Scientology is at the crux of both Tom Cruise and Katie Holme's divorce and their upcoming custody battle over 6-year-old Suri, and while we've all heard of the religious practice very few understand exactly what it entails, so RadarOnline.com is presenting seven things that you didn't know about Hollywood's most controversial church.
7. The brainchild of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology was created as a successor to his earlier self-help system of Dianetics, which used a counseling technique called auditing to enable conscious recall of traumatic events in an individual's past, but it was aimed to be a method of psychotherapy -- not the foundation of a religion.
6. After publishing a new set of teachings titled Scientology, a religious philosophy, in 1953 Hubbard crossed into a new realm and incorporated three churches called a Church of American Science, a Church of Scientology and a Church of Spiritual Engineering, in Camden, New Jersey. The movement spread quickly and soon churches were popping up in California and then as far away as New Zealand and England, where Hubbard moved to until the mid-1960s to avoid paying excessive taxes.
In 1966, Hubbard stepped down as executive director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing, and went on to form the Sea Organization, an elite group within Scientology that was based on three ships, the Diana, the Athena, and the Apollo. He continued his search for spiritual progress until his death in 1986 at his ranch near San Luis Obispo in California.
5. Scientologists claim that the religion offers "a precise path leading to a complete and certain understanding of one’s true spiritual nature and one’s relationship to self, family, groups, Mankind, all life forms, the material universe, the spiritual universe and the Supreme Being."
The basis of their belief is that Man is far more than a product of his environment, or his genes, and is in fact an immortal spiritual being whose experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. While it is a new religion, they say it draws on the wisdom of some 50,000 years and has isolated fundamental laws of life and offers a pathway to greater freedom.
4. Scientology beliefs revolve around the thetan, the individualized expression of the cosmic source, or life force. Thetans fell from grace when they began to identify with their creation, rather than their original state of spiritual purity. Having lost their memory of their true nature, thetans are reborn time and time again in new bodies through a process called "assumption," which is similar to reincarnation. The church deems that at the higher levels (OT) of initiation the mystical teachings are imparted that may be harmful to unprepared readers and must be kept secret, and include accounts of various cosmic catastrophes that befell the thetans collectively called a 'space opera.'
3. In the forefront of these advanced teachings is the story of Xenu -- the tyrant ruler of the Galactic Confederacy -- who 75 million years ago brought billions of people to Earth in spacecraft resembling Douglas DC-8 airliners, stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. The thetans then clustered together, stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to do this today.
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2. The heart of the church is now the international headquarters called the Gold Base, which is a 700 acre parcel of land in Riverside County, California near the desert town of Gilman Hot Springs. Originally a resort, it was bought by the Church of Scientology in 1978 and now houses the highest level management units that are members of the Sea Organization, along with Golden Era Productions, the media and publications division of the church.
The high security compound holds the church's highly secretive security apparatus behind fences with inward-facing spikes, motion sensors every several feet and mounted video surveillance cameras. It is reportedly also where wayward members are held against their will for discipline or reeducation.
1. The Church of Scientology has been popular with Hollywood stars since its inception, with Hubbard creating Project Celebrity in 1955, creating a list of 63 famous people that he asked his followers to target for conversion to Scientology. Silent-screen star Gloria Swanson was one of the first celebs to convert, with Goldie Hawn, Dustin Hoffman and Oliver Stone signing a letter in 1997 scolding the chancellor of Germany for his "shameful pattern of organized persecution" against the church, which they compared to the persecution of the Jews in the 1930s.
Along with Cruise (who was introduced by first wife, Mimi Rogers, whose father is one of the founding members) current high profile members include Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Jenna Elfman, Leah Remini, Giovanni Ribisi, and Juliette Lewis, who was born into Scientology and turned back to it when she was battling drugs.