Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath digs deep into the Church of Scientology’s beliefs and practices. But what do Scientologists believe?
The Church of Scientology website defines Scientology as “a religion that offers a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being.” The religion was developed by L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. It was brought into the spotlight by celebrity Scientologists like Tom Cruise.
The documentary series promises to “share the shocking truth about Scientology,” Remini said on the show.
She is a former Scientologist who left the religion after 30 years.
“I don’t regret what I’ve been through. I don’t regret spending my life there because it did really teach me a lot, and because we’ve all survived it and we’re living life, it’s like we have a gift of a second chance at life,” Remini told Dan Harris in a 20/20 interview in 2015.
Scientology, like many religions, is based on a core set of beliefs focused on the spirit of humankind, Scientology.org explains. It is not “a dogmatic religion” asking its followers to accept its principles on faith, but asks a person to prove out the religion’s beliefs through observation and experience, said the website.
“The ultimate goal of Scientology is true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for all,” Scientology.org said.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Scientology Defines ‘Fundamental Truths’ About Life & the Afterlife
Scientology.org describes Scientology as a religion which believes humans are “basically good.” Each person is responsible for his or her own salvation, which is earned in part by “his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.”
The website further says:
“Scientology comprises a body of knowledge which extends from certain fundamental truths. Prime among these are:
“Man is an immortal spiritual being.
“His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime.
“His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.
“Scientology further holds Man to be basically good, and that his spiritual salvation depends upon himself, his fellows and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe.”
Scientology considers each person an immortal being, called a “thetan.”
“You move up the bridge to freedom by working toward being an ‘Operating Thetan,’ which at the highest level transcends material law,” David Bromley, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, told CNN. “You occasionally come across people in Scientology who say they can change the material world with their mind.”
2. Hubbard Developed a Practice Called Auditing to Address Mental Health & Trauma
A core belief of Scientology is that humans have a reactive mind which responds to traumas experienced in life. Those traumas are said to cloud reality. Auditing is a process which is intended to find sources of trauma, then asks a believer to relive the traumas to neutralize them. Then, the analytical mind can regain control. The Church of Scientology describes the end result as a spiritual state called “clear.”
The Church of Scientology website describes auditing as “a precise path by which any individual may walk an exact route to higher states of spiritual awareness.”
“The goal of auditing is to restore beingness and ability. This is accomplished by (1) helping the individual rid himself of any spiritual disabilities and (2) increasing individual abilities. Obviously, both are necessary for an individual to achieve his full spiritual potential. Auditing can be ministered to a group (such as at a Scientology Sunday service), by a person on his own using certain Scientology books and materials and one-to-one,” the website says.
“Through auditing one is able to look at his own existence and improve his ability to confront what he is and where he is,” it goes on to say. “Vast differences exist between the technology of auditing, a religious practice, and other practices. Auditing does not use hypnosis, trance techniques or drugs. The person being audited is completely aware of everything that happens. Auditing is precise, thoroughly codified and has exact procedures.”
The process involves the use of an E-meter, which is said to measure the body’s electric flow while the auditor asks questions to find sources of trauma.
3. Scientology Considers Humans to be Immortal Beings Called ‘Thetans
Hubbard coined the term “thetan” to describe something similar but distinctive from a soul. He used the Greek letter theta to define his term, which often symbolizes thought or life, the church’s website explains.
“A thetan is the person himself, not his body or his name or the physical universe, his mind or anything else. It is that which is aware of being aware; the identity which IS the individual. One does not have a thetan, something one keeps somewhere apart from oneself; he is a thetan,” the website said.
Scientologists believe a thetan is also able to leave the body, a phenomenon called “exteriorization.”
Some scholars say Scientologists believe in “body thetans” which latch onto the human body and cause trauma. “Body thetans” were said to come from the aftermath of an ancient and destructive intergalactic civilization. Body thetans are removed with auditing.
Bromley told CNN only advanced Scientologists are taught about body thetans.
CNN asked church spokesman Tommy Davis in 2008 whether the basic tenet of the Church of Scientology was to rid the body of space alien parasites.
“Does that sound silly to you?” he said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s unrecognizable to me. … People should really come to the church and find out for themselves what it is.”
4. Scientology is Founded On Principles of Improving the Lives of Believers & Others
Tom Cruise, likely the world’s most famous Scientologist, told Playboy magazine in 2012 he was drawn to the religion for self-improvement.
“What I believe in my own life is that it’s a search for how I can do things better, whether it’s being a better man or a better father or finding ways for myself to improve,” he said. “Individuals have to decide what is true and real for them.”
Scientology was developed to improve the lives of believers and others, according to the church’s website.
“Scientology is all about learning to do things to improve conditions in your own life and in particular in the lives of others. An active Scientologist is not only considered to be someone who attends a Scientology church or studies Scientology, but rather someone who actively uses the insights and knowledge that Scientology gives them to make a real, positive difference in the lives of others.”
Scientology has faced controversies nearly since its founding. The first church was opened in 1954.
“It’s part therapy, part religion, part UFO group,” Bromley told CNN. “It’s a mix of things that’s unlike any other religious group out there.”
Religious groups often discount Scientology as a religion. The IRS did not grant the Church of Scientology tax-exempt status until 1993. Mental health officials have also questioned the religion’s views on mental health, and the scientific community has questioned its use of E-meters, said to read the body’s electric flow.
5. Scientologists Believe in a God Described as ‘The Eighth Dynamic’
Scientologists believe in a higher power described as ‘The Eighth Dynamic’ on which life in the universe is dependent. The concept of the higher being is also considered “infinity.” Believers in Scientology obtain knowledge and understanding of each dynamic. The seventh dynamic is spirituality, which must be understood before understanding the eighth dynamic of infinity, the church website explains.
“No culture in the history of the world, save the thoroughly depraved and expiring ones, has failed to affirm the existence of a Supreme Being,” L. Ron Hubbard wrote in Science of Survival. “It is an empirical observation that men without a strong and lasting faith in a Supreme Being are less capable, less ethical and less valuable to themselves and society….A man without an abiding faith is, by observation alone, more of a thing than a man.”
No dogmas based on God are imposed on believers of the Church of Scientology, unlike in most religions. Scientologists are asked to make their own discoveries based on their training.