Scientologists believe different things, especially at earlier levels of involvement, so it's more accurate to describe what Scientology teaches rather than what Scientologists believe. As Scientologists become more involved in Scientology, they typically embrace more and more of Scientology's teachings.
Dianetics and Scientology: The Basic Teachings
What is the main idea behind Dianetics?
L. Ron Hubbard described his main theories in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, published in 1950. He said that moments of unconcious pain - either physical or emotional - create "engrams", or lasting errors in our thinking processes. According to Hubbard, these engrams can be created while in the womb - or even in a past life. He said these engrams were the root of all kinds of problems, from physical pains and illnesses to acting in counterproductive ways. He said they could be erased by reliving the incident in auditing sessions. Once you've erased all your engrams, you're Clear.
What is the main idea behind Scientology?
Scientology encompasses the teachings of Dianetics, but once you progress past Clear, you begin to deal with auditing body thetans - the spirits of other beings, often from other planets (see the FAQ entry on aliens), who are attached to your body and are causing you additional problems, including physical illnesses.
What causes an engram?
For example, if your mother ran into a table while pregnant with you, and exclaimed, "I'm so clumsy!", you could experience a conviction that you're clumsy if you heard your mother say that after you were born - or, hearing her say that could restimulate the pain of hitting the table, giving you a headache or similar psychosomatic pain. In Dianetics, Hubbard described extensive injuries caused by attempted abortions - including puncturing the skull of a fetus - as well as injuries caused by domestic violence.
Are engrams real?
No. A scientific study from 1958, conducted with the cooperation of the Dianetic Research Foundation in Los Angeles, showed that auditing was unable to retrieve an engram. The researchers tried to deliberately create an engram by pinching the unconcious subject while reading aloud from a book. Despite more than 30 hours of auditing by several certified auditors, the engram was never retrieved.
Has anyone ever reached the state of Clear?
Several thousand people have been listed in Scientology publications as having attested to reaching Clear - see the Clear List Project for details. However, Hubbard described several attributes of being Clear, including having perfect memory, improved eyesight, and excellent health, and no Scientology Clear has ever demonstrated those traits.
When Hubbard introduced "the world's first Clear" before a public audience in the early 1950's, he (and she) were embarrassed by the lack of results. She was a physics student, but couldn't remember a simple formula asked by an audience member; when another audience member asked her to state the color of Hubbard's tie, she couldn't recall that either. Much later, in the 1960's, Scientology announced a new world's first Clear, John McMaster. Widely acknowledged as a charming, sweet man, he didn't demonstrate the alleged perfection of a Clear, either.
Scientology: Body Thetans and Postulates
What are the upper levels of Scientology?
The upper levels are known as the "OT Levels" - they claim to make participants into "Operating Thetans" with superhuman abilities. Eight levels (OT I - VIII) have been released. Additional levels have been promised for years. Much of the material of the OT Levels deals with space aliens - eradicating mental implants we supposedly received from them, and ridding our bodies of the spirits of alien beings that are stuck to us.
What else does Scientology teach?
Other important teachings of Scientology include:
More Information about Scientology Teachings:
Dianetics (The Skeptic's Dictionary))