19
“His name was Xenu.
He used renegades…”:
Aspects of Scientology’s
Founding Myth

Mikael Rothstein


Introduction

The study of new religious movements has, since the inception of NRM studies in the late 1960s, primarily been sociological in its orientation. The many groups that emerged in the wake of the countercultural revolution in Europe and the United States have, in most cases, been identified as societal responses to changing cultural conditions. The application of sociological analysis has therefore been the obvious choice. At the same time, however, the groups in question are all religions with all the features and qualities that go with the category (however defined). Consequently, they also lend themselves to other kinds of academic analysis. The sociological perspective should never be avoided, but in many cases historical studies, hermeneutic analysis, performance and ritual theory, cognitive studies, art history, and phenomenology, just to mention a number of academic approaches rarely found in NRM-studies, are just as relevant. In the case of Scientology a number of studies have been completed by scholars from the perspective of comparative religion (or history of religions), but they are few in number compared to the numerous sociologically inclined studies.1

In this chapter I shall contribute along the same lines and offer an analysis of one of Scientology’s more important religious narratives, the text that apparently constitutes the basic (sometimes implicit) mythology of the movement, the Xenu myth, which is basically a story of the origin of man on Earth and the human condition. In doing so I take the study of a postmodern religion back to the fabric

-365-

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