Why is Scientology called a church?
User manual for the head
In 2009 Paul Haggis wrote a letter to Scientology. In it he declares his resignation after 35 years. Haggis is not just some disappointed member of the religious community that combines psychotherapeutic methods with faith and has church status in the USA.
Haggis was previously part of the movement's elite. He is also an Oscar-winning Hollywood director and screenwriter ("L.A. Crash", "Million Dollar Baby", "James Bond 007 - Casino Royale").
The story of Haggis writes down 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright for The New Yorker magazine. In 2013, the book based on it, "In prison of faith", will appear in Germany.
Using Haggis as an example, Wright describes in detail the inner workings of the closed community, which functions according to rigid rules and separates its members from the outside world. Scientology vehemently denies the contents of the book.
Founder Hubbard - Genius or Criminal?
Screenwriter Paul Haggis was stopped by a young man in a small town in Canada in 1975. He puts a book in his hand and says: "You have a mind. Here you have the user manual for your head," Wright writes.
The book is by L. Ron Hubbard and is entitled "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health." It was published in 1950 and was on the New York Times bestseller list for 28 weeks that year. To date it is said to have been printed more than 21 million times.
Some consider the later founder of the religion Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) to be the greatest genius of all time, for others he is a paranoid, greedy criminal.
Pulitzer Prize winner Wright told Der Spiegel in 2013: "He's one of the most interesting people I've ever written about, fascinating, full of contradictions. He's in the Guinness Book of Records for having written more than a thousand books . He created a church that has been around for half a century. If only he had been a cheat, eventually he would have taken the money and run away. He's spent most of his life with the meter trying to understand what happens in him. "
The electropsychometer (e-meter) shows with the help of two electrodes held in the hands how the electrical resistance changes in the body. Scientologists believe that they can deduce from the movement patterns how someone is psychologically.
"Inevitably destined for higher things"
L. Ron Hubbard was born in a small town in the US state of Nebraska to a teacher and a soldier. According to the sociologist of religion Gerald Willms, his travels and experiences can be briefly summarized: "Everything that Hubbard undertook in his life before the establishment of Scientology he later puts in the spotlight of a man who was inevitably destined for higher things," writes Willms in his book "The Wonderful World of Sects".
Before the Second World War he wrote adventure stories for dime books, later science fiction stories. Even then, he "fills the gap between reality and his interpretation of reality with myths," writes Willms.
And he felt called to higher things: After the Second World War, the USA found itself in an emotional crisis. "Mental disorders threatened to overtake all other diseases," Wright quoted a report from the AP news agency.
During this time, Hubbard developed a supposedly scientific method of self-therapy - "Dianetics". In doing so, he triggers a hype in the USA, which threatens to wane again soon.
In order to bind people to himself, to maintain his power and the flow of money, Hubbard expands his Dianetics to religion. He uses the overlap between psychotherapy and religion - both change the worldview - and at the end of 1953 registers the "Church of Scientology".
Scientology sees itself as a religion of salvation, which wants to give people a state of spiritual freedom and free them from their fetters in the physical universe.
Hubbard assumes that all living beings have the primary goal of survival. This is controlled by a perfect calculating machine that processes all data: our mind. This is where the term "Dianetics" comes from, which can be translated as "through the mind".
According to Scientology founder Hubbard, the mind consists of two parts: an analytical or conscious part and a reactive part. When processing our environment, the analytical mind is usually responsible, which has a solution for every problem.
In the case of negative impressions, physical or emotional pain, however, the reactive mind turns on. He is the source of nightmares, fears, painful emotions that Scientology calls "engrams".
In so-called auditing sessions, the organization wants to track down these erroneous "data sets" with the help of the e-meter and delete them so that the "adding machine" mind can work again without errors.
According to Scientology, anyone who has successfully passed this lengthy (and expensive) process is "clear". When a person is "clear", they live without their reactive mind, which - according to Scientology - is "the hidden source of irrational behavior, exaggerated fear, resentment and insecurity".
Disembodied souls - the thetans
At the heart of the teaching is the idea that every human being has an immortal being within, "the basic self," as Scientology writes on its website. This almighty, omniscient and immortal spirit being is what the denomination calls "thetan". The mind mediates between him and the mortal body.
According to Scientology, thetans are older than time and lived far away in the universe. But 75 million years ago the tyrannical ruler Xenu lured them into a trap, brought them to earth, threw them into volcanic craters and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Since then, these bodiless beings have been reborn in the human, physical sheaths.
Over time, the once all-powerful thetans have forgotten their skills through traumatic experiences. To regain this is the goal of Scientologists. Anyone who succeeds in doing this with the help of Scientology technology will become an "Operating Thetan" (OT), in other words, the "Working Spirit". The prerequisite for this is to be "clear". According to Scientology, there is nothing an OT cannot do, it is the creator of its own reality.
Hollywood star movement
Screenwriter Haggis enjoyed being part of a stigmatized minority in the 1980s, Wright writes. Scientology, that was the movement of Hollywood starlets and drama students who met in Los Angeles in the "Celebrity Center" and hoped for the breakthrough (also with the help of other Scientologists).
Haggis was gradually initiated into the faith, slowly adjusting to the doctrines of traumatic childhood, past life, and thetans "that would originally have been unacceptable to him," Wright writes. But the contradictions gnawed at him.
"On the one hand there was the systematic path to self-knowledge", on the other "a religion that he simply could not understand". Haggis blamed himself for this and hoped his open questions would be answered at the next level.
Snow White and the World Conspiracy
Scientology's reputation suffered badly in the 1980s. The main reason for this was "Operation Snow White". Hubbard believed that a secret organization of psychiatrists was seeking world domination, so in 1973 he wrote a secret order to infiltrate government agencies around the world.
According to Wright, 5,000 Scientologists were placed in countries and authorities critical of Scientology worldwide, including German police and immigration authorities, Interpol, but especially the US government.
On July 8, 1977, 150 FBI officers began the largest search in the agency's history in Scientology offices. They confiscated 200,000 documents and found burglary tools and eavesdropping devices. Senior members of the organization were sentenced to prison terms, but L. Ron Hubbard was not.
The aging founder of the religion has been hiding in California since the late 1970s. He got moody and confused. Even in earlier years it was the characteristics of the founder of the faith that flowed into the stream of faith through his decisions and instructions.
Significant is a letter that Hubbard's first wife Polly wrote to his second wife Sara (Hubbard was married three times in total). She wanted to encourage her in the fight after the separation: "(...) I also went through that for twelve years - the beatings, the death threats, all the sadistic traits that you accuse him of (...)".
Even Hubbard's doctor, according to Wright, described him as a "paranoid personality" with megalomania and called him a "pathological liar". So Hubbard's "legacy of humiliating subordinates and paranoid attitudes toward the state" passed into his organization, turning it into an "extremely secretive and sometimes hostile organization," Wright said.
Turning point in public reputation
Journalists, doctors and judges were showered with complaints, shadowed by private detectives and silenced with offenses, some of which were fabricated.
Behind the aggressive strategy was Scientology's new strong man, David Miscavige. Hubbard died hidden and abandoned on a ranch in California in 1986. Miscavige restructured the organization, hired PR strategists and religious experts.
At the same time, he put the US tax authorities under pressure with lawsuits until they recognized Scientology as a tax-exempt religious community in 1993.
Still, Wright sees 1991 as the "turning point in public reputation". A sensational disclosure report appeared in the US magazine "Time"; there were numerous scandals such as the unexplained death of the young Scientologist Lisa McPherson. Prominent followers became "embarrassed about Scientology, making it harder to present Scientology as a spiritual refuge".
Tensions between Germany and the USA
Scientology was also under pressure outside of the United States. Germany in particular observed Scientology activities with particular concern, said Lawrence Wright.
The sociologist of religion Gerald Willms writes of a remarkable "social unanimity of 'damnation'". In addition, various apocalyptic groups had made headlines and hysteria with mass murders and mass suicides. Parallels in the belief system can be drawn with Scientology.
The organization's practices covered countless reports, dropout reports, guides and brochures. The best known and most far-reaching of the measures that followed was a decision by the interior ministers to have Scientology monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution from 1997 onwards.
In addition, the federal government dealt with the sect issue in general and Scientology in particular in a two-year investigation (commission of inquiry). She concluded that the organization was not a religious group. How Scientology is to be classified, however, was left open by the commission.
The rejection in Germany even led to state disagreements between the Federal Republic and the United States. The "US State Department began to urge the German government to be more lenient to Scientology," Wright writes.
In Germany they found it strange that the Americans were not worried about the existence of penal camps for re-educating believers who were not loyal to the line with imprisonment and detention.
Scientology in Crisis?
In 2003 David Miscavige had a prison camp opened in the "Gold Base" in Southern California, called "the Hole" in Scientology - connected living containers without furniture but full of ants. Wright, who interviewed 200 witnesses for his book, describes scenes of psychological terror and physical violence.
In 2005 there were 70 people, including leaders. With them Miscavige played "Journey to Jerusalem". He threatened the losers with expulsion from the elite organization "Sea Org", relocation to an inhospitable place and forced divorce. "The participants began to push and hit each other. (...) Managers cried." Since then, several leading Scientologists have left the organization.
The New York journalist and Scientology expert Tony Ortega told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" in 2013 that the organization was in the "worst crisis in its history". "Long-term members and senior leaders have left the Church for ten years." These include Marty Rathbun, number two in the hierarchy for years, former spokesman Mike Rinder and Miscavige's niece Jenna Miscavige Hill.
Significant financial resources
In 2008, Scientology's attempt to delete an unpopular Tom Cruise YouTube video provoked the hacker organization Anonymous. The supporters of the loose association paralyzed the organization's servers and organized protests in around 100 cities around the world.
In addition, an unauthorized biography about Tom Cruise caused a stir. In it, the English author Andrew Morton describes the role of the actor in the organization as an ambassador and activist.
Overall, Scientology does not have as many supporters as it claims: The organization itself speaks of 3.5 million in the USA alone. The authorities as well as author Wright speak of 25,000.
In Germany the number is estimated at around 4,000. Nevertheless, this comparatively small religious movement has significant financial resources: the International Association of Scientologists has, according to executives, parked between one and two billion US dollars in offshore accounts.
A danger to society?
In 2007, the interior ministers of the federal states in Germany decided to examine a possible Scientology ban - but the project was finally put aside. Furthermore, the organization is monitored by the protection of the constitution. The Federal Office would like to reduce the observation to a minimum, but is encountering resistance from the federal states. Sociologist of religion Gerald Willms advocates less "hateful polemics" against the organization.
The sober reality is that even the Office for the Protection of the Constitution "has not found any evidence of activities that are actually dangerous to society or the state" for over 15 years. On the legal agenda are unauthorized street advertising, the illegal distribution of flyers or lawsuits for insult and defamation.
Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright also told Der Spiegel in 2013 that he had written about many crimes and ill-treatment, "but I would not see them as anti-democratic. The danger posed by Scientology is personal, not social. Even if it is Scientology denies that: The Church is destroying families and individuals. "
In 2008, California citizens argued over a ban on gay marriages. Paul Haggis campaigns for minorities, also because two of his daughters are lesbian. He "fought with all his might," writes Lawrence Wright. But his church supports the proponents of the ban.
On Hubbard's "Emotion Scale", homosexuals are at 1.1, the "most dangerous and insidious level". It is the level of the "pervert, the hypocrite, the turning neck". Hubbard recommends removing these individuals from society and imprisoning them.
Haggis is disappointed and begins to doubt. He researched the Internet and found outright lies from senior executives and disturbing reports from old friends who had broken with Scientology.
Research into his church, of which he had been a member for 35 years, resulted in a 2009 letter to spokesman Tommy Davis: "Tommy, if only a small part of these allegations are true, we are dealing with grave, unforgivable violations of human and civil rights to do." He ends: "I am ashamed to have waited so long before acting. I hereby terminate my membership in the Church of Scientology."
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