Scientology & Money: A bridge Too Far
Whether or not it is true that Hubbard once admitted to having founded the Church of Scientology as a money-mill can’t be established today. It greatly depends from what Scientologic leadership privately believes and this simply is too tall an order to find out. Even if the religion was started as a cynical racketeering game this doesn’t preclude that Hubbard at least at the end was himself a believer of Scientology. We can only go by facts available today and the fact of the matter remains that participating in Scientology is very expensive and has always been very expensive. If there was a transition from ‘fake-religion-racket’ to genuine religion, this transition is at least not visible in the price-evolution. It is unclear whether the current leadership personally believes what they are saying or are just in the business of making money the easy way.
On ‘altreligion’ in a post positive towards Scientology the prices of Scientology courses are stated as follows:
- $128,000 to reach ‘Clear’
- $33,000 to OT III
- $130,000 to OT VIII
This adds up to $290.000 for a flawless path. Which they justify with the statement that an Ivy League university can also cost $100,000. Furthermore they state that the basic clearing can be done for $50,000 when you do it in pair-auditing sessions and you spend a couple of years doing it. Also they state that the critique, that Scientology keeps its prices hidden, doesn’t make any sense since ASHO (“American Saint Hill Organisation” a Sea Org-run counterpart of the English Saint Hill) lists its prices online.
For starters it is true that ASHO has a link called ‘Pricelist’ but in reality it just links on back to the Scientology home-page (were the prices can’t be found). This supposed ‘openness’ just . . . isn’t! Even if they had listed prices on one place on one site in some obscure back-room of the internet, fact remains that the public portals of Scientology just don’t, so that critique is certainly still valid.
The justification that some universities cost up to 33% of ‘going up the bridge’ with Scientology deserves no mercy. The fact that people can carry student debt all the way to the White House is messed up, widely regarded as grossly unfair and is not a defence for anything costing 3x as much. However the stated prices are ‘soft-estimates’ by any account. The list produced by Robert Kaufman, even though levels were at some places differently organised, adds up to $172,342 in 1984 currency. Today that would mean $399,168 in 2016-money.
The French legal investigation into Scientology estimated that a full track would cost you at least €300.000 (notice the euro € sign). Converted and adjusted for inflation this means $450,000. The latter number takes into account that there are a lot of hidden costs to Scientology.
Depending on the amount of time since your last ‘levelling up’ and the ‘dirt on your needle’ you often need ‘refresher courses’ that ‘help’ you with these things. Also the mention of the $50,000 path to ‘going clear’ past the grades levels, ignores the extra-courses and training that this path requires, bringing you still closer to $100,000 just for ‘going clear’.
Scientology will usually not comment on price-critique, the less that it is known the better. When pressed they will retort that 300K is a small price to pay for Total Freedom (for the coming n-trilllion years). They do not however have a trillion-year down-payment-plan for you, all needs to be paid in full in THIS lifetime and they have impressive legal means to obtain it. Sometimes they will also point to the size of their Pastoral works, to the costs of running churches and paying staff; as a justification for these prices. But this argument doesn’t cut wood once you know the basics of how Scientology is run.
A cursory look at the price structure of the ‘Cursus Scientologiae’, of ‘Going Up The Bridge’, makes it clear that prices do not scale linearly. Your first contact with Scientology is free, buying the beginners book on dianetics costs $25. An hour of ‘processing’ will cost you between $200 and $250. The first grades cost $1200 per level but the power grade V costs more than $14,000. These prices are not reflective of the cost to Scientology for providing these ‘services’. You might think it costs the church more to train an OT I level auditor than a grade 1 auditor, but this seems hard to defend since most if not all of the costs of training are carried by the auditors themselves. Scientology actually MAKES money from training auditors. The other costs remain largely the same. The buildings, e-meter hardware and administration are all shared since all activities are organised around an e-meter and requires very little else in terms of comfort.
A possible reason for the non-linearity could be to wilfully make the lowest levels more universally attainable than the following levels. Exactly at what point these prices will outmatch anyone’s ability to pay for them is quite individual and (as scientology correctly yet misleadingly states) “it depends on how far you wish to go with it“. However nowhere in the ‘cursus Scientologiae’ does the church recognise a ‘platform of stability’ where the follower can choose to stop and hold whatever supposed benefits he gained. Even the much heralded ‘state of clear’ is unstable lest you continue into the OT levels.
From Kaufman: “I, too, signed up for the whole package, but without making payment, because I planned only to go clear — and also OT I. Word had got around that OT I was ‘a must, to stabilize the state of clear.'”
In the end it doesn’t really matter that Scientology is too costly for most, because there is a third way of obtaining Scientology levels. If one can’t pay, can’t save and can’t borrow anymore for the next (always urgent) level of auditing, one can go into service as Scientology Staff and earn credits for the subsequent levels. This is where the system is truly ingenious: the higher the prices, the more people have to come work for Scientology (earning little money and few credits), the lower the costs of running Scientology becomes and the higher the margins on those higher prices are. By adjusting their prices Scientology controls both the demand for its ‘services’ as its resources for providing them.
To call the work-regime at Scientology “Spartan” would be overstating the stamina of those ancient Greek soldiers. During a normal period staff-regime is six days in the week from sun up to sun down, doing administration, doing auditing and cleaning toilets indiscriminately. However since it is quite impossible to meet the targets in ‘earned-revenue-stats’ or ‘procedural-excellence’, tacked on to this are the disciplinary missions.
“Man’s greatest weapon is his reason. Ethics are reason.”
From: ‘Introduction to Scientology Ethics’
Integrated within Scientology there is a whole system of ‘Ethics’ which intermingles both discipline (‘do as you are told’) and performance (‘get the financial results you are expected to’). The ethics system is a hierarchical one.
The aim is to be on a condition of ‘Normal Operation’ or higher. Any evaluation (and the evaluating is permanent) can put you in any lower condition. Since Scientology allows no ‘bypassing’ this means that you will need to do the punishment of each condition, almost always without pause, until you are back to the ‘Normal’ level. With the punishment for a condition of ‘Non-existence’ being 48h service, ‘Danger’ being 24h service and ‘Emergency’ another normal workday it is clear how people can be condemned to days of sleepless working on end. That this ties in with the financial results is clear from Hubbards ‘Handbook of preclears’: “This is much easier than it appears. If you made $1,000 last week and only $200 this week, you obviously are slipping, if you made $1,100 this week you are pretty stable, if you made $5,000 this week you are affluent. All compared to the $1,000 you made last week.”
With ‘affluent’ here meaning one of the positive ethics conditions.
It is clear that your ‘STATS’: (how much money you bring in for Scientology) has fused with Scientology-morality of ‘Crime and Punishment’.
“When the individual fails to put in his own ethics, the group takes action against him and this is called justice.
. . .
The breakthrough in Scientology is that we do have the basic technology of Ethics.”
From Hubbards: “Introduction to Scientology Ethics”
Staff-members have little spare time to actually do the ‘levelling up’, but still their time exceeds their ability to earn the ‘credits’ for their auditing or auditor levels (or even for the basic ‘refresher course’ to release ‘residual charge’ on any prior level). For urgent cases (and all
hypnotics auditing cases are urgent) Scientology gratuitously allows staff to ‘borrow’ credits for auditing. Should they however, at any point in their punishing employment, decide to leave their current employer (having earned virtually no pay for long periods of time) they will be liable for the thousands of dollars Scientology may wish to charge for auditing received.
Unless someone on the outside is willing and able to bail disillusioned or exhausted staff members from their indentured servitude, if they are physically allowed to leave to begin with(often crucial papers, tickets and documentation are ‘secured’ by Scientology itself) they will do so under heavy barrages of intimidation, facing years of litigation and destitute.
Many independent testimonials attest that the harassment over outstanding debt usually expands to the loved ones of the victim, pressing and intimidating them to put indirect pressure on the former member to pay up or come back in. Unsurprisingly many of these victims of Scientology have committed suicide to at least unburden their loved ones from the relentless stalking. Often enough this ‘final solution’ was initiated at the ‘suggestion’ of their stalkers. Scientology doesn’t need the money from its former members so much as they need ex-members to re-join or disappear and stop the bad PR.
The money matter becomes even more prevalent when one considers that large parts of ‘Going Up The Bridge’ don’t even involve a second person (the auditor). The subject audits himself, holding 1 tin ‘can’ in one hand and a pen in the other. Ignoring the fact that this methodology invalidates both the scientific as well as the scientologic workings of the e-meter, it is clear that at this point the subject is basically just consuming recorded information. The same goes for the hours of LRH recordings and film material Scientology considers part of the training.
Here is what needs considering: In the rest of the world the cost or physically reproducing information has dropped so far that today more of it is consumed for free than that used to be paid for two decades ago. Also: computers and databases have drastically reduced the overhead for any administration. Yet these evolutions are not reflected in the pricing of Scientology at all. If anything their prices have steadily risen. One explanation could be that neither the organisation nor the reproduction of information made up a large part of the price of the ‘Cursus Scientologiae’ to begin with. Conversely must the price of Scientology ‘services’ be largely a ‘licensing cost’, the price they put on the immaterial rights to their ‘product’.
While Scientology is set up as an international organisation offering pseudo-therapeutic services its ‘pricelist’ is careful to call the price-of-service a ‘Donation’; A ‘donation’ to a religious organisation. They are perhaps the only organisation that makes a list of mandatory ‘donations’ that differ only semantically from a ‘price’. The same list contains literal prices for the course-materials it should be mentioned. Obviously this semantic obfuscation is intended to skate the line of ‘religious organisation’ and ‘spiritual’ not-for-profit service in order to fraudulently avoid taxes. Ironically it is only the large doses of the irrational unscientific with which they have sauced their therapy that somewhat validate their claim of being a religion. Unsurprisingly, despite regular claims to the contrary, prepaid ‘donations’ to Scientology are non-refundable, which is really the only way in which they differ from a ‘price’.
Scientology may believe that in order to obtain Total Freedom it is justified for you to fork out the price of a large European middle-class house (which most couldn’t afford even if it was for a house), for licensing a Xenu-laden auto-therapy. To those not under their spell it is clearly an extortionist price which they can only maintain because they enforce a monopoly on it and claiming religious protection for it in the process.
Both the French and the American Revolution introduced the principle of a ‘separation of State and Church’ to the world. It had become clear that when one centre holds authority in both pillars of society that great injustices ensues. Today, with the advent of globalisation it is clear that corporations have become States within States. Scientology is clear proof that a state-mandated separation of corporation and church is urgently needed as well. You should be forced to choose if you are a religion or a corporation. The one may get protection against discrimination and not have to pass by the FDA, the other can claim ‘trade mark’ and ‘trade secrets’. It should not be possible to patent what you claim to be ‘religious practices’ and abuse the irrational believes you installed in your members to extort from them such exorbitant ‘licensing fees’.