The Church of Scientology, Salt Lake City, Utah
by Martin Kuprianowicz
|The Scientology emblem representing "the 8 dynamics of life."|
The Church of Scientology building is located on a semi-busy street in a quiet neighborhood of suburban Salt Lake City. I probably drive past it several times a week going to and from the University of Utah where I attended classes. I've always been curious of Scientology and have always heard different stories as to what the religion really was about. So, one morning I decided to stop on my way back from class and check the building out to find out more about this religion, its history, and its practices. Here's what I learned.
Scientology is a religion invented in May 1952 by American author and WWII veteran L. Ron Hubbard (1911-86). Hubbard initially created a set of a ideals called Dianetics which served to promote mental health among individuals. Dianetics was originally distributed through the Dianetics Foundation, but the foundation soon entered bankruptcy and Hubbard lost the rights to his founding book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1952. Hubbard then retransformed the subject as a religion and renamed it Scientology. He regained the rights to Dianetics and started the Church of Scientology.
"Everyone wants to know, what is this thing called life?"- Anne Ying, a Salt Lake City Patron of Scientology.
The Church of Scientology claims that all humans have within their physical bodies immortal, spiritual beings called "Thetans." This was discovered by L. Ron Hubbard who used this assertion to create Dianetics and later Scientology. According to Scientology, its beliefs, practices, and doctrines are equal significance to scientific laws. This, a scientologist will claim, is due to the rigorous research conducted by L. Ron. Hubbard.
The core of Scientology teaching is the belief that "each human has a reactive mind that responds to life's traumas, clouding the analytic mind and keeping us from experiencing reality." Scientologists undergo an "auditing" of sorts to discover sources of this trauma, and they believe that re-experiencing the trauma neutralizes it, allowing you to achieve a a spiritual state that Scientology calls "Clear." At the Church of Scientology they sell L. Ron Hubbard's book on Dianetics as well as his other works, and new members are encouraged to buy and study them. Lifetime memberships at the Church of Scientology begin at $3000.
Scientology doesn't preach or impose a particular idea of God on Scientologists. On the other hand, people are expected to discover the truth through their own observations as they continue to heighten their awareness through Scientology's practices. Anne described Scientology as, "a religion you can use with other religions." According to she and other Scientologists, you are not only welcomed but are encouraged to use the knowledge and awareness you gain from Scientology practices within your own rite, or wherever you see fit. You are encouraged to use Scientology in a way that helps you personally.
"The Church of Scientology has no set dogma concerning God that it imposes on its members. As with all its tenets, Scientology does not ask individuals to accept anything on faith alone. Rather, as one's level of spiritual awareness increases through participation in Scientology auditing and training, one attains his own certainty of every dynamic. Accordingly, only when the Seventh Dynamic (spiritual) is reached in its entirety will one discover and come to a full understanding of the Eighth Dynamic (infinity) and one's relationship to the Supreme Being." - L. Ron Hubbard.
On Sundays, mass is held at the Church of Scientology. After finding this out from my initial visit to the Church building, I decided I attend one. When I got there on a Sunday, a patron was reading from one of L. Ron Hubbard's scripts and was encouraging new persons to join into Scientology. I was not the only one curious about Scientology that day. Joseph, a Salt Lake City local who was raised LDS was attending because he never really felt accepted by the religion he was born into, and wanted to try and figure out things on his own. After Sunday mass, he and I took a tour of the church grounds with Scientologist patron Anne Ying. Anne was an older woman in her mid-sixties of Chinese origin and was dressed in a dapper, black suit with a white shirt and black tie. She had short, grey hair, glasses, and wore a gold Scientology pin on the collar of her jacket.
"How would you feel if you just can't be who you are?" Joseph asked Anne and I when describing himself to us, and what brought him in to Sunday mass at the Church of Scientology.
Joseph was intrigued by the concept of Scientology because of the freedom he thought it could allow him, as opposed to other religions. In Scientology they aren't telling you how to think or how to act or how you need to be -- instead they present you with a core set of values and practices for you to use where it applies for you; to use what works for you to better your own life.
For example, a practice in Scientology and one that is especially encouraged for new or joining members is the process of detoxifying your body, also known as the 'Purification Rundown.' According to the church, the Purification Rundown is a detoxification program which enables an individual to rid himself of the harmful effects of drugs, toxins, and other chemicals that lodge themselves in the body and create a biochemical barrier to spiritual well-being. This is just one of the many practices within Scientology that promote your own general well-being.
But what else, besides promoting your own mental health and general sense of well-being, does Scientology focus on? I wanted to find out more so I talked to Preston Ramsey, a twenty-something year-old man who's been involved with the church since he was a child. Preston works at the Church building in Salt Lake and although both his parents are Scientologists, he wasn't coerced into the religion by his parents, he said. Instead, he said that he was allowed to choose what religion he wanted to be a part of when he was a child. He said that Scientology was an obvious choice. He then went forward to describe to me the eight dynamics, or eight core values that make up Scientology.
The eight dynamics of Scientology in ascending order, go as follow: self, spouse, family, mankind, environment, the universe, spirituality, and infinity. These are the most important things in the life of a Scientologist are to be treated and spoken about with the utmost respect. In Scientology, one must have a good relationship with all eight dynamics before any personal healing or spiritual attainment can happen. Preston and I talked a bit about the 4th dynamic - mankind, and how Scientologists help people with 4D campaigns, which is one of Preston's favorite things about Scientology.
"What I like a lot is that I've seen personal change in people, like someone can not be doing well in life - their medication might be putting them down or whatever is the case - and you just personally lift them out of that and just show them there is a better way of just living."
Preston's remarks were thoughtful but by the time our tour ended, I was not really buying the whole concept of Scientology. Joseph, who I had attended the mass and taken the tour with, on the other hand, was fascinated by all he heard and wanted to learn more. He went forward to take a specialized personality test designed by Scientologists for new Scientologists, which Anne told us would give him a perspective on how he felt about himself. This test would establish a baseline for how Joseph would start to heal his own mind through Scientology.
Looking back at the entire experience, I had a welcoming feeling of overall acceptance from the Scientologists at the Church of Scientology as the members of the church were quite nice, but there was something about the whole experience that was just a little off. It all felt a little too fabricated by one person to be something that I would buy into, but then again I've always been a skeptic.
As I was leaving the church grounds I wondered how Joseph's personality test would go, and if he would plan to dive deeper into Scientology, or if he felt the same feeling as I that it was all a little too good to be true. Perhaps the alluring concept of being able to attain direct results from established practices, with claims of being able to heal your own mind and tap into the oneness that transcends all eight dynamics, as well as the non-denominational attitude held by Scientologists are what members of the church find so appealing. According to recent statistics, however, the population of Scientologists is on the decline. 25,000 active members were documented in the United States in 2011 which is a 30,000 person decrease from the previous census enacted by the Church showing a total of 55,000 members nationwide in 2001. Who knows what the future of Scientology will entail?