SCIENTOLOGY: QUICK FACTS
I’m sure Scientologists knew before @rupertmurdoch got stuck into them on Twitter (“Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people.”), that they had an image problem.
Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise… their split is shining the spotlight on Scientology. Photograph via Courier Mail.
There have been hundreds of stories over decades about Scientology, claims of abusive practices and its coterie of high-profile adherents – think Elizabeth Moss, John Travolta, Kate Ceberano, Kirsty Alley, Lisa Marie Presley, Isaac Hayes and the cause of the latest hullabaloo, Tom Cruise. And there are dozens more celebrities, not to mention 2163 Australian followers.
The spotlight would, of course, have shone again on the Church of Scientology whether Murdoch senior had tweeted or not.
When one of its highest-profile and most-devout adherents is delivered divorce papers by his young(er), scientology-convert wife, and said high-profile adherent is a rich Hollywood movie star with a face straight out of the Handsome Handbook, renewed scrutiny is destiny.
Scientologists aren’t renowned for their tolerance of scepticism or criticism. But all religions face scrutiny. So, why not one which holds that humans aren’t humans? They’re thetans.
1. Scientology is a controversial movement, often described by its critics as a cult.
2. It was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer in Jersey in the US in 1950s.
3. Hubbard wrote a book on dianetics (Dianetics: the Modern science of Mental Health) – a set of ideas and beliefs about the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body, which gained a huge following in the US. The book was on the New York Times best-seller list for six months.
4. Dianetics believes the mind has three parts – the conscious analytical mind, the subconscious reactive mind and the somatic mind.
5. The reactive mind stops humans from being aware and happy. The analytical mind is lucid and able to reason. The somatic mind produces reflexive reactions.
6. The aim is to become free of the excesses of the reactive mind through a process of auditing where an auditor asks adherents questions about painful past experiences, which without auditing, continue to cause human failure.
7. Hubbard also claimed to be able to rid humans of a range of physical illnesses that he claimed were at their root, psychosomatic. Amongst them – asthma, eye and heart problems, ulcers and migraines. Scientology holds that psychiatry is abusive and should be abolished.
8. Hubbard found himself the leader of a “movement” and established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation, which trained auditors.
9. Dianetics had its critics, scientists chief amongst them. Legal action against Hubbard’s Dianetic Research Foundation in 1951 in New Jersey, for teaching medicine without a licence pushed it to bankruptcy.
10. In 1953, Hubbard created the Church of Scientology. He even came to Australia in 1959 to deliver 38 lectures.
11. Scientology holds that humans are more than the product of their environment and genes. Humans are immortal spiritual beings with pre-mortal experience: they are driven to return to a flawless state by getting back in touch with their spirit.
12. Hubbard believed in previous incarnation and adopted the term “thetan” or the true identity of the person, thought to command the body.
13. A person does not exist independently of the thetan. Thetans are constantly reborn in new bodies (though thetans can exist even without a human body.) Scientology holds that humans exist with or without a body.
14. Thetans are immortal, spiritual beings which created the universe. But over time they “devolved into a degraded state” and in this devalued state, humans can’t see who they really are – “immortal thetans.”
15. People realise themselves as thetans through auditing, when the mental images, or engrams, stored in the reactive mind are cleared: the scientologist moves towards a “clear state”.
16. Scientology’s elite – Operating Thetans – are those who have restored their thetan powers and have control over their own behaviour and their environment. OT’s can – it is said – leave their own bodies at will and telepathically communicate with animals and other humans.
17. There are 8 OT levels. At level VIII (Truth Revealed) one achieves freedom from the physical universe: you can control matter, energy, space and time. Tom Cruise is reported to have achieved OT level VII. But who really knows?
18. Scientology has a hierarchical structure of lay practitioners, staff and members of the Sea Organisation or Sea Org.
19. There are believed to be 7000 members of Sea Org who are Scientology’s most devout followers who sign a billion year contract.
20. Sea Org has a justice system called the Rehabilitation Project Force to examine charges against members – personal transgressions or breaches of the Church’s ethical standards.
21. If found guilty, the member is expelled from Sea Org or rehabilitated. There is controversy about these rehabilitative practices and they have been labelled “gulags”.
22. There are 2163 scientologists in Australia according to the 2011 census. And millions more around the world.
23. Scientology has fought long and hard in countries where it has followers to be recognised as a religion.
24. It was recognised as a religion in the US in 1993, and granted tax exempt status. But its road to recognition in Australia has been long and hard fought.
25. It was banned in Victoria and South Australia (until 1973) and in Western Australia (until 1972) based on the findings of the 1965 Anderson Enquiry and as a result changed its name to the Church of New Faith.
26. In 1983, after various legal challenges, the issue of “religious status” was determined by the High Court. Scientology was deemed a religion with protection under s 116 of the Constitution. It was granted tax exempt status.
27. Controversy continues to follow the Church. There have been claims that it disconnects followers from family and friends who oppose Scientology; that it forced google to remove links to critical websites ; that high-ranking members physically beat staff.
28. In 2009, Australian Senator Nick Xenaphon said he was aware of allegations of abuse, false imprisonment and forced abortions and called for a parliamentary enquiry into the Church’s activities, calling it a criminal organisation.
29. The Senate rejected the call for an enquiry.
30. The Church does not release information about its finances or membership. But members pay for the various courses they attend and are reported to be paid commissions for attracting new followers.
There are many thousands of pages on the Internet about Scientology.
But if you are now curious, one of the best stories I’ve read on the Church during the research for this fact file is this.
In the meantime, @RupertMurdoch keeps on tweeting. “Since Scientology tweet hundreds of attacks. Expect they will increase and get worse and maybe threatening. Still stick to my story.”
And his son, Lachlan who denies reports he had considered Scientology for himself, says he comes “close” to his dad’s views.
Lachlan’s good friend James Packer who was introduced to Scientology by Tom Cruise in 2002, stopped taking courses about five years ago.
No doubt as the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise story plays out, it will be through the prism of Scientology’s public-image problems.
MORE QUICK FACTS FROM MONICA ATTARD
*Monica Attard OAM, is a five-time Walkley award-winning Australian journalist – including the Gold Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism 1991. She was the host of the ABC’s PM, the World Today and Media Watch.She spent 28 years at the ABC, leaving to start up The Global Mail where she was, until recently, the Managing Editor. In 1997, Monica published a book entitled Russia: Which Way Paradise? documenting her time there as a foreign correspondent.
*Home page photograph via TMZ.com