This is an excellent book about fringe beliefs circa 1950, however Dianetics is discussed only in one chapter of 17 pages.
That said, the material consists of an excellent, literate and scholarly introduction to Hubbard’s life and the early history of Dianetics, and includes a brief but insightful critique of Transcripts of early ‘Dianetic Therapy’ included by Dr Joseph Winters in his book on the subject (including two-and-a-half-pages of transcript).
1983 | Psychology’s Occult Doubles: Psychology and the Problem of Pseudoscience | Thomas Hardy Leahey and Grace Evans Leahey
This site began as an attempt to compile a comprehensive and up-to-date list of books examining Scientology from an academic and critical perspective. It branched out partly because I was running out of books. However, now and again, an overlooked but very valuable text turns up – this is one such.
The book begins by using the work of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper in the philosophy of science to clearly draw the distinction between real science (specifically psychology) and pseudoscience.
The authors then develop their thesis by examining a number of historical pseudosciences which claimed to understand the human mind – Phrenology, Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Psychical Research and finally, “Contemporary Therapeutic Cults”. This includes Scientology. Their discussion of this is brief, but penetrating.
The autobiography of Jack Williamson. Williamson is a respected science fiction writer and contemporary of L Ron Hubbard. They were active in pulp fiction during the same period, and worked for many of the same magazine editors (notably Howard W Campbell).
Williamson’s scathing assessment of Hubbard and Dianetics only occupies three pages of the book, but provides considerable insight into many aspects of this period, including Hubbard’s character and his part in the decline of Campbell as an editor.
The majority of this book discusses a general theory of religion proposed by the authors. One chapter (entitled “To be perfectly clear”) discusses Scientology in the context of this general theory.
It is notable for the concept of “Pluralistic Ignorance”, which Stark and Bainbridge developed when researching UFO groups. This helps to explain why Scientologists persist despite the fact that the benefits they were promised never materialise.
Edit: This concept is covered in greater detail my later post “Understanding the Scientology Mindset Pt 5 – Pluralistic Ignorance“.
The paper “Science and Religion: The Case of Scientology” constitutes a chapter in the book “The Future of New Religious Movements”. It discusses Scientology’s self-presentation as a ‘scientific religion’ and examines Hubbard’s relationship with the science fiction subculture when he was an active pulp fiction writer.
Bainbridge statistically analyses the results of a survey at a popular science fiction convention to assess Hubbard’s popularity among the fan subculture of the time.
Author: Steven Pressman
The influence of Scientology upon the world of fringe beliefs extends beyond the official Church. Throughout it’s history, disaffected members have broken away, to set up rival groups (and there is now a community of ‘Independent Scientologists’).
Occasionally, however, a religious entrepreneur will cherry-pick aspects of Scientology and then strike out in their own direction. Werner Erhard (AKA Jack Rosenberg) was one such. He took a few Scientology courses (and forced them upon employees in his used car business) and then tried to use Scientology to make money for himself.
Erhard’s original plan was to present the Scientology basic communications course to a hundred or more people at a time, and pay Scientology a percentage of the take. He eventually rejected this because, “once his customers had completed the course they would have no more use for him” (pg 31). He left Scientology, but did abandon his ambition to be a wealthy guru.
After toying with ‘Mind Dynamics’ (which he also abandoned) Erhard came up with his own approach. It combined ‘scientific’ self-development with the ‘motivational’ business seminar to create something new – and nasty – the EST seminar.
This book evaluates the impact of skinheads, the Ku Klux Klan, survivalists, the Church of Scientology, and the Unification Church of the culture and social systems of the US.
Zellner’s first-hand observations and interviews with current and former members bring the material to life and place the countercultures within the framework of mainstream society. Each chapter contains a concise history of the group and biographical sketches of its leaders.
1997 net.wars | Wendy M Grossman
This is a classic book about the Internet, describing the early conflicts between the practice of freedom of speech and information, and the vested interests who have tried to control online discourse.
It is relevant here because of one chapter (of 20 pages) which describes the conflict between people discussing Scientology on the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology and the Church of Scientology, who used both legal and extra-legal means to try to suppress not only discussion but also the free exchange of Church materials which they did not did not want to be freely available.
Chapter 6, “Copyright Terrorists” reveals that the freedom of information and anonymous communication enabled by the Internet has, from its earliest earliest days, proved highly disruptive to the Church of Scientology (and any other repressive organisation that depends on Secrecy).
1997 | Remote Viewers: the Secret History of America’s Psychic Spies | Jim Schnabel
Scientologist believe that their training can enable them to separate their spiritual essence from the body and “exteriorize” – a sort of ‘astral travel’, if you will.
It is hardly surprising, then, that Scientologists and ex-Scientologists were involved in a curious US military programmes to spy on their country’s enemies using supposed psychic powers – an enterprise that persisted for years and wasted millions of dollars.
Much is made of the connection between Scientology and the covert research community. As is often the case, the truth is far more banal than speculation.
It was true that two of the most prominent ‘psychic researchers’ were ex-Scientologists and there were other connections between the programme and Scientology. However, this was a time when fringe ideas were abroad in US culture, and the interest in ‘Psi phenomenon’ pre-dated Dianetics and Scientology.
Title: Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons (1999)
Authors: John Carter and Robert Anton Wilson
This book is of interest here due to its detailed description of Parson’s brief ‘Magickal’ partnership with L Ron Hubbard (the founder of Dianetics and Scientology). Hubbard acted as Parson’s ‘scribe’ and participated in occult rituals with him over a prolonged period.
“Strange Angel” by George Pendle covers the same ground, and is probably better written. “Sex and Rockets” , however, tells the story from the perspective of Parson’s ‘Magickal’ practices, and discusses this aspect of his life (and Hubbard’s participation) in greater detail.
2001 | From Slogans to Mantras – Social Protest and Religious Conversion in the Late Vietnam Era | Stephen A Kent
During the 1960’s left-wing activist groups fragmented and – their activities degenerated into pointless doctrinal arguments and political impotence. In this compelling book Kent argues that it is no coincidence that new religious movements (NRMs) mushroomed (and triggered a popular moral panic) during the same period.
He argues that their disillusionment with politics made political activists vulnerable to the recruiting pitch of those NRMs who presented themselves as a fashionably counter-cultural way in which to make a difference in a troubled world. In other words, many idealistic people looking for a mission in life migrated from politics to organisations like Scientology.
Although Kent’s discussion of Scientology during this period only occupies 21 pages of the book, its central argument explains a lot about the modern Church and its opponents.
For example, disaffected members of the Church of Scientology will often argue that Scientology in ‘the early days’ was not only less restrictive, but also more exciting and fulfilling than it is today. Many Independent Scientologists strive to recapture this atmosphere by practising outside of the authority of the Church.
Kent’s thesis suggests an alternative explanation – that the spirit of the times ensured that membership of any NRM appeared to be more meaningful to the participant (especially in retrospect) than it actually was.
This is a fascinating account of the life of John Whiteside Parsons , who lived a strange double life as a (largely self-taught) pioneer rocket scientist and follower of notorious occultist Aleister Crowley.
It is included here as several chapters describe Parson’s relationship with the founder of Scientology (L Ron Hubbard) during which they practised ‘black magic’ together, and a detailed description of other aspects of the obscure period of Hubbard’s life before he created Dianetics.
2005 | The Joy of Sects | Sam Jordison
The format of this book is very similar to “Stripping The Gurus” with less emphasis on movements inspired by Eastern religion traditions. However, the style is totally different.
For example 10 page chapter on Scientology also opens with a list of celebrity adherents and a reference to the Xenu story: “Apparently, a naughty alien called Xenu caused a lot of trouble on Earth 75 million years ago – trouble which has startling repercussions today”.
This is cult-watching as light entertainment – the sort of book you might read while waiting for a bus. While there is nothing wrong with that, it does not tell the slightly experienced Scientology-watcher anything that they do not already know.
For more details, visit the full post, by clicking on the image, the book title or this link
2009 |Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment Geoffrey D Falk
ISBN-10: 0973620315 | ISBN-13: 978-0973620313
Most of the chapters of this book discuss abusive Westernised versions of Eastern religions (for example, Marharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Rama and Bhagwan Shree Rajineesh). However, the author also weighs in Scientology, Est (and its successors) abusive groups in the Catholic Church and even the relatively harmless Findhorn community.
His style might be described as ‘attack dog scepticism’. He makes extensive use of the words of the Gurus themselves to condemn them. However, reading his accounts of various groups can become wearing because of its unbroken hostility, and the chapter on Scientology is of poor quality.
For more details, visit the full post, by clicking on the image, the book title or this link
At 282 pages in large print this biography is not comprehensive – however, it is the only book that focusses on the life Marjorie Cameron (1922-1995) who inhabited the American ‘underground’ art world and film scene.
It is featured here because of its coverage of the ‘black magic’ rituals performed by Jack Parsons (pioneer rocket scientist and secret occultist) and L Ron Hubbard (years before he invented Dianetics and founded Scientology) in which she was an active participant.