This article examines the role of secrecy in the Church of Scientology, focusing on one of the most confidential and least studied aspects of the Church’s advanced auditing levels—Operating Thetan VIII. I use this example as a way of highlighting the complex ethical and epistemological problems in the study of secrecy in new religions. Here, I suggest an alternative approach to the study of secrecy by shifting our gaze away from the attempt to uncover the content of the secret and instead focusing on the more visible forms and strategies through which secrets are maintained, transmitted, revealed and concealed. I trace the “history of a secret” by examining five periods and five key strategies in the Operating Thetan materials from the late 1960s to the present: the advertisement of the secret; secrecy as an adorning possession; the litigation of the secret; the liability of the secret; and the irrelevance of the secret. Finally, I conclude with reflections on the comparative implications of this example for the study of new religions more broadly.
Research Article| May 01 2017
“The Third Wall of Fire”: Scientology and the Study of Religious Secrecy
Nova Religio (2017) 20 (4): 13–36.
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Hugh B. Urban; “The Third Wall of Fire”: Scientology and the Study of Religious Secrecy. Nova Religio 1 May 2017; 20 (4): 13–36. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2017.20.4.13
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