The Scandal of Scientology, by Paulette Cooper | Next | Prev | Cites | Index

Chapter 1

From Dianetics to Scientology

The sun never sets on Scientology
-- from "The Aims of Scientology"{1}

In 1950, a fad called "Dianetics" hit America like a hurricane, attracting hundreds of thousands of people, especially on the West Coast, by promising to cure them of all of their problems without subjecting them to all those tedious hours required by psychoanalysis.{2}

To understand the cause of all their problems, and cure them, all they had to do was read a book written by a science fiction writer named L. Ron Hubbard.

But in addition to letting people cure themselves, this book had something to offer those people who had always secretly wanted to be doctors and to cure others. It allowed them to do this without all those tedious years of required training. All they had to do was also read the book by Hubbard.

The impact of this book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, was incredible. Dianetics clubs sprang up everywhere. People referred to Hubbard's book simply as The Book, and thought of it more as The Bible.

Thousands were throwing Dianetic parties{3} and reliving their birth (in keeping with the Dianetics Philosophy which stated that a person's prenatal experiences were the cause of many of that person's problems today). What had once been a Seance had at last become Science.

But then, just when everyone was having fun, a few critics had to come along and spoil it all. Dianetics was discredited by the professional doctors and their organizations, and America deserted it to search for Bridey Murphy (the Irish woman who believed she had been reincarnated) instead.{4}

Dianetics then also quietly underwent a rebirth. First, people could no longer become "doctors" just by buying Hubbard's book. Instead, they had to pay to take courses at his institutions before they could get "professional" status. Secondly, Hubbard changed the "science" of Dianetics to a "religion." And last, he renamed this religion "Scientology."

Not everyone applauded these moves. One critic said the name "Scientology" was no more impressive than if a fruit shop proprietor decided to call himself a "Fruitologist."{5} But most of the objections -- and suspicion -- were levied not at the name but at the "religion." Agnostics seemed to resent the religion, and the religious may have resented the agnosticism.{6}

Scientologists did accept the idea of God, but believed that God existed in each man as a "thetan," which is roughly comparable to the "spirit" or "soul."{7} They therefore preached that man doesn't have a soul or spirit -- he is a spirit called a thetan. God, when he was referred to, was sometimes called the Big Thetan.{8}

In addition to worshipping a deity, Scientology also had some other religious elements as well. Its adherents were imbued with a missionary fervor, eager to march forth and deliver the gospel according to Hubbard. In addition, the followers took on faith everything Hubbard said. And finally, L. Ron Hubbard -- or "Ron" as believers called him -- the Western Guru, inventor, leader and promoter of Dianetics and Scientology, while never proclaiming he was God, was placed in an almost equally exalted position by his followers.{9}

Many people were still suspicious about Dianetics' conversion to religion, perhaps because the "science" of Dianetics had run into so many difficulties that turning it into a religion and renaming it may have seemed like an attempt to evade its pervasive problems. The first problem was the desertion of one of the earliest and most prestigious adherents of Dianetics, Dr. J. A. Winter.{10}

Winter had written the foreword to Hubbard's book and had become the director of Hubbard'sDianetic Institute. After he severed his relationship with Dianetics, he wrote a book called A Doctor's Report on Dianetics, which not only criticized Hubbard's research and methods, but said that Dianetics was causing people to go psychotic.{11} He discussed the case of one person who was treated by the Dianetic Institute and then disappeared, returning later and stating he had with him "one of my disciples, Saint Simon...."

In addition, in January of 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners instituted proceedings against Hubbard's Dianetic Organization for operating an unlicensed medical school,{12} and possibly for letting people append an "M.D." after their names, representing not a "Medical Doctor" but a "Master of Dianetics."{13}

Also, Hubbard had some philosophical differences with a Dianetic Foundation he had established in California and broke off with them.{14} Hubbard's Wichita foundation filed a voluntary petition of bankruptcy on February 21, 1951.{15}

Some of Hubbard's other organizations in Phoenix, Philadelphia and London were successful, but he ran into difficulties later in Washington when he established The Founding Church of Scientology there.{16} And then, to add to Hubbard's troubles and successes, he brought Scientology abroad.{17}

By March, 1959, Hubbard had moved the entire operation over to England's Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, Sussex, right outside London.{18} He left America, according to the London Times "because the atmosphere was being poisoned by nuclear experiments."{19}

By the time he left America, he had 153 franchised Scientology auditors here.{20} A "franchise" may be a strange structure for a group that insists they're a Church, and that may explain why they've recently renamed them "missions."{21}

It doesn't matter whether they are called missions or franchises. What does matter is that they all had to turn over ten percent of their gross income to Hubbard.{22} In addition, by that time, he had established headquarters or "Orgs" as they called them (short for organizations) in various parts of Australia, Africa, New Zealand and Europe -- all turning over ten percent of their income to Hubbard, too.

While such an arrangement would seem quite enviable, Hubbard's problems were just beginning. The British were not enchanted with Scientology. They refused to recognize Saint Hill as a Church -- Hubbard could only claim it as an educational establishment.{23} Then, they refused to give Scientology students visas to enter the country for study or work at Saint Hill.{24} And finally, they decided to set up an Inquiry into Scientology, which is now under way.{25}

If the Inquiry is anything like the other Inquiries, Hubbard's problems are far from over. After Victoria, Australia, completed its Scientology Inquiry, Scientology was banned and its practice was made punishable by up to $500 and two years in jail.{26}

In South Australia, officials outlawed Scientology and their use of E-meters, a device similar to a lie detector.{27} In Western Australia, Scientology was also banned.{28}

In New Zealand officials conducted an Inquiry into Scientology, but decided not to ban it because they felt it had changed (although they did criticize some of its earlier methods and expressed concern over certain Scientology practices).{29}

Scientology was not banned in New South Wales,{30} however, where anybody can set himself up as a consulting psychologist (one New South Wales man who was convicted of kidnapping and murder had at one point in his career styled himself as a therapist).{31}

And in South Africa, where an Inquiry is currently under way, it does not look hopeful.{32} One witness allegedly testified that the Scientologists were planning to arm 5,000 Africans and seize control of the government.{33} A member of South Africa's Parliament referred to Scientology as a "cancer like communism that could destroy South Africa."{34}

And yet, despite all the Inquiries, despite all the bannings, and despite all the negative publicity, outsiders estimate that the Scientologists probably have several hundred thousand followers in America (possibly a quarter of a million in California alone),{35} maybe one hundred thousand in England,{36} and possibly two to three million in the world.{37}

The Scientologists' own figures are even more glowing; they claim at least four million members in America and probably five million members in the world.{38} One thing is certain -- Scientology is expanding, and probably tripled or quadrupled its members in the past few years.{39}

What is the future of Scientology? Will its adherents revive Dianetics, as they are doing in America and England now, if they run into more and more difficulties? Will they repeat their claims that they are a science, or will they make their claims that they are a religion even more vociferously?

In a letter titled "Scientology 1970," Hubbard wrote that Scientology would be planned on a religious basis throughout the world. The letter concluded: "This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors."{40}

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Citations & Notes

{1} initial quote on "sun" [23]
{2} article in Astounding Science Fiction [108]
{3} Dianetic parties [153]
{4} left Dianetics for Bridey Murphy [142]
{5} Fruitologist [261]
{6} agnostics unhappy [142]
{7} religious beliefs [261, 91, 158]
{8} Big Thetan [261]
{9} other religious elements [280]
{10} Winter breaking away [154]
{11} people going psychotic [117]
{12} Med. Ex. vs Dianetics [142, 255]
{13} Dianetics calling themselves M.D. [268]
{14} Hubbard in California [261]
{15} Wichita bankrupt [128]
{16} other orgs [272]
{17} England in '57 [255]
{18} first Dianetics group in England [168]
{19} atmosphere poisoned [275]
{20} 153 franchises [40]
{21} franchises vs missions [277]
{22} 10% to Hubbard [261, 255]
{23} Scientology not Church in Eng. [239]
{24} Scientologists barred in Eng. [258]
{25} inquiry [259]
{26} Victoria bans Scientology [282]
{27} Australia bans Scientology [279]
{28} W. Australia bans Scientology & meter [281]
{29} New Zealand doesn't ban Scientology [185]
{30} New South Wales doesn't ban [249]
{31} "psychologist" in New South Wales [246]
{32} South African Inquiry [181, 248]
{33} Scientologists try to seize control [247]
{34} Scientology a "cancer" [184]
{35} number in America [138]
{36} number in England [206]
{37} number in world [139]
{38} Scientology figure on membership [114, 277]
{39} tripling numbers [139]
{40} quote on "Scientology '70" [88a]