repressed thoughts and issues that are weighing an individual down. The Scientology auditor ideally helps individuals accomplish enlightenment by guiding them to examine their existence and face truism. electropsychometer: (A.K.A. E-meter) auditors use this device to help isolate areas of spiritual upset that exists below a person's current awareness. Ron Hubbard developed the E-meter based on the knowledge that the mind contains mental image pictures. When a person views one of these mental image pictures the E-meter does not diagnose or cure anything, it simply measures the state of an individual and serves as a guide to what should be addressed in an auditing session. training: classes conducted in Scientology to further study Scientology's principles, with the goal of improving conditions in every area of life. There was a vast array of books located in the Scientology bookstore. This unique store contained advanced hard and soft covered books for the adult reader, coloring as well as storybooks for the children, as well as computer books for those computer savvy believers, all supposedly written by L. Ron Hubbard. To our astonishment they even offered the sacred E-meter for sale. When observing this device up close it merely looked like something from a science fiction novel, with knobs, wires, and two can rods to hold onto. Liz informed us that this primal device sold for $2000.00. We were both still skeptical of the accuracy of such a machine.
Next, she preceded to take us to the five star restaurant and garden which was Victorian in style, very "upper-class", but at the same time very mundane in activity. There was no spiritual connection to the garden or restaurant with the religion, it seemed more of a way to attract future worshippers.
Following this Liz escorted us to the rehabilitation center. The "rehabilitation center" turned out to be a gym and sauna. Liz explained how addicts become purified through a vitamin formula, a two-hour jog, followed by some time in the sauna, where the person usually experiences visions and cleansing. The Celebrity Center is also equipped with health aides to help those that need physical or mental attention. When we questioned whether or not these "health aides" were certified medical practitioners she informed us they were not.
Succeeding this Liz escorted us to the Scientology training rooms, where Scientology classes were conducted. Upon approach, I took notice that the individuals in the classes were dressed in dress shirts, ties, pressed pants, and overall, formal attire. In addition, these students were approximately between the ages of 20-30 years of age. The contents of the training room resembled a quaint library, which enforced individual study and research on Hubbard's work. Here is where Liz desperately tried to make us a believer of the E-meter. By actually doing a simulated auditing session and using the E-meter, we came up with the final conclusion that simply by increasing ones grip one can manipulate the E-meters gauge and evaluation.
Following the observance of the training room I subtly interviewed Liz. Liz turned out to be 22 years in age in which the last five she has been and currently is married. She was raised in a household of Scientology believers, and has never questioned its doctrines. Thus, Liz has never indulged outside of this religion and her husband as well as herself is immensely involved with the establishment. Liz was extremely kind and welcomed all questions we had for her.
Atlas, our one-hour tour ended with Liz escorting us to the Scientology theatre. There, we observed a 15 minute film on the benefits of this newly founded (established in 1950) religion. The worshippers in this film were represented as Caucasian, middle-class, peoples dressed in formal attire. Their movements were perceived as robotic and contrived. In addition, the contents of this video denounced the practice of psychology as appropriate therapy. Furthermore, the video emphasized the necessity of purchasing the Scientology literature to obtain enlightenment. After observing this film I questioned how one could be attracted to such a religion that seemed more like a path to the bank rather then to enlightenment.
With the closing of our tour Liz informed us that if we were interested in Scientology all we had to do to become a member was simply give her our name and address. We, once again declined in giving her any personal information, thanked her and said our farewells. As we exited the building I felt a wave of relief pass over me and I was finally able to breathe again.
One very crucial and interesting observation of Scientology was done by TIME magazine, in 1991. This article, written by Richard Behar, was entitled The Thriving Cult of Creed and Power. This article depicts Scientology not as a "bona fide religion" but rather as a global scam, and vindictive corporation.
TIME conducted more than 150 interviews and reviewed hundreds of court records and internal Scientology documents. Church authorities refused to be interviewed. The investigation concluded that Scientology is a growing enterprise. "In a court filing, one of the cult's many entities - the Church of Spiritual Technology - listed $503 million in income just for 1987", writer Behar founded (2). The article describes the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, as part storyteller and part pathological liar. Furthermore, Behar describes Hubbard's book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, more as science fiction then spiritual fact, and continues by describing the E-meter as a simplified lie detector.
In addition it was discovered, by TIME, that the prime reason Scientology became a fully religious organization was due to the Internal Revenue Service ruling in 1967 which stripped Scientology of its tax-exempt status. Thus, at this time, in order to hold onto this status Scientology declared their doctrines as sacred and religious.
Moreover, it was discovered that the church actually invents costly new services. According to the churches latest price list, recruits took auditing sessions that cost as much as $1,000 an hour or $12,500 for a 12 ½ hour of "intensive training". It was also noted that the church's most fearsome advocates are its lawyers. Scientology has brought hundreds of suits against its adversaries with the goal to bankrupt the opposition. For instance, the church has 71 active lawsuits against the IRS alone.
Overall, it is perceived through emic research of the Celebrity Center, as well as other literature, that money is what Scientology is all about. I believe that the needs that are satisfied are solely beneficial to the church and its wallets. To the worshippers, Scientology may briefly represent a light of hope and enlightenment, however simply by weighing out the variables, it is perceived that believers of Scientology eventually become investors of an establishment whose interest is not for the good of its believers.
1991 "The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power", Time Magazine May 6, 1991 page 50