Going Clear | Lawrence Wright

Summary of: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
By: Lawrence Wright

Introduction

Get ready to discover the mysterious world of Scientology as we explore Lawrence Wright’s ‘Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief’. This book summary delves into the history, beliefs, and controversies surrounding this enigmatic religion. In this summary, unravel the complexity of Scientology’s origins, founded by L. Ron Hubbard, who combined religious, scientific, and science-fiction elements into the Church’s doctrines. Investigate its perspective on immortality and psycho-techniques, the role of Hollywood celebrities in the Church’s dominance, and the dark side of Scientology – including harassment of critics and abusive practices within the organization.

Scientology: Religion or Science?

Scientology, an organization with a debated number of members, faces questions regarding its status as a religion. The US government has shifted its stance on Scientology multiple times, complicating the matter. In 1957, it was granted religious status but later lost it in 1967. The organization’s claims to be based on scientific research cause further confusion. Although it regained tax-exempt status as a charitable organization in 1993, controversy still surrounds its core principles and whether it should be considered a religion or not.

Scientology’s membership count remains elusive, with only about 25,000 self-proclaimed Scientologists in the United States. Estimating the real number is challenging without baptismal records or ritual professions of faith. The debate surrounding Scientology’s status as a religion further clouds the issue.

Initially, the US government recognized Scientology as a religion in 1957. However, the IRS overturned this decision in 1967, labeling the organization as a commercial enterprise that primarily aimed to profit its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology took action to contest this ruling, enlisting religious experts to testify on their behalf.

Expert Frank Flinn posited that Scientology shares aspects with other religions, such as a spiritual belief system and an adherence to behavioral norms, rites, and ceremonies. The organization also attributes supernatural abilities to its founder, much like Jesus, Muhammad, or Abraham in their respective religions. Despite this evidence, the US government rejected Scientology’s appeal for religious status.

In a surprising shift, Scientology regained tax-exempt status as a charitable organization in 1993. However, the organization continues to spark controversy by claiming its foundations are based on scientific research. L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics, is considered a central tenet of the belief system and purports to be an “engineering science.” Scientology’s purportedly scientific basis remains contested, especially by the field of psychiatry, which the founder Hubbard openly despised. Consequently, the debate about whether Scientology should be classified as a religion or merely as a scientific enterprise endures.

Unraveling Scientology’s Origins

In 1938, Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, discovered the secrets of the universe while under anesthesia during a dental procedure. He later shared these secrets as the foundations of Scientology’s belief system. According to Hubbard, we are all thetans, immortal spirits who can overcome the limitations of our bodies with proper training. Through auditing, a psycho-technique, Scientologists can recall past lives and uncover the two incidents that led to thetans being trapped on Earth. Ultimately, Hubbard’s psycho-techniques provide a means for individuals to break free from the cycle of self-destruction and manipulation.

During a dental operation in 1938, L. Ron Hubbard experienced profound visions that he believed were the secret to the universe. These visions would later inform the beliefs of the Church of Scientology. Hubbard claimed all humans are thetans—or immortal spirits—residing in mortal bodies. By understanding and training the mind, one can transcend the confines of the physical realm and access memories from past lives.

Unlocking these past lives is achieved through auditing, a psycho-technique that allows individuals to attain hidden memories. To illustrate, Hubbard believed he coined the term “the end justifies the means” in a previous life, accusing Machiavelli of plagiarism. Scientologists progressing through the organization’s ranks learn about two pivotal events that caused thetans to become trapped on Earth.

The first event took place when the material world was created, causing thetans to forget their immortality. The second transpired 75 million years ago with the oppressive Galactic Confederacy leader, Xenu. Xenu, foiling plans of mutiny against him, collaborated with malicious psychiatrists to ensnare thetans. The thetans’ bodies were frozen, transported to Earth, and obliterated, leaving their spirits before a giant projection implanting them with contemporary earthly images and triggers to ensure each society self-destructs, for instance, through war.

Through the use of Hubbard’s psycho-techniques, adherents of Scientology strive to liberate themselves from this perpetual cycle of manipulation and self-destruction. While the religion shares similarities with modern faiths, its teachings parallel elements of science fiction—a correlation further explored in subsequent sections.

The Man Behind Scientology

Born in 1911, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard pursued interests in magic, shamanism, and psychoanalysis during his youth. While a poor student overall, he demonstrated exceptional writing abilities and began publishing his works during college. To support his family, Hubbard became an extraordinarily prolific science-fiction writer, ultimately publishing a record-breaking 1,084 titles. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he fell into a personal crisis, including participating in a series of affairs and struggling with mental health issues. He developed a deep mistrust of psychiatry, setting the stage for the creation of Scientology.

Unraveling the Dianetics Phenomenon

Dianetics, introduced by L. Ron Hubbard, is a system of techniques designed to address and overcome painful memories, hindering our mental and spiritual growth. Hubbard himself delved into his own past, acknowledging his unremarkable military record and harnessing self-hypnosis to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations, such as his passion for writing and living for two centuries. His system gained momentum when he established himself as a Dianetics coach in Hollywood and began auditing clients—hypnotizing them to recall and subsequently nullify past traumatic memories. Not everyone needed to forget all their traumas entirely to find healing; some even uncovered memories from past lives. Hubbard’s book, “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health,” skyrocketed in sales, sealing its position of importance within Scientology. Without the Church, however, Dianetics might have faded into obscurity.

Birth of Scientology

L. Ron Hubbard, not previously known for religious inclinations, founded the Church of Scientology to offset the financial collapse of Dianetics foundations. Realizing that religious organizations offered continuous relevance and salvation, he established the first two churches in L.A. and Washington D.C. to maintain solvency, gain popularity, and fulfill his dream of becoming a prominent figure.

Curiously, there was a time when L. Ron Hubbard hadn’t been deeply involved in any religious pursuits. Though he did have a fascination with shamanism, it wasn’t immediately clear what nudged him towards creating his own church. The answer lies in the ups and downs of Dianetics. Initially successful, Hubbard even established six foundations dedicated to training auditors. However, two challenges emerged.

Dianetics had an endpoint in that an individual was considered “cured” after overcoming all their trauma. Once that was achieved, the auditing process lost its purpose. Furthermore, interest in Dianetics took a nosedive, leading to bankruptcy declarations in 1952 and Hubbard eventually selling the Dianetics name.

Amid the turbulence, an epiphany struck Hubbard: religious organizations were vastly different. Rather than promising a cure, they provided a ready-made belief system and an ever-present community. Moreover, religions continually offered the allure of salvation, which made them enduringly relevant to their followers.

This realization fueled Hubbard’s decision to establish the Church of Scientology in 1954. A financial motive was also discernible: in a letter to a colleague, he contemplated forming a spiritual guidance center to keep Hubbard’s Association of Scientologists afloat. Moreover, he had ambitious dreams of becoming a revered figure, and founding a new church provided the opportunity to be the central point of adulation.

Thus, against this backdrop, Hubbard inaugurated the first two Churches of Scientology in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. This story sheds light on the birth of Scientology, but a question remains: why is it still popular today? That answer awaits further exploration.

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