For being a person that valued his individuality, it does seem odd that Stephen Boyd would become so fascinated with a dogmatic, controlling religion like Scientology. But Stephen had been interested in religion since his youth. He had even considered studying theology and becoming a minister when he was growing up in Belfast.
“I was sure hard to convince,” says Steve. At the Scottish Presbyterian church he even argued with the Reverend Nicholson about his sermons. “It amazed me.” states Steve, “that a man could read a text from the Bible and then have the nerve to tell others what it meant. Why, it means some- thing different to everyone who reads it!” He’d tell the good man this and they’d have word battles after church, to the preacher’s delight. But later, when Billy Millar briefly thought he’d like to study theology and be a minister himself, Reverend Nicholson shook his head.
“I know your mind, Billy,” he counseled. “And you won’t do for organized religion. You’d never accept it.” (Modern Screen 1960)
His intense conversations with Dolores Hart during the filming of Lisa in 1961 also revolved around religion and spirituality. “I found him deeply spiritual. We had many discussions about religion, in a general way, but occasionally we spoke of Catholicism. Stephen was adamant that although he was genuinely interested in the broad spectrum of religion, he was not attracted to any specific church. He would come to change that stand.” (The Ear of the Heart by Dolores Hart)
From an interview in 1966, Boyd expressed his interest in “esoteric” religion.
“I am deeply interested in the esoteric form of all religions….Basically it is the development of the inner you. I’m not a member of any church. I don’t subscribe to any one belief except the one true belief. I believe IN GOOD.”
Around 1966 is when Boyd began his interest in L Ron Hubbard‘s Church of Scientology, which would make him one of the first Hollywood stars to follow this religion. Boyd had always expressed an interest in esoteric religions. Dolores Hart expressed her alarm in Stephen’s Scientology interests when he paid her Abbey a visit in 1966. “Remembering his distaste for organized religion, I cautioned him to think twice before getting too involved.” (From The Ear of the Heart) Apparently Boyd’s interest intensified during a stay in New York City in 1968 where he was given his first ‘auditing session’ by a Scientology group. From a Scientology newsletter, Boyd had this to say:
“The first reaction at the ORG offices was rather strange. Here were a bunch of people sitting, talking, walking about busily…and everywhere in that place, people were talking about thing being ‘beautiful.’ Anyway, we signed up for processing to being the following day. And again, while we were there, everything was ‘beautiful’. What the hell is this ‘beautiful’?”
In an interview in August 1969 with the Detroit Free Press, he said that Scientology helped him through the filming of Slaves, and that it is “a process used to make you capable of learning. Scientology is nothing. It means only what you want it to. It is not a church you go to to pray, but a church that you go to to learn. It is no good unless you apply it. It is the application”. Boyd apparently had been elevated to a Scientology Status of OC 6, a position beneath that of Clear.
Part of the religions appeal to Boyd may have been it’s mysticism. “Those attracted to Scientology often have an interest in the occult – “the powers of the mind” religions…What Scientology is basically saying is, ‘If you clear your mind of problems, you’d be happy.” (Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1969)
Author Gary Valentine Lachman has an even better description from his booked Turn off Your Mind; The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius.
“He (Hubbard) had set off into a terrain that offered endless variations and appeal: the mysteries of the human mind…The aim of Scientology is to awaken its practitioners to their real selves, to regain their true Thetan heritage, and become, more or less, supermen.”
Boyd would actually go on to star and narrate a Scientology recruiting film called Freedom in 1970. A copy of this film can be found at the Library of Congress, but it is not available online via any Scientology resource, which may indicate a falling out Boyd had with the Church later on for using his name for recruiting purposes.
Dolores Hart again mentioned in her memoirs some of her last communication with Boyd concerning Scientology. “(In 1970) he announced his plans to become an active member of the organization (Church of Scientology) and said that his life and mine could never find a crossing point, which saddened me.”This sounds exactly like what happens when Scientologists are called to disconnect from people who are opposed to their beliefs. Is this what happened between Boyd and Hart?
It’s hard to track Boyd’s connection to the Church of Scientology past 1970. Did he have a falling out with the Church? Did he continue to be a member? And why was he attracted to the complexities of this dogmatic, cult religion to begin with? It’s impossible to say. It’s just an intriging mystery about Stephen Boyd which we will never solve.