Sun | Sep 23, 2018

The origins of Scientology - Part I

Published:Saturday | April 21, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams/Gleaner Writer

Scientology is a body of religious beliefs and practices launched in May 1952 by American author L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986).

He developed a programme of ideas called Dianetics, published as 'Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science' in May 1950, the same year, the book-length version, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, was published. Distribution was through his Dianetics Foundation, but he lost that foundation and the rights to 'Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health' in 1952 because of bankruptcy.

Hubbard recharacterised the subject of his book as a religion and renamed it Scientology. Within a year, he regained the rights to the Dianetics Foundation and his book and retained them under the umbrella of the Church of Scientology.

He described the etymology of Scientology as coming from the Latin prefix scio, meaning to know or distinguish, and the Greek word, logos, which means, 'the outward expression of inward thoughts'. Thus, Scientology means 'knowing about knowing' or 'the science of knowledge'.

And like all proponents of new perspectives, Hubbard and his followers drew opposition and controversy from the public and governments. But, who was he prior to the publication of his works and concepts?

Hubbard, a college dropout, was commissioned as a junior lieutenant with the US Naval Reserve in 1943 but got into trouble with his superiors for many reasons. By July 7 he was removed from command and reassigned to a naval facility in Monterey, California, where he became ill and depressed.

He was eventually hospitalised in Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. In October 1947, as a veteran, he claimed that he needed psychiatric treatment but could not afford it.

But before all that naval drama, in 1938, he said he had a revelatory near-death experience, triggered by a drug used in a dental procedure. He was inspired by that experience, he said, to write the unpublished manuscript called 'One Command' or 'Excalibur', the content of which formed the basis for some of his later publications.

It looks at the 'one command to survive', which was revisited in Dianetics, a set of ideas and practices regarding the metaphysical relationship between the mind and the body, the central philosophy of Scientology. Metaphysics asks about the fundamental questions of being, existence, and reality.

Also, in the 1940s, Hubbard practised as a hypnotist and worked in Hollywood, posing as a swami. The church said that this experience with hypnosis led him to create Dianetics.




It is a type of counselling known as auditing in which a psychological audit is done to assist a subject in the conscious recall of bad experiences from the past. Thus, Hubbard defined Dianetics as "a spiritual healing technology and an organised science of thought".

The intention is to rid the afflicted of the impact of past traumas by a systematic removal of painful memories through a process called clearing, leaving the afflicted with a more rational state of mind. It was expected to be a new form of psychotherapy, not the foundation of a new religion.

And despite a rejection of this concept for a plethora of reasons, Hubbard got an increasing number of followers and converts. He organised and centralised the concept to consolidate his leadership, and converts were not allowed to operate autonomously.

The book, regarded in some quarters as the bestselling non-Christian religious book of the century, became a New York Times bestseller and was the subject of other literary works. Hubbard was posthumously recognised by Publisher's Weekly.

The concept appealed to a wide range of people who used its instructions and applied the method to one another, becoming practitioners themselves, but the criticisms and opposition also heightened.