Special Note: The essay below is a summation of my personal views after being involved with the Church of Scientology for over 25 years and is intended for general educational purposes only. This experience has not only been as a parishioner, but also as staff at both local and continental management level. I have seen Scientology from inside and out, and from virtually all levels within the Church. This is not an official page and I am not speaking as an appointed representative of the Church. I get questions on this subject from time to time and have prepared the below as a comprehensive overview to save my fingers from having to retype the same answers. Any errors contained below are my own. It should also be understood that sequences of events as described below are presented in only a general sense.
To clarify the subject of Scientology, one should be aware of its development from and the purpose and development of Dianetics®. To set the stage for that, let us first review the meaning of psychosomatic, for which the following definitions should be sufficient:
"A descriptive term for the relationship between the mind and body. Note: “Psychosomatic” disorders have definite physical symptoms but are thought to be caused by emotional or psychological factors. Anorexia nervosa is an example of a psychosomatic illness." (dictionary.reference.com)
"(of a physical illness or other condition) caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress" (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com)
Dianetics was developed with the purpose of freeing the individual from mental and emotional aspects of their lives which were holding them back or otherwise affecting them in an adverse manner, such as with psychosomatic conditions. In his travels in the East, L. Ron Hubbard had observed the control one could develop over even autonomous bodily functions. He also observed negative physical conditions which clearly were not caused by actual physical conditions ("ghost pain" experienced in missing limbs, for example.) These observations led him to the logical conclusion that by addressing the mental aspect of such a problem, one could to some degree alleviate the physical manifestations the problem caused.
Thus began his research and experimentation of techniques that would ultimately become Dianetics. Hubbard discovered that the negative conditions originated from specific incidents (such as incidents involving pain, unconsciousness, or associated with heavy emotional loss) in a person's past and that revisiting the incident using methods he developed one could eliminate the residual negative impacts of the incident – the psychosomatic manifestations would vanish and not return. Further, it was discovered that such incidents would often contain triggers for uncontrolled "reactive" behavior when situations approximated the incident and these methods would also eliminate such associated compulsions. As his research continued, he developed an extensive grass-roots following of people that wanted to use the techniques he was developing. To meet this demand, we had the publication of "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" on May 9, 1950.
To understand another factor in the path chosen moving forward from that point, it is important to note that in 1950 the Cold War was in full swing. Fictional stories such as The Manchurian Candidate illustrate for us the general attention governments were giving to the area of the mind and possible means for controlling people. Enter on this scene a new form of "mental health" and it is not difficult to believe that a representative of the US or USSR may have been (unofficially) interested in whether such a new science could be used for such purposes. As Hubbard's idea was about freeing people from adverse mental constraints, their goals were diametrically opposed his. A few conversations were sufficient for Hubbard to adopt an approach of moving forward without interacting with or relying on any government agency or any agency or group regulated by the government – any government. One could easily envision that such "lack of cooperation" was not widely appreciated in some quarters.
Extensive research continued, all of which was compiled in-house. From this period forward, you will find nothing that was submitted to any outside agency; not the APA and not the AMA, nor the PTA or the SPCA or anything else. Since no outside agency was involved, there is a frequent misperception that the techniques utilized in Dianetics or Scientology are not scientifically based or that there is no proof they are effective. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hubbard's earlier foray into physics established for him the importance of a systematic scientific approach and he utilized this throughout all phases of research. Research entailed thousands of subjects from all walks of life and from all over the world. In fact, the key difference between the techniques developed by Hubbard and that of other mental health methodologies was his strict adherence to a scientific approach and observations of the actual results achieved by the techniques developed. Information about this research is available. Also, many are unaware of the sheer volume involved, and not only in the research stages; currently hundreds of thousands of hours of Dianetics and Scientology therapy are performed every year all over the world. If this stuff didn't work, it would be pretty obvious to everyone.
It was discovered that the earlier the incident in question, the greater the adverse impact it could have on the individual. Even when the originating incident seemed at first to be later in life, usually the incident was linked to a much earlier incident due to similarity of content, and addressing the earliest of such incidents provided the best results.
This in mind, the ideal thing to do would be to contact the earliest possible incidents. Subjects started recalling birth and even pre-birth incidents. The validity and accuracy of such recollections were verified by independently, working with the mothers or other persons present in the incident.
One factor discovered early on was that evaluating for the subject (telling them "this is what is wrong with you" as is frequently done in other mental health practices) actually invalidated the individual, validated the "problem" and only exacerbated the situation. It did not lead to recovery but in fact was an obstacle to it. Therefore, giving such evaluations to the subject became strictly "outlawed" in therapy.
It should also be noted that research encountered the scenario in which a subject would recount an incident which did not in fact happen, but which they believed happened or imagine had happened. When taken up in therapy, these incidents (referred to as "dub-ins") did not produce any results. The practitioner - called an auditor (essentially, "one who listens") - would direct the subject to actual incidents and not take up the dub-in incidents in therapy. Subjects also began recalling incidents which could only be interpreted as a death in a previous life. At first, such incidents were widely discounted and regarded as any dub-in incident. However, these incidents did not react to therapy in the same way as dub-in incidents. In fact, contacting these incidents and then leaving them unaddressed produced negative results in subjects.
The solution: treat "past life incidents" in the same manner as one would treat any other real incident. It did not matter whether one believed such incidents to be real. What mattered was the fact that addressing them as though they were real produced positive results. The goal was to achieve positive results in the subject - not to reveal historical facts or viewpoints. That a subject might claim to have previously been this person or that person was completely irrelevant to anything except the results achieved from addressing the particular incident being recounted.
If one were to accept the implications at face value, one could easily determine that there is a spiritual aspect to existence that is associated with and yet independent of the life of a particular body. Many did accept this implication. However, interpretation one way or the other was not required. The only thing that was required was to utilize the therapy techniques as directed to obtain positive results for the subject.
As research continued and techniques were further developed, subjects would sometimes relate incidents that pre-date man on Earth and could only be described as "space-opera." Treatment of such incidents in therapy was the same as for any "past life" incident. This is a particular point that many have difficulty getting past. While many are of the opinion that in all of the billions of galaxies with billions of stars and their planets, it is extremely unlikely that Earth would be the only place to find intelligent life in the entire history of the universe. From this viewpoint, it is not a difficult concept to accept that one or more of these civilizations reached a higher level of technology than our own. The issue seems to be with anyone knowing anything about it. However, from the approach that we are spiritual beings (similar to the concept of the "soul") that use bodies much the way you would drive a car, and didn't spontaneously come into existence when sperm met egg, it's not such a stretch.
That said, whether the practitioner believed the "space-opera" incident to be real was immaterial so long as he addressed the incident using the proven procedures. Such incidents might make for interesting conversation as a past-time, but the only real concern is the therapeutic value of the practitioner exactly following the process regardless of what the subject might originate.
In the three-thousand-odd lectures given by Hubbard, he would sometimes relate details of such past-life incidents encountered either by himself or by some other practitioner. Such incidents may be interesting as an anecdotal aside, but they are not important to Scientology in practice or in philosophy.
Scientology is not about what you believe; it is about what you DO. This is why it is referred to as an "applied religious philosophy."
Blind "belief" is constantly discouraged and one is encouraged to only accept things that they themselves have observed to be true. In fact, the concept that maintaining personal integrity includes not abandoning what you yourself have observed to be true may be the only thing in Scientology which might be categorized as "dogma."
If one chose to accept that past life incidents were actual, then some concept of man having a spiritual nature was hard to avoid. Also, an earlier approach of Hubbard's that memory was stored purely in some physical or cellular means had to be discounted. Adjusting the approach on the basis that man has a spiritual aspect rather than purely physical produced even better results than what had been previously achieved. At this point, research clearly entered the field of religion and from there things were developed from the underlying viewpoint that we have a spiritual existence – any other approach hampered the positive results that were being achieved. This was the direction the research led as this is what produced results.
Research showed that variations in results of proven techniques entered into the picture only because practitioners varied in skill of application. Training was developed to ensure a uniformly high level of skill. This necessitated the development of a number of other things outside the realm of therapy, including study technology and courses in communication. Now they had therapy and courses for people and they needed to develop some kind of operational structure and methodology. So Hubbard turned his attention to developing various tools for the workplace and management technology. Any time valid, proven workable technology or methodology for something existed, Hubbard would defer to the experts in the related field. However, particularly where the subject related closely to the interaction between people, such valid, proven, uniformly workable methodologies were frequently lacking, and what "technologies" existed on the subject were conflicting or lacked any scientific approach. This is why there are so many courses available in Scientology to help people with different aspects of life.
Scientology, then, is not a collection of ideas which a Scientologist must "believe." Scientology is about what one does and the results and impact they have. It is truly an applied religious philosophy. You use those techniques and tools which you have observed work for you. That's all.
To find out more specifically what techniques, tools and therapies are available in Scientology, and to find out what a Scientologist does, read a book. Such as any of the following books by L. Ron Hubbard:
Or check out the following site: http://www.whatisscientology.org/
To read about some key tools and concepts used in Scientology for improving conditions in life, check out some of these: