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 for more than three years he’s been 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.
Tony has given us an insightful examination of what may be an admission by L. Ron Hubbard in Monday’s story, “Did L. Ron Hubbard believe his own rap?”
Here is my two and a half cents on this Hubbard statement, which comes from the Philadelphia “Doctorate” Course. Hubbard can be heard to say, “Now, all this of course is—I’m just kidding you mostly. I don’t believe that you’ve been in the universe 76 trillion years. I don’t believe you have any past before birth. I don’t believe that there is any reason whatsoever for this universe to be here except some fellow called the devil or something that built it. And I don’t believe any of these things. And I don’t want to be agreed with about them. It infuriates me to be agreed with about them. So I’m not asking for anybody to agree with me, but I’m not asking for anybody to disagree with me either.”
The Philadelphia “Doctorate” Course has been sold in tape and text formats since the lectures were given, back in December 1952. A complete set of cassette tapes was issued in the early 1980s – I had a set, with amateurish transcripts in ring binders, by the time I left in 1983. But the lectures had long been available on reel to reel tape.
This is to say that this particular lecture has been available, on offer and heavily promoted by the Mother Org of Scientology since 1952. It is by no means obscure material. And after reading that utterance by Hubbard, Tony asked, “Is the notion incorrect that Scientologists are expected to take Hubbard at his word and believe that everything he said was true?”
Everything Hubbard said is to be taken as an aspect of the “technology,” and a whole courseload of documents are gathered into the “Keeping Scientology Working” (KSW) series. Various “policy letters” from the Keeping Scientology Working series appear at the beginning of every major (i.e. more than $100) course. Hubbard’s Technical Degrades is always among them.
It makes clear that not one word that Hubbard said can be excised, but also assures us that more recent work does not supersede earlier.
So, for instance, the Dianetics technique of 1950 was brought back into use in the late 1970s, despite Hubbard’s severe criticism of those very methods in the early 1950s (for instance, “Sometimes people go into a hypnotic trance by accident with this count system … so at the Foundation we no longer use it,” Introducing Dianetics, 10 August 1950).
This is an aspect of the “double bind” that Hubbard approaches in his later False Data Stripping material – contradictory statements tend to increase reliance upon authority. Scientology is jam-packed with such contradictions.
According to Technical Degrades, all material has equal value. The only exception would be material that is rated more important by Hubbard himself, as no one else has the right to determine the relative importance. Otherwise, every statement is of equal value.
Among the “high crimes” listed in the policy letter are these: “1. Abbreviating an official course in Dianetics and Scientology so as to lose the full theory, processes and effectiveness of the subjects. 2. Adding comments to checksheets or instructions labeling any material ‘background’ or ‘not used now’ or ‘old’ or any similar action which will result in the student not knowing, using and applying the data in which he is being trained.”
And: “4. Failing to strike from any checksheet remaining in use meanwhile any such comments as ‘historical,’ ‘background,’ ‘not used,’ ‘old,’ etc., or VERBALLY STATING IT TO STUDENTS.” [emphasis in original].
Lest there be any misunderstanding, the final point is, “10. Acting in any way calculated to lose the technology of Dianetics and Scientology to use or impede its use or shorten its materials or its application.”
So, Hubbard’s words must be taken as literal truth. The earliest statement of Hubbard’s intentions that we have is a 1938 letter addressed to “Skipper,” Hubbard’s pet name for his first wife. Journalist Steve Cannane asked me how I could prove the provenance of this letter and the answer is simple: It was filed at the US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress by Norman Starkey, executor of Hubbard’s estate (“LRH Archives,” Registration number TXu 298-918, 29 October 1987). This letter is vital to any understanding of Hubbard’s motives.
Hubbard tells his first wife, “Personal immortality is only to be gained through the printed word, barred note or painted canvas or hard grabite [sic – granite]. Foolishly perhaps, but determined none the less, I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so violently that it will take a legendary form even if all the books are destroyed. That goal is the real goal as far as I am concerned.”
Here we find the shocking notion that the creator of Scientology did not believe in personal immortality, although he had completed his fabled text Excalibur only a few months before writing this letter.
Hubbard insisted that for anything to persist it must contain a lie – an “alter-isness.” Once the truth of anything has been perceived, it will “as-is” or disappear. So, what is the lie that ensures that Scientology will persist? Perhaps the lie is simply that Hubbard did not believe in the “whole track” or “past lives”?
Asked by Charlie Nairn in 1968 if he believed in reincarnation, Hubbard hesitated noticeably. Charlie then said that Hubbard’s followers believe, and the Old Man of the Sea Org answered in the affirmative without reflection. Nairn’s film – The Shrinking World of L. Ron Hubbard – will make even the most devoted Dev-OT uneasy.
Hubbard did place some aspects of his “technology” above the rest, including the Scientology Axioms. Here we find significant insight into Hubbard’s beliefs. For instance, Axiom 31 assures us, “Goodness and badness, beautifulness and ugliness, are alike considerations and have no other basis than opinion.”
This is quite a blow to the ethics and justice system of Scientology, but it does indicate Hubbard’s view of morality and ethics: just opinions. Hubbard did not feel bound by any ethical code. If someone had annoyed him, they could be lied to, tricked, sued and even destroyed.
What did Hubbard want out of Scientology? As Mark “Marty” Rathbun’s faith in the “tech” began to crumble, he pointed out that Hubbard wanted to be deified. I had come to the same conclusion myself, having examined exactly this point in Blue Sky, first published in 1990 (adding that both Chinese and Roman religions had the notion of immortality conferred by worship). And if Hubbard wanted to be immortalised as a god then the “tech” must be constructed with such apotheosis in mind. Another “alter-is” to make the “tech” persist.
Hubbard believed in the supreme importance of admiration. In Factor 14, he said: “The most valued point is admiration” and at Factor 29: “In the opinion of the viewpoint [the thetan], any beingness, any thing, is better than no thing, any effect is better than no effect, any universe better than no universe, any particle better than no particle, but the particle of admiration is best of all.”
A Messenger told me that by the early 1980s, Hubbard was most interested in the time spent applauding his picture at “events.” John McMaster told me that 15 years earlier, Hubbard was furious that the “World’s First Real Clear” was more popular than he was. Hubbard was deeply insecure. He ignored his own warning in the Code of Honour to “never need praise, approval or sympathy.” He longed to be admired. Even if he did not deserve that admiration.
Hubbard also made his mission on earth very clear when he said, again, in Axiom 10: “The highest purpose in this universe is the creation of an effect.”
Scientologists believe that this effect is their own transformation into living gods with supernatural powers (how sad that it isn’t so!). For Ron Hubbard, however, the “effect” was Scientology itself. He left behind hundreds of millions of dollars and a loyal following of tens of thousands. His myth is even more fantastic than Baron Munchausen’s and will doubtless inspire many fabulous tales in both print and film.
Paulette Cohen – a Class XII who had been Hubbard’s auditor – shunned me thirty years ago when I asked to interview her. She said that by writing about Hubbard – even in a truthful and therefore often negative way – I was fulfilling his desire.
She was right – I have spent several decades increasing Hubbard’s celebrity. I’m not in the least concerned about fulfilling his desire: he deserves to be famous or at least notorious. And by making him famous, we give a warning to the world about flamboyant, boastful people who make outrageous promises in exchange for our cash and our devotion.
Hubbard made his deal with the devil. I don’t think he’ll be coming back any time soon. Unless David Miscavige releases him from the electronic trap in his Trementina hideaway.
— Jon Atack
HowdyCon update: We need you to respond
On Thursday, we had some great Bunker readers leap into the fray when we indicated that we’d lost the organizer of our upcoming meetup in Cleveland, HowdyCon, which takes place June 17-19.
With help from our new volunteers, we secured a great venue for our Saturday night event, which we’re going to make sure will be the centerpiece of the weekend. But now, we need to know who’s coming so we can figure out how to feed you all.
If you’re going to HowdyCon and you plan on joining us Saturday night for our main event, please drop us a line at tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com. Please let us know how many will be in your party. We need that information to cater the affair.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield