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Scientology and Psychiatry


It’s a few months since a video of Tom Cruise expounding on Scientology was released on the internet.  Described as ‘a complete fanatic‘ by the Gawker blog and worse elsewhere, he did come across as single-minded on the subject.  A recent book by Diana Spencer biographer Andrew Morton suggests that Cruise may be second in command in the Scientology Church behind David Miscavige.  

As much as it is possible with someone who has the adoration of thousands and earns more than I do in a year in about ten minutes, I do have some sympathy with Cruise for the ridicule he has received.  The beliefs of any religion or cult sound ridiculous when one takes a step back from them.  And impenetrable jargon could be expected from someone who believes himself to be talking to the converted.  It is only because the belief structure of, say, Christianity is so accepted in our culture that it does not seem fantastical.  If you subscribe to this viewpoint, then in saying what he says Cruise is no more deluded than any evangelical Christian, albeit one that is a member of a large, secretive and powerful group.

But this is not what I wish to examine here. 

For all the qualified sympathy I have for Cruise, he would be unlikely to extend the same to me.  Scientologists don’t like psychiatrists or psychologists.  Here Cruise talks about his dislike of psychiatry in the context of his previous comments on Brooke Shields using anti-depressants.  Taking an uncompromising stance, he insists that he had studied the history of psychiatry and had formed a negative opinion he wishes to share with others on this basis. 

In 1969 the Church of Scientology set up an organisation called the Citizens Commission on Human Rights which runs an  ‘Industry of Death’ museum located at 6616 Sunset Boulevard.  They have also made a documentary called ‘Psychiatry: An Industry of Death’ clips of which can be watched on YouTube

Here are some of the allegations levelled at psychiatrists by the CCHR website:

Psychiatrists are using electroshock, drugs and other barbaric means to torture political dissidents.

20 million children worldwide are taking psychiatric drugs, which can cause suicide, hostility, violence, mania and drug dependence.

More than 100,000 patients die each year in psychiatric institutions.

Annually, psychiatrists kill up to 10,000 people with their use of electroshock—460 volts of electricity sent searing through the brain. Three-quarters of all electroshock victims are women.

Psychiatrists and psychologists have raped 250,000 women. Studies show that 10 to 25 percent of psychiatrists sexually assault their patients; of every 20 of these victims one is likely to be a minor. 

Here’s a tour video of the Industry of Death Museum. Bedlam (now the Bethlem Hospital, South London) where ‘patients were chained like animals’ gets an early mention.  It appears that, according to the museum, psychiatrists are responsible for pretty much every ill of the modern world, including eugenics, ethnic cleansing and terrorism.  This seems somewhat unfair.  Details of these accusations can be seen as chronicled by two jokers at this blog who describe their visit to museum as the highlight of their trip to LA.

A lot of what the Scientologists metaphorically beat psychiatrists with has some basis in truth.  It’s no secret that psychiatry has been used to control political dissidents and that our knowledge of what causes psychiatric disease is patchy.  It is also a common criticism that psychiatrists seek to pathologise all of human behaviour and emotion.  But I do not think that you can legitimately criticise modern psychiatry because some people have sought to use what we know of psychology for nefarious ends, nor can they discount accumulated knowledge on mental health problems on the basis that their aetiology is incompletely understood; there are in fact plenty of diseases about which little is understood and that are treated empirically – think autoimmune disease.  

What do the Scientologists suggest instead of current approach for the mentally ill of society?  They make some suggestions for alternatives on the CCHR website.  Here there seems to be a strong emphasis placed on rooting out physical causes for psychiatric problems, something that psychiatrists should do as a matter of course.  For acute settings, In 1974, Scientology founder Hubbard penned the Introspective Rundown intended for Scientologists suffering from a psychotic breakdown.  Lisa McPherson was undergoing this protocol when she died in 1995.

Tom Cruise himself suggests an approach involving exercise and vitamins.  I have no doubt that increased exercise and diet  (but not vitamins, all they are good for it producing expensive urine) would would improve my patient’s mental health markedly, but I’d like to see him persuading them to do it without brainwashing them first.  

Update: Here’s an interesting article about scientology and psychiatry from

Reported in the article from International Scientology News #38, 1995

"There are a lot of opinions out there as to what is wrong with Earth, 1995. But if you really want to eliminate those problems all you have to do is work for the objectives that we, as members of the IAS, have set for the year 2000: Objective One – place Scientology at the absolute forefront of Society. Objective Two – eliminate psychiatry in all its forms. Let’s get rid of psychiatry, and let’s bring Scientology to every man, woman and child
on this planet."

This quote is also reported in wikipedia

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  1. I think they are all a bit bonkers… and more concerned about any threat to their own programming of individuals… lets face it, were I to brainwash or at least indoctrinate a group of people, the one group I’d be afraid of would be the group who are capable of undoing this!!!!

    Also, I think they need to debunk anyone who thinks that their alien encounters and fantastic stories can be explained by issues relating to their somewhat tenuous grip on reality :>

    Personally, call me paranoid, but I think they are a bit scary.

  2. Okay, I was trying to be even handed. You could argue that if Scientology managed to unseat psychiatry then its members would be in perfect position to exert a malign influence…

  3. I’m a lawyer…. subtelty is not my strong point :>

  4. On January 21, 2008, Italian police rescued Frenchwoman Martine Boublil from a house where she was being held by three Scientologists. Ms Boublil was allegedly kidnapped in France on the instructions of her brother, a senior Scientologist and doctor, and transported to Sardinai, where she was kept for 6 weeks in appalling sanitary conditions. Police rescuers found her semi-nude on a bug-infested mattress. The woman, who suffers from major depression, was apparently being held for an “Isolation Watch” or “Introspection Rundown”. After her rescue, she spent several weeks in an Italian psychiatric hospital before being repatriated. Multiple arrests have been made and charges laid.

    “Can we see a link here with the affair of his sister in Sardinia? “There can be no doubt”, insists Arnaud Palisson, former officer of the general Information and specialist in Scientology. For him, the “hell” described by Martine Boublil is not just a simple matter. “They did not address a word to me. To say yes, they blinked eyes, for not, they left them open “, the victim told “Parisien” before her return in France. According to Palisson, this silence corresponds exactly to a classic scientology procedure reserved for “psychotics”, and called “Isolation Watch” by Hubbard. Several internal memos describe the precise protocol to be followed:
    “In the presence of a person undergoing a psychotic crisis, totally isolate this person, all communications made must be silent.”


  5. I stand by my previous statement, these people are scary.

    How come I’ve not really come across then except occasionally at Angel Tube where they like to offer ‘personality tests’ using something that looks suspiciously like a voltmeter or ammeter? I really thought they were few and far between. I guess not!

  6. I believe that in America the Scientologists all mobilize whenever there is a natural disaster, they’re also into helping out drug addicts, arguably replacing one sort of addiction for another.

    In the UK they’re most likely to be found along Tottenham Court Road where there is an ‘Scientology Life Improvement Centre’. There’s also a much bigger church at 146 Queen Victoria Street.

    The E-meter measures ‘mental mass’….

  7. LOL.. I should probably never go near an E-meter then.

    The exact amount of my mental mass is low at best; and often varies in direct proportion to factors such as a) number of after-work drinks on a Friday or b) the volume of pretty but useless items in the seasonal sales :>