Don Deal

Soteriology in Scientology

Don Deal | 8 October 2020 | 15 min read

Origins of Scientology

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard began his professional career as a pulp fiction writer, specializing in Science Fiction.[1] On May 9th, 1950, L. Ron (as he came to be known) published his first non-fiction book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.” Interestingly, the book had first been advertised in the popular science fiction magazine “Astounding Science Fiction” (ASF). The introduction of the ideas of Dianetics gained much pre-publication exposure by Editor John Campbell’s enthusiastic announcement that the following edition of ASF would contain “one of the most important articles ever published.”[2]

The Dianetics (meaning “through the soul”)[3] craze lasted for a few short years, during which time Hubbard built many Dianetics centers. His fledgling mind science business soon went bankrupt, and he even lost the legal rights to use the name “Dianetics.”[4] Undaunted by the failure, in 1954 Ron Hubbard established the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. He founded the church due to what he said was the increasing apparentness that the essence of man is spiritual.[5] Of course, there are also tax advantages in this. Though the building in Los Angeles may have been the first church building of Scientology, Hubbard had incorporated both the names “Church of American Science” and the “Church of Scientology” in New Jersey in 1953.[6]

The word “Scientology” has several definitions, seemingly depending on which spokesperson and the purpose of the pronouncement. In general, Scientology means “the study of truth.” It is a combination of the Latin word Scientia, meaning “knowing in the fullest sense of the word” and the Greek word “logos,” meaning “study of.” Scientology claims that when you complete the training courses, you will understand “knowing how to know.”[7] Shortly after establishing the church as a religious institution Hubbard regained the rights to the use of the term Dianetics. Scientology then became an amalgam of the ideas of Dianetics and Scientology.[8]

Though this article[9] is formally about Scientology’s doctrine of salvation, we will also give a brief explanation of Scientology’s doctrine of the Supreme Being, the nature of reality and humanity, and humanity’s predicament in this world. We will examine and critique each of these areas. Since Scientologists often claim that Scientology is compatible with other religious beliefs, we must look at the doctrines of the church that are different from those of traditional Christianity.

What is Man?

For us to gain a fuller understanding of the doctrine of Soteriology (salvation) in Scientology, it is helpful to review some of Scientology’s beliefs on the nature of man.  In general, Scientology teaches that man is made up of three divisions, the mind, the body, and the spirit. Though this, in some ways, mirrors the biblical division of man into body, spirit, and soul, there are significant differences.

The first and most important division of man in Scientology is the spirit. As with much else in his religion, Hubbard was not satisfied with a traditional understanding of what constitutes a spirit. Hubbard renamed the spirit the “Thetan,” which is said to be the true essence of life. This essential part of man was “discovered” in 1951 after L. Ron Hubbard said that he noticed that many of the people with whom he was working started to remember past lives. To Hubbard, this indicated that there was a spiritual center to humans that survives death, which he termed the “Thetan.”[10]

Beyond the idea of the ever reincarnating spirit (Thetan), is the idea of the Thetan creating. According to the beliefs of Scientology we, the collective unit of all Thetans, created the universe as we now find it. The universe (usually called MEST for Matter, Energy, Space, and Time) was created according to our agreement, and is a kind of composite of three universes; 1) our understanding of the universe, 2) the universe created by every other viewpoint, and 3) the universe created by the “mutual action of viewpoints which is agreed upon to be upheld, the physical universe.”[11]

The second of man’s three divisions is the body. It is essential to understand that in Scientology, people are fundamentally a spirit (Thetan) trapped in a body, similar to the Platonic conception. The body is simply a “carbon-oxygen motor,” which was created over a long time, built out of “eons of experience, the summaries, and conclusions of ‘I.'”[12]

In Scientology, there is a distinction between the active principle of man, the Thetan, and the physical part, the body. The Thetan is the “static,” which has the power to control, animate, mobilize, organize, and even destroy matter.[13] Apparently, by using the term “static” to describe the Thetan, Hubbard sought to indicate not the concept of inactive, or passive, but of permanence.

The third part of man is his mind. As is usual for Scientology, the definition of mind is different than is typically assumed. For Scientologists, the mind is not coextensive with the brain. The brain and nervous system are “conduits for physical universe vibrations,” and are essentially a “switchboard system.” That is to say; the brain does nothing that the Thetan does not tell it to do, communicating thoughts and intentions to the body. The mind is sometimes described as a collection of pictures (known as facsimiles) that are carried by the Thetan.[14] However, Hubbard also defined the mind as “an observer, postulator, creator and storage place of knowledge.”[15] L. Ron Hubbard was very creative, but not always consistent in his teachings. In general, we can say that the mind is the point of contact between the Thetan and the body.

In the estimation of Hubbard, humanity is predominantly good, though we do have problems. The leading cause of an individual’s problems is his “reactive mind.” This reactive mind has stored memories of painful events, with concurrent sights, sounds, smells, etc.  Everything that occurs around the body, whether asleep or awake, is stored as an “engram.” In essence, an engram is a small video clip, along with the associated sights, sounds, smells, and emotions. The pain from these engrams is brought back when a person encounters a stimulus that mimics a part of the facsimile. For example, this can happen when the sound of a car horn causes the pain from an automobile accident engram to return.

Man exists in a universe of eight dynamics. These can be seen as concentric circles, starting with the first dynamic, the individual, and extending outwards until the eighth dynamic is reached. We, as the creators of the universe, are attempting to gain control over as many dynamics as possible.

The highest dynamic, the eighth, is the Supreme Being. The symbol for infinity is used to designate the Supreme Being. This Being was us collectively before we created the world. The Supreme Being is said to have survival as its’ greatest goal.[16] This statement may sound odd, but we can know from other writings that L. Ron was mostly concerned with his immortality. In making us gods in embryo, Hubbard seems to have borrowed from some of the Gnostic systems that dogged early Christianity.

What is Man’s Problem?

The reactive mind is a problem because it is a stimulus-response mind that depends on an external direction for its action and reaction.[17] The reactive mind is not “at cause” or actively creative over its environment. The person with a reactive mind is an unconscious victim of circumstances, not an active force in his world. Engrams have “locked-up” the memory banks of the mind, which prevents a person from thinking and behaving correctly. The goal of a beginning Scientologist becomes to activate the “Analytical mind” from its restraints imposed by the reactive mind.[18] A person with an analytical mind has perfect recall and much-improved thinking and calculating speed.

Because of the condition of the majority of the people on the planet (non-Scientologists), Scientologists often find themselves in difficulties. For Scientologists, there are three types of non-Scientologists; 1) the Preclear, 2) the Potential Trouble Source, and 3) the Suppressive Person. These people can prevent a Scientologist from improving their own situation.

The Preclears are the majority of non-Scientologists. They are simply those people who have not “cleared” their memory banks in the reactive mind. They are limited in ability but do not usually cause problems for a trained Scientologist. They can be “handled.”

The second class of people is known as Potential Trouble Sources (PTS). These are people who, though active in Scientology, are connected to a person or group that is suppressive. The third and worst classification is the Suppressive Person (SP). They are angry, hateful anti-Scientologists who seek to damage or suppress Scientology or a Scientologist.[19] The first class of person (Preclear) has the potential to be helped through Scientology; the second class (PTS) must first cease causing problems to Scientology before they can be improved. The third class (SP) have no protection from the actions of a Scientologist or Scientology as a religion.[20] An SP must be eliminated as a trouble source.

Another obstacle that Scientologists must overcome is the limitations of their understanding of the nature of the MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, Time), and their place in it. Most people do not realize that their true nature is as a Thetan, not their body. They confuse what their eyes tell them with the reality of the situation.

For humans, there are two goals; survival and striving to control the physical universe.[21] Survival requires honor, morals, idealism, and other commitments that make life bearable. Humanity’s attempts to use the energy of the atom, or in the microcomputer revolution, or in our attempts to extend the length and quality of our own life demonstrates that the goal of control over the MEST universe is foremost. Both of these goals are enhanced through Scientology training and auditing principles.

How Can Man Overcome His Difficult Situation?

Overcoming the limitations that man has placed on himself is possible with the right knowledge and training. In Scientology, the way forward is to proceed up the “bridge to total freedom.” The Bridge to Total Freedom is a chart of the training and auditing that must be done to gain abilities and gain control over more dynamics. The outline included in the diagram provided by Scientology describes the “route to human recovery and ultimate expansion of one’s ability and power as a spiritual being.”[22] For example, a Scientologist at one of the advanced levels of a person may gain the ability to “go exterior.” To go exterior means that a person’s Thetan can leave their body and travel through time or space.

The steps of the bridge to total freedom each have three sections; Training, Awareness Characteristics, and Processing. For each level, there must be a level of learning and ability demonstrated. This learning progress is measured by “Awareness Characteristics,” emotional states that indicate when a Thetan is becoming more aware of their true nature and potential. The scale traverses from “Unexistence” (sic) at the bottom, through “demand for improvement,” through “Ability,” all the way up to “Total Freedom.”[23]  

The second part of the chart, Bridge to Total Freedom, is the training section. As the name indicates, it is the section of the diagram that reveals what training is required to complete the particular level. The individual units, also known as training routines (TRs), indicate what drill, book reading, or other training is required.

The final section of the chart, Bridge to Total Freedom, is titled “Processing.” Processing takes place with a listener, known as an “Auditor,” who determines if and when the student has completed the level. The student uses an Electropsychometer (shortened to E-meter) to measure the energy contained in memories. The particularly bad memories, engrams, must be worked through and cleared out of the reactive mind.[24] When a person has unblocked their reactive mind, they have reached the level of “Clear.”

The level “clear” is but one step on the Bridge to Total Freedom. Above the level “clear” are the ranks known as “Operating Thetan.” The title “Operating Thetan” indicates that the person has ascended to the level where new powers are emerging, or more correctly, re-emerging. As was mentioned earlier, Scientologists believe that our spirits once had these powers, but we forgot how to access them due to ignorance or the malicious actions of a few rotten eggs.[25]

Another problem with which we must deal on the levels above Clear is the issue of Body Thetans. Body Thetans are the disembodied spirits of alien beings that were brought to the earth and executed. After being brainwashed by the evil galactic overlord Xenu with false ideas and memories, these confused Thetans can attach themselves to a human’s body. They can stick singularly or in groups, and must be exorcized through auditing to eliminate their harmful effects on body and spirit.[26] The efforts to eradicate these Body Thetans are the primary focus of the Operating Thetan levels.

The end product of the Operating Thetan levels is a person who is “at cause” over their situation and the material universe. A person who is genuinely an Operating Thetan “has the power of becoming anything they wish while still retaining their individuality.”[27] This power is not limited in any way by the restraints of the physical universe, and the person can attain infinity (god status) through the correct knowledge and training. They then have power on all eight dynamics, from the personal self, through the infinite.[28]

General Critique

The first thing to note about Scientology is that it claims to be a science. The first book published in what would become the corpus of Scientology scripture was “Dianetics, the Modern Science of Mental Health.”[29] However, the claim that Dianetics is a science rings hollow. The use of a specific methodology usually characterizes science. As part of the scientific method in the mind sciences, there are controls, double-blind experiments, and peer-reviewed research to validate the initial findings.[30] There has never been a publication from Scientology that meets these criteria. The Anderson Report of the government of Victoria, Australia, termed the entire project of Scientology “fantastic and impossible, its principles perverted and ill-founded, and its techniques debased and harmful.”[31] Further, in the magazine Scientific American, a physicist declared that the book “Dianetics” “contained less evidence per page than any publication since the invention of printing.”[32] 

Scientology is established on a non-scientific foundation. Though there are frequent assertions within the books of Scientology that the findings are based on science and not on faith, there is a singular lack of reporting of the methodology employed. Simply saying that they possess scientific knowledge on a given subject is different from producing the objective evidence. Anecdotal cases are not the same as reproducible technique.

The American Psychological Association (APA) wrote in 1950 after the release of “Dianetics” that the book’s “claims are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations.”[33] The only known clinical evaluation of Dianetics was conducted at New York University. That study tested three central claims of Dianetics; 1) improvement in intellectual functioning, 2) improvement in mathematical ability, and 3) a reduction of personality conflicts. The study found no change in capability by Dianetics Therapy on any of the areas examined.[34] This research, combined with the APA’s criticism of Dianetics and Scientology, is the reason for the frequent protests by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a front group for Scientology, during meetings of the APA.[35] 

Besides being unscientific, Scientology is also dangerous. The Anderson Report, the aforementioned government-sponsored study of Scientology’s practices, described Scientology as “the world’s largest organization of unqualified persons engaged in the practice of dangerous techniques which masquerade as mental therapy.”[36] The Church of Scientology requires its’ members to sign a release form authorizing the Church to have complete control over the person’s health in the event of incapacity.[37] The document was a result of the legal entanglements created by the death of Lisa McPherson, who died while under the “care” of her Scientology guardian. She had a mental breakdown; then other Scientologists placed her in isolation for treatment. She died after about three weeks without competent medical care.[38] For a religion that promises salvation, this is damaging evidence.

The religion of Scientology has a subjectivist view of reality. L. Ron Hubbard taught, “Truth is relative to environments, experience, and truth.”[39] Even a cursory examination of this statement demonstrates the inherent problems of a relative view of truth. If truth is relative, then the declaration that “truth is relative” is also relative. That is, if truth is relative, then every word taught by Scientology is not objectively true, just valid for a person who already believes it. This view equates truth with emotional reaction or personal prejudice. 

Any system that begins with a relativistic view of truth cannot lead a person into objective salvation, only one that is true for that person. A simple, practical test can reveal the flaw of that system. By their stated belief system, a person who is a Satanist, an atheist, or a devout Christian can all achieve salvation based on what is true for the individual. If truth is relative, then all people are saved by their own system of beliefs and do not need instruction from Scientology. However, Scientologists would disagree with the idea that their study courses are not necessary. 

A Christian Critique of Scientology

Besides being bad science, Scientology is open to criticism from a Christian perspective. First, Scientology has the wrong view of humanity. In Scientology, people are fundamentally moral but have been misled and confused by the MEST universe and other intelligences. This teaching directly contradicts the teaching of the Bible. At Isaiah 9:17, the Bible records that “everyone is ungodly and wicked; every mouth speaks vileness.”[40] In addition, at Romans 3:23, we learn that all people are sinners. 

Though not a direct refutation, it is interesting that a religion that supposes that man is good takes part in so much destructive behavior. In 1971 freelance writer Paulette Cooper, wrote a book critical of Scientology titled “The Scandal of Scientology.” In response, the church stole material from her home to use to “frame” her in a bomb threat scenario. She was not exonerated until an FBI raid of Scientology’s offices revealed the conspiracy.[41]

The Paulette Cooper attack was not the only one orchestrated by the Church of Scientology. It is part of a concerted effort to rid the world of “Suppressive Persons,” that personal attacks are not just permitted, but encouraged. This general rubric comes under the heading of the church’s “Fair Game” policy. The “Fair Game” policy allows an SP to be “tricked, sued or lied to, or destroyed.”

Interestingly, though the rule was deemed too controversial and the terminology was not to be used by Scientologists, the actual policy has never been rescinded. Hubbard ordered that the term “Fair Game” was to be removed to prevent unfavorable publicity for the church.[42] This kind of rule hardly seems consistent for a religion that declares the essential goodness of man as one of its principles. It does, however, reflect the biblical view that man is evil from birth (Ps. 51:5) and that his heart is wicked (Ps. 14:3).

Secondly, Scientology has a wrong view of man’s problem. Though Scientology teaches that man’s hindrance is a lack of knowledge, the evidence shows that man’s problem is sinfulness. It is a confusion of categories to say that a person who makes a mistake in mathematics is the equivalent of someone who maliciously harms another person. They are not the same, but at the very least, this is what believing that sin equals ignorance implies.

A child who harms someone out of ignorance is not the same as an adult who injures someone out of greed, no matter what L. Ron Hubbard may teach. All anyone has to do is to visit modern India, and they can see that thousands of years of teaching that ignorance is the problem has not created a better society. It is man’s sinfulness that separates him from God, not ignorance (1 John 3:4). Further, at Genesis 6:5, it is revealed that man had become increasingly wicked over time, not increasingly ignorant.

Next, Scientology’s Soteriology is flawed because they have a wrong view of the nature of reality. Though Scientology teaches that existence is an amalgam of three sources, each of these sources is insufficient to create anything approaching the size and complexity of the universe. It seems almost incomprehensible that the same people who are struggling to determine the constituent elements of the universe are the same spiritual intelligences that created the universe. The fall into ignorance must have been monumental. God is not a man, nor has He ever been a man (Num. 23:19).

Further, though Scientology claims that a person’s powers increase with training and that a person can learn to manipulate the matter, energy, space, and time of the universe by the power of their minds, no convincing demonstration has ever been publicized. The magician, the Amazing Randi, offers a $1,000,000 reward to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers.[43] Since Scientology promises those mystical powers to those members who can reach the OT levels, it seems that many OT’s would have claimed the money by now. Similarly, as the costs of getting through the upper levels of OT are so costly, it would seem that by now, many who need the money to repay Scientology would jump at the chance. No such person has identified himself. There are no new “gods” being made (Is. 43:10).

Finally, Scientologist’s version of salvation is wrong because they have the wrong view of God and Jesus Christ. In Scientology, God is known as “the infinite,” the “eighth dynamic,” the “Supreme Being,” or even “the Creator.”[44] Though purposely vague on the nature of God in his writings, L. Ron Hubbard had much to say on the subject in his prepared talks. Some of these talks were to upper-level Scientologists, so Hubbard was freer in his discussions than in print. 

On October 3rd, 1968, during a Class VIII lecture, Hubbard said, “There was no Christ.”[45] The Hubbard Communications Office Bulletin (HCOB) dated May 11th, AD (After Dianetics) 13, discussed Hubbard’s teachings on the subject of God and Heaven. In that bulletin, he taught that heaven was a “shoddy place,” and that the Christian God was an implant in our minds from a previous life.[46] Further, Hubbard taught that Jesus was “just a shade above clear.”[47]

Scientologists are without a knowledge of the true and living God, or a real Savior. The Bible teaches that man is responsible for his actions, as the world has a witness that God exists through the created order in an internal witness (Rom. 1:18-21). There is only one man who stands as a mediator between God and man, the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is a gift of God, not a result of man’s efforts (Eph. 2:8). Though L. Ron Hubbard thought of himself as a savior, his life, actions, and teachings indicate otherwise.

Conclusion

This brief analysis has examined the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard and the religion he founded, The Church of Scientology. The focus of our journey has been on soteriology, which led us to study areas entwined with the concept. A study of Scientology’s doctrines of the nature of man, the source of our problems, and the nature of God followed. In each area internal consistency, conflicts with actual data, and the wrong concept of a Creator and the afterlife were exposed. The best way to summarize soteriology in Scientology is that there is no salvation in their soteriology.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.


[1]Russell Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (London: Silvertail Books), 69 available at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/bard%20faced%20messiah.pdf., accessed: July 28, 2008.

[2] John Campbell quoted by Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, p. 124.

[3] Church of Scientology International, Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, Inc, 1998), 16.

[4] Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, 168.

[5] Theology of Scientology, p. 91.

[6] Jon Attack, A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed (New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990), 138.

[7] Scientology, “Introduction To Scientology,” available at www.Scientology.org/religion/ presentation/pg006.html, accessed August 2, 2008.

[8] Attack, A Piece of Blue Sky, p. 138.

[9] This article is written from an Evangelical Christian perspective. All materials were gathered from books published by the Church of Scientology or publicly available on the internet.

[10] Theology of Scientology, p. 17.

[11] L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008 (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, Inc, 2007), 240.

[12] L. Ron Hubbard, Handbook for Preclears (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, Inc, 2007), 45.

[13] Hubbard, Handbook for Preclears, p. 34.

[14] Ibid., p. 35.

[15] Ibid., p. 265.

[16] Ibid., p. 27.

[17] L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics 55, (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, Inc, 2007), 26-27.

[18] Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008, p. 24.

[19] L. Ron Hubbard, Introduction to Scientology Ethics (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, Inc, 2007), 308.

[20] Ibid, p. 309.

[21] Hubbard, Handbook for Preclears, p. 16-17.

[22] L. Ron Hubbard, in The Bridge to Total Freedom, available at http://www.whatisscientology.org/ html/part02/chp06/img/grdchart.gif/, accessed: August 14, 2008.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Theology of Scientology, p. 34-37.

[25] Attack, A Piece of Blue Sky, p. 31-32.

[26] L. Ron Hubbard, “Hubbard Class VIII Assists,” speech delivered to Sea Organization, Xenu Lectures [MP3] available at http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/talks:Scientology_cult_hubbard_class_VII_assists_Xenu_lecture_recording_ 1968/, accessed August 19, 2008.

[27] Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008, p. 48.

[28] Hubbard, The Bridge to Total Freedom, Chart.

[29] Hubbard, Handbook for Preclears, inside front cover.

[30] Wikipedia, “Scientific Method,” available at http://www.en.wikipedia.org/scientific_method/, accessed August 18, 2008.

[31] Kevin Victor Anderson, Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology (Melbourne: Government Printing Office, 1965), PDF available at http://www.apologeticsindex.org/the%20Anderson%20report.pdf., accessed August 19, 2008.

[32] Quoted in Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, p. 137.

[33] American Psychological Association, 1950, “Council Policy Manual: M. Scientific Affairs,” available at http://www.apa.org/about/division/cpmscientific.html#4/, accessed August 20, 2008.

[34] Harvey Jay Fischer, “Dianetic Therapy: An Experimental Evaluation,” Xenu.net, 1953, availalbe at http://www.xeny.net/archive/fischer/, accessed August 20, 2008.

[35] Bill Michelmore, “Scientologists Protest Psychiatry at National Conference,” The buffalo News, July 22 2006, available at http://www.religionnewsblog.com/15330/scientologists-protest-psychiatry-at-national-conference/, accessed August 20, 2008.

[36] Anderson, Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology, p. 215.

[37] Dr. David S. Touretzky and Peter Alexander, “A Church’s Lethal Contract,” Razor Magazine, 2003, available at http://www.csu.edu/~dst/Scientology/Releaseforms/ archive/razor-articel-2003/, accessed 20 August, 2008.

[38] The Lisa McPherson Fund, available at http://www.lisamcpherson.org/, accessed August 20, 2008.

[39] Hubbard, Handbook for Preclears, p. 263.

[40] The New International Version of the Bible (NIV) is used throughout this study.

[41] Richard Behar, “Scientology and Me,” Time Magazine, May 6, 1991, available at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,972886,00.html., accessed August 21, 2008.

[42] Attack, A Piece of Blue Sky, p. 341.

[43] James Randi, “On Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge,” James Randi Educational Foundation, available at http://www.randi.org/joom/content/view/38/31/, accessed August 21, 2008.

[44] Anderson, Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology, p. 200.

[45] Hubbard, Class VIII Lecture.

[46] Quoted in Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, p. 220.

[47] Miller, Bare-Faced Messiah, p. 170.

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