Scientology began with L. Ron Hubbard’s book regarding the notion of Dianetics, which sparked a global movement, eventually evolving into the Scientology religion. Dianetics is “a methodology which can help alleviate unwanted sensations and emotions, irrational fears and psychosomatic illnesses (illnesses caused or aggravated by mental stress).” The focus of Scientology is entirely on the self, and ridding oneself from all negative past experiences which are stored in a portion of the brain called the Engram. Through auditing and training practices, one can attempt to purify their mind, body and souls and achieve closeness to the “Eighth Dynamic.”
One of the main ways in which Scientology exists within the public sphere is through celebrity culture. Without the numerous amount of wealthy celebrities that have pledged their loyalty to the Scientology religion, Scientology would not, and could not function. Unlike many other religions, Scientology is more reliant on funding and money then it is on its actual values and practice. In 1955, Scientology’s leader and founder, science fiction writter Ron L. Hubbard, launched a mission which he called “Project Celebrity.” This project was designed to recruit as many celebrities as possible to the Scientology movement. Hubbard considered celebrities extremely important to the movement’s expansion, and even created a special branch that ministers solely to celebrities. As stated by LA Times writters Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos, “the Church of Scientology utilizes celebrities in order to give Scientology greater acceptability in mainstream America… According to Hubbard, Scientologists should target prominent individuals as their “quarry” and bring them back like trophies for Scientology” Societies around the globe are fascinated with celebrities, and often turn to them as role models and examples. Thus, celebrity involvement in Scientology helps recruit people as followers. However, in order to become a member of the Scientology community, one is required to pay a sum of money. According to a Time Magazine article published in 1991, “Recruits wealthy and respectable professionals through a web of consulting groups that typically hide their ties to Scientology…Hubbard kept adding steps, each more costly, for his followers to climb…The church recruits — “raw meat,” as Hubbard called them — who take auditing sessions that cost as much as $1,000 an hour, or $12,500 for a 12 1/2-hour “intensive.” Many celebrities have come out over the years,publicly announcing their dedication to the Scientology religion. Some of the most noted celebrity Scientologists include: John Travolta, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Kristie Alley.
The following is a video interview with actor Tom Cruise. In this interview, Cruise talks about what it is like being a Scientologist, and how his entire perspective on life has changed thanks to Scientology. The fact the a video interview exists, which features a major celebrity discussing how Scientology has positively impacted his life, demonstrates the extreme presence that Scientology has in the public sphere. This video exemplifies the fact that Scientology utilizes celebrities to spread its message to the public and attempts to recruit new followers to the religion.
In recent years, celebrity involvement has generated much controversy in the public sphere particularly in the media, which has brought Scientology to the forefront of popular culture. Those who pay more and donate the most money to Scientology receive special treatment, which has caused people to question whether or not the overall religion of Scientology is simply a scam for Hubbard to obtain money and dominate public ideology. Celebrities agree to endorse Scientology due to the special treatment they gain in return. Scientology may be perceived as a “celebrity trend,” by the mass public. Those who wish to be like celebrities will seek to join Scientology, and as a result, celebrities get to feel as though they have contributed to a growing global movement that is spreading positive values to the public. Is Scientology a legitimate religion? Or is it simply a means for celebrities, and other wealthy individuals, to gain personal benefits by supporting Hubbard’s attempt to spread his message to the world?