The Fascination of Scientology
Fill your potential customers and the general public with the strong desire to find things out. Secret dealings, not information breakthroughs, will prove most attractive. L. Ron Hubbard 
Scientology -- for the one a religious philosophy or church that gives the collective answers to life, for the other a dangerous sect which is always good for more negative headlines. What pushes people into Scientology, and how is it able to grow, despite strong criticism, over the course of decades? 
The first reason is probably normal human curiosity
What fascinates a person about Scientology? This question was asked me, and at first I was struck dumb.
Let's go back 20 years. I was 18 years old and had already taken several courses with Scientology over a two year period. At that time the Viet Nam war was indirectly at my front door. I was living in Germany. An American barracks was near my school. And that's where a few of my friends lived. They had their tour in Viet Nam behind them and could "recover" from their experiences there. Under the influence of drugs they spoke of jungle warfare in which their comrades' legs were shredded, of civilians who were caught in the cross-fire, of children that bled to death. There were two different experiences, depending on whether we saw the reports on
television, or whether we were told in harrowing detail what had happened in that kind of war by the participants. How could people kill themselves in this way? What in all the world did the imperialist Americans want in peace-loving Indochina? Mao showed people the way! Pink Floyd was "in", so were drugs. And so Scientology took its place in the line of my unbound curiosity for life, a curiosity that also expressed itself in my thirst for reading. From attempts to understand Karl Marx's Kapital at age fifteen, scientific popular and textbook literature, works which were concerned with the Second World War, up to my Mao-bible (which I unfortunately no longer own), and to Wolfgang Leonhard's and Gustav A. Wetter's critical discussion of Soviet ideology. Everything interested me. Woodstock had just gone by and Easy Rider was the big cult film; Jimi Hendrix and Santana transposed us into other worlds - down with the bourgeois! Then Scientology talked about the spirit which was supposed to be immortal and could separate itself from the body and could look at it from outside - a phenomenon with which I was familiar through my experiences with LSD. Naturally I wanted to know more about the spirit which could voluntarily leave its body and could look at it from the outside. Add to that the experience of recollections of an earlier life.
Everything was interesting, everything had to be investigated and tried out. Today I have to take my hat off to my parents. They had a not entirely simple son and let him have, as a sign of their trust, very much freedom in many things. And since I could be just as stubborn as my father, there were also the usual parent-child conflicts. In short, Scientology hit me at exactly the time at which I was trying to turn the world on its head.
Scientology fascinated me as something new and unknown with the offer of the key to the answers to all my questions in life. One day my parents recognized that their oldest son had a problem with drugs.
After we had been familiar with Scientology for almost two years, my mother sat down and talked with me. I don't remember exactly in which room of our house it was, but she was not speaking to me as a mother, but as a caring, sympathetic person. No, drugs were not a solution in the long run, I agreed with her. And I also agreed to speak with a professional Scientologist in the local Scientology center. We drove off, and I met a sympathetic lady. She made no kind of reproach to me, either, but wanted to make it clear to me that I would have to drastically change something. That became clear to me, too, and I realized, besides, that I would only be able to free myself of my drug consumption if a change of location were to take place. I had to get away from my current friends, away from Frankfurt. But how? And where?
Coincidence had it that a staff member of the European Scientology Center in Copenhagen was spending some time in the Frankfurt Center. And he asked me whether I wouldn't like to live and work in Copenhagen for a few years. I thought I would. If an Indian were there, I would have gone with him to India. Nevertheless I signed, while tripping on LSD, a contract with the elite organization of Scientology, the Sea Organization, "Sea Org" for short.  I obligated myself for a billion years to Scientology to be employed for their purposes. A billion years? This is better understood to be symbolic. Such a long term contract naturally heightened the capability of forbearance. One knows that the salvation of the universe will take a long time, and the unpleasantness which happens today will be rationalized as trivial when compared with such a huge span of time.
Why did I sign this contract? It was the only possibility I saw to break out of the environment. To my question as to whether there was not also a staff contract with a shorter duration, the recruiter answered with a clear "no."
I enjoyed my last LSD trip while traveling to Copenhagen. In a completely new environment, harnessed to
a 12-hour day, surrounded by a selection of good, new friends, I slowly overcame my addiction. I wasn't making any money. There was a small allowance per week, but at the time it was all the same to me. I had a roof over my head, got something to eat, and always had something to do. Several of my co-workers at the Scientology publisher's were even former drug users and stood by my side with thoughts and words whenever I got the shakes. That's how I got through the stage of bodily withdrawal without a special rehabilitation program. And I asked myself whether it would really be right to work here in Copenhagen in the company offices of a publishing house.
One evening I wanted to find out. I visited the Christiania, a former military housing complex which was more or less occupied by autonomous youth, and which was Copenhagen's drug center. I found old friends there, whom I had known from an earlier trip to Denmark. They offered me hashish, marijuana, and LSD. And I was able to refuse them with a surprising casualness. Now I knew: I had done it! My self-confidence came back to me practically overnight. And the next morning I left this "hospitable city" with my head raised high, invigorated by my experience of having pulled the plug on drugs on the basis of my will alone. I strolled through Copenhagen, enjoyed the sunrise by one of the small lakes downtown and was at my place of work at 9 o'clock. Then I went to the "ethics officer" to tell him about my experience and my great success. I had deliberately kept my distance from drugs and now wished to dedicate myself all the more to the good things of Scientology. And what did this man do? He communicated to me that I was in a condition of lower ethics and had to endure the appropriate measures. I didn't believe my ears, because in the past night I had achieved the greatest personal success ever of my life.
Only a few days later I learned that not only members of the Sea Org worked here in Copenhagen where Scientology books were produced and sold for almost the entire world, but also many staff members who had only two and-a-half year contracts. I immediately wanted to trade in my billion year contract for one of those, but got the reply that that would not happen. That upset me. And now that I could once again see and think clearly, the kind of accommodations I had and other peculiarities also upset me. I shared a room with eleven other men, the space for personal things was limited to that under the two bunk beds in half the room, the food was miserable, and the one or two weeks that I had to serve breakfast to the uniformed officers of the Sea Organization was one of my most traumatic experiences.
How, I asked myself, was it that in a revolutionary philosophy an upper-level Scientologist ran around in a military uniform with decorations while he was being served as though he were the emperor of China? I decided to end my stay in Copenhagen. Ten days later I was back in Germany. Nobody had done a thing to stop me. On the contrary, they wished me luck and were friendly and understanding.
I wanted to know more about the adventure of Scientology. First I paid my "debt" to Scientology-Copenhagen -- the expenses of the courses I had taken for my staff training while I was there, because I had "broken" my staff contract. Then, in Frankfurt, I took a course to train as a simple auditor, as a counselor for the individual Scientology dialogue, and I also received this counseling myself. The adventure of plunging into past lives was fascinating, the atmosphere was cordial. And so I signed a 2 1/2 year contract with Scientology Frankfurt. It was a marvelous time, something quite different from the Copenhagen
experience. I became a course supervisor and believed that I was helping many people. Then I became the first official "salesman" of the organization. This function was miles away from that which is held by today's Scientology salespeople. No one had "angst" when I came. My door was always open, and I dealt with people as I should: which solution could we offer the person to solve which problem? Mostly there were the smaller courses with a price of one or two hundred marks ($30-65 at that time). It didn't always have to be the individual counseling, which cost about 64 marks (about $20) an hour at the time, in 1974. However the individual counseling practically sold itself. A relaxed atmosphere prevailed in the organization, a mark of the the current director.
Only later, from the narratives of prior staff members from other Scientology organizations, did I learn that my years in the small organization apparently had been something really extraordinary. I was well off as far as Scientology organizations go, at least so much that I could take a girlfriend out to eat and maybe to a movie, too. I had one evening and one day off per week and felt no pressure "to get my statistics up" (in plain English: to raise my work performance from one week to the next ad infinitum).
How others could stay with Scientology for years for fifty marks (about $16) per week allowance under catastrophic living conditions (practically no private life and almost nothing to eat - even today cared for in part by care packages or financial support from relatives), was and is a puzzle to me. Because Hubbard himself had stated that life consisted of various spheres, and the concentration upon only one sphere (the group) was injurious.
One more thing is also clear: whoever is receiving pocket money only is fully aware that he has practically no chance to make it on his own outside of the organization -- without having to spend
the first few months with relatives. That means that idealists are at work here, people who wish to "save the planet" and therefore pay their promised dues and carry out their intended mission.
What caused me to stay in Scientology from that point on? First of all there were a number of years without any special activity. As my staff contract ran out, I had other interests and worries at the time. On the other hand I was personally interested in myself and wanted more auditing. I still wanted to have all the fantastic, spiritual experiences -- which, I will openly admit, occurred in part, but in no way to the extent to which I had hoped. On the basis of these positive experiences I applied myself more vigorously. My desire to contribute something of improvement to the world was again awakened. Therefore I helped, as far as my time and my interests permitted me. I wrote articles, translated articles and magazines and performed some service for the Office of Special Affairs; the imposing number of written acknowledgments that accumulated in my ethics folder made what I was doing into a testimony.
Everyone has their own stories of development and fascination. And these worked out fine until we realize that the force of Scientology leadership had almost turned fundamental principles (understanding for our fellow human beings, tolerance, etc.) into foreign words. Nevertheless this conviction of belonging to the only organization that could bring peace to this planet and the desire to make our own contribution caused many of us, in the meantime, to overlook such deficiencies.
Furthering Personal Development
Being able to perceive personal problems and to work on greater personal development is an additional reason for the fascination, and frequently it is the first. A person who has problems and seeks solutions, but does not find them in the conventional places such as church, home, or a circle of friends, runs into Scientology exactly as he would have run into anything else. After he has experienced help here which brings him practical use in life, he continues and is also ready, after he has perhaps gathered further positive experiences, to put his criticism for the organization into the background.
Our society is becoming more and more anonymous. Even though people live together with others in block dwellings, they hardly know each other by name. There are more and more single parents who have more that two children who can sing us a song of all their problems they have encountered in a search for a place to live. All this contradicts the human necessity of warmth and security in a greater community where one finds acknowledgment for himself and his actions in how he is regarded by others.
Whoever encounters Scientology for the first time will be exhilarated by the feeling of sincerity from the staff and other Scientologists. Here we are alive, let us be here. Everything is good, we (finally) get confirmation that we have an infinite amount of spiritual potential and that we are genuinely good people. "You come upon a sacred island - everything outside is vulgar.", is how an ex-member described it. "It is a deep yearning for security. You make light of the first incongruities and finally do not observe them (any more)." And this feeling is by no means artificial.
The average Scientology staff member enjoys himself from the bottom of his heart in being permitted to again help a person. And the novice perceives this honest feeling. I do not remember it any other way. I quickly found like-minded people and, as in every association, the community created close personal bonds.
An additional reason for the fascination may lie in this being the first time the majority of the people in Scientology have had anything concrete and serious to do with the topics of philosophy, psychology and religion. All people entertain questions such as "where do I come from?", "where am I going?", "who or what is God?", "How should I live?" In Scientology people are confronted with life's wisdom and life's answers, which offer them answers to their questions in a closed, seemingly apparent world view and bring them genuine use in life.
Because of globalization in all areas of life, the Eastern way of thinking has flowed for several decades and continues to flow strongly into the West. The belief market, which previously had been in the strong hands of the Christian churches, has expanded because of democratic relations and many-faceted influences - which has brought insecurity to many people. Petra Schmidt [name changed], mother of three children, wrote me about what she took into consideration in the early 70's at age 35 in her entrance into Scientology:
It was the time when the whole family - parents and their toddlers, grown-ups up through grandparents - was interested in Scientology and practiced it. It was mainly academically educated families when we came to be associated with Scientology.
The reason? The Christian churches with the claim that belief is everything had misfired. You really could not console yourself anymore with the belief that all suffering on earth would be rewarded with bliss on the other side. The Christian confession, however much it is worth as a form of self-recognition, does not bring about the desired result. You are unhappy once again, sick, reacting wrongly, fighting, not understanding what is next. How can the maxim "love your neighbor as you love yourself" be interpreted when you do not love yourself? Churches with their institutions and schools teach their followers from childhood on that they are nothing without God, that you have to be humble and must be aware of your own unworthiness and inadequacies. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Then along comes someone who says that each person is an individual that has at his disposal great potential abilities which have fallen into disuse. That the reason for human failure, sickness, fights and problems lies in past traumatic experiences. And who incidentally offers you a technology which promises to clear up these experiences. Besides that, he offers a technology through which you can regain your buried potential abilities in order to deal in a self-determined manner and, above all, responsibly. The principle of cause and effect.
All of this is offered in the form of courses as well as of individual "ministerial counseling."
Parents learn that their children are spiritual beings, exactly as they themselves are, only in young bodies. That these beings must be guaranteed freedom of development inside the same limitations the family has in order to obviate chaos. Parents also learn that their own frustrations and anxieties need not be projected onto the children, that they have much more reason to look into the traumatic events of their own past. This is the embarkation into Dianetics. Modern psychology today uses similar methods.
The grades of Scientology form the next step. These are processes in which you recover your original abilities as a spiritual being. [Individual discussions with one of the counsellors versed in Scientology technology.] Designating this as confession is just stupid. The ability to be in the present, to confront and to be able to analytically evaluate a situation, understand and to help his fellow human beings -- these are only a few of the results of the grades of Scientology. The goal of Scientology is the "clear", a spiritual being that is conscious of self, who lives in the present, and has extinguished the negative influences of the past.
That was what pulled entire families into Scientology. That and the great understanding and the attraction to others we found there.
In the literature from Scientology one continually comes up against the concept of technology. By this is meant precisely determined methodologies which lead to a clearly defined result. Technology ultimately explains the claim which Scientology constantly brings up: all phenomena of the human existence are known, and every difficulty which a person could have with himself, with his relations or his profession could be eliminated with exactly defined processes which Scientology offers him. There are no more imponderables, and the goal of people to live in complete happiness and in peace is only a question of the consistent application of these Scientology processes. 
The idea of technology has a great fascination for every person of the Western world. At last he does not have to grasp at things such as astrology, pendulums, tarot cards or prayers when he has problems.
Meditation is also superfluous because it is just as imprecise and not properly controllable. He seeks out the proper know-how in Scientology technology, then all is well in life. Just as easily as I consult a handbook for the repair of a piece of equipment.
Since Scientology supposedly has all the answers to all the questions in life, it is the most worthwhile philosophy/religion/world-outlook/teaching of the world. And anybody who risks criticizing it is a rogue agent who has only vulgar motives and who wants evil for humanity.
It is irrelevant to me whether the claims of Scientology are valid or not. It is much more decisive to me that a person has a chance to decipher the mystery of life. That has something fascinating about it. However it also conceals a risk. Could this lead to a person forgetting to think for himself? That his thinking be limited to "what does Scientology say about this problem?" This is the key to dependence.