Umm no … not THOSE engineers.

This thesis by Hugh A.D. Spencer has been cited on very few occasions over the past several decades … BoingBoing and Scientology Books and Media were those sites that gave it more than mere mention. It seems appropriate to bring it out of the archives with some fresh perspective. Spencer says he “received a grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada to investigate the origins of religious movements in science fiction fandom. The project was part of my graduate studies in cultural anthropology and has something of a legacy.” Let’s dust it off and reexamine “The Fictional Origins of a Modern Religion.”

Fictional-Origins download.

Well, he does get right to the point!

This thesis deals with science fiction and its manifestations as a force in popular culture. To be specific, I discuss science fiction and its symbolic connections with the recently formed ‘cult’ known as the Church of Scientology. Scientology was created by a former science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, who uses a great deal of science fiction imagery in church doctrine.

Following are selected quotes throughout the thesis where Mr. Spencer “examines how ideas and themes in a fictional setting can become transformed into religious doctrine.”

“Fascinating, Captain. The knowledge. The depth.”

Most of us have had some encounter with science fiction at some point in our lives.

…Within the ranks of the more devoted enjoyers of science fiction exist more deeply committed enthusiasts.

…The behavior of a few Star Trek fans is indicative of an effect which is of central importance to this thesis: the immersion of consciousness into a fantasy world.

CAUTION: Here comes the “C” word…for those of you who missed it in the introduction.

One aspect of the wider influence of science fiction is the cult movement known as the Church of Scientology. I shall examine how bodies of ideas, in this case taken from an entertainment, can influence social configurations and behavior. Further, I shall elaborate on how science fiction symbols and enthusiasts aided in the formation of a religious institution: Scientology.

This is an exercise in “processual symbology”; how various ideas and symbols can be manipulated by persons (in this case church founder L. Ron Hubbard, himself a science fiction writer) to gain control over symbols, by changing their meaning and context.

During his discussion of the importance, history and impact of science fiction on American culture, Spencer makes an intriguing observation, prompted by others who have studied the genre…

Science fiction acts as a means of psychologically compensating for feelings of inadequacy.

HOLD THAT THOUGHT … or more elegantly in French,
“Maintenir Cette Pensée”

As Spencer shifts gears, his thesis creates its own Question & Answer session…

When we acknowledge that science fiction has a broader interest base, it becomes possible to’ address this problem: Just how deviant are those who succumb to the appeal of science fiction?

…as a genre, science fiction has a force over the minds and imagination of its readers. For those who are predisposed, science fiction can create alternate realities.

…Science fiction has the potential to attract large numbers of devoted followers, and in the case of fans who are extremely committed to the vision of science fiction, it separates them from those who have chosen to live in the real world.

…the fact that some science fiction should eventually give rise to a sect or religious movement can be partially understood.

We find a similar theme in Wikipedia under the title, “List of religious ideas in science fiction.” The topic presented tends to corroborate Spencer’s suggestion about science fiction and religion.

Science fiction often portrays real religions being exported to alien planets

Science fiction will sometimes address the topic of religion. Often religious themes are used to convey a broader message, but others confront the subject head-on—contemplating, for example, how attitudes towards faith might shift in the wake of ever-advancing technological progress, or offering creative scientific explanations for the apparently mystical events related in religious texts (gods as aliens, prophets as time travelers, etc.). As an exploratory medium, science fiction rarely takes religion at face value by simply accepting or rejecting it; when religious themes are presented, they tend to be investigated deeply.

Some science fiction works portray invented religions, either placed into a contemporary Earth society (such as the Earthseed religion in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower), or in the far future (as seen in Dune by Frank Herbert, with its Orange Catholic Bible). Other works examine the role of existing religions in a futuristic or alternate society.

After a very long Chapter II, which explores science fiction fandom, authors, themes, and political aspects, Spencer begins his bombing run in Chapter III, “The Lore of Scientology.”

In the Church of Scientology, the degree of commitment and belief to science fiction ideology is even more intense. No longer are science fiction symbols and themes just an inventory of possible alternate futures and worlds. Further, they take on the role of religious doctrine. Science fiction now acts as previously undisclosed truth, surplanting the values of mundane society.

This concept is reiterated in a 2014 article by Susan Raine, “Astounding history: L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology space opera.” The following citation is illustrative of the theory that Hubbard employed strategies that he was well familiar with as an author and as a contributor to the science fiction genre.

L. Ron Hubbard created in Scientology an immense landscape of alternative worlds, realities, and possibilities. Scientology cosmology, mythology, and eschatology are inescapably linked to galactic events and Hubbard’s retelling of human history is replete with science-fiction tropes – many of which found popularity in the early science-fiction tradition to which he belonged. In his therapeutic and religious teachings, Hubbard proposed a complex narrative that re-defined the essence of self and society in relation to the cosmos. For Scientologists, the fantastic becomes mundane as they position themselves within a vast and heavy quest to reshape themselves, the rest of humanity, and, for some, the entire universe. Understood within the science-fiction context from which Scientology emerged, one can better understand the grand nature of Hubbard’s proposals as belonging to a specific tradition within the genre – namely, space opera. Consequently, this article analyses Hubbard’s propositions using space-opera concepts, and argues that Hubbard re-defined a unique tradition in the course of creating a new reality.

As in the pulp science-fiction writings of his youth, L. Ron Hubbard created in Scientology – and in its forerunner, Dianetics – an immense and fantastic landscape of alternative worlds, realities, and possibilities. This creative process was a lifelong project for Hubbard – one that incorporated an astounding quantity of output. In the course of his unearthing of proposals and building of ideologies and histories, Hubbard incorporated a myriad of influences ranging from psychology, science, pseudo-science, science fiction, the occult, and more, resulting in what Hugh Urban (2011) aptly describes as a bricolage of ideas woven together to form a new movement. Critically, this multi-faceted creation becomes the singular truth for many of Scientology’s devoted followers, especially, one might argue, for those who achieve the most advanced levels of Scientology training – OT and beyond.

Chapter III continues with deep dives into the “History and Nature of the Movement,” “Defining Scientology,” and “Scientology Doctrine.”

Chapter IV reviews “The Cultic Connection,” with a long discussion of John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, who had an intimate relationship with L. Ron Hubbard.

Chapter V is titled, “Symbolic Ambivalence,” providing some relief for those in the broader science fiction audience who might be expecting collateral damage from the bomb run on the genre in general…

The purpose of this thesis has been to point out how much of science fiction lore and Scientological beliefs arose out of a single “cultural background”. But it is a mistake to assert that science fiction is simply a source for bizarre and potentially harmful groups in society. Science fiction did provide the forum for Dianetics to gain public attention, but some qualifications must be made regarding their symbolic relatedness.

So relax everyone, Science Fiction is still fun … and sexy.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Spencer’s conclusion brings everything into focus…

As I compiled my data for this thesis I found the greatest error committed by Hubbard and his followers, and even extreme fans such as Ray Nelson, is that in their proposed solutions to society’s problems, they do not deal with any immediate difficulties, but instead argue for a new kind of society, circumventing existing problems. Utopianists make this central flaw in their ideologies: they propose the “final step” in human action, rather than the best next step. Such an attitude, which Scientologists in particular are guilty of, puts their followers farther out of touch with reality rather than allowing them to address its true nature.

Although fans familiar with science fiction ideology and symbolism may act as a check on some of the proselytization by Scientologists, we cannot leave them to shoulder the burden alone. Scholars and analysts could also study various movements in society which might pose threats to the rights of its members. Such studies would at least provide people with information that would allow them to make better choices in their actions and attitudes.

If the reader wishes to categorize this thesis, then it should be considered as a contribution to such an endeavour.

Thank you, Mr. Spencer, and yes, more than just a few ex-members, journalists, movie stars, scholars, and analysts have provided their insights since 1981.

Mike Rinder
The Underground Bunker (Tony Ortega)
Tony Ortega Substack
The Scientology Money Project (Jeffrey Augustine)
Chris Shelton
Jon Atack
Marc & Claire Headley
Aaron Smith-Levin
Amy Scobee
Apostate Alex
Leah Remini
Mark Bunker
Paulette Cooper
Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of David Miscavige
Russell Miller, author of Bare-faced Messiah
John Sweeney, BBC Journalist
Tory Christman
Ron DeWolf, son of L. Ron Hubbard
Jamie DeWolf, great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard
Jesse Prince
Rick Ross
Louis Theroux
And a long list of many others

And like they say on TV…

NOTE: HUGH ALAN DOUGLAS SPENCER is a pretty unique name. I’m thinking THIS is our guy some 40+ years later.

And he’s written a bunch of … WAIT FOR IT … science fiction books! Here is a compilation of “Why I Hunt Flying Saucers” thanks to the Internet Archive.

And a review of the book here

Hugh A. D. Spencer’s weird, wonderful, side-splitting short fiction has been delighting audiences for over 25 years. His stories have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies and broadcast on National Public Radio satellite networks. Now collected together for the first time, Why I Hunt Flying Saucers And Other Fantasticals contains thirteen of his best-loved stories, along with all-new introductions by the author.

Malfunctioning household robots, an endless apocalyptic loop, potash-fueled interstellar travel, and more—these stories stretch science fiction to its limit and bring it into our backyards at the same time.

He’s not quite on par with L. Ron Hubbard, but he’s done his part … “Summary Bibliography: Hugh A. D. Spencer.”

His Facebook page confirms he Studied Anthropology at McMaster University, class of 1981 (same date as this thesis). There is no online indication that he ever mentioned anything regarding Scientology beyond his Master’s thesis.

Oh yeah … In Readers’ Digest 1981 … “Scientology: The Sickness Spreads.”