Scientologys weird world of space lizards and celebrity

Scientology: L. Ron Hubbard invented intergalactic warlord

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The Church of Scientology (CoS) is the birthchild of US science fiction and fantasy author L. Ron Hubbard. Controversial from the outset, its belief system, organisation, and members have been followed and scrutinised for decades. But what exactly has everyone so fascinated by the religion founded in the mid-20th century? explores how Hubbard’s movement began, the issues it has faced, and why some of the world’s most recognisable faces chose Scientology as their faith.

Officially launched on February 18, 1954, Scientology was portrayed as a new religion that would bring about a “civilisation without insanity, without criminals and without war”, in Hubbard’s opening rulebook, The Aims of Scientology.

He wanted a world “where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights”, as the Nebraska-born author laid down the blueprint he wanted his worshippers to abide by.

In summary, the CoS creed can loosely be boiled down into three main objectives: to be free to enjoy “religious expression”, mental healing is innately spiritual, and healing of the body is in the “spiritual domain”.

Since then, the religion has grown with a legion of celebrities signing up for the church. Among the first from the public eye to join included former silent-screen star Gloria Swanson and jazz pianist Dave Brubeck.

Scientology, reports show, soon developed an interest in gaining international coverage by enlisting wealthy businessmen and influencers to help promote its ideals.

In fact, a policy letter from the mid-Seventies demonstrated that “rehabilitation of celebrities who are just beyond or just approaching their prime” enables the “rapid dissemination” of Scientology.

Hubbard, speaking in one of the group’s Flag Orders of 1973, acknowledged the role celebrities could play in the religion, calling them “very special people” who have a “very distinct line of dissemination. They have communication] lines that others do not have and many medias [sic] to get their dissemination through”.

The appeal for celebrities was assessed by Professor of Religious Studies, Hugh Urban, of Ohio State University, who speaking to Beliefnet, said the “reason that celebrities would be interested is that it’s a religion that fits pretty well with a celebrity kind of personality… it’s very individualistic.”

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He continued: “It celebrates your individual identity as ultimately divine. It claims to give you ultimate power over your own mind, self, destiny, so I think it fits well with an actor’s personality.

“And then the wealth question: These aren’t people who need more wealth, but what they do need, or often want at least, is some kind of spiritual validation for their wealth and lifestyle, and Scientology is a religion that says it’s OK to be wealthy, it’s OK to be famous, in fact, that’s a sign of your spiritual development. So it kind of is a spiritual validation for that kind of lifestyle.”

Across its span, huge names from the worlds of film, radio, and stage have joined Scientology, including Grease star John Travolta, Simpsons’ voiceover legend Nancy Cartwright and perhaps most famously Top Gun actor Tom Cruise.

Though rarely spoken about in public, some high-profile worshippers have tentatively discussed their links to the church, including Mad Men and The Handmaid’s Tale actor Elisabeth Moss.

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The two-time Golden Globe winner joined Scientology as a teenager and was coy when the topic of her faith emerged during an interview with The New Yorker last year.

The 40-year-old told of how she feared being perceived in an unfavourable way because of her religion, stating that she did not want “people to be distracted by something when they’re watching me” on screen, as she want viewers “to be seeing the character”.

She continued: “I feel like, when actors reveal too much of their lives, I’m sometimes watching something and I’m going, ‘Oh, I know that she just broke up with that person,’ or, ‘I know that she loves to do hot yoga,’ or whatever it is.”

But Moss, who has claimed two Emmys during her career, described Scientology as “not really a closed-off religion,” adding: “It’s a place that is very open to, like, welcoming in somebody who wants to learn more about it. I think that’s the thing that is probably the most misunderstood.”

Recalling her time at the church she also complimented it for helping her become a skilled communicator as it encouraged worshippers to “find out for themselves” if they had questions about the organisation they were following.

She concluded: “I’ve certainly been guilty of reading an article or watching something and taking that as gospel. And obviously, something like religious freedom and resistance against a theocracy is very important to me.”

But the religion itself has faced fierce criticism for employing controlling or coercive tactics to keep members inside the church. It led some to investigate the Church further, unearthing some of the strange teachings written by Hubbard when his religion was first starting out.

Among them was Xenu, also known as Xemu, which is a figure in CoS’s “secret Advanced Technology” sacred teaching that goes some way in explaining Scientology’s origin story.

According to the Advanced Technology, Xenu was the “extraterrestrial ruler of a ‘Galactic Confederacy who brought billions of his people to Earth” around 75 million years ago.

Xenu then placed his people around volcanoes on Earth, before killing them all with hydrogen bombs. This formed part of Hubbard’s Incident II scripts.

Alongside The Wall of Fire and R6 implant, the narratives of Xenu are part of what was described as the author’s “space opera”. In some outlets, the creatures that descended to Earth are known as “space lizards”.

The teaching of Xenu is often only revealed to its members who have completed an arduous series of courses, which costs vast sums of money that are given directly to the church.

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