Expertise on Esoteric Scriptures

by Professor David Kinsley
Department of Religious Studies
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


     The Church of Scientology has informed me that it is appealing to have some of its scriptures held secret in connection with a recent court case. They wish to have sections of their scriptures, which were apparently entered into the court record, taken out as they do not wish to have these materials available to the public, or to certain members of their own church. They have requested that I make a statement concerning the status of certain scriptures in the Hindu tradition which I have studied for over twenty-five years.

     In Hinduism, there are some scriptures that are not available to certain groups, usually lower castes, social groups, or women. This is the case with most Vedic literature, the most ancient and sacred of Hindu texts. Traditionally, these texts were not committed to writing but passed down orally in specific brahmin lineages. They were only recited by and for those who were believed to be spiritually mature, which almost always meant male members of the upper castes. Punishments were stipulated in Hindu law books for those who recited, or otherwise made available, certain sacred texts to those who were not eligible to hear or receive them. In addition to Vedic literature, much tantric literature is also said to be secret and unavailable to the uninitiated. The underlying assumption in the Hindu tradition concerning the secrecy of sacred texts concerns the spiritual suitability or maturity of individuals. It is considered a violation of the sacrality of certain texts to expose them to the spiritually immature.

     I do not know the details of the current case, but from what I have been told, the Church of Scientology is not unique in arguing for the secrecy of some of its scriptures. In my opinion, their request to keep some of their scriptures secret should be respected.

Sincerely yours,

David Kinsley
Professor of Religious Studies
November 28, 1994

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