Scientology is an accumulation of different religious beliefs and practices. In 1950 L. Ron Hubbard, often called LRH, wrote a book called Dianetics, the modern science of mental health. The book became very popular in a short amount of time in the early self-help movement, but quickly lost its steam as a fad, and the Dianetics foundation went into bankruptcy. Hubbard then recharacterized the subject as a religion and renamed it Scientology, building and expanding upon the writings of Dianetics.
According to this book, humans are limited by engrams, bad experiences stored in the unconscious mind that affect behavior long after the traumatic experience. These experiences may be from earlier in one’s life, from the womb, or even from past lives. Engrams can be removed from a process called “Auditing” – which involves answering questions in a reflective manner. It is done either using the book or in a professional environment connected with a device called an e-meter. Psychiatry, in contrast, is rejected as harmful, particularly in its use of drugs.
Those who complete this process are called Clears. Hubbards subsequent teaching states that a Clear can further develop the inner self, called a Thetan. A Scientologist seeks to become an Operating Thetan or OT, and then to pass through the various levels set out for them. At OT3, a Scientologist learns a deeper basis of the religion. Thetans were brought to the earth by Xenu, a galactic dictator, in traumatic circumstances 75 million years ago. However, this knowledge is believed to be dangerous to the unprepared and will be meaningful only if revealed in a ritual context. Hubbard claimed to have learned this through scientific investigation, not through revelation, although some Scientologists regard the story as allegorical.
The word Scientology is the pairing of the Latin word Scientia, meaning Knowledge or Skill, and Greek word “Logos” – meaning the word, or account of. Their logo comprises of two triangles with an S wrapped around them. These triangles are called the ARC and KRC triangles. ARC meaning Affinity, Reality, and Communication, where the KRC triangle stands for Knowledge, Responsibility, and Control.
Scientologists seek to attain spiritual development through the study of the Scientology materials. Members are required to make donations accordingly for study courses and auditing as they move what they call the Bridge to Total Freedom, and Scientologists usually move up the bridge at a rate governed by their income.
Hubbard is reported to have said in the 1940s that he would like to start a religion in order to make money, and skeptics allege that Scientology is not a real religion. In 1967, Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology to form the ship-based Sea Organization or Sea Org. Volunteers would work for between 6 to 40 cents per hour as they traveled through international waters, only stopping occasionally at various ports for supplies.
Throughout the 1970’s it was beset with allegations of criminality in more than one country, and in 1978, Hubbard was facing so many criminal charges that he went into hiding in California, cutting off from everyone except for 10 messengers for many years. In 1986, LRH died of a stroke at his ranch, but he had left no plan for succession. Without a leader, the ambitious David Miscavige stepped forward, and by bending arms and making deals, took control of the church, and installed a new generation of lieutenants.
A decade into Miscavige's leadership, a simmering crisis finally came to a boil. For years, Hubbard had insisted that Scientology was a religion and was tax-exempt. Thus, they had refused to pay any taxes. In the 1980s, the church of Scientology faced a tax bill of over a billion dollars from the IRS. Their total assets at the time were only about a quarter of that.
Thousands of Scientologists all filed lawsuits against not just the IRS, but individual IRS employees. 2400 total lawsuits, all going at the IRS at one time. They not only sued the IRS for litigations against them but also against general crimes against the general public. They also then went to publish their findings in public magazines.
In the end, the IRS made a deal with Scientology that, both of them would simply drop all charges. Scientology became an official tax-exempt Religion, and the lawsuits against the IRS were dropped.
The Church is known for having an overly aggressive, and sometimes even violent attitude towards critics, citing their claim of “Fair Game”. From Hubbard’s policies in the ’60s, which described that they never defend, they always attack, and thus, anyone who criticizes Scientology is fair game. In fact, a large number of cases were filed regarding the burglary, harassment, suing, framing, beating people up, and even poisoning the dog of a reporter who was researching the church.
Many former members described that Scientology was a dangerous and deeply paranoid organization. Scientology has also been known for specific celebrity involvement throughout the years.
John Travolta claimed to have gained a great deal of courage for his acting from Scientology, but later, many ex-members described that he became trapped against his will. And of course, Tom Cruise celebrated as one of the highest level members of Scientology, in which the church has spent millions of dollars tricking out his cars, motorcycles, throwing massive parties, and even a hanger in Santa Monica.
Today, there are roughly 10 to 15 thousand Scientologists in the world, most of them in the United States.