Hey everybody. This video is the next in my ongoing series taking apart this collection of essays and academic papers all bundled together under the name Scientology, edited by James R. Lewis. I’ve said from the beginning that I’m not objective in my views on Scientology and most of my critiques so far have been pretty harsh since the quality of the academic work in this book is frankly disgustingly bad. However, this week I was pleasantly surprised by Danish writers Peter B. Andersen and Rie Wellendorf who wrote chapter 7, Community in Scientology and among Scientologists. This is the first chapter I’ve read where the authors not only show their familiarity with the subject but use statistical and research information smartly to come up with sensible conclusions about Scientologists’ actions and views. Let’s get right into it.
Like most academic papers, they start by stating their basic theme and intentions in writing this and compared to some of the highbrow academic linguistics we’ve seen in earlier chapters, this is surprisingly readable.
“The Church of Scientology has been seen as a privatized religion fitting into the present age with hardly any ‘communal expression or community activity’. Based on observations, interviews and a questionnaire handed out to about 500 core members of Scientology in Denmark between 1986 and 1999, the chapter argues that the teachings and organization of the Church of Scientology, gnostic and arcane though they may be, still allow for community in a religious sense of the word, but that it is established through other channels and therefore expresses itself in different ways than in, for example, a Catholic community in which all members have equal access to salvation through one initiation.
“From the outside the Church of Scientology may be seen as an expression of an extreme individualism because its core service is auditing, which aims to help individuals progress along ‘The Bridge to Total Freedom.’ The ultimate goal — Scientology’s equivalent of salvation — is to enable the individual’s thetan, the equivalent to the soul in other religious systems, to move freely in time and space as it once did countless existences ago before it was bound to its current state of existence in the material universe. On the other hand, L. Ron Hubbard, who developed the therapy and philosophy behind the Church of Scientology, fitted it into a utilitarian framework that attacked the individualistic assumptions of Freudian psychology. At a later point in time, Hubbard’s ideas also inspired the Church to undertake a number of charitable activities.” (p. 143)
Alright, now let’s quickly talk about this word “utilitarian” because this is not a commonly understood term.
Utilitarian means “the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. Under utilitarianism, an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.”
Anyone familiar with Scientology knows the phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.” This is the formula Hubbard lays down in his ethics policies and this is how Scientologists are supposed to come to decide on whether a course of action is good or bad. Although Hubbard never mentioned or credited anyone else than himself for coming up with this formula, in fact it’s a very old idea. An English philosopher named Jeremy Bentham founded the subject of Utilitarianism back in the 1700s and said that the fundamental axiom of his philosophy is the principle that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” Philosophical arguments about happiness and the common good extend far earlier than that with Machiavelli, Aquinas, Aristotle and Epicurus being just some of the people who weighed in on this.
This term will be used a lot in this chapter because it is central to Scientologists’ beliefs and worldview. It is a powerful idea and can carry a lot of weight, but the truth of it is relative. Determining what is the greatest happiness for the greatest number is not as easy as it sounds and can depend greatly on your point of view.
It’s easy to get people to agree with this idea in principle, but difficult to carry it out uniformly in one’s life. Myself and others have pointed out numerous times how pressure is brought to bear on Scientology staff to get more and more money out of Scientologists to forward its causes, yet if you objectively look at the results of what Scientology does, it’s very easy to show how giving money to Scientology has never resulted in the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people. Because Scientology staff are conned into thinking that they are doing something of value, they use this principle to take advantage of public Scientologists financially and even in convincing them to abandon their careers and lives to work in Scientology churches or join the Sea Organization.
The authors of this paper are pointing out that while Scientology is extremely individualistic in its goals – personal spiritual freedom for its members – Hubbard uses a utilitarian framework as the basis of his moral philosophy and that it is of interest that these two ideas co-exist within Scientology. They go on:
“This chapter will analyze the social setting in and around the Church of Scientology insofar as it is relevant to identify a community within Scientology and among its members. The Church of Scientology and its related charities will then be investigated to determine whether they promote integration with the society at large or whether they should be viewed as an isolated island consisting of an alternative community.” (p. 144)
The next section is called “Background and Sociological Approaches to the Church of Scientology” and starts by re-stating the history we have already covered or know in detail about Scientology’s evolution so I won’t read those parts. However, they then go into talking about the difference between cults and sects:
“Sociologist of religion Roy Wallis termed the change from the open-ended and uncontrolled Dianetics phase to the establishment of the Church of Scientology as a development from a ‘cult’ phase to a ‘sect’ phase. The cult phase was characterized by the attraction of open-minded seekers from the cultic milieu, an environment in which loosely organized cults pop up, only to disappear, though the milieu itself persists as people search for new experiences. The sect phase was characterized by the pressure to conform within Scientology, the notion that the sect possesses the only path to salvation, and fierce attacks on the foes of Scientology. This control was later amplifi ed with the creation of the Sea Organization (Sea Org) in 1967.” (p. 144)
Now this is interesting because I use the term “destructive cult” as defined by Dr. Janja Lalich, who has made cult groups her life study whereas Wallis refers to a cult and sect as phases that groups go thorugh. From a sociological perspective, I get his point and there are certainly good arguments to be made that a group that is today classified as a destructive cult could change its ways through an evolutionary process and become a less overtly destructive group which does not engage in using undue influence, focus on collecting money and influence, or endorse us-vs-them thinking. I don’t know too many religious groups that have done this, but it’s possible.
There’s more to the use of the term ‘sect’:
“In the sociology of religion, sects are generally seen as being in tension with the surrounding society — including, perhaps, tension with the dominant church — but there is a wide range of positions organizations can take with respect to their surroundings. Beckford partly explains the surrounding society’s opposition to the Church of Scientology as due to the fact that the Church seriously tries to change the society. In Beckford’s typology of new religious movements, which is based on the goods manufactured by the organization, this means that the Church of Scientology is a social revitalization movement in contrast to organizations that offer refuge from the society or release from the individual’s present condition. Beckford is not, however, blind to the fact that Dianetic therapy offers release.” (p. 145)
They are making accurate observations here that Scientology positions itself as trying to overtly change the conditions in society. Indeed, there are numerous places where Hubbard flat out says that society itself needs to be completely re-booted because it has failed us time and again. People who watch and talk about Scientology often focus on the auditing and training services that Scientology offers as a kind of business model, which is very true, but don’t necessarily realize that another appeal of Scientology is that it promises to wholly change the conditions of the world to what I would describe as a more libertarian model which increases the value of individual worth and activity and de-emphasizes the role of a central government or welfare state. For a lot of people, this has a great deal of appeal, because many people don’t like to be told what to do, they don’t like being taxed for no visible benefit and most importantly, they don’t like the perceived inequality between the monied upper classes and what they see as their overworked lot in life in the middle and lower classes. Scientology doesn’t get people to join because of this, but this philosophy of rugged individualism and self-reliance is important to Scientology’s worldview. There will be more on this as we go on.
“Generally, sociologists of religion expect that sectarian movements strongly opposed to society will be organized in a vertical authority structure under the leader or, perhaps at a later point in their history, horizontally as a network among members. Both scenarios create a hermetically sealed environment with a strong emphasis toward uniformity. So it is surprising that two of the early empirical studies of the Church of Scientology conducted by Wallis and Wilson have viewed Scientology as an instance of a religion with little or no community.
“Wallis emphasized that the organization did not work to create any formalized community among the members during the development from Dianetics to Scientology. He observed, Scientology has more in common organizationally with mass political parties, institutions of mass education, or multinational corporations, than with traditional churches. Its followers are drawn into no collective communion but rather into an atomized mass, differentiated only by their level of attainment in the theory and practice of the gnosis. With few institutionalized links among the members, communication and authority flow downwards from the leaders to the members who face the authority-structure of the movement as an isolated individual. The only collective means of influencing the decision-making process is that in which the members ‘vote with their feet’ through defection or apathy.” (p. 145)
Again, these are accurate sociological perspectives on Scientology’s organization. Members don’t generally realize that they have no real say in how Scientology is run or how it conducts its affairs. They read a few of the general policy letters Hubbard wrote and through various covert means, are forced to come around to agreeing with them, or at least saying that they do so they don’t get in trouble. The only thing they can do to protest what is going on with the organization is write reports to the very people who generally are the ones carrying out the activities they disagree with. Those reports are often not read or if they are, they are used as a means of finding out who the dissidents are so they can be silenced. It’s an authoritarian control system couched in democratic sounding words and phrases which makes its members think they have all the power when, in fact, they have none.
The authors of this paper are mainly interested in understanding Scientology’s community from the perspective of how it compares and contrasts with other religions and how this reflects change in religious structures over time. So they continue in this vein:
“Bryan Wilson takes the theme of the lack of community within the Church of Scientology even further in connection with the concept of privatization. Here privatization refers to a state in which laypeople compose their own beliefs and theology.” (p. 145)
Now, no Scientologist is allowed to formulate their own religious beliefs or theology, but the point being made here is that Scientologists come to their own understanding of Hubbard’s writings as opposed to having a minister preach at them for hours on end. The authors go on to point out this difference, and that Scientology does not have a religious community in the same way that a Christian congregation operates.
“According to Wilson, it is exactly such a lack of community that allows the Church of Scientology to operate and expand in what he considers as a secularized age in which churches generally have lost contact with the population and congregations are dissolving, leaving individuals to compose their own religious picture of the world. He argues that the Church of Scientology is a religious organization that offers the individuals this opportunity: They can compose their own religious view of the world and keep religious experience at a private level.”
I think this too is another part of Scientolgy’s appeal. In the western world, there are many arguments being made these days about organized religion being on the decline and this model of sitting for hours and being preached at is one of the reasons why. In fact, it occurs to me now that perhaps one of the reasons why Scientology has been shrinking since David Miscavige took over is because it was him who setup multiple Scientologist gatherings, called events, at least 7-8 times per year where he could stand on a stage and preach at Scientologists for 2-3 hours at a shot. These events are not and never were popular with Scientologists, as proven by the massive telephone drives the staff have to engage in to confirm and re-confirm that Scientologists will even show up. I’m not saying this is the only reason for Scientology’s shrinking numbers by any means, but it certainly could be part of it.
The authors have made the point that Scientology is not a community in the traditional religous sense, but then say this:
“If Wilson is right in this regard, his point is of great importance for understanding the organization of religious communities in a secular age. The problem is that Wilson’s approach limits itself to one of many possible ways of indicating the existence of a community and it may be that there are other kinds of community present in the Church of Scientology if one searches. To do this, it is necessary to identify forms of community that are important in terms of the teachings of the Church of Scientology, to specify how they may be identified, and to propose some generalized conceptualization of community that will allow for comparisons between the Church of Scientology and other social institutions.” (p. 146)
So what kind of religious community is Scientology? The authors go back to the concept of utilitarianism in the next section, called “Utilitarianism and Social Responsibility at the Individual and Institutional Level in Scientology.”
The authors first show how Dianetics and Scientology are founded on utilitarian principles. First there is Hubbard’s concept of the dynamics, meaning the urges that people feel towards survival across various aspects of life. There is the first dynamic, which is surviving as oneself. The second dynamic is the urge to survive through sex, family and child rearing. The third dynamic is the urge to survive in groups and the fourth dynamic is the urge to survive as a species or Mankind.
Then there is Hubbard talking about pleasure and pain. As the authors put it using Hubbard quotes:
“‘The reward of survival activity is pleasure‘ and ‘The ultimate penalty of destructive activity is death or complete nonsurvival, and is pain‘ is classic utilitarianism.”
“But then he lays out an equation for the solution of potential conflict,
“‘The equation of the optimum solution would be that a problem has been well resolved which portends the maximum good for the maximum number of dynamics. That is to say that any solution, modified by the time available to put the solution into effect, should be creative or constructive for the greatest possible number of dynamics. The optimum solution for any problem would be a solution which achieved the maximum benefit in all the dynamics….The survival conduct pattern is built upon this equation of the optimum solution. It is the basic equation of all rational behavior and is the equation on which a Clear functions. It is inherent in man.'” (p. 148)
The authors very smartly point out that:
“Even if it would be possible to formulate, such an equation Hubbard did not do….The problem of the common good has been discussed in philosophy and the social sciences at least since the time of Jeremy Bentham and J. S. Mill. The problems of how to put it into a proper formula has never been solved, and this chapter is not the place to address that issue. Here it will suffice to identify this philosophy’s consequences for the community of Scientologists.” (p. 148)
While the authors don’t need to resolve the lack of a formula for figuring out what the greatest good is, it’s been a real problem for Scientologists ever since Hubbard put together the Scientology conditions formulas. These are supposed to be a series of steps anyone can take to improve the condition or situation in any part of one’s life. There is a step of the condition of doubt where one is supposed to make up one’s mind based on the greatest good for the greatest number and I can now recall with amusement the mental gymnastics people had to go through trying to figure out what that greatest good was. Somehow you were supposed to just conceptualize the idea of the dynamics and sort of look them over and decide if each one would be harmed or helped by whatever decision you were going to make, but it’s pretty obvious to me now that this is the ultimate in confirmation bias. Generally, the kinds of decisions Scientologists are called on to make in such situations are pre-determined, such as whether they should remain in Scientology or whether they should stay connected with thier Uncle Joe who has just been declared a suppressive person by the Church. The Scientologist knows what the outcome is supposed to be and his views are therefore skewed when he decides whether it is the “greatest good” or not. If he should happen to decide wrong, the Ethics Officer is there to help him see the error of his ways by having him read whatever statements by Hubbard will change his mind. This is perhaps one of the most interesting ways that Scientology controls its members and what I’ve described to you here is certainly how they convince most family members to disconnect from their family and friends if those people are questioning Scientology’s actions.
Getting back to the text:
“One of the problems in assessing the existence of a community within the Church of Scientology and the position of the Church in society is that the classification of the organization as a ‘sect’ should — according to the traditional sociological characterization of sects — usually indicate a very high degree of community and some kind of isolation from the rest of the society. Because Scientology does not fit neatly into the traditional sect category, we will, instead, refer to the classification of ‘integrating’ or ‘disintegrating’ organizations that have been described by Putnam. In this terminology, an integrating organization is described as bridging (between different groups) and a disintegrating organization is referred to as bonding (of organizational members).” (p. 148)
This business of classifying a group by integrating or disintegrating is probably the only point of contention I have with what the authors get into because it is needlessly complicated and difficult to understand. I’m therefore not going to get too deep into trying to dissect this, but instead let’s move on to the next point the authors make about Scientology. It’s an interesting one for sure because it has to do with how many Scientologists there are in Denmark.
For those of you who don’t know, Copenhagen, Denmark is the site of one of the few Saint Hill/Advanced Organizations of Scientology. These are staffed by Sea Org members, deliver upper level confidential services up to OT Level V and are the next higher level churches after the local city churches. The city churches are called Class V orgs. The Saint Hills would be considered Class VII organizations and the Advanced Organizations would be considered Class IX orgs. Only in Los Angeles is there a separate Saint Hill and Advanced Organization, housed in buildings across the street from each other. Everywhere else, the Saint Hill and Advanced Org are combined into one organization. The one in Copenhagen is supposed to service all of continental Europe and Russia but its actually a pretty small organization and always has been. A lot of Europeans and Russians who are ready to do the upper level Scientology OT levels just go straight to the Flag Service Org in Clearwater, Florida. That place is Scientology’s number one money-maker.
I mention all this because the authors now get into hard numbers about how many Scientologists there are in Denmark. No big surprise, there aren’t that many.
“The following analysis will begin with a discussion of a questionnaire that was administered to about 500 core members of the Church of Scientology in Denmark. The surveys were conducted in 1986–1987, 1991–1992, and 1996, with an estimated percent of about 75 percent of the members among each of the surveys. The 500 core members among the Danish Scientologists were selected on the basis of a list the Church of Scientology had established due to changes in the Danish law in 1986, and on the basis of newly established lists of active Scientologists for the surveys in 1991 and 1999. In all years, however, there were an uncertain number of Scientologists outside this core group. In 1985 the Church of Scientology reported it had 10,000 members, and in 2007 the bimonthly Danish journal Fremtid was sent to about 23,000 postal addresses. The explanation of this much larger group is that one may be considered a member of Scientology even if one has an extremely low degree of commitment. During certain periods, for instance, memberships have been offered for free with the purchase of books or course materials. For this reason it is difficult to make a precise calculation of the number of people who identify themselves as Scientologists. We estimate between 2,000 and 4,000.” (p. 149)
For any academic honest enough to talk about it, the idea that Scientology is growing at an unprecedented rate or has millions of members is completely preposterous. However, the point of the surveys they did was to get Scientologists’ views on things and they did an amazingly good job of this. They explain the purpose of the surveys here:
“The presence of a community has been estimated through the answers to questions regarding feeling of community among the Scientologists, trust, and cohabitation habits. The figures will be considered as indicators of preference for community if the Scientologists’ answers indicate they prefer each other over the rest of Danish society. Beliefs will be given special consideration as questions regarding beliefs offer a possibility of testing Wilson’s privatization thesis. If Scientologists do not agree with each other on a consistent belief system, this will be seen as an indicator of privatization, and if they agree with each other, it will be seen as a weakening of the privatization thesis with regard to the Church of Scientology community.” (p. 149)
So, do Scientologists agree with each other and how to they agree with the society at large? Do they all fall into line when it comes to how they look at the world or are their ideas as varied and individual as their fingerprints? Also, what about that utilitarian view of the greatest good?
“So it is worth trying to determine how far Hubbard’s utilitarian ideology has influenced Scientologists and what consequences they draw from it. The indicators on this point are questions regarding attitudes toward public social security as opposed to private charity, and the political affiliations of Scientologists. If they prefer private charity to public programs, it may be a reflection of the influence of Hubbard’s utilitarian thought. A preference for right-wing parties will be taken as indication of the same general influence. If there are no significant patterns in the distribution of these attitudes, it may mean that Scientologists utilize the therapeutic parts of Dianetics therapy with little correlation between Scientology and other spheres of their lives.” (p. 150)
There are two other comments they make about gathering this information. The first is how they wish they could get global information from the statistics and information that Scientology already collects about its parishioners. But they see that there is a problem with this and I was amused by how they put it:
“There is always a risk that such figures may be inflated by the organization’s interest in documenting expansion. For instance, different offices within the Church participate in a yearly competition in the so-called Birthday Game used to celebrate Hubbard’s birthday — the office that documents the greatest expansion wins. On the other hand, the very same game likely prompts the Church to be wary of the reporting of inflated figures. It is thus difficult to test the quality of the organization’s own figures.” (p. 150).
It would be nice if other “academics” such as J. Gordon Melton and James Lewis were as interested in accuracy as the authors of this paper were. Their honesty in talking about issues like this was refreshing.
The second point has to do with Scientology’s organizational emphasis and again this pointed out something to me that I knew about but hadn’t really thought much of until I read this chapter:
“The calculations compare the number of new people introduced to Scientology with the number of outlets (churches, missions, and organizations). If the proportion is constant, it could be considered an indicator of a continued expansion of the Church over the last fifty years. If there are fewer new people per outlet, it could be a consolidation of the Church, because it would mean the Church is changing its focus toward servicing those who are already members.” (p. 150)
In the late 1970s, this change of focus is exactly what happened, with Hubbard writing a number of policies having to do with concentrating on getting in public who had already paid for services but had not yet had them delivered. He made this a major focus of attention and even created new staff positions to ensure that the organizations were delivering as much as they were selling. This of course resulted in a decrease in the focus on getting new converts and since that time, a great amount of staff attention has been on what we called “cannibalizing the existing field” meaning focusing just on existing Scientologists and getting them to come in and do the services they already paid for. I only point this out because it’s another factor in Scientology shrinkage that was caused 100% internally and was not the result of bad press or a bad public image.
Whereas this change in the late 70s and early 80s is not the only factor in Scientology not getting in new members, it is an important one. I’d say that in the early 2000s, the emphasis changed yet again to concentrating almost exclusively on getting in money through straight membership donations and getting money in for building properites, both ordered by David Miscavige. The concentration on getting in brand new members was already long gone and the concentration on servicing the existing members fell off in favor of just sucking up as much money as they could. This new change of emphasis was international in scope and it was what eventually got me to open my eyes to how far down Scientology had gone.
Not all of you may be interested in this, but I found it interesting that a couple of academics could do some real work on this subject which got me as a former member looking at Scientology’s decline in a new light. I dare say this is the sort of thing real academic work is supposed to do.
So what kind of results did the surveys show? Let’s take a look.
“Ninety-five percent of Scientologists did…report feeling fellowship with Scientologists in other parts of the world in response to a simple question regarding self-reported feeling of fellowship. Even after stressing to them that the item was about Scientologists they did not know, only some 4 percent changed their response. As a Scientologist explained in an interview, this feeling of fellowship is based on the fact that Scientologists have chosen to belong to the same religious universe. This Scientologist observed, ‘As a point of departure, we all agree upon many things I consider important — for instance, the notion that we are immortal beings. Scientologists all over the world learn expressions that are used only among ourselves. That is something a Chinese Scientologist and I have in common — that is, we use the same English terms. I would be able to communicate with a Chinese person via Scientology terms and expressions” (Anonymous interview November 1999).'” (p. 151)
This is very true and in many ways, Scientologists feel like they have more in common with other Scientologists they’ve never even met than with their own family. This also highlights the importance of Scientology’s special language and how all by itself it is a factor in making Scientologists feel different and better than the rest of society. The survey results reinforced this.
“…it is significant that the level of confidence in Scientologists is at least as high as the level of confidence in their own family. Even if they know their family through lifelong contact, they do not have more confidence in them than in Scientologists in general, who constitute a global community at an abstract level. The great confidence in other Scientologists may originate from a realization of common aims, a common interpretation of the universe, and an experience of a common opposition against what is perceived as attacks from the outside. The reciprocal confidence can consequently be interpreted as an indicator of delimitation and a manifestation of the fact that all Scientologists are united by a communality of interests and that they have chosen to form a special group to fight for that.
“The different attitudes indicate that there is a distinct feeling of solidarity, agreement, and reciprocal identification among Scientologists. This is reflected in their selection of partners and friends. Here it becomes evident that Scientologists in Denmark choose to segregate themselves socially in their choice of close personal relations. Between 87 and 93 percent of Scientologists have chosen a partner who is him- or herself a Scientologist.” (p. 153)
As I pointed out last week, Scientologists prefer the company of other Scientologists because they just don’t feel they can talk to non-Scientologists openly and honestly. This is a marked difference from members of major religions such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam, where they often have many family, friends and associates who do not share their beliefs in any way. It tells you a lot about how seriously even the run-of-the-mill public Scientologist takes their ideas and also shows how Scientology installs an us-vs-them mentality in its members.
The next point has to do with Scientologists’ views about society and politics and again, the authors are nailing it.
“Even if Scientologists’ responsibility for their own salvation does not lead to a privatized religion in Wilson’s sense, the stress on the individual’s personal responsibility, as well as Hubbard’s utilitarian emphasis on the common good, may have consequences for their social and political attitudes. However, in contrast to classical utilitarians as J. S. Mill, Hubbard was not optimistic in his evaluation of society’s chances for positive development — a position he arrived at in response to the Church of Scientology’s fight for existence in the United States during the late 1960s, and a position about which the current leadership of the Church reminded members in a number of selections from his writings at the end of the 1990s. In 1968 Hubbard wrote, ‘One of the reasons that this society is dying and so forth is that it’s gone too far out-ethics. Reasonable conduct and optimum solutions have ceased to be used to such an extent that the society is on the way out.’ He defined the concept of ‘out-ethics’ as, ‘By out-ethics we mean an action or situation in which an individual is involved, or something the individual does, which is contrary to the ideals, best interests and survival of his dynamics’.
“Hubbard saw contemporary society as dying due to the suppressive states and political systems covering the range of ‘-isms’ from capitalism to communism via socialism. ‘Capitalism, communism, and socialism all wind up with man in the same situation — owned body and soul by the state’. His response was: ‘There is an answer to all this. If these isms all tend to a total state, then the obvious rebuttal is a no-state. This alone would be an opposition to the total state.'” (p. 153)
I’ve commented before about how Scientologists easily fall into conspiracy theory mindsets and what the authors are talking about here is one of the reasons why. From his earliest lectures, Hubbard ribbed on and was obviously against almost any governmental form. He said in a couple of places that the ideal form of government was what he called a “beneficient monarchy” but which you could also describe as a “kind dictator.” He said that he’d had long talks with lots of his friends and associates over the years and the conclusion of any rational person was that this was by far the best form of government. The only problem with it wasn’t having one person in charge, it was the matter of succession and making sure some psychotic madman like Nero or Hitler didn’t somehow inheret the throne.
There are a lot more criticisms that could be made about Hubbard’s goofy ideas but Scientologists generally fall into this way of thinking after listening to Hubbard over the years. Whether they adopt this exact idea or not, he certainly has a vast influence on their political worldview. As the authors correctly put it:
“In other words, the national system has become ‘out-ethics’ due to the fact that it hampers the rational individual’s freedom of action. If individuals were left alone without a suppressive state, rational individuals would organize society in an optimal way directed towards maximum survival on all dynamics.” (p. 154)
This was exactly what L. Ron Hubbard wanted and he railed against any and all forms of governmental controls including income tax, welfare and anything that did not directly serve his interests.
Various Scientology front groups have formed up over the years and from the perspective of the Church of Scientology, these all serve to improve Scientology’s image and hopefully lure more people in to give money and time to the Church’s interests. However, there is a different and valid perspective about these social betterment activities from the viewpoint of the individual Scientologists who participate in them and what they believe they are doing. I’m not claiming that these social betterment activities do any good for society in general, but I am saying that Scientologist think they are. As the authors put it:
“The lack of confidence in the state’s ability to create a just and ethical society and help people in need has prompted Scientologists all over the world to establish various institutions based on Hubbard’s techniques to solve certain social problems. The emphasis on freedom from suppressive states does not mean the individual has no personal responsibility. Among these initiatives are Applied Scholastics, founded in 1972 with the aim of disseminating Hubbard’s study techniques….The drug rehabilitation program Narconon began in 1966….Criminon, which is a branch of Narconon, was started in New Zealand in 1970….The Way to Happiness foundation, established in 1980, has its background in Hubbard’s booklet The Way to Happiness, published 1981, in which he argued for a general morality on the basis of natural law. Significantly, in this treatise it is clear that he has become more tolerant toward the state. It is, however, characteristic that all programs begin with empowering the individual by increasing the individual’s rationality (just like the study programs in Applied Scholastics) or by ending drug abuse, thereby promoting rational thought. The programs never begin to improve the situation of individuals by changing ownership structures in a collective approach.” (p. 155)
Those last two lines are important. Scientology firmly believes in a philosophy of helping those who help themselves and rails against anything resembling charity, welfare or handouts. This comes from the Hubbard statement that a person is always responsible for their own condition. Only once or twice in his entire body of work do I recall seeing anything where Hubbard talked about accepting charity and his whole attitude about it was that it was only under the most extreme circumstances that one’s pride would allow oneself to be helped in such a way. Ironically, this goes against Hubbard’s real life demands for welfare from the Veteran’s Administration, claiming injuries he never had and secretly collecting VA benefits from the 1940s all the way until the day he died. Consistency was not one of Hubbard’s better qualities.
The final section in the essay covers the poltical attitudes of Danish Scientologists. They begin with a short and interesting treatise on Danish politics which I’m sorry but I’m not going to go over here. I certainly learned a few things about Denmark and how they go about doing things but I don’t think it’s entirely relevant to the purpose of this video. In many ways, much of what goes on in Denmark is very similar to what goes on here in the US, just with different labels for the same ideas. For example, liberal/conservative ideas are grouped into the right wing while socialist ideas are grouped into the left, whereas in the US we would consider socialism to be a liberal view. So the bottom line is that there are people on all ends of the political spectrum from extreme left-wing to extreme right-wing, and they are represented by various political parties.
In talking about Scientologists by survey results, here is what they found:
“Danish Scientologists do, indeed, seem to share a common value orientation when it comes to sociopolitical questions. Generally they follow Hubbard in his negative attitude toward socialism. After the fall of the Soviet bloc, the Church of Scientology reissued Hubbard’s general statements against the state and national social welfare schemes in the publication Ron The Humanitarian, published 1997. That means that nearly all Scientologists vote for liberal/conservative parties on the right wing of Danish politics when they can easily find these attitudes expressed.” (p. 157)
The key point there is right wing. Most Scientologists politically are conservatives or right wingers, especially when it comes to fiscal policies. Empower individuals or businesses over government with the philosophy being that those individuals know better what to do with their money than the government does and that the lower classes in society will sort themselves out in a free market economy.
Now when it comes to social policies, Scientologists are split between left and right-wing values.
“In 1998 there were two antistate parties that were also very much against immigration and expressed a strong criticism of those international and European human rights conventions and agreements that the Danish government had ratified. Comparatively fewer Scientologists could be expected to vote for these parties, and it must be assumed that those who did vote for them identified with the antistate position rather than the antiimmigrant position, because Scientologists generally are pro-human rights and consequently do not criticize immigration.
“It is, however, Scientology’s conception of the human person that forms the core of the Church’s sociopolitical attitudes. The freedom of the individual is the crucial point of departure, which is why a welfare ideology is incompatible with the ideology of a Scientologist. This is not to say that Scientological thought leaves the weak people in society behind. On the contrary, the point in Scientology is the universal human and spiritual potential that is ruined and paralyzed by the state and the regulations that hold the individual down.” (p. 157)
This is again in alignment with the idea that every individual is responsible for his own condition and also with the philosophy that Scientology is there to help the able become more able. What most Scientologists shrug off or ignore is that life can be incredibly unfair, accidents and disasters happen and not everyone gets the same breaks as everyone else, for no other reason than simply that’s the way life is. I doubt that most Scientologists would even be able to articulate their poltiical beliefs as clearly as the authors of this essay have, but I can tell you from personal experience that the authors are entirely accurate in their findings.
“It is evident that the Scientologists prefer an individualistic utilitarian position for any collective position, and that the Scientologists insist that the utilitarian position is the one that demands they take upon themselves social responsibility for the common good. In this regard their stance reflects greater aversion to collective measures and a much higher confidence in the individual than has recently been common in Danish politics, even on the right wing. In this way, their opinions are coterminous reflections on individualism and utilitarianism, and one could see Hubbard and the Scientologists as representatives of a classical utilitarian position. The consistency of their opinions indicates the presence of a common Scientological value orientation. Because this value orientation springs from Hubbard’s expressed ethical position, one can say that the ethical system is implemented by Scientologists in harmony with the religious system.” (p. 158)
If you think about this, you’ll see why Scientologists in general will take the abuse that is meted out to them so willingly and for so long. They are basically indoctrinated through Hubbard’s teachings to think in such a way that the burden of responsibility for anything bad or wrong that happens to them is on their shoulders, or that they must have done something to deserve the ill treatment they receive from the Church. This is not an accident. Hubbard setup this system for his own benefit and Miscavige has run it for only his benefit alone and has gotten rid of anyone who has attempted to stop him.
In Denmark, the authors show how Scientology is shrinking in numbers. They again point to a paradigm shift in the way Scientology is handling itself:
“The primary evidence is that the number of people participating in Scientology for the first time per institutional outlet (churches, missions, and organizations) has been unsteadily decreasing from about 738 persons per institution in 1970 to about half that at present. These figures are open to several interpretations. Scientologists have, for instance, stressed that they are building up for the next level of expansion; a new phase of ‘going public.’ However this may be, the balance between new starters and institutional outlets in the Church of Scientology indicates that the membership pattern of Scientology has changed over the years. The change may not be from active to card-carrying members, but from active members in the process of building a new church to members who are serviced by the Church.” (p. 160)
And this leads to the close of the paper where they talk about whether Scientology is integrating into society or closing itself off. Their observations here are, again, pretty spot-on:
“At this juncture, we are in a position to consider our original question, namely, whether the Church of Scientology is integrating or disintegrating of society at large….in some ways the Church is integrating of the society at large, and in other ways has a less integrating effect. The major positive evidence for integration is that the Church is part of a general increase in debate in the public sphere, as the attempts of the Church to change the society have raised the general level of debate. At a more concrete level, the evidence for integration of the society is that Scientologists engage in a series of charitable activities….The evidence that points to a disintegrating effect is that the Scientologists join together in a closed community, which in a number of ways isolates itself from the rest of the society. The main evidence here is that they do not trust people who do not belong to Scientology. As a consequence, they choose their friends and cohabitants within the Church.
“One last consideration is that the professionalization of the Church may be evidence that it is no longer able to create the same level of activity around itself as it was able to generate in earlier times. The evidence for this professionalization is that the core group of Scientologists in Denmark seems to have been for the most part constant over the last twenty years, even if there are other indicators of ‘expansion.’ This was supported at the global level, where it was possible to create an index of the relation between the number of outlets compared to the number of new starters in the Church….the Church of Scientology may be part of a trend in a number of the religious movements that began expanding in the middle of the twentieth century, and it may indicate that the values forwarded by the Church no longer address important areas of discussion in society at large. If this is the case, the process of canon formation around Hubbard’s writings is not the way to expand the Church.” (p. 161)
What their pointing out is that Miscavige’s emphasis on selling Scientology materials and sucking up money through membership donations is certainly not doing Scientology any favors and for that I am thankful. His management style could be described as Nero-esque and while I feel for those who have to suffer under his reign of terror, it has to be acknowledged that they do so willingly. It is not only my hope but actual statistical fact that this is resulting in Scientology shrinking into oblivion.
This paper was the first real spark of hope I encountered in this book that serious academic work not only could be done about Scientology, but that it could teach me something about a subject I was as deeply involved in as anyone possibly could be involved. I don’t say that I can’t learn anything new about Scientology out of conceit but simply experience, so this is the first chapter I can finally recommend to anyone else out there who wants to learn something real about Scientology and its place in society from a truly unbiased perspective.
Let’s see if we are as lucky next week when we get into Chapter 8, How Should We Regard the Religious Ceremonies of the Church of Scientology? by Regis Dericquebourg.
Thank you for watching.