on 26 September 2012
L. Ron Hubbard's "Scientology: A history of man" is just as rambling, incoherent and frankly bizarre as promised. Promised, that is, by the opponents of Scientology, the controversial new religion founded by Hubbard and often regarded as a cult. Scientologists themselves actually believe in this stuff, claimed by the author to be "a cold-blooded and factual account of your last 76 trillion years". Weirdly, this screed is publicly available, in contrast to the notorious material on Xenu, which is kept under wraps despite sounding much more logical! But then, perhaps it's pointless to understand the genial mind of Lafayette Ron Hubbard?
"Scientology: A history of man" isn't really directed at the general public, which makes it even harder to understand why the author decided to have it published and publicly circulated Rather, it's a book directed at Scientology "auditors", who supposedly have the ability to "clear" people of their "engrams" with the help of an "E-meter". The in-house character of the book makes it difficult to read, due to the large number of neologisms (not always explained in the glossary) and Hubbard's rambling, occasionally frivolous, style.
My impression is that those subjected to the "E-meter" are somehow hypnotized, and start to relive their previous lives, including lives on other planets. In "Dianetics", Hubbard sounds sceptical to people who get out-of-body experiences or see previous lives while being "audited", but he clearly changed his mind later on. Indeed, in this book he says that the "engrams" are more easily destroyed if they are sought out in previous existences, rather than in this life. Essentially, Hubbard discovered (or re-discovered?) past-life regression therapy. It's a pity he didn't use it for more benign ends...
Since Hubbard's book is so "out there", reviewing it aint easy, but I'm going to give it my best shot. Scholars of religion consider Scientology to be a modern version of Gnosticism, which seems about right, at least with the added proviso that we're dealing with a badly distorted version.
There's a dualism between spirit and matter in Hubbard's system, with spirit being good and matter being (mostly) bad. There doesn't seem to be any personal god. The physical or material universe is called MEST. Human souls are called "thetans" or "theta beings". Their ultimate origin is not spelled out in this particular book, but they seem to have a past in distant star systems. About 30,000 years ago, the thetans incarnated in primitive human beings on our planet, turning them into...us. The primitive humans taken over by the thetans are products of a protracted evolution, which seems panpsychist in character. This evolutionary process has given rise to something Hubbard calls the GE or Genetic Entity. This seems to be a kind of subconscious mind, which reincarnates in rough evolutionary sequence: from micro-organisms to plants to invertebrates to mammals, ending with cavemen. Each human is therefore a composite being, consisting of both thetan and GE, with the thetan being the "real I".
Unfortunately, both the GE and the thetan have been badly battered during their respective sojourns in MEST. Many human fears and ailments are the result of the GE having various negative experiences when being a Clam, a Sloth, Piltdown Man or Caveman (to mention just a few of its incarnations). This part of Hubbard's book makes for some really entertaining reading! Only space limitations and Scientology copyright stops me from quoting Hubbard's statements about the Sloth, Piltdown Man or the Grim Weeper (a.k.a. Boohoo). The thetan is also something of a crippled veteran. It seems that thetans and MEST beings (i.e. thetans trapped in physical bodies) wage constant wars against each other. Thetans also fight other thetans. One of the purposes of Scientology is to rid humans of the negative psychological imprints haunting the thetans and the GE. This is done by the previously mentioned "auditing" procedure.
It's unclear whether the thetans incarnated on our planet voluntarily, or whether they were forced. Several chapters of the book imply the latter alternative. Indeed, the worldview of Hubbard occasionally sounds quite paranoid. Evil beings of unknown provenance are trapping thetans, injecting them with artificial implants ("Injected Entities" or "demon circuits") with a quasi-consciousness all their own. Hubbard claims that all humans have been processed in this manner. The whole thing sounds like a high-tech version of demon possession. There are entire civilizations whose rulers control thetans with powerful electromagnetic weapons, turning them into mindless slaves. Thetans constantly try to steal memories ("facsimiles") from each other. Evil physical beings trap them by throwing them small boxes containing pictures of small boxes (you heard me). Thetans like having sex by possessing humans in the dead of night, etc. The entire MEST seems filled with "trapping stations" to lure thetans into the material world. New Age fluffiness obviously wasn't Hubbard's thing: thetans who believe they have a purpose for being on Earth, are simply tricked and deluded by evil beings. It also seems that thetans can "die", not literally, but they can be rendered more or less unconscious and hence start to decay.
Occasionally, the author gets rather nasty. Thus, Hubbard claims that Scientologists can intentionally harm people by asking them the following question: "Can you imagine a clam sitting on the beach, opening and closing its shell very rapidly?" while making a motion with the thumb and forefinger of a rapid opening and closing. This re-stimulates the GE's memory of being the Clam, giving the victim a severe toothache, and perhaps even forces them to pull out some teeth. Hubbard recommends that this method (really a form of black magic) be used on sceptics who question the veracity of Scientology! At another point, Hubbard claims that "auditing" might occasionally be so powerful that the person audited will die?!
Still, it's difficult to take "A history of man" seriously, due to its many bizarre statements about...well, pretty much everything. I suppose the later legend about Xenu is supposed to be a more worked-out version of themes only hinted at in the earlier books. Hubbard, after all, claimed to be a kind of scientific explorer. He didn't present the message of Scientology all at once, as special revelation. Rather, he seems to have developed it over a longer period, during which he came progressively closer to the truth. Or so he claimed.
I don't believe a word of it, but had I done so, I would have been tempted to explain Hubbard's explorations as astral travel in some really low, demon-haunted realm. He, rather than the "thetans", is the real victim of trickery carried out by evil beings. Or at least highly aberrated ones.
This is indeed modern Gnosticism. Or perhaps Gnosticism on speed...
on 21 July 2015
If you are a student of religion and not just looking to join one then you should read this. It is the Bible, Koran, Torah of Scientology. A friend of mine told me about it after I told them I had read about Scientology in another book about Cults. They said that the Dianetics book, which everyone thinks is the basis for Scientology, is in fact just about the therapy they use and they told me if I wanted to know the real background to Scientology then I should read this book as well, so I did. I also study comparative religion and I have now read quite a few books about Scientology.
It is very bizarre and 'off the wall' to say the least but it did help me understand some of the aspects of Scientology I did not understand before, for example why they talk about engrams, thetans and why Dianetics even exists.
I have found out though that apparently Scientologists in the Church are hostile to this book and they even deny it exists, which is odd as that is like the Catholic Church denying the New Testament. Although I should imagine the book would not provide positive PR for them as it is quite 'out there'. Having said that, from studying many religions and cults, 'out there' is the what you come to expect, humans are basically weird, odd and absurd and as humans invented religions it follows that religions are also bizarre and this book is no exception.
I seriously doubt the book would convert anyone to Scientology, in fact it is likely to scare people off, which maybe explains Church members hostility towards it?
It explains why there is a volcano on the front of all those Dianetics books, which is handy for all us religion buffs, as it details the 'history' of why L. Ron Hubbard came up with that idea and how it connects to the other things they practice.
One thing is for certain you will not forget this book once you have read it and you will not have read anything like it before, or maybe ever will again. It does have a psychedelic feel to it and reading it can seem like some bizarre trip at times but definitely worth a read and it will give you a deeper insight into one of the most secretive and weird religions around.