Trade Secret in Scriptures

I was just poking around the Church of Scientology’s IP website the other day–I’m interested in its claim that its scriptures should be protected trade secrets. I found this statement by a Professor Kinsley that struck me as a rather infelicitous precedent for the church’s position:

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. . . . It is considered a violation of the sacrality of certain texts to expose them to the spiritually immature.

Perhaps one could “reverse engineer” the trade secrets at issue by watching how the elect behave.

4 thoughts on “Trade Secret in Scriptures

  1. Hmmmmmm. The “spiritually immature” would include Scientologists.

    Actually, “secret knowledge” and “sacred knowledge” play a large part in many world views and faiths. But it’s a long, complicated, story. There is much on this in the religious history and anthropology literature.

    The Scientologists do themselves in, of course. Reserving knowledge to the elites is obviously meant to enable abuses of power, no matter the community in question.

  2. Eric–thanks for including that–I want to do a little commentary on that case.

    Siva–yes, the “secret knowledge” thing is a lot more widespread than I had thought! And the more I think about this case, the more I sympathize with the idea that maybe all the deliberations of those “at the top” of a religion needn’t be public…though I’ll always associate such arguments against transparency with the Cheney position against releasing the deliberations of his energy task force.

  3. For comparative purposes: when the Church sued an absconding member for breach of confidence in England in the 1970s for publicly criticizing its teachings, the case was dismissed because not only was the Church’s claim that its tenets were scientifically provable false but the judge considered them “utterly absurd” – which equity does not protect: Church of Scientology of California v. Kaufman [1973] RPC 635.

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