On the face of it, one would think that Scientology has absolutely nothing to do with Communism. The latter is, after all, a secular ideology and an implacable foe of religion. Scientology, on the other hand, is a religion and is described by Janet Reitman in her book Inside Scientology as “staunchly anti-communist” (P. 59). Both, however, seek to bring about a secular utopia. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels held that true Communism will be achieved when the state has withered away and the administration of people has been replaced by the administration of things. In such a society, they said, people will work according to their ability and receive according to their needs. (See The Theory and Practice of Communism 5th Ed. by R. N. Carew Hunt P. 26.) The The aims of Scientology are equally idealistic: “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights.” (Quoted from a Scientology brochure by David V. Barrett in The New Believers P. 447).
This will only happen, Scientologists say, once the planet has been ‘cleared’. The concept ‘clear’ was coined by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard (whose photograph accompanies this post), when he created it’s precursor Dianetics. Since Dianetics forms the basis of Scientology, the Church of Scientology adopted the date when Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was published in 1950 for the commencement of their calendar. It is, like the Christian calendar, abbreviated to A.D. (After Dianetics) so that 2018 would in their terminology be 68 A.D. According to Hubbard, a ‘clear’, also known as an ‘Operating Thetan’, is someone who has successfully undergone a psychological process called ‘auditing’ which is supposed to remove any traumas or ‘engrams’ stored in the ‘reactive mind’ (the unconscious) from the time of conception, including when he or she was an embryo. A clear is a superman (or woman) whose IQ is much higher than the average person, and has, among other things, a superior memory. Hubbard did not claim to be a clear, but said that a certain student by the name of Sonya Bianca was. A demonstration of her powers before a large audience in Los Angeles in 1950 was, however, a complete failure. Not only was Bianca unable to remember what the colour of Hubbard’s tie was when he turned his back, but she could not even recall a single formula in physics (the subject in which she was majoring). A large portion of the audience subsequently walked out in disgust. (See Fad and Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner P. 270.)
But pseudo scientists are not easily discouraged. When the mental health establishment didn’t want to buy into his ideas and the revenue from his Dianetics therapy dried up, Hubbard simply founded a church called Scientology in 1954 and declared Dianetics to be the dogma of the new religion. It solved all his financial problems overnight. Not only was Scientology, like other religions, exempt from paying tax, but he could, as revered founder of the new faith, require that his ‘parishioners’ (as the faithful are called) undergo therapy while paying exorbitant fees for the various courses he had concocted. He told them that these courses constituted ‘the bridge to total freedom’ that would enable them to become Operating Thetans. Hubbard was ruthless in persuading his flock to part with their money. Scientology is the only religion that I know of, that is run like a business and tries it’s level best to fleece it’s parishioners.
Is Scientology a religion as it claims? It’s website states that Scientologists believe in the ‘Eighth Dynamic’ and equates it with God, but church services are not devoted to worshiping this so-called Eighth Dynamic. The church does not have scriptures and it’s sermons (if they can be called so) consist mostly of reading from the writings of Hubbard. It is of course possible to see Hubbard as the prophet and/or messiah of Scientology which certainly gives it more legitimacy as a religion. Scientologists believe that a paradise can be achieved on earth if everyone can be persuaded to believe in their doctrines. They also believe in reincarnation and the paranormal . If all these factors are considered together, it sounds on the face of it as if it is indeed a religion. That is what the High Court in Victoria, Australia found in October 1983. According to the judge it is a religion because “…adherents accept the tenets of Scientology as relevant to determining their beliefs,their moral standards and their way of life.” (See Stewart Lamont Religion Inc. P.147). Other courts begged to differ. When the matter was argued in the United States Tax Court in 1984, the judge ruled that Scientology is compelled to pay tax because it didn’t meet the criteria for being a religion. What it did instead, the court said, was to “make a business out of selling religion.” (Reitman P. 161). Despite this judgement against them, the cult never paid a cent to the authorities. When the Inland Revenue Service (IRS) tried to force the Scientologists to pay, they overwhelmed the IRS with more more than 200 law suits, forcing the latter to sign a settlement with them in 1993, exempting them from paying tax.
It is interesting to compare their belief system with that of the Communists. The latter have always claimed to be a political party and definitely do not take kindly to being called a religion. Nevertheless, the ardour with which Communists hold their beliefs, to the point of fanaticism, and the utopian promises that they make to their followers certainly sounds religious. At the very least, it imitates religion to a large extent. According to this view dialectical materialism, the doctrine which asserts that matter is primary and that general laws govern the motion and development of all matter, is the communist equivalent of God. The communist prophets would be Marx and Engels and the messiah Lenin while the Church is replaced by the Party and the elect or the chosen people by the proletariat. The paradise that they promise, is a classless and stateless society. Moreover, as Charles W. Sutherland points out in his book Disciples of Destruction (P.298), Communism evolved into “… a creed with anti-rational invocations to scriptures and doctrines, instead of human reason (and so)…became a religion.” This was also the view of Bertrand Russell who wrote in 1920 in his book The Theory and Practice of Bolshevism that “Bolshevism as a social phenomenon is to be reckoned as a religion, not an ordinary political movement.”
Both Communists and Scientologists claim that their dogmas are science based. Hubbard, a hack science fiction writer, who dropped out of university without obtaining a degree in engineering, but later awarded himself a PhD through the so-called Sequoia University, called his book on Dianetics “scientific”. Communists likewise claim that what they practice should be called “scientific socialism”. True scientists, of course, is supposed to concede when they are wrong if evidence comes to hand which refutes a cherished theory that they hold. Both Communists and Scientologists, however, not only reject any well-founded criticism of their belief systems but ruthlessly suppress any evidence with which it is in conflict. Scientologists, for instance, have a history of waging a war against the sciences of psychiatry and psychology whom they claim are behind a conspiracy to discredit it. According to them psychiatrists are fascists, rapists and killers and should be banned. (See Lamont P. 120 – 133 and Reitman P. 84 – 87). Communists, on the other hand, have cast their net much wider and sought to prescribe to many scientific disciplines that in their view conflict with their philosophy what they should do. Stalin, for instance, suppressed evolutionary theory and modern genetics and appointed a pseudo scientist, Trofim Lysenko, to a position of power so that he could bring recalcitrant scientists to heel. Meddling also took place in sciences such as physics and chemistry because aspects of those disciplines were supposedly in conflict with communist dogma. (See Walter Gratzer The Undergrowth of Science P. 177 – 218 and Simon Ings Stalin and the Scientists).
In addition, Communists and Scientologists have little respect for the view of the majority and in both organizations power is wielded in much the same authoritarian way. Communists traditionally claim to be democrats, but the manner in which elections are held in countries where they hold power can only be described as a farce. The essence of democracy is of course the ability of the electorate to topple the government in an election. This happens when a majority of them decide they no longer wish to be governed by the ruling party and vote for the opposition. The Communists have, however, cunningly removed that obstacle by outlawing opposition parties and having the name of only one candidate on the ballot – the one approved by them. That way they know they cannot possibly be voted out of power. Scientologists have never declared themselves opposed to democracy. However, the way in which the current leader of the cult, David Miscavige (whose official title is ‘Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center’) exercises power clearly shows that he is an autocrat and cannot be held accountable. (That is why he refers to himself as “the Pope of Scientology”). There is also, unlike the case in a democracy, no mechanism for the election of it’s leader and his removal if he makes himself guilty of an abuse of power. Because of this, Miscavige usurped power, at the youthful age of 26, after Hubbard died in 1986. Hubbard’s second in command and heir apparent, Pat Broeker, had to flee after the coup d’état. Much the same happened when Stalin outmaneuvered and exiled Trotsky after Lenin’s death. (See Reitman P. 127-155 and compare Dmitri Volkogonov Trotsky P. 240-319.)
In his book Sutherland argues that Communists practice a “theology of hate” (P.293 and further). That is also true of Scientologists. For theirs is anything but a turn-the-other-cheek religion. What is particularly striking about Scientology and Communism is their approach to critics, those that they regard as enemies. There is only a difference of degree between them in the steps that they take to silence or try and silence their perceived enemies. Where Communists are in power and rule a country, they do whatever they like and even kill their opponents. Soon after they took power in the Soviet Union they proceeded to do that just that to all those that were not Bolsheviks. Monarchists, the bourgeois, socialists and the small farmers known as Kulaks were all targeted. In the case of the latter Stalin created a terror-famine which resulted in the death of around five million Kulaks in the Ukraine early in the 1930’s. (See Robert Conquest The Harvest of Sorrow in this regard)
Scientologists, by contrast, are subject to the laws of those countries where they reside. Much as they’d like, they cannot murder their opponents without going to jail. But their hatred runs deep. In their view an enemy of the church is anyone who criticises it. Outsiders are derisively referred to as “wogs.” Reporters, psychiatrists, the government and a host of other people and organizations are automatically labeled enemies or, in their parlance, “suppressive persons” abbreviated to SP. Hubbard issued a policy called “Fair Game” in 1965 in which Scientologists were instructed how to deal with SP’s. According to him they have “…no rights of any kind, and actions against them are not punishable”. (Apparently they do not even have the right to life, guaranteed in section 11 of the South African Constitution.) They may accordingly be “…deprived of property or injured by any means…(and) may be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.” (Reitman P. 113-4).
Although the policy was supposedly cancelled after an outcry in 1968, these instructions of Hubbard’s are presently still followed by Scientologists. They were for instance ruthlessly applied in the case of the journalist Paulette Cooper who wrote a book highly critical of the religion which appeared in 1971 under the title The Scandal of Scientology. The church was up in arms and a hatched a scheme, called “Operation Freakout” to destroy her and punish her for her ‘crimes’. Apart from suing her in 18 separate suits for libel, they tapped her phone, broke into her apartment and stole her stationary with her fingerprints on it. A note with a bomb threat was forged on the stationary and delivered to various institutions and individuals. Members of the church then called the police. Cooper was arrested but fortunately escaped prosecution when the plot was uncovered. Needless to say, she was a nervous wreck by this time. (Lamont P. 71 -2).
Subversive organizations carry out their nefarious activities more efficiently if their opponents are not aware who they are dealing with. Lenin, a master tactician, instructed his fellow communists to disguise the organizations that they found to advance their cause. They were to give them innocent names to mislead the enemy. One of these so-called ‘front’ organizations established after the Second World War was called the “World Peace Council”. ( Carew Hunt P. 202-3.) The Scientologists, for their part, have adopted the same strategy. One of their organizations devoted to fighting psychiatry is called “The Citizens Commission on Human Rights”. (Reitman P.86).
Cults generally have a bad press when it comes to maintaining family ties. Critics often accuse them of breaking up families in the sense that converts frequently decide to sever ties with those family members who are opposed to the cult. Scientology have not avoided this criticism. But in addition to alienating Scientologists from their unbelieving family members, they also alienate believing family members from each other. The reason for this was explained by Ron Miscavige, the father of David Miscavige, in an interview on television. “Family connections”, he said, “are considered a false dynamic. No spiritual being is the father of another spiritual being.” According to him Scientologists believe that the church is their parent and teacher. (Leah Rimini: Scientology and the Aftermath Series 1 Ep. 4). The effect of this was, Ron said, that he was required to address his son, as the head of the church, as “sir” (and was himself never called “dad”, even in private). Moreover, when he, Ron, did something wrong, he was incarcerated on the instructions of his son. He broke completely with the church and his son after his escape.
This view of the church also have other implications for it’s members. It’s elite unit, called the Sea Org, live communally, have few possessions and are paid a pittance. Ron, for instance, received $50 a week (while his son’s net worth was $50 million). More ominously, in order to exercise absolute control over it’s followers, the church requires members to complete a so-called “knowledge report” if they are in possession of any information which may be of interest to the church. It is expected of children to spy on their parents (and vice versa) and complete knowledge reports on them for the benefit of the church authorities. They are taught to do so from a very young age. (See Reitman P. 306).
None of this should surprise a Communist. Marx and Engels held that the family is an immature form of association that should only be allowed in so far as it benefits the state. In their view the child belongs to society and not to the parents. (Carew Hunt P. 285). Accordingly, soon after the Russian Revolution the Communist regime passed a Code on Marriage and the Family in 1918 with the aim of destroying the traditional family. One of the theorists of Soviet schooling wrote at the time that “We must rescue children from the harmful influence of the family (and)…nationalise them…To oblige the mother to give her child to the Soviet state – that is our task.” (See Orlando Figes The Whisperers P. 10 and 20). Moreover, children were encouraged to spy on their parents and report anything that they said or did which may be regarded as treasonable. A cult grew up in the 1930’s around a boy named Pavlik Morozov. He was murdered by his relatives after he had denounced his father Trofim Morozov to the authorities for helping the Kulaks. Trofim was sentenced to a labour camp and later shot. After Pavlik’s murder, the state erected a monument in his honour.(See Figes P. 122 – 5).
Both Scientologists and Communists are confronted by the the dilemma of knowledge – namely what outsiders should be allowed to know and secondly, what knowledge its own followers should be allowed to have. Both resort to lying to combat what they regard as threats and portray themselves in a favourable light. A particularly insidious way of doing that is to falsify history. Although it is not unique to the Communists, they have become by far its the most notorious and skilled practitioners. In North Korea, for example, history books falsely claim that the Korean War (1950 – 1953) was started by South Korea. (Jang Jin-Sung Dear Leader P. 65, 127). The Soviet Union was particularly adept at altering photographs to remove the images of those leaders who had fallen out of favour and had become, what George Orwell called in his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, “unpersons”. (See Robert Conquest The Dragons of Expectation P. 120 – 123).
The Scientologists quickly imitated the Soviets. In 1946 Hubbard married Sara Northrup and fathered a child with her while he was still married to another woman. He and Sara eventually drifted apart. Despite their estrangement and the fact that Hubbard himself had an affair at the time, he became extremely upset when he discovered Sara in bed with a man called Miles Hollister. To him that was unforgivable and he subsequently wrote a letter to the FBI in which he falsely accused Sara of being a Communist. (Reitman P. 35-6). Apart from denying his prior association with her, he took steps to airbrush her out of history by having her image removed from a photograph in which both of them had appeared together. (Leah Rimini: Scientology and the Aftermath Series 2 Ep. 14).
Lies are, however, not enough. If followers have access to the “wrong” facts, it may undermine their trust and faith. The best way to combat that problem is to prevent the faithful from learning the truth. In countries where the Communists hold power, this is easily done by blocking the Internet or banning books or periodicals deemed undesirable. (See e.g. Sutherland P. 396-401). Scientologists have more problems to contend with in the open societies in which they operate. At first they tried to persuade their flock to install Internet blocking devices on their computers. These Internet filter programs were, however, soon obsolete. (Reitman P. 285-6). Children of Scientologists are now instructed not to read any information critical of their religion on the Web on the basis that it will be “entheta”, that is harmful to their spiritual well-being. (Reitman P. 299).
A strategy has been devised by communists rulers to prevent foreigners who visit their countries to speak to anyone that they come across. These visitors are assigned ‘minders’ to check up on them. The Scientologists employ much the same procedure. Journalists (who are all regarded as ‘suppressive persons’) may only speak to the faithful if permission has been granted by the church and they are ‘chaperoned’ by church officials. (Reitman P. 295).
Communists have long sought to control the thought processes of their members or citizens. They wanted to create true believers who would say with Trotsky: “The Party in the last analysis is always right… (for it)… is the single historic instrument given to the proletariat for the solution of its fundamental problems… One can only be right with the Party, and through the Party, for history has created no other road for the realization of what is right.” (Martin Malia The Soviet Tragedy P.171). But to do that, the Communists had to resort to certain measures to ensure absolute obedience. One way of doing that is to control language. The process, memorably described by George Orwell in respect of ‘Newspeak’, is still in use in North Korea today. (See Jang P. 33). Re-education, also known as ‘reforging’, was invented by the Communists during the time of Stalin with the aim of “remolding the human soul” It entailed penal labour but also included indoctrinating so-called reactionaries with the communist version of the truth. (Figes P. 193-214 and Jang P. 138).
Facing the same type of problems as the Communists, the Scientologists borrowed liberally from them. When Hubbard created the vocabulary of the new religion, he invented scores of words, some of which are clearly designed to influence and determine the the thought processes of his followers. Examples of such words are “in-ethics” and “out-ethics”- that is, behaviour of an individual in accordance with or contrary to the best interest or ideals of Scientology. (Lamont P. 186). Moreover, Hubbard, who was extremely paranoid, created the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) to punish whose of his followers who has had “unkind thoughts” about him or had strayed from the narrow path. Punishment consisted of incarceration with a work schedule and, you guessed it, re-education. (Reitman P.105 and 330).
Speaking of incarceration, the Scientologists also adopted the communist practice of establishing prison camps to punish those that they suspect of disloyalty. The camps in the USSR were described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his book The Gulag Archipelago. The prison that the church use in the USA is referred to as ‘The Hole’. David Miscavige has declared those senior executives whom he has purged or who has incurred his displeasure ‘suppressive persons’ and had them locked up. Although some have been incarcerated for a number of years, many have managed to escape. Just as in communist nations, even those who one would think are safe have fallen victim. As mentioned earlier, Ron Miscavige was imprisoned in the Hole while David Miscavige’s wife, Shelly, mysteriously disappeared. She apparently fell out of favour. (Reitman P. 340-1). The president of the Church of Scientology International, Heber Jentzsch, 82, is also rumoured to be imprisoned at the Hole. (Although the title ‘president’ has been conferred on him, Jentzsch is, like his counterparts in the USSR, a mere figurehead and has no power. (See Lamont P. 104 and compare Malia P. 353-4).
Lastly, as became apparent from the television series Leah Rimini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the disconnection policy of the church has caused much sorrow and a great deal of anger.The policy prescribes that parishioners who are relatives of former members who have been declared SP’s must sever all ties with them. Fathers, mothers and siblings usually comply with the order for if they don’t, they too may be declared SP’s. Even here Communist precedents exist. During the 1930’s a new policy was adopted in the USSR to re-educate and rehabilitate ‘kulak’ children. But this concession came at a price. At the age of 16 the children were allowed to return from exile and regain their civil rights – on condition they renounced their families. (Figes P. 353).
I do not mean to imply that Scientologists are crypto-Communists. The two movements are far too different in nature. On the other hand, these parallels cannot be explained away as mere coincidence. There are simply too many of them. What is more likely is that the founder of Scientology who is also the author of all these policies, L. Ron Hubbard, decided to adopt these communist strategies to force his followers to toe the line and prevent them from leaving the fold. Support for this view can be found in the biography of Hubbard written by Russell Miller called Bare-Faced Messiah. Hubbard clearly had a hate-love relationship with Communism. He used it on the one hand to denounce those who had incurred his displeasure as Communists to the FBI during the witch hunts of Sen. Joe McCarthy in the 1950’s, but he also claimed to have been invited by the Soviet Union to visit the country as an adviser or consultant where, he said, he would be given his own laboratory. (P. 169,179 and 220.)
At some stage Hubbard furnished the FBI with a pamphlet called ‘Brain Washing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook’ which he claimed was a transcription of a lecture given by Lawrenti Beria, the head of the security police in the USSR under Stalin. The FBI examined it but found it’s authorship doubtful. Miller, however, is of the view that if the FBI had compared it with Hubbard’s own work, they would have noticed “a similar narrative style” (P. 221). It seems accordingly that Hubbard was acquainted with communist tactics. He would have had few scruples to make use of them. Miller quotes from an interview he had with Richard de Mille, one of Hubbard’s friends during the 1950’s. According to him Hubbard thought that “…people were there to be used, to serve the user and did not have any importance in their own right.” (P. 181). That would appear to be the view of both Communists and Scientologists. No wonder they have so much in common.