Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard would have been 100 on Sunday. He has left behind a controversial legacy, says Jonathan de Burca Butler
This Sunday, one hundred years ago, the founder of one of the world's most contoversial religions was born in Nebraska. L Ron Hubbard founded The Church of Scientology - an organisation which for the last 60 years of its existence has attracted criticism and praise in equally strong measure.
In recent years members such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta have raised the profile of the organisation and are fiercely protective of it.
But Gabrielle Wynn, (22), from Whitehall in Dublin, left the Church of Scientology less than a year ago having been a member for two years.
"One of the classes I had to take in college was Social Studies and we had to do a project on religions in Ireland," says Wynne of her initial contact. "So I came across this religion that really, I didn't know anything about."
Wynne visited the church's Irish office in Dublin's city centre to conduct an interview with a member of the church. She found the organisation intriguing and a few days later returned for a free personality test.
"I suppose I was a bit of a loose cannon when I was younger", explains Wynne. "So I mean for me it was great because I had my own things to sort out and they make you feel great. Everyone was really friendly. They make you feel like you're better than everyone else."
Wynne explains that although her mother had warned her off joining and her friends were, as she says herself, "constantly slaggin her," she got most deeply involved.
The church had told her that there was a good chance of being misunderstood and she was taught to 'handle' people; speaking to them individually about the religion and its positive aspects.
Eventually her friends relented but only due to her increasingly defensive behaviour.
Gerard Ryan, a spokesperson for the church and a member for 25 years, disputes some of Gabrielle's claims.
"I don't know anything about handling," says Ryan. "Gabi was in the Mission for a few months only. She didn't hang around too long."
Wynne, who denies that claim, says as time passed she learned dianetic auditing which, according to the Scientology Dublin website, "is a methodology which can help alleviate unwanted sensations and emotions, irrational fears and psychosomatic illnesses ...[and] ... is more accurtately described as what the soul is doing to the body through the mind."
"That's the one I did and that's what I was trained in too," says Wynne. "They get you to a state of reverie. They say it's not hypnotic, but it is kind of like a light trance. They tell you to contact the first painful incidnet that comes into your mind, it could be physical pain or emotional, and tell you to go through the whole thing; tell them what you're feeling, what you're hearing and then they say go back to the beginning, go through it again and again.
On every person they have what's called a PC file, a 'Pre-Clear' file. When you have no more pain, or you don't have any issues with what you were auditing, you're clear so the Pre-Clear is the time before all that."
One of the things a new member does when joining is sign a declaration agreeing that the church can keep the notes taken at the time of auditing.
"Well, at the spiritual counselling sessions the counsellor makes notes as the counselling is going on," says Ryan.
"And thos notes actually belong to the church. For example I've never seen my own notes."
Another condition, according to Wynne, is there are no refunds and she estimates that she spent nearly €2,500 during her tiime there.
"I've kept a lot of reciepts," she says. "It's not a lot in comparison to other people, but it's about two and a half grand in two years."
Wynne says that because she was living with her mother, who had made clear her feelings on Scientology, the organisation classified her as a PTS (Potential Trouble Source) while her mother was viewed as a potential SP (Suppressive Person). Wynne says it was suggested to her that it was perhaps time to move out of home, to 'disconnet' from her mother. Ryan, however, is not so sure.
"Categorically Gabrielle was never at any time asked to disconnect from her mother," says Ryan. "Either directly or hinted."
But does something akin to this ever occur?
"We have the view that if you are intimately connected with someone who is actually attacking the church then you have to deal with it," says Ryan.
"But to say that you can't be in contact with someone critical of the church, I'm often critical of my church. Like everything Scientology is not perfect."
Last year Wynne decided to leave Scientology and has since campaigned against it with the help of a group called Anonymous.
Wynn is grateful for her time with the church and although she feels they are a little "misguided", she say she also met some "very sincere and nice guys" during her time there.