Scientology was devised by L Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. Born in Nebraska, he served in the Navy during World War Two before becoming a science fiction writer. Sceptics argue that his new religion was a means of furthering his career, but its success puts doubt on that.
It began with his discovery of ‘dianetics.’ He believed that shocks in early life leave records – ‘engrams’ – in the brain that later have physical and psychological effects. In dianetic therapy, an ‘auditor’ uses what is called an E-meter to search for engrams in order to erase them.
Scientology refined this process, introducing ‘Thetans’, or essences, of immortal celestial beings, and forming it into a spiritual philosophy which aims to achieve a higher state of consciousness.
The religion is very much a space age interpretation of the spiritual, attracting many celebrities such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Of all alternative religions, Scientology is the first to approach the possibility of world religion status.
Ideas in Scientology are, of course, mocked. But when you take away the ‘culture’ of the beliefs, what you are left with is a form of psychotherapy, little different to other forms, and a way of life that is fulfilling to adherents in the same way as any other religion.
© Anthony North, Jan 2007