This is a short primer on the subjects of Scientology and its organizations. It is designed to assist readers who know nothing about them. Some pre-publication readers who knew little or nothing about Scientology did just fine with the book; a couple of others suggested I provide further assistance.
The first thing to know about Scientology is that it started with the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard. Published in 1950 it became an instant best-seller. The word “Dianetics” was derived by Hubbard from the Greek words, dia (through) and nous (mind), and is described as a science of the mind. One of its two most significant principles was the existence of the “reactive mind.” This mind, according to Hubbard, is always conscious – in contrast with Freud’s “unconscious mind”– even during periods of unconsciousness when the “analytical mind” is shut down. The information stored in the reactive mind during periods of unconsciousness due to shock, drugs, injury or illness can later be re-stimulated. The reactive mind can then overtake the analytical mind to some degree and cause a person to behave irrationally in response to reactivated information, giving it command authority over the individual who does not recognize the source of this irrational behavior.
The other major revelation was a technique to reach and erase the information stored in the reactive mind that could be learned and applied by ordinary individuals. In one-on-one sessions, an “auditor” (one who listens; the Dianetics technician) guides an individual to locate and re-live the moments of pain (or high emotion) and unconsciousness, and thereby reduce and eliminate the command authority of this stored information. The goal of these sessions is to restore the individual to complete control over his behavior, increase his IQ, and bolster rationality, well-being, and one’s level of happiness.
The book caused a major sensation. Centers for the study and practice of the new mental therapy sprang up across the country. And with successes came scrutiny from the medical and psychiatric establishment, which launched a campaign to destroy Dianetics and discredit its founder. Hubbard, after all, they pointed out, was a science fiction writer who held no degrees or licenses to practice mental health treatment of any kind. Lay practitioners of Dianetics, who were likewise not licensed as mental health therapists, were cited for the unlawful practice of medicine, and in some cases arrested. Their only choice was to either refrain from using the techniques or do so without charging fees for their services. The organization that had begun to form around the movement collapsed.
Meanwhile, Hubbard continued his research. While auditing subjects using Dianetics techniques, he discovered, over and over again, that many of these subjects made contact with moments of unconsciousness and distress that took place prior to their births, in past lives. This led to the isolation of the spirit, which is distinct from the mind or body, and to the development of methods to separate the spirit from the body while allowing the subject to retain control of his body. This advanced knowledge and methodology was called “scientology.” That word was derived from Scio (knowledge) and -ology (the study of). Its stated goal was total freedom for the person, a spiritual being, who passed from body to body, life to life.
In Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought (1956), Hubbard wrote: “... as studies have gone forward, it has become more and more apparent that the senior activity of life is that of the thetan [spirit], and that in the absence of the thetan, no further life exists.”
One solution to the organizational problem involving the practice of Dianetics, and perhaps the only viable solution, was to form a religion. In the United States, and in most civilized nations, religious activity is outside the regulatory authority of government agencies. The evolution of Dianetics into Scientology provided the basis for that solution. Because Scientology dealt with the spiritual nature and salvation of mankind, it could be categorized as a religion. More accurately, it is an applied religious philosophy. Applied, because it has a methodology rather than a faith; the principles of Scientology are applied in one-on-one counseling sessions to increase an individual’s spiritual awareness, increase his ability to communicate and get along with others, to improve his conditions in life.
In 1954, a religious organization was established in Washington, D. C. and named the Founding Church of Scientology. Other churches followed. The Church of Scientology of California was later formed in Los Angeles and designated “The Mother Church,” from which all other churches are governed. Missions were created as privately owned and operated centers that provided introductory services and encouraged graduates of those services to seek higher level services from churches.
In 1966 in response to increasing legal and public relations issues, Hubbard formed the Guardian’s Office (the G.O.) as an autonomous network to handle external matters. Jane Kember was appointed Guardian for her lifetime. Worldwide headquarters of the G.O. were established in East Grinstead, England, near London. Continental Offices were created in the United Kingdom, United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. The continental offices were further subdivided into local Guardian’s offices in every church of Scientology.
In 1967 Hubbard established the Sea Organization (Sea Org) under his direct command. The name was apt. Hubbard had moved his research and operations headquarters, along with his most trusted aides, aboard three ships that continuously sailed, mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, until it moved its operations to a land base in late 1975. Its responsibility was to assist Hubbard in the development of both the religious and administrative technologies for managing Scientology’s organizations, which were expanding rapidly.
It is important to stress the different levels of commitment to Scientology. Critics and persons unfamiliar with Scientology tend to lump them together. There are three levels. Parishioners or “Public Scientologists” are people from all walks of life who buy a book, take a course, or receive auditing. “Contracted staff” members are those persons who sign contracts, usually for either two-and-a-half or five years, to work at a mission or church. Being on staff is like having a job in the sense that these persons receive compensation, provide their own room and board, raise families, and so on. Finally, a person can join the Sea Org, which is a lifetime commitment, somewhat like joining the priesthood. Members sign a billion year contract,1 are provided room and board, work long hours for a mere stipend, and, although they can marry, cannot have children (pursuant to current rules). Contracted Staff and Sea Org members are entitled to receive Scientology training and auditing at no charge, and are even expected to train in the subjects required for them to do their jobs.