My (Continuing) Interest in Scientology

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This is a longer post for those interested.

My recent interviews have given me a gift of clarification.

First, I have re-uploaded an emended Formal Resignation from the Church of Scientology. I have also re-uploaded a Question I posted to Scientologists affiliated with the Church of Scientology in the days after receiving my excommunication (my resignation precipitated excommunication). I have come to accept that my path forward does not lead back to good standing with the Church of Scientology; at least, not of my accord: some of the arguments regarding various Church of Scientology matters given to me in the interviews were solid and morally compel me. The Church of Scientology can always change, of course; but as it stands it has a lot of soul-searching to do and bridges to mend.

All that being said, my continuing interest in Scientology is philosophical and theological and has nothing to do with the Church of Scientology nor its associated personalities. I was never one to engage in activism (even as a Scientologist in good standing with the Church of Scientology); I therefore put the topic to rest. I would, however, like to admonish us all to treat Scientologists with respect. Our greatest literature points to treating even our mortal enemies with respect, lest we let darkness envelop us.

Second, what I mean by ‘philosophical and theological’ deserves elucidation. I write the following tentatively as my current views on the structure of the subject of Scientology after nearly completing a BA (20/24 units with a 6.55/7.00 GPA).

Scientology Philosophy

The first item of official Scientology cannon is the 1948 manuscript turned book, Dianetics: The Original Thesis. You may have heard of a long-lost 1938 manuscript, Excalibur. Hubbard later said all the pertinent information from this lost item made it into subsequent Scientology materials. You may also be aware Hubbard wrote fiction in his younger years. Mistaking that for Scientology is like mistaking Jesus for a carpenter (or perhaps that should be ‘mistaking the Bible for a book on carpentry’).

Page 1 of the 2007 edition of The Original Thesis—and keep in mind these are the first words from Hubbard on what is to become Scientology (at this stage it is Dianetics)—opens with a four-sentence paragraph referring to the Excalibur manuscript, stating he began his investigations in 1932 and that “a long research in ancient and modern philosophy culminated […] in 1938”.

What I wish to draw attention to here is not belief in Hubbard or Scientology; rather, the earliest Scientological writings refer to philosophy as the basis of Scientology.

What is also of interest is that the balance of the single-page introduction to The Original Thesis describes how Hubbard desires to extrapolate therapeutic techniques from the philosophy he landed on (he calls this philosophy “…the axioms so established.”). Being Dianetics, this is mental rather than spiritual (the shift from the former to the latter is one demarcation between Dianetics and Scientology).

The Original Thesis and the subsequent 1950 book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (he laments the ‘science’ claim in the years following) spend the majority of their ink outlining, in detail, the methods of Scientology (well, Dianetic) therapy. The ‘axioms’ alluded to don’t make an appearance until the 1951 book, Advanced Procedure & Axioms.

The flavour of that first page of Scientology canon from The Original Thesis is therefore an apt point of reflection: although Scientology is built upon philosophy, the focus is on application via therapy (which will be come to be known as “The Tech”). The philosophy most often takes a backseat. If one studies the Scientology cannon carefully, it is difficult not to notice that each time Hubbard moves his thought forward (whether we consider that a good, bad, or otherwise affair), he alludes to the philosophy while detailing The Tech. This focus on application is arguably—and I believe anyone with experience in Scientology can corroborate—because Hubbard feels humanity is in imminent danger of destroying itself and he believes he has the right (probably ‘only’ is a more accurate word) solution.

Thus although Scientology is built upon philosophy, The Tech tends to come first and the philosophy is, usually, detailed sometime later. As another example, we can see this at play when he says in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health: “We are using here a force which is still as mysterious to us as electricity was to James Clerk Maxwell.” (p. 280 of 2007 edition). That ‘force’ he is alluding to will become Theta a year later in the book, Science of Survival (if you are not familiar with the Scientology word ‘Theta’, you can use ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ as synonyms—it may not be entirely accurate to do so but if you are a novice the difference is immaterial).

The 1951 period (which includes Science of Survival and Advanced Procedure & Axioms) through to 1953 is arguably peak Scientology philosophy. In late 1952 to early 1953, Hubbard, I believe, switches it up a little by asserting his full philosophy while The Tech takes a back seat (never fully though, of course). Here we have the book, Scientology: 8-8008 (those 8’s stand in for ‘infinity’ and there’s a fairly simple explanation to what he’s trying to say, but it’s not that important here) along with two lecture series: The Philadelphia Doctorate Course and The Factors. We might question whether a book plus a combined 94 mostly one-hour lectures constitutes a doctorate, but we can note that Hubbard’s naming of this series of lectures (along with its companion book and addendum lecture series in The Factors) signals a pinnacle of Scientology philosophical thought. Indeed, The Materials Guide Chart (not a Hubbard creation but a contemporary Church of Scientology artefact, and thus not actually cannon) states of The Philadelphia Doctorate Course that “Ron was to devote the next thirty-four years to the development of The Bridge, providing the step-by-step route anyone can travel to achieve their full spiritual potentials described in these lectures.” I stand today agnostic on whether The Tech can deliver on such promises—what is important here is the philosophical importance of this time period in Scientology.

Scientology Theology

I use the word ‘theology’ because in 1954 Hubbard turns his attention to religion. I am aware of the charges laid against Hubbard of having ulterior motives for positioning Scientology as a religion. Having studied these materials, I will counter that I do not recall the transition being anything other than a fairly natural consequence of Hubbard’s evolving philosophical views. But if that is the view from the inside, I will also add that the ulterior motives ascribed are not mutually exclusive with a natural philosophical evolution: both can be true.

The 1954 book, The Creation of Human Ability, and its accompanying Phoenix Lectures, distil Scientology philosophy into a religious framework. Thus, theology. Then, in 1955, Dianetics 55! is published and The Unification Congress lectures are given, acting to bring Dianetics formally under the Scientology umbrella (again, there are external factors at play here too; the internal view is nothing but natural). Then in 1956, Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought is (again citing The Materials Guide Chart) “originally published as a resume of Scientology for use in translations into non-English tongues”; i.e. there’s nothing really new, philosophically speaking, about the book (although I believe that statement is never categorical when it comes to Hubbard).

Hubbard does introduce refined concepts through the remainder of his life (d. 1986; although there are claims that Hubbard died earlier, or, alternately, went ‘mad’ to various degrees, problematising the later canon for some). However those refinements are mainly concerned with The Tech. I am not currently convinced any major philosophical concepts are introduced after 1953; though any thorough study of Scientology philosophy-theology would explore this in more detail before asserting such a position; I believe such a study might argue for additions but not substitutions.

My Continuing Interest in Scientology

When I get asked what I think of the Scientology communication drills or this or that auditing process (for example), I hope the above helps to clarify why I have little to no opinion on such Tech matters. Yes, I do have personal experiences which I can share regarding Scientology Tech, but I want to be careful not to engage in something called autoethnography—a practice of taking one’s personal experiences and connecting them to wider social experiences. That’s a little too close to activism for me. My intended thesis may employ autoethnography to formulate the scope of materials or topic(s) of research; beyond that I hope to use a more analytical framework in conducting the actual analysis.

Thus my interest in Scientology Tech is peripheral. I do understand that for many, the Tech is what Scientology is. That is particularly understandable where negative experiences have occurred, leaving a bad taste (writing euphemistically for some, I’m sure). For me, Scientology was primarily a philosophy. To be fair, this was not always the case. But after the release of The Basics (which cover all the philosophical materials referenced above) in 2007, what I held to be the core of Scientology shifted. Probably if I had not studied these materials I would be in a very different place right now.

There is also the matter of Scientology policy—a third ‘arm’ of Scientology as a subject. Policy relates to the management of the Church of Scientology; I have practically no interest in Scientology policy.

I would be remiss not to add that Hubbard does not always stick to the type of discourse at hand. Thus, you can find Scientology philosophy in Scientology policy. Know that this is contextual restating of Scientology philosophy, not new philosophical postulations. To learn Scientology philosophy from Scientology policy is an uninformed move (again, speaking euphemistically: I would call it worse).

Also, Scientology Tech and philosophy are commonly intertwined. The Tech is generated from the philosophy. That philosophy is, as described above, often briefly mentioned in expounding the Tech. To believe the Tech is the philosophy is again misinformed, although the misunderstanding isn’t helped by those looser definitions of the word ‘philosophy’. When I say ‘Scientology philosophy’, I mean the traditional pillars of philosophy—fancy words like metaphysics; epistemology; logic; axiology (ethics and aesthetics); and, potentially, politics (politics is nowadays a little separated from philosophy proper and I’m not all that interested in Hubbard’s worldview, believing it to be mainly historical context; that context may or may not be relevant, depending on the academic lens chosen in the years ahead).

It is my hope this clarifies my current position on Scientology and my continuing interest in its philosophy-theology.

It is my belief that without a very firm grasp on Scientology philosophy, Scientology Tech and policy are likely going to appear odd or worse. None of this is to say that a good understanding of Scientology philosophy would justify Scientology Tech or policy, but at least one is in a position to evaluate Scientology as a gestalt, as everything rests on and is extruded from the philosophy: you can’t take out the fundament and expect anything to stand.

I do understand this level of analysis is not universally desired. I believe The West is founded on philosophical discourse and I stand by it.

It is my position that because the philosophy-theology is little understood, all of the popular discourse on Scientology misses the mark, or is more accurately about the Church of Scientology.

As a note, I am aware there are a few commentators who claim to analyse Scientology philosophy. In every instance I have felt such are more accurately expounding possible historical sources for Scientology (or cherry-picking). Turning to another analogy, this is to claim Christianity is Platonism and stoicism plus Zoroastrianism. Gestalts are so much more.