Even Charles Manson Thought Scientology Was "Too Crazy" to Practice Religiously

Charles Manson’s philosophy was influential and confusing, but what role did Scientology play in the cult leader’s view of the world? Details inside.


Apr. 9 2020, Updated 2:25 p.m. ET

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Charles Manson’s philosophies involved murder and advocating for a race war. Although he never expressly directed any of his followers to murder anyone, he was nonetheless convicted of conspiring to murder Sharon Tate and four others at her home in Beverly Hills. His worldview had an enormous influence on his follower’s decision to commit murder, and he also dabbled in ideas related to Scientology.

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Was Charles Manson a Scientologist?

Years before he was convicted of the murder of Sharon Tate, Charles declared that he was a Scientologist. He never became a member of the Church of Scientology, but was apparently first exposed to the religion while he was imprisoned in 1961. At that time, Charles was dabbling in a number of different religions, and reportedly found Scientology appealing because of its mind control tactics.  

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Charles also said that he had pursued the religion in order to “understand his own mind,” and said that he followed Scientology whenever he was asked what his religious beliefs were. After roughly 150 years spent in auditing, though, Charles was begging to be dragged away from his auditor and was even put in solitary confinement. Following his time in auditing, the cult leader said that the religion was ”too crazy.” 

What else did Charles believe in?

Although he eventually decided that he didn’t want to practice Scientology, Charles had a number of other radical beliefs that ultimately led to the horrific crimes his followers perpetrated. His chief belief was that a race war was imminent in the United States between the black population and the white population. He called that race war “Helter Skelter.” 

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In his trial, the prosecution argued that The Tate-LaBianca murders were meant to be a triggering event for “Helter Skelter.” The philosophy referenced various Beatles songs, including those on The White Album, and also referred to passages in the book of Revelations. 

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One former Manson follower claimed that the release of "The White Album" was a pivotal moment for Charles. “When the Beatles' "White Album" came out, Charlie listened to it over and over and over and over again. He was quite certain that the Beatles had tapped in to his spirit, the truth — that everything was gonna come down and the black man was going to rise,” Catherine Share claimed.

“It wasn't that Charlie listened to "The White Album" and started following what he thought the Beatles were saying,” Share continued. “It was the other way around. He thought that the Beatles were talking about what he had been expounding for years. Every single song on the White Album, he felt that they were singing about us. The song 'Helter Skelter'— he was interpreting that to mean the blacks were gonna go up and the whites were gonna go down.”

Even as Charles predicted the coming of a race war, he also saw himself as the war’s ultimate beneficiary. He planned to release an album with the help of the Manson family that carried subtle messages about the war similar to the messages he heard in The Beatles’ music. 

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