When L. Ron Hubbard created and presented Scientology to the world, he sparked a flame for what would become the most widely debated religion/sect/cult of all time. Despite the constant controversy that Scientology has received, Scientology is still thriving through its followers, who firmly believe in the practices of the unique religion. What exactly are the beliefs of this soul-based sect? While some hold the opinion that the leaders of Scientology are only in the game for the money or power, it does have a fairly rich background when it comes to the religion’s belief system. These are some of the fundamentals of Scientology that define this controversial group.

The ‘Dynamics’: Instinct for survival

Whether you believe in Scientology or not, you can’t say that Scientology lacks structure. People who are followers of Scientology live their lives based on a series of eight ‘dynamics’, which are urges geared towards surviving on and beyond planet earth.

The First Dynamic focuses on the concept of existence, particularly on an individual’s personality, uniqueness, and autonomy over oneself. The Second Dynamic is concerned with sex and what comes from sex (i.e. bouncing little babies). The Third Dynamic is all about being a part of groups as individual people, from school classes to witchcraft clubs to workplaces. The Fourth Dynamic is centered around the existence of all of Mankind, which is about as vague as it sounds. The Fifth Dynamic focuses on the animals and plants on earth, or rather, anything with a will to live and survive. Everything from plankton to sunflowers is a part of the Fifth Dynamic.

The Sixth Dynamic pulls this scale even further out, observing the universe as a whole entity. This dynamic incorporates concepts that most people who aren’t rocket scientists or astronomists have no knowledge of whatsoever, such as space and time. The Seventh Dynamic is about spirits and spirituality, so anything remotely religious or kinda ghostly would seem to fall under this category. Last but not least is the Eighth Dynamic, which is quite literally a dynamic focused on the immortality of men and some epic being. Many of these dynamics seem to lack much instruction, but hey, followers of Scientology seem to know exactly how they tick as a whole. The dynamics work as a levels system, so if you fail at one, you fail at all the levels above it. Sorry, sexually-stunted, animal-hating shut-ins—no immortality for you.

The Tone Scale: An emotional ladder

Although modern Scientology tends to think that psychology is a load of horseradish, one Scientology tool has significant ties to the emotional awareness and behavior modification that is promoted in psychological practices today. The Tone Scale is an emotional scale which uses numbers from .05 to 4.0 to plot the mental wellbeing and tendency for certain behaviors of an individual. Are you chronically angry? Are you prone to depression? Do you enjoy smashing plates against the wall? There’s a number for that.

Scientologists believe that the Tone Scale can help reveal the emotions, personalities, and mental traits/challenges of certain individuals in order to give those around them an idea of how best to meet the needs of their buds, their S.O.s, and their family members. Those hanging around the .05 area of the Tone Chart tend to either be complete sociopaths or have one foot in the grave, and those at 4.0 are so euphoric that it’s probably painful for the average people around them. According to Scientologists, most people tend to chill out around 2.8. So, most people aren’t bursting from the seams with happiness, yet they also aren’t wading in puddles of their own tears. Make no mistake: this is not a psychoanalyst tool. They’re merely analyzing your psyche. For science. Anyway.

The ‘thetan’: an immortal soul

Do you want to live forever? Followers of Scientology seem to think that you do, or rather, that your soul survives through multiple lives. The leader of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard, often cited experiencing connections, emotions, and memories relating to his previous lives. While it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s based on Hubbard’s wild imagination, Scientology is built on the belief that humans don’t only have immortal souls, but that those souls survive and thrive through numerous lifetimes. In Scientology, the soul is referred to as the ‘thetan’, a spiritual control panel between the mind and the body. The name is derived from the Greek alphabet, using the letter ‘theta’ as a translation for “the spirit.”

So, how do Scientologists use the thetan to live their lives religiously? By having an awareness of one’s soul, they are expected to have a higher self-awareness, stronger uniqueness, greater intelligence, more success in improving their lives, and the ability to move through the eight dynamics with ease. By addressing the thetan instead of merely the body or mind, followers of Scientology believe that they won’t be limited by their physical forms as other people on earth are. Scientologists view themselves as thetans whose bodies are essentially sock puppets to be conducted by the soul. It’s a nice thought, huh?