Scientology: The Marks of Religion

Frank K. Flinn, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

in Religious Studies

Washington University

Saint Louis, Missouri



     This creed elaborates on and complements the Scientology teaching on the Eight Dynamics. A “dynamic” is an urge, drive or impulse to survival at the levels of the self, sex (including procreation as a family), group, all of mankind, all living things, all the physical universe, spirit, and, finally, Infinity or God. Contrary to some popular presentations of Scientology, the Church has always maintained a belief in the spiritual dimension and, specifically, a Supreme Being. The earliest editions of Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought explicitly state: “The Eighth Dynamic—is the urge toward existence as Infinity. This is also identified as the Supreme Being.” (Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought. Los Angeles: The Church of Scientology of California, 1956, page 38.) The average believer is expected during his or her adherence to Scientology to realize the self as fully as possible on all eight dynamics and thus develop an understanding of a Supreme Being, or, as the Scientologists prefer to say, Infinity.

     Scientologists define the spiritual essence of humanity as the “thetan,” which is equivalent to the traditional notion of the soul. They believe that this thetan is immortal and has assumed various bodies in past lives. The Scientology doctrine of past lives has many affinities with the Buddhist teaching on samsara, or the transmigration of the soul. More will be said about the soul under para. III (a).

     The Creed of Scientology can be compared with the classic Christian creeds of Nicaea (325 C.E.), the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530 C.E.), and the Presbyterian Westminster Confession (1646 C.E.) because, like these earlier creeds, it defines the ultimate meaning of life for the believer, shapes and determines codes of conduct and worship in conformity with that creed, and defines a body of adherents who subscribe to that creed. Like the classic creeds, the Creed of the Church of Scientology gives meaning to transcendental realities: the soul, spiritual aberrancy or sin, salvation, healing by means of the spirit, the freedom of the believer, and the spiritual equality of all.

     Following their creed, Scientologists distinguish between the “reactive” or passive (unconscious) mind and the “analytical” or active mind. The reactive mind records what adherents call “engrams,” which are spiritual traces of pain, injury, or impact. The reactive mind is believed to retain engrams that go back to the fetal state and reach further back even into past lives. The theological notion of “engrams” bears close resemblance to the Buddhist doctrine of the “threads of entanglement” which are held over from previous incarnations and which impede the attainment of enlightenment. Scientologists believe that unless one is freed from these engrams, one’s survival ability on the levels of the eight dynamics, happiness, intelligence and spiritual well-being will be severely impaired. It is on the basis of this belief or spiritual knowledge that adherents are motivated to go through the many levels of auditing and training, which constitute the central religious practices of Scientology. I will discuss auditing and training in greater detail in section III. A neophyte or beginner in the auditing/training process is called a preclear and one who has removed all engrams is called a Clear. This distinction can be compared with the Christian distinction between sin and grace and the Buddhist distinction between unenlightenment (Sanskrit, avidya) and enlightenment (bodhi).


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