Photo: Steve Hall
Since Katie Holmes filed for a divorce against Tom Cruise, we’ve run a series of stories on life inside the Church of Scientology, including its real estate empire and the remote location where church leader David Miscavige’s wife may be living in secret.
But we haven’t examined why people join the secretive church in the first place, and why they stay (even after they’ve been kept in one of Scientology’s informal prisons).
We spoke to Steve Hall, a former Scientologist who wrote speeches and TV scripts for Scientology leader David Miscavige for years, about why he stayed despite the gruelling nature of his experience.
Basically, he told us, Scientology is a philosophy of rational self-inquiry akin to Buddhism, in that it requires an investigation and a reckoning with one’s own demons and desires.Many people find it incredibly helpful.
Here’s Hall’s explanation of the benefits of Scientology, which we’ve edited lightly for length and clarity:
Scientology is a body of know-how that is supposed to enable a person to make rational decisions in life … you review that area and come to a better direction. It’s rationality, but it’s a bit more codified. They’re really tools that help you look at a given area and come to an understanding.
Founder L. Ron Hubbard was an investigator. He wanted to know what made people tick. What was the cause of the problems they had? He found a human being has a spiritual component and the spirit has memories of prior existences, and by all the evidence he has past lives. You were somebody in 1812 or 1740. The information is there to be mined from a person’s own memory. When a person dies he’s not gone. They simply go and pick up a new body and start over.
It explains deja vu. It explains talent. How can such great artists have talent from such a young age? A person is more than just flesh and bones. They’re actually an immortal human spirit, so that’s very good news. So Hubbard developed methods, [just like] the Buddhists ask questions. Why does the tree grow?
But it’s structured and it’s called auditing. It’s done in a safe environment and the counselor has a code of conduct. The auditor does not tell the person what to think and does not tell them what to say. He just guides them on a path of self discovery. And once you’ve experienced it you want more, because it helps you become a better person. You’re able to open up new lines of communications with people you were afraid to talk to before. The shy kids who can’t talk to girls can suddenly get up the nerve, that’s the good side.
Its not a religion in the Western sense. No, it’s more like Buddhism. It’s a philosophy and it legally qualifies as a religion because we believe man has a spirit, an immortal spirit that’s unkillable. The Scientologist views a human body like a coat. The coat is not you. You’re a spirit inside the coat.
The bad side is that church does not use its own philosophy. It’s a cult. There’s no reason it has to be a cult. It’s just being made that way. Most people want to get that auditing. They want to get that counseling, so they’re loathe to create too much trouble because they’ll be banished.
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