Scientology: Church now claims more than 8 million members

Published: Saturday, Sept. 18 2004 12:00 a.m. MDT

Four years before Hubbard founded the Church of Scientology he wrote a book called "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," in which he outlined his theories of the mind, and a "technology" that can help a regular person ruled by fears, doubts and lousy communication skills progress into an enlightened person known as a "Clear."

Most people, Hubbard writes, are ruled by their "reactive" mind, which unconsciously stores mental pictures ("engrams") of distressing experiences. In a sense, says Salt Lake Scientologist Rob Magiera, these engrams act the way post-hypnotic suggestions do, commanding our subconscious to respond, in this case with fear or anger or a host of other irrational emotions. Auditing, the Rev. Parke explains, "gradiently improves a person's ability to confront" these repressed experiences and to "refile" them in what Hubbard called the "analytical mind."

Little by little, the person is helped to confront difficult experiences, starting with minor hurts (a burned finger, for example) and eventually more painful experiences, until these no longer have an effect on him, Rev. Parke explains. The full explanation of the process required many hundreds of pages in "Dianetics," he adds.

Don't confuse auditing with psychotherapy, he says. "If I go into a psychotherapist's office, they won't have a chart like this," he says, pointing to an intricate poster called "The Bridge to Total Freedom" that lists the dozens of steps between now and "Clear" and beyond, to a state Hubbard calls Operating Thetan XV. An Operating Thetan "is able to control matter, energy, space and time."

The main difference between auditing and psychotherapy, says Rev. Parke, is that auditing is "spiritual counseling."

Typical psychotherapy "doesn't give you anything immediate," Scientologist Joava Good says, whereas "Scientology is a philosophy and a religion you can apply today and get results." Scientologists are especially opposed to psychiatry and its overuse of psychotropic drugs. In 1969, the church established the Citizens Commission on Human Rights to eliminate what it calls "harmful practices in the field of mental health."

The CCHR has long lobbied against antidepressants and electroshock therapy, and against the use of Ritalin for children with ADHD. It also contends that depression, hyperactivity and other mental and behavioral problems are largely incorrect diagnoses that "cover symptoms and don't handle the real problems," which may be physical or spiritual, says Sandra Lucas, executive director of the Utah Chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights.

The church's auditing sessions are conducted using a Hubbard invention called the electropsychometer, or e-meter. Scientologists refer to it as a "religious artifact" and explain that since engrams have "weight and mass," the e-meter can measure them and their effect on a person's mental state. The e-meter consists of a gauge and two metal rods, held in each hand, that emit a small electrical current. Church dogma, the Rev. Parke says, is that no one is allowed to alter the auditing technology.

Auditing doesn't come cheap. Sold in groups of 12 half-hour sessions — "fixed donations," the church calls it — the entire auditing process could easily cost $100,000, he says. But all churches raise money one way or another, he notes.

"A couple of years ago I added up how much I spent," says Rob Magiera, who has been a Scientologist for 26 years, "and it added up to about how much a person would tithe to his church, or a little less."

The money raised by the auditing sessions and by classes to train auditors is used to run the worldwide church, pay staff members and fund charities such as the "drug-free marshals" program for children and humanitarian programs such as its current relief efforts for the victims of Hurricane Ivan, the Rev. Parke says. The church operates retreats, The Saint Hill College for Scientologists in England, a 444-foot ship, and lavish "Celebrity Centres" in Hollywood, Paris and other cities.

The church's most famous celebrities include John Travolta, Tom Cruise and Nancy Cartwright, who is the voice of Bart Simpson. Locally, says the Rev. Parke, the church counts among its members people who are LDS and Catholic.

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