In Scientology, the concept of the thetan (/ˈθeɪtən/) is similar to the concept of self, or the spirit or soul as found in several belief systems. The term is derived from the Greek letter Θ, theta, which in Scientology beliefs represents "the source of life, or life itself." In Scientology it is believed that it is the thetan, not the central nervous system, which commands the body through communication points.
Thetans have been described in the Applied Religious Philosophy of Scientology in a number of ways.
According to Scientology, the concept for the thetan was first discovered in the early 1950s by L. Ron Hubbard, drawing on reports by Dianetics practitioners, who in session, found clients came up with descriptions of past-life experiences. Although the term is comparable to a soul, a thetan can be incarnated many times over lifetimes. An important goal in Scientology is to develop a greater awareness and higher levels of ability to operate in the physical universe as an Operating Thetan.
The term and concept were defined by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who adopted the Greek letter theta (Θ) to represent "the source of life and life itself". Hubbard first introduced his ideas of "theta-beings" in a lecture series of March 1952. He attributed the coining of the word to his wife Mary Sue. As an essential point of Scientology doctrine, a person's sense of identity and self-awareness stem entirely from the "thetan". It is redundant to refer to "a person's thetan," because the person does not exist independently.
Hubbard once defined a thetan as: "... having no mass, no wave-length, no energy, no measurable qualities and no time or location in space except by consideration or postulate. The spirit is not a thing. It is the creator of things." In a lecture series later published as a book ("The Phoenix Lectures"), he jokingly pointed to a study that implied that a "thetan" manifests a small but measurable amount of mass:
Although Hubbard did not name the doctor concerned, there was indeed such an attempt, by Duncan MacDougall, to measure the weight of dying patients to determine the weight of the soul, although MacDougall's experiments took place about fifty years before Hubbard's lectures, not fifteen or twenty, and are generally not regarded as having any scientific validity.
According to Hubbard's son Ronald DeWolf (born L. Ron Hubbard Jr.), his father stated that thetans are immortal and perpetual, having willed themselves into existence at some point several trillion years ago. After they originated, thetans generated "points to view" or "dimension points", causing space to come into existence. They agreed that other thetans' dimension points existed, thus bringing into existence the entire universe. All matter, energy, space, and time exists solely because thetans agree that it exists.
In the primordial past, according to Scientologist teachings, thetans brought the material universe into being largely for their own pleasure.." The universe is thought to have no independent reality, but to derive its apparent reality from the fact that most thetans agree it exists. Scientologists believe that thetans fell from grace when they began to identify with their creation, rather than their original state of spiritual purity. Eventually, they lost their memory of their true nature, along with the associated spiritual and creative powers. As a result, thetans came to think of themselves as nothing but embodied beings.
Thetans are believed to be reborn time and time again in new bodies through a process called "assumption" which is analogous to reincarnation. Dell deChant and Danny Jorgensen liken Scientology to Hinduism, in that both ascribe a causal relationship between the experiences of earlier incarnations and one's present life. With each rebirth, the effects of the "MEST" universe (MEST here stands for matter, energy, space, and time) on the thetan are believed to become stronger. Scientologists believe that the thetan has been “embodied on many occasions,” but they generally avoid the term “reincarnation.” They also reject the idea of transmigration, “i.e. the belief that the thetan would incarnate into any animal less than human.” Scientology’s first phase has to do with removing “encumbrances acquired in this life and in past existences,” J. Gordon Melton writes. These encumbrances are called “engrams,” “described as aberrations attached to the self that produce dysfunctional behavior patterns,” according to Melton.
Jon Atack, whose book A Piece of Blue Sky details how he reached Operating Thetan level V before leaving Scientology, describes Hubbard's doctrines about thetans: "Thetans are all-knowing beings, and became bored because there were no surprises. Hubbard asserted that the single most important desire in all beings is to have a 'game'. To have a 'game' it was necessary to 'not know' certain things, so certain perceptions were negated ('not-is-ed')." Since thetans knew everything, this required them to abandon or suppress perceptions and knowledge. Over time, the loss of perception accumulated and certain thetans began to cause harm to others. MEST (physical) beings also sought to "trap" thetans in order to control them. Thetans came to learn contrition, punishing themselves for their own "harmful" acts.
According to Hubbard, an essential part of the thetans' game was the "conquest" of matter, energy, space, and time by the life force, theta. This has produced multiple universes which have ended and begun in succession, each new one being more solid and entrapping than the last. The thetans have by now become so enmeshed in the physical universe that many have identified themselves totally with it, forgetting their quadrillions of years of existence and their original godly powers.
According to Scientology, thetan powers are said to remain potent and restorable. One of the Church of Scientology's stated goals is "the rehabilitation of the human spirit", by which it means the restoration of the thetan's original abilities. Hubbard claims that thetans are able to change reality through "postulates"—decisions made by the individual about the nature of the reality around them. Some thetans are said to have (mis)used this ability to "implant" others with hypnotic suggestions, forcing other thetans to "cluster" around bodies (hence body thetans). This sort of directed control is referred to as "other-determinism". Scientology seeks to undo it and return the thetan to "self-determinism", where he can control himself and his environment. The eventual goal is to achieve "pan-determinism", where he acts for the good of all.
The Scientological notion of the thetan differs from other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, in three significant ways. While other belief systems “fuse the concept of the body and soul”, the thetan is “separate and independent.” Also unlike the Judeo-Christian tradition, Scientologists believe that the thetan has “lived through many, perhaps thousands of lifetimes.” Third, different from the Christian notion of original sin, Scientology believes that the thetan is basically good, but “has lost touch with its true nature.”
Religious scholar Richard Holloway writes that thetans were not created, but they created themselves, adopting and creating the human body as a vehicle or existence.
Non-Scientologists Joel Sappell and Robert Welkos described in a 1990 article in the LA Times how Scientologists believe that when a person dies—or, in Scientology terms, when a thetan abandons its physical body—they go to a "landing station" on the planet Venus, where the thetan is re-implanted and told lies about its past life and its next life. The Venusians take the thetan, "capsule" it, and send it back to Earth to be thrown into the ocean off the coast of California. They quote Hubbard as saying, "If you can get out of that, and through that, and wander around through the cities and find some girl who looks like she is going to get married or have a baby or something like that, you're all set. And if you can find the maternity ward to a hospital or something, you're OK. And you just eventually just pick up a baby."
While Hubbard’s discovery of the thetan led to the development of an elaborate cosmology, the doctrinal structure he created is based on the following propositions: “Man is an immortal spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized.”
According to Scientology doctrine, a thetan exists whether operating a human body or not. Scientology advertises itself as being able to "rehabilitate" the thetan of a practitioner to a state where the individual can operate with or without a "flesh body". The term "operating thetan" would then apply as it does when an individual is operating a body. The Operating Thetan (OT) levels are the upper level courses in Scientology.
The Church of Scientology states as a point of doctrine that an individual exists with or without a body.
Even beyond the Operating Thetan levels comes the "Cleared Theta Clear", a godlike state which Hubbard describes this way:
"A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends interested in existence".
A body thetan is a disincarnate thetan who is "stuck" in, on or near a human body, and all human bodies are said to be infested by these disembodied thetans, or clusters of them. This information is not revealed until a Scientologist reaches Section III of the Operating Thetan levels (commonly referred to as "OT III"). Body thetans were said by Hubbard to be a result of a prehistoric "Incident" involving Xenu.
MacDougall's ... methodology ... was suspect, [his] sample size far too small, and [his] ability to measure changes in weight imprecise. For this reason, credence should not be given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that they measured the weight of the soul ... His postulations on this topic are a curiosity, but nothing more.
In Scientology, the concept of the thetan is similar to the concept of self, or the spirit or soul. A body thetan or a BT is a disincarnate thetan who is "stuck" in, on or near a human body, and all human bodies are said to be infested by these disembodied thetans, or clusters of them.
Body thetans came about approximately 75 million years ago through a catastrophe brought on by a galactic dictator named Xenu, as described by L. Ron Hubbard in a confidential auditing (counseling level in Scientology) called OT III.
High-level Scientologists are told that body thetans are responsible for physical and mental ailments, and are told to telepathically exorcize them using Scientology auditing processes.Clear (Scientology)
In dianetics and Scientology, Clear is one of the major states practitioners strive to reach on their way up the Bridge to Total Freedom. The state of Clear is reached when a person becomes free of the influence of engrams, unwanted emotions or painful traumas not readily available to the conscious mind. Scientologists believe that human beings accumulate anxieties, psychosomatic illnesses, and aberration due to receiving engrams throughout their lives, and that by applying Dianetics, every single person can reach the state of Clear.A Clear is defined by the Church of Scientology as person who no longer has a "reactive mind", and is therefore free from the reactive mind's negative effects. A Clear is said to be "at cause over" (that is, in control of) their "mental energy" (their thoughts), and able to think clearly even when faced with the very situations that in earlier times caused them difficulty. The next level of spiritual development is that of an Operating Thetan. A person who has not reached a state of Clear is called a "pre-clear."Dianetics states that a person's awareness is influenced by the stimulus-response nature of the reactive mind. Achieving the state of Clear means a person has overcome the reactive mind and is in complete control of their analytical mind. According to Hubbard: "A Clear is a being who no longer has his own reactive mind, and therefore suffers none of the ill effects the reactive mind can cause. The Clear has no engrams which, when restimulated, throw out the correctness of his computations by entering hidden and false data." Sociologist Roy Wallis noted, “Being Clear meant being able to do all those things which one could currently not do, and to which one aspired so desperately.” It is estimated that the cost of reaching the Clear state in Scientology is $128,000.Fishman Affidavit
The Fishman Affidavit is a set of court documents submitted by ex-Scientologist Steven Fishman in 1993 in the federal case, Church of Scientology International v. Fishman and Geertz (Case No. CV 91-6426 (HLH (Tx) United States District Court for the Central District of California).
The affidavit contained criticisms of the Church of Scientology and substantial portions of the Operating Thetan auditing and course materials.Freedom Medal
The Freedom Medal is a medal awarded to Scientologists. It is awarded annually to members of the Church of Scientology for "bringing greater freedom to mankind". Established in 1985, the Freedom Medal has had 80 recipients.Freedom Medal of Valor
The Freedom Medal of Valor is a medal awarded to Scientologists. It is a larger version of the more common Freedom Medal awarded annually to members of the Church of Scientology for "bringing greater freedom to mankind". Established in 1985, the Freedom Medal has had 80 recipients; however to date the Freedom Medal of Valor has had but a single recipient - Tom Cruise. His medal was awarded for "humanitarian work of a larger global scale."Implant (Scientology)
In Scientology, an implant is a form of thought insertion, similar to an engram but done deliberately and with evil intent. It is "an intentional installation of fixed ideas, contra-survival to the thetan".The intention in the original engram or incident is to implant an idea or emotion or sensation, regarding some phenomenon etc. The intention in Scientology and Dianetics is to erase the compulsive or command effect of the idea, emotion, sensation, etc. so that the person can make a rational judgment and decision in the affected areas of life.Scientology practices often have to do with addressing implants prior to the current lifetime — one of the most notable is the R6 implant; but in some cases current life implants are addressed. Examples of implants according to Scientology include Aversion therapy, Electroconvulsive therapy, hypnosis, various attempts at brainwashing, and the inducing of fear or terror. Note that this is not a complete list, as many kinds of incidents can include implants as an element.
Other important implants in Scientology doctrine include the Helatrobus implants, which Hubbard claimed occurred 382 trillion years ago to 52 trillion years ago by an alien nation called the Helatrobans, who sought to restrain human minds by capturing and brainwashing thetans. These implants are said to be responsible for the concept of Heaven.Incident (Scientology)
L. Ron Hubbard used the term Incident in a specific context for auditing in Scientology and Dianetics: the description of space operatic events in the Universe's distant past, involving alien interventions in past lives. It is a basic belief of Scientology that a human being is an immortal spiritual being, termed a thetan, trapped on planet Earth in a "meat body".
Although Incidents can be any incident anywhere, Hubbard's writings described some in particular, set in Earth's prehistory. Many of them first appeared in Hubbard's book What to Audit (later retitled A History of Man).
In his writings and lectures, Hubbard describes Incidents said to have occurred to thetans during the past few trillion years. Most of these followed a consistent pattern, wherein a hostile alien civilization captured and brainwashed free thetans. Often, instances of implantation are termed Incidents, while the subject of the implants are often termed Goals. Some Incidents are simply unusual and traumatic events, whereof the memory is said to linger for trillions of years. According to Hubbard, only Scientology's methods can remove the resulting neuroses.List of trademarks owned by the Church of Scientology and its affiliates
The following are trademarks, service marks, or collective membership marks that the Church of Scientology and affiliated organizations claim to own, some of which are registered in some nations. Additional notes are provided in parentheses after the trademark. Non-English trademarks are listed under their English-language equivalents.OT VIII
OT VIII (Operating Thetan Level 8) is the highest current auditing level in Scientology. OT VIII is known as "The Truth Revealed" and was first released to select high-ranking public Scientologists in 1988, two years after the death of Scientology's founder, L. Ron Hubbard. OT VIII is only delivered to members of the Church of Scientology in one place—aboard the organization's private cruise ship, the Freewinds. OT8 is also available in the Scientology Independent Field. There are a few advanced auditors that are able to deliver the level to those who meet the prerequisites.
"This Solo-audited level addresses the primary cause of amnesia on the whole track and lets one see the truth of his own existence. This is the first actual OT level and brings about a resurgence of power and native abilities for the being himself. The CoS does not currently deliver LRH's OT 8 but an eclipsed version of one part."Operating Thetan
In Scientology, Operating Thetan (OT) is a spiritual state above Clear. It is defined as "knowing and willing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time (MEST)." According to religious scholar J. Gordon Melton, "[i]t's basically a variation of the Gnostic myth about souls falling into matter and the encumbrances that come with that".Project Normandy
Project Normandy was a top secret Church of Scientology operation wherein the church planned to take over the city of Clearwater, Florida, by infiltrating government offices and media centers. Gabe Cazares, who was the mayor of Clearwater at the time, used the term “the occupation of Clearwater.”R2-45
R2-45 is the name given by L. Ron Hubbard to what he described as "an enormously effective process for exteriorization but its use is frowned upon by this society at this time". In Scientology doctrine, exteriorization refers to the separation of the thetan (soul) from the body, a phenomenon which Hubbard asserts can be achieved through Scientology auditing. R2-45 is said to be a process by which exteriorization could be produced by shooting a person in the head with a .45 pistol. This literal meaning is acknowledged by the Church of Scientology, although they deny that it is meant seriously.Scientology and other religions
The relationship between Scientology and other religions is very complex. While Scientology claims that it is fully compatible with all existing major world religions and that it does not conflict with them or their religious practices, there are major differences in beliefs and practices between Scientology and most religions, especially the major monotheistic religions. Members are not allowed to engage in other similar mental therapies or procedures, religious or otherwise. However, some ministers from other churches have adopted some Scientology secular programs.According to Jacob Neusner, Scientology is a "synthesis of existing ideas and a reflection of particular cultural, social, and historical circumstances in which it was born and developed". The religion reflects Western and American values, such as "beliefs in democracy, individualism, and freedom", while borrowing little from religions based on the Bible. Similarities exist between Scientology and eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.Scientology beliefs and practices
The Church of Scientology says that a human is an immortal, spiritual being (thetan) that is resident in a physical body. The thetan has had innumerable past lives and it is observed in advanced Scientology texts that lives preceding the thetan's arrival on Earth were lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Based on case studies at advanced levels, it is predicted that any Scientologist undergoing auditing will eventually come across and recount a common series of events.
According to the Church, founder L. Ron Hubbard's discovery of the thetan places Scientology at the heart of the human quest for meaning, and proves that "its origins are as ancient as religious thought itself." However, Scientology considers that its understanding of the thetan distinguishes it from other religious traditions, especially Judaism and Christianity, in three important ways. First, while many religions fuse the concept of the body and the soul, the thetan (spirit) is separate and independent. Second, unlike the three great world monotheisms, Scientologists believe in past lives and that the thetan has lived through many, perhaps thousands of lifetimes. Third, contrary to Christian concepts of original sin, Scientology holds to the intrinsic goodness of a being and believes that the spiritual essence has lost touch with its nature. "The spirit, then, is not a thing," Hubbard writes. "It is the creator of things."Scientology describes itself as the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others, and all of life. Scientologists also believe that people have innate, yet suppressed, power and ability which can be regained if cleared of enforced and unwanted behaviour patterns and discomforts. Scientology is described as "a religion to help people use scientific approaches to self-actualize their full potential." Believers reach their full potential "when they understand themselves in their true relationship to the physical universe and the Supreme Being. " There have been many scholarly studies of Scientology and the books are freely available in bookshops, churches and most libraries.The Church of Scientology believes that "Man is basically good, that he is seeking to survive, (and) that his survival depends on himself and his attainment of brotherhood with the universe," as stated in the Creed of the Church of Scientology.Roy Wallis of Columbia University describes Scientology as "a movement that straddles the boundaries between psychology and religion, [offering] a graded hierarchy of 'auditing' and training" with the intention of releasing the individual's full potential.Scientology does not require that their members must exclusively believe in Scientology, distinguishing it from biblical religions. Scientologists may profess belief in other religions, such as Protestantism and Catholicism, and may participate in their activities and sacred rites. Jacob Neusner emphasizes this in the section on Scientology in his book World Religions in America. According to J. Gordon Melton, "Scientologists aim to utterly make the world instead of taking refuge from it," as they participate in culture instead of being isolated. Scientology is inherently nondenominational and open to individuals, regardless of religious background; according to Mary A. Mann, it contains the elements necessary for a global religion and caters to people of all different ethnicities and educational upbringing.Wilson writes that Scientology "constitutes a religious system set forth in the terms of scientific discourse." Hubbard similarly states that "along with science, Scientology can achieve positive invariable results. Given the same conditions, one always get the same results ... What has happened is the superstition has been subtracted from spiritual studies."Supernatural abilities in Scientology doctrine
In the Church of Scientology doctrine, supernatural or superhuman abilities are a recurring subject, appearing throughout Scientology and Dianetics materials, from the most basic introductory texts to the highest-level Operating Thetan information. Virtually all of these concepts were authored by the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and have not been subjected to testing outside the Church. The Church of Scientology have never offered any externally accepted, empirical, peer-reviewed evidence that Scientologists possess any of these abilities.The Bridge to Total Freedom
The Bridge to Total Freedom, or simply "The Bridge", is a metaphor used by the Church of Scientology to describe believers' advancement within the religion.
Scientology holds that believers advance to a state of Clear when they have freed themselves from the "reactive mind". This takes place in auditing, and is said to be a lifetime commitment. According to the church, by reaching Clear status, followers are more self-confident, happy, and generally successful in careers and interpersonal relationships. Beyond the state of Clear, Scientologists move through several auditing steps called Operating Thetan (OT) levels. An OT is a state of spiritual awareness in which an individual is able to control self and the environment. According to D. R. Christensen, Scientology is "an individualistic religion with a hierarchical organization of the soteriological system, called the Bridge". The Bridge is described by the church as a series of soteriological steps.The Bridge is broken down into two parallel paths, Training and Processing. Processing addresses the Scientologist's "case" or how they function in life as influenced by their "aberrations". The Training path teaches Hubbard's theories on the nature of life and the universe and the techniques of auditing. Participants feel that this knowledge greatly enhances their ability to be effective in life whether they audit another or not. Scientologists can travel up either side of the Bridge and many do both sides. Although not part of the formal Bridge, the chart also lists many optional courses and training actions that can be done by Scientologists.
The Bridge was a result of the culmination of the foundational work on Dianetics and Scientology training that Hubbard had established in the mid-1960s. In 1965, Hubbard published The Bridge to Freedom, which includes the “Classification and Gradation Chart,” which, according to new religious movement specialist James R. Lewis, discusses the steps that church members must follow as they learn and study Scientology. The chart was a summary of the results of Hubbard’s experimentation since the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation was founded fifteen years before that time. Save for adjustments and addendums over several years, it delineated the program for reaching Clear status and becoming an Operating Thetan.Scientologists believe that if an individual is unable to ascend through the Bridge in this lifetime, he or she can continue the journey up the Bridge in another life.Training routines (Scientology)
The training routines (TR) are introductory services used in the Church of Scientology
as well as affiliated programs Narconon, Criminon and WISE. The church describes them as a way of learning to communicate effectively and to control situations. Some critics and former Scientologists claim the training routines have a strong hypnotic effect, causing hallucinations and an out-of-body experience known as exteriorization.Training routines are used in the Narconon program to overcome influences that Scientology theory considers to be relevant to drug use and recidivism. The church claims that they have achieved a success rate of about 80 percent, but critics say that rates in reality are lower than reported.We Stand Tall
We Stand Tall is a 1990 music video produced by the Church of Scientology. It features many individuals, including current Scientology leader, David Miscavige. Many of the participants have either come to publicly criticize the practices of the Church or have disappeared.The video features Miscavige, Mike Rinder, Marty Rathbun, Heber Jentzsch, and Shelly Miscavige.Xenu
Xenu (), also called Xemu, was, according to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, the dictator of the "Galactic Confederacy" who 75 million years ago brought billions of his people to Earth (then known as "Teegeeack") in DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes, and killed them with hydrogen bombs. Official Scientology scriptures hold that the thetans (immortal spirits) of these aliens adhere to humans, causing spiritual harm.These events are known within Scientology as "Incident II", and the traumatic memories associated with them as "The Wall of Fire" or "R6 implant". The narrative of Xenu is part of Scientologist teachings about extraterrestrial civilizations and alien interventions in earthly events, collectively described as "space opera" by Hubbard. Hubbard detailed the story in Operating Thetan level III (OT III) in 1967, warning that the "R6 implant" (past trauma) was "calculated to kill (by pneumonia, etc.) anyone who attempts to solve it".Within the Church of Scientology, the Xenu story is part of the church's secret "Advanced Technology", considered a sacred and esoteric teaching, which is normally only revealed to members who have completed a lengthy sequence of courses costing large amounts of money. The church avoids mention of Xenu in public statements and has gone to considerable effort to maintain the story's confidentiality, including legal action on the grounds of copyright and trade secrecy. Officials of the Church of Scientology widely deny or try to hide the Xenu story. Despite this, much material on Xenu has leaked to the public via court documents, copies of Hubbard's notes, and the Internet. In commentary on the impact of the Xenu text, academic scholars have discussed and analyzed the writings by Hubbard and their place within Scientology within the contexts of science fiction, UFO religions, Gnosticism and creation myths.