Founded by Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (b.1911 in Nebraska), millionaire explorer and retired U.S. naval officer, the Church of Scientology of California teaches what it calls “an applied religious philosophy” aiming at “spiritual recovery and the increase of individual ability.” The methods of Scientology (originally called “Dianetics”) are claimed to be “technological,” and make extensive use of apparatus, elaborate types of classification, and an involved-frequently cryptic-quasi- scientific language in expounding the stages by which the individual may progress, under close guidance, toward total self- determination. Its basic concept is “survival,” and Scientology teaches the techniques by which the individual may “survive” most effectively.
Although passing reference is sometimes made to, for instance, “Supreme Being, the ultimate Creator, and God, when so meant” (the implications of the last clause are obscure), Scientology maintains that “the human mind and inventions of the human mind are capable of resolving any and all problems which can be sensed, measured, or experienced directly or indirectly.” Man, then, is to be his own savior. Scientology further denies the existence of absolute good and absolute evil in the world of matter, energy, space, and time, and holds that “that which is good for an organism may be defined as that which promotes the survival of that organism.” Use of the word “religious” to describe the methods, techniques, and aims of Scientology seems therefore entirely arbitrary, since Scientology is in no way concerned with any power or powers external to man.
Its authoritarian teachings and techniques have aroused much controversy, not least in Britain. In 1968, foreign Scientologists were prohibited from entering Britain, and an official inquiry was instituted into the movement's activities. It has nevertheless continued to expand and in 1968 claimed two to three million followers. Its international headquarters are near London.
Scientology is a type of “mind-cure” movement, more sophisticated than those known in the West for more than a century, and extremely wealthy. It is notable only as an example of the sort of mental and spiritual panacea so often resorted to in times of stress by those who are strangers to living faith.