The Church of Scientology has been back in the news this week after the eldest daughter of Hollywood actor Tom Cruise appears to have stepped up her involvement in the controversial religion.
According to a blog post by Scientology whistle-blower Tony Ortega, 26-year-old Isabella Cruise wrote an email to London Scientology members, explaining how she has become an “auditor”. Describing her “internship” at the Church, she reportedly wrote: “It turned out it was exactly what I needed … this IS what I had been searching for. The missing piece. Suddenly everything began to make sense.”
The followers of Scientology, which was recognised as an official religion in the UK in 2013, claim that it provides a pathway to spiritual freedom, helping its followers to rise above the humdrum of ordinary life and see the world through a clear analytical lens. It is as real a religion as Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, they claim.
Its critics, meanwhile, describe it as a ‘pay-as-you-go’ faith, which preys on the naive and vulnerable, extorting huge sums of money from them and their families. The science extolled by the Church has been widely debunked, they say.
Here is a glossary of key terms, to help you understand - and decide...
A is for Auditing, the intense question-and-answer session Scientologists must undergo during conversion, where they are asked to analyse any negative experience in their life. This will apparently help to lift them from a place of “spiritual distress” to a “insight and inner self-realisation”. The Church has previously been accused of videotaping these sessions and using them to blackmail members when they try to leave.
C is for the Cruise family, one of the most famous adherents of the faith. The Top Gun and Mission: Impossible actor is said to have become involved in the early 1990s through his first wife, Mimi Rogers. He claims Scientology cured him of dyslexia, and says his third wife, Katie Holmes, divorced him in part to protect their daughter from the clutches of the controversial religion.
D is for Dianetics, the theory around the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body upon which Scientology is based. Created by L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, in a 1950 self-help book, it divides the brain into three parts - reactive, analytical, somantic - and claims that our reactive mind clouds out our analytical mind and prevents us from experiencing reality...
E is for E-meter, an “electro-psychometer”, which Scientologists claim can measure the “electric flow” inside the human body during the auditing process. Akin to a lie detector, auditors claim they can use the device to see which questions are prompting the most trauma.
F is for Fair Game, the theory that critics of Scientology should be punished and harassed through any means possible. In 1976, the Church launched ‘Operation Freakout’ against journalist Paulette Cooper in revenge for her critical book, The Scandal of Scientology. They were determined to send her to prison or drive her to suicide, according to an FBI investigation.
G is for Going Clear, the explosive 2015 documentary about Scientology, based on the Pulitzer prize-winning book. Interviewing a number of ex-members, the film highlighted the abuse and exploitation they claimed to have experienced. It enraged the Church, which launched an international campaign to block the film’s release.
H is for L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded Scientology. After struggling to make money, he reportedly adopted the motto, “If you want to get rich, start a religion”. Claiming to have learnt the “truth” of Scientology while “dead” under anaesthetic during a dental procedure, he told his followers he had visited Venus, and cured himself of hip and back injuries suffered during the Second World War.
J is for John Travolta, the Hollywood film star, who converted to Scientology as early as 1975.
M is for David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church of Scientology. A deputy to Hubbard as a teenager, Mascavige saw the Church through its long battles with the US Internal Revenue Service in the 1990s.
S is for Sea Organisation, a division within the Church comprising its most dedicated members. Founded by Hubbard in 1967, it initially met on board ships, before moving to land in 1975. Members, many of who wear Navy-style uniforms, must sign a billion-year contract with the organisation.
Tis for Thetan, an invisible part of a human (similar to a soul in other religions) which Scientologists believe are trillions of years old.
X is for Xenu, a God-like creature who some Scientologists believe brought 75 billion people to Earth 75 million years ago, before murdering them with hydrogen bombs.