If you’ve ever been accosted by a Scientologist on the street, maybe you didn’t think too much of it. They insisted they only wanted to help you understand yourself better. While it didn’t seem like a terrible idea, you just didn’t have the time or maybe you were worried because you’d heard that you might need to pay something. But they seemed harmless enough. Nice people. They were just trying to help.
Most people know that Scientology’s a bit of a weird religion. It’s not quite like Christianity or Judaism, based on a long historical precedent. It’s based on a science-fiction author, which seems…well…a little made-up. But even considering all of the above, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad religion. There’s nothing that really proves any religion isn’t made up—if you believe, you believe, if you don’t believe, you don’t believe…
But then you look back on how Scientology got its start and you begin to wonder. L Ron Hubbard might have been a good writer, but he was a complicated human being with psychological problems which might be related to the religion he started. There’s just a lot of stuff that doesn’t seem right about how it came to be. Between cover-ups and covert operations, Scientology has been involved in all kinds of sketchy business from its very earliest days. Whether it’s infiltrating the government or getting in bed with Charles Manson, these are things that normal organizations–organizations with nothing to hide–just don’t do.
But whatever you believe, we can tell you that you won’t ever look at Scientology the same way again after reading this list.
15. L Ron Hubbard Started It To Get Rich
Fun fact: L Ron Hubbard basically broadcast his plan to make a fortune by inventing a brand new religion to the whole world. In 1948, he was quoted as saying, “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.” While the origin of the actual quote is slightly questionable (it was originally said to be included in a speech at a sci-fi conference), there’s little doubt that Hubbard mentioned something similar in casual conversation with some other science-fiction authors.
Five years after he said this, Hubbard incorporated the first Church of Scientology in Camden, New Jersey. And his prophesy turned out to be correct; while struggling financially as a writer up until the early 1950’s, Hubbard’s wealth grew massively upon creating the Church, and he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death in 1986. I guess you could say he was an excellent entrepreneur.
14. Charles Manson Was (Sort Of) A Scientologist
If there was one person out there who you wouldn’t want to claim as a follower, it’s the notorious cult leader who tried to catch on with a Beach Boy and become a famous musician and, when that didn’t work out, chose to be a murderous cult leader instead. Someone who tried to start a culture war because of a Beatles song—that person’s ideas were totally nuts, right?
The truth was, while Manson was never an official member of the Church, he spent some time studying it in the early ‘60s, undergoing “audits,” a process where scientologists examine your life, life choices, and thought processes as a way of allowing you to obtain a higher level in the Church. After undergoing several hours of audits, Manson reportedly learned from the mind control tactics of the Church, and rather than joining himself, he chose to go out and start his own cult by using several of the same practices.
13. L Ron Hubbard Kidnapped His Own Daughter
In 1951, Hubbard was having major psychological difficulties and struggling with his marriage to Sarah Northrup. So he did what any rational person would do—he kidnapped his own daughter and disappeared. And when her mother tried to track her down, Hubbard lied, saying that he had cut her up and left her in the river.
Eventually, he admitted to his wife that their daughter, Alexis, was still alive. But when she tried to come and see her, Hubbard tried to kidnap her too and have her institutionalized as crazy. Then his wife tried to get him committed for being crazy. In the end, neither were put in an institution but Hubbard kept his daughter away from her for at least several months. His wife sued him in court for custody and lost, but eventually got her daughter back and tried to divorce him.
12. L Ron Hubbard Might’ve Been A Paranoid Schizophrenic When He Invented It
L Ron Hubbard believed in aliens and believed that people were out to get him. You know who else believes in those things? Schizophrenics. Hubbard’s wife tried to get him committed for being a paranoid schizophrenic when they were fighting over their divorce, and there is much internet speculation that Hubbard’s “religion” was really just a huge schizophrenic fantasy that found its owner’s followers outside of his own head due to his writing ability. Even if he may not have been schizophrenic, he was definitely a little out there. In 1947, he wrote a letter requesting psychiatric treatment for his “seriously affected mind” and “suicidal inclinations.” In the letter, he claims he has already been put on medication for his problems but needs further analysis.
When he didn’t get the treatment he needed, he decided he hated all psychiatrists and that they were out to get him. So, he wrote a book proposing his own theories about mental health…
11. They Tried To Get A Writer Arrested (Operation Freakout)
Paulette Cooper was a psychology graduate student who became interested in the Church of Scientology and studied at it in the late 1960’s. In 1971, she wrote a book called The Scandal of Scientology, and from there, she began an all-out war with the Church. While she became a world-renowned author partly as a result of the conflict, the Church does not take criticism lightly.
After years of harassment, in 1976, the Church of Scientology began to plot a more extreme form of revenge. They undertook a campaign called “Operation Freakout,” with the goal of getting Cooper arrested or institutionalized as insane to get back at her for smearing them in her book.
10. They Infiltrated The U.S. Government (Operation Snow White)
In 1973, the Church of Scientology began to infiltrate the American government and scientologists began to apply for low-level civil service jobs. The operation was organized by the Guardian’s Office, one of the senior offices of the Church. Once their agents were firmly entrenched, they began to break into offices and steal or photocopy several documents concerning the affairs of the Church and official government records on L Ron Hubbard. It is estimated that around 5,000 scientologists successfully infiltrated themselves into the American government during the 1970’s.
When the plot was exposed, it was declared a criminal conspiracy and eleven members of the Guardian’s Office were indicted and sentenced to up to six years in jail. After the indictment, the members who spearheaded the conspiracy were deemed “suppressed” members of the Church and had to earn their way back into good standing. The Guardian’s Office was also disbanded and replaced with an Office of Special Affairs.
9. L Ron Was Not Really A War Hero
One of the favorite pastimes of Scientologists is honoring their leader for his incredible service in World War 2. They have claimed that he won numerous medals and was, in general, a brave and courageous navy man. The truth was that while he did serve active duty in the Pacific, his career was spotty. He started out by working off a ship in the Pacific but was sent home for “assuming unauthorized authority and attempting to perform duties for which he has no qualifications.” After some time working in office and shipyard duty, he trained as a submarine captain and took command of a sub in the Pacific where his most notable action was spending two-and-a-half days firing at two Japanese subs which may or may not have existed. While Hubbard believed he sunk one of the subs, his superiors believed that he may have not understood how to read his sonar and was probably firing at nothing but fish and whales.
8. Scientologists Let Lisa McPherson Go
Lisa McPherson was a 36-year-old Scientologist who was admitted to hospital after a minor car accident in Florida in 1995. She didn’t appear to be seriously injured but was acting weird—taking off her clothes and rambling. The hospital wanted to evaluate her mental state but she insisted that she needed to be monitored by members of the Church instead.
She left the hospital and was taken in by the Flag Service Organization, a branch of the church. Their psychiatric care included putting her under “isolation watch” where she was not allowed to see another person and giving her drugs prescribed by a medical doctor who had not examined her. As she beat her hands against the walls and received cockroach bites, her physical condition drastically worsened. Less than three weeks after her car accident, she died of a pulmonary embolism. Despite her clearly ill condition, the members of the church did not take her to a hospital until it was far too late to save her. After her death, members of the FSO were charged with abuse/neglect and practicing medicine without a license, although eventually, the death was ruled to be an accident rather than a negligent homicide and they escaped conviction.
7. L Ron Hubbard Was Influenced By Occultist Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley was a weird individual. Born in 1875, he was an occultist who claimed that on a trip to Egypt in 1904, he heard a voice that claimed to be the god Aiwass. He wrote down what this supposed god said in a book he called “The Book of the Law” and later used that book as a biblical text to form his own religion, which he called Thelema.
Hubbard took up Thelema briefly in the 1940’s, a few years before coming up with Scientology. While he didn’t stick with it, it seems like he borrowed some of Crowley’s ideas when coming up with the religion. Some have even said that it was Crowley’s death in 1947 that prompted Hubbard to take over the mantle of occultist leader.
Like Hubbard, Crowley was a prolific writer and someone who invented a religion from scratch. But there are differences. While Thellema’s ideas live on today mostly as Wicca, its subscribers are not nearly as organized and controlling as Scientologists.
6. The Wife Of Scientology’s Current Leader Went Missing In 2007
David Miscavige is the leader of the Church of Scientology. After marrying his wife, Michele, in 1982, they moved up the ranks of Scientology together. She had been an important member of the Church until she suddenly disappeared.
After Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman broke up, she had interviewed hundreds of young Scientologist actresses with the intention of finding Cruise the perfect mate and had eventually settled on Katie Holmes. So, considering her role in the affair, it was a surprise when she didn’t show up at their wedding. After just a few more public appearances, she seemed to disappear altogether from the Church around 2007. It’s unknown if anyone has seen her at all since. Some speculate that she went behind David’s back and is enduring some kind of long-term punishment, but some suspect something even worse. At least two different people have filed “missing person” reports about her, but she doesn’t appear to have surfaced yet.
5. Ronald DeWolf (L Ron Hubbard Jr) Rejected It As A Cult
Ronald Dewolf was born L Ron Hubbard Jr. and grew up as a Scientologist, but as he got older, he realized that he didn’t buy into any of it. After years spent as an important member of the Church–overseeing the training and initiation of many new members throughout the 1950’s and creating many of their initiation procedures that survive to this day–at age 25, he changed his name and dropped the religion altogether. He claimed that he found out that his father was selling Scientology secrets to the KGB for thousands of dollars.
Later, he said he didn’t believe in it and could see that it was a cult. He also claimed that almost everything his father had ever said about himself was a lie and that his interest in black magic and the occult was at the core of Scientology. In his unpublished autobiography, he stated that Scientology was a “self-created fantasy of one man.” He later said that his father “thought he was Satan.”
4. Bad Scientologists Were Thrown Overboard
In 1967, the Church of Scientology had four ships called the Diana, the Excalibur, the Apollo, and the Athena. From the flagship Apollo, Hubbard initiated the Sea Org, the fraternal brotherhood which marks the highest level of Scientology. Sea Org members are charged with training auditors at the highest levels. Hubbard lived on board the Apollo for the next eight years or so, bringing people aboard to do their training. When auditors failed to get the expected results out of their subjects, they were thrown overboard—reportedly a 30-foot drop into the ocean below. While no one is known to have died from this “overboarding,” it was considered cruel and unusual punishment by many outside of the organization.
While the Sea Org has since moved to land, selling the ships off by 1975, and no longer practice literal overboarding, they still exist as a fundamental Scientology organization and have no doubt dreamed up other torturous punishments in the last forty years.
3. They Created A Time Capsule Vault For Future Space Travelers
The Church owns a large swath of property in New Mexico, initially purchased in the 1980’s, where they have a vault containing almost all of L Ron Hubbard’s writings and other work. The vault is intended to be a long-term time capsule to keep the religion alive for generations. Books are engraved in stainless steel instead of paper, and it seems that the hope is to keep Scientology alive forever. The Church of Spiritual Technology owns copyright on all of L Ron Hubbard’s work and operates the base.
The vault is built into a mountainside and is marked by huge markings on the ground which can only be seen from the air. These markings are reportedly signs for future generations of Scientologists to find while returning to Earth from their interstellar travels. In addition to the vault, the base has several private homes and an airport.
2. The Built A Prison As A Base
Scientology’s California headquarters, called the Gold Base, are heavily guarded with bladed fences, topnotch security cameras, and surveillance teams. But while most might assume that these security measures are to keep non-Church members out, they also serve another purpose—to keep people in. Working conditions inside the base for the lower-ranking members of Sea Org are reported to be brutal, with cruel punishments for poor performance including being pushed into a freezing-cold lake on site. Apparently, up to 100 members of the Church attempt to flee the base on a yearly basis but are usually caught and brought back into the fold only to face more severe punishment.
The Gold Base was purchased in the ‘70s under top secrecy (the sellers had no idea the Church of Scientology was involved at all) and has been developed extensively since then. A mansion was built for L Ron Hubbard, and even though he died before he could have a chance to move there, it’s still maintained for his reincarnation. Scientology leader David Miscavige lives on site, and many of divisions of the Church work from the site, including their media (or propaganda) division.
1. Some People Say It’s A Pyramid Scheme
A pyramid scheme is a type of fraud where people who buy into an organization can only make money through recruiting other people to buy into the organization. It’s an automatic recruitment strategy, but it also means that the bottom members are always losing out because no one’s paying them.
One of the central tenets of Scientology is that you need to be “audited” to achieve a higher level in the church. Getting audited means having someone higher up than you in the Church examine your life and thoughts and paying them for the privilege. By paying for an audit, you have a chance to move up a level and pay a higher-level auditor for the privilege of auditing you again. And so you spend more and more money and move higher and higher through the ranks of the Church, but your money always stays one step ahead of you.
While some think L Ron Hubbard was crazy or possessed, others just think he was a really smart con man. What better way to make money than to start a religion where all its prescribers need to pay you to join?
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