The question arose whether I wanted to write something about my experiences with Scientology and my view on it. “Is it a cult or a religion in your opinion?” Was the question. In general, belief and religion is already a sensitive topic, but when it comes to Scientology this only seems to further sharpen the issue. My approach is therefore to be as open as possible about it and to tell about my personal experiences. I therefore hope not to give the impression that I am going to tell an objective, scientific story here. I just tell you what I have experienced and what conclusions I have drawn from it. If people have questions after the time, I will try to answer them as well as possible.
First, it is important to clarify some concepts. Otherwise, we can easily get caught up in discussions where we use the same word while assigning very different meanings to that word. Perhaps we should do that for the word god worldwide. If we then understand what exactly everyone means by it, half of the conflicts and arguments about it could be resolved just like that.
Let's start with religion. What does the Wikipedia say about this?
below religion (from Latin religio, see Etymology below) is usually understood to be one of the many forms of meaning, or the search for meaningful connections, usually centered on a higher power, supreme being or god. In a broader sense, the word "religion" denotes a more general form of spirituality, feelings, thoughts related to the meaning of life.
And what does the Wikipedia say about cults?
The word sect is in its original sense a religious movement that, often through schism, has split off from a larger religious movement or organization. The second meaning is that of a new religious movement, often founded by a charismatic leader with a new teaching or revelation. A sect is a group of people who, mainly out of a desire for purity and with the absolutization of a partial truth, breaks the solidarity with the larger whole of the group, and who no longer experience this break as sorrow.
Finally, it is also important to clarify what faith is, as some people mistakenly see this as synonymous with religion. This is what Wikipedia says about faith.
To believe is the psychological state of someone who is willing, under certain conditions, to accept a certain statement (proposition) as true. Belief in the religious context is a form of belief and trust in God or gods, a higher truth or reality (for example, Nirvana), an institution that embodies a particular belief, or a system of precepts.
Before proceeding first, it may be helpful to briefly describe my personal experiences with Scientology so that people are well aware of how (limited) my knowledge of the subject actually is.
In 2001 while traveling through Australia I joined a Church of Scientology in Sydney. I read their basic book Dianetics and the theory found that survival is the basis of all life interesting. I also found their views on how we have different kinds of minds and how these minds have the function of calculating the best survival for us to be a very practical idea. However, as is the case on a trip, you get many impressions, when I returned to the Netherlands I did not do anything with Scientology at first.
I started studying Biology at the University of Groningen and came across a very mechanical and materialistic world view. I got the impression that from biology we are actually nothing more than 4 Lego blocks from which our DNA is built and I somehow felt very uncomfortable about that. I remembered Scientology, which I thought it had quite biological principles, but left room for a soul, and so I decided to visit the Church of Scientology in Amsterdam.
I was pleasantly surprised by the exceptionally friendly people I met in the church. I found out that Scientology has two branches, as it were. First a knowledge side about how people can improve their own survival in many areas of life by learning about it. And also a therapy side to discharge the reactive mind so that it no longer has to make irrational decisions for you. Since the therapy side required a lot of time, money and presence, I have never explored this strongly. In contrast, I immersed myself all the more and learned a lot from their basic ideas about improving self-survival and wider dynamics. In addition, I have also read almost all the books on their theory about the purpose and operation of the mind and listened to several series of lectures about this.
At one point I was so fascinated by them that, if they all knew it so well, I would like to see what their most important organization in Europe looked like. To have a look here you have to join the Sea Org and I understood that if I wanted to take a closer look this was the next step. My whole idea behind this was never to become an active member there, but mainly to observe how things actually work there and whether or not I liked it. Incidentally, this is not quite the right motivation according to Scientology, but I was just as concerned about it as from friends and family who said I should perhaps not do it given the stories they had read here and there on the internet about the organization. Stubborn as I was and in search of my own truth on the subject I got on a plane to Copenhagen and started with the basic course (EPF = Estate Project Force) for the Sea Org in Denmark.
In the two weeks that I was here, we were put to work and study hard. Everyone got a good meal and enough sleep. I was pleasantly surprised with the international climate that prevailed, people from all over Europe working together to achieve their common goals. Still, I thought it was enough after two weeks. The enthusiasm and work ethic that these people display, and to a certain extent also the like-mindedness about religion, I did not consider an environment in which I saw myself become happy in the long term. I then also stopped and returned to the Netherlands. I have to admit this took some resolution on my part but this went fine. As long as I clearly stated what I did and did not want and why this was respected. I therefore said goodbye there in a good way and after that I went to church regularly to learn more about books and lectures. Even today, I still come to church every now and then to check out an event and to see how their social betterment program is doing worldwide. A number of these programs such as spreading human rights and a moral code based on common sense I also link to through from my own website www.humanrights.org
This as a bird's eye view of my personal experience with Scientology. It may also be helpful to mention that I have never been interested only in Scientology. In addition to Scientology, the Bible, the Tao, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and many other religious, spiritual, scientific and popular books & lectures, I have viewed and listened to in my quest for the essence of myself, and the meaning of “Life, The universe and Everyting ”. For example, I am currently busy with Byron Katie and taking a meditation course at the local Buddhist center in my hometown in Oslo. I would certainly not define myself exclusively as a Scientologist but rather as someone on a quest for useful truths. I would like to remind myself of the words of the Dalai Lama: "The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual's own reason and critical analysis."
With the definitions used in hand and my own history with Scientology, I come to the following conclusions for myself. Scientology contains a certain amount of knowledge within which statements are made about the nature of the self, the nature of the universe and to some degree about god. In that sense, Scientology is therefore a new religion. I myself would not choose the word cult because Scientology does not want to close itself off from society at all, but rather wants to improve it very consciously from their vision of a better survival. I think their social improvement programs are in the field human rights, a non religious code based on common sense, a study method, a education program on the dangers of drugs, help with it drug addiction, information about the dangers of psychiatric medication, the volunteer ministers and help with it rehabilitate criminals all are good examples of this. This is unseen whether these programs help and whether people agree with their point of view or not. It shows a clear will to interact with the wider society and so I don't think cult is a good definition in that sense. Also, my experience is that little faith is required in Scientology. In that sense it is very similar to Buddhism, it includes a number of insights about yourself and the universe and it is up to people themselves to see what they want to do with it. In my view, Scientology can best be described as a new religion with all the good and bad sides that religions generally have.
These are my personal experiences and personal conclusions. I would especially advise people to investigate themselves and use their own common sense and thus arrive at their own truth. It is almost paradoxical that I have encountered a group of people in Scientology who accepted almost blindly everything that Hubbard said, while in the lectures of Hubbard himself I read the opposite. (According to him you have to investigate things yourself and if something is true for you, it is true for you and if something is not true for you it is not true for you. If you take something on authority without experiencing the self loss your integrity, according to him.) In addition, Scientology has a group of critics who do roughly the exact opposite, namely, by definition see everything Scientology does or says as bad. In my view, both groups are a bit lost and do too little research themselves. Die-hard Scientologists would, as far as I'm concerned, read the stories of the critics read on and see if they can use this to improve their organization from within. In addition, the critics would agree basic book read through Scientology and step into a church to chat with a Scientologist. This is how they may learn the most from each other and I think that should always be the most important goal. Discuss openly with each other, listen to each other's points of view and all parties can learn from it.
So much for my vision, if there are any questions, please let me know.
Finally, a number of websites:
Official Dutch Scientology website: http://www.scientology.nl/
Dutch wikipedia article about Scientology: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientology
Youtube channel of (as far as I know) the best organized group of Scientology critics: http://www.youtube.com/user/xenutv1