Crop of circles a signpost for Scientology
All religions have their sacred texts but Scientology goes to great lengths to ensure L.Ron Hubbard's wise words are not lost, writes Richard Leiby.
SECRET flying saucer base found in New Mexico? Maybe. From the state that gave us Roswell, the epicentre of UFO lore since
1947, comes a report from an Albuquerque TV station about its discovery of strange landscape markings in the remote desert. They're etched in New Mexico's barren northern reaches, resemble crop circles and are recognisable only from a high altitude.
Also, they are directly connected to the Church of Scientology.
The church tried to persuade KRQE not to air its report about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault "built into a mountainside", the station said. The tunnel was constructed to protect the works of L.Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction writer who founded the church in the 1950s.
The archiving project, which the church has acknowledged, includes engraving Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules. It is overseen by a Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology. The corporation sent an official named Jane McNairn and a lawyer to visit the TV station in an effort to squelch the story, KRQE's news director, Michelle Donaldson, said.
The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece. Scientology also called KRQE's owner, Emmis Communications, and "sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker" to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its website.
McNairn did not respond to messages requesting comment.
What do the markings mean? For a start, the interlocking circles and diamonds match the logo of the Church of Spiritual Technology, which had the vault constructed in a mesa in the late 1980s.
Perhaps the signs are just a proud expression of the Scientology brand. But there are other, more intriguing, theories.
Former Scientologists familiar with Hubbard's teachings on reincarnation say the symbol marks a "return point" so loyal staff members know where they can find the founder's works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe.
"As a lifetime staff member, you sign a billion-year contract. It's not just symbolic," said Bruce Hines, who spent 30 years in Scientology but is now critical of it. "You know you are coming back and you will defend the movement no matter what … The fact that they would etch this into the desert to be seen from space, it fits into the whole ideology."
Scientology traces most of mankind's woes to an evil alien lord named Xenu, a galactic holocaust perpetrated 75 million years ago and the field of psychiatry. (The latter is a particular concern, as all of America now knows, of the actor Tom Cruise.)
The church maintains two other vaults, in California, to preserve Hubbard's materials and words, according to Hines and another former staff member who also quit a couple of years ago, Chuck Beatty.
"The whole purpose of putting these teachings in the underground vaults was expressly so that in the event that everything gets wiped out somehow, someone would be willing to locate them and they would still be there," says Beatty, who spent 28 years in Scientology. Some loyalists are given the "super-duper confidential" job of coming back to Earth in the far-off future, he adds.
Other religions preserve their sacred texts. Scientology leaders apparently just don't want to misplace theirs, and maybe this is why somebody put the giant circles on the scrubland. Because there's nothing worse than arriving from deep space, and not knowing where to park.
The Washington Post