Essay:My thoughts on Scientology
Before I start talking about Scientology you should understand that I don't have a religion of my own to speak of and that I have my own criticisms of psychology and psychiatry. I have been called a Scientologist before as an insult or people just assumed I was one because I don't blindly trust mental health professionals. I however am not a Scientologist.
- 1 Scientology as a Religion
- 2 Scientology as an Alternative to Psychology
- 3 Final thoughts on Scientology
Scientology as a Religion
Scientology is a peculiar religion but not a unique one.
The Fall of Man
Scientology is mostly known for the story of the alien Overlord xenu. But how exactly is this story any more ridiculous than the first woman being made from a man's rib and they didn't know they were naked until a talking snake tricked the woman into eating fruit from a forbidden tree? The nature of being a religion is to be collectively bound together by strange beliefs that can't be proven, and bound by shared customs and morality based upon those fables and legends.
Personally I prefer the Abrahamic version of man's exile from Paradise over the Scientologist story of Thetans and Overlord Xenu. Though the devil acts as the tempter, humanity takes the fruit from the tree of knowledge and this gives an agency and responsibility to human beings. I interpret the story of losing Paradise as an allegory for losing innocence. The tree is not simply the tree of evil, it is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Once you gain knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, you lose your innocence and gain moral responsibility.
Past Lives and Perfection
Hubbard obviously drew influence from eastern religions when constructing the myths and practices of Scientology. The religion with the most obvious parallels to Scientology is Buddhism. Both religions believe in reincarnation. To my knowledge neither religion has any deity to speak of. The ultimate goals of both religions is to help human beings achieve a state of perfection. This state of perfection isn't necessarily connected to the afterlife.
Buddhism aims for people to overcome their desires and ego and to obliterate the "self" to achieve Nirvana, a state of perfection in which people will not suffer or desire.Scientology differs from Buddhism in how humans can achieve perfection.
As I understand it Scientology believes human beings in our original form are perfect and lived in bliss and seeks to return humanity to its primordial state of spiritual perfection. Through a process known as “auditing” a practitioner is cleared of negative influences called “engrams” which are repressed memories from our current and former lives.
Auditing also attempts to eliminate the “reactive mind” which Scientologist see as the source of irrational behavior, unreasonable fears, upsets and insecurities. This is where scientologist believe engrams are stores and created. The first goal of a scientologist is to achieve “clear” a state where they have eliminated all their engrams and lost their reactive mind meaning thye can no longer pick up new engrams. Those who have achieved “clear” allegedly have improved physical health, mental acuity, and spiritual awareness.
Though it is possible to achieve Nirvana in one lifetime, not all Buddhists actively try. Buddhism for most people is about finding a middle way between materialism and Aseticism which allows them to enjoy life without becoming enslaved to their posessions. Its a stereotype and a fallacy to assume all Buddhists are monks, its also a stereotype and a fallacy to assume all Scientologists desperately pour their money into advancing Thetan levels.
Scientology the Modern Mystery Cult
One of the most common criticisms of the Church of Scientology is that they charges people money to advance Thetan levels and become closer to reaching “clear”. Advancing Phaeton levels also advances ones place in the hierarchy of the church, and apprently enables one to control “matter and energy, space and time, rather than being controlled by these things”. The story of Xenu was originally kept secret from members of the church until they reached Operating Thetan level 3. Once again its hardly a Scientologist innovation.
“mystery cults” or “mystery religions” have existed in at least since the time of Ancient Greece. These priest made themselves feel cooler by shrouding their worship in mysticism and vaugeness. By inventing ceremonies known only to those initiated into the cult, by having stories and myths “secrets about the universe” that they wouldn't share with anybody else. Mystery cults are the perfect ancient example of what I like to call “the clubhouse mentality”, which is the mentality of people who design an organization and its rules specifically to make its members feel special, and to make other people jealous.
I don't think the beliefs of Scientology are weirder than those of Hinduism, Catholicism, or Islam but at least those other faiths aren't trying to keep the strange shit they believe a secret. I'd honestly have more respect for Scientology if they owned their weirdness instead of being ashamed of it.
Xenu and the Titans
Much like the Titans of Greek Myth, Xenos only important role is at the beginning of the story. The players of the Christian Genesis, God and the Devil appear at the beginning of the world, are constantly present throughout the entire mythology and are also there in Revelations at the end.
The Overlord Xenu's role in the beginning of the world is more akin to the Titans of Greek Myth. The Titans played an important role in Thegony, the Greek equivilent of Genesis, ruling the universe giving birth to the gods and eventually being overthrown by their children. Despite their important role in the beginning of the universe, the Titans played no active role in ancient Greek religion. After Xenu sets Thetans loose on the human race he just sort of vanishes. Just as the Titans only existed to create the gods we should pray to Xenu's only role was to create the demons we needed to free ourselves from.
Scientology as an Alternative to Psychology
If the Church of Scientology was just a group of people who practiced unconventional therapy for religious reasons, believed in aliens, and thumbed their nose at the psychological establishment then I wouldn't detest the Church the way I do. I don't care that the Church of Scientology is eccentric, I care that the Church of Scientology is Authoritarian.
Privacy and Blackmail
When you go to a psychologist everything you say is supposedly protected under confidentiality guidelines. The four major exceptions to client-therapist confidentiality are 1) if the client poses a danger to their own life or someone else's, 2) if the client is clearly planning to put their own or someone else's life in danger, or 3) if a child is being harmed or abused. These first three exceptions can be classified as "duty to warn". The fourth exception is that if you're a teenager you're therapist might include you're parents in the treatment and share with them information you would rather keep private. So basically don't tell you're therapist anything you want to keep secret from you're parents.
Psychologists are just human beings like the rest of us so sometimes they break confidentiality, it's an ethical mandate that is apparently very easy to break without meaning to. If this happens to you, then you can report you're psychologists to the state licensing board for psychology. That might not be an easy decision however,because it would require you to speak at length and on the record about you're therapy. At least with Psychology you do have a recourse for having you're information shared inappropriately, even it is uncomfortable.
The Church of Scientology gains information about it's members lives, especially about their sex lives, during the Auditing sessions and this information is kept confidential only as long as you remain part of the Church. This information is especially used as leverage against high ranking members who walk away with intimate knowledge of how Scientology does things.
Institutionalizing a policy of undermining the credibility of apostates and critics and destroying people's reputations has ironically caused severe damage to Scientology's credibility as an alternative to psychology and dammed its own reputation as an evil UFO cult that once you join you leave at your own risk. If your a relatively small and new religion, which Scientology is, and if you want to continue to expand and to gain official recognition as a religion, which Scientology does, then this isn't a good reputation to have.
I am firmly against involuntary commitment of people with mental illnesses in psychiatric wards and coercive therapy in general. Confining a mentally ill person to a psych ward when they haven't been convicted of a crime is basically the same as arresting somebody for "thought crimes". Involuntary commitment for people with mental illnesses is discriminatory, it's an example of a paternalistic authority deciding our treatment is more important than our civil rights. Scientology takes this problem and makes it worse by adding forced labor into the mix.
The Church of Scientology, more specifically "Sea Org" operated a series of gulags all around the world called "Rehabilitation Project Force" where so called "suppressive persons" were sent. Members of Sea Org would be sent to RPF if it was decided they had evil intentions towards the organization, or if they had simply been unproductive with their work. I confess that I don't know if RPF is still operational.
Treatment for Mental Illnesses
Just like I don't want people to be coerced into treatment, I don't want people to be deprived of it either. I want people to have the freedom to accept or deny treatment. Unlike other Quacks, the Church of Scientology doesn't have the decency or common sense to refer to what they do as "supplemental medicine".
Final thoughts on Scientology
Psychology exists in a twilight zone between the hard and social sciences. The question of what behaviors and thoughts are good, acceptable, or normal isn't a medical or scientific question, it is an ethical and political one. Psychology has a long history of being used as an instrument of Social Control against women, black people, queer people, political dissidents, children, and so on. Authority is affirmed and deviant behavior is pathologized. For all it's myriad flaws Psychology is still a real science and it can be a force for good. Dianetics is not a science, it is pseudoscientific bullshit. The Church of Scientology is an inferior replacement to Psychology.