Please note, that much can be and has been said about the horrific abuses and predatory activities of L.Ron Hubbard, the “Church of Scientology” and its leaders and agents. Much, but no doubt, far from all of these are well documented. Make no mistake about it, I think it is important to make these well-known to protect people from suffering the consequences of getting involved with these people. This article focuses on the aspects of the history and development of the system of Scientology.
In the late 1940s, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (L. Ron Hubbard), known mostly at that time as a successful science fiction writer, wrote articles about “Dianetics,” which he described as “a new science of the mind.” It was based on the idea that traumatic experiences that were too devastating to fully consciously accept and digest maintained a harmful and debilitating effect on how a person would see and react to things thereafter, without the person’s awareness of this, unless and until that experience was brought to the surface and consciously processed. Although that idea goes at least as far back as the 19th century and is anything but “new” or “original”, Hubbard’s take was not without its nuances.
Hubbard’s Dianetics spoke in terms of “the analytical mind”, “the reactive mind”, and “the somatic mind” and presented his system of addressing these painful experiences recorded in the mind, which Hubbard referred to as “engrams.”
This approach is related most directly to “abreaction therapy,” which functions along the same principles. Hubbard’s “Dianetics” created an entirely new vocabulary to describe and distinguish his concepts and techniques, with specific instructions. In 1950 his book “Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health” sold well, and there were people getting together to treat each other with Dianetics.
Hubbard’s superlative claims for Dianetics helped set him up for high praise from some, and for ridicule and criticism from others. His insistence that the entirety of the subject was completely new (sprung from his own mind and unrelated to any existing forms of therapy) did not sit well with most of those in the field of therapy that he hoped to capture. This created a rift and a conflict that would worsen over time. Hubbard, going forward, presented himself as the sole “source” of all that is valid and effective in addressing the mind and spirit, and characterized the existing fields of therapy as the work of “the enemies of mankind.”
Interest and participation ebbed and flowed through the years. A couple of years after the release of Dianetics, Hubbard rebranded his line as Scientology, claiming it to be a religious practice, seeing it as advantageous public relations-wise, and tax-free-wise. Hubbard began to work in the direction of developing a methodological flowchart or path: a “bridge” of what became a long series of steps, with levels of sequences of techniques, or “processes”, making ever-grander claims for what results would be obtained.
Hubbard’s evolving system was steeped in his premise that each of us is “stacked” or “wired” the same way, and that a “standard” system could be established to generate uniform results for all. But as attractive an idea as that might seem to be, there were always the failures to deliver on the grandiose promises. All the failures were blamed on supposed faults of both the individuals experiencing Scientology and the individuals applying Scientology to others (“auditors”), all the while Hubbard always insisted that Scientology’s system was 100% workable, blaming all the failures to meet the hyperbolic claims and resultant expectations on those participating, that each and every disappointment was attributable to those undergoing the sessions, those conducting the sessions, “government spies”, “FBI moles”, “agents of the psychiatrists”, anybody other than Hubbard.
Generally, participants with complaints were persuaded to comply and cooperate; or if they refused to do so, they were subject to expulsion and orders of “disconnection” from all “Scientologists in good standing,” even friends, spouse, and family. Over time, stories of both the successes and the disappointments connected to Scientology would tend to the extreme. Eventually, participants would be ordered not to read or listen to anything or anyone speaking critically of any element of Scientology; by the 1990s, Scientologists were not permitted to freely explore the Internet. There are penalties for those who break the rules, which can include expulsion from all services and from all association with Scientologists.
From 1965 forward, Hubbard would always, no matter what, persistently insist that Scientology had achieved its goal of a “100% workable mental and spiritual technology, something never accomplished before by any man or group.” He turned on his coterie of researchers and developers and declared that he alone had single-handedly developed every worthwhile principle and technique, and referred to himself as “Source.” He proclaimed to Scientologists that only he, and he alone could be trusted to develop “workable technology,” and forbade participants to even consider accepting any idea or technique from anyone else.
In 1966, Hubbard began to direct participation and growth in the direction of exhorting all to join the cause to “salvage mankind” and to “clear the planet” (“Clear”, in Scientology parlance, being the expression of a state of absolute rationality, and the total absence of irrational thinking or behavior) with Scientology. He bought a small fleet of ships and recruited people for “The Sea Organization;” each of those people signed a “billion year contract,” committing them to present-and-future lives totally dedicated to encouraging the spread of Scientology technology, which was synonymous with furthering the will of Hubbard who gave himself the title of “The Commodore.” “Sea Org” members lived and worked on the ships, and then years later in their own living quarters compounds, subject to whatever orders they were given.
As with any group, there would be ebb and flow in Scientology membership (both those paying for services and staff). Existing members left, new people took an interest and got involved. But in the early 1980s, the tenor of the entire organization changed.
By 1981, power over the official organizations of Scientology had been very aggressively usurped by the extremely forceful David Miscavige, who, gained control over the information channels to Hubbard and bullied his way to power over all those who had been entrusted to run various sectors of the Scientology empire. The new hard-fisted regime (both figuratively and literally) and extreme attitudes caused waves of mass defections (forced and voluntary). Meanwhile, Hubbard grew sicker and older, disappearing from view and passing away in 1986.
The organization continues still to move progressively to harsher attitudes, less successful mental and spiritual processing, and heavy pressuring of its remaining members for huge money donations to replace the dwindling payments generated for counseling training and sessions. The publicity campaigns spew out fantastic exaggerations, claiming tens of millions of participants worldwide while outside estimates suggest less than 10,000 today.
Many who left have interesting stories about their experiences: some wonderful, some terrible. I would say that 99% of all the stories are true, both the good and the bad.
Today most previously-committed Scientologists have left, with responses to the subject on a wide spectrum of emotions. Some remain passionately dedicated to Hubbard’s “standard tech” paradigm, fervently rejecting and even denouncing any modifications to “Ron’s own words” (despite documentation that much of the material Hubbard emphatically attributed to himself as “source” derived from the others) and consider all the misbehaviors and disappointments experienced with Scientology attributable to “violating the tech”, (failing to faithfully implement Hubbard’s published instructional bulletins and policies).
Some bitterly reject anything and everything related to Scientology. Quite a few have mixed feelings, or are very appreciative of particular aspects of their own experience and of certain elements of the overall “Scientology” package.
Many of those who have left, still imbued with the crusader mentality, insistently and fervently pontificate and campaign to encourage admiration and support of Scientology practices, and/or Hubbard. At the other extreme, there are those who fervently campaign to stir hatred and distrust of the organization, and/or Scientology practices, and/or Hubbard, or in favor of Hubbard but against the organization, etc.
In my researching the history of all the methods, processes, procedures and techniques that accumulated over the decades, there is sufficient documentation to recognize that most, if not all of these were created, developed and/or derived from various individuals and sources other than Hubbard. Some of them actually have their practical uses, especially if separated out of all the misleading and detrimental misdirection and indoctrination of Hubbard’s Scientology, albeit these generally, as given, are not the best way to accomplish what these might.
For those interested in knowing more about the story of Scientology, here are some books that offer other perspectives that maintain some balance on the subject:
• Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief, by Lawrence Wright
• Scientology vs Scientology (e-book), by Patricia Krenik (Email Patricia at email@example.com)
• Blown for Good, by Marc Headley
• Bare-Faced Messiah, The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard, by Russell Miller
• Books by Mark “Marty” Rathbun: The Scientology Reformation; What Is Wrong With Scientology? Healing through Understanding; Memoirs of a Scientology Warrior
• Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Jenna Miscavige Hill
• Scientology – Abuse At the Top, Amy Scobee