Prologue | Introduction | History | Leadership | Language | Technology | Ideology | Source List
"The creation of Dianetics is a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch."
-L. Ron Hubbard, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, 1950.
From its very beginnings, Scientology has been preoccupied with its place in history. L. Ron Hubbard saw in Dianetics, and consequentially in Scientology, a discovery of great, momentous importance. He imagined that Dianetics would change everything that followed in its course, and he conceived of it largely as a historical event. Hubbard and fellow Scientologists often describe Dianetics as a "breakthrough" that enables people to take the next step in a historical process. The message overwhelms the Scientologist with the sense of a larger, ideological meaning for his or her own life. Scientology’s emphasis on history is a fundamental part of the group’s beliefs and forms the basis for a significant portion of its ideology.
In this essay, I will show how this construction of history reveals a similar pattern when compared to Hannah Arendt’s observations on totalitarianism, specifically regarding Nazism and Stalinism. History has been a major factor in the identity of totalitarian movements. What I mean by "history" is not simply a chronological record of events, but a way of understanding and placing one’s position in a series of world events, and using that to justify actions and beliefs. It is history as ideology, or rather history with a capital "H."7 Totalitarianism tends to stress this meaning of history because it legitimizes the movement’s aims and desires. It also provides the member with the sense that they are involved in a dramatic course of action, which will forever influence the world. While this appeals to a desire for personal power, it also functions to secure the movement’s aims by introducing history as justification for totalitarian domination. Totalitarianism’s desire for power is not so much about individual power as it is about the power of a uniform group to spread an embodied ideology. Scientology’s construction of history shares some notable traits with Arendt's theories on the totalitarian ideology, demonstrating a continuity in thought and action which deserves explanation.
Arendt writes that during the Nazi regime, Heinrich Himmler8 gave a speech in which he described the mentality of the people whom he recruited into the SS. He said these people were not interested in "everyday problems" but only "in ideological questions of importance for decades and centuries, so that the man…knows he is working for a great task which occurs but once every 2,000 years."9 L. Ron Hubbard designed and presented Dianetics in a similar frame of mind. Scientologists have often remarked that in the beginning stages of the cult, they are made to feel part of a group that is making broad strides into the future. In the elite ranks of Scientologists, such as among the Sea Org, members even sign a billion-year contract with the Church of Scientology. Clearly, Scientologists view their movement as an epic undertaking. This ideological understanding of history has tremendous appeal. Scientologists are able to see the movement, and thus themselves, as making history with a system which is "an evolutionary step, a tool which is used in arriving at a higher level of knowledge."10
As Arendt states, this produced "a mentality, which, like Cecil Rhodes11 some forty years before, thought in continents and felt in centuries."12 This statement is particularly revealing and almost uncanny when compared to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. As Hubbard writes, "The history of Dianetics would be the history of a voyage of discovery, of an exploration into new and nearly uncharted realms, Terra Incognita, the Human Mind, a land which lies behind your forehead."13 It can be seen here that Hubbard’s Dianetics was inspired by imperialism- the desire to conquer spaces with ideological justification. Hubbard himself was the imperialist force making "discoveries" in the name of historical advancement. He was changing history, only this time the conquered space was the "Human Mind." Interestingly, Hubbard was a great admirer of Cecil Rhodes, even going so far as to claim he was Rhodes reincarnated and dressing like the British statesman.14 This is no coincidence, for both men embodied a mentality which viewed themselves as history-makers with ideas that would "encompass, in due course, the entire human race."15
Hubbard’s identification with Rhodes indicates his association with Rhodes’ place in history. It also signifies the continuing pattern of a vision of world domination, in terms of imperialist ideology. This is the train of thought on which Scientology is based. In Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarianism is directly correlated with imperialism. She writes that the totalitarian regime could not be possible without the imperialist, expansionist mentality of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to Arendt, it was imperialism which proved to be the most influential force for totalitarianism. In fact, Origins emphasizes Cecil Rhodes as the symbolic imperialist, one who aimed for mass annexation, but was limited by capitalism. Hubbard’s fascination and admiration for Rhodes proves to be a compelling parallel to Arendt’s work. Thus, there exists a historical continuity that both Hubbard and Arendt were well aware of and which served to foster Scientology.
In her writings, Arendt emphasizes the totalitarian movement’s need for constant motion. She states that "only a movement that is constantly kept in motion" can achieve "the permanent domination of each single individual in each and every sphere of life."16 Motion here is used to describe the way a group moves both physically and ideologically. In a historical perspective, it means there is no end-point or final goal at which the movement stops. There remains a constant desire to continue moving through space, unimpeded. This motion itself is the goal of totalitarianism, which Arendt describes as being able to "organize as many people as possible within its framework and to set and keep them in motion; a political goal that would constitute the end of the movement simply does not exist."17 In Scientology, the goal stated by Hubbard is to "help Mankind" achieve "total happiness and freedom" through his techniques.18 To reach this goal, every individual, of which "Mankind" is composed, must then take part in Scientology. Constant motion is therefore secured by the group’s goals for world domination- and it doesn’t stop at planet earth. As Hubbard says, "there is a whole universe to be won."19
Another aspect of a totalitarian attitude toward history is the ease with which historical forgeries are made by the organization. Arendt states that all totalitarian regimes are guilty of "monstrous forgeries in historiography."20 Much of these are outright lies used for totalitarian propaganda. However, this reconstruction of history also serves to aid the movement’s ideological mission. L. Ron Hubbard consistently lied about himself. There exists a mountain of evidence proving that Hubbard often made-up portions of his own history or life-story. He greatly exaggerated his accomplishments, to the point where many would call him a megalomaniac. Hubbard denied those things which did not fit into the picture of Scientology he wanted to present, while celebrating those that served to foster the new "science of the mind." The sheer amount and breadth of Hubbard’s lies are staggering.
However, Hubbard’s historical fallacies were not limited to his own life-story. Much like Hitler and Stalin before him, Hubbard felt free to concoct entire historical fables, based on his own twisted inclinations. In The History of Man,21 Hubbard actually went so far as to claim his book was "a cold blooded look at your last 60 trillion years,"22 and that it proved the theory of evolution. In a narrative style that wavered between fantasy fiction and a pseudo-scientific medical paper, Hubbard devoted much of the book to a re-working of evolution. The grandiose tale began "trillions of years ago" and was concerned with the development of the human soul. Hubbard’s evolutionary pathway started with "an atom, complete with electronic rings," after which came a cosmic impact producing "photon converters," the first single cell creature. Each stage of life encountered unique experiences which continue to affect our mental and physical state today, said Hubbard.23 Next came seaweed, jellyfish, and the clam.24 Progressing along the Hubbard time-track, evolution arrived at the sloth, which "had bad times falling out of trees," the ape and the famous Piltdown Man, which was the cause of a multitude of problems, ranging from obsessions about biting to family problems. These could be traced back to the fact that "the Piltdown teeth were enormous and he was quite careless as to whom and what he bit."25 Indeed, so careless was the Piltdown Man, Hubbard recorded, that he was sometimes guilty of "eating one's wife and other somewhat illogical activities."26 This entire cosmology was constructed to reveal Hubbard’s genius, as well as to prove the basis for Scientology’s beliefs.
While such historical forgeries exhibit a similar pattern to Arendt’s concepts of totalitarianism, there exists further evidence regarding Scientology’s totalitarian tendencies. Arendt writes that all totalitarian movements construct history with the object of "revealing official history as a joke, to demonstrate a sphere of secret influences of which the visible, traceable, and known historical reality was only the outward façade erected to fool the people."27 Scientology also exhibits this impulse. The group does this by accusing its critics of conspiring to discredit Scientology. For Scientologists, the secret sphere of influence that masquerades as official (known) history is formed by those people who speak out against the movement. Scientology wants to reveal its critics' version of history as a scam that inhibits one from being free, which the movement claims to be its goal. Members view the idea that Hubbard’s life-story is composed of falsehoods as a plot designed to persecute their freedom of religion. When these historical forgeries are revealed, members point to a secret group of people intent on keeping "Mankind from achieving total freedom and happiness."28
The danger of such forgeries is the possibility that "gigantic lies can eventually be established as unquestioned facts, that man may be free to change his own past at will, and that the difference between truth and fiction may cease to be objective."29 It is indeed frightening to realize the degree to which history is used as an ideological tool for totalitarianism. Nonetheless, it has happened before, as Arendt proves by examining Nazism and Stalinism. The end result is a consistent fabrication of reality, without which totalitarianism cannot exist. Hubbard has been partially successful, at least with his followers, in getting them to accept the outrageous historical lies which abound in Scientology. For some Scientologists, it is possible that these histories function as interpretive fables for everyday life. For others, the monumental falsehoods have become unquestioned truths, for to question them is certainly an obstruction to the totalitarian mentality.
Copyright 1999 Laura Kay Fuller. It was her Senior Thesis at University of California, Santa Cruz (CA), in 1999. Duplication is not allowed in any form without written approval from the author. Operation Clambake will forward any letters to the author.