In 1990, author Jon Atack published what is still one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, A Piece of Blue Sky. Atack now has a new edition of the book out, and it reminded us what an encyclopedic resource he is. So join us as we rely on Jon’s expertise to sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
Jon, one of the more memorable parts of the L. Ron Hubbard legend has him becoming a blood brother of the Montana Blackfoot tribe as a small child. We thought this legend was debunked long ago, but something in Lawrence Wright’s book concerns you. What is it?
JON: On page 21, in Wright’s generally excellent Going Clear, we find the claim that Hubbard had studied shamanism:
Throughout his youth, he was fascinated by shamans and magicians. As a boy in Montana, he says, he was made a blood brother to the Blackfoot Indians by an elderly medicine man named Old Tom Madfeathers. Hubbard claims that Old Tom would put on displays of magic by leaping fifteen foot high from a seated position and perching on the top of his teepee. Hubbard observes, “I learned long ago that man has his standards for credulity, and when reality clashes with these, he feels challenged.”
Hold that thought.
There is difficulty in accepting any Hubbard statement, because he was a pathological liar, which is easily demonstrated by the many contradictions between his own accounts of events. For instance, in My Philosophy, written in 1965, Hubbard says that “Blinded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back, at the end of World War II, I faced an almost non-existent future.” Yet, in a 1957 bulletin called “Communication and Isness,” he claimed that he was in Hollywood at the end of July 1945, where he got to try out his judo on some Petty Officers: “Sometime early in 1945 I flunked my overseas examination. Well, I crawled around and felt sorry for myself, and the fact of it was that the Judo instructor there at the hospital brought up the idea that there was a shortage of people in the war — there was. So he kept up my training for me. I think it was July 25th that I went down to Hollywood and three sailors with Petty Officers’ ratings accosted me on the street. They were drunk. They were out to kill officers. And the three of them tied into me. An unbelievable thing happened. One of them turned me around facing him while the second one took a heavy beer bottle to bring it down on my skull. I took the fellow, who brought the beer bottle down, threw him over my head into this fellow, who went down and hit the side of a bumper. The beer bottle hit the pavement, broke the end off, and the other fellow reared up where he had been sitting on the running board of a car, and I put it in his face. That’s what you are trained to do.” An amazing performance for a blind cripple with injured optic nerves! His Navy record supports the second story (though not the bit about the judo). So, when Hubbard says that he was made a blood brother by the Blackfoot, or, indeed, makes any other claim, it should be treated with caution. And, as Hubbard asserted, “Truth is sanity.” Not something he had any time for, if he could get away with a wild story, instead.
What Wright fails to say is that Hubbard embellished his account even further, by stretching our credulity to the limit. Hubbard said that he was four years old when he became a Blackfoot warrior. The Blackfoot People did not create “blood brothers,” actually a Viking tradition unknown among Native Americans until Hollywood came along (some years after Hubbard’s fourth birthday). I spent many happy hours being deposed under oath by Guardian’s Office unindicted co-conspirator Kendrick Moxon, who shoved a letter across the table to prove that Hubbard had been a blood brother. He insisted that the tribal council had approved this, but the letter was actually written by a Scientologist, who was an eighth-blood Blackfoot called Richard Mataisz, who went under the name “Tree Manyfeathers” for the purpose of validating Hubbard’s status, seventy years after the event.
Mataisz admitted that there was no record of Hubbard’s induction into the tribe, and told the Los Angeles Times that he had decided to “make it go right” for Hubbard by concocting this document, which was not approved by the tribal council, or, indeed, anyone save for “Tree Manyfeathers.” The Times article was published as part of its fine June 1990 series. Kendrick Moxon was so disappointed with his interrogation of me that he didn’t even ask me to sign the deposition. He had failed to find a single mistake in my work, which is very gratifying.
In an article called “Search for Research,” published by Scientology in Ron the Writer, issue 1, Hubbard admitted that he learned about the Piegan Blackfoot people at second hand, and that would include Old Tom and all of his shamanic leaping. He also contradicted his Blackfoot stories, in true Ron style, in
“LRH’s autobiographical notes for Peter Tompkins.” Intrigued by this story, I eventually found that when he was two and travelled from Kalispell to Helena, Montana, the train passed through a station in a Blackfoot reservation. Hubbard likely formulated his credulity testing story from some family story about the downtrodden Blackfoot Indians who were begging for booze money when the train stopped.
THE BUNKER: We just skimmed through several volumes of this new RON: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA and all we could find was this one mention, in the volume “L. Ron Hubbard: A Profile”…
By way of a first entrance into a spiritual dimension, he tells of a boyhood friendship with the indigenous Blackfeet Indians in Helena, Montana. Notable among them was a full-fledged tribal medicine man locally known as Old Tom. In what ultimately constituted a rare bond, the six-year-old Ron was both honored with the status of blood brother and instilled with an appreciation of a profoundly distinguished spiritual heritage.
Oh, the Dan Shermanspeak in these books is unbearable — note how each sentence must begin with an odd adjectival phrase, and never a declarative subject and verb. But we digress. Anyway, there’s also a photo of “Old Tom.” Note that this is not a scan, but our attempt to photograph the image in context, as it is laid out on the page…
JON: His feathers do look a little mad… The cult has put “Search for Research” online. It has the explanation of Hubbard’s ‘research’ for his novel Buckskin Brigades, where he says:
“I capped the climax by locating a young chap in Seattle who happens to be a blood brother of the Blackfeet … the result was Buckskin Brigades…” L. Ron Hubbard, “Search for Research,” Ron the Writer.
Which is odd, given that he later assimilated this young man’s blood-brotherhood into his own legend. In his notes, Wright says “A spokesperson for the Blackfeet Nation says that blood-brotherhood is not a part of their tradition.” The only source for the Hubbard story is a statement from Dan Sherman, the official biographer.
THE BUNKER: And official mangler of the English language. Tonight, several thousand Scientologist will be subject to Dan “The Mullet” Sherman torturing subjects and predicates as he recounts episodes in Hubbard’s life during The Birthday Event in Los Angeles. We only wish we had a ticket.
SMERSH Madness: Sowing the Seeds of World Domination!
As we announced on March 1, we’re joining bracket fever with a tournament like no other. It’s up to you to decide who should be named the new SMERSH, the traditional nemesis of Scientology. Cast your vote for who’s doing more to propel the church down its long slide into oblivion!
Continuing with the Sweet Sixteen! We have another tough match.
Jon Atack was a name synonymous with Scientology research because of his excellent 1990 history, A Piece of Blue Sky. But for the longest time, we heard nothing about him. Now, Atack is back with a new edition of his book, and he’s become a regular contributor here at the Bunker. It’s great to have such an encyclopedic resource back in the mix. (Previously: Atack defeated Tom Cruise in the first round.)
Operation Clambake, or Xenu.net, was started by a Norwegian engineer, Andreas Heldal-Lund, in 1996. It quickly became a major nemesis for the church as it hosted vast amounts of damaging information that Scientology wants kept quiet. It’s still a great resource today for researchers. (We’re in the habit of calling it “OCMB,” but we’re asking for a vote on the entire website, not just its message board. Previously: OCMB defeated Lisa Marie Presley in the first round.)
Go to our March 1 post for the latest tournament results.
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 23, 2013 at 07:00