x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Required reading: the principles of Scientology

With Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes filing for divorce, we look at the mystery behind this religion.

Scientology

The perennially controversial marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes is over. From the now legendary couch-jumping incident on The Oprah Winfrey Show, to last week's speedily made settlement, it's been a five-and-a-half year rollercoaster. Now we, the watching public, are left with only our memories and so many unanswered questions. Chief among them: did Cruise's unwavering dedication to the Church of Scientology really cleave the couple apart? And what do Scientologists believe, anyway? As ever, bookshelves hold the answers that we seek.

• When trying to understand this mysterious organisation, it only seems fair to let its founder, L Ron Hubbard, have the first word. Turn, then, to Dianetics (New Era Publications, Dh74), the self-help treatise that Hubbard published in 1950. Hubbard urged readers to free themselves of neuroses and achieve a mental state called "clear" by confessing their innermost secrets to "auditors".

• The medical profession was not impressed, and Hubbard's followers were arrested for practising medicine without a licence. Read the academic Hugh B Urban's The Church of Scientology: The History of a New Religion (Princeton University Press, Dh107) - widely regarded as the best impartial history - to learn how Hubbard responded to this rejection by declaring himself the founder of a new religion.

• So what do Scientologists really believe? Access to core beliefs was for years the preserve of the organisation's elite, but high-level defectors have revealed that so-called "advanced technology" documents tell the story of Xenu, a galactic warlord who came to Earth 75 million years ago. See Inside Scientology (Mariner Books, Dh57) by the Rolling Stone journalist Janet Reitman for more, including a look at the secretive Freewinds cruiseliner, a floating base where high-level Scientologists achieve "Operating Thetan" status, giving them the power to control matter, energy and time.

• Meanwhile, those keen to know Hubbard's work thoroughly should also see Battlefield Earth (Galaxy Press, Dh34), the story of an alien invasion of Earth in the year 3000.