Prologue | Introduction | History | Leadership | Language | Technology | Ideology | Source List
"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
-L. Ron Hubbard, Readerís Digest reprint, May 1980, p.1
Accounts of L. Ron Hubbardís life vary, but the following information consists of only verifiable facts4. Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in 1911, the son of a struggling Nebraska businessman. Growing up, he had a wandering existence, living with his parents or relatives in various places throughout western America. He led a wildly romantic youth, in which his dreams and realities often became confused. Hubbard was a skillful and prolific young writer. As a penniless young man in the 1930ís, he began authoring "pulp" science fiction stories for magazines. While writing for the pulps, he claimed to have made a discovery of such philosophical and psychological importance that it would forever change the world. From this discovery, the "science" of Dianetics evolved, first appearing in a science fiction pulp magazine. Dianetics is an offshoot of a method of psychotherapy concocted by Hubbard from various sources. It is a form of regression therapy, whereby the subject is reverted to an earlier mental or behavioral level.
Dianetics prospered briefly, but later floundered in a sea of debts. In 1952, Hubbard founded a far more ambitious program. He expanded Dianetics to appear more like a religion, largely in order to enjoy tax benefits. He called this new religion "Scientology." Scientology, Hubbard claimed, could give one the ability to overcome all diseases of the mind and body. Scientology was organized as a series of levels, with the participant required to pay thousands of dollars to pass each one. As a leader, he had profound influence over his followers. The Church of Scientology was constantly in trouble with the government and the authorities. As a means to escape government control, Hubbard in 1967 started the "Sea Org," an abbreviation for "Sea Organization." The Sea Org was an elite group of Scientologists that formed a private navy, with Hubbard as Commodore. For years Hubbard and his entourage of Scientologists roamed the world pursued by the FBI, the CIA, and various outraged national governments. He tried and failed on several accounts to take control of several countries and at least one continent.
For nearly a decade Hubbard sailed the oceans, surrounded and served by young women in hotpants called "messengers" who did practically everything for him, including dressing and undressing him. The messengers were trained like robots to relay orders in Hubbardís tone of voice. In the mid-1970ís, Hubbard directed a covert operation aimed at infiltrating United States government offices in order to launder their growing files on the Church of Scientology. Hubbard himself escaped a prison sentence, but became increasingly paranoid. In 1980, fearing arrest, he disappeared and was never seen again. He died in hiding in 1986- under mysterious circumstances.
While this story may seem incredibly bizarre or even unbelievable, a number of credible sources concur that this is the case5. The facts surrounding Scientology often hold up to the "truth is stranger than fiction" motif. On the outside, the cult may seem to be purely a vehicle for making money. Or it may appear that Hubbard was simply insane, and that consequentially, Scientology is also "crazy." However, there remain many aspects of Scientology that demand further explanation and in-depth attention. As my thesis will show, the core beliefs of Scientology are revealed slowly to the member, increasingly becoming what mainstream culture would deem "crazy." Yet to Scientologists, their "religion" is the opposite of craziness: it is complete sanity and total freedom. How does the insane become accepted as reality? And more importantly, what ideologies are at play, which allow this to happen?
My thesis argues that Scientology, as an ideology, is moving in a totalitarian direction. Totalitarianism is an extreme form of control of thought, behavior and interaction6. The desire of totalitarianism is complete homogenization. As an ideology, it aims at eliminating difference, so that no variations can exist. Totalitarianism is anti-diversity- it is about the continual process of radical purification. The idea is that everybody moves in the same direction because there is nowhere else to go. Psychologically speaking, everybodyís will is unidirectional, marching in the same line. This involves creating a space where there is the constant fear of being watched or reported. Totalitarianism also necessitates the absence of critical thought and the stifling of public discourse because this challenges its ideological goals. Yet the word "totalitarianism" is misleading, for it is never as entirely "total" as it would like to be. There is always resistance and noncompliance.
Using Hannah Arendtís writings on totalitarianism as a basis, I will focus on how different aspects of Scientology reveal similar ideological components to totalitarianism. I will look at several themes including the construction of history, leadership and language, showing how each contributes to the framework of a totalitarian ideology. The latter half of the paper discusses the role of technology within Scientology and how this relates to Arendtís visions of totalitarianism. Finally, I will focus on ideology itself, giving numerous examples of how Scientology functions to build a state of terror, while aiming for world domination.
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.