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Scientology, or officially the ”Church of Scientology,” was founded by adherents of Lafayette Ron Hubbard (1911-86) in 1954, but the movement behind Scientology dates back to Hubbard’s publication of the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental health in 1950. Dianetics was a therapeutic system which Hubbard claimed could cure psychosomatic illness. Dianetics can be described as an attack on what Hubbard considered to be the materialistic position of psychiatry. Hubbard stressed that he wanted to overcome the unspiritual therapeutic strategies he found in psychiatry. In his anthropology, man is basically good and strives for survival of various collectives termed ”dynamics,” in Dianetics from the individual to that of humanity, and in Scientology up to the ”urge towards existence as infinity,” termed the ”God Dynamic”. Scientology assumes that a person receives and stores painful memories from this or earlier lives up to billions of years ago, and that these memories lead the individuals to irrational acts.
Socially the movement which originated around Dianetics was loosely organized and public whereas the Church of Scientology is hierarchic, with control systems making the employees act in accordance with the organization. This system has been reshuffled and strengthened a number of times.
Scientology accepts dual religious membership, so the total membership is difficult to estimate. World-based estimates vary from about 1 million to the official figure of 9 million members in 2008. Besides the religious activities, Scientology runs a number of non-profit organizations working for drug habilitation, improvement of education, and human rights.
The organizational development has been identified as one of the rare transformations from a so-called cult to a sect. The cult consists of open-minded seekers in a cultic milieu, whereas the sect claims to have a unique way of salvation which the adherents have to follow. Recent developments of canon formation, altruistic work, and extension to the surrounding society in other ways may point to Scientology’s endeavor to be generally accepted as a church.
- Lewis, J. R. (ed.) (2009) Scientology. Oxford: Oxford University Press