An Analysis and Comparison
Bryan Wilson, Ph.D.
VIII.III. Scientology In Light Of The Indicia Of A Religion
We now compare the attributes of Scientology with the probabilistic inventory of the features and functions of religion set out in 2.01 (para), above. We note those items in which Scientology agrees, as Accord or Qualified Accord; those in which it does not correspond, as Non-Accord, or Qualified Non-Accord and other cases as Indeterminate. (a) Thetans are agencies which transcend normal sense perception. It is also noted that Scientology affirms the existence of a supreme being. Accord. (b) Scientology postulates that thetans created the natural order. Accord. (c) Thetans occupy human bodies, which amounts to continuous intervention in the material world. Accord. (d) Thetans operated before the course of human history, and are said to have created the physical universe and occupy bodies for their own pleasure, identity and the playing of a game. This is, however, an indefinite purpose and the Supreme Being in Scientology is not represented as having definite purposes. Qualified Accord. (e) The activity of thetans and the activity of human beings are identical. The future lives of the thetan will be profoundly affected in so far as he gains release from the reactive mind, in addition to being profoundly affected by the same process in his present lifetime. Accord. (f) Auditing and training are means by which an individual can influence his destiny, certainly in this life and in the lives of the bodies which he may later occupy. Accord. (g) Rituals as symbolism in the traditional sense of worship (e.g., Catholic Mass) are minimal and rudimentary in Scientology, as they are among Quakers, but they do exist. None the less, to adopt a conservative position, we may regard this item as Indeterminate. (h) Placatory action (e.g., sacrifice or penance) is absent from Scientology. The individual seeks wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. Non-Accord. (i) Expressions of devotion, gratitude, obeisance and obedience to supernatural agencies are virtually absent, except in the rites of passage prescribed in Scientology. Non-Accord. (j) Although Scientology has a distinctive language which provides a means of reinforcement of values internal to the group, and the Scripture or teachings of L. Ron Hubbard are held sacred in the popular connotation of the term, this cannot be said to conform to the technical sense of sacred, as "things set apart and forbidden". Non-Accord. (k) Performances for celebration or collective penance are not a strong feature of Scientology, but in recent years the movement has developed a number of commemorative occasions, including the celebration of the anniversary of Hubbard's birth, the date of the founding of the International Association of Scientologists, and a date celebrating auditors for their dedication. Qualified Accord. (l) Scientologists engage in relatively few collective rites, but the movement's teachings do provide a total Weltanschauung, and so do draw members into a sense of fellowship and common identity. Qualified Accord. (m) Scientology is not a highly moralistic religion, but concern for moral propriety has grown as the full implications of its metaphysical premises have been realized. Since 1981, the moral expectations of Scientologists have been clearly articulated: these resemble the commandments of the Decalogue, and make more explicit the long-maintained concern to reduce "overt acts" (harmful acts). The doctrines of the reactive mind and reincarnation embrace ethical orientations similar to those of Buddhism. Accord. (n) Scientology places strong emphasis on seriousness of purpose, sustained commitment and loyalty to the organization and its members. Accord. (o) The teachings of transmigration in Scientology meets this criterion fully. The accumulative reactive mind corresponds to demerit for the thetan, and such demerit can be reduced by the application of Scientological techniques. Accord. (p) Scientology has functionaries who serve primarily as "confessors" (auditors), some of whom are also chaplains whose tasks are primarily expository and pastoral. Auditors, course supervisors, and chaplains (in fact all staff members) seek to preserve Scientology theory and practice from contamination, and in this sense are custodians. Accord. (q) Auditors, course supervisors and chaplains are paid. Accord. (r) Scientology has a body of metaphysical doctrine which offers an explanation for the meaning of life and its purpose, and an elaborate theory of human psychology, as well as an account of the origin and of the operation of the physical universe. Accord. (s) The legitimacy of Scientology is in a form of revelation by L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard's own sources include mention of the ancient wisdom of the Orient, but are claimed to be almost exclusively the results of research. This mixture of appeal to tradition, charisma, and science has been found in other modern religious movements, conspicuously, Christian Science. Qualified Accord. (t) Claims to the truth of some of Scientology's doctrines are beyond empirical test, but the efficacy of auditing is said to be provable pragmatically. The goals of Scientology depend on faith in the metaphysical aspects of the doctrine, however, even if the means are claimed to be susceptible to empirical test. Qualified Accord.