The HBO documentary, ‘Going Clear – Scientology and the prison of belief’, has fearlessly exposed the exploitation, bullying and abuses central to the Church of Scientology’s business model. The Australian based Universal Medicine cult is smaller in scale, yet has numerous parallels – a megalomaniacal leader, extra terrestrial mythology, a commercial scheme of graded spiritual advancement, and a sham therapeutic approach based on ‘clearing’ negative ‘energy’.
Obvious cult parallels
*worship of a leader (or leaders)
*totalistic or thought reform practices
In cults, worship of the leader supercedes worship of spiritual principles. UM and CoS doctrines are incoherent and absurd, and literally any utterance from the respective leader is taken as divine ‘truth’. I’ve quipped before that Benhayon could bottle his farts and followers would buy them at a premium price. The same might be said for L. Ron Hubbard (LRH).
Both groups feature a combination of spiritual aspiration from followers and comprehensive exploitation from the company hierarchies – sexual, financial, physical and spiritual. For example, Scientology relies heavily on a quasi slave workforce, and the cult intensely manipulates interpersonal relationships – separating couples and families and allegedly coercing women into terminating pregnancies. Universal Medicine also relies on volunteers to help stage events and run the sham charities, and the followers work daily at maintaining the online propaganda fortress – aiming to drown out links to criticism in Google search. My readers are also familiar with impacts on their relationships and families due to Benhayon’s demonization of sex and his teaching that ’emotions are the cause of all disease’. Both groups apply intense pressure to consume the commercial product with the promise of transcendental attainment and threats of supernatural or social consequences if they veer from the dogma.
Psychologist and cult expert, Margaret Singer, said that thought reform, (sometimes called brainwashing) is an insidious form of indoctrination where a person’s thoughts and behaviours are changed without their knowledge. The aim is to influence followers to reject anything or anyone who comes between them and their adherence to the cult, and to transform them into recruiters – deployed to expand the group’s interests, regardless of personal consequences.
Lifton’s eight conditions for a thought reform or mind control program:
1. Loading the language means changing the conventional meanings of words. The use of jargon creates confusion, constricts critical thinking and alienates outsiders. LRH devised a comprehensive Technical Dictionary of CoS terminology, while Serge has mangled the English language into what I’ve called SergeSpeak, where words like love, healing and truth take on opposite meanings. Both religions feature idiosyncratic, made up words, such as Serge’s ‘Livingness’, ‘pranic’ and ‘maleness’. CoS has 3000 or so technical terms including ‘thetan’, ‘dianetics’ and ‘perceptics’.
2. Personal confessions – Framed as part of the therapy, confessed transgressions are used against followers. Fear of exposure keeps cult members obedient. Scientologists confess all during carefully recorded auditing sessions. UMers let it all out at workshops and healing sessions and online – carrying on in lurid detail about prior drug and alcohol use, sexual exploits, gynaecological disorders, eating disorders, psychosis etc.
3. Control of information – Access to mass media or alternative sources of knowledge is discouraged or banned and followers are taught to distrust facts and rational processes. Long term Scientologist, Paul Haggis, was unaware of criticisms because he was told not to read media reports or to Google the CoS. UMers are told not to read my blogs, not to read literature apart from the stuff written by Serge, or listen to music other than that produced by cult members. They’ve been told TV programs give off evil pranic energy. UniMed cult lawyers, Cameron Bell & Paula Fletcher, held a book burning on their property for the Esoteric mob to impress ‘The One’.
4. Mystical manipulation – Mystical significance is attached to mundane events or coincidences and the leader is portrayed as having supernatural powers. For example, telling cult members they were connected in a past life is Benhayon’s favourite schtick for matchmaking odd couples.
5. Demand for purity – Followers are set impossible goals for perfection and achieving anything less is cause for shame, and a reason to shun those who don’t conform or measure up. Followers’ lives before the cult are rejected as hopeless and they whinge they were ‘not in their truth’.
6. Sacred science – The group has exclusive access to divine ‘truth’ via their messianic leaders, and this truth is so perfect it’s not to be questioned. All other forms of knowledge are invalid. Value and virtue within the group is based on adherence to the doctrines and rules.
7. Doctrine over person – Individual experiences of the doctrine or practices usually reveal it to be bunkum, but this is not accepted by the group or leader. If the techniques fail, the follower is blamed.
8. Dispensing of existence – the group harshly judges outsiders and vilifies or commits crimes against critics and those who want out.
Lafayette Ron Hubbard vs Sergio Benhayon – the doctrines
As grandiose as little Sergio is, LRH gives him a flogging really. Hubbard singlehandedly conceived of the Church and its technology, and wrote its sprawling doctrinal canon. The loony Xenu ‘Space Opera’ cosmogony, accepted as a literal truth by Scientologists, was at least a product of Hubbard’s own imagination. Serge however, plagiarized his Esoteric belief system wholesale from Alice A. Bailey’s occult manifestos. (Although, the misanthropy, death worship, lethal diet and perverse fixations with sexual violence and gynaecology are his own work.) Hubbard published 1084 works but Serge has only managed eight books so far, and as much as Hubbard’s writings are grandiose, oddball diatribes, they are more coherent and grammatically correct than anything Serge has produced.
Both Churches have similar world negating central tenets, which regard the human body and normal emotions and memories as detrimental to their concept of a soul. All illness is regarded as psychosomatic and the spiritual and therapy practices of both aim to clear negative energies to liberate the immortal soul and guarantee an existence of ‘total freedom’. UM’s promises of freedom from disease are more far fetched than those of Scientology .
The basic principle of Dianetics was that the brain recorded every experience and event in a person’s life, even when unconscious. Bad or painful experiences were stored as what he called “engrams” in a “reactive mind“. These could be triggered later in life, causing emotional and physical problems. By carrying out a process he called “auditing”, a person could be regressed through his engrams to re-experiencing past experiences. This enabled engrams to be “cleared”. Wikipedia
UM’s equivalent to engrams and the reactive mind are ‘prana’ (Sanskrit for ‘life energy’) and emotions, which are said to be the cause of all disease. The equivalent of auditing is Esoteric healing which clears pranic energy and ‘discarnate entities’.
Pranic energy is the root energetic cause of all ill conditions. In addition, we are already well into the phase where the human mind and body are displaying their age old resistance to love (the light of the Soul) and thus, we are seeing more and more cases of what we have predicted much earlier – the case of the ‘multi-symptomatic man’. (Benhayon, 2009, p.470)
We need to clear/discard the lovelessness (prana) we have inside us to make room for the love that is now pouring in. (Benhayon, 2011, p.218)
Be well reminded that all disease and illness comes from emotions. These ill states of being can occur as emotions that stem from a karmic cycle, or those which are spontaneously created, or those which are patterned into the body. In all of these cases there are disharmonious flows of energy and thus, such disharmony leads to a dis-eased state within. From a strict energetic point of view, to absorb life is a poisonous way of being. It creates an existence at best, and does not allow one to truly live. Another’s emotions should not be absorbed into your auric or etheric fields, for such energy will soon become your physiology, pathology and physical remnant. (Benhayon, 2007, pp. 421-2)
Cancer is created by the excessive build up of a particular emotion we do not move on from, hence why we have so many differing cancers. Before the ailment, sickness, the cancer or whatever the complaint is that you have, you need to heal the root ill energy that caused you not to be you. (Benhayon, 2011, p.622)
In both cults clearing imaginary engrams or magical prana is big business – requiring eternal sessions of auditing or Esoteric healing. The CoS boasts of a few ‘clear’ Operating Thetans among its high level movers and shakers, but UM hasn’t produced anyone who is clear of prana and its associated cancers and misfortunes (or anyone that’s lived to tell the tale).
Both cults share beliefs in reincarnation, extra terrestrial life, and a concept of an immortal self imprisoned in a living human body.
Hubbard expanded upon the basics of Dianetics to construct a spiritually oriented (though at this stage not religious) doctrine based on the concept that the true self of a person was a thetan—an immortal, omniscient and potentially omnipotent entity. Hubbard taught that the thetans, having created the material universe, had forgotten their god-like powers and become trapped in physical bodies. Scientology aimed to “rehabilitate” each person’s thetan to restore its original capacities and become once again an “Operating Thetan“. Hubbard insisted humanity was imperiled by the forces of “aberration”, which were the result of engrams carried by the immortal thetans for billions of years. Wikipedia
From Benhayon’s ‘science of reincarnation’:
There exists an entire existence outside the sphere of God, which we call life. It is a sad but very true fact that man has created for himself a living sphere, that is a consciousness, which is an energy field that is co-existent, but separate from the main central and essential core that is the Divine essence of God. (Benhayon, 2006, p.57)
…the plane of the carnal vehicle, that is, all life in the physical world is the lowest of all universal evolved consciousnesses. Within this consciousness, mankind, in his and her current form, are the highest evolved beings on the carnal plane. But ‘form’, that is, the physical body, is not our natural evolution; consciousness is, so we need to develop the inner qualities and not pursue the thought of the teachings that glorify the outer form. (Benhayon, 2006, p.108)
When Sergio ‘dumps his prana’ (drops dead), probably from the combined effects of sleep deprivation and his non nutritionally based, prana free diet, UMers will likely exalt him as ascended to the sixth degree or some rubbish, just as CoS management explained Hubbard’s bloated, demented and isolated demise.
Scientology leaders announced that his body had become an impediment to his work and that he had decided to “drop his body” to continue his research on another planet, having “learned how to do it without a body”. Wikipedia
Such devaluation of the human body and human life may be a factor in Scientology’s readiness to inflict torture on followers deemed guilty of insubordination. In Universal Medicine it goes a step further into enabling molestation and glorifying death.
In spite of the ugly behaviour of both Churches, they see themselves as spiritually superior saviours of humanity, and seek to possess their followers not only in this lifetime, but in many hypothetical lifetimes to come. Scientology’s most committed followers sign billion year contracts. UMers are threatened with many lifetimes of disease, disability and victimhood if they fail to adhere to Benhayon’s bent ‘Way of the Livingness’.
Both cults are commercial schemes for followers to work toward higher levels of personal salvation. Scientologists work toward Operating Thetan Level VIII, while UMers scrabble around the third degree of initiation, hoping Serge will recognize their sycophancy as breaking through into the fourth. Serge is the only living person at level five, one level higher than the Dalai Lama according to himself, and only Serge is capable of evaluating who is at what level. From what I can gather followers’ initiations fluctuate according to his whim, while Ira, Lance, Robert, Jane and me are stuck at first degree, thank goodness. Personally I’m aiming lower.
But no one will ever make it as low as Alison Greig.
5th Degree Initiation: They bring Shamballa to earth. And take earth to Shamballa. They can be in a physical body and be walking with the Masters at the same time. They leave 10 to 20 x 4th degree initiates behind when they pass-over and before they choose to Ascend and take their next serving position.
6th Degree Initiation: Once one reaches this level of awareness one normally does not come back into a physical body. 6th degree initiates leave behind 10 x 5th degree initiates and 50 x 4th degree initiates before they choose to Ascend and take their next serving position.
Sanat Kumara (God) is a 12th Degree Initiate. (Serge Benhayon, The Science of Initiation, 2008)
UM pressures investors into repeat Esoteric healings and repeat attendances at workshops and retreats in order to improve one’s standing on the scale. The higher they rise, the closer they are to the cult’s anti-social, inhumane ideal of Esoteric perfection.
Both Scientology and UM have tax exempt charity fronts, and the Church of Scientology has charity status as a religion in a number of countries including Australia. UM only branded itself a religion in the last couple of years, probably to try and gain more tax concessions. Luckily the UK and Australian Charity Commissions weren’t buying it. The tax concessions for both cults are nothing more than tax payer funded subsidies for cult expansion and continuing abuse and human rights violations. The release of Going Clear has caused a lot of noise in the US calling for the CoS to be stripped of charity status, and Senator Nick Xenophon is moving for the same action in Australia.
Pseudoscience and false advertising
UM advertises that it’s about helping people make ‘everyday self-loving choices’ but doesn’t advertise that involves clearing pranic ‘life energy’ and living in mortal fear of rape by supernatural entities. Patients are told their illnesses arose from a choice to ‘live lovelessly’, and that Esoteric healing is the only healing that resolves the ‘true’ causes of disease. Benhayon teaches that reincarnation and numerology are ‘sciences’ and Hubbard made the same claim for Dianetics. Meanwhile, the cult’s health professionals promote UM’s ‘miracle’ cures and any other nonsense Serge talks.
Scientology also makes misleading medical claims, for example its Narconon drug rehab program claims a 76% success rate for a dangerous regime that involves spending four to five hours a day in a sauna to sweat out ‘residual drug toxins’, and taking idiotically high doses of Niacin. Scientology documents show that the program is a recruitment front used to introduce patients to Hubbard’s teachings.
Anti social parallels
Both cults routinely invade the privacy of followers. In UM, otherwise unqualified Esoteric healers seek full medical histories, including HIV status and lists of medications. The Benhayon family of underachievers seek that information in workshop ‘consent’ forms, including for a five hour ‘Way of the Livingness’ workshop. That information is used unethically to market money for nothing Esoteric products and services to the vulnerable, including cancer patients. Followers divulge personal information at group events. In Scientology there have been allegations that personal information gathered through auditing is used in smear campaigns against those who speak out publicly, and to blackmail influential celebrities into maintaining their promotions of the Church.
Attack the Attacker
Benhayon describes non adherents as ‘detractors’ who are ‘in resistance to their inner light’ or ‘loveless and in pain’, while Scientology calls them ‘suppressive persons‘. Both groups encourage followers to ‘disconnect‘ from loved ones who criticize their faith. Benhayon rationalizes this with the claim that detractors hold his students ‘back from their light’, and also claims that anyone who isn’t into UM is part of the gigantic, global ‘Astral Cult‘.
To step into your truth will also incur the force of resistance (from the Astral Plane); this is why it is so hard at first and may take several lifetimes to do so. (Benhayon, 2006, p. 149)
Both cults engage in aggressive harassment of critics and journalists. Hubbard devised formal ‘attack the attacker‘ policies, where any kind of harassment of critics was encouraged with the rationale that enemies of his way of thinking are ‘fair game’. My readers are familiar with UM’s sustained attacks on me and my livelihood, and publication of scores of webpages vilifying the few of us who’ve spoken up, including HCCC complainant Ira McClure.
— Freedom Media Ethics (@FreedomEthics) June 7, 2015
— The Facts About UM (@TheFactsAboutUM) January 26, 2015
— Esther Rockett (@EstherRockett) March 22, 2015
Luckily, the age of social media has allowed us not only to expose UM’s secretive culture of abuse, but to publicly respond to their propaganda. Unfortunately, in the absence of meaningful regulatory action, social media may be the only means with which we may seek accountability. Scientology was more successful in litigating against opponents and silencing journalists and critics before the rise of the internet and online activism.
Political grandstanding & censorship
Both groups take political stances that are poorly disguised attacks on their critics, including public accusations that critics are ‘anti-religion’, ‘hate campaigners’ and criminals. Scientology’s stance against psychiatry reflects Hubbard’s grudge against the profession’s poor reviews of his Dianetics and auditing psychotherapy. Similarly, UM campaigns through front group, Real Media Real Change for more draconian media laws, with a lot of carry on about ‘media bias’. Scientology’s equivalent front is ‘Freedom Ethics’. UM has launched initiatives against ‘cyber-bullying’, using accusations of trolling as a form of harassment and ‘dead agenting‘. Both organizations abuse copyright law (DMCA takedowns) as a form of censorship, and UM has made scores of complaints to Google Australia, using untested defamation complaints to have links to blogs and news reports removed from the search index.
Hate, death worship and molestation as healing
Going Clear caused shock among cinema goers at extensive harassment and torture wrought by Scientology. I believe Hubbard’s misanthropic disdain for human life and the human body, and his followers’ fixation on idealized transcendent states of ‘perfection’ contribute to the culture of abuse within the Church. In keeping with Lifton’s idea of ‘dispensing of existence’, the mythical Operating Thetan Level whatever is the only human life valued by the CoS. Lesser mortals have no entitlement to basic human rights.
Given the extent of the abuses, frauds and rights violations and the sheer scale of the CoS, it’s taken careful consideration to suggest Universal Medicine has the potential to be more dangerous. The reason I think so is because Benhayon’s teachings go well beyond the idea that illness is psychosomatic, and the faithful can reach a goal of perfect health and psychological freedom via religious adherence. Benhayon explicitly teaches that the ultimate healing is death.
I’ve outlined a number of distinct parallels between the two groups above, but in my limited reading I’ve not found anything from Hubbard or his critics that parallels Benhayon’s teaching that the human body is worthless, illness such as cancer is a ‘correcting blessing’ and ‘death is a healing’.
The use of Esoteric Healing is not for one to live to a ‘ripe old age’, and nor is it about survival or getting better or curing diseases etc. It is an ongoing process of becoming more love until you are back to the full you = Soul. And hence the process of releasing all that which is not…that which we have chosen to lovelessly let in. This may take several if not many, many lifetimes…the choice is totally yours. (Benhayon, 2011, p.615)
The human being will eventually evolve to a body of light and hence, will not have a carnal existence on the physical plane. This is why the development of the inner-light is our true path…Imagine the massive waste of energy and good resource that is being poured into something we will eventually all not need. (Benhayon, 2006, p.111)
Since there is no such thing as death in the sense that life ends for good, those who perish are only clearing/discarding and moving-on to clearer more love-able bodies (next incarnation). Yes, on a purely temporal level, the death of our loved ones or anyone is a sad moment. But, remove our need for them and in-turn, their need to make us feel the emotional need, and one will see that they in fact have accepted their path. (Benhayon, 2011, p.218)
A true healing is one that arrests the prana and not one that improves the wellbeing of the client by allowing them to exist better in the pranic form. (Benhayon, 2011, p.592)
If we wake up with a cancerous tumour, or diabetes, or with arthritis, or even just exhaustion, with a sneeze, a cough, a runny nose – then there has been a way that we have been living that has caused it. Because everything is energy, the way you have been living energetically has allowed your body to operate with an ill energy that then manifests the ills you physically, physiologically, emotionally and psychologically will have. Death is always a healing – and not part of the failure. (Benhayon, 2011, p.599)
I will also argue that Universal Medicine’s thought reform practices are more intense because they involve prolonged physical contact combined with meditation/trance induction and covert hypnosis techniques. Followers also openly engage en masse in online harassment of critics and dedicated sessions slandering us at events and meetings. In other words, UMers dedicate a significant proportion of their daily lives to mobbing and hate, and they call it ‘love’.
Similarly, they openly admit to practices of molestation and grooming, which they market as ‘healing’ and ‘child welfare’.
Nowhere in the vast amount of information publicly available on Scientology is there anything that comes close to that kind of extremism. Where molestation and killing are explicitly framed as ‘healing’.
Benhayon, S. The Way It Is, UniMed Publishing, Goonellabah, 2006
Benhayon, S. A Treatise on Consciousness, UniMed Publishing, Goonellabah, 2007
Benhayon, S. The Living Sutras of the Hierarchy, UniMed Publishing, Goonellabah, 2009
Benhayon, S. Esoteric Teachings & Revelations, UniMed Publishing, Goonellabah, 2011