Academic Papers

academic journalsAcademic papers present a problem for a site like this. They are distributed by specialised journals which often have small audiences, so both print and online versions are expensive. Most people access academic papers through an academic library, or through an online account held by an educational institution of which they are a member.

All academic papers begin with an ‘abstract’ – a short description of what the paper is about and itsacademic journals conclusions. These are openly accessible, so anyone can find a potentially interesting paper – but only a minority can actually read them.

Older papers are often released to the public, but up-to-date material is protected. If anyone has electronic copies of   recent academic papers, please  contact me by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page, or through the Feedback page.



1959 | An Experimental Investigation of Hubbard’s Engram Hypothesis (Dianetics) | Jack Fox, Alvin E. Davis, and B Lebovits
Psychological Newsletter, 1959, 10 131-134
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Before L Ron Hubbard became known for Scientology, he had invented “Dianetics” and established organisations (called “Dianetics Foundations”) in six major American cities. By 1950 these foundations had spent $1 million and were in $200,000 in debt, and in 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners instituted proceedings against the “Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation” in Elizabeth for teaching medicine without a licence. This forced its closure and the whole network was in danger of bankruptcy.

The “Hubbard Dianetic Foundation” was saved by Don Purcell, a rich Dianetics enthusiast who kept it solvent on the condition that it open itself to scientific scrutiny. During this brief period, people with scientific training took the claims of Dianetics seriously, and conducted a proper examination of it.

This research was published in 1959, and examined a central principle of Dianetics – that phrases spoken in the hearing of an unconscious or traumatised person create an ‘automatic recording’ in the brain (an ‘Engram). According to Hubbard, this is persistent, and may cause the experience to ‘replayed’ whenever the phrase is heard in future, so the claims of Dianetics are entirely dependent on the existence of the engram.

Hugh B Urban

If_You_Talk_Too_Much_This_Man_May_Die_mirror2006 | Fair Game: Secrecy, Security, and the Church of Scientology in Cold War America | Hugh B Urban.Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Volume 74, Number2, June 2006, pp. 356-389 (Article)

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Hugh B Urban is a professor at the Ohio State University. His interests (listed in his entry on the University website) include Comparative Religions and New Religious Movements – he is the author of “The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religious Movement“,  which is an excellent objective account of the organisation’s development.

He is currently interested in “[…]the study of secrecy in religion, particularly in relation to questions of knowledge and power” and is writing a book two books. One of these promises to  prove interesting to Scientology-watchers (whether or not it mentions the Church).  It is provisionally entitled “Secrecy: The Adornment of Silence, the Vestment of Power. Comparative Studies in Esoteric Religions”.

This article combines those two interests – and weaves in another thread that is vital to an understanding of the Church of Scientology – the atmosphere of cold war paranoia that pervaded its origins and captured the imagination of it’s creator, L Ron Hubbard.

Stephen A Kent

1992 International Social Control by the Church of Scientology | Stephen A Kent
Paper presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
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Historically, scholars  have placed New Religious Movements in definite (and broadly similar) categories. One popular distinction made by the Sociologist Roy Wallis is between ‘world rejecting’ and ‘world-affirming’ movements.

Kent describes an alternative  approach – recourse mobilisation theory, which investigates how a group is  organised and how members are motivated to persist with what most sometimes seem to be a futile effort to transform the world into their image.

journal of contemporary religionScientology’s Relationship With Eastern Religious Traditions | Stephen A Kent
Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1996, page 21
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Abstract: Scientology’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, frequently made claims that Scientology was related to or shared significant similarities with Hinduism, Theravada Buddhism and Taoism. However, careful examination of Hubbard’s claims indicates that he had only a superficial acquaintance with Eastern religions, and most of his attempts to associate Scientology with these faiths are unwarranted. Moreover, social and political pressures against his organisation’s alleged healing practices probably provided the catalyst for Hubbard’s attempt to portray his creation as a religion with Eastern overtones.

marburg1997 Scientology – Is This a Religion? | Stephen A Kent
Marburg Journal of Religion, Volume 4, No. 1 (July 1999)
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This paper persuasively argues that Scientology is not a religion, but a multi-national corporation which uses religious cloaking to not only further its commercial activities but also maintain a workforce in oppressive conditions which Kent concludes, “[…] likely violate a number of human rights clauses as outlined by two United Nations statements.”

online only1998 | The Globalization of Scientology: Influence, Control, and Opposition in Transnational Markets
Stephen A Kent
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Locating itself within a sociological perspective that analyses religiously ideological organizations as transnational corporations, this study examines the global activities of Scientology. It summarizes the organization’s resolution of its international conflict with Interpol, its take-over of its internationally influential opponent, the Cult Awareness Network, and its heightened rhetoric against psychiatry. It also highlights its international marketing strategies that attempt to further the teachings of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and gain political and social influence. Despite Scientology’s efforts to adjust its approach to fit the cultural realities of the countries that it enters, its apparent successes in some formerly Iron Curtain nations is counterbalanced by its growing opposition in Western Europe.

religious studies and theology1999 The Creation of ‘Religious’ Scientology | Stephen A Kent
Religious Studies and Theology 18 No. 2 (December 1999): 97-126
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Abstract: Among the most complex and mysterious ideologies of the so-called new religions today is Scientology. A multinational conglomerate dedicated to the propagation and implementation of L. Ron Hubbard’s beliefs and ideas, Scientology operated missions in approximately twenty-five countries and had an active membership of at least 75,000 in the early 1990s (Kent, 1999a: 147 and n.2). (More precise and recent figures are exceeding difficult to acquire.) Aspects of its elaborate ideological system relate to business practices (Hall, 1998; Passas, 1994; Passas and Castillo, 1992), educational techniques, mental health (Wallis, 1976), drug rehabilitation, moral values, environmentalism, and religion. Its religious theology and accompanying cosmology are poorly understood by researchers (for an exception see Meldgaard, 1992), who fail to appreciate how they motivate members, identify societal opponents, and reflect the social and financial pressures that plagued its founder and sole theologian, L. Ron Hubbard, in the early 1950s.

This article documents the multifaceted self-representation of Scientology as a science, a mental health therapy, and a religion during its founding years. In doing so it pays particular attention to the social, economic, and ideological pressures on Hubbard that motivated him to claim religious status for his ideas. Consequently, the study provides an in-depth examination of the birth of a controversial faith, and it complements an earlier analysis that viewed Hubbard’s religious representations of Scientology as attempts to protect his followers from charges that they were practising medicine without licenses (Kent, 1996: 30-33). The first part of this study presents the ideological content of Dianetics and its offspring, Scientology, and the second part identifies social and economic pressures that were significant factors in Hubbard’s creation of Scientology’s religious claims. It concludes with some [p. 98] thoughts about the development of religious beliefs out of purely secular concerns, and underscores the contemporary difficulties brought about by an historical understanding of Scientology’s early years.

german flag2000 Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force | Stephen A Kent
Published by German InteriorMinistry
Behörde für Inneres — Arbeitsgruppe Scientology
und Landeszentrale fuür politische Bildung
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Abstract: This study examines the confinement programs and camps that Scientology operates as supposedly rehabilitative facilities for “deviant” members of its “elite” Sea Organization. These programs, known collectively as the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF), put coerced participants through regimes of harsh physical punishment, forced self-confessions, social isolation, hard labour, and intense doctrinal study, all as part of leadership-designed efforts to regain members’ ideological commitment. The confinement that participants experience, combined with forms of physical maltreatment, intensive ideological study, and forced confessions, allows social scientists to speak of the RPF as a “brainwashing” program.

marburg2001 The French & German vs. American Debate over ‘New Religions’, Scientology, and Human Rights
Stephen A Kent
Marburg Journal of Religion Volume 6, No. 1 (January 2001)
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Abstract: This article critically examines the allegations of religious intolerance that United States officials and governmental staff have levelled against France and Germany (along with other European countries) for their policies on, and actions toward, Scientology and other controversial groups. It argues that American officials appear to be poorly informed about the bases for the Europeans’ critical positions, and that those officials have been the recipients of selective information provided by Scientology itself along with Scientology’s supporters. It concludes by offering a preliminary analysis of this Euro-American debate in the context of ‘international social movements’ theory within the social sciences.

journal of religion and popular culture2002 Hollywood’s Celebrity-Lobbyists and the Clinton Administration’s American Foreign Policy Toward German Scientology
Stephen A Kent | Journal of Religion and Popular Culture Volume I: Spring 2002

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This article takes basic insights provided by resource mobilization theory in order to discuss how Scientology celebrities used their status to influence the international debate over Scientology between the United States and Germany. Their ability to have done so is another indicator of the access to American political elites that Hollywood cultural elites have gained in recent years, most especially during the administration of President Bill Clinton (1992-2000). The shortcomings, however, of some of the celebrities’ efforts reveal the weaknesses that are associated with cultural elites entering political debates. As is common in other instances of celebrities’ political involvement, Scientology’s celebrities have contributed to the trivialization of serious issues that confront the international community.

marburg2003 | Scientology and the European Human Rights Debate: A Reply to Leisa Goodman, J. Gordon Melton, and the European Rehabilitation Project Force Study |Stephen A Kent | Marburg Journal of Religion Volume 8, No. 1 (September 2003)

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The link above leads to an academic paper by Stephen A Kent, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada.  He has extensively studied Scientology, and a number of other ‘high control’ groups.  The Church of Scientology has mounted a number of extra-legal operations against Kent, with the apparent object of damaging his reputation in order to undermine the credibility of these findings.

Kent accused Scientology of human rights abuses in an earlier paper, Brainwashing in Scientology’s Rehabilitation Project Force (which should be read first, as this paper is a defence of the conclusions he came to there).

This paper addresses attacks from a small number of academics, and the “independent scholar” J Gordon Melton. Their view of the regime of forced labour,  sleep deprivation, and restricted diet imposed upon members of the ‘Rehabilitation Project Force’ (RPF) is that it is an example or religious devotion no different that that expected from a monastic order, and they have attacked Kent on this basis.

In this paper, Kent vigorously defends his assessment of the RPF, and presents Scientology’s take-over of the Cult Awareness Network as another example of Scientology’s intolerance to perceived threats to its coveted  status as a ‘religion’.

Sea Org Alley 62005 |  Education and Re-Education in Ideological Organizations and Their Implications for Children
Stephen A Kent Phd professor of sociology at the University of Alberta at Edmonton, Canada
Originally published in Cultic Studies Review Vol. 4, No. 2,

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In this paper, Kent examines the attitudes of  a number of “high control groups” (including Scientology) towards children. In all of these organisations he finds that:

  • The overwhelming majority of the second generation abandon their parent’s ‘faith’, leaving as soon as they are old enough
  • The reason for this is that group membership made such demands on the time and attention of parents that they did not have any time to spend with their kids – let alone time to indoctrinate them into a ramshackle belief system that was being made up as it went along.

lronhubbard_globe2008 | Malignant Narcissim , L Ron Hubbard, and Scientology’s Policies of Narcisstic Rage
Jodi M Lane MA and Stephen A Kent Ph D
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The social environment within Scientology is toxic. At the very least ‘ordinary’ part-time members are subject to manipulative social pressure, and at worst (for example in the full-time ‘Sea Org’) good people are manipulated into treating each other in an extraordinarily abusive way.

This toxic social environment is created by the rules and practices of Scientology itself. The doctrines of Scientology, set down by L Ron Hubbard, create an authoritarian,  bureaucratic organisational  structure  with internal secrecy and a requirement to report ‘thoughtcrime‘.

The question is, why does the Church of Scientology, as an organisation, posses this character? Lane and Kent suggest that it is a direct consequence of the personality of its founder, L Ron Hubbard.

They propose that Hubbard suffered from the psychiatric condition “Malignant Narcissism”, which gave him an obsessive need to control others and revenge himself on those who he perceived to have wronged him.

Court2010 | Sects, Cults and the Attack on Jurisprudence| Stephen A Kent  and Robin D Willey

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Using examples from the US and Canada Kent and Willey observe the process that begins when a cult or sect  establishes its own internal rules and procedures.

They take great care to explain not only what they mean by ‘cult’ and ‘sect’, but also how and why they form. This discussion is worth reading for the wider perspective it provides.

Alternative legal systems established by cults will likely be:

  • Based on beliefs and doctrines which are not compatible with secular law.
  • Assert that they are superior – that theirs is  ‘a higher law’
  • Are supported by believers who are prepared to break secular law in order to promote their alternative

This sets the stage for serious conflict with representatives of the civil and criminal justice system –   when they are called to court, sects and cults often behave badly.

gateshead ideal org2011 | The Decline of Scientology | Stephen A Kent Phd Read Online | Download as .pdf

here is a lot going on in this academic treatise.

Kent analyses the development of Scientology according to the ideas of the Sociologist Rodney Stark. Stark has constructed a theoretical model that tries to explain why new religions succeed or fail Read Online | Download as .pdf.

Kent concludes that, according to Stark’s model,  Scientology in Europe and the US is in decline, and the long-term prognosis is terminal.

Kent is not the only academic to have applied this theory to Scientology.  Religious scholar James R Lewis has also done so in a book simply entitled “Scientology” (which has been widely criticized as an apologist work).

In this paper, Kent also critiques Lewis’ conclusions, both on matters of fact and interpretation.

Other Authors

Sci-Fi-Planets-421981 | The Transcendental Engineers | Hugh AD Spencer

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This is a thesis from 1981, which earned its author a masters degree and it is still astonishingly relevant today.

Spencer’s thesis is that the distinctive culture of Science Fiction fans allows adults to indulge in healthy imaginative play.

He contrasts this with L Ron Hubbard’s Scientology, which he argues has exploited  SF imagery and technological optimism to create an unhealthy fantasy world.

anonymous1998 | New Dimensions of Social Movement/Countermovement Interaction: The Case of Scientology and its Internet Critics
Michael Peckham

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This paper applied a particular sociological perspective  to the ongoing battle between the Church of Scientology, and critics who express themselves and organise real world opposition through the Internet.

If you can translate the technical language, about ‘social movements’ and ‘resource mobilisation theory’ it is actually an accurate and insightful description of the sea-change in the fortunes of Scientology that occurred after Internet access went mainstream.

So this is what I have tried in the main post

lucy-psychiatrist2007 |Psychiatry and Psychology in the Writings of L. Ron Hubbard | W Vaughn McCall

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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“.

marburg2010 | Alternative therapy, Dianetics, and Scientology | Terra Manca
Marburg Journal of Religion: Volume 15 (2010)
Full Text Online: PDF

This paper discusses how Dianetics began as a “Marginal Medicine” – an alternative therapy which made testable claims, and then (due to scrutiny by governments and the medical establishment) adopted a ‘religious’ identity to avoid regulation. The author shows that, despite having retreated from the medical arena, Scientology still makes therapeutic claims that are inconsistent with scientific medicine.

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