Prologue | Introduction | History | Leadership | Language | Technology | Ideology | Source List
"To in any way encroach upon the Church or distract one from moving up the Bridge to Total Freedom is the ultimate crime."
-Religious Technology Center Information Letter111
As an ideology, Scientology is moving in a totalitarian direction. Addressing the beliefs and practices that exist within Scientology further serves to expose a movement which contains several key elements of totalitarianism. In this final section, I will look at some notable characteristics of Scientology and parallel them to Hannah Arendt's theories on the nature of the totalitarian ideology. I will focus on the following themes within Scientology: world domination, anti-government and psychiatry conspiracies, momentum and constant revision, the building of a state of terror, and Scientology's own prison system- the Rehabilitation Force Project (RPF). While reading this, it is important to keep in mind that all totalitarian movements are predisposed to ideologies because they explain everything as the mere example of a set of natural laws. Embracing such an ideology, the movement is thus able to "thrive on this escape from reality into fiction, from coincidence into consistency."112 It is only when this fiction is indistinguishable from reality that totalitarianism can survive.
A major feature of Scientology is the group's stated mission to "clear the world."113 By "clearing the world," the movement wishes to make every person on this planet not only a Scientologist, but reach a state called "clear" in Scientology processing. The origins of "clear" go back to L. Ron Hubbard and his enormous influence on the construction and language of Scientology. "Clear" functions as both a noun and a verb in Scientology lingo. To be a "clear" is to have deleted the contents of the reactive mind by transferring the data stored there into another mental compartment called the analytical mind. The analytical mind supposedly functions at a higher awareness level than the reactive mind. Therefore, "to clear" a person is for them to realize that they no longer need their reactive mind, enabling them to "confront and resolve buried trauma" through the filter of the superior analytical mind114. This is one of the most important goals in Scientology. It is a significant step on the Scientology "Bridge to Total Freedom" that Hubbard laid out.115
The fact that Scientology aims at world domination in the form and language of "clearing" is a major sign that the movement is indeed totalitarian. As Arendt has noted, "The struggle for total domination of the total population of the earth, the elimination of every competing nontotalitarian reality, is inherent in totalitarian regimes; if they do not pursue global power as their ultimate goal, they are only too likely to lose whatever power they already have."116 Totalitarian movements do not think in terms of national borders. Instead, the movements are distinctly borderless in their goals for domination. The Sea Org is an excellent example of L. Ron Hubbard's desire for Scientology to exist without the limitations of national borders. Created by Hubbard as a means to escape government control, the Sea Org is an elite group of Scientologists who sail around the world on a gigantic boat wearing naval uniforms117. What is distinct about the Sea Org is that it epitomizes Hubbard's ideological goals for Scientology. Not subject to any national laws, the Sea Org was Hubbard's fantasy of a planet where Scientology could roam and spread without limits. According to Arendt, all totalitarian leaders consider their country of origin to be "only temporary headquarters of the international movement on the road to world conquest."118 Scientology is similarly international in the scope of its organization. In fact, the movement is even inter-planetary in the desire to spread its ideology: After they clear earth, Scientology plans to "clear the universe."119
A revealing action taken by Scientology was the planned infiltration of a country. The BULGRAVIA project (BULgaria, GReece, Albania, YugoslaVIA) began in 1992 with initial plans to establish industries, newspapers, transportation, and telecommunications systems in Albania as the first step in establishing a Scientology state in the Balkans.120 The idea was to form an area called Bulgravia, which would be completely dominated by Scientology. Though it is difficult to believe that Scientology could accomplish this, such actions conform to totalitarianism's ultimate goal of world conquest. No matter how distant this goal may appear, totalitarian movements "consider no country as permanently foreign, but, on the contrary, every country as their potential territory."122
Another basic tenet of totalitarianism is the belief that "the world is divided into two hostile camps, one of which is the movement, and that movement can and must fight the whole world." Scientology also fulfills this description. Hubbard felt that Scientology was involved in a grand scheme of good versus evil, and even initiated a secret project to uncover the "Soldiers of Light" and the "Soldiers of Darkness."123 While the Soldiers of Light are those people who are in favor with the Church of Scientology, according to Hubbard, the leaders among the Soldiers of Darkness are the government and the entire psychiatric profession.124 Scientology's extremely anti-government and anti-psychiatry stance is a fundamental concept of the movement. Government and psychiatry are inextricably linked, claimed Hubbard, who stated that "Psychiatry and psychology, spawned by an insanely militaristic government, find avid support from oppressive and domineering governments."125 Scientologists see a global conspiracy taking place, whereby psychiatry and world governments have combined to suppress Scientology. It is precisely this belief in "one mysterious worldwide conspiracy"126 that all totalitarian movements require in order to build the model of domination about which they themselves fantasize. As Arendt noted in the case of the Nazis, "The delusion of an already existing Jewish world domination formed the basis for the illusion of future German world domination."127
While the government is the evil empire, Scientology focuses on psychiatrists as the most visible enemy of the movement. The choice to target psychiatry was not a random one, for totalitarian movements never pick their enemies arbitrarily.128 Part of the reason Hubbard hated psychiatrists with such a passion was because they were the first people to criticize the methods and claims of Dianetics. Hubbard knew that the psychiatric profession would dismiss his ideas, so he concocted an elaborate conspiracy whereby insane psychiatrists were ruling the world, creating robot-like drones and generally harming and injuring their patients.129 In addition to this, since many psychiatrists saw Dianetics as an unfounded sham, they were instantly labeled as "Suppressive Persons" or "SPs"- the ultimate condemnation in Scientology.130 SPs are, of course, synonymous with anti-Scientologists. Thus the one group that Hubbard knew would surely criticize Dianetics was conveniently accused of a worldwide conspiracy to warp people's minds and discredit the truth of Scientology.131 Scientology's battle against the evils of psychiatry also entails the elimination of all psychiatrists. Hubbard's objective was to eliminate every single psychiatrist by looking for crimes in their past.132 Suitably, criticizing Scientology was defined as the maximum crime. Much like Hitler and Stalin before him, Hubbard's plans drew on how to abolish his enemies through whatever means were available.
Totalitarianism, rather than representing the will to dominate others, is about the destruction of alternate viewpoints and the homogenization of thought as a continual process.131 This continual movement, which simultaneously destroys and purifies, is the true direction of totalitarianism. The momentum of totalitarian domination aspires to be unlimited as it spreads around the globe, as exemplified by Scientology's desire to "clear the planet." The momentum also arises in the enemy status of psychiatry declared by Scientology. Here, the organization functions as a "movement whose advance constantly meets with new obstacles that have to be eliminated."134 Another significant part of this motion involves the constant changes and revisions in policy which characterize all totalitarian movements. As Arendt states, "the perpetual-motion mania of totalitarian movements can remain in power only so long as they keep everything moving and set everything around them in motion."135
This need for constant motion also pertains to the rules, regulations, and beliefs within the group. In the case of Scientology, both theories and practices are repeatedly revised, illustrating the "swift and surprising changes in policy for which totalitarianism has become famous."136 L. Ron Hubbard was particularly fond of revising the techniques for Dianetic therapy and later employed the same actions in Scientology processing.137 Hubbard would make elaborate designs concerning the proper way to proceed along the "Bridge to Total Freedom," proclaiming the supreme accuracy of his theories, only to change them later on. It was not unusual for a Scientologist, who had spent years in the movement, to have to repeat processing levels because Hubbard had found the techniques flawed and thus had them re-designed.138 An obvious reason for the frequent revisions was simply the fact that the methods did not work in the first place. The miraculous cures promised by Hubbard were frequently proven false by the members' own experiences, hence Hubbard's need to provide new improved versions in order to keep Scientology afloat. However, the frequent revisions also demonstrate the continual motion within the framework of the group itself. In the higher "OT" levels of Scientology, new "grades" appear every few years, shrouded in secrecy.139 There is no real end to the movement. When a Scientologist reaches one level, there is always another they must pass. Knowledge is always one step further away; it is continually kept in motion. As Arendt observed, "a political goal that would constitute the end of the movement simply does not exist."140
Only a movement that is constantly kept in motion can achieve totalitarianism's greatest wish: namely, the permanent domination of each individual in every sphere of life.141 According to Arendt, the ideological "axiomatic" laws that all totalitarian groups claim to represent are movements of themselves.142 When Scientologists talk about Hubbard's "science of mental health," the theories are viewed as a sweeping movement executing the laws of History and Nature. As Hubbard remarked, "The man who avoids the Bridge to Total Freedom will be eventually be swept along and tumble into nothingness. Not only does he gain nothing but he inhibits progress."143 Because the ideological movement aims to be completely unopposed in its motion, a degree of terror is inevitably entailed. Terror is experienced when there is no where else to turn and the most unimaginable nightmare has become reality. This type of terror can only become total when it becomes independent of all opposition. In other words, only when there is nobody to stand in its way can totalitarianism achieve the total homogenization it desires. In this manner, "terror is the essence of totalitarian domination."144
Scientology's "Ethics" system is one particularly telling way that this sort of terror arises in the movement. Devised by Hubbard in the mid 1960's effectively as a form of social control, "ethics technology" emphasizes the cult's totalitarian nature. Under the rules of "Ethics," anyone thought to be disloyal, slacking, or breaking the rules of Scientology, was reported to an "ethics officer" and assigned a "condition" according to the gravity of the offense.145 Various penalties were attached to each condition. In a "condition of liability" for example, the offender was required to wear a dirty grey rag around his or her left arm.146 The worst that could happen was to be declared an "SP" (suppressive person), which was tantamount to excommunication from the church. SPs were defined by Hubbard as "fair game" to be pursued, sued and harassed at every possible opportunity.147 The penalties described under the Fair Game order are as follows: "May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologists. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed."148 Scientologists who associate with an SP are labeled "Potential Trouble Sources" and forbidden further auditing or training.149 Members are, in effect, ordered to cease communication with anyone considered unfriendly to the Church of Scientology. This produces an effect, which Arendt noted, occurs in all totalitarian movements: "Mutual suspicion, therefore, permeates all social relationships."150 This all-pervasive atmosphere of distrust exists even inside the group itself, as members are continually encouraged to be on guard for "dangerous thoughts."151 Such dangerous thoughts were also measured by the E-Meter, so even thinking a negative thought about Hubbard or Scientology could show up during auditing.152
Hubbard insisted that his Ethics system should be applied to non-Scientologists as well.153 As Arendt observed, "The category of the suspect thus embraces under totalitarian conditions the total population; every thought that deviates from the officially prescribed and constantly changing line is already suspect."154 Simply because of their capacity to think, human beings are suspects by definition under totalitarianism, for the ability to change one's mind is a ever present threat to homogenization and compliance.155 Ethics was more than a set of laws made by Hubbard. They were absolute rules in accordance with the movement's ideological goals, designed to apply to every individual, so that disobedience was not an option. Such a punishment system eerily corresponds to Hitler's dictum that "The total state must not know the difference between law and ethics."156
Penalties for lower conditions in Scientology's Ethics hierarchy were harshest for those in the Sea Org- punishments included sleep deprivation and the assignment of physical labor.157 The worst of Ethics was perhaps Hubbard's initiation of the chain-locker punishment in 1968, during the Commodore's reign on the Sea Org.158 A chain-locker is a dark hole where anchor chains are stored. A tiny manhole gives access to the cold, wet and unlit lockers below the bowels of the ship. When a crew member was in a low enough Ethics condition, he or she would be put in a chain-locker for up to two weeks, kept awake and fed by a suspended food bucket.159 The "overboarding" practice also occurred under the Ethics system, in which case an unlucky Scientologist was ordered to be thrown off the deck of the boat.160
While such punishments are certainly cruel, they also demonstrate the state of terror which was being built within Scientology. Scientologists were accustomed to following Hubbard's auditing techniques and did not question the reasoning behind another set of commands, such as those in Ethics. Instead, they simply answered or carried them out. Many spent their time trying to stay out of trouble, hoping they wouldn't be the next to receive a punishment.161 What resulted was a situation where members could not imagine doing anything other then obey Hubbard's rules. In their minds, there was nowhere else to turn except towards the one all-encompassing ideology they knew. They had lost the capacity to oppose the movement, even when it had clearly become a nightmarish version of reality. This is precisely the goal of totalitarianism. The creation a fictitious world where everything is possible is a central assumption of all totalitarian movements. Consequently, "every crime the rulers can conceive of must be punished, regardless of whether or not it has been committed."162
In 1973, Hubbard replaced the chain-locker and overboarding punishments in favor of new, profoundly effective means of domination- the Rehabilitation Force Project, or RPF.163 Convinced that his orders were not being carried out with sufficient diligence, Hubbard established the RPF as a disciplinary unit for anyone who failed to comply with orders, made mistakes, or fell short of their production quotas.164 While on the Sea Org, Hubbard became convinced that there were evil people on board with hidden evil intentions.165 The RPF was designed for such people, or as Hubbard termed them: "degraded beings" and "psychotics."166 Used as a daily threat, the RPF had, at one point, almost one-third of Sea Org members assigned to it.167 RPF members were segregated, having their own space away from the rest of the crew. Discipline was harsh and bizarre, while members were expected to adhere to a rigid schedule of physical labor.168
The RPF is still in use in Scientology organizations throughout the world. Those assigned to RPF can only speak when spoken to, eat table scraps, and sleep shorter hours than other Scientology staff.169 RPF members are meant to comply immediately and unquestioningly with any order. They work a full day, doing physical labor, and are expected to spend five hours confessing their "overts" and revealing their "Evil Purposes."170 The RPF is, in effect, a Scientology penal colony.
The fact that both Ethics and the RPF originated on the Sea Org is not a coincidence. The Sea Org was Hubbard's fantasy of a world of his own creation, which could sail limitlessly without the constraints of national or governmental borders. Scientology's horrific punishment systems only serve to verify totalitarianism's fundamental belief that in a fictitious world, everything is possible.171 One cannot help but be reminded of the Nazi concentration camps when hearing about incarceration in the RPF. Physically, there are unavoidable similarities between the two camps. Undesirables are separated from the rest of society, under the pretense of an movement that "functions according to the principle that whoever is not included is excluded, whoever is not with me is against me."172 Conditions are disgusting and prisoners are trained to comply with all orders. The incarcerated are targeted as enemies of a movement whose purifying motion must continue in order to prove its ideology. Of course, a critical difference is that the Nazis systematically killed their prisoners. The RPF does not lead to death, as it did for so many in Nazi camps. Therefore, the forced labor camps of Scientology differ is this crucial respect. In addition, the RPF is not designed for those psychiatrists and government agents said to be conspiring against Scientology, but for the members of the movement itself. This too, however, is the tendency of totalitarianism, which always turns against even those in the movement, for nobody is safe when everyone must be on guard.173
According to Arendt, the Nazi concentration camps were an example of totalitarianism in power and served as "special laboratories to carry through its experiment in total domination."174 In this manner, she identifies the camps as the "true central institution of totalitarian organizational power."175 I would argue that Scientology's RPF is similarly the result of a movement that is headed in a totalitarian direction, but which has not yet become a regime. Nonetheless, there are major indications that the group contains distinctly totalitarian elements. A punishment system such as the RPF is not only horrifying in the fact that it exists; it is also based on an ideology of terror. To organize the entire texture of life according to such an ideology can only be carried out under a totalitarian regime.176 That is what Scientology is striving for- to create a world where the line between reality and fiction is erased and the capacity to distinguish truth from falsehood is abolished.177 While the ideology of terror is indeed powerful, it is critical to realize that the dream of totalitarianism is never complete. As long as there are people to stand in the way of its movement, the non-totalitarian world will continue to exist.
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.