Now imagine the wrath this fictitious Catholic church would feel for an infidel who made that expensive and closely guarded Book of Genesis available so that just about anyone -- believer and nonbeliever alike -- could look at it without paying a dime.
Comparable is the case of Scientology and Graham Berry.
In 1993, Berry was defending psychiatrist Uwe Geertz. Scientology was suing Geertz and his patient Steven Fishman for telling Time that Fishman had been committing crimes on the church's orders and had been told to kill Geertz and then commit "EOC" or "end of cycle," which Fishman said was church jargon for suicide. In its defamation lawsuit against Fishman, the church said that his claims were nonsense and described him as someone who had barely had any involvement in Scientology.
Although Fishman represented himself in his defense, he and Berry discussed the best way for Fishman to prove that he had actually had extensive involvement in Scientology. What better way than to file copies of secret, high-level Scientology materials in the court file? Fishman's mere possession of them would suggest that he had spent years in the religion.
So in May 1993, Fishman quietly filed Scientology's secret origin story -- its Book of Genesis, as it were -- in a court declaration.
By that time, descriptions of Scientology's core beliefs had been leaking out in press reports for several years. But except for the small percentage of church adherents who had attained the level of OT III, few people had access to the actual materials.
Scientology is based partly on Hubbard's 1950 book Dianetics. The self-help tome was described at the time of its publication as a sort of poor-man's psychoanalysis and was promoted by Hubbard as an alternative to traditional mental-health care. Through a process vaguely similar to psychotherapy, which he called auditing, Hubbard claimed that the unhappy could improve their lives by erasing the effects of traumatic memories. Hubbard called these memories engrams and said they acted like scars on the mind; only after extensive auditing and the removal of all engrams, including those leftover from past lives, could a person achieve a new state of inner freedom. Hubbard said such an engram-free human being would be known as a clear.
New church members work toward becoming clears by attending increasingly expensive classes and auditing sessions. Critics estimate the total cost of the journey to be about $200,000. Once a clear, a Scientologist is also known as an "operating thetan," or OT. (This means the person has the ability to communicate with his or her thetan, an entity somewhat analogous to a soul.) Members then continue their spiritual journey, moving to levels such as OT II and OT III and up to OT VIII, the highest current level attainable.
It's at OT III (a step that alone costs more than $8,000 to attain, according to a recent church price list) that Scientologists are finally told the story of the origin of their religion. In OT III, Hubbard reveals that 75 million years ago, a galactic overlord named Xenu (sometimes called Xemu) wanted to take care of an overpopulation problem. So he had billions of people from 76 different planets paralyzed with an alcohol and glycol mixture, put them into spaceships, and transported them to Teegeeack (now Earth). Xenu placed the paralyzed billions around volcanoes and then put hydrogen bombs into the craters to blow everyone up. The thetans of all those pulverized people were then trapped, and within them were implanted false memories. (Jesus was such an implanted memory.) They were then bundled together and ultimately placed inside unsuspecting human beings. Today, everyone unwittingly carries around plenty of these "body thetans," which generally make people miserable and hold them back from achieving their full potential. The higher OT materials contain auditing methods that are reputed to remove such damaging thetans.
According to church spokeswoman Karin Pouw, only about 10 percent of Scientologists have attained OT III. Because she's in the majority of members who haven't reached that level, she couldn't talk about OT III to New Times. Pouw became angry at questions about the church's theology: "So what if we believe Jesus is a figment of the imagination?"
A former Scientologist explains his reaction to reading the OT III story for the first time: "Everything is done on such a gradient in Scientology; they don't mention past lives in the beginning. The incremental indoctrination prepares you for the Xemu story."