News of Tom Cruise’s split with Katie Holmes brings Scientology into the limelight once again.
What is Scientology?
Here are the basics about the religion: Scientology describes itself, “Scientology is a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.”
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices created by L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986), starting in 1952, as a successor to his earlier self-help system, Dianetics. Hubbard characterized Scientology as a religion, and in 1953 incorporated the Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey.
A large number of organizations overseeing the application of Scientology have been established, the most notable of these being the Church of Scientology. Scientology sponsors a variety of social-service programs. These include the Narconon anti-drug program, the Criminon prison rehabilitation program, the Study Tech education methodology, a volunteer organization, a business-management method, and a set of moral guidelines expressed in a booklet called The Way to Happiness.
At the core of Scientology is a belief that each human has a reactive mind that responds to life’s traumas, clouding the analytic mind and keeping us from experiencing reality. Members of the religion submit to a process called auditing to find the sources of this trauma, reliving those experiences in an attempt to neutralize them and reassert the primacy of the analytic mind, working toward a spiritual state called “clear.”
The process involves a device called E-meter, which Scientologists say measures the body’s electric flow as an auditor asks a series of questions they say reveals sources of trauma.
“Auditing uses processes – exact sets of questions asked or directions given by an auditor to help a person locate areas of spiritual distress, find out things about himself and improve his condition,” according to the Church of Scientology’s website.
The church goes on to to say, “Science is something one does, not something one believes in.”
Auditing purports to identify spiritual distress from a person’s current life and from past lives. Scientologists believe each person is an immortal being, a force that believers call a thetan. “You move up the bridge to freedom by working toward being an ‘Operating Thetan,’ which at the highest level transcends material law,” says David Bromley, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. “You occasionally come across people in Scientology who say they can change the material world with their mind.”
Bromley and other scholars say the church promotes the idea of an ancient intergalactic civilization in which millions of beings were destroyed and became what are known as “body thetans,” which continue to latch onto humans and cause more trauma. Advanced Scientologists confront body thetans through more auditing.
Are there any famous scientologists?
Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley and Will Smith have all been said to believe in scientology.
Where can we get more about scientology?
There are more than 15,000 pages of technical writing and more than 3,000 taped lectures on scientology. The church claims: “Its truths are self-evident, its principles are easily demonstrable and its technology can be seen at work in any Church of Scientology.” You can visit their official website at: Church of Scientology
How many Scientologists are there?
That’s a matter of considerable dispute. The Church of Scientology says it has 10,000 churches, missions and groups operating in 167 countries, with 4.4 million more people signing up every year.
Scholars say that, despite the global proliferation of church buildings, the membership numbers are much lower than the church claims, likely in the hundreds of thousands. Some of the church’s followers are celebrities.