The Australian, Thu 06 Feb 1986, p11
The Pope's visit to India sees a new dimension to faith, for he is confronted by a religious tradition older than Christianity by 2000 years.
If the Pope has shown a greater sensitivity than some expected, it is only because they are unaware of his enthusiasm for dialogue with other faiths.
On his recent African odyssey, his speech to thousands of young Muslims in Morocco was a moving witness to religious unity and respect for other forms of faith.
Indians, questioning what is both a State visit and a religious pilgrimage, are watching from the prominence of Hindu insights for signs of a "holy man"; and with all the reservations one may have at times about the Pope's style, his devotion to prayer and simplicity of personal life are not in question.
The same cannot be said of Ron L. Hubbard, whose death was announced just over a week ago. As founder of the Church of Scientology, science fiction, which he wrote with acumen, was turned into faith.
As for the life of the Scientology founder, he claims to have been a nuclear physicist and to have sustained serious injuries in World War II. In fighting back to health, he discovered his religion, and wrote his seminal work, Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health, in 1950.
It is true that he attempted a course in atomic physics, though he failed. Discharged from the US Navy, he gained a 40 per cent disability allowance for ailments such as arthritis, and sought psychiatric help for serious depression. But he was also arrested for petty theft over cheques, and might well have gone the way of the unfortunate and been entirely forgotten. But the American Bill of Rights facilitated his setting up in "religion", about which he had said in the late 1940s that "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".
There was to be no shortage of words or money. More than 30 books issued from him, developing the extraordinary language of this pseudo-science; but it was his invention of the E-Meter which gave Scientology its attraction for many young people, who wanted to improve themselves and saw in the "auditing" or counselling offered by Scientology a way to greater effectiveness as people.
Holding two tin cans which look suspiciously like old jam tins, the initiate is told that the E-Meter will pass a "tiny current through a preclear's body. This current is influenced by the mental masses, pictures, circuits and machinery. When the unclear PC - preclear - thinks of something, these mental items shift and this registers on the meter."
Hubbard called these mental images "engrams", which derived from harmful or unnecessary accretions in the initiate's present life or in the many lives already experienced by the subject. Reincarnation of a sort is part of Scientology's creed; and to be released from these bad vibes, the essential spiritual self, the Thetan, has to be released.
In Hubbard's book, Dianetics and Scientology, A Technical Dictionary, the E-Meter itself is called "a religious artifact (sic) used as a spiritual guide in the church confessional". While operating, the "auditor" asks searching personal questions which build up a dossier on each new member. The use of such information has often been the subject of court actions.
I freely admit my own hostility to Scientology, due to a long pastoral experience of young people abandoning useful and secure work for the apparently improving courses offered by Scientology. Literally called in off the street - and sometimes attracted by a sign offering employment - the gullible soon pick up a language full of the abracadabras of credulity. All religions have them, but most, at least, offer the idealist service for the poor or disadvantaged. Scientology seems to have the knack of making most adherents poor and disadvantaged themselves. Many get into serious, long-term debt to pay for the courses advised for their ascent in Scientology.
In a free society, of course, everyone must have the right to believe, or not to believe, as they please.
But India's 600 million Hindus, 80 million Muslims and Sikh minority have suspected the Pope of being on the conversion trail. By now they will have recognised that he is not one of Christ's "false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves". But Ron. L. Hubbard may well deserve that judgment.