Octopus & Scientology


Apr 6, 2003
We can now add the Church of Scientology to the roster of groups who've been unfavorably compared to cephalopods, joining Freemasons, Jews and Communists, to name a few. What's unique about the application of the metaphor to Scientology is that it has been effected in the rarefied air and dry language of the judicial system.

On May 31st, 1996 the Higher Administrative Court for North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, issued a ruling in the matter of Scientology v. Norbert Bluem. Herr Bluem, Minister of the Federal Works Institute, had made highly unflattering remarks about the Church of Scientology, which has been aggressively investigated in Germany (as elsewhere in Europe) for its financial dealings. In a 1994 conversation with Die Welt am Sonn reporter Heinz Vielain, Bluem compared Scientology to "a giant octopus: potential members are put into psychologically and physically dependent relationships. They are subjected to brainwashing; their personalities are systematically destroyed. Then they are materially exploited without end."

The Church (which is not recognized as a legitimate religion by German authorities, who regard it as a cult) responded to the Work Minister's comments with a lawsuit asserting that it had been defamed and it's members' applications to the Federal Works Institute denied on the basis of religious discrimination. Among the items cited in Scientology's complaint was Bluem's use of the "giant octopus" metaphor.

The Church's complaint was found to be without merit, and the court agreed with Norbert Bluem's choice of metaphor:

"...the description of the applicant as Riesenkrake does not merit doubt. In so far as a negative valuation comes with the expression, it has a justifiable basis in fact. The Swiss Scientology sect's paper CLEAR infers the requirement to "penetrate" and control all areas of life. In the Scientology sect 's writings, their world-wide expansion and "clarifying [of] this planet" are stressed; their organisational structure is described as a "global" network, which is hierarchically through-structured...In connection with the Federal Labor Court and its quoted resolution, and [Norbert Bluem's] critical appraisal of the applicant, the stated goals of penetration and expansion provide sufficient basis for describing the Scientology sect as a Riesenkrake."


Yet more Scientology-as-octopus rhetoric...

In September 1999, the trial in Marseilles of seven French Scientologists accused of fraud wound up, with an assistant prosecutor comparing the Church to "an octopus, a monster that devours the money of its followers."

You might think that Adolf Hitler's propensity to describe "International Jewry" as an octopus would disincline modern Rabbis to use the device, but no. In a 2001 article appearing in Dei'ah veDibur, Rabbi Moshe Lachover, responding to the Church of Scientology's attempts to make inroads in Israel, said: "They are like an octopus, whose tentacles reach in all directions at once...They try to trap unwitting people in their snare." (To read the Dei'ah veDibur article about Scientology in Israel, click here.)

It's all very weird.

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