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Jesus for a Million
Dec 28, 2006, 2:57a - Religion

When I was in 12th grade, I took a fascinating class called "History of Religion" taught by an excellent teacher, Ken Todd. I remember looking forward to that class for several years, and it proved worth the wait. I learned stuff there that I still think about today. For example, we spent a lot of time discussing how every known culture practices rituals, ones that often seem arbitrary and meaningless to the historian but proved critical and meaning-rich at the time. What will anthropologists say 1000 years from now when they're studying this funny culture where families cut down trees, drag them into their houses, cover them with gaudy breakables and multicolor lights, and throw them away after only 3 weeks? Will they think we had lost our minds?

So, in compliance with my new "A new blog post every Tuesday and Thursday" rule, I'm posting an essay I wrote for that class way back in March of 1998. The essay is entitled "Jesus for a Million" and discusses the religion of Scientology. It was one of only 3 essays I wrote in high school that I was actually proud of, so it seemed reasonable to republish it online for the first time. It's a blog exclusive, so enjoy ;)

March 8, 1998

By far the most controversial religion of the twentieth century, Scientology has been the subject of countless government investigations and newspaper headlines. Portrayed in the mass media as a sinister cult of greedy individuals seeking to brainwash and control an unsuspecting populace, Scientologists have encountered many obstacles in their efforts to establish Scientology as a recognized religion. The war is constant, yet people rarely know Scientology's actual beliefs and tenets. When one examines their initial teachings, the sanity and intelligence that form the religion's core is immediately shocking. Profound and relevant insights into human nature function as the basis of a Scientologist's journey toward clarity and happiness. The proclaimed goal of Scientology is a state of contentment that any human being would envy. Unfortunately, however, secrecy sets in after these initial teachings. Scientologists hide their more advanced methods and beliefs, thereby promoting a mysterious and intriguing atmosphere. It is this secretive atmosphere, along with the vast amount of money required to learn the advanced methods and unconfirmed anecdotes of torture, that spawns the belief that Scientology is a maniacal cult bent on controlling the world.

According to practicing Scientologists, Scientology is an applied religious philosophy. It is something one does, not merely something one believes in, and constitutes the first real application of scientific methodology to spiritual questions. Founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950 through the publishing of Dianetics, Scientology has surged in popularity, with over eight million members to date. (alt.religion.scientology FAQ) According to Dianetics, the goal of life is infinite survival. The purpose of the mind is to solve problems relating to survival, and, in this effort, records data using "mental image pictures." These pictures, composed of energy, are three-dimensional and contain the perceptions of all five senses. They have mass, exist in space, and appear when someone thinks of something related to the picture. For example, if one thinks of a certain food, one sees a mental picture of that food. (What is Scientology? 61)

Hubbard believed that the mind has two very distinct parts. The analytical mind is the part that one consciously uses. However, in moments of intense physical or emotional pain, the analytical mind suspends action and the second part of the mind, the reactive mind, takes over. The reactive mind records these pains, making them unavailable to the individual's conscious recall. The reactive mind stores particular types of mental image pictures called "engrams." These engrams are a complete recording of every perception present in a moment of partial or full "unconsciousness." In the future, when the individual's present environment contains enough similarities to the elements found in the engram, he will experience a re-activation of the engram, causing unknowing and unwanted fears, emotions, pains, and psychosomatic illnesses. The goal of Dianetics is a new state for the individual, a condition called "Clear." A Clear is a person who no longer has his own reactive mind and therefore suffers none of the ill effects that the reactive mind can cause. Becoming Clear strengthens a person's native individuality and creativity. A Clear is free with his emotions and can experience life unencumbered by inhibitions reactively dictated by past engrams. (What is Scientology? 64)

The beliefs of Dianetics continue in Scientology, the religion. Scientology considers the individual himself to be the spiritual being, called a thetan. Three parts compose man: his body, his mind, and the thetan, himself. The thetan uses his mind as a control system between himself and the physical universe. The mind is not the brain, for the brain is simply a conduit for the mind's intelligence. The mind accumulates recordings of thoughts, conclusions, decisions, observations, and perceptions of the thetan throughout its existence.

Scientology divides the basic need to survive obeyed by all life into eight compartments, so that each aspect of life is distinct and clear. These eight compartments are the eight dynamics, with dynamic meaning urge, drive, or impulse. The first dynamic is SELF. This is the effort to survive as an individual, to be an individual. The second dynamic is CREATIVITY, the making of things for the future. The third dynamic is GROUP SURVIVAL. This is the urge to survive through a group of individuals or as a group. The fourth dynamic is SPECIES. This is the urge toward survival through all mankind and as all mankind. The fifth is LIFE FORMS. This is the urge to survive as life forms and with the help of life forms such as animals, birds, insects, fish, and vegetation. The sixth is the PHYSICAL UNIVERSE, which consists of matter, energy, space, and time. The seventh dynamic is the SPIRITUAL DYNAMIC, the urge to survive as spiritual beings. The eighth, and final, dynamic is the urge toward existence as INFINITY, commonly supposed to be a Supreme Being or Creator, but correctly defined as infinity. Simply delineating these dynamics clarifies and brings order to one's existence. One can observe these dynamics in one's own life, note which one needs improvement, and, through Scientology, bring these factors into greater harmony. (What is Scientology? 71)

Another tool drawn from the body of Scientology and commonly used in everyday life is the Tone Scale. Labeled from 0.0 to 40.0, the Tone Scale plots in an exact ascending sequence the levels of a person's condition. For example, 0.0 is body death, 0.05 is apathy, 0.5 is grief, 1.0 is fear, 1.1 is covert hostility, 1.5 is anger, 2.0 is antagonism, 2.5 is boredom, 3.0 is conservatism, 4.0 is enthusiasm, and 40.0 is serenity of existence. The average person is 2.8, content. One can place himself or any individual on this Tone Scale. Using Scientology, he can know how to move up to higher tones where increased existence, competence, self-esteem, honesty, well-being, happiness, and other desirable attributes manifest themselves. People low on the scale find it difficult to respond to communication that is too far above their emotional condition. If one tries to help someone in apathy by talking to them in enthusiasm, he will probably have little success. With knowledge of the scale, however, one could recognize the emotion one-half to one full tone above the person, communicate in that tone, and thus bring him up to higher tones. By moving up the scale slowly it is possible to help someone overcome fixed conditions and regain a more happy and vital outlook. (What is Scientology? 74)

From the body of thought and philosophy described above come the second division of Scientology: the applied philosophy. Scientologists use the technique of auditing as a precise path by which any individual may walk an exact route to higher states of awareness. The goal of auditing is to restore existence and ability. By helping the individual rid himself of any disabilities and increasing individual abilities, auditing benefits the person. Auditing deletes those things that the person's reactive mind added through life's painful experiences and addresses and improves the person's ability to confront and handle the factors in his life. The auditing process is a form of personal counseling that helps an individual look at his own existence and improve his ability to confront what he is and where he is. There is no use of hypnosis, trance techniques, or drugs during auditing, and the person being audited is completely aware of everything that happens. A person trained and qualified in applying auditing to individuals for their betterment is an "auditor," a minister of the Church of Scientology. A person receiving auditing is a "preclear," a person not yet Clear. A preclear consults with an auditor during auditing sessions. (What is Scientology? 80)

Auditing uses exact sets of questions asked or directions given by an auditor to help a person find out things about himself and improve his condition. There are many different auditing processes, and each one addresses a specific issue of the preclear's life. The questions or directions of the process guide the person to inspect a certain part of his existence. Regardless of the individual's experience or background, the auditor assists the individual in locating not only areas of upset or difficulty but also the source of the upset. By doing this, any person is able to free himself of unwanted barriers that inhibit, stop, or blunt his natural abilities and increase these abilities so that he becomes brighter and more able. Auditing is not a period of vague free association. Each process is exact in its application, and attains a definite result when correctly administered. (What is Scientology? 81)
A specially designed meter that helps the auditor and preclear locate areas of spiritual distress assists the auditing process. This instrument is an "Electropsychometer," or E-Meter. When the E-Meter is operating and a person holds the meter's electrodes, a tiny flow of electrical energy (about 1.5 volts) passes down the wires of the E-Meter leads, through the person's body, and back into the E-Meter. The electrical flow is so small that there is no physical sensation when holding the electrodes. According to Scientology, the pictures in the mind contain energy and mass. The energy and force in pictures of experiences painful to the person can harm him. This harmful energy or force is "charge." When the person holding the E-Meter electrodes thinks a thought, looks at a picture, re-experiences an incident, or shifts some part of the reactive mind, he moves and changes actual mental mass and energy. These changes in the mind influence the tiny flow of electrical energy generated by the E-Meter, causing the needle on its dial to move. The needle reactions on the E-Meter tell the trained auditor where the charge lies and that he should use a specific process to address it. Using the meter, the auditor locates the correct area in order to discharge the harmful energy connected with that portion of the preclear's reactive mind. To discharge this energy, the auditor asks specific question about the charged location, forcing the preclear to delve deeper within his thoughts. He analyzes certain portions of his reactive mind, thereby moving harmful energy to his analytical mind. The charge lessens, and the person heightens his ability to think clearly in the area being addressed. The person has a realization, or cognition, a "I just realized why I always felt that way about…" kind of statement. The preclear gains a higher degree of awareness and rids himself of, for example, an irrational fear, psychosomatic illness, or disability. As an auditor addresses more and more areas of the reactive mind and alleviates them, its adverse effects continue to lessen and the individual becomes happier and more in control of his life. (What is Scientology? 86)

Although Scientology may appear to be merely a modern philosophy, it is also a religion in that it contains many symbols. Scientologists view Hubbard as god-like, and they do not dare to question any of his beliefs or teachings. His written works, such as Dianetics, function as major keystones of the religion, thereby taking on a sacred quality. They function as transcendent referents, referring to intangible and sacred ideas, like the thetan and the eight dynamics. Scientology also creates social unity among its members, although it often forces its members to separate completely and sever contact from their life before Scientology. (Boyd 19)

After intriguing possible members by the reasonable and practical philosophy and practice described above, Scientology hides its more advanced teachings behind a veil of secrecy and money. Speculation and rumors abound about the religion's practices following an individual becoming Clear, a complete process that costs close to $300,000. (Joffe 18) Following Clear is the "Bridge to Total Freedom," a "classification, gradation, and awareness chart of levels and certificates." (Boyd 19) Located on this Bridge are steps known as "Operating Thetans" (OT), with hundreds of confidential levels and courses to complete. In attaining OT status, people reawaken abilities they possess as thetans that they have suppressed or forgotten over time. With these abilities, people are able to control any part of matter, energy, space, or time, possessing such abilities as extra-sensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis. (alt.religion.scientology FAQ) On the Bridge, the Scientologist also learns the following:
75 million years ago, the earth was known as Tegeeach. There were ninety planets in this sector, called the Galactic Confederation…They had elected a fellow by the name of Xenu to be Supreme Ruler…Xenu decided to take radical measures to overcome the population problem. Beings were captured on other planets and flown to locations near two volcanoes or more on earth. H-bombs were dropped on the volcanoes destroying the bodies of the beings who, as thetans, attached themselves to each other, as clusters. A revolt followed of the loyal officers against Xenu, who was captured and locked up in an electronic mountain fortress, and remains there still. Since that time, beings born on this planet have had clusters of thetans attached to their bodies. OT Level III [an OT course] can run out these clusters, and cause them to leave us and reincarnate as individuals. (Inside Scientology: First Person Accounts Warning)
The Wall Street Journal and other reputable publications have also published this "creation myth," so there may be some truth to this speculation. Obviously, it is stories such as these accompanied by exorbitant charges in the hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Church of Scientology that promote suspicion and negative public sentiment. (Inside Scientology: First Person Accounts Warning)

In Germany, this negative sentiment has risen to such a level that Germans fear that their government may fall into the hands of the Scientologists. Gunther Beckstein of Bavaria believes that Scientology is a "totalitarian system bordering on organized crime that seeks to take over the city and the state," and his government has taken steps to reduce Scientology's influence in their society. (Joffe 17) Scientology has also been the target of many lawsuits in the United States, the most important one being their fight for the tax-exempt status that comes with recognition as a religion by the Internal Revenue Service. After several years of litany and the arrest and imprisonment of Hubbard's wife for tax evasion and espionage on the IRS, the U.S. government eventually granted tax-exempt status to Scientology under mysterious circumstances in 1993. (The Scientology problem A18) The IRS did not provide any explanation for their sudden reversal of position.

In conclusion, the religion of Scientology has been the subject of intense speculation and negative sentiment due to the secrecy, illegal activity, wealth, and power that surrounds it. Its basic philosophies and beliefs are valuable, reasonable, insightful, and practical, tenets that could better a person's life. However, it is the monetary payment that lies in the path of these philosophies that leads one to question the sincerity and motive behind such a religion. Furthermore, with estimated assets of at least $400 million and movie stars, business professionals, and government officials as members, Scientology appears to be a religion that functions as a corporation, greedy for wealth and influence. After all, several witnesses claim that Hubbard himself once said, "The best way to make a million dollars is to start your own religion." (alt.religion.scientology FAQ)

Works Cited:
  • alt.religion.scientology FAQ for New Readers.
  • Boyd, Joe. "A mind-bending experience." The Guardian. Jan 4, 1997.
  • Bunting, Madeleine. "Church that Ron built." The Guardian. Aug 29, 1996.
  • David John Carter-An Essay on Scientology.
  • Garrison, Omar V. The Hidden Story of Scientology. The Citadel Press. 1974.
  • Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Bridge Publications, Inc. 1950.
  • Hubbard, L. Ron. The Creation of Human Ability. Bridge Publications, Inc. 1989.
  • Inside Scientology: First-person accounts warning.
  • Inside Scientology: First-person accounts.
  • Joffe, Jose. "Germany vs. the Scientologists." The New York Review of Books. Apr 24, 1997.
  • NOTs Scholars Home Page.
  • "Scientology." Encyclopædia Brittanica. 1998.
  • Scientology.
  • "The Scientology problem." The Wall Street Journal. Mar 25, 1997.
  • What is Scientology?: A Guidebook to the World's Fastest Growing Religion. Bridge Publications, Inc. 1993.


Read comments (3) - Comment

Buzz - Dec 28, 2006, 1:32p
I don't see the need to wait 1000 years. People, why do you cut down trees, drag them into your houses, cover them with gaudy breakables and multicolor lights, and throw them away after only 3 weeks? Have you lost your minds?

Now, I can also say I've taken Ken Todd's history of religions class, and I still don't understand it.

omar - Dec 28, 2006, 2:52p
now, i haven't read your essay yet, but i will. but i'd like to comment on two things: first, i'm amazed that you still have the high school stuff. i think those essays have long been lost to me.

second: are you really publishing a new blog entry if you're just rehashing your work from years past? you're on a slippery slope here nikhil... :)

Jason - Dec 28, 2006, 2:54p
Astounding. I read part of Dianetics out of curiosity but grew bored and a little weirded out as Hubbard basically re-labeled common psychological phenomena with his own vocabulary. Your final paragraph brings to mind a potential comparison between Scientology and the Catholic Church of the middle ages. Hubbard was also known to admire Aleister Crowley and his Church of Satan, finding particular interest in the occult himself.
This is just a google search page as there are many interesting articles available:
While this fact is more gossip than proof of anything, it does seem to point to the idea that Hubbard was simply looking to start a business and knew just how. On the other side, I live very close to a Church of Scientology and the people are very low key. They have never posed any problems. However, their logo is incredibly lame.

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