Jon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and on Saturdays he’s helping us 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, for a few weeks now we’ve been bugging you about L. Ron Hubbard’s interest in Sex Magick and Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), which predated his work on Dianetics and Scientology. We know you covered it in depth in A Piece of Blue Sky, as have other writers, such as Lawrence Wright in Going Clear. But we have a reason for bringing it up, and we thought you might ease us into the subject again.
JON: When I first went to Saint Hill in the mid-70s, I was befriended by a Crowleyite named Carlos. He told me that Hubbard had set up Scientology as a beacon for the “mages” — of whom, he assured me, I was one. The vast majority of recruits would simply be drones, who would do our bidding at some future date. I believe Carlos went back to heroin addiction, in preference to the state of OT. We only met twice, but it made me watchful. I had no interest in magic (or heroin, for that matter, contrary to OSA rumors).
When I left, I met Steve Bisbey, who ran the Advanced Ability Centre, East Grinstead, and Ralph Hilton, who set up his own independent auditing practice. Both had come to Scientology from Crowley, as many did, after the Sunday Times exposed Hubbard’s involvement with Sex Magick. I liked Steve, but he had never abandoned his fondness for Crowley, and, indeed, the last time we met, he told me that he still “loved” Crowley’s work. Steve was a standard techie. Ralph Hilton mixed Crowleyite ideas into his practice. He did not necessarily inform his preclears of this.
I very soon found myself poring over Crowley texts to try and understand Hubbard. I was surprised to find that Hubbard had taken more ideas from Crowley and the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) than from any other place — including the trauma of birth, the use of “past lives” rather than “reincarnation,” and the “creative processing” which is the revelation of the Philadelphia Doctorate Course and allowed Hubbard to do something after he’d given Dianetics away.
Along the way, I spoke with John Symonds, who was Crowley’s literary executor and wrote The Great Beast about Crowley. He loathed Crowley and helped me to steer through the OTO material, until I realised that the Babalon Working rituals Hubbard performed after the war with Pasadena rocket scientist Jack Parsons had continued to become Scientology — Scientology is a magical “working,” where Hubbard elevated himself by enslaving others. I think I was the first person to show that Parsons and Hubbard had actually done the eighth ritual of the OTO (OTO VIII). Authors both before and since fail to mention that Babalon Working is simply a version of the eighth ritual, which was made public in Francis King’s Secret Rituals of the OTO. That the ritual is evidently gay (in both the accepted and the South Park sense, really) also seems to be avoided, but, given Hubbard’s horror of homosexuality, this is an important point. Hubbard has since turned up as Robert Heinlein’s lover in that famous author’s letters, so I’m told. Too late for poor Quentin Hubbard, who lost his life to his father’s public homophobia when he committed suicide in 1976.
Crowley was upset at the “idiocy” of Hubbard and Parsons (he called them “louts” which was mistranscribed as “goats” and is usually quoted so), not because they were trying to create a demonic force in human form, as he himself had tried to do, but because they had jumped steps on his “bridge.”
THE BUNKER: In Blue Sky, you described the 1946 rituals of Hubbard and Parsons at length. We’ll just quote a brief description of them that Lawrence Wright supplied in Going Clear: “The ceremony, likely aided by narcotics and hallucinogens, required Hubbard to channel the female deity of Babalon as Parsons performed the ‘invocation of wand with material basis on talisman’ — in other words, masturbating on a piece of parchment. He typically invoked twice a night.” In Blue Sky, you write that another part of the ritual probably made use of a mix of semen and menstrual blood.
Previously, Jon, we had asked you about something called The Blood Ritual that was also in Hubbard’s papers. You briefly described it a few weeks ago when we were talking about the things Gerry Armstrong found in Hubbard’s archives, some of which Gerry passed on to the writer the church had hired to write Hubbard’s official biography, Omar Garrison. You said the ritual described in those papers invoked the name of a goddess that some of our readers insisted was a benign vegetable god or something.
JON: It’s also in Blue Sky. Omar Garrison came to see me in the early 90s, because he believed the cult was harassing him again, and he wanted them to know that if they continued, he would give material to me. He had come several thousand miles to make this point. In return, he showed me The Blood Ritual, which is an invocation of Hathor (some spell it Hathoor), the Egyptian goddess represented as a spotted cow or, more usually as a woman with a cow’s head (whatever turns you on. One obscure OTO text has a young man communing with the Hathor by having sexual intercourse with a cow).
Hathor is conflated with Sekhmet. The best description I can find comes from Murry Hope, in Practical Egyptian Magic, where she says: “Hathor (Athyr), who is associated with Aphrodite, was the daughter of Ra and carrier of his divine eye. Hathor was a dual-aspected goddess: as the benign, celestial cow she was said to nourish the gods, protect women, patronise the art of astrology and confer the creature comforts of life…But according to some authorities Hathor has another side as Sekhmet, the lioness-headed goddess. Perhaps the ancients were trying to tell us that energy can either heal and nourish, when used constructively, or break and destroy if used destructively…Hathor is somewhat enigmatic at the best of times. Some scholars define her in her dual role of the benign cow on the one hand and the avenging lioness on the other; other authorities staunchly claim that she has no connection at all with the lion figure which was an earlier version of Bast.”
In the simplest terms, Hathor represents nature. In Roman mythology, she is Diana (and thusly, Dianetics), who is best known for her casual unconcern for humanity, when she turned Acteon into a stag, so that she and her chums could hunt him down (her loving nature is represented by Venus, in the Roman system). It really doesn’t matter what any commentator believes Hathor is, was, or might be, just what Hubbard believed. It’s rather like the argument used by most historians that we should ignore the Nazi obsession with magic, because magic is nonsense. But Churchill kept an astrologer, to find out what Hitler’s astrologer was telling him. I don’t believe in magic, Egyptian or otherwise, but Hubbard did. He invoked Hathor as Diana, as “Babalon,” as his “Empress,” which is the Empress of the tarot, and Hubbard’s “holy guardian angel” (for which, see Blue Sky — “holy guardian angel” is a Crowleyite term).
When I first met Gerry, he told me about a scale he’d found in Hubbard’s papers, which belonged to the period between Parsons and Dianetics — around 1947. I asked Gerry about this, recently, but he couldn’t remember it, so I foraged through my ancient notes, and there it is:
Fanatics and Zealots
The Wealthy, Financiers
Labourers and Farmers
Hubbard believed he’d reached the level of the Fool. There is a fascinating digression about the Fool on the first Philadelphia Doctorate Course tape — and the alligator he mentions on the tarot card leads us to Crowley (the only tarot with an alligator on the Fool card). In the lecture, Hubbard informs us that the Fool is the illumined state, because nothing can affect the Fool — whatever you fire at him passes straight through. He gives this as an early example of what would become the Operating Thetan, OT.
Hubbard believed that the Empress dictated material to him, through automatic writing (it would explain his odd turn of phrase). He once told a follower that Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was dictated by “the Empress.” Elsewhere, the Empress is called the Mother Goddess by Crowley. She is also equated with the “black goddess,” Kali, who feeds upon humanity and was worshiped by the Thuggees, who spent hundreds of years murdering innocents as sacrifice to her (until the British Raj exterminated them).
THE BUNKER: Hey, look what we found. It’s the excerpt from the first Philadelphia Doctorate Course lecture that you mentioned, which Hubbard gave on December 1, 1952. This is the portion where he mentions The Fool from the Tarot, as you indicated.
It’s always fascinating to delve into Hubbard and the occult. But part of our reason for bringing this up again, Jon, is that we wanted to talk about another Hubbard and some pretty odd activities.
L. Ron Hubbard’s youngest son, Arthur, 55, is an artist. We noticed that in 2009, under the name “A. Conway Hubbard,” he had a fascinating exhibit at the POVevolving Gallery in Los Angeles. The show consisted of a wide range of nude prints that made use of a rather interesting ingredient. Here’s the show’s own description…
The show, hosted by Actor/DJ Danny Masterson, will be the first exhibition by A. Conway Hubbard in nearly a decade and marks the artist’s first adventure into the world of drypoint intaglio printing.
The included works are the first that the artist has shown since formulating a special printmaking ink that uses blood as its primary ingredient. For this exhibition, Hubbard has printed each intaglio plate in varying ways using both traditional black inks and his specially created ‘blood ink.’
And some examples of Arthur’s work…
See the full show at this nifty website. Jon, what thoughts do you have about Arthur creating nude prints of women processed with blood? Isn’t it a pretty peculiar choice for the son of L. Ron Hubbard?
JON: I think that Arthur felt that this was a way of personalising his work, but, on a deeper level, it is very curious. Hubbard had very little to do with any of his children, and Arthur was likely too young to have ever received instruction from his father. But there could be something horrid lurking in this. Magicians use blood and semen in their rituals (Crowley was particularly fond of menstrual blood).
THE BUNKER: These Hubbards, they’re something. And thanks again, Jon, for taking us into the history of Scientology and its weird beginnings.
The cats reminded us that it was a year ago that the circuits and vacuum tubes first hummed to life here in the Underground Bunker after we’d finished undocking from the Village Voice mothership, where we’d spent the previous five years.
We really weren’t sure how things would go when, with the help of attorney Scott Pilutik, we launched this experiment. Would our regular readers at the Voice find us? Would we stay on top of fast-moving developments in the world of Scientology Watching?
Well, it’s been a wild year, and the loyalty and participation of our readers has been truly humbling. We figure the best way to show our thanks is to bring even bigger stories, and we’re working on some humdingers. For now, where’s that bottle opener?
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 28, 2013 at 07:00
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