Scientology & Philosophy: An Essay

Scientology is a subject few have not now heard of. Proposed as a religion, it receives regular public beatings for its reported zealotry, particularly amongst its inner acolytes. Stories of personal struggle, financial hardship and familial turmoil are abundant, and in the public eye the subject as a whole seems largely tainted.

Stifled under the weight of emotionally-charged discourse, the basic philosophical postulations of Scientology are kept out of the limelight. Yet where basic concepts go unexamined in any sphere, they may nevertheless remain active, forming the fringes of our society along with other fields so relegated. For the initiates of such causes, this apparent banishment can serve to validate a belief in the unjust external suppression of their ideas; ideas which they hold so firmly to. Where such ideas are shunned from examination and discourse by the majority, the minority may vehemently evangelise and defend; flying their own flag as loyalists to their treasured cause.

Thus we have division and sectarianism.

Through all the sorrow and joy that is the lot of any religion, it remains true that undergirding the belief structure almost always lies pure philosophy. In other words, philosophy is—amongst other things—the predecessor to religion.

But more than that, Scientology bares a distinctive trait of action, in that its teachings advocate “living life to its fullest”, shunning notions of the isolationist and reflective practices emanating from the Ancient East.

Also, according to The Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard (the creator of Scientology) is the most published author of all time, with just over a thousand published works. Although this includes his purely fictional works, his works on Scientology (per number in the “hundreds of books, scores of films and more than 3,000 recorded lectures”. Hubbard regularly rides the top of similar lists: his prolificacy is not contested.

This prolificacy lends well to misquoting… and misapplication…

Being a religion of action and possessing such a vast canon, Scientology enjoins “doing something about it”: what that “doing” is, and which “it” is of concern, being left up to the individual. Such personal latitude would appear necessary where “freedom” is the stated goal of a movement. Yet in order for a group to remain united as an entity, certain restrictions of freedom must be installed. Those restrictions naturally concern the coalescence and protection of the group itself.

Scientology is thus an action religion aimed at personal spiritual freedom… with a caveat: you may play your life out as you see fit, so long as the boundaries set are not violated. The ensuing personal weighing of the various needs and wants of life—focused through the “individual” and the “group”—are one’s subsequent religious journey.

But aside from the religious aspects of Scientology, its philosophical roots lay wide-open and unmolested for inquiry, unshackled from adulation in their original form. Yet a book treating the underlying philosophy of Scientology has, so far, gone wanting. And with such a large canon, where would such a work even begin?

Occasionally some of the philosophical concepts of Scientology have been included within other works. Most often, these are caricatured away from their original intentions. Where a concept has remained intact, its significance is usually loaded, resulting in a distorted view of the subject akin to “Christians primarily believe that Moses literally parted the Red Sea”.

Additionally, as most of those who practice Scientology are members of its religious establishment to a greater or lesser degree, and as one of the boundaries set by the establishment is to not dabble in any sort of treatment or “rewrite” of the canon (enjoining fundamentalism), those remaining to author such works are a) ex-members, and b) non-members. Ex-members naturally bring a negative bias; non-members a faulty emphasis, deliberate or not.

A chief teaching from Scientology includes maintaining one’s “personal integrity” to speak openly about one’s observations and points of view, and that to violate such a practice would be to violate oneself. Here we can see a potential conflict between philosophy and organised religion: the former advocating for personal freedom, while the latter, perforce, requires boundaries.

Scientology & Philosophy: An Experiential Overview is the first of its kind. Authored by a second-generation Scientologist with protracted exposure to both the dedicated ecclesiastical practices as well as a detached secular life, its primary aim is to openly discuss the original philosophical postulations of Scientology without their religious overtones.

The philosophy of Scientology is steeped in the philosophical discourses of human history. Narrowly discussed within the scriptures of Scientology, an external study of the broad subject of philosophy will demonstrate Scientology to have roots in, and contributions to, the wider field.

From Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics of Ancient Greece; to the Enlightenment figures of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and others; to modern philosophers such as Bergson and Heidegger; and more: Scientology has encroached upon these thinkers and their ideas. Treatment of this via secondary literature is lacking; priming such undertakings is the stated purpose of Scientology & Philosophy: An Experiential Overview.

However, as Scientology is an action philosophy, in which Scientologists live, Scientology & Philosophy: An Experiential Overview is not set out to coldly dissect and compare the philosophy of Scientology in such a manner as an academic might consider, but rather to give an experiential overview: treating Scientology philosophy within the context of wider philosophical discussion, and shedding light—in a balanced manner—on what the everyday Scientologist philosophically holds dear.

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Scientology & Philosophy