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Religion Library: Scientology

Early Developments

Written by: J. Gordon Melton

Scientology's growth through its first decade was capped in 1959 with the purchase of Saint Hill, a rural estate at East Grinstead, Sussex, where L. Ron Hubbard took up residence and lived until 1966. The 1960s began on an optimistic note, but storm clouds had already gathered and the next decades would be dominated by intense controversy.

As early as 1958, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service began to call the church's tax-exempt status into question. Scientology did not seem like a traditional church that organizes itself around a Sunday holy day, worship, and voluntary giving. Through the 1960s, the IRS initiated an investigation (with a consequent demand for back taxes) into the tax-exempt status of the church's various local centers and regional offices; this touched off a sequence of litigation that would last for a quarter of a century. If that were not enough, on January 4, 1963, agents of the Food and Drug Administration raided the Founding Church of Scientology and seized all of its E-meters, the monitoring device used in Scientology counseling. This action set up another lengthy series of lawsuits.

The action by the IRS and FDA had repercussions in Australia and the United Kingdom. In 1965, the government of Victoria, Australia, passed the Psychological Practices Act that prohibited the practice of Scientology, the use of its name, and the dissemination of its teachings. Western Australia and South Australia soon followed suit. In 1969, the Scientology churches in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide were forced to reorganize as the Church of the New Faith. It would take almost two decades to reverse all of the negative legislation. Then, in 1968, the United Kingdom moved against the church by banning non-citizens coming into England to study or work at Saint Hill, where an advanced training center had been added to the facilities. It took twelve years to reverse the action.

In 1966, Hubbard resigned all official administrative positions with the church. Given the title "Founder," he and a group of fellow Scientology leaders moved aboard three ships the church had purchased to continue his development of Scientology and to write. At this time, the church program as developed by Hubbard was primarily built around assisting church members in their personal development, directing them in ways to clear the negative effects of the mind and to attain a state termed "Clear." Once Clear, the spiritual self, the thetan, could begin to act freely and become what was termed an Operating Thetan.

Hubbard released materials for the first levels of Operating Thetan training (OT I & II) just before moving aboard the ships. A few months later, in 1967, from his seaboard office he released training materials for OT III.About this same time, he also announced the formation of a new association, the Sea Organization (Sea Org), a fraternity of dedicated Scientologists who were charged with delivering the new OT levels to the membership. He would make OT levels IV, V, and VI available in 1968. A revised OT VI and an OT VII were released in 1980.


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