Got the following question on Reddit, and as I’ve gotten it before, I decided it was worthy of a longer-form answer:
Question: Do you feel like the organizational body of the church is just as important as the content of the religion (i.e. the courses, the auditing, etc.)? Is it just a vessel to get the word out? I’m interested in your thoughts on the practicality of the church and its impact on you, as a regular practicing parishioner.
The short answer to the question is that I feel that the Church of Scientology as an organization is absolutely intrinsic to the actual practice of Scientology itself, and that whilst books and lectures containing the scripture of Scientology can exist on their own and obviously require no organization to study, the practice of Scientology itself absolutely requires an organization and in most cases assumes the existence of an organization in order to be practiced at all.
Now, let me give you a more detailed answer to that, and hopefully it makes sense. My wife and I were both church staff members for 10+ years (my wife for around 15 years), with my wife working in the area of delivering Scientology courses & ensuring they are done right, and my primary areas were on the administrative side. There’s a good bit of story to tell there, so I’ll try to be succinct yet complete.
The act of participating in the Scientology religion consists, broadly speaking, of one of three different main activities:
Study of books & lectures: This is where Scientologists read Scientology books and listen to recorded lectures on the subject, either in a Church of Scientology or on their own.
Scientology courses: There are a vast number of Scientology courses of study, each of which teaches an exact skill or subject, and most of which require that one demonstrate proficiency in that skill before graduating the course.
Scientology counseling: Scientology counseling practices (called auditing) is a formally-defined and exactly-run procedure, which has precise subject matter, wording and handling for each step and subject that is taken up. It’s done by someone who has graduated Scientology courses covering such activity, under the supervision of what’s called a Case Supervisor. Please see this video for a more-complete description of Scientology auditing.
What a Scientology Organization Consists Of
Understanding the above, it’s important to then know the parts of a Scientology organization, and what they do to facilitate this.
Now – for the purposes of answering the question posed above, I’m going to give a super-rapid overview of things. There is so much more to be said on the subject of organizations and how it relates to the Scientology religion. If you’re at all curious about this, I’d recommend doing this free on-line course on Scientology organizations, which you’ll likely find generally useful.
This video also gives a great introduction:
That being said, we’ll start with this organizing board, which lays out all of the basic functions that you’ll find in ANY church of Scientology, from the smallest Scientology missions, to the Advanced Organization at Flag.
The Scientology 7-division org board – click to enlarge
There is SO MUCH I could say about this organizing board, but I’ll focus on a few things.
Delivery of Scientology Services: Division 4
The actual delivery of Scientology services happens in the production division of the church, which is Division 4 on the org board above. This is where you have trained supervisors who supervise Scientology courses, and ensure they’re done correctly – and ensure that people taking those courses are able to correctly apply what they’ve learned. Not only are these courses in how to deliver Scientology auditing, but other courses such as ones that cover data on how to handle toxic people in your life. If you read this summary I wrote here on when Scientology’s disconnection policy is to be used, and when it’s absolutely not to be used, I’m sure you can appreciate just how important it would be to train people correctly so they don’t go around handling every upset they have with “disconnection”. Just as an example.
The delivery of Scientology auditing is also done in Division 4, and in this case, each Church of Scientology has put considerable effort into training up Scientology Auditors who can deliver all of the various counseling procedures available at the church. This would include everything from the beginning steps of Scientolology up through the State of Clear. Training an auditor can take from a few months to a few years, so this is something where having a well-trained staff in the church is inextricable from actually getting the help one wants from Scientology.
Ensuring it’s Done Right, and Correcting It When It’s Wrong: Qualifications Division 5
Because of the fact that Scientology is an applied religion, its efficacy is only going to be as far as it’s done right. Marriage counseling done wrong would result in people being worse off as a couple than when they started. Counseling like the Survival Rundown, which is meant to get you more in touch with and able to handle the world around you, could be done entirely wrong leaving one even more out of touch with one’s surroundings. Scientology is completely worthless if it doesn’t work, so, there’s virtually nothing as important to the religion itself than the work that’s done in the Qualifications Division which ensure that the scriptures are being applied correctly in the church, and to correct both the people doing it, as well as the people receiving it, when it’s done wrong. The Qualification Division trains the staff of the church, and also regularly and constantly inspects the counseling and training work being done in the church to make sure it’s being done right.
Lacking a Qualification Div, the church would rapidly disintegrate, as quite literally the only thing that matters in Scientology is the results that you get with it. This is why, in the diagram above, Qualifications Division 5 is, along with Division 1 (which I’ll talk about in a sec) raised above the others.
For an idea of how much of the church is devoted to this, the entire building you see in the photo below is dedicated only to training staff & maintaining quality at the Scientology Flag Service Organization in Clearwater, Florida.
Keeping the Edges on the Road – Communications Division 1
In order for an organization to be there at all, you need people. You need people who show up, who have a job and know what that job is. That’s the job of the Communication Division 1, which in a Scientology organization is referred to by it’s original name, Hubbard Communications Office or HCO. The point of HCO is to provide the framework for the organization itself, the people, the way the communicate to each other, and then to make sure those people can do their jobs and maintain a high level of ethics while doing so.
It’s fairly obvious that any organization of any sort needs people – people that are well-qualified for the jobs that they are meant to do, and who can go about doing them. So, that part of HCO is plain to see, in terms of its importance. But much more than that, it’s important for the organization to be able to self-correct. In most companies, if someone starts to go off the rails, ethically, the organization just goes and fires them. They maybe get a warning, but there’s not much more to internal ethics work than that. Scientology, by contrast, has a vast amount of intensely workable technology specifically as regards getting someone to improve their own ethics level, and their own condition as an individual.
This video explains this in a lot more detail:
In a Scientology church, you’re dealing with people’s lives. You’re dealing with their fears, their deep-seated life problems, their up-to-this-point-immovable barriers, as well as misdeeds they may have done in their past which cast a nasty shadow on everything they’re trying to now move forward with in life. When you’re dealing with peoples very personal lives like this, you need to have staff that maintain the absolute highest level of personal ethics. There are a lot of people who simply don’t qualify to be church staff, owing to their inability to keep their own ethics together. But keeping that team tight, clean, and focused is the job of this division.
If you look at scandals that have plagued not only the psychiatric profession, but other faiths over the years, it should be pretty plain how important this is to the activities of the church.
Preservation and Purity of the Materials
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the fact that everything I just mentioned requires the fundamental basic of materials. Dianetics and Scientology is the codified work of L. Ron Hubbard, as contained in his books, policies and recorded lectures. We’re not enjoined to “believe” everything in Scientology – what is true is what is true for you based on what you read & observe. But, the fundamental agreement that Scientologists dohave, is that Scientology is what L. Ron Hubbard wrote & said, and not other things.
So, the painstaking disambiguation and delineation between what Mr. Hubbard said and asked to be compiled into courses and such, and what is other people’s own invention or mis-interpretation, is of massive value to us in Scientology.
I wrote a whole article on it here in comparison to earlier religious faiths, which bears a read. But, essentially, we want to ensure that what L. Ron Hubbard actually wrote, is what we’re reading. Not something else. It’s why we don’t look to the Internet to tell us what our policies are. Our policies are in books and lectures which have been meticulously verified as to their authenticity.
One of the most important jobs that the Sea Organization in Scientology does, is this work to pore through old research notes, restore 60-year-old wax disk recordings, and verify without the faintest trace of doubt what it was that the religion was meant to contain.
The video linked above is where Mr. David Miscavige details the restoration and verification work that was done to make sure Scientology books and lectures are authentic and presented in the context they were intended. The video is fascinating, and though it was intended for Scientologists (there’s quite a bit of Scientology terminology in it) I highly recommend watching it.
If you don’t have a lot of time though, watch at the 41-minute mark, for a description of what was done to ensure that the book Dianetics: The Original Thesis (the first book L. Ron Hubbard wrote on the subject) was true to the original form. It’s staggering.
My point in bringing this up, is that without the materials, there is no Scientology. So, the organization required to make this possible is also entirely intrinsic to the faith itself.