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The Significance of Rituals in Scientology: A Brief Overview and a Few Examples

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Scientology’s rituals may be divided into four categories, which are all mentioned in this article: 1) rituals aimed at the spiritual transformation of the individual, most profoundly the auditing procedure; 2) collective, very often calendrical ceremonies, usually termed “Events,” where the community of Scientologists, the organization itself, and its exalted founder are celebrated; 3) rites of passage such as weddings, namings, and funerals; and 4) services that to some extent (and probably strategically) emulate their Christian counterparts. In this article the focus is on the auditing procedure and “Events,” with a special emphasis on L. Ron Hubbard’s obsequies in 1986. On the basis of ritual analysis, it is argued that Scientology, apart from the proclaimed ambition of liberating the entrapped soul (thetan), is best understood as a devotional cult aimed at revering the mythologized founder of the organization. 1

Affiliations: 1: University of Southern Denmark, Section for the Study of Religions, Department of History Campusvej 55, dk-5230 Odense M Denmark rothstein@sdu.dk

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1. Church of Scientology "“The Sun Never Sets on Scientology”" International Scientology News 8 1986 (accessed 25 June 2015) URL:
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14. Rothstein Mikael "“Emblematic Architecture and the Routinization of Charisma in Scientology”" The International Journal for the Study of New Religions 2014 Vol 51 1 51 75 http://dx.doi.org/10.1558/ijsnr.v5i1.51
15. Rothstein Mikael Lewis James R. "“‘His name was Xenu. He used renegades . . .’ Aspects of Scientology’s Founding Myth”" Scientology 2009 New York Oxford University Press 365 388 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331493.003.0020
16. Rothstein Mikael Lewis James R. , Tøllefsen Inga "“Rituals and Ritualization in New Religions”" The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements Forthcoming 2nd ed. New York Oxford University Press
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20. Urban Hugh B. The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion 2011 Princeton Princeton University Press
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/content/journals/10.1163/15685276-12341408
2016-01-13
2018-10-18

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