The rise of a variety of secularized religions (Deism, Religious Humanism), awareness of non-theistic religions (Jainism, Theravada Buddhism), and new religions in which a spiritual discipline almost completely replaces any creed or theology (Zen Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation) has made an appreciation for the seemingly non-traditional format of Scientology life far easier for many to accept. Scientology is a religion, but one in which worship and devotion are largely absent.
Scientology churches are typically open every weekday from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. People come and go at different times during the week, participating in religious services and community activities, or simply meeting friends. Religious ceremonies occur and a Sunday service is held weekly at all Scientology churches, but they are not central to the church's life or to individual progress in the religion. Scientologists who welcome the familiarity they represent may benefit from them, but they are not a response to any essential theme running through the sacred writing of Scientology's founder.
The thrust of the life of a Scientologist is movement up the Bridge to total freedom, which brings them first to the state of Clear and then through the eight Operating Thetan (OT) Levels. As individuals begin that spiritual pilgrimage, they will attend classes to learn the basic Scientology view of the world and, most importantly, of the individual; they will be expected to acquire and read through the basic material written (and spoken) by the founder; and they will engage in a variety of activities that train them to apply in a practical way all they learn. By far the most important activity is auditing. Ideally they will begin by being audited; they will follow by learning to audit another and then doing it; and finally, they will learn the techniques of self- or solo-auditing.
Auditing is a particular form of counseling developed by Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard. It was already central to the practice of Dianetics, and Hubbard's first task as the movement took off was to train enough auditors to meet the demands that arose in response to his writing. Hubbard also believed that he had discovered the correct way to do auditing and he was concerned about those who took incomplete instructions for the auditing process from his books and, later, about those who deviated from his instructions.
For the new church member, the practice of this religion is found in his or her meeting with an auditor whose job is to offer the member directions and to ask questions that allow the member to find, look at, and diffuse the negative effects of the engrams stored on his or her time track. During an auditing session the member will take hold of the handles of an E-meter, a machine that registers the changing strength of an imperceptible electrical charge that flows through the body of the person being auditing. These changes appear on a measuring device that the auditor has been trained to interpret.
During the auditing session, the auditor will give instructions to the member that facilitates the member reviewing his or her time track and locating engrams that have been activated and hence are interfering with present life. By following the prescribed script and by interpreting the E-meter as the session proceeds, the auditor becomes the catalyst that leads the individual to resolve his or her own situation. The auditor then keeps a record of what has occurred so the work may proceed smoothly from session to session. Over time, the auditing will assume a more sophisticated format as more obvious engrams are resolved and one scans the time track for more hidden aberrations. Finally the time track will be cleaned entirely, thus completely erasing the effects of the reactive mind (the source of the engrams).
As one progresses toward the state of Clear, each member is encouraged to learn the basics of auditing and begin to assist those just beginning their work up the Bridge. Auditing others gives members a greater appreciation of the effort that auditors make on behalf of church members and provides members new insights into their own situations.
Having members audit those below them on the Bridge also alleviates the pressure on full-time auditors, who are always in great demand. One can only audit a person who is at or below the level of the auditor. That means that as members go further up the Bridge, fewer individuals are available to audit them. The number drops radically as one begins the OT Levels. The idea of solo auditing is considered logical: a person reaching such an advanced level should be able to do more work alone, and self-auditing takes the pressure off of the ever-decreasing number of auditors with whom the Operating Thetan can work.