Axial Aspects of Scientology

Over at Slate Jessica Grose has posted an interview with Rolling Stone writer Janet Reitman and author of Inside Scientology. For those who have yet to learn how Xenu messed up the entire cosmos, Reitman’s article is essential reading.

These comments from Reitman caught my attention:

Scientology can be very expensive. If your goal is total spiritual freedom—a type of Nirvana—you have to do auditing (which is what Scientology counseling is called).

The path to spiritual enlightenment in Scientology is called the Bridge to Total Freedom, and you can climb it like a ladder, ostensibly acquiring more and more ability or enhancement or whatever it may be you’re going for, as you go.

The first big goal is to reach the level known as “clear,” where you’re supposed to be free of your psychological issues and psychosomatic physical issues. Free of the problems of current time, present time, this life (because they believe you’ve had many lives)—they believe all those issues are supposed to be gone.

This is a clever formula that should sound familiar to those who have studied the Axial Age. It was during this era that several sages, prophets, and thinkers responded to the obvious fact that the world can be cruel and life filled with suffering.

Seeking ways to escape and cope with these conditions, Axial thinkers variously espoused ideas proclaiming this world is not the real world and there is something better (either in another place or life). This world rejecting Weltanschauung laid the foundation for several modern “world” religions, including the monotheistic movements and Buddhism.

While I doubt that L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology “theologians” deliberately patterned their movement after Axial Age philosophies, at some level they realized the tremendous appeal such ideas have for people who are suffering from mental, physical, or social distress and are looking for solace in outer space.

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