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So I watched the live-screening Louis Theroux's documentary on Scientology last night (it was okay, not great), but what did strike me is there seem to be a lot of parallels between Scientology and Pillars of Eternity. My Scientology knowledge has been pieced together from the documentary last night and through a bit of lazy reading on the internet this morning, so if anyone has more expertise on the area or want to mention where I'm misinformed about Scientology please do. This also isn't a thread to criticize Scientology in any way, just to draw parallels with its spiritualist outlook and what is presented in the game (before people claim I'm some sort of religious bigot). Here go my complete lay-man observations:

 

1) Scientolgists believe that every person is an immortal Thetan (a race of supremely powerful beings, but also more or less the soul itself), who dies, undergoes assumption (reincarnation) and then dies again - repeating the process ad infinitum in ignorance of their past lives (unless you of course adhere to Scientology). This spiritualist viewpoint to me seems identical to how it works in Pillars, with people dying, being returned to the Wheel, and being reincarnated - often with ignorance of their past lives, or when they do have knowledge of their past lives it is often harmful.

 

From the UK Scientology website, "It is a fact that unless one begins to handle aberration built up in past lives, he doesn’t progress. In Scientology, one is given the tools to handle upsets and aberrations from past lives that adversely affect the individual in the present, thus freeing one to live a much happier life," sound like the Watcher much? Or indeed anyone we found who has been awakened most of the time in the game, Mahena, etc.

 

2) Thaos has all the hallmarks of an Operating Thetan, both in terms of personality, powers and more or less by literal definition. Operating Thetans are supposedly fully aware of their past lives and are an actualisation of Thetan race that lies dormant in the rest of us, attributed such powers as projection out of their body, telekinesis and the ability to control others - sound familiar?

 

In terms of the personality traits, Scientologists believe in a Reactive Mind and an Analytical Mind. The Reactive Mind stores experiences (both of past and present lives) that debilitate people in their remembrance (called engrams), where as the Analytical Mind serves consciousness. Scientologist undergo auditing, which seems to be a variation of mindfulness, in order to neutralise feelings towards these engrams and allow the Analytical Mind to operate - with a larger view of restoring your inner Thetan to its power.

 

As you can imagine, this can make Scientologists aloof and confident, as well as giving them great mental fortitude and the ability to create mental barriers. All of these Thaos also has, acting extremely disinterested in the Watcher, and being extremely difficult to crack into as well as inscrutable (Lady Webb barely gets anything out of him). Thaos seems to be more or less an Operating Thetan personified.

 

3) The Leaden Key seems to have more or less the structure of the Church of Scientology, with the lower members kept in more or less total darkness to the massive secrets known only to the top tiers. In Scientology, from what I can make out, this power structure is maintained to protect less enlightened members from knowledge that may overwhelm them. I guess the difference here would be Scientologists purport to want to enlighten people, whereas Thaos quite clearly wants people kept in the dark.

 

4) Animancy in general seems to have a distinct Scientological vibe, the ability to improve on the immortal soul through empirical and practical methodologies instead of souls being approached with mysticism. This very practical approach seems extremely contrary to most real world faiths' beliefs on the soul, and yet meshes very well with that presented by Scientology. If anything, you could argue that Animancy is more or less Scientology in the game - whereas the conventional gods are a distraction from this truth (and arguably, a means for Thaos to keep people away from this level of power that he and the other Engwithans originally obtained).

 

Thaos seems like an Operating Thetan and Suppressive Person (i.e. someone who wants to keep the Thetans down and not allow people to realise their inner potential) all rolled into one - which I guess is heretical from a Scientological stand point.

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

And, that's about all I've got. I guess I'm not trying to say that Scientology is anything to do with the religious aspects of the game (e.g. keeping people ignorant, creating gods, etc., which seem very dissimilar to a Scientologist's ideals) however in the practicalities of spiritualism and the nature of the soul in the game, and the power granted by having full awareness of everything your soul can do as well as the burdens past lives can create, seems extremely similar to a lot of what we find in the game.

 

Any thoughts?

Edited by Jojobobo
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mmm, not entirely convinced - while it is likely that there are some similarities between Pillars and Scientology it's likely to be that Scientology like most religions copies from other ideas and beliefs. So Scientology is just a hodge podge mishmash of other stories like Buddhism for instance. Pillars is of course, heavily influenced by sci fi/fantasy fiction and religion. There is going to be some overlap, though not necessarily intentionally by the writers. It's just the beliefs and stories of people tend to overlap...

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"Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, 'He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destruction. She is Love.' So, to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, though, everyone who beholds them."
"So they play that on their fascist banjos, eh?"
"You choose the wrong adjective."
"You've already used up all the others.”

 

Lord of Light

 

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I don't know, I think it's mainly the specifics, like empirical approach to working with the soul and especially what Thaos can do when he unlocks his soul's potential (which I do think are quite specific to Scientology). I guess Plato's Immortality of the Soul philosophy does also seem to share a lot with the spiritualism of the reincarnation cycle, and there's a lot of other religions with a reincarnation cycle too, but that there was more to the comparison I made. Scientology is almost certainly a mishmash of other ideas, but it has been shaped into some with its own characteristics which are distinct from its inspirations - at least to me.

 

From what I've heard as well, most religions with reincarnation believe in karma weighing them down - which from my understanding works as a negative force that determines what the reincarnate as or affects their life. By contrast in Pillars and Scientology it seems like baggage from past lives is a material negative experience that can be corrected or treated, and not a negative energy that effects your life. It's again a more quantifiable and physical interpretation of what can come out of a past life, as opposed to a rather abstract sense of karma (the difference between here's a thing that happened and I can remember from past life and I can treat it, compared to bad things are befalling me though I have no recollection of what I did in my past life that caused that to happen).

 

Personally, I've also never heard of anything espousing the spiritualism (in fiction or otherwise) that is found within Pillars, except Scientology where it does seem to be pretty similar. While it can be influenced by other sources, and I'd be interested in hearing if this particular brand of spiritualism is present elsewhere (i.e. the soul cycle, and that you can physically deal with souls, and that you can master your soul and more or less unlock your potential in a manner linked to past life memories), to me Scientology does appear to be something that encapsulates these ideas specifically and so can very likely have been a source of inspiration.

Edited by Jojobobo
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California is Scientology country so I'm not too shocked about this.

Wouldn't surprise me if there are scientologists at Obsidian either...

Not making me happy though...

 

Why would it make you unhappy???

 

Now due to Jojobobo's interesting commentary on the parables between Scientology and PoE I will need to look for some additional info on the subject. I am beyond ignorant concerning any knowledge about the subject.

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Because Scientology is a criminal organisation which greatly terrorises and abuses their members.

The founder L.Ron Hubbard was a unsuccessful trash sci-fi writer before he founded Scientology.

 

For your interest:

 

http://www.mikerindersblog.org/

Blog from an high ex-member of the sect...

 

http://tonyortega.org/

Edited by jaydee.2k
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Still not entirely sure about a specific link as in the writers took stuff intentionally from Scientology - it is possible though, but the only people who can confirm that are of course the writers. Regarding influences from which the writers took from. Obviously many religions/myths, a substantial amount of books - sci fi and fantasy. The whole Beraths Wheel  - is for instance not new. Neither is reincarnation or karma. The whole man made gods story made me think immediately about Lords of Light by Zelazny. Suspect the Wheel of time by Jordan is a large influence. Pretty sure other people could list books they have read that possibly influenced Pillars.

"Those who look upon gods then say, without even knowing their names, 'He is Fire. She is Dance. He is Destruction. She is Love.' So, to reply to your statement, they do not call themselves gods. Everyone else does, though, everyone who beholds them."
"So they play that on their fascist banjos, eh?"
"You choose the wrong adjective."
"You've already used up all the others.”

 

Lord of Light

 

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Whether the game is inspired by Scientology or not (personally, I don't see it, examples in the OP feel a bit cherry-picked and like trying to push a square peg into a round hole), I feel like it'd be hard to argue that the game is Scientology propaganda. Some of the main themes in the story seems to run counter to the way the organization is run.

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I don't really think I cherry picked, I just demonstrated that a lot of the Scientology principles are represented in some form or another (without I would say forcing the analogies) in the game. This doesn't mean to say the game is inspired by Scientology per se, just that it's coincidental otherwise. I'm also not really talking about the themes running through either, games possess narrative themes that tend not to run directly through an entire religion. If you consider souls and their place in the world to be a theme however, I would say that it's a fairly central theme to both Scientology and Pillars (so long as you approximate a soul as a Thetan, which sound extremely similar) - with Scientology being far more concerned about your soul as a physical entity than a lot of mainstream religions. Their religion focusses on that one aspect to a extremely large degree, other religions though they care about souls tend to be a bit more multifaceted.

 

I also said that I don't see it in anyway agreeing with the goals of Scientology or serving as propaganda (as mentioned Thaos, arguably the pinnacle of what Scientologists would want to achieve, seems hell bent on obscuring rather than revealing knowledge as Scientologists claim they want to do), but you can obviously borrow from a religion's spiritualism (and by spiritualism, I mean philosophical principles of the spirit being a distinct thing and its place in the world) and dogma as a source of inspiration without sharing in its goals.

 

Still not entirely sure about a specific link as in the writers took stuff intentionally from Scientology - it is possible though, but the only people who can confirm that are of course the writers. Regarding influences from which the writers took from. Obviously many religions/myths, a substantial amount of books - sci fi and fantasy. The whole Beraths Wheel  - is for instance not new. Neither is reincarnation or karma. The whole man made gods story made me think immediately about Lords of Light by Zelazny. Suspect the Wheel of time by Jordan is a large influence. Pretty sure other people could list books they have read that possibly influenced Pillars.

I think the specific links are the whole soul cycle (which could have come from other sources as you say), the ideas that souls can be awakened to gain knowledge of past lives and this knowledge is often problematic (though most reincarnate with no knowledge and live in ignorance), that you can use scientific method and principles to (more or less) cure problems arising from past lives or problems with your soul you currently have for other reasons, that mastering your soul and gaining full knowledge of your past lives produces enormous power (Thaos), and that the chief organisation in the game has a rigid hierarchy where knowledge is actively obscured from members on a need to know basis. Obviously as I mentioned above Scientologists see the immortal part of themselves as an actual race, but taking it for what it sounds like (an immortal thing that reincarnates) it does seem more or less in line with what the conventional notion of what a soul can mean to others outside the religion.

 

I think that's a whole bunch of things that are quite specific, or even if you don't see them as being specific enough, when you take them as a whole there is a large volume there overlaps with Scientology. Obviously they could have pulled the lore from all sorts of myths and fiction as well as other religions, but when there's one religion that encompasses large parts of the game's spiritualism certainly drawing from that one source would be easier.

 

As you say, the game's religion (the created gods, etc.) undoubtedly draws from a different source - but religion can of course be separate from the game's spiritualism (again by this I mean the principle that the spirit is distinct from matter and by extension how it interacts with the world). If the game is anything to go by the literal system of souls being continually reincarnated and being a tangible thing that you can interact with existed before the creation of the gods (the Engwithans used their soul knowledge to make the gods, and did much other experimentation as seen in the Endless Paths plus all their machinery) and so it the game they are somewhat exclusive concepts (the soul stuff is not contingent on the existence of gods), so naturally they can draw from different sources of inspiration.

 

I'm also not trying to claim that Scientology is the game's only source of inspiration, just that for the stuff concerning souls (which is a huge part of the setting) there seems to be a lot of shared concepts and principles. Naturally we'll never know unless one of the writers chimes in, but that's the point - discussing whether the validity that it could have served as a source of inspiration. For me personally, when I first played Pillars or when I was hearing about the setting in the backer process, I had no idea where they could possibly be pulling inspiration from as the whole thing seemed so alien (souls being a tangible physical thing that can be interacted with directly, there being more or less a science of souls in Animancy, etc.) - but after learning a bit more about Scientology many of those extremely unfamiliar concepts seemed to be covered by the religion.

Edited by Jojobobo
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Because Scientology is a criminal organisation which greatly terrorises and abuses their members.

The founder L.Ron Hubbard was a unsuccessful trash sci-fi writer before he founded Scientology.

So when a criminal organization uses some concepts and ideas, these concepts and ideas should then never be used again?
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These are some interesting parallels you caught on. I'd personally say that these are all more related to the usual traits of many hermetic groups and esoteric disciplines and not just Scientology specifically though, what with the idea of a linear soul being reincarnated over many lifetimes for example extending beyond the beliefs of Scientology. I met during a trip to Córdoba, Argentina a man who claimed to be an Indigo child, and that he had a clear memory of all the lives he'd lived in the past; yet his general outlook was more a hodge-podge of religions and spirituality that probably had some shared root with Scientology but was not it either (it's called Harwitum, I think), and employed more often than not codes more related to ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamic beliefs instead (the guy in question is called Matías de Stefano, he's a bit of a public figure too due to this aspect).

 

Meanwhile the structure and ideology of the Leaden Key reminds me somewhat of the Tres in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which is itself a satirical representation of a hermetic society. It seems more to share the qualities these usually have: the idea of guarding great otherwordly truths and secrets even from themselves, being these secrets that should not be revealed to the world lest they put it in danger, or put the secrets themselves at risk of being corrupted and distorted through misinterpretation and misapplication instead and so on.

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Meanwhile the structure and ideology of the Leaden Key reminds me somewhat of the Tres in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which is itself a satirical representation of a hermetic society. It seems more to share the qualities these usually have: the idea of guarding great otherwordly truths and secrets even from themselves, being these secrets that should not be revealed to the world lest they put it in danger, or put the secrets themselves at risk of being corrupted and distorted through misinterpretation and misapplication instead and so on.

 

 

Great book.   But wasn't the TRES a created orginazation in response from several seperate hermetic orders to the Plan? that's how I took it anyways.

 

in regards to the comparisons with scientology, well.. I wouldn't want to cast such aspersions at the folks of Obsidian, but.. anything's compossible.

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I'm not convinced myself. The journey spirits from death to reincarnation is fairly common within various belief systems around the world, most obviously Buddhism, and The Leaden Key are basically your quintessential mystery cult (as is, to some extent* the Church of Scientology). This is probably why they are reminiscent of TRES: Foucault's Pendulum was a deliberate parody of this sort of thing.

 

Now Scientology could be an inspiration, but I suspect it's more likely that many of the things that inspired L. Ron also inspired Obsidian.

 

*I say "to some extent" because in our modern world, it's hard to keep the mysteries of a mystery cult truly mysterious.

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One should never forget Scientology was created by a Sci-Fi writer, Ron Hubbard, that suddenly turned the new universe he imagined into a religion rather than into a book.

 

We shouldn't be surprised if an imaginary world sounds like Scientology, because it has been created by someone with a similar background as Ron Hubbard.

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Meanwhile the structure and ideology of the Leaden Key reminds me somewhat of the Tres in Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, which is itself a satirical representation of a hermetic society. It seems more to share the qualities these usually have: the idea of guarding great otherwordly truths and secrets even from themselves, being these secrets that should not be revealed to the world lest they put it in danger, or put the secrets themselves at risk of being corrupted and distorted through misinterpretation and misapplication instead and so on.

 

 

Great book.   But wasn't the TRES a created orginazation in response from several seperate hermetic orders to the Plan? that's how I took it anyways.

 

in regards to the comparisons with scientology, well.. I wouldn't want to cast such aspersions at the folks of Obsidian, but.. anything's compossible.

From what I remember it was a mantle assumed by Aglie after the Tres appeared with frequency in the Plan as it was presented to him, with the Tres being an organization he had no knowledge of and so on. Either way it's less the origins of the group as the core ideals and the way it acted that I thought resembled the Leaden Key to some extent. Both are very much centered on the idea of hiding and preserving 'secrets' from the people lest it leads to a crisis in their beliefs, either by the devaluation of said secrets or by their demythification. And certainly it seems like this element, the appeal of the occult and the secrets at the heart of the world and so on are the primary point of attraction for both followers or future followers, and for ourselves as players invested in unravelling what they are doing and hiding.

 

Anyhow, the Tres was more of a random example, but since both the Leaden Key and the Tres are exaggerated/satirical takes on hermetic societies they do share some similar elements and qualities.

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I'm not convinced myself. The journey spirits from death to reincarnation is fairly common within various belief systems around the world, most obviously Buddhism, and The Leaden Key are basically your quintessential mystery cult (as is, to some extent* the Church of Scientology). This is probably why they are reminiscent of TRES: Foucault's Pendulum was a deliberate parody of this sort of thing.

 

Now Scientology could be an inspiration, but I suspect it's more likely that many of the things that inspired L. Ron also inspired Obsidian.

 

*I say "to some extent" because in our modern world, it's hard to keep the mysteries of a mystery cult truly mysterious.

I would suggest, however, that the reincarnation as seen in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions is very different to the more linear interpretation the West holds of the concept. The Eastern cultures traditionally keep a more circular/cyclical notion of time opposite to linear, things have a way of returning to the same point and beginning a process over once more. In this sense we are not, say, the reincarnations of some soldier who's fought and died in WWII, but rather ourselves through different iterations of the same time period. But certainly the concept of reincarnation, even in its Western interpretation, exists beyond Scientology and thus doesn't make Scientology a direct point of departure for its treatment in the game.

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I would suggest, however, that the reincarnation as seen in the Hindu and Buddhist traditions is very different to the more linear interpretation the West holds of the concept. The Eastern cultures traditionally keep a more circular/cyclical notion of time opposite to linear, things have a way of returning to the same point and beginning a process over once more. In this sense we are not, say, the reincarnations of some soldier who's fought and died in WWII, but rather ourselves through different iterations of the same time period. But certainly the concept of reincarnation, even in its Western interpretation, exists beyond Scientology and thus doesn't make Scientology a direct point of departure for its treatment in the game.

 

Good point. I really ought to learn more about Eastern religious beliefs. I once had a fascinating conversation with an Indian friend about Hinduism wherein he explained that in some sense, everything is one thing (Brahma?) which has been fractured into many different things (by Shiva? Who is also Brahma?) but is slowly going towards reunification, after which it will shatter again in a cycle. I am probably horribly butchering this, but I remember thinking it was far more interesting than Christian cosmologies (though this might simply be its foreignness).

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I also said that I don't see it in anyway agreeing with the goals of Scientology or serving as propaganda (as mentioned Thaos, arguably the pinnacle of what Scientologists would want to achieve, seems hell bent on obscuring rather than revealing knowledge as Scientologists claim they want to do), but you can obviously borrow from a religion's spiritualism (and by spiritualism, I mean philosophical principles of the spirit being a distinct thing and its place in the world) and dogma as a source of inspiration without sharing in its goals.

I'm way late to the party to reply to this, but I'll just say that, while you obviously don't think the game is propaganda, other people in the thread did, so I thought it was worth mentioning in my reply.

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You know with the Fellowship of Batlin and the Hubologists of Fallout 2 one has to wonder why the Scientologists have inspired such interesting comparisons in RPGs? Probably just the Californian ambience though.

Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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You know with the Fellowship of Batlin and the Hubologists of Fallout 2 one has to wonder why the Scientologists have inspired such interesting comparisons in RPGs? Probably just the Californian ambience though.

 

I suspect that they're a good model for a realistic modern day cult, what with actually existing and all. There's also the Universal Brotherhood in Shadowrun which is meant to be somewhat based on Scientology.

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