Scientology, because of its immense secrecy, is one of the most mysterious “religions” in America. In a revealing set of essays, Stella Forstner, a former Scientologist, reveals through her life story some of the church’s inner workings, along with their beliefs.
When people find out I was raised in Scientology they are almost uniformly intrigued; over the years I’ve developed a simple spiel to explain what it is that Scientologists actually believe. Scientologists believe, first and foremost, in an essential, reincarnating self, called a thetan, which is basically a soul, and in an animalistic, base, and impulse-driven ‘reactive mind,’ which is essentially the unconscious. By storing up all the bad things that have happened to you in your life, the reactive mind dictates your actions according to a system of stimulus-response, bypassing your conscious analytical mind. Scientologists believe that when you have become free of your reactive mind, you achieve the state of ‘clear’ and become an ‘operating thetan’ (OT). In the earliest formulation of Dianetics, clear was the highest level one could achieve. (Later, Hubbard ‘discovered’ additional OT levels, including the infamous intergalactic-overlord-heavy OT-3.)
Dianetic auditing, a form of regressive therapy that employs an E-meter to measure physiological responses (as discussed in part one), is the process through which a person becomes free of his or her reactive mind. According to the theory of Dianetics, the mind consists of images based on past experiences that we use to draw conclusions and make decisions about current situations. The images in the reactive mind are called engrams, and they’re seen as the source of maladies from migraine headaches to bad taste in boyfriends. An engram is a term without an easy English equivalent but basically refers to a stored, unconscious image that continues to influence us. These images are typically traumatic or injurious and work something like what most people would call a phobia or simply a bad association.
She was born into the church and both of her parents were Scientologists. Part one of her essay deals with growing up Scientologist.