Movie Article

Faith, Hope, and Clarity

L. Ron Hubbard's ''Dianetics'' is played out in Travolta's latest film

Pop quiz, Sunday schoolers: Name the spiritual workman who suffered persecution, shared a last supper with loving disciples, and whose followers celebrate his birthday every year. That's right: It's George Malley, John Travolta's character in Phenomenon, a movie that's a religious experience in other ways, too. Screenwriter Gerald DiPego says George's miraculous tapping of his mind's potential shows Zen influences, but with Travolta, a 21-year follower of Scientology, in the role of a regular guy who becomes a genius, the movie also seems to have parallels with Scientology's own tenets, as a comparison with church founder L. Ron Hubbard's primer Dianetics suggests.

Phenomenon: ''Things are coming clear to me,'' says George after he's ''struck'' by a mysterious light. Within days he deciphers high-speed Morse code and champions chess.
Dianetics, page 125: ''The [clear] mind thinks out solutions...at such speed that the word stream of consciousness would be left at the post.''

Phenomenon: George memorizes textbooks, scanning pages as he goes. He learns Portuguese during a car ride across town.
Dianetics, page 243: ''A Clear...has complete recall of everything which has ever happened to him or anything he has ever studied.''

Phenomenon: George learns his ''powers'' may be due to a brain tumor.
Dianetics, page 131: Scientology teaches that 70 percent of diseases begin in the brain.

Phenomenon: George tricks a nurse into thinking he's swallowed his pills, then escapes the hospital to the countryside.
Dianetics, page 502: ''Dianetics wakes people up; it does not try to drug them or hypnotize them.''

Phenomenon: When George predicts an earthquake, skeptics learn to believe. When neighbors get scared and angry, George remains sanguine: ''I think I'm what everyone can be.''
Dianetics, page 472, on handling a disbeliever: ''The object is not to make him a believer but to place him in a situation where he can evaluate his own data. Don't argue with him about Dianetics.''

Phenomenon: Former has-been John Travolta receives $8 million payday.
Dianetics, front endpage: ''Dianetics put me into the big time. — John Travolta.''

Originally posted Aug 02, 1996 Published in issue #338 Aug 02, 1996 Order article reprints