A possible endgame - the Wicca Model Here are some thoughts I've been putting together this afternoon. This will be subject to revision and editing, as it's a first draft. I'd be grateful of people's thoughts on this, and related topics: The Wicca Model This is how Scientology ends. Not with a bang or a whimper. But with a gradual move towards entropy, hastened by Anonymous. The model I think it’ll follow is that laid out by Wicca – another 20th century new religious movement. The same factors that have made Wicca strong and popular, however, will be the ones that lead to the downfall of the Church of Scientology. Wicca and Scientology both came from the same set of circumstances and fairly similar origins, but in many ways, couldn’t be more different. Bear with me whilst I ramble a bit about this. First, a history lesson and to dispel some myths about Wicca. I am not a Wiccan – just to get that clear. I have, however, studied it in depth and do know a fair bit about its history. The tin-foil hat nutters have long tried to over emphasise the links between Aleister Crowley and the Church of Scientology, and Crowley was a massive figure in the 20th century occult scene and a hugely influential one, not just because of his much larger than life persona, but because of the writings he left. What people don’t realise, is that when he wrote ‘Magick in Theory and Practice’ what Crowley had done, that tends to be forgotten, was to publish the first book that had been written on ‘real’ magic (as opposed to conjuring) for a couple of hundred years. Even if he’d done nothing else, that would have secured his legacy. As such, and because of the lifestyle he lived, that was extremely free with the drugs and sex, people who did want to see something new and to break out of the oppression of the dominant and fairly restrictive rules that the society of the time imposed, all found him highly influential. This was a guy who wasn’t just praying to God to change things. As he told it, he was making things happen and could tell you how to as well. He was really doing magic. Now, that was a big deal. Whether you believe in what he claimed to be doing, or not, there’s no doubt that a lot of people followed his lead, and wanted to do this stuff too. So, Wicca? There are some people who claim that Wicca is the ancient religion of Western Europe. This is bollocks. However, there was a tradition of folk magic, which was largely Christian in basis,that was practiced by a set of professionals known as ‘Cunning Folk’. Wicca didn’t just come out of nowhere, and it wasn’t the religion of these people either, but it did have some roots in British folk magic. However, in the 1920s a historian, Margaret Murray on examining Witch Trial literature and a few other sources, claimed that the Witches who were executed in the Middle Ages, and those who practiced folk magic were the remnants of an ancient pagan religion. Again, this was bollocks, and her research has pretty much been trashed academically, but it was an influential ideal all the same. Some of the people who were practicing folk magic decided that they were, of course, descended from these people, that were called ‘the Witch Cult’ (no messing about here, they liked the word ‘Cult’.) Now, some time around the 1920s, comes Gerald Gardner. Now, Gardner is the anti-L Ron Hubbard. He didn’t care about making money, or even really having any kind of huge personal legacy. He fell in love with the idea of a rural magical cult of witches, and although his contact with actual ‘witches’ is debatable and not something there’s time to go into here, he did set about restarting this ‘Witch Cult’, and called it ‘Wicca’. Now, what’s this got to do with Crowley? Well, again historians debate this stuff, but what is certain is that Gardner and Crowley knew each other, corresponded and met on several occasions. Gardner had the basis for his Witch Cult, but wanted poetic material for rituals, and also magic that worked. So – he asked Crowley to write it for him. Well, paid Crowley to write it for him, more likely. So, you’ve got Crowley, on the one hand influencing Jack Parsons and the Babalon workings in the USA, which Hubbard was involved with, and in the UK you have Gerald Gardner starting up Wicca. This point where Aleister Crowley was involved with the birth of two groups that each claimed to be religions, and were certainly two of the main new religious movements of the 20th century. Then, you have Hubbard going off to sea and nicking stuff left, right and centre, and making up the rest of the material that went to become the Church of Scientology. And concurrently, you’ve got the British Witches starting to form covens and meeting in secret. Again, the difference was that the CoS started to actively recruit. Whilst people who wanted to become part of Wicca had to find it in the first place, then prove their worth to join. Oh yeah, another big difference was that Wicca was the sort of thing where, if you brought along some homemade cakes and a bottle of wine to meetings, the coven would be utterly delighted. The CoS were already charging high ‘donations’. Wicca didn’t really even ask for anything except perhaps a contribution towards the ritual candles (but if you had some spare candles lying around and wanted to bring them along, that would be fine too). Until 1951, Wicca was also hidden as Witchcraft was still technically illegal. The Witchcraft act was repealed in 1951 and it became slightly more open. Just after this, you also had a woman called Doreen Valiente come into Wicca and she pretty much rewrote the rituals and material, removing a lot of the stuff that Crowley wrote. It was replaced with her poetry, whilst the essential structure remained. She did this with Gardner’s blessing so it wasn’t any kid of heresy. The way that Wiccan rituals and structure were passed down to members was through a series of initiations, which were again, not paid for, but came when the initiate was ready. The initiate copied the material from their coven leader’s own hand-written book to make their ‘Book of Shadows’. But they were also free to add their own experiences, rituals or spells to this, to pass on to their own students, should they become coven leaders. Each Wiccan’s Book of Shadows was a fluid, organic work, but there were several core texts, which Wiccan historians have identified, some of which can be traced directly to Crowley, some which have Valiente’s changes. It’s possible to see a Book of Shadows and identify, to a large extent, where it came from. These were (and are) supposed to be private and secret though, much like the Scientology materials. And for a long time they were. Wiccans took oaths not to reveal material or rituals, and to keep what they did secret. This is the point where I get back to the point of entropy, which will be the downfall of the Church of Scientology. Now, until the 70s, Wicca did mostly keep its secrets. They were available to anyone who approached a coven in the right way, and not completely hidden away, but were fairly closely guarded. It was exciting and fun to ‘be a witch’, but it was still frowned upon and enough to lose someone their job, for example. Like Crowley’s other teachings, Wicca did spread throughout the world and reached America. And, of course, someone thought they could make money out of it and get a reputation for themselves. There were a whole slew of cheap, titillating paperbacks published in the 70s, which portrayed Wicca as a sex cult, with full on orgies, bondage and other naughtiness. Some of which was true, but most of these books didn’t actually contain any actual Wiccan rituals or workings at all. But then you get an American woman, calling herself ‘Lady Sheba’ who also decided she was ‘Queen of the Witches’ and claimed to have a system of magic passed down from her grandmother. She published ‘The Grimoire of Lady Sheba’, which was, in truth, the core text of the Wiccan Book of Shadows. This was the first time that the general public had access to this material, and had the chance to practice Wiccan rituals outside of Wicca itself. It’s uncertain how she got this material, but she was trying to pass it off as something it wasn’t. However, it was pretty much the first time it had been put on sale. Other material followed – and perhaps you see where I’m going here… There was also a book published which detailed a lot of Wicca, which was written by a Wiccan who didn’t want to breath his oaths of secrecy, so he changed and omitted a fair bit of the Book of Shadows and the rituals and spells. The effect that this had was that people could buy a book about Wicca, which purported to teach them Wicca and practice it on their own, outside of the original structures and initiatory systems of Wicca itself. In some ways, this is equivalent to the Freezoners who are practicing Scientology outside the CoS. But the Wiccan material was never copyrighted, and no one claimed ownership of it. Similar stuff was also written and published, and you also had several people making up their own versions and claiming it to be genuine. Wicca escaped from the secrecy and privacy that it had originated in, and became something that almost anyone could practice for themselves. Some of the versions that people got hold of were authentic, most weren’t – or were adapted and changed. Now, there are some people who very strongly feel that Wicca can only properly be described as such if it passed on within the coven structure and initiation rituals. And traditional Wicca does still exist in a very strong form throughout the world. It certainly has more adherents than Scientology (if citation is needed for this, see the UK census numbers, for a start). But – there’s a whole load of bullshit out there that claims to be Wicca. There are thousands of Pop Wicca books, and Teen Witch books, and some serious ones, all of which are far removed from the original source. Some decent, some utter crap, but a majority of them having the distinction that no one authorised them. Even if they are written by properly initiated Wiccans, they aren’t claiming to be the One True Way and the only authentic path to the truth about Wicca. Or, if they are, they’re not really providing it. And, I think that this is what’s going to happen to Scientology. However, whilst Wicca has survived it, and Scientology will also do so, it’ll be the downfall of the organisation that is the Church of Scientology. Wicca had no central body that held incorporated companies, no revenue streams, no attempts to become tax-free, no legal protections or copyrights (nb some Wiccan groups have taken these routes, but they don’t claim to speak for the religion as a whole and are localised) and importantly – no leaders. Wicca does have people who get stuff done, and organise and teach, but they usually don’t shout about it, and don’t usually make claims to be in charge of, or have ownership of anything outside their own coven or group. People who claim to be leaders are usually mocked. Lady Sheba, who leaked the original Book of Shadows, wasn’t claiming to be a Wiccan – she lied about what she had and what it was. It was a straight case of plagiarism. Now, the pieces to replicate this are all in place. Scientology materials are in the public domain. The Freezoners are practicing Scientology outside of the main organisation. Dianetics and Auditing will make some sense to people who are into self-help and new age nonsense. And the space opera stuff will appeal to the kinds of nutters that have kept other UFO cults going. What it’ll take for the Church of Scientology to fall is for it to lose its grip on Scientology. And they know this, which is why they defend the copyright so vigorously. However, Hubbard ripped off so much stuff from other sources, that there probably isn’t anything to stop someone writing a pop-psychology book from these same sources. And also to claim that they’ve received the space opera material by channelling it from alien thetans, or something like that. If they claim copyright over it, they’re confirming it’s made up. All that’s needed are a few changes and it can be published. The end of the Church of Scientology won’t be a bang or a whimper. No. It’ll be a brightly covered book that claims to teach the secrets of Scientology to everyone. It’ll probably make some claims to celebrity secrets, or have something like ‘discover why so many famous actors and stars are attracted to Scientology’ on the cover. It certainly won’t be the huge doorstop of a snoozefest that ‘Dianetics’ is. It’ll be cheap and it’ll be on supermarket shelves and in remainder bins and in new age bookshops. It’ll appeal to people who are into the latest self-help fads and pop-psychology in general. And it’ll utterly kill the Church of Scientology. Oh, it’ll still exist, but it’ll become elitist and perhaps even more litigious, and claim authenticity, but the kinds of people it might have snared before will have the chance to get bored with Scientology before they get sucked into the Church’s bureaucracy and systems of entrapment. They’ll have ‘tried that’ and moved onto the next thing without the need to pay for courses and books. It’ll remove a great deal of the ‘raw meat’ that the CoS relies on for income. And also – it’ll have the effect of revealing that the Church of Scientology isn’t really a religion, and will put this into plain language, that most people will be able to understand. Decentralising Scientology, making it accessible – that’s our greatest weapon and their biggest fear. Like I said, Wicca survived it, because Wicca is an idea, not a business. And Scientology will survive it too. But the Church of Scientology? History beckons.