I think that the key question when it comes to Scientology, setting aside the controversy, is whether it delivers what it promises or not.
You will often hear Scientologists, cognizant of critics' arguments, say "well, L. Ron Hubbard may not have been perfect, but the system he developed works and I am happy with it".
Likewise, what very often happens with people who have been in Scientology for enough time and who leave the church is that they keep practicing Scientology even though they may be very critical of the organization otherwise. In fact, there is a whole field known as the "Freezone", made up of ex-members who directly compete with the church to deliver cheaper services outside from the constrain of the official organization.
However, just like the question "what is Scientology", the question "does Scientology work" is really not as simple as it may seem.
For the record, my own position as an ex-member is that, even though Scientology has many aspects that do work, taken as a whole, it doesn't. It all depends what your aims are.
My aims are of a philosophical and metaphysical nature. I am not particularly interested in being "successful" in life, and I do not have any particular psychological or emotional problems that need resolving. At least not worst than your average 21st century Homo Sapiens. I also am not particularly interested in pursuing "spiritual heights" for its own sake. My primary concern in life is spiritual liberation and the realization of truth - not the remote truth achieved by sitting on a mountain top for years, but the intelligent truth that does not shy away from realities and, on the contrary, helps reach harmony at all levels of everyday life itself.
For a while, I thought Scientology may be a path that would help me achieve this aim. It offered both a mean to achieve higher awareness levels as well as a mean to organize society according to harmonious universal principles. When I began to see Scientology outside from its own myth, though, I realized its limits - which I could not accommodate anymore. I did not want to be dependent from a spiritual system, a spiritual technique. I realized that this dependency itself was anti-spiritual. That asking money for it was anti-spiritual. That the very idea of achieving spiritual liberation through temporal techniques was false. That the fact some individuals claimed to have such an "ultimate" system which they could deprive others was a potential for serious abuses. That it created fanaticism and unnecessary clashes with the outside society. But most of all, I realized that the promised results were not there. The wondrous "Clears" and "OTs" were just people like you and me. Neither more "enlightened" nor more "brainwashed". Some Scientologists are wonderful beings, but this has more to do with themselves and the fact that they are "searcher" than with Scientology itself.
I thus took a personal decision to part with Scientology. This, of course, is a subjective decision that has to do with my own aims, my own evaluation of what Scientology has to offer, and my own experiences. I do not seek to impose this view to others who may have other aims, other opinions and other experiences.
While Scientology's success at achieving lasting and stable spiritual states can be questioned, few of those who have a substantive amount of experience with the Scientology practice known as "auditing" will contest the fact that it can produce remarkable spiritual heights. It is no wonder that they would conclude from that, that Scientology is really the way they were searching for.
Spiritual heights often have this feeling of being stable and definitive. A sense of "now I understand it all". Isn't love itself this way? Who would think, other than through reason, that anything will ever cloud a sunny blue sky ever again?
Not only can people feel good because of auditing, not only can they feel *very* good through auditing, they also can reach spiritual orgasmic experiences they never even suspected existed before.
Who would say, then, that Scientology doesn't work?
Another aspect of Scientology auditing is its psychological effect rather than its spiritual one.
If you ever felt oppressed for days, months, or years, by unshakable emotional depressing doom and darkness, and if all of a sudden these were magically lifted from your shoulder and chest, you will understand why, for some people who experienced something similar thanks to Scientology auditing, all the criticism that is levied against it have little to no weight.
In this sense, Scientology could be said to work too, and in a more plausible way as well, because contrary to its more intangible spiritual aspects, results obtained at the psychological or emotional level tend to be permanent rather than transitory.
The principle of "as-is-ness" on which it is based, which also is the fundamental principle of auditing itself, is remarkable. All it requires is for the person, helped by the gradual two-way communication process of auditing, gets to see a situation "as it is", without restrain or fear, for it to disappear completely.
This is so fundamental that some Freezoners have based their whole practice on that aspect alone, at the exclusion of the more subjective spiritual aspects.
Independently from the spiritual and psychological results available through auditing, Scientology contains a host of down to earth principles that can be applied by anybody in a variety of situations and which can be seen as enlightening and helpful too.
Such are, for example, the principles of gradient in education, of communication cycle in meetings, of activity based management in work, etc. It would be impossible to give a fair idea of them all without going in too many details.
The important point to remember here is their overall coherence and, more importantly, their coherence with the principles that sustain those of auditing as well.
Critics have not really attacked the value of these principle in general, but said they were "stolen" by L. Ron Hubbard from other practices.
While there can of course be influences and cross-fertilizations between several practices, it seems to me that to assemble a coherent system based on bits and pieces stolen from other fields is way more complicated as an explanation than the one that says these principle emanate from a core of basic postulates, as Scientology claims.
Whatever the origin, these principles constitute the third axe through which those who swear by Scientology claim Scientology works. It is worth to note that though most of these Scientology principles find their origin in the 1950's, the gradual convergence of mainstream society towards these same principles in different disguises tend to indicate that Scientology was on the right track in these fields, and that, indeed, "Scientology works".
Where does it go wrong?
In points above, I have tried to highlight the positive aspects in the three main areas of Scientology influence to help others understand what stands behind Scientologists' assertion that "Scientology works". In many cases, in fact, it does - so where does it go wrong?
It goes wrong when principles that are otherwise valid are used in the framework of absolute claims and of political hegemony. In all three fields, the context in which these principles are used is more important than the principles themselves.
In such a context, practical principles can become conditioning, and can block the perception of alternative approaches; psychotherapeutic techniques can eventually become a panacea through which one seeks to resolve all the problems, even those that are "just" a matter of being human; and spiritual development can become an endless race towards more spiritual experiences, at the detriment of true spiritual insight.
Taking individual aspects one could have a case saying that "Scientology works". Taking it as a whole, however, it also is fair to say that it just doesn't work, because the context itself often negates the benefits the tech could bring, and the tech itself will never be able to replace perception. But don't dismiss Scientology as completely worthless either, or you would never understand why some people are truly sincere when they claim that it does work.
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