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The Church of Scientology claims that a human is an immortal, spiritual being (termed thetan from the Greek word 'theta' meaning life force), that is 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 lived in extraterrestrial cultures. Based on case studies at advanced levels, it is predicted that any Scientologists 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 theta 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 theta 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. One purpose of Scientology, as stated by the Church of Scientology, is to become certain of one's spiritual existence and one's relationship to God, or the "Supreme Being." 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, which will ultimately release fully all the individual's inner 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.
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."
The Bridge to Total Freedom is the means by which Scientologists undertake personal life development. Processing is the actual practice of "auditing" which directs questions towards areas of travail in a person's life to get rid of unwanted barriers that inhibit, stop or blunt a person's natural abilities. This process is supposed to bring greater happiness, intelligence and success. Training is education in the skill required to deliver the process of "auditing" to another.
Scientology teaches that progress on The Bridge requires and enables the attainment of high moral and ethical standards. The main Scientology text on ethics is the book Introduction to Scientology Ethics
Scientology uses the term "morals" to refer to a collectively agreed code of good conduct and defines ethics as "the actions an individual takes on himself in order to accomplish optimum survival for himself and others on all dynamics (eight drives in life from self to family to groups to mankind, etc.) Scientology stresses the rationality of ethics over morals: "Ethics actually consists of rationality toward the highest level of survival."; "If a moral code were thoroughly reasonable, it could, at the same time, be considered thoroughly ethical. But only at this highest level could the two be called the same".
Scientologists also follow a series of behavior codes, these are: Auditor Code, Supervisor's Code, Code of Honor and the Code of a Scientologist.
Hubbard said that "the purpose of ethics is to remove counter-intentions from the environment. Having accomplished that, the purpose becomes to remove other intentionedness from the environment", meaning to work towards higher levels of survival for oneself and one's family, groups etc. in order to achieve new levels of happiness and success for oneself and others.
The ARC and KRC triangles are concept maps which show a relationship among three concepts to form another concept. These two triangles are present in the Scientology logo.
The ARC triangle is a summary representation of the knowledge the Scientologist strives for. It combines three components: "Affinity" is the degree of affection, love or liking, i.e. an emotional state. "Reality" reflects consensual reality, that is agreements on what is real. "Communication", believed to be the most important element of the triangle, is the exchange of ideas. Scientologists believe that improving one of the three aspects of the ARC triangle "increases the level" of the other two but the most important aspect of this triangle is "communication" mainly because communication drives the other two aspects: "affinity" and "reality". Scientologists believe that ineffective communication is a chief cause of human survival problems, and this is reflected by efforts at all levels within the movement to ensure clear communication, the presence of unabridged standard dictionaries for example being an established feature of Scientology centers.
In Scientology the human body is regarded as similar to that of other religions in that the spirit will then leave the body. "Life and personality go on. The physical part of the organism ceases to function." (Ref: Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary)
Scientology also subscribes to the belief of "past lives", not in the sense of being born in different life forms, but "to be born again into the flesh or into another body". Scientologists refer to this belief as "past lives" and not reincarnation. A person cannot move forward unless "aberrations" from past lives are handled. According to Scientology beliefs, "the individual comes back. He has a responsibility for what goes on today since he will experience it tomorrow."
The Church of Scientology states that it has no set dogma on God and allows individuals to come to their own understanding of God. In Scientology, "vastly more emphasis is given to the godlike nature of the person and to the workings of the human mind than to the nature of God." Scientologists believe in an "Infinity" ("the All-ness of All"). They recite a formal prayer for total freedom at meetings, which include the verses "May the author of the universe enable all men to reach an understanding of their spiritual nature. May awareness and understanding of life expand, so that all may come to know the author of the universe. And may others also reach this understanding which brings Total Freedom ... Freedom from war, and poverty, and want; freedom to be; freedom to do and freedom to have. Freedom to use and understand Man's potential -- a potential that is God-given and Godlike." The prayer commences with "May God let it be so." 
The church considers itself scientific, although this belief has no basis in true science. Scientologists believe that "all religious claims can be verified through experimentation", according to religious scholar Mikael Rothstein. Scientologists believe that their religion was derived through scientific methods, that Hubbard found knowledge through studying and thinking, not through revelation. The "science" of Dianetics, however, was never accepted by the scientific community, which caused Hubbard to change its form into a religion. Religious scholar Dorthe Refslund Christensen notes that Scientology differs from the scientific method in that Scientology has become increasingly self-referential, while true science normally compares competing theories and observed facts. Scientology eschews external facts—its frame of reference is its own internal sayings and beliefs.
Hubbard is considered the sole source of Dianetics and Scientology. His work, recorded in 500,000 pages of writings, 6,500 reels of tape and 42 films, is archived for posterity. Scientology studies are achieved by the systematic study and application of its axioms and principles. The Religious Technology Center holds "the ultimate ecclesiastical authority and the pure application of L. Ron Hubbard's religious technologies."
Individuals applying Hubbard's techniques who are not officially connected to the Church of Scientology are considered part of the "Free Zone". Some of these individuals were litigated against for using and modifying the practices for their own use which is illegal according to copyright law and the intended use of materials as Hubbard intended.
On November 12, 1952, Hubbard explained in the lecture "Precision Knowledge: Necessity to know terminology and law" the need to have precise terminology that cannot be confused with other words or definitions. He gave emphasis on avoidance of words that have many definitions and compared the language of Scientology with the language of Math and other precise doctrines.
Scientology and Dianetics place a heavy emphasis on understanding word definitions. Hubbard wrote a book titled How to Use a Dictionary, in which he defined the methods of correcting "misunderstoods" (a Scientology term referring to a "misunderstood word or symbol"). It is believed in Scientology that complete understanding of a subject matter requires first complete understanding of the words of that subject matter. Hubbard also assembled the Technical Dictionary (ISBN 0-686-30803-4, ISBN 0-88404-037-2), a lexicon of hundreds of words, terms, and definitions that are used by Scientologists. Hubbard modified definitions for many existing English words, such as "clear" and "static." "Clear" was borrowed from early computer science during his 1948 research. He likened the human mind to a perfect computer that needed to be "cleared" of erroneous data enforced upon it from engrams or painful memories. Soon after the word "clear" as a noun meant a person who had attained such a state. He also coined many terms that are variants on standard English words, such as "enturbulate" and "havingness."
Scientology discourages secondary interpretation of its writings. Students of Scientology are taught to direct others to those original sources, rather than to convey any interpretation of the concepts in their own words. Emphasis is placed on keeping the writings in context.
Scientologists believe that material must be learned in a definite order, never skipping to material which is overly complex before it is called for. A Scientologist must receive the newer and higher levels only upon completion of the previous level. Scientology calls this concept a "gradient". According to scholar of sociology Bryan Wilson, the Church employs a method that has "an elaborate system of instruction, graded, set out, and scored in apparently rational order of increasing complexity." Scholar Giselle Velásquez of University of Nevada, Las Vegas comments on this method: "the promise is that this method can improve diverse areas of human conduct and reduce problematic areas in personality."
One central practice of Scientology is an activity known as auditing (listening) which seeks to elevate an adherent to a State of Clear, one of freedom from the influences of the reactive mind. The practice is one wherein a counselor called an auditor addresses a series of questions to a preclear, observes and records the preclear's responses, and acknowledges them. An important element in all forms of auditing is to not suggest answers to the preclear or invalidate or degrade what the preclear says in response. It is of utmost importance the auditor create a truly safe and distraction free environment for the session.
The term "Clear" is derived from a button on a calculator that deletes previous calculations. According to Scientology beliefs, Clears are "optimal individuals" and "they have been cleared of false information and memories of traumatic experiences that prevent them from adapting to the world around them in a natural and appropriate fashion." Scientologists believe that clears become more successful in their daily lives, "be healthier, experience less stress, and possess better communication skills."
"Auditing" is sometimes seen as controversial, because auditing sessions are permanently recorded and stored within what are called Preclear Folders. Scientologists believe that the practice of auditing helps them overcome the debilitating effects of traumatic experiences, most of which have accumulated over a multitude of lifetimes. The folders are kept in accordance with the Priest/Penitent legal parameters which do not allow these folders to be seen or used for any other purpose or seen by any others who are not directly involved in supervising that person's auditing progress.
"Auditors" are required to become proficient with the use of their E-meters. The device measures the subject's galvanic skin response in a manner similar to a polygraph (lie detector), but with only one electrode per hand rather than multiple sensors. The E-meter is primarily used in auditing, which "aims to remove (engrams) to produce a state of 'clear.'" Auditors do not receive final certification until they have successfully completed an internship, and have demonstrated a proven ability in the skills they have been trained in.[original research?] Auditors often practice their auditing with each other, as well as friends or family. Church members pair up often to get their training, doing the same course at the same time, so that they can audit each other up through the various Scientology levels.
According to scholar Harriet Whitehead, the Church of Scientology "has developed a fine tooled hierarchically organized system of audit (training) sessions where the technology of these sessions, in fact, is the treatment leading to processes of renunciation and eventually reformulation in the individual," which is similar to psychoanalysis.
According to L. Ron Hubbard's book The History of Man, published in 1952, there are two entities housed by the human body, a genetic entity (whose purpose is to carry on the evolutionary line) and a "Thetan" or consciousness "that has the capacity to separate from body and mind." According to Hubbard, "In man's long evolutionary development the Thetan has been trapped by the engrams formed at various stages of embodiment." Scientology training is aimed at clearing the person of all engrams, thus creating an "Operating Thetan." "Among the abilities of the Operating Thetan is the soul's capacity to leave and operate apart from the body."
People are viewed as spiritual beings that have minds and bodies and a person's "spiritual essence" is called the Thetan. Scientology teaches that "a thetan is the person himself, not his body or his name or the physical universe, his mind or anything else." According to the doctrine, "one does not have a thetan, he is a thetan."
Advocated by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, silent birth describes "the process of childbirth where labor and delivery is done in a calm and loving environment." To provide quiet surroundings for the delivery of the baby, individuals in his/her immediate vicinity are prompted not to speak. According to Scientology practices, silent birth is "mandatory to provide the best possible environment for the pregnant mother and her new baby." Shouting, laughing or making loud remarks must be avoided while the baby is being pushed out. According to The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World, "its origins are fundamentally rooted in the principle that women, particularly expectant mothers, be given the utmost care and respect."
There are several holidays celebrated by Scientologists, notably L. Ron Hubbard's birthday in March, the Anniversary of the first publication of Dianetics in May, Sea Org Day in August, Auditor's Day in September and the International Association of Scientologists (IAS) Anniversary in October. Most official celebrations are scheduled on weekends as a convenience to members. Scientologists also celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter and New Year's Eve, as well as other local celebrations. Scientologists also celebrate religious holidays depending on other religious beliefs, as Scientologists very often retain their original affiliations with faiths in which they were raised.
The act of using Scientology techniques in a form different from that originally described by Hubbard is referred to within Scientology as "squirreling", and is said by Scientologists to be "high treason".
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