W Vaughn McCall
Journal of Religion and Health, Vol 46 No3 September 2007
Many modern critics of Scientology (myself included) argue that the development of L Ron Hubbard’s ideas can be understood best as an ongoing effort to maintain absolute personal control of the organisation he created, and to accumulate money and power for himself.
For example, Scientology itself was developed because when he temporarily lost control of his first creation, Dianetics, and Hubbard’s opposition to psychiatry came about because:
- The medical establishment were prepared to criticise the questionable therapeutic claims he made for Dianetics and Scientology
- He saw psychiatry as a commercial rival to his creations.
However, McCall approaches Hubbard from the perspective of a religious scholar. He takes Hubbard at his word, and analyses his writings as religious texts, which teach that psychiatric treatment is an impediment to personal and spiritual freedom. Despite this approach, McCall comes to broadly the same conclusions as the Sociologist Stephen A Kent in his paper “A war over mental health professionalism: Scientology versus psychiatry“.
He decides that Hubbard’s own ideas (as expressed in “Dianetics”) borrowed heavily from Freud, and were marred by the Cold War paranoia of his time. Hubbard’s criticisms of psychiatry were based on ideas and practices which have since been abandoned by the more scientific (and effective) modern profession. Consequently, his view of psychiatry (including his own debt to Freud) is now dated and irrelevant.
Hubbard’s objections to psychiatry and psychology as anti-religious and limiting personal freedom are not consistent with the modern practice of mental health.
Objectives: Celebrity followers of the Church of Scientology have recently used their public forum to attack the modern practice of mental health. The practice of Scientology is rooted in the religious writings of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard. This paper will review the religious writings of L Ron Hubbard to understand Scientology’s position on mental health.
Method: This paper reviews four of the major religious books written by L Ron Hubbard, in addition to a comprehensive overview of Scientology compiled by Scientology staff.
Results: Hubbard’s theory of mind borrowed heavily from the earlier writings of Freud, until Hubbard’s psychological theory extended to include a spiritual existence that goes beyond the material world. The goal of Hubbard’s psychology and religion were to optimize the freedom of the individual, and he viewed psychiatry and psychology as inherently anti-spiritual and opposed to personal freedom and self realization. Ultimately Hubbard presents a world view of potential nuclear world cataclysm, fuelled by the geopolitical climate and mental health theories that dominated the mid 20th century.
Conclusions: Hubbard’s writings mirrored the times in which he lived. His views that mental health practices are inherently anti-religious, freedom-inhibiting, and brain damaging do not
reflect the modern-day practices of mental health.