Archive for September, 2010

Now there’s a question that has been being asked for 50 years or so.  And while there are no easy answers to the question there are technical answers. Technically, in the eyes of the IRS here in America, Scientology is a church.  It’s been that way for about 40 years now. And if you look at all the stationary, the corporate filings, the ministerial garb and promotional materials it appears, on the surface, to function much like what we here in the Western World imagine a church functions like.

Yet if you look at how the organizations operate on a day-to-day basis Scientology is a church only in the loosest sense.

For those of us who were around prior to the official proclamation by L. Ron Hubbard that Scientology would now put on church clothes and start acting like a church the idea of being religious, for us,  has always been an ill-fitting suit. I’m not religious. And for the most part almost none of the thousands of Scientologists I have been acquainted with or the hundreds I have had friendships or working relationships with were religious either. We didn’t pray. We didn’t submit to any God. We didn’t take vows of poverty (unless we joined Org staff or the Sea Org), our functions as staff or Scientologists weren’t reverent or ritualized in the sense that we ever felt the source of our salvation or potential spiritual freedom was bestowed by a supreme being. And so we didn’t honor or bow down to a deity.

But we had to become a church for the simple reason that being anything else would mean the end of Scientology. And the end of auditing.

So Hubbard morphed us.  Arnie Lerma has one of the better web sites out there among the array of anti or ex web sites. His struggle against the RTC version of Scientology is both ethical and emotional. All you have to do is read his story, particularly the bit about how he was treated when it was discovered, via confidential session reports, that he was mere days away from marrying one of Hubbard’s daughters. Here’s Arnie’s location in electronic space:

Lerma’s Net Home

Having been around for a while, Arnie’s site is extensive. There are gems and veins of gold hidden away in the various pages and links he provides. And while it’s not updated daily (or even weekly sometimes), it’s probably the best place to go on the internet for references and exposès on the more nefarious goings ons over the years. He documents clearly the events, years apart, that set the path and then cast it into concrete that Scientology had to be a church rather than a business. Here’s an interesting one, direct from Hubbard’s prolific pen:

Realize that Hubbard wrote these words in 1954,  the same year he incorporated the Church of Scientology of California and one year after he founded the Church of Scientology in New Jersey.

Huh?

Whatever you, as a past or present Scientologist, may believe about the churchiness of Scientology, it’s plain to see that the founder of  Scientology did not see it as a church. Becoming a church was the solution to two problems:

1. Taxes

2. Auditing

Taxes because, like all businesspeople, Hubbard wanted to keep as much of the money his business made for himself. I’m no different. Well, except I never named my retail store or my restaurant a church in order to scam my nation. The auditing thing is a little more subtle. In fact, except for myself and maybe one or two people I’ve known over the years I’ve never had a conversation about how Hubbard used the false identity as a church to retain the right for his students and staff to audit.

Auditing was at risk because even the casual student of the history of Scientology knows that Hubbard’s first pitched battle for legitimacy was with the AMA and the APA. The doctors because, well, because they’re doctors and concerned. The psychiatrists because they took a look at what Hubbard was doing and determined that it was either a scam or not safe in the hands of untrained therapists. The move was on in the early 50’s to shut down Dianetics and require that anyone doing Dianetic therapy had to have a license. Which meant they had to go to college and get a degree. Which meant that the control over whether Dianetics or Scientology could legally be delivered would rest in the hands of the very groups who felt it was either a scam or a threat.

So Hubbard solved it by creating this 

Alan Walters and Dean Stokes. Holy practitioners of the scriptures of Scientology.

Every time I see that picture of Alan and Dean I crack up. Neither of these two could have been in any way mistaken for actual Men of The Cloth. Yet, according to the C of S, they were. Thinking back to the 70’s, when this photo was taken, we all knew the whole church thing was a load of crap. Alan laughed about it and carried on with his plans of world domination and amassing of money and Dean… well… Dean is just Dean. I never really had a sense of what Dean was all about except that he smoked a whole lot more than I did.

I bought a clerical shirt and white collar and wore it exactly once. When my best friend died and the memorial was held at Celebrity Center in Hollywood I wore the damned thing. I felt like an impostor. And I was.  The whole church-thing was – and is today – a big circus. It’s a show. It’s deceptive. I know it. You do too. You may not admit it, but you know damned well that churches don’t do the things Scientology does. And those that do conduct themselves in the manner the Church of Scientology has eventually end up in the news… and in criminal court.

Hubbard was a smart guy though. He knew a real church had to have a spiritual leader… or recognizable master. And Hubbard was, if anything, not lacking in the ego department. Think about this if you will… why else would there be busts and huge wall-sized pictures of Hubbard in every Org and Mission on the planet? Why is it so, so important that Ron be treated… even in death… like a savior? The only possible reason for building an image of Hubbard as not only the “Source” of Scientology, but as the spiritual deity of it is to create a atmosphere if blind acceptance of anything attributed to him.

Blind obedience.

And now, since the guy has been dead for 25 or so years it’s just a matter of editing his books, changing a few things here and there to suit modern times and much larger financial goals…  and what we have is a written and spoken Bible of Scientology comprised of a score of books and several thousand hours of taped lectures. So we have a bible and we have a cross.

The cross, by the way, has been around since the 50’s and while I do think it’s little more than pretty imagery, Hubbard actually attached some decent significance to it in the description of how it represents the 8 Dynamics of Scientology. The story goes that he was excavating some ruins in Arizona … Spanish I imagine… and discovered the cross in the sandstone.

Yeah. Right. If you’ve ever read Mission into Time then you might just be a wee bit skeptical about this story.  I’m more inclined to go along with the story that credits the cross to the Ordo Templi Orientis. Crowley was a seriously occult dude and Hubbard did, after all, marry the sister-in-law of his American Pope –  Jack Parsons.

None of this stuff… not the lies, not the purposeful creation of a Godlike status for L. Ron Hubbard, not the tax scams or uncomfortable clothes means that practicing Scientology is without merit. Like anything that is unprovable and entirely subjective, Scientology auditing has value that is determined solely by the person willing to pay the money and hold the cans.

What the deception does though is it creates a facade of religious legitimacy that is a very effective shield in modern society. It also spreads the “ether” through malleable groups of people faster than the Bird Flu can rip through a chicken farm.

HOW THE MISSIONS DEALT WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE IDEA WE WERE A CHURCH

For the most part, Missions prior to 1982 ignored the whole church facade unless we needed it. So we, as Mission Holders, were effectively… in on the sham. For a couple hundred bucks we filed the non-profit corporate papers with the state. Then we added the cool-looking cross to some stationary… I had regular stationary that said something like ‘Scientology of Fresno” and then official stationary that said “Church of Scientology of Fresno”. The latter I used when corresponding to anyone who gave a shit about appearances in the Orgs and to the State Tax board, the former we used for everything else. We had Sunday Services… sort of. When I knew there was a Sea Org mission coming or we had a wedding scheduled or something we put a Sunday Service on the calendar.

Other than that, we operated as an efficient training and counseling business with the added bonus of not having to mess with taxes. Just write a weekly check to the Mission Office for 10% of the gross income and carry on as if we weren’t actually a church. Which we weren’t…. actually a church I mean. It was deceptive.

Oh, and it also made getting married a lot easier and kept me and my crew of staff and public from feeling out of place in real churches. When I got married in 1977… uh, wait… 1978 (sorry Cindy)… it was easy. I called my friend Allen Kapular who was a fake minister of the fake Church of Scientology, he drove over to my place with his multiple cartons of filtered cigarettes and his portable oxygen tank (I shit you not) and we all went outside and he hitched us up. Didn’t cost me a dime. Except the extra booze I had to buy  for Allen.

Me, the incredibly patient and beautiful Cindy and Allen. The portable oxygen tank was just out of camera range.

Take a look at that picture above. What kind of church has ministers who chain smoke so much that they can’t even put their cigarette down for the freaking wedding photos!!!! And yes, Allen died of lung cancer. But he had a damned good time up to that point.

Your opinion, of course, may differ from mine about whether Scientology is deceiving anyone by pretending to be something it isn’t. In fact, you might be right and I might be wrong. I mean, how many decades does a group of people who think they are a church have to think they are a church until they actually are a church? It’s like acting isn’t it? A good actor “thinks” like the character he or she is portraying. They get into the role. They imagine they are a sniper or a cop or a betrayed wife, a cuckolded husband or a scheming cattle rancher and they soon begin to do less acting and more of the natural things their character would do.  Right?

It makes for great theater.