The Transcendental Engineers: The Fictional Origins of a Modern Religion

Hugh A.D. Spencer


This thesis deals with science fiction and its manifestations as a force in popular culture. To be specific, I discuss science fiction and its symbolic connections with the recently formed 'cult' known as the Church of Scientology. Scientology was created by a former science fiction writer, L. Ron Hubbard, who uses a great deal of science fiction imagery in church doctrine.

Essentially, this study is an example of "processual symbology"; how ideas and symbols can be manipulated by relevant persons, changing the meanings of the symbols and altering any behavior surrounding those symbols. In this case we examine how ideas and themes in a fictional setting can become transformed into religious doctrine.

Science fiction has avid followers known as "fans"; intense fans often spend the greater part of their energies pursuing their interest in science fiction. It is established in the thesis that fans subscribe to a science fiction ideology which in turn Scientology borrows from.

Science fiction fandom and Scientology in the earlier form of Dianetics existed in a common cultural underground of rejected occult knowledge known as the "cultic milieu". Tracing the history of the Scientology movement, we see how the organization grew into a large bureaucracy, socially distant from science fiction but still exploiting its fantastic imagery. In addition I discuss other minor cultic events generated by science fiction.

In conclusion, I mention the possible implications science fiction and groups like Scientology have on contemporary society. Also I use the utopian orientation of Scientology's doctrine to question the merit of grand utopian schemes in general and how these ideologies can affect those of us outside cultic movements.