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Scientology: What is the truth?

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As news of Katie Holmes’ and Tom Cruise’s divorce hit the headlines, so the inevitable rigmarole of scientology-bashing began again.  The controversial religion has been at the centre of court cases, tabloid tales from ex-followers, urban myths and celebrity lives for years, and little seems to be changing in regard to the stigma surrounding the religion. 

This is, perhaps, largely due to the silence of Scientology; it is an incredibly secretive establishment and even its own media strikes as being quite evasive and idealistic.  It is for this reason that the ‘religion’ of Scientology is more often deemed to be a ‘cult’, and why – even for someone like myself, whose aim was initially to present a more balanced view than has been presented in recent newspaper and tabloid articles – it is incredibly difficult to fathom fact from fiction. 

On that note, compiled here are the basic facts and true fundamentals behind Scientology – at least, as close to the truth as anyone outside of the institution can seemingly get.

  • The concept of Scientology is based on the work of L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986). Originally a sci-fi writer, Hubbard developed a self-help system called 'Dianetics', a "methodology which can help alleviate unwanted sensations and emotions, irrational fears and psychosomatic illnesses", and which soon after became the framework for Scientology.
  • According to its official website, Scientology is born from the Latin ‘Scio’ (‘knowing’) and the Greek ‘logos’ (‘study of’), therefore coming to mean ‘knowing how to know’, if you know what they mean.
  • Contrary to widespread belief, Scientology does not appear to be founded on the belief that a galactic overlord called Xenu killed off a load of his people due to overpopulation problems, before bringing their frozen ‘thetans’ (souls) to Earth.  While this is often claimed by critics to be the ‘dirty little secret’ of Scientology, their use of the word ‘thetan’ in their teachings seems simply to act as an alternative for the apparently overused term ‘soul’.
  • Their belief system does seem, if official information is to be taken at face value, to be genuinely founded in spiritual belief not altogether too different from more traditional religious belief, such as Christian ideas of the soul and the reincarnation tenet of Indian religions.  Scientology chiefly teaches that Man is made up of three parts; body, mind and ‘thetan’, and that the immortal thetan is the true essence of man.
  • Another key fundamental of Scientology is the idea that life can be ordered and made sense of by being compartmentalised into eight ‘dynamics’, from birth to bodily death. These dynamics are Self, Creativity, Group Survival, Species, Life Forms, Physical Universe, Spiritual and Infinity.  This ‘infinite’ final dynamic refers to what is commonly known as God, the Supreme Being or Creator, and can apparently only be understood when the seventh (Spirituality) is ‘reached in its entirety’.
 It all seems simple enough. Sort of. On the surface, Scientology could be seen as a perfectly innocent and even worthwhile doctrine, but it is difficult to ignore its surrounding cloud of notoriety. While the membership of high-profile celebrities could act as a positive endorsement of the ‘applied religion’, the devout commitment, concealment and controlled praising of the institution by figures such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta only serves to further its cult-like appearance. The fact that fees are required in order to progress within the system heightens public distrust in its intentions; even though it is claimed that Scientology relies largely on donations and fees are not used unnecessarily by the foundation themselves, they do seem to have a good many expensive-looking, lavish churches, not to mention having an exclusive ‘Celebrity' Church.

So what is the truth behind this mysterious institution? To be perfectly honest, after spending a good deal of time researching Scientology and the differing views towards it, I have even less of an idea as to what really goes on behind those fancy doors. Perhaps the only people who can ever truly know are those that follow, or have followed, its teachings - or those who have gone undercover to investigate, as TNS did in a previous article. All we as outsiders can do is decide whether to believe the words of those still devoted and sure of its spiritual lessons, or those that claim to have escaped from the clutches of a dangerous, indoctrinating cult.




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