If Scientology is Going to Survive, Maybe It Should Listen to This Guy (UPDATED)
I recently stumbled upon a smart blog post written by a Washington D.C.-area Scientologist that I wanted to share with my fellow Scientology watchers.
Tad at his desk at the DC org
The blogger does not identify himself, although he has posted several photographs and appears to be named "Tad." I wager that our astute readers (who include both present and former church members) will be able to put a full name to a face.
In his blog, titled "Studying Scientology," Tad has revealed some things about himself: he appears to be a second-generation Scientologist, and both he and his father work at the D.C. "org." Tad is a young father and earnestly cheers on announcements by Scientology leader David Miscavige about new church buildings opening around the world.
We were especially impressed by Tad's latest post, which he put up on July 5. It's titled "Preserving the Authenticity of my Religion."
Tad begins by making the point that there's often some disagreement about what the founder of a religion actually said or meant:
Every religion has this issue to one degree or another. From the Bhagavad-Gita to the King James edition of the bible, so many enlightened texts have relied in whole or in part on the interpretation of another (or of committees & parliamentary bodies) on what the founder originally taught.
In fact, he's found a good example from his own church, he says.
Tad had recently finished some coursework in Scientology that relies on a 1950 book known as Notes on the Lectures. It's really a compilation of notes taken by students as they were listening to L. Ron Hubbard give lectures at the time.
A few years ago, Tad says, tapes of those original lectures were found in poor condition. But thanks to modern technology, Hubbard's words were recovered and can be listened to today.
The result, Tad, is fairly shocking.
Now, I've had the opportunity to read the previously-issued Notes on the Lectures book nearly-back-to-back with the actual lectures that Mr. Hubbard gave, and the result is pretty horrifying. There are some portions of the book where you can fairly well understand which lecture it is that the student note-takers were talking about, as it seemed they were tracking with the lecture. In other places, though -- especially with some of the diagrams they came up with, it seems like they either missed the point entirely, or were making up their own vision of what Mr. Hubbard was talking about.
After giving David Miscavige and Scientology's ecclesiastical clearinghouse, the Religious Technology Center, a plug for their dedication to finding and preserving Hubbard's every word, Tad then winds up for his final kicker:
It made me wonder -- how much of what we know of today's world religions is actually how the founder or spiritual leader taught or said? How much of it was faithfully passed on with fidelity, and how much was either altered completely or made up whole cloth? That much, we'll unfortunately never know.
I'm sure our readers, and particularly any religious studies majors, will have a field day with that question. Has a lack of taped lectures or hotel receipts in the lives of Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth, or Muhammad ibn 'Abdullāh hurt them any as founders of world religions? Hardly. And on the other hand, the painfully well documented details of life in Palmyra, New York, haven't always helped a more modern prophet like Joseph Smith.
As for Hubbard? Well, I can relate to what Tad is saying. If I were a fan, I'd be elated to see false records of what he said be supplanted by more accurate data.
But on the other hand, reading the upper levels, there's really no doubt we're getting material about galactic overlords and invisible alien parasites right from the horse's mouth. Tad can be assured that Hubbard's space opera tales have been passed on with high fidelity -- but as for that "whole cloth" question? Tricky.
As usual, we'll be interested to see how our faithful commenters analyze Tad's thoughts. I hope you'll all agree, however, that his blog post is one of the more lucid and interesting things we've seen from a Scientologist in a while. Miscavige, you want to turn things around? Allow youngsters like Tad to wrestle with issues in your church -- and with outside criticism -- honestly and without fear of retribution. Just a suggestion.
Update: Judging by the comments below, it appears I may not have been as clear as I should have in this post. I thought I made it pretty apparent that I respect what Tad is doing in his blog post -- that he is pleased to see some of Hubbard's early lectures recovered, superseding what had turned out to be a misinterpretation of them.
I thought I was also clear that Tad celebrated Miscavige and RTC for recovering Hubbard's original words. I don't really see how that would put him in trouble with the church.
I also admired his ability to relate his experience to that of other religions, which sometimes have to struggle over the original utterances and meanings of their holy texts.
Tad expresses some satisfaction that in his own religion, he can listen to the words of the founder directly. Again, I don't think that's controversial.
I only threw in a complication at the end -- that Hubbard's meaning isn't really in doubt when it comes to the OT III and other "space opera" elements of Scientology, and it would be interesting to see Tad wrestle with those materials and not some less controversial lectures from the early 1950s. That's what I meant about how refreshing it would be to see someone of Tad's intellect being open and honest about his religion.
OK, carry on.
Click here to see all recent Scientology coverage at the Voice
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard's organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga -- Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story -- How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection -- A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Robert Cipriano Case -- A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum -- The 'Crash' Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape -- 'Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle'
The Aaron Saxton Accusation -- Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation -- Scientology's former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross -- Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked -- Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back -- Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack -- The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated -- The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation -- Investigating a reporter's divorce to shut him up
The Hugh Urban Investigation -- An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology's past
Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh -- A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link
Janet Reitman's Inside Scientology -- A masterful telling of Scientology's history
The Western Spy Network Revealed? -- Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige
Scientology's Enemies List -- Are You On It?
Inside Inside Scientology -- An interview with author Janet Reitman
Scientology and the Nation of Islam -- Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman!
Scientologists -- How Many of Them Are There, Anyway?
Roger Weller's Wild Ride -- Scientology When it was Hip
The Marc Headley Infiltration -- A Scientology Spying Operation Revealed
Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology's Retaliation is "Scary and Pathetic"
An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy