In a Hubbard Communications Office bulletin, L. Ron Hubbard claims:

A THETAN is, of course, a Scientology word using the Greek “Theta” which was the Greek symbol for thought or life.


I find this very hard to believe. The only symbolic use of the letter I know of is as an abbreviation of the word "θάνατος" (thanatos, death) when voting for the death penalty in classical Athens.

I do not consider Mr. Hubbard's writings a source of historically accurate information. However, it seems that a significant amount of people believe he knew what he was talking about. Hence, the question: Was the letter theta used to symbolize "thought or life", or anything other than death at any point in ancient Greece?

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    It's going to be difficult to prove a negative unfortunately; but plus one just for noting "I do not consider Mr. Hubbard's writings a source of historically accurate information" – Pieter Geerkens May 11 '15 at 1:23
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    It symbolised death, as you said. That's quite well established. I don't think Hubbard is a sufficiently credible authority for us to legitimately expect there's another answer. – Semaphore May 11 '15 at 7:30
  • of course in many cultures and religions life and death are closely linked, so the same symbol being used for both in different context may well be feasible. Which does not mean I think Hubbard has any credibility in his assertion, only that the relation of the letter theta to death does not automatically mean it can't be related to life as well. – jwenting May 11 '15 at 9:29
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    @PieterGeerkens We could, however, prove that the Greeks used a different letter to signify thought or life. This would strongly suggest that Hubbard was talking nonsense. – yannis May 11 '15 at 10:43
  • Since this question's about fact-checking a specific notable claim, it'd be perfect for SE.Skeptics. Not to say that it doesn't make sense here on SE.History. – Nat Jun 26 '17 at 20:30

The font of all that is true knowledge (Wikipedia) states:

In ancient times, Tau was used as a symbol for life or resurrection, whereas the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet, theta, was considered the symbol of death.:

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    Do you have a better source than Wikipedia? – yannis May 11 '15 at 14:16
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    The quote you provide from Wikipedia is unsourced. – Mark May 12 '15 at 1:20
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    I believe that Doug is being ironic. Hence my up-vote. – fdb Jul 7 '16 at 23:46

Theta is the 8th letter of the greek alphabet: uppercase Θ or ϴ, lowercase θ. Whether it symbolized anything is a matter related to the field of studies called Symbology. It can be rational or esoteric. In the latter case, anyone can believe in a meaning and there are and were many schools. Ergo: Greeks did not have a unique symbolization. What different symbolizations existed (and when ?) could be an interesting question. The same applies to today's many different meaning of any symbol.

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    Not sure how any of this actually answers the question. – yannis Jun 26 '17 at 23:17
  • allright: similar questiion: what did the statue of liberty symbolized in the U.S.A at the end of the XXth century ? How many different (and antagonistic) answers will you get ? One person = one unique answer. – mat Jun 27 '17 at 16:26
  • If you feel the question cannot be factually answered, then the proper action is to vote to close it. – yannis Jun 27 '17 at 20:36

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