Editor’s Note: The SPLC no longer supports the framing of Black-led antisemitic hate groups as “supremacist,” because such characterizations perpetuate a false equivalency between what these groups represent and white supremacy. Any mention of racism in the context of the Black-led hate ideology described in this article does not appropriately reckon with the systemic force that is structural racism. To learn more about how the SPLC now defines and describes these groups, see Equity Through Accuracy: Changes to Our Hate Map.
Two of America’s better known UFO-friendly religions, Scientology and the black nationalist Nation of Islam (NOI), now have more in common than unusual theologies involving intergalactic spaceships. For about a year, NOI leader Louis Farrakhan has been telling his followers to embrace Scientology in order to move closer to perfection in preparation for the end times.
According to a May 31 article in Final Call, NOI’s newspaper, nearly 700 NOI members have become Certified Hubbard Dianetics Auditors, and more will soon be trained in Church of Scientology (COS) techniques “to prepare better servants and saviours of the people by helping to clear up their minds and lives.” COS “auditors” supposedly help people ascend to higher levels of consciousness.
Although both the Nation of Islam and Scientology embrace extraterrestrial theories as well as self-improvement programs aimed at lifting members to higher and higher levels, they nevertheless make for extremely surprising partners. NOI is a racist hate group that holds that white people are intrinsically, biologically evil — “blue-eyed devils,” in the group’s parlance. Scientology’s followers, who include several well-known celebrities and other wealthy people, are overwhelmingly white (although membership is open to all) and its founder reportedly was a racist who long defended South African apartheid.
Always apocalyptic in his outlook, NOI’s Farrakhan has recently ramped up his warnings that the end is near, identifying recent natural disasters, the uprisings of the “Arab Spring,” and America’s actions against authoritarian Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, a long-time NOI ally, as evidence. In a March press conference, he predicted that the world as we know it would soon be destroyed.
Chip Berlet, senior analyst at Political Research Associates and an expert in millenarianism and the radical right, told Hatewatch that Farrakhan may be embracing Scientology because, nearing 80, he has a limited time left to prepare his followers for their journey to the “Mother Wheel,” and is desperate to see them ready before he dies. In NOI theology, the Mother Wheel is an artificial planet, or huge spaceship, where the saved will live while smaller, divinely guided spaceships destroy everything left on Earth — typically described as including all white people, although NOI has sometimes suggested that a few whites might be saved.
In a Feb. 27 speech on Saviour’s Day, NOI’s most important annual event, Farrakhan asked his followers: “Have you ever noticed why none of our organizations really reach what they’re supposed to reach? They start, they build up, they empty out; and if you’re still lucky, they come back again – but then they empty out again? Well, what’s wrong with us?” the aging minister asked a crowd of thousands. “Let’s go to the root of it, because the sickness is not somewhere else. It’s right in our minds.” He added: “We are Muslims but if Scientology will help us be better, then I want the technology of [Scientology] to help us to be better Muslims. Christians can accept it and be better Christians. I don’t care who gets it. Just get it and be better at who you say are.”
Being “clear” is a central concept of Scientology, a pseudo-scientific religion founded by successful science fiction writer-turned-messiah L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s. The faith’s most important ritual is a therapy-like process called “auditing,” in which followers talk with an auditor to “clear” themselves of troublesome thoughts and memories, ultimately achieving a state of perfect self-control.
Berlet sees Farrakhan’s enthusiasm for Scientology and its techniques as a reflection of the times, in addition to Farrakhan’s advancing age. Recent surveys show that rising percentages of Americans say they anticipate an imminent apocalypse. And he says that Farrakhan may be concerned about why the world has not ended yet and is searching for a way to eliminate anything blocking that. “The possibility exists that Farrakhan sees his followers as not ‘clear’ enough to make contact with the Mothership,” he said. That would “provide an explanation for the delay.”
Though Farrakhan has only recently started talking about it publicly and with such great enthusiasm, NOI and the COS have worked together for years. According to Marty Rathbun, once a high-ranking official within COS and now a well-known “independent Scientologist” who has been chronicling the NOI-COS entente on his blog, Farrakhan was introduced to Scientology in the late 1990s by the late Isaac Hayes. Hayes was the international spokesman for the World Literacy Crusade, a Scientology-backed literacy program developed in the early 1990s by Alfreddie Johnson, a Compton-based Baptist minister. By the middle of the 2000s, NOI was training members in the methods used by both the World Literacy Crusade and Scientology’s drug addiction treatment program, Narconon. In 2006, Farrakhan was among four black clerics honored at COS’s “Ebony Awakening” awards.
When the two groups started working together, NOI Western Regional Minister Tony Muhammad stressed that the use of Scientology’s methods would in no way entail conversion to COS. A COS spokesperson acknowledged that the church had relatively few black members, but said its interest in the black community “has nothing to do with what religion we are.”
NOI has a history of engaging in bizarre partnerships – on several occasions, the group has met Klan and other anti-Semitic white separatist groups. (The NOI shares these groups’ anti-Semitism and their doctrines of racial separation, if not their views of black people.) But Farrakhan’s enthusiasm for Scientology goes beyond his fleeting contacts with groups that might share parts of his agenda.
Astoundingly, L. Ron Hubbard, the late Scientology founder for whom Farrakhan has nothing by praise, reportedly was a notorious racist who supported South African apartheid and described black Africans as barbarous, savage and primitive, and once allegedly wrote his wife, “You shouldn’t be scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees. Get yourself a n-----; that’s what they’re born for.”
Somehow, Farrakhan is tuning this out – along with the fact that Hubbard himself was white, which should be an insurmountable problem in itself. Central to NOI theology is the idea that whites are devils, created 6,000 years ago by an evil scientist for the sole purpose of oppressing blacks. They are seen by NOI members as so inherently evil that they cannot be redeemed unless they commit “mental suicide” and “erase the mentality of white supremacy,” according to scholar Mattias Gardell, author of the 1996 book, In the Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
Farrakhan, who in the past has suggested that no whites will survive the end times, now seems to be sold on the idea that Scientology is the means by which this can be accomplished. “All white people should flock to L. Ron Hubbard. You can still be a Christian; you just won’t be a devil Christian. You’ll still be a Jew, but you won’t be a satanic Jew. L. Ron Hubbard’s effort was and is to civilize white people and make them better human beings,” Farrakhan said in his Saviour’s Day speech this winter. “Mr. Hubbard recognized that his people had to be civilized. He never wanted to continue this world nor was he trying to save this world. He was trying to prepare a people to build a brand new world and a brand new civilization.”
That’s one way of putting it. Though COS members are strongly discouraged from researching their church’s complete theology before they are “clear” enough to take in the truth about mankind’s origins, Scientology’s once closely-guarded creation myth is readily available all over the Internet.
As reported in a 2011 New Yorker article, Scientologists are taught that, 75 million years ago, an evil alien galactic overlord named Xenu, concerned about overpopulation, transported billions of “surplus” beings to Earth in spaceships resembling airplanes and stacked them around volcanoes. Hydrogen bombs were then set off inside the volcanoes, scattering their souls into the atmosphere. These tormented souls – “thetans,” in Scientology-speak – supposedly cluster around human beings, causing physical and emotional problems. Auditing is meant to “clear” people of these extra thetans and their negative energy and allow them to gain full control of their own thetan. Once entirely clear, people can become “Operating Thetans,” working towards reclamation of a godlike original status in which they can manipulate reality through the sheer force of will.
Among Scientologists, Hubbard is considered immortal. As a matter of public record, he died from a stroke in 1986. But, according to his successor, David Miscavige, Hubbard simply reached such a high state of self-control that he was able to simply “drop his body” and moved onto a new and higher level.
This idea flatly contradicts NOI’s own creation story, of course, which holds that God is a black man who returned to Earth in the form of a man named Fard Muhammad to guide his people back to their original path. Though little is known about him, Fard Muhammad, like Hubbard, was real man. He first surfaced in Detroit in 1930, teaching a completely unorthodox version of Islam in which God, who is black himself, created black men in his image. Fard Muhammad disappeared in 1934, leaving behind a large congregation in Chicago, which is still NOI’s base. Elijah Muhammad – considered to be a prophet in his own right – took control of the church, telling NOI members that their leader had shed his earthly form and returned to his heavenly dominion. On his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad supposedly ascended to the Mother Wheel, where Farrakhan claims to have spoken with him in 1985.