In the opening scenes of a new Inside Scientology episode, viewers appear to hover above a majestic architectural monument, the Flag Building, a 21st-century structure of sweeping steel and marble brilliantly lighted by the bronze rays of Florida’s sun.
The camera’s eye pans from the Flag Building to the sprawling campus of the international headquarters for the Church of Scientology in Clearwater, Florida. There is nothing comparable to the Flag Building in Florida. Indeed, only a very few cities can claim they are homes to international religions. Their names—Rome, Mecca, Salt Lake City—are synonymous with the highest aspirations of humanity: the quest to comprehend the infinite and eternal.
Religions all have holy places. … If you look at religious architecture throughout the world some of the greatest structures ever constructed are religious structures.
Dr. John Farina
George Mason University
That’s also true in Clearwater, Florida, the global headquarters of the Church of Scientology. The notion that Clearwater ranks among the world’s religious headquarters is stunning—as are the landmark buildings in Clearwater, where many thousands of the religion’s members work tirelessly for spiritual advancement and for the betterment of mankind.
What’s also stunning are the reactions from many hundreds of people who daily step into the three-story atrium of the Flag Building, the Scientology cathedral in Clearwater, Florida.
Those people aren’t just Scientologists. On April 23, 2018, about 1,200 people, many who were not members of the religion, assembled at the Fort Harrison, the historic Scientology religious retreat in Clearwater, to watch the new Inside Scientology episode on the Scientology Network, itself a major new outreach for the Church that had debuted on March 12. The two new network shows zero in on Flag (Inside Scientology), as well as one of the religion’s largest and most active local churches, Tampa (Destination: Scientology).
David Miscavige, ecclesiastical leader of Scientology, had foreshadowed the show on Flag when he launched the network. “We’ll take you through all of it,” he promised amid a backdrop of the Flag Building’s atrium. The show featured the hundreds of activities, ranging from spiritual counseling to humanitarian programs to the details that make the nearly 60-building Scientology campus in Clearwater so remarkable.
Nowhere is that remarkability more evident than at the Flag Building, the cathedral of Scientology. The vast dimensions of the Flag Building’s atrium—enveloping columns of fluted travertine and curved glass and steel—create more than awesome visual impact. The messages encoded in the atrium are the true impact. One sculpture soars from floor to ceiling, showing Man’s progress from a dead state to vibrant spiritual freedom. Other sculptures depict the eight dynamics of survival, from the individual through all of humankind to infinity.
In the Inside Scientology series, no place is more essential to Scientologists than what’s chronicled in the new episode: The Flag Land Base in Clearwater. “Religions all have holy places. Sacred sites,” observes John Farina, associate professor of religious studies at George Mason University, who was interviewed for the Flag episode. “If you look at religious architecture throughout the world some of the greatest structures ever constructed are religious structures. When people go into a sacred place they have an experience of the sacred.” That’s certainly true in Clearwater, where the Flag Building and other Scientology structures—notably the historic Fort Harrison religious retreat—add beauty and importance to the cityscape. Lena Pirak, president of the Flag Service Organization, tells network viewers: Flag is “a place you can just concentrate on your spiritual enhancement.”
The episode explains Scientology spiritual counseling—which is termed “auditing”—and the “E-Meter,” the crucial religious artifact used in much of the counseling.
Equally important is how the religion’s members implement humanitarian programs—from disaster relief, to drug prevention, to human rights education, to spreading messages of tolerance and peace. Flag is the dynamo empowering the outreach of those campaigns.
An enticing element of the TV program involves counseling called “Super Power,” part of which utilizes 21st-century technology and NASA-level engineering to awaken innate perceptions on a spiritual level.
And, viewers get an introduction to the Scientology religious order, the Sea Organization. At Flag, 2,400 members tirelessly work at everything from auditing services to maintaining the stellar-quality religious retreats for visiting Scientologists.
It’s a television story told by people who work at Flag, live in Clearwater and travel to the religion’s spiritual home seeking freedom and the tools to salvage mankind.