FRINGE RELIGION: CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
The Church of Scientology is one of the most curious new religious movements of the 20th century, which financially defrauds its members, charging exorbitant fees for its spiritual services. People are drawn to Scientology because of personal difficulties in the way a few people change their own religions to others.
It is a cult, which is any religious group viewed as strange or what may be considered dangerous. There were many cults such as the Moonie cult, or the Unification Church, led by a Korean and his wife in South Korea and America. Reverend Sun Myung Moon (multimillionaire) died September 3 2012, aged 92.
During the 70s and early 80s the cult claimed more than 4 million members (Moonies) in 120 countries. In 1936 Moon claimed to have met Jesus Christ on a Korean hillside. Jesus informed Moon that He had been unable to complete His mission on Earth due to unforeseen circumstances, so Moon had been chosen to succeed Him and to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
In 1954 Moon founded his cult from Seoul. It spread to the West in the 60s and 70s.His sermons, which were a blend of hard-sell Christianity and Eastern mysticism proved particularly appealing to the idealistic progeny of affluent Westerners. They were encouraged to hand over their worldly goods, reject their biological parents and accept the Moons (him and his young second wife) as their “true parents”.
He persuaded young Moonies to take part in choreographed mass weddings and they were forbidden to sleep together for 40 days, “to get to know each other and prove that their marriage is on a higher plane”.
There is now Kabala cult in London based on Jewish mysticism, to which many celebrities such as Madonna belong.
Fast forward: there were many cults in the ancient world such as the Roman cult of Jupiter, the Persian cult of Mithraism and the Egyptian cult of Isis. All these cults had their own peculiarities.
Without trying to knit all these cults together I will concentrate only on one cult, Scientology, which is currently in the media. Cults come and go and they do not change the course of modern major religions in obvious ways like Cleopatra’s nose and the battle of Actium or the battle of Stalingrad,
Scientology is a body of beliefs and related practices just like any other religion. It is a self-improvement system based on the writings of L Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, who started the cult in1954 as a self-help system. He died in 1986.
In the Unites States of America, where it was born, in 1993, the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognised Scientology as a “non-profit charitable organisation”, but not as religion. In the United Kingdom the Church of Scientology is not classified as a religious institution.
On July 9 2012, Scientology became hot news, because Tom Cruise (50), the top Hollywood star of the Mission Impossible and The Last Samurai, was out filming in the Rockies for his most recent movie shoot, when his third wife Katie Holmes (33) out of the blue, filed for divorce on June 29 2012. The divorce was settled two months from the day Katie called Cruise in Iceland (fastest celebrity divorce because of prenuptial agreement).
The cause of the divorce, it is believed, Katie, brought up as a Catholic in Ohio, wants legal custody of their daughter Suri, because she is worried about Tom’s devotion to sci-fi cult Scientology and the effect the quasi-religious sect may have on their 6-year old daughter.
Scientology, a secretive cult, became a source of media interest in 2006 when it was known that outspoken Scientologist Tom Cruise and wife Katie Holmes, who converted to Scientology from Roman Catholicism, were expecting a child.
Reports that the couple would follow the practice of “silent birth” and Tom Cruise would eat the placenta, though denied by Tom Cruise’s source, until photos were taken of large placards being delivered to the couple’s mansion bearing instructions for the silent birth, such as “Be silent and make all physical movements slow and understandable”.
According to their doctrine, the practice is followed because “any words spoken are recorded in the reactive mind and can have an adverse effect on the mother and the child.” However they have made no attempts to prove this medically or scientifically.
Scientologists blame psychiatry and psychiatric drugs for all the ills on earth. Disconnection from non-scientology parents, which is a source of wrenching headache, and constant leaching of money from the faithful are the most common complaints about the cult.
Those who decide to leave the faith are looked upon as enemies and as ‘suppressive persons’. Family members who stay inside the cult are told to severe relationship from them, causing a lot of grief in the family. Scientology is as secretive as vindictive, like kidnapping members who have recently left the Church.
The aim of scientologists is to connect with their spirits or “thetan”. The thetan had innumerable past lives and it is believed that lives preceding the thetan’s arrival on Earth lived in extraterrestrial cultures.
In order to achieve its goal of making an individual completely free from any limitation Scientologists must learn how to access his own spirit and gain control over it, by following the techniques written by Hubbard. They say that they have discovered how to isolate and handle the human spirit (thetan), and that is a significant contribution to mankind ie the isolation, description and handling of the human spirit.
According to scientologists it is a high standard religion. It helps bring man to total freedom and truth. Human experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. Human capabilities are unlimited, even not presently realised. Man is basically good. He is seeking to survive. His survival depends upon himself and his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.
Tom Cruise, who was introduced to Scientology by his first wife Mini Rogers, saved Scientology by signing up when it was in disarray. The biggest FBI raid in American history had put several senior Scientologists, including Hubbard’s wife, in jail after they have been convicted of wire tapping, theft and breaking into government offices. Hubbard, who had been hiding, died in January 1986.
Cruise claimed that Hubbard’s dictum “if it isn’t true for you, it isn’t true” enabled him to rewrite the script of his life. With Hubbard at his side he could become the superman of his dreams, but it cost him three wives and millions of dollars.
Members of the public, who want to join a Scientology centre or mission, are offered “free personality tests” called Oxford Capacity Analysis (no connection with Oxford) by Scientology literature. A trained Scientologist uses an electronic meter called E Meter that will tell what the person’s mind is doing when the person is made to think of something.
Though it is difficult to obtain reliable membership statistics, The International Association of Scientology (IAS) membership is around 15 million worldwide. Scientologists can attend classes, exercises or counselling sessions for a set range of “fixed donations”. The meter registers before the person becomes conscious of the thought. It is therefore a ‘preconscious’ meter.
While a number of governments now, give the Church of Scientology, protections and tax relief as an officially recognised religion, other governments describe the Church as a pseudoreligion or a cult.
The writer is based in the UK.