[Note: typos preserved.]
The Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Jan 1973, pp19-20
Scientology, banned in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, appears to be making a comeback.
It is back in the news with the help of Senator Lionel Murphy, Federal Attorney General, who has said that the Government would recognise the Church of the New Faith, as the movement now prefers to be known.
The news that South Australia also proposed to repeal the ban had moved the former Attorney General, Senator Greenwood, to express the "gravest doubts" that Scientology could in fact be called a religion.
When it was banned in 1963-64, the Victorian Government's board of inquiry found it to be "evil; its techniques evil; its practice a serious threat to the community medically, morally and socially; its adherents sadly deluded and often mentally ill."
A similar controversy arose in Britain in 1968.
The then British Minister of Health described the cult as socially harmful, following which overseas practitioners (mostly American) were refused entry to the United Kingdom.
While most orthodox religious groups undoubtedly supported the move, it aroused in some circles a backlash of sympathy combined with concern at a breach in traditional religious freedom.
The influential "Catholic Herald" wrote, "To establish such a novel - some might say dangerous - precedent in our pluralistic society, an offender must presumably be very unorthodox indeed. Not even the Exclusive Bethren, at the height of a similar rumpus four years ago, attracted such sanctions."
The new designation of Scientology as the Church of the New Faith is an interesting admission that followers now clearly see the movement as a church.
In NSW, where there are said to be about 5,000 followers, it is known as the Church of Scientology.
The exact status of Scientology has been a source of some confusion.
During an hour-long lecture I attended three years ago, a cult member described it alternatively as a "technique of communication," "philosophy," "theory of knowledge," and "religious technology."
He said members of all denominations could benefit equally from a study of Scientology, but later described it not only as a substitute for, but as the natural goal of all the world's religions.
While the popular press has thrived on stories about blacklisted shopkeepers, broken homes, and numbered bank accounts in Swiss vaults, less attention has been paid to the Scientologists' actual beliefs.
Unlike many obscure religious movements, the Scientologists do not believe in hiding their light under a bushel.
Their publication, which - until the recent bans - frequently arrived unsolicited in mail boxes, not only spelt out in great detail the way to salvation, but also the cost, in terms both of residential and home study courses.
Booklets about Scientology generally devote a large amount of space to individuals' own experiences.
It is perhaps significant that nearly all are by people who "found relief" from emotional and nervous troubles, depression, business failures, unhappy romances and other inadequacies.
One publication, "The Character of Scientology," gives an extraordinary potted history of the world's major religions, ending with the claim that Scientology is the "accomplished goal" of all of them - and to boot "a far more intellectual religion than that known to the West as late as 1950."
In expressing even what Scientology is, the published works are brimming with contradictions and confusion. Some writings stress the non-religious philosophical character, some the religious but non-denominational character. One publication begins by stressing the Scientology ... "is not here to save the world," while another opens with the contrary message, "Scientology is here to rescue you."
Various pamphlets have shows the same smiling face in collar and tie, working clothes, and priestly vestments (complete with cross).
Frequent reference is made to the use of "the Confessional," while the official "Creed" and "Recognition and Naming Service" appear to be cribbed straight from the Church of England.
The first phase of Scientology is said to be a study of "religious technology," for which the word "dianetics" was coined.
From this emerges the eight "dynamics" of man, that is, "the principles governing man's natural urges to survive (both as an individual and as a species), and his relations with the physical universe."
Any one of the eight dynamics is said to be related to the three "essential manifestations of the spirit" which are "affinity, reality, and communication."
The practice of confession - also known as "auditing" - and the use of the "E-Meter," a so-called "electronic response indicator," to aid this procedure, are probably the most controversial features of Scientology.
A booklet describes the process as "spiritual counselling in its highest form."
An elaborate and barely comprehensible jargon is used to describe Scientologists' day-to-day activities, religious practices, and organisational procedures.
Such terms as 'pre-clear grades," "relief release," "overts," and "withholds", are among the descriptions from charts of "classification gradiation and awareness" relating to students' progress.
Again, unlike other sects, Scientology has no qualms about personality cults.
One publication, "Successes of Scientology," bearing the interesting imprimatur "Copyright by L. Ron Hubbard," opens up with a graphic account of the author and founder of Scientology (presumably by himself).
It outlines educational and philosophical achievements, war heroism - he was twice pronounced "dead" but subsequently given a "perfect score on mental and physical fitness" - and successes as an author and traveller.
After referring to Ron Lafayette Hubbard's "lovely wife" and "our charming children," the biography concludes: "Probably no philosopher of modern times has had the popularity and appeal of Hubbard or such startling successes within his own life-time. And mankind has had no better friend."
A former science fiction writer - a leaning some would say is not without significance - his theories first saw light of day in an American science fiction magazine.
Several years ago (I was not then acquainted with Scientology, which had not yet hit the headlines) I met Mr Hubbard at a social function in the South of England.
He struck me as a gregarious and extremely hospitable, but mildly eccentric, character. When I asked him his occupation, he was content to describe it as "inventor."