The Flag Issue:Celebrating Scientology's New Spiritual Center

The Flag Building

“You are a spirit. You are your own soul. You are not mortal. You can be free.”—L. Ron Hubbard

Those words embody the cornerstone of the religion’s spiritual path that leads to true freedom for all. Those same words are emblazoned in the entrance to the new cathedral of Scientology, the Flag Building in Clearwater, Florida. The 377,000-square-foot spiritual headquarters was dedicated on Sunday, November 17, 2013, before 10,273 Scientologists and guests.

The six-decade spiritual journey to the opening of the Flag Building is the epic story of the religion’s founding, and of the Church’s phenomenal growth. It is also the culmination of Mr. Miscavige’s work to bring Mr. Hubbard’s original vision to physical expression in a building.

“Your cathedral has risen and your spiritual headquarters is now open.”—Mr. David Miscavige, ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion

That journey has spanned the globe. Mr. Hubbard, in the early days of his work as Founder of the new religion, established research foundations in the United States and England. He crisscrossed the world training growing numbers of Scientologists, while continuing his research and writing. Eventually, he and his most committed staff went to sea on the Apollo, the flagship of a flotilla of Scientology vessels. Aboard the Apollo, Mr. Hubbard furthered his exploration into the understanding of the nature of Man, the spirit and the resolution of the human condition.

As the religion grew in numbers and impact, the demand exceeded the capacity of the ship. In 1975, Scientology headquarters moved ashore to two historic buildings in Clearwater—the Fort Harrison Hotel and the former Bank of Clearwater. In the years that followed, what became known as the Flag Land Base—reflecting the history of the Apollo as the flagship—came to include 56 buildings and a staff that has grown from 200 to 2,300. Flag is now the spiritual center of a religion that includes some 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups worldwide.

But even with that growth, the work was not complete. A vital facility remained to be built—a single building designed to exact specifications. It had to be large enough to provide adequate space so that thousands of staff and parishioners from around the world could be engaged in Scientology religious services at the same time. The building also needed to be configured for the highly unique religious services known as the Super Power and Cause Resurgence Rundowns, researched by Mr. Hubbard and now fully codified and available to Scientology parishioners for the first time.

SEE THE GALLERY: The Sea Organization museum in the Flag Building houses artifacts from the history of the Church's religious order, including L. Ron Hubbard's office and research room from the Flagship Apollo.

A street bridge connects the 1926-vintage Fort Harrison and the Flag Building. Spanning busy Fort Harrison Avenue three stories above the cars and pedestrians, that bridge is not only practical, it is spiritually symbolic.

The elevated walkway resonates for Scientologists with a scriptural meaning of the word “bridge.” Man and religions have long envisioned and described a bridge across a chasm between earthly survival and a higher plateau of spiritual existence. In the Scientology religion, “The Bridge to Total Freedom” is an exact route with precise procedures that Scientologists traverse on their spiritual path.

Crossing the skywalk from the Fort Harrison, one emerges in the Flag Building onto the balcony with a panoramic view of the breathtaking 40-foot-high Grand Atrium that soars three stories and spans almost the length of an entire city block.

The travertine columns, walls, floors and staircase in the Grand Atrium lobby evoke great cathedrals of the past. Yet the Flag Building—its bronze, brass, wood, marble and glass—is stylistically timeless. The muted nautical motif echoes the Scientology maritime legacy while projecting a sense of the future.

Across the length of the Atrium stands a series of bronze sculptures representing the fundamental concepts of Dianetics and Scientology. They include the Eight Dynamics: the urge, drive or impulse toward survival as Self, Family, Groups, Mankind, Life Forms, the Physical Universe, the Spiritual Universe, and the Supreme Being or Infinity; and a visual representation of an “auditing” session. Auditing is Scientology spiritual counseling that helps the individual rid himself of spiritual disabilities and increases individual abilities.

Stretching from the ground floor and past the balcony is a 35-foot freestanding sculpture of a spiral stairway with human figures at various levels. It depicts the Emotional Tone Scale, reflecting progressive levels of existence from deadened and crippled with spiritual and mental burdens at the bottom of the scale, to triumphantly creative and in brotherhood with the universe at the top.

On the ground floor, a large information center with multimedia displays includes 600 films in dozens of languages. They present the fundamentals of the religion and update Scientologists on humanitarian and social betterment programs sponsored by the Church around the world.

A museum of the Church’s religious order, the Sea Organization, includes Mr. Hubbard’s office and research room from the Apollo. Authentic in every detail, the office features elements as precise as the two types of Spanish marble matched to the original floor.

Displays house numerous artifacts belonging to Mr. Hubbard and models of the three ships of the early Sea Organization flotilla.

The Grand Chapel, also on the ground floor, is rich in artistry. The focal point is the eight-point Scientology Cross, representing the Eight Dynamics, crafted of semi-translucent honey onyx. The Chapel’s eight multicolored stained glass windows are 11 feet tall and composed of 1,900 individual pieces of German hand-rolled glass and traditional leading. Each window is etched with one of The Factors, Mr. Hubbard’s summations on the human spirit and its relationship to the material universe.

The Flag Building is a statement of the union of 10,000 years of spiritual wisdom with state-of-the-art contemporary science.

The genesis of Scientology is rooted in Eastern religions, particularly the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Veda. When Mr. Hubbard traveled in the Far East as a teenager, studying the region’s knowledge, he observed that it offered no consistently workable path that anyone could follow. Thus, from the late 1930s on, he drew on the wisdom of the East and the modern principles of scientific inquiry to discover the spiritual truths he embodied in his development of the Scientology religion.

While the Atrium brings to life the Scientology goal of total spiritual freedom for every individual who walks the route, and ultimately all of Mankind, the remainder of the building is dedicated to achieving that freedom.

A sweeping staircase of travertine and marble leads from the Atrium to the second floor. Here are located the Church’s dissemination activities and—vital to the progress of Scientologists on their spiritual ascent—Flag’s Golden Age of Knowledge Bookstore.

In this unique bookstore, which serves parishioners from around the world with materials available in 50 languages, Scientologists may literally walk Mr. Hubbard’s path of research and discovery in his development of Dianetics and Scientology. This is the world’s only bookstore that contains a chronological display of every book written by Mr. Hubbard and every lecture delivered by him. It is a three-dimensional view of the written and recorded materials of the religion.

In addition to these materials—comprising the Golden Age of Knowledge—the Bookstore provides all student materials for Golden Age of Tech Phase II. (See “A Turning Point for the Religion.”)

On the third floor are training facilities comprising 16 course rooms with a capacity of nearly 1,000 students at a time, plus four film rooms for viewing instructional films written by Mr. Hubbard. Every course room is equipped with custom-engineered systems to facilitate student progress, including a wide array of computerized dictionaries in multiple languages.

On the fourth floor and above are more than 250 auditing rooms. Those auditing rooms along with the course rooms are where Scientologists gain the knowledge to resolve problems, enhance their native abilities and free themselves from the spiritual impediments to attaining their goals and purposes.

The library on the fourth floor, called the Knowledge Center, contains the world’s largest collection of Dianetics and Scientology scriptural materials—nearly 2,500 recorded lectures by Mr. Hubbard and millions of his written words, including translations in more than 50 languages.