She’s beauty; she’s grace; she’s gonna tell you that you have a variety of mental problems after taking a personality quiz, take your money to fix said problems, and then force you to cut off all your friends and family in the hopes that you will achieve a greater state. Welcome to Scientology, started by a science fiction writer in the 1950s. More recently, however, a TikTok with several famous Internet personalities photographed wearing a necklace with the Scientology logo has been making the rounds. This has the general populace wondering, what is Scientology and where can I join? We’re here to give you the juicy details and hopefully dissuade you from doing the second thing.
First and foremost: what even is Scientology? According to Scientology themselves, it is “a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being” on their website. What makes them separate from most religions is that they claim that through observation and scientific processes, Scientology can earn your faith. They argue that L. Ron Hubbard came up with practices and procedures, such as The Tone Scale, that can help humans get more in touch with their spirituality and they apply to everybody. No exceptions. This is a common thread throughout the website: the assertion that everything Scientology preaching’s applies to all human.
However, at its core, Scientology’s most basic belief is that the human mind is affected by past trauma, to the point where it hurts logical thinking. This trauma can be of any scale and may not even be something that a person remembers. Only through auditing sessions and going to worship services can Scientology help the vulnerable and the weak regain control of their lives. For context, these auditing sessions and worship services cost thousands of dollars, and have the potential to drain members dry of their funds. This is also one of the tenets of Dianetics, a set of beliefs and practices having to do with the relationship between mind and body. Hubbard also considered it to be a form of psychiatry, although most licensed psychologists have rejected Dianetics.
In addition to Dianetics, Scientology has a system of ethics, entirely based on reason. It is defined as the decisions that a person makes to survive. The organization is staunchly against drug use, mental illness, and homosexuality, and asserts that through their courses and auditing sessions one can rid themselves of earthly afflictions and reach a state of clarity. “Going clear” means that a person has reached a point where their mind is completely in control of analytical actions and is no longer affected by past trauma. In Scientology, there is one group of particularly troublesome people called suppressive persons, and they dissuade non-suppressive persons from interacting with them. Suppressive persons make up 2.5% of the population, and are known for hindering Scientology’s efforts to spread their good will. If you’re especially lucky, you are a part of that 2.5%. There are other more outlandish beliefs, like the dictator of the “Galactic Confederacy” Xenu arriving at Earth nearly 75 million years ago, or that Thetans, immortal spirits that affect human wellbeing; however, it would take 75 million years to explain all of them.
The man, the myth, the legend himself, Ron L. Hubbard, one of the most infamous Pisces to ever walk the Earth, was born one fateful day in 1911. And ever since, the world has suffered for it. His writing career, perhaps the second most infamous thing about the man, began once he dropped out of college. Hubbard wrote mainly science fiction which eventually inspired the religion he would go onto create. But before he became one of the most infamous people in history, he would join the Navy.
As a member of the military, Hubbard would go on to win several medals and become embroiled in the heat of several battles. Among his accomplishments, he would sink two Japanese subs and command a corvette, a small warship. He was discharged honorably, wounded in battle.
This would be admirable, if it were not for the fact that Hubbard lied about all of it. Everything he did in the military was to look better in the eyes of his church. In fact, Hubbard’s military service was spent in the U.S., and the two Japanese subs he sunk turned out to be a log and some underwater magnetic rocks. He was discharged once he accidentally bombed a small Mexican island.
Afterwards, he would join a cult (Ordo Templi Orientis) with incredibly questionable practices and run off with his rocket engineer friend’s girlfriend, Sara Northrup, who was thirteen years his junior. Once they married, and had a kid, Hubbard would sit down to write the book that would become the basis for Scientology.
Hubbard recounted to his wife that the only way to make good money was to use religion, especially since the government would not be able to take it away from you in the form of taxes. He and his wife would have a relatively rocky relationship, until they divorced and his wife took custody of his daughter. Hubbard cleared out all of the money in their joint account, leaving his wife with no money to take care of their child.
Once Dianetics no longer made enough money to pay the bills, Hubbard began to create a set of practices from the novel, actually making a religion from it. By the late 1960s, the government began to get suspicious. The IRS started to investigate him for tax evasion, and Hubbard, being the ethical and benevolent religious leader he is, high-tailed it out of the U.S. for international waters. Before living out his last years hiding on a yacht, he created the Sea Organization, a group that requires its members to sign a contract for a billion years.
By the time Hubbard had passed away from his stroke, another had already taken up the mantle as the ecclesiastical leader of Scientology. David Miscavige, considered to be a child prodigy, had become a professional auditor at the age of 12. From there, he began his ascent to the top. Along the way, he met Shelly Miscavige, his future wife, on the high seas at the Sea Organization. They would have a strange relationship, as ex-members would describe their relationship as being devoid of any affection, even if Shelly Miscavige acted as the poster wife of Scientology. Eventually, Shelly would disappear from the public eye entirely in 2007. David Miscavige has the public persona of being charismatic and a loyal friend to Scientology, but behind the scenes, he has a giant temper. Much like his predecessor, the IRS would keep an eye on him.
Where it’s at Today
Now you know about the hearty sixty-eight years Scientology has under its belt, but what about the new wave of this church-shaped pyramid-scheme? As of late, the church has immersed itself in the modern day by updating their website. I would love to tell you that the site is horribly put together and inefficient, but in reality, it was impressively the opposite. It’s an easy-to-use site, aside from the search bar that doesn’t actually work, with lots of pretty graphics and giant fonts. Finding information is not particularly difficult and it advertises the ‘best’ parts of Scientology. However, staying true to their roots, Scientology continues to take irrational amounts of money from their followers in the form of online courses and advertisements around every corner.
The Church of Scientology has also taken COVID-19 on in the most ominous and vague way possible by using “the world’s most powerful decontamination solution” along with a collage of photos that look like they were pulled from a dystopian young-adult novel. The actual ingredients of this decontaminant are never openly specified, so the reliability is questionable. They also offer pamphlets about avoiding COVID-19, filled with what we would consider to be common knowledge like the importance of washing your hands.
In general, the church continues to increase in size with new churches popping up everywhere and anywhere despite how much information is out there about Scientology’s cultish and scummy ways. Predictably, their hotspots are places like California and New York. It’s also an effort to attract celebrities to their religion, so that their money can fuel its practices and their endorsements to gain more followers. Tom Cruise is one of the more famous examples, considering how much he has been in the news over the past two decades for shady business related to Scientology. Interestingly enough, Cruise wanted to be a priest when he was younger.
So if Scientology is fairly obviously a cult, how do they continue to gain so many members? This is in part because of who the group caters to. Their demographic involves those with severe trauma and mental illness, along with recovering drug addicts and past criminals. They advertise a world in which your past experiences, the traumatic ones in particular, can be essentially deleted from your memory. Scientologists believe that your actions are subconsciously affected by everything that has ever happened to you, including things that happen pre-birth. If this is their propaganda, then of course someone with a troubled past would turn to Scientology for a chance at a better life.
If knowing that you can erase all trauma from your life is not enough, the Scientology website heavily prompts anti-drug and criminal reform plans along with links to mental health help. So if ex-drug addicts and past criminals are not already convinced by the chance to, in a way, change their own past, maybe they will be attracted to the chance to change their future.
But surely not every Scientologist has a past with crime or drugs, right? That’s where the personality test comes in. Before you even step foot into a church of Scientology you are asked to take a two-hundred question personality test called the Oxford Capacity Analysis to assess the areas in your life that require the help of their church. These test questions range from fairly standard questions like “Do others push you around?” or “Do people enjoy being in your company?” to the more odd “Could you allow someone to finish those final two words in a crossword puzzle without interfering?”
After finishing this test, you receive a graph that the church can analyze by appointment, although it is extremely easy to look up how to analyze it yourself. The results will most likely indicate that you have multiple areas requiring immediate attention. Anyone seriously taking a Scientology personality test is probably not in the right state of mind to realize the absurdity of these results, especially when the church readily offers up plenty of ways to ‘cure’ these problem areas, provided that you can pay them to do so.
The way that they advertise themselves makes it easy for them to pull in particularly vulnerable people. The appeal is there and anyone could fall victim.
What better way to experience everything that Scientology has to offer than by partaking in propaganda? We decided to take the personality test to see what we needed to better ourselves and if we could benefit from Scientology.
We sat down on one fine Wednesday morning in Publications, after having created a fake email and identity (we’re a Mexican man named Max Ellen), armed with nothing but one computer prepared to take on an incredibly tedious personality quiz. I (Ganga) was sitting on a pink chair that was way too close to the floor and way too far from the table. Seemingly an irrelevant detail, however it did make the quiz far more painful. The questions themselves were not inherently difficult, but the complexity came from its simplicity. We were left wondering: why? Why are we doing this? What purpose does this serve? But dear reader, we kept going for one simple reason: to inform the general public.
Halfway through, we took a well-deserved break to eat some pumpkin cookies made by a fellow staff member. They were really good. Thanks Elaina. Unfortunately, we had to continue the personality quiz, so back to the pink chair I (Ganga) must go. It felt like we were picking the maybe option a little too much, but it perfectly encapsulated our answers and collective confusion. Upon finishing the quiz, we ate some more pumpkin cookies. I (Hannah) need the recipe. It took a few minutes for Scientology to load our results, but once they did, we were shell-shocked. Absolutely appalled. Are we (Hannah and Ganga) this bad of a person? Scientology wanted us to go into one of their centers, but being the responsible people we were, we considered this to be a bad idea. Fortunately for us, the Internet exists, and several people have already talked about how to analyze the results at home.
This graph might not mean much to you, but to us it means the world. Upon first glance, one might notice the sheer amount of categories that are below the dark grey area, and the one in it. According to the Oxford Capacity Analysis, we were nervous, depressed, quiet, unstable, uncertain, irresponsible, critical, have a lack of accord, and withdrawn. But on the bright side, we’re active and assertive. According to Dianetics, we are in severe need of Scientology. If we were more susceptible people and had not done more than thirty pages of research, we might have gone to a Scientology church ourselves.
Evidently, it seems that it is quite easy to fall into the trap that Scientology sets out for everyone. From here, we could have gone to a Scientology church, have a member tell us what our results mean, and what we could do to mend ourselves. They would inevitably convince us to sign up for some courses to fix our ailments, and to pay for our first auditing session. It is a roller coaster ride that once you get on, it is incredibly tough to get off.
This is where our personal experience with Scientology ends. This is the limit to how far we are willing to go.