Rebecca Tyrrel: If Scientology’s L Ron Hubbard was around today, he would ban the number 33

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The Independent Online

Who knew that, 33, always an important number in Christianity, has acquired mystical significance for another major religion? It is a uniquely feared number for Scientologists, this being the age at which all three of Tom Cruise's wives have parted company from him. Thirty-three is the new 13 for the folk at Sea Org, no doubt about it.

If Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard were around today, he would almost certainly ban 33 – perhaps replacing it with 32+, or possibly 34 Lite – now that Katie Holmes has followed the example of Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman. The suggestion is that Katie has fled to New York to spare six-year-old Suri from being indoctrinated in the curious ways of Scientology. Such are the sacrifices women are prepared to make for their children – and Katie could be forgiven for thinking it a tragedy that L Ron's mummy, L Mother Hubbard, didn't sacrifice him when he was six. She thinks this when she is not thinking of how very happy she is to be able to wear heels again.

The numerological department at Conspiracy Theory College has been in overdrive about the number 33 since Katie upped sticks, just as it was when Amy Winehouse joined Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and others who died at 27. One popular theory links the Cruise 33 Curse, if in an entirely unexplained way, to the fact that the Church of Scientology was founded in Phoenix Arizona, which is located on the 33rd parallel. An equally outlandish belief (only mine at this stage, to be honest) contends that 33 is the age at which a Hollywood actress officially grows up, and realises there could be more to married life than being (allegedly) closely controlled by a sofa-jumping, rictus-grinning, gibberish-spouting weirdo with a pretty face. So take your pick there.

Until today, the religious relevance of the number 33 has been confined to a more mainstream faith. Jesus Christ departed this mortal realm by way of crucifixion at 33, according to many historical reckonings, and in what by the spookiest coincidence was 33AD. He also performed 33 miracles.

Tom Cruise has managed no recorded miracles at all, unless you count the survival of his Hollywood career while he doubles up as the second or third most senior figure in the Scientology hierarchy. However – cue the Twilight Zone signature theme – he did wear the No 33 jersey in the high-school American football movie, All the Right Moves.