Scientology: A Religion in South Africa

David Chidester

University of Cape Town

South Africa


     Similarly, Buddhist ethics has identified the Three Deadly Sins – the emotions of lust, greed, and anger – that can also be understood as forms of desire. In this case, misdirected desire is not in harmony with the purity and freedom of Buddha nature. Therefore, both Christian and Buddhist traditions have understood religious ethics as a matter of bringing human desires into harmony with a spiritual ideal.25

     Scientology ethics is based on a similar analysis of the relation between dissonance and harmony in human dispositions of desire. This ethical analysis is most clearly formulated in the Tone Scale. On a scale from zero to forty, the Tone Scale charts the spiritual dispositions from which different qualities of action flow. At the bottom of the scale, very low dispositions of desire – apathy, despair – are so close to death that they provide no basis for ethical action. Slightly higher, dispositions such as fear, anger, and hostility inhibit the freedom necessary for living an ethical life. In the next range, progress up the scale is evident in moving from conservatism, through strong interest in life, to a state of cheerfulness. Ethical conduct now becomes possible. But the scope for ethical action increases exponentially as the scale moves up through dispositions of enthusiasm, aesthetic participation, and exhilaration to arrive at the higher levels that represent the source of all Action and the supreme Serenity of Beingness.

     The Tone Scale, therefore, presents terms for assessing the relative dissonance or harmony of human dispositions of desire with the spiritual ideals of Scientology. As L. Ron Hubbard put it, “Descending down the tone scale, greater and greater dissonance could be considered to be introduced into theta.

     As a musical analogy, one could say that the note was becoming less and less a pure and harmonious vibration and was becoming more and more off-key from itself.”26 In the religious ethics of Scientology, therefore, ethical action depends upon restoring the human spirit to its original condition of spiritual harmony.


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