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Scientology is a controversial system of beliefs and teachings, begun in 1952 by author L. Ron Hubbard, and presented as a religion. Scientology is recognized by the United State's Internal Revenue Service as a constitutionally protected religion in the United States, but not in most other countries. The Church of Scientology was first incorporated in the United States as a nonprofit organization in 1954, and currently is considered to be a tax-exempt religious nonprofit organization under the tax code administered by the Internal Revenue Service. By contrast, the governments of Germany, France and Belgium officially regard the Church of Scientology as a dangerous cult.
Scientology evolved from Dianetics, a system of self-improvement techniques published in the 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (DTMSOMH). This was followed by the more organized Science of Survival in 1951, and finally Dianetics 55! in 1955, by which time Hubbard had characterized Dianetics as a minor sub-study of Scientology. Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science (1983) is Hubbard's account of his development of dianetics and its eventual evolution into Scientology. By the time he died in 1986, Hubbard had published hundreds of books on Scientology, and only a few on Dianetics.
Following Hubbard's death, leadership of the organization of Scientology was taken over by David Miscavige. Officially, Miscavige is the Chairman of the Board of Scientology's "Religious Technology Center" (RTC), which exists to safeguard Scientology's writings and publications. Unofficially, Miscavige is accused by critics of masterminding the entire organization. The "president" and spokesperson for the Church of Scientology is "reverend" Heber Jentzsch.
The central tenets of the movement are based on the belief that a person is an immortal spiritual being (referred to as a thetan) who has a mind and a body, but is neither of these, that he is basically good, and that he is seeking to survive.
Scientology holds that man's survival depends upon himself, and upon his fellows, and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.
It is taught that a person's upsets, limitations and harmful acts can be attributed in part to a portion of his mind of which he is normally unaware, called the reactive mind or the bank. This portion of the mind is believed to store impressions of past events containing some level of unconsciousness, emotional and physical trauma, which can be re-activated in times of stress. The aware portion of a person's mind is referred to as the analytical mind.
The central practice of Scientology, and Dianetics before it, is an activity known as auditing (listening) which Scientologists claim seeks to elevate an adherent to a State of Clear, that being one of freedom from the influences of the reactive mind. The practice is one wherein a counselor called an auditor addresses a series of questions to a preclear, observes and records his responses, and acknowledges them.
The aim of auditing, according to the Church of Scientology, is to enable the preclear to recover awareness and volitional control of the material previously stored in his reactive mind. Critics of Scientology have claimed that an audit is, among other things, a gathering of material for blackmail in the case that a Clear should leave the religion. The Church of Scientology publicly denies this theory.
The earliest forms of Dianetics processing, still practiced today, involved a scenario reminiscent of Freudian psychoanalysis, with the preclear reclining on a couch in a reflective state called Dianetic reverie while the auditor observed from a chair nearby and took notes, predicating his questions and responses on utterances by the preclear and a number of physiological indications.
Most later forms of auditing employ a device called the Hubbard Electropsychometer ( or E-Meter). This is a device which measures changes in the electrical resistance of the preclear's skin by passing approximately 1/2 volt through a pair of tin-plated tubes much like empty asparagus cans, attached to the meter by wires and held by the preclear during auditing. These low-potential changes in electrical resistance, known as the skin response">galvanic skin response, caused by additional moisture, are similar to those measured by polygraphs and related machines, and are believed by church adherents to be more reliable and sensitive to the preclear's state of mind than the physiological indicia of early Dianetics.
Critics of Scientology point to a lack of scientific basis for the E-meter and other practices. In an interesting, if somewhat contradictory response, the church has claimed on the one hand that Scientology is a religion and not science and therefore does not seek scientific support -- and on the other, that just as a polygraph may use electrical conductivity of the skin to indicate whether one is comfortable with questions and answers, so may any instrument which measures galvanic response.
The church acknowledges that at the higher levels of initiation (OT levels), teachings are imparted which may be considered "mystical", and potentially harmful to unprepared readers. These teachings are kept secret from members who have not reached these levels.
In the Church of Scientology vs. Fishman and Geertz case, former scientologist Steven Fishman introduced as evidence what appeared to be Hubbard's OT I through OT VIII documents, of which a small portion known as the Xenu story has received much media attention. Xenu, according to the documents, was an evil galactic overlord who oppressed free spirits with science fiction-like tactics in the Earth's distant past (at which time planet Earth was known as Teegeeack.) The Fishman affidavit became public domain as a court document, and contains confidential course materials sold at a high cost. The church subsequently dropped the case against Fishman and petitioned the court to seal the documents, without formally acknowledging their authenticity.
The Church has also used copyright law to sue others who have published portions of these and other documents. Nevertheless, these documents are today widely available on the Net -- publicized by critics, scholars of religion, and interested observers.
These and many other Scientologist-run businesses and organizations belong to the umbrella organization WISE (World Institute of Scientology Enterprises). WISE also promotes L. Ron Hubbard's management doctrine in Scientologist businesses.
organization has become corrupt, domineering, and controlling, a number of groups have broken away from Scientology and founded their own practices. Avoiding the name "Scientology" so as to keep from being sued, these groups are known as the Free Zone. Scientology has made efforts to suppress the Free Zone and keep it from expanding; however, aided by the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, the Free Zone has gained in popularity over the past decade.
Members of the Church of Scientology are invited to do any number of classes, exercises or counseling sessions, at fixed donation rates. Charges for auditing and other church-related courses run from hundreds to thousands of dollars. A wide variety of entry-level courses, representing 8 to 16 hours study, cost under $100 (US). More advanced courses require membership in the International Association of Scientologists (IAS). Membership without taking expensive courses or auditing is possible, but the higher states of Scientology can not be reached. In 1994/95, Operation Clambake estimated the cost of reaching "OT9 readiness", one of the highest levels, is US $365,000 - $380,000.  (http://www.xenu.net/archive/CoS_prices.html)
Critics hold that it is improper to fix a donation for religious service and that therefore the activity is non-religious. The Church of Scientology points out that many classes, exercises and counseling may also be traded for "in kind" or performed cooperatively by students for no cost, and that members of its most devoted ecclesiastic orders need donate nothing for services.
Scientology claims to be non-denominational and compatible with all faiths; however, a deeper study of Scientology shows that its worldview and teachings do contradict the worldview and teachings of religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahá'í Faith.
Scientology also claims that in 1994, a joint council of Shinto Buddhist (Yu-itsu Shinto) sects in Japan not only extended official recognition of Scientology, but also undertook to train a number of their monks in its beliefs and practices as an adjunct to their own meditations and worship. This continues, according to Scientology, a long tradition of Eastern faiths of assimilating or adopting elements of others faiths which they find harmonious with their own. This may be a reflection of the fact that Hubbard acknowledged a strong Eastern, and specifically Buddhist influence in forming his own personal philosophy.
The Church of Scientology was formally recognized as a tax exempt religious and charitable organization by the United States Internal Revenue Service in 1993. (According to this article (http://www-2.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Cowen/essays/wj301297.html) in the Wall Street Journal published on December 30, 1997, Scientology paid a settlement of $12.5 million to the IRS in exchange for tax exemption. Scientology also dropped its more than fifty lawsuits against the IRS when this settlement was reached.) Scientology frequently states that its tax exemption is proof that the United States government accepts it as a religion.
In other countries, though, the Church of Scientology is not recognized as religion or charitable activity, but regarded as commercial enterprise with a totalitarian structure. (Sentence of German Labor Court (http://www.innenministerium.bayern.de/scientology/urteile/5azb21.htm)). In such countries, proselytizing activities of Scientology on public ground undergo the same restrictions as commercial advertising, which is interpreted as religious persecution by the Church of Scientology. Some state reports on Scientology in countries such as Britain and Australia have yielded unfavorable observations and conclusions. Where the Church of Scientology is seen as totalitarian organization, it is or has been under observation by national security organizations like other extremist organizations.
In Israel, the Church of Scientology does not use the term "Church" as part of its name, possibly because of the Christian connotation of the term in Jewish culture. When asked, most Israeli scientologists deny that Scientology is a religion, and low level adherents appear genuinely surprised when they are confronted with English language COS material in which the word Church is used.
The likeness of Scientology and the ancient beliefs of Gnosticism is quite striking, and has been noticed by many scholars of religion. The three-part mind partitioning (body, soul, spirit) is identical to that of the Gnostics. The low regard for matter (by Hubbard called MEST, Matter-Energy-Space-Time, with reference to the modern physics concepts of matter) in contrast to spirit is also mirrored in Gnosticism. The Gnostics learned that every human had a unique spiritual core, called pneuma (Greek for "spirit" or "ghost"). This is very similar to the thetan concept of Scientology. The esotericism of Scientology is also a distinct feature of Gnostic belief systems.
Scientology rejects the claim that mental diseases can have biological bases and holds that such diseases are caused exclusively by disturbed thought processes which can be corrected by Scientology counseling. On the other hand, the Church of Scientology has policies which forbid the counseling of mentally ill people or those who have received psychiatric treatment.
Scientology regards psychiatry not only as largely ineffective at providing true improvements in mental health, disastrously misguided in its emphasis on the mind as a purely biological machine, and contributing to a heavy emphasis on drugs for treating an ever-increasing roster of mental health issues, but as the root of many political and social evils. Psychiatrists, non-Scientological psychologists and counselors, and supporters of psychiatry are derogatorily termed "psychs" in Scientology internal literature. Psychs are generally regarded as suppressive persons and have the same non-person status as critics of the Church.
A sister organization, the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has been formed to promote this viewpoint. The CCHR's Web site (http://www.cchr.org) lists various publications put out by the organization that attack the field of psychiatry, including Psychiatric Rape - Betraying Women, Psychiatry: Education's Ruin, Psychiatry: Victimizing the Elderly, and Psychiatry's Betrayal - Creating Racism. The CCHR does not publicize its connection to the Church of Scientology, leading both psychiatrists and critics of the Church to label it a front group.
Psychiatry does not agree. [Psychiatric Times: Psychiatric Profession Current Target of Citizens Commission on Human Rights (http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/p961110.html)
organization called the Church of Scientology uses brainwashing and intimidation tactics to influence members to donate large amounts of money in standard cult practices and to submit completely to the organization. One alleged example is the Rehabilitation Project Force, to which members are assigned to work off alleged wrongdoings. Another is the Sea Organization (Sea Org), a high-intensity Scientology org partly operated aboard a ship.
Scholars have written works both forwarding and rebutting allegations of brainwashing in the RPF and Sea Org. One critical work is Stephen Kent's Brainwashing in Scientology's Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) (http://www.hamburg.de/Behoerden/ags/brain.pdf). Responses to allegations include Juha Pentikäinen's The Church of Scientology?s Rehabilitation Project Force (http://www.cesnur.org/2002/scient_rpf_01.htm) and J. Gordon Melton's A Contemporary Ordered Religious Community: The Sea Organization (http://www.cesnur.org/2001/london2001/melton.htm).
Discussions of "brainwashing" or inappropriate domination of members have pervaded many other works critical of Scientology, as well as court cases against the church.
disconnection, the severing of ties between members and friends or family who criticize the faith. This has torn apart many families. Open letter: A family torn apart by Scientology (http://www.factnet.org/Scientology/child6.htm)
While the often-seen rumor that Hubbard made a bar bet with Robert Heinlein that he could start a cult is almost certainly false, others have claimed direct knowledge that during 1949 Hubbard did make statements to other people that starting a religion would be a good way to make money.
Writer and publisher Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, for example, reported Hubbard saying "I'd like to start a religion. That's where the money is."
The Church of Scientology denies these claims, and has in fact sued publishers for making them. Members hold that the truth or falsity of such claims is irrelevant in judging whether the church meets their spiritual needs.
The Church of Scientology has been linked to a number of deaths (http://www.whyaretheydead.net/), the most known of which is the death of Lisa McPherson (http://www.lisamcpherson.org/). A woman of 36, Lisa entered the Fort Harrison Hotel, Clearwater, a Scientology stronghold, in 1995, physically healthy. She was dead seventeen days later of a blood clot brought on by severe dehydration and bed rest. Medical examiners said she had gone without fluids for seven to ten days, probably longer, and had been comatose for as long as a day before she died. But Medical Examiner Dr. Joan Wood has amended (http://www.sptimes.com/News/022300/TampaBay/Church_member_s_death.shtml) her autopsy report after years in a highly unusual move. In her original report (http://www.shipbrook.com/jeff/CoS/autopsy.html) she listed Lisa's death as "Undetermined" - her amended report (http://www.whyaretheydead.net/grp/amended.jpg) of 16 February 2000, as "Accident". Wood also removed one cause of death ("bed rest and severe dehydration") and added a new significant condition ("psychosis and history of auto accident").
The Church did not see fit to take her to the hospital, even as she began to urinate and defecate on herself after the first week of solitary confinement and held conversations with imaginary people. The Clearwater police files on Lisa McPherson (http://www.lisafiles.com/)
The Church of Scientology, in typical fashion, fought tooth and nail the various legal actions brought against them as regards the death. Their harassment forced Bob Minton to drop civil charges. The various trials are still ongoing (2003)
The Church of Scientology has a history of dealing forcefully with critics (which the organization calls "suppressive persons").
Unlike most other religious organizations, the Church of Scientology maintains strict control over the use of its symbols, icons, texts, and names. It claims copyright and trademark over its "Scientology cross," and its lawyers have threatened and conducted lawsuits against individuals and organizations who have published the image in books and on Web sites or quoted short paragraphs of Scientology texts in an article or Web site.
Because of this, it is very difficult for individual groups to attempt to publicly practice Scientology on their own, without any affiliation or connection to the "official" Church of Scientology. Scientology has sued a number of individuals who attempted to set up their own auditing practices, using copyright and trademark law to shut these groups down.
The Church of Scientology has made a name for itself as being one of the most litigious entities in existence. It has made extensive use of copyright and trademark issues, the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the legal system to silence its critics. It has spent huge sums on lawsuits (and threats of lawsuits) filed against individuals, newspapers, magazines, television studios, internet service providers, internet search engines, internet archives, government agencies and others.
In the last decade, it has particularly concentrated on dealing with various critics using the Internet as a forum. Publicly available court records, for example, document a "fair game" policy established in 1967 (though subsequently officially revoked), which stated that critics "May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." The Electronic Frontier Foundation maintains an archive (http://www.eff.org/pub/Censorship/CoS_v_the_Net/) of documents related to the church's efforts to interfere with online critics.
The organization replies that this is the only way the church has been able to survive in a sometimes-hostile environment. In an earlier era, for example, Mormons took up arms and organized militia to defend themselves from those hostile to their faith. Scientology, it would seem, has taken up the civil lawsuit in place of weaponry.
Certainly, it would seem the church did not help its own cause in this regard when, in the mid-1970s, an agent of the church was caught covertly pilfering documents on Scientology from IRS intelligence files.
Following this episode, offices of the church in Los Angeles, California and Washington, D.C. were searched by FBI agents and documents confiscated. Eleven church staff, including Mary Sue Hubbard (Ron Hubbard's wife and second in command in the organization) and other highly placed officials, pled guilty or were convicted in federal court based on evidence seized in the raids, and received sentences from two to six years (some suspended).
There is disagreement over how much official church approval the illegal activities had: The Church of Scientology claims that a "rogue" branch of the church was closed on the heels of the event, gutted of its staff, and dozens of personnel expelled or subjected to lesser sanctions and that it has since been reorganized so that no branch enjoys similar autonomy to the former "rogues". Others believe that the reorganization was simply an internal coup by one church faction to eliminate the power of a rival faction. Former members allege that illegal operations were conducted after the arrests and are ongoing, a charge that is vigorously denied by the church.
Scientology long considered the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) as one of its most important "enemies," and many Scientology publications during the 1980s and 1990s cast CAN (and its spokesperson at the time, Cynthia Kisser) in an unfriendly light, accusing the cult-watchdog organization of various criminal activities. After CAN was forced into bankruptcy and taken over by Scientologists in the late 1990s, Scientology proudly proclaimed this as one of its greatest victories. (Source: Scientology press release (http://news.scientology.org/press/jul/97070201.htm) issued upon winning the CAN court battle and another view (http://www.skeptictank.org/moxon.htm) from the American Lawyer. June 1997.
Scientology Inc. has claimed anywhere from eight million to fifteen million customers world-wide (a number roughly equal to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and has stated that "Scientology is the fastest growing 'religion' in the world." The evidence suggests otherwise. The International Association of Scientologists (IAS) maintains a list of Scientologists world-wide: every active Scientologist is required by Scientology Inc. to belong to and pay dues to this association. At its most popular, Scientology and Dianetics reached its peak in the mid 1980s, with an estimated 1,500,000 customers world-wide. Its customer base has been declining ever since.
Using Scientology Inc.'s published "completions" figures, one may plot Scientology Inc.'s future customer base graphically. Given the current trend in Scientology customer count, the trend hits bottom around the year 2019.