Rituals and Worship

Sacred Space

The relatively new religion of Scientology, little more than half of a century old, has arisen in a modern, secularized world. Just as it has made no place for the many denizens of previously posited supernatural worlds (angels, demons, gods, fairies, etc.), it has not adopted older sacred sites as its own nor designated new ones. From its beginning, it operated out of offices, classrooms, and auditoriums. The majority of these were rented facilities that, as needs arose, were freely abandoned and forgotten. Slowly, as the religion grew, it purchased more permanent facilities in what appeared to be locations where a long-term presence was desired. This situation only changed in the 1980s.

In 1986, the church's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, passed away, and other Scientology leaders considered how best to commemorate his life and work and acknowledge their significance for humankind. That discussion will continue, but has to date led to the development of several structures, most notably the L. Ron Hubbard Exhibition on Hollywood Boulevard in downtown Hollywood, California. Here, guided tours of an extensive exhibition of Hubbard's life, complete with many original artifacts, is daily available to church members and the general public. A few blocks away, Author Services, Inc., has taken charge of all of Hubbard's non-Scientology writings and works to see that they stay in print and are available in multiple languages.

The most notable commemoration of Hubbard for the average church member, however, is found in each church facility, where a room is set aside as an office for Hubbard and is made ready as if he might arrive at any moment. In fact, during his life, local churches were expected to be prepared should he make a visit, but the present offices have become shrine-like spaces in local church facilities where copies of Hubbard's many books in mint condition can be displayed, a certain reverence for his accomplishments acknowledged, and general respect for him nurtured. In most churches, the office also includes a small statue of Hubbard.

In the years since Hubbard's death, the idea of not just attaining the state of Clear, but of moving through the advanced Operating Thetan (OT) Levels, has assumed an increasingly important role in the Scientologist's world. Though a person may receive all the instruction and auditing to attain the state of Clear at any local church, the OT levels are delivered only at church facilities specifically established to deliver them. OT I-V, for example, is made available at the four Advanced Organizations located in Los Angeles, California; East Grimstead, Surrey, England; Copenhagen, Denmark; and Sydney, Australia.

The Advanced Organization in Los Angeles is located on L. Ron Hubbard Way, a short street that begins on Sunset Boulevard and which the city council allowed to be named in Hubbard's honor. The Advanced Organization in England is located at Saint Hill, the estate where Hubbard lived for seven years in the 1960s. Adjacent to the Advanced Organization, in the same four cities mentioned above, are the Advanced Saint Hill Organizations (ASHO), which, among other services, train auditors. The ASHO facilities were named for the Saint Hill estate in England, and the British ASHO occupies one of the estate's larger buildings. ASHO Los Angeles is located in what used to be a prominent hospital, across the street from the Advanced Organization on Hubbard Way.

For those who complete their work at the Advanced Organization, the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida, awaits. When the work of creating the higher OT levels aboard the three ships was completed in 1976, the staff members who had assisted in the research and were charged with delivering the most advanced of the OT Levels relocated to Clearwater. Originally established in the old Fort Harrison Hotel, the Flag Land Base has developed into the spiritual headquarters for the church and over the years has expanded to include more than thirty additional buildings. A large new building across the street from the Fort Harrison Hotel is under construction.

Today, the Flag Land Base is one of two facilities (the other being the ship Freewinds) qualified to deliver the highest levels of Scientology, namely OT VI and VII, as well as related specialized auditor training. As the Flag Land Base has grown, it has been touted as a place for all Scientologists to visit. Besides its specialized services, it provides instruction for all lower levels of Scientology. This, along with its location, makes it an ideal place for families who wish to combine vacations with taking their next step in Scientology. The Flag Land Base has become the largest Scientology facility in the world. It serves the thousands of Scientologists who reside in central Florida, and constantly receives a stream of Scientologists from around the world. It may not be a sacred place in the conventional sense of the term, but for many Scientologists it functions as one.

Simultaneous with the release of the highest level of Scientology currently available, OT VIII, the church purchased a large ocean-going vessel, dubbed the Freewinds, and designated it as the Flag Ship Service Organization. This ship, based at the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, is now the only place where one may receive OT VIII and the various auxiliary courses associated with it. Only those who have completed their OT VII at the Flag Land Base are eligible to take courses on the Freewinds, and, like the Flag land Base, the ship has become a place of pilgrimage for Scientologists.

Study Questions:
     1.     Is sacred space an issue of concern for Scientologists? Why or why not?
     2.     Should the L. Ron Hubbard Exhibition be viewed as sacred space? Why or why not?
     3.     How is the Operating Thetan bound to a specific kind of space?
     4.     What is the Land Flag Base? Why has it gained popularity?

Back to Religion Library