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"Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious... it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. It is corrupt because it is based upon lies and deceit and has as its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard, his wife and those close to him at the top. It is sinister because it indulges in infamous practices both to its adherents who do not toe the line unquestioningly and to those who criticize or oppose it. It is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought, living and relationships with others."

- Justice LATEY, ruling in the High Court in London in 1984

"As soon as one's convictions become unshakeable, evidence ceases to be relevant - except as a means to convert the unbelievers. Factual inaccuracies... are excusable in the light of the Higher Truth."


Scientology is among the oldest, largest, richest, and most powerful of contemporary cults. The "Church" of Scientology, first incorporated in 1953, claims to have seven million members, and reserves of a thousand million dollars. There are nearly 200 Scientology "Missions" and "Churches" spread across the globe.

During the 1970's, cults became big business and big news. Yet in the welter of books published about these "new religious movements," there has been no real history of Scientology. This is rather surprising, because the history of Scientology is at turns outrageous, hilarious and sinister. Accurate information about Scientology is scarce because the cult is both secretive and highly committed to silencing its critics.

A few sociologists have argued that involvement in any cult is usually short-lived and sometimes beneficial. However, after four years of research, including interviews with over a thousand former cult members, researchers Conway and Siegelman came to very different conclusions about Scientology: "The reports we have seen and heard in the course of our research... are replete with allegations of psychological devastation, economic exploitation, and personal and legal harassment of former members and journalists who speak out against the cult…" 1 Making a comparison with the tens of other cults in their study, they said: "Scientology's may be the most debilitating set of rituals of any cult in America." 2

Scientology, a peculiar force in our society, escapes tidy definition. The "Church" of Scientology claims religious status; yet at times Scientology represents itself as a psychotherapy, a set of business techniques, an educational system for children or a drug rehabilitation program. Officers of the Church belong to the largely landbound "Sea Organization," and wear pseudo-Naval uniforms, complete with campaign ribbons, colored lanyards, and badges of rank, giving Scientology a paramilitary air. Although Scientology has no teachings about God, Scientologists sometimes don the garb of Christian ministers. The teachings of Scientology are held out not only as scientifically proven, but also as scriptural, and therefore beyond question. Scientology was also the first cult to establish itself as a multinational business with marketing, public relations, legal and even intelligence departments.

Scientology is also unusual because it is not an extension of a particular traditional religion. It is a complex and apparently complete set of beliefs, techniques and rituals assembled by one man: L. Ron Hubbard. During the 36 years between the publication of his first psychotherapeutic text and his death in 1986, Hubbard constructed what appears to be one of the most elaborate belief systems of all time. The sheer volume of material daunts most investigators. Several thousand Hubbard lectures were tape-recorded, and his books, pamphlets and directives run to tens of thousands of pages.

In 1984, judges in England and America condemned both Hubbard and Scientology. Justice Latey, in a child custody case in London, said: "Deprival of property, injury by any means, trickery, suing, lying or destruction have been pursued [by the Scientologists] throughout and to this day with the fullest vigour," and further: "Mr. Hubbard is a charlatan and worse as are his wife Mary Sue Hubbard... and the clique at the top privy to the Cult's activities."

In America, dismissing a case brought against a former member by the Scientologists, Judge Breckenridge said: "In addition to violating and abusing its own members' civil rights, the organization over the years ... has harassed and abused those persons not within the Church whom it perceives as enemies. The organization clearly is schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH [L. Ron Hubbard]. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile."

The evidence cited by Judge Breckenridge consisted of some 10,000 pages of material forming pan of Hubbard's personal archive, including his teenage diaries, a black magic ceremony called the "Blood Ritual," and hundreds of personal letters to and from his three wives. Some of these documents were read into the record, and others released as exhibits. The picture they reveal is very different from Hubbard's representations about his life.

Nevertheless, Hubbard's personal history is one of the great adventure stories of the 20th century. A penny-a-word science-fiction writer who created an immense and dedicated organization to act out his grandiose ideas on a global scale, Hubbard commanded the devotion of his followers, who revere him as the greatest man who has ever lived. At the height of his power, Hubbard controlled a personal intelligence network which successfully infiltrated newspapers, medical and psychiatric associations throughout the world, and even a number of United States government agencies. Eleven of Hubbard's subordinates, including his wife, received prison sentences for their part in these criminal activities.

There is also something tantalizing in the psychotherapeutic techniques which are at the core of Scientology. Cult devotees are sometimes seen as adolescent, half-witted zombies easily coerced into joining an enslaving group because of their inadequacy. But Scientology has attracted medical doctors, lawyers, space scientists and graduates of the finest universities in the world. One British and two Danish Members of Parliament once belonged to Scientology. Even psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists have been enthusiastic practitioners of Hubbard's techniques. And such people have often parted with immense sums of money to pay for Scientology counselling which can cost as much as $1,000 per hour.

Hubbard's ideas have inspired many imitators, and several contemporary "psycho-technologies" and New Age movements derive from Scientology (est, eckancar and co-counselling, for example).

Any assessment of Scientology is further complicated because it has demonstrably been the target of harassment. A Tax Court judge admitted in a ruling that the IRS had investigated Scientologists solely because they were Scientologists. Governments have panicked and over-reacted: for example, for several years in three Australian states the very practice of Scientology was an imprisonable offence.

The secret inner workings of Scientology have long been zealously guarded, but in 1982, two years after Hubbard disappeared into complete seclusion, a purge began and the Church began to disintegrate. Hundreds of long-term Scientologists, many of whom had held important positions within the Church, were excommunicated and expelled. They were placed under the interdict of "Disconnection," whereby other Scientologists were prohibited from communicating with them in any way. At a rally in San Francisco, young members of the new management harangued and threatened executives of Scientology's franchised "Missions." While the newly created International Finance Dictator spoke, his scowling, black-shirted International Finance Police patrolled the aisles. Huge amounts of money were demanded from the Mission Holders. In the following weeks, Scientology's Finance Police swooped down on the Missions collecting millions of dollars and almost bankrupting the entire network.

Hubbard had styled himself the "Commodore" of his "Sea Organization," and by 1982, the new leaders, some still in their teens, were members of the "Commodore's Messenger Organization." Many of these youngsters had been raised in Scientology, separated from their parents, originally working as Hubbard's personal servants.

Anonymous letters describing incredible events circulated among Scientologists. We read about Gilman Hot Springs, a 500 acre estate in south California, surrounded by high fences, patrolled by brownshirted guards, and protected by an elaborate and expensive security system. We heard accounts of bizarre punishments meted out at this supposedly secret headquarters. A group of senior Church executives had been put on a program where they ran around a tree in near desert conditions for twelve hours a day, for weeks on end. Some Scientologists gave accounts of their treatment at the hands of the International Finance Police, where they had been abused verbally and physically, sometimes signing over huge amounts of money before coming to their senses.

During this reign of terror, thousands of Scientologists left the Church, believing that Hubbard was either dead or under the control of the Messengers. These new "Independent" practitioners of Scientology were subjected to prolonged and extensive harassment and litigation. Private Investigators followed important defectors, sometimes around the clock for months. The Church widely distributed scandal sheets packed with fabricated libels concerning defectors.

The essential question which plagued Scientologists who had left the Church was whether Hubbard knew what was happening. By the time Hubbard's death was announced in January 1986, many Scientologists believed his body had been deep-frozen for several years. Others believed he was still alive, that the coroner had been bribed, and that his death had been staged to escape the net of the Criminal Investigation Branch of the Internal Revenue Service, which was investigating the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars of Church funds into Hubbard's personal accounts.

As part of its campaign to stem the tide of defectors, Scientology brought law suits against several former members. In return, multimillion dollar counter-suits were filed against Scientology. In 1986, a Los Angeles jury awarded $30 million in damages to a former Church member. On the last day of 1986, a group of over 400 former members initiated a billion dollar suit against the Church.

Former highly-placed Hubbard aides broke silence for the first time. The documentary evidence referred to by Judge Breckenridge pierced the self-created fantasy of Hubbard's past. The sinister reality beneath the smiling mask of the Church of Scientology was at last revealed.


1. Snapping, Conway and Siegelman, p. 161.

2. "Information Disease," Conway and Siegelman, Science Digest, January 1982.

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