Woroni (student newspaper of Australian National University) Vol. 49 #2, Thu 20 Mar 1997, p18

Cult of Personality

Having spent the morning on the Net, surfing any number of hideous accounts by ex-scientologists, I climbed the stairs of the Civic Scientology office with some trepidation. I felt armed with my newly enhanced awareness of cult recruiting tactics and brainwashing techniques, and had the specific aim of grabbing any printed material I could see and getting out fast.

I was greeted warmly by a young woman and told that someone would be 'with me shortly.' A few minutes later she returned and said: "Come this way." I stammered something about only having the time to grab a couple of flyers and she said, "Okay, sure, come this way."

So I did, and I remained in the building for over three hours, most of it spent with my guard firmly let down. I shared past drug experiences with my new friend, tried out what the Scientologists call an 'E-meter', I even watched the Scientology movie in the in-house cinema. Actually, it was not until I found myself rummaging through my wallet for $40 to buy a book that I remembered my original purpose. And with a bagful of free anti-psychiatry propaganda, I fled.

As soon as I was out and thought through some of the insights into my personal life which the young woman had obtained with the miracles of the E-meter, and the flattery which I had allowed to silence my more pointed questions, it all seemed fairly transparent.

You don't have to be an idiot to become involved in a cult. Far from it. You should preferably be intelligent, but at a point in your life where you're searching for answers, certainty and direction. Recruiters will offer you appealing answers to complex questions and problems, they'll be friendly, hospitable, welcoming and have admirable goals.

Scientology is succeeding where the Aum, the Children of God, and the Moonies have all failed. It is successful because of its seamless rhetoric and its altruistic goals. The professed aim of Scientology is to rid the world of war, drugs, illiteracy, insanity, psychiatrists and other evils (confronting the evil of psychiatrists has been their most recent and prolonged battle). But the evils are defined in such a way that if you're not one of them, you're part of the problem. Indeed, if you see evil and don't confront it, you are evil too. It's terribly pro-active, guilt producing and effective.

One of the most common ways of becoming involved in Scientology is by taking their free personality or IQ tests. This can be flattering stuff. They promise that Scientology can help you to become more intelligent, more successful and more attractive. If you raise a criticism or ask a question, you will be told how perceptive you are. One's guard can easily be lowered by such kindness and flattery.

What is Scientology?

In the "Reference Guide to the Scientology Religion" they write, "Scientology is an applied religious philosophy which recognises that man is basically good and offers tools anyone can use to become happier and more able as a person and to improve conditions in life for himself and others." It is a way of living and of making the world a better place. "The word Scientology comes from the Latin word scio, meaning 'know' and the Greek word logos, meaning 'the word or outwards form by which the inwards thought is expressed and made known'. Thus Scientology means knowing about knowing." It's an epistemology and ontology at once.

Scientology is both a religion and a Church; it's a philosophy and a way of life. Its "Bible", Dianetics, sets out the philosophy behind the religion and outlines how it is that one can fulfil one's own potential, and become an 'operating thetan' (OT; a free self determining individual). The basic idea is that we are all polluted with unconscious experiences ('engrams') from our past and from past lives. These negative and inhibiting presences can be 'cleared' through auditing (a therapy offered by the Scientologists). This process utilises a device called an E-meter which purports to weigh the mass of your thoughts. It has been described by critics as a primitive polygraph (lie detector).

Dianetics claims to be a science. It is "an organised science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those physical sciences" (p.6, Dianetics). By science, Scientologists mean something which is certain and complete; a collection of theories which explain everything. This claim to certainty is the most seductive aspect of Scientology. Certainty is even more appealing at times of crisis and transition in our lives.

When one believes that there can be certainty and that Scientology is the only way to have this certainty, this belief dictates all perception and understanding of reality. Because Scientology has theories which explain everything, the world can appear to operate in the ways they describe. Even critics of Scientology can be explained by Scientology. The usual designation of a non-believer is a suppressive person (SP). These people are dangerous and evil and must be fought against. Scientologists also believe that SPs only criticise Scientology because they actually believe in it but want to further their own evil goals by suppressing the truth. Helmut Kohl (Chancellor of Germany) has recently been discriminating against Scientologists. Chick Corea had gigs cancelled, Germans were urged to boycott Mission Impossible, and other Scientologists have been denied visas. Scientologists see Kohl as an SP; but one who knows the truth of Scientology even though he is trying to restrict it.

Scientologists do not admit any evil into the natural world. Most illness is psychosomatic; caused directly by engrams. A Clear, someone free of engrams, will not get colds or arthritis. Hitler was a madman because he underwent psychiatric treatment. All violence is caused by drugs, homosexuals are perversions and suppressive people are in denial of the truth of Scientology and thus evil.

Why A Cult?

There is a great deal of excellent literature explaining some of the finer points and subtle contradictions of the Co$ (Church of Scientology; this acronym is used extensively on the net). A good place to start with an examination of the cult status of Scientology is with a checklist for identifying cults.

The Cult Information Centre in London (www.infoman.demon.co.uk/definit.html) defines any cult as "having all of the following 5 characteristics". Using these characteristics, it is possible to explore exactly how it is that Scientology 'qualifies' as a cult.

1. It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members.

Psychological coercion is basically brain washing. Many cults have been 'busted' using brain washing in its crudest form, ie. sleep, food and light deprivation, separation from family and so on. Although these conditions are not at all apparent in mainstream Scientology, there is a six week retreat called the 'purification run down', which occurs early in the process of joining the Church. With the aim of ridding the body's fatty tissues of toxins, all of the abovementioned occur. Budding scientologists are subjected to six weeks of sixteen hour days - rigorous exercise, long sessions in the sauna, scientology sessions and 'auditing' sessions (sessions with an E-meter). All this is done on a plain fruit and vegetable diet with huge doses of a "vitamin drink" which is supposed to bring to the surface drug and alcohol experiences. There is actually a GP present at every purification rundown - but of course he or she is a Scientologist too.

After this initial rundown, a more subtle and ongoing form of brain washing begins. The most effective brain washing method is that which the potential member does not recognise as such. Successful reprogramming is the kind in which the subject believes he is thinking, choosing, examining arguments and deciding. L. Ron Hubbard (LRH; the founder and leader of the Co$) advised his recruiters not to let potential members make decisions. In a policy letter to "All Divisions handling the public individual" LRH writes, "We have learned the hard way that an individual from the public must never be asked to decide or choose". The rightness of this is justified as follows. LRH writes that he has found the 'hidden datum' which will explain why this is so, "to decide one has to understand", and on the "big org [organisation] chart, you can quite plainly see that Understanding is higher than the point of public entrance into processing". Basically, coming in off the street, one cannot possibly be advanced enough to understand enough to be able to make a choice. For their own best interests, individuals should not be allowed to choose or decide.

But at the same time, the potential member is led to believe that they are making a critical judgement. "Data" is given and logically structured arguments are put forward.

2. It forms an elitist totalitarian society.

If you are not a Scientologist you are evil or suppressed, or both - you are a Suppressive Person (SP), an evil which must be confronted. The organisation is highly structured. Levels and awards, various kinds of honours and commendations are in place; all hierarchical. But no person could be higher than the founder, L. Ron Hubbard. He is the totalitarian dictator even in the absence of death.

3. Its founder/leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, charismatic, and not accountable for the actions of the members.

Founder and leader of the Scientologists is L. Ron Hubbard (affectionately known as LRH). There are numerous rumours surrounding him. He has been quoted as saying that the best way to make money is to start a religion, and that the entire religion was the result of a bet; he has also been said to have recanted on his death bed, admitting that the entire construct was a sham. No-one can be sure about these things. What we can be sure about is the reverence which Scientologists have for LRH. Any centre is full of books, all written by LRH. Any scientology article will quote him, even on contemporary issues.

LRH is the pioneer of the good fight. Scientologists believe that they are the only group capable of solving the world's problems, and it is their responsibility to do so. A man like LRH can hardly be accountable when he has all the answers; he will never be wrong. We also know that in any centre there will be a bust and/or portraits of LRH. When reading from his writings, members may stand looking in the direction of the bust and applaud.

4. It believes that 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds and recruit people.

Back here to the first point; a non-Scientologist cannot possibly know what is good for him, being controlled by engrams as he is, and not having the Understanding of an indoctrinated Scientologist. LRH says it for us, "The moral is very plain. Never ask anyone in the public files to Decide or Choose". It should be clear by now that the world is divided into Scientologists and SPs.

5. Its wealth does not benefit its members or society.

This is a difficult area for someone who hasn't actually been in the organisation. It's hard to see where the exorbitant fees charged for courses go (especially when they are often exercises conducted with another initiate). The free publications and videos are especially glossy and professional, but the "War Chest" always needs topping up. (Remember, this is a war against evil; all the rhetoric of battle and armies is used.) The Co$ runs extremely successful drug rehabilitation centres (NARCONON) all over the world. But certainly their critics have said that all organisations associated with the Co$ (for example the Citizens Commission on Human Rights: CCHR) are only fronts, used to recruit more members and further the Co$ cause without being explicit as to their affiliations.


Scientology is enjoying quite a deal of adverse publicity at the moment. (They are also creating their own; full page ads in the New York Times confronting the evil of Germany.) This is mainly because of their litigious activities against internet service providers and anyone who dares to speak out against them. This adversarial attitude is justified because they are confronting evil; ie, non Co$.

In 1994 Dennis Erlich, a former high level Scientologist, revealed secrets about the Co$ on the net (on alt.religion.scientology). His house was raided under court order and all material, hard and soft copies, relating to the Co$ was confiscated. In their defence, the Co$ argue that their teaching are confidential trade secrets; they argue that they own the intellectual property rights to them.

The Co$ has also managed to shut down various anonymous remailers (services on the net which protect the identity of posters) Cult Awareness Network (CAN) which the Co$ seemed to regard as a cult. However, the Co$ profess "That all men have inalienable rights to think freely, to talk freely, to write freely their own opinions and to counter or utter or write upon the opinions of others" (Reference Guide to the Scientology Religion).

Trying to argue with the theories of Scientology is like trying to argue with Pauline Hanson. You know she's wrong, but there is some twisted truth in what she says. The Co$ identify many legitimate problems in society; violence, drugs, maltreatment of psychiatric patients, illiteracy and so on. The problem is that the causes are grossly oversimplified. "One for one every mass murderer has had psychiatric treatment" or have been found to have massive amounts of Prozac in their bloodstream, they assert in an effort to confront the evil of psychiatry. But co-incidence does not amount to causation. Comfort does not always amount to truth.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the editors or Students Association.
The Author of this article wishes to remain anonymous.

Scientology's Angels

"Celebrities are very Special people and have a very distinct line of dissemination. They have common lines that others do not have and many medias to get their dissemination through"
From Flag Order 3323, 9 May 1973.

The notoriously vacuous state of celebrity has its religious equivalent in Scientology, "Religion to the Stars". One can garner pretty much all one needs to know about this mysterious cult by looking at the astonishingly insipid comments offered by the various stars trotted out to publicise the church. As Kate Ceberano tells us:

"Dianetics is a highly technical book ... Read it and be sure to look up any words that you do not understand."

You mean like "insubstantial", "mind-numbing" and "manipulative", Kate? Reading Dianetics, or the liner-notes from the various Scientology "personalities", is like watching a 10 hour infomercial. Like the abdominiser commercial, we'll pull out a minor star from a day-time soap who, in some mysterious way, proves our product is worthwhile simply by being there.

Tom Cruise, Mimi Rogers, Candice Bergen, Kirstie Alley, and John Travolta are all high-profile scientologists who have been drawn in by the "Celebrity Centres", the largest of which is (of course) in Hollywood to "minister to artists and other professionals."

Scientology thus acts as an interesting metaphor for the entity that celebrity has become at the end of the Twentieth Century. Our politicians are now manufactured in a similar manner to our film stars so why not have our religion manufactured in the same way? It all seems perfectly reasonable in a world where simply being famous is viewed as an enormous achievement. In a way Scientology is the logical love-child of a society obsessed with masturbation.


  1. [leaflet covers: 'Psychiatry: Destroying Morals', 'Creating Racism: Psychiatry's Betrayal', 'Psychiatry: Victimizing The Eldery', 'Psychiatric Rape'] Some examples of Scientology's anti-psychiatry literature.

  2. [Hubbard] The man who started it all: L Ron Hubbard. Scientologists deny he started the religion after a bet about what was the fastest way to make money.

  3. [Quantum VII E-meter, red] Not a prop from Star Trek (not unless John Travolta's guest-starring, anyway). This is an E-meter, the Scientology device described by critics as a "crude polygraph".

  4. [Travolta] John Travolta attributes the success of his 1995 comeback to Scientology

  5. [Cruise] Tom was crushed when his wife Nic decided to leave the Church of Scientology

  6. [Ceberano] Kate Ceberano is third generation Scientologist

  7. [Alley] Even failed celebrity Kirsty Alley is welcome in the Church of Scientology

Also see the Church of Scientology's reply to the above, Making your own decision about Scientology.