11
Scientology, a “New Age”
Religion?

Andreas Grünschloß


Introductory Remarks

In the German context, the term New Age has almost vanished completely from the discourses in society as well as in academics.1 This is due to the fact that the New Age label has been replaced by a broader use of the term esotericism (Esoterik), and even in academia the term is used only in a narrow sense nowadays, with reference to the “historical” and formative phase of a movement or “discourse” in the 1970s and ’80s.2 Accordingly, and different from the usage of the term in Anglophone contexts, contemporary people with alternative or esoteric religious orientations would not refer to themselves as “New Agers” in Germany at all, as it would still be possible in, for example, Great Britain. Accordingly, the title of this essay refers to the wider and unspecific notion of “New Age” as it is still established in the Anglophone context. Scientology has often been questioned with regard to its “religious” nature, and several scholars in the new religious movements area have even refrained from a closer study of Scientology. If Scientology is viewed as a religion at all—an issue that is again and again debated both in academic religious studies as well as in the quarrels about the legal status of this organization in various countries—it is mainly perceived as a candidate that might fit into this “alternative” realm of modern religiosity denoted by such labels like New Age or Esotericism. Following its formal beginning in the 1950s, the “Church of Scientology” has gradually surfaced as the most hotly debated movement during the second half of the twentieth century, and it continued to stimulate ongoing discussions up to the present. For a differentiated and unbiased answer to the question concerning the religious “nature” or “function” of Scientology, it is

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