Once again our great tipsters come through, and we just want again to express our gratitude. We’re deep into several big projects that we expect to turn into good things down the road, so for now we appreciate all the help we get from our great correspondents. (Speaking of big projects, these dog days of summer will soon end, and Scientology is going to have a very interesting autumn. We know of at least four major newspaper pieces coming, two television series, and several books, and that’s all on top of Louis Theroux’s movie, coming out in Australia in September and the UK in October. It’s going to be some cornucopia at harvest time this year!)
Today’s treat comes courtesy of a correspondent who pores through old newspaper files, tracking down things for us that may have been overlooked. He turned up a real gem this week, and we wanted to share it with you.
It’s a rare interview of L. Ron Hubbard conducted on the yacht Royal Scotman in 1968, before the ship was renamed the Apollo. The ship was docked in the Tunisian port city of Bizerte (spelled Bizerta in the article), and Daily Mail reporter Peter Smith tracked Hubbard down there for this August 6, 1968 article.
Later that same month, a television interview of Hubbard on the ship was featured on Granada TV’s World in Action program, titled “The Shrinking World of L. Ron Hubbard.” If you’re familiar with that program, you’ll see that Peter Smith got some similar responses to his questions. But in other ways, this print interview went into some interesting areas the TV program did not.
Jon Atack mentions this Daily Mail story in his 1990 book A Piece of Blue Sky, but the article itself doesn’t appear to be online. So again, thank you tipster for tracking it down.
At the time, Scientology was going through a very controversial time in England. Hubbard, feeling the heat, had left the country the year before, and had become “Commodore” as he ran Scientology from his small armada of three ships in the Mediterranean. Foreign students continued to pour into England and studied at Saint Hill Manor, and by 1968 the government was trying to figure out how to kick them out. With that controversy reaching a fever pitch back home, the Daily Mail wanted to know what Hubbard thought of it.
Mail talks to Scientology man on his yacht in Bizerta
At the court of Ron Hubbard
From Peter Smith: Bizerta, Monday
Lafayette Ron Hubbard, the Boss of all the Scientologists, is alive and well and living in Bizerta, Tunisia.
He is living very well indeed in the luxury of his 3,300-ton yacht Royal Scotman and today, in an elegant wood-panelled cabin, he spoke freely for the first time about the British Government’s recent curb on Scientology.
He spoke for 2 1/2 hours into the early hours and covered, among other things, Health Minister Kenneth Robinson, Home Secretary James Callaghan, money and his visits to Heaven and Venus.
Mr. Hubbard demolished the possibility of a public inquiry into Scientology practices.
“Public inquiry? No, nonsense. Don’t you go saying I want a public inquiry.”
He chain-smoked menthol cigarettes, fidgeted nervously in a large black leather chair. He taped the conversation.
On his desk was a sextant; behind him 16 war service miniature medals in a glass case. He wore his commodore’s cap throughout, sipping Coke and lemon from glasses engraved with the crest of the New York Explorers’ Club.
Outside, Scientologists, some in uniform and some young children, stood rigidly to attention. Inside, a girl staff photographer took pictures of the private audience.
Mr. Hubbard’s mood ranged from the boastful — “You’d be fascinated how many friends of mine there are in the British Government” — to the menacing: “I get intelligence reports from England. You’d be surprised at the dirty washing I have got.”
Sometimes he was charming. “I appear to have trod on your buttons. I personally apologize.”
Sometimes he pleaded a kind of poverty: “Scientology owes me $13 million. It is the only thing I’ve gotten out of this.
“I’ve only got a very small amount in Switzerland, 100,000 francs. I don’t even know how much that is worth.”
Yes, he had sold his name to the Scientology movement for a “large amount,” but it has never been paid, he said.
£100,000? “About that.”
Throughout, Mr. Hubbard insisted he was no longer connected with Scientology despite the telex reports from the East Grinstead headquarters before him.
Mr. Robinson, the Health Minister, he said, would have more influence with Scientologists than he would.
He disputed Mr. Robinson’s claim of anti-social behaviour by Scientologists.
“Why hold me responsible for the aberrations of the modern world? I didn’t aberrate the world.”
He said: “Mr. Callaghan is costing the country millions of dollars keeping Scientologists out.”
But Mr. Hubbard would not deny the more specific allegations of the Daily Mail of Scientology orders splitting up husbands, wives and families. He said after a lengthy pause: “I haven’t got any real answer to that. If you say it’s true, it’s true.”
And on recruiting literature citing successes with mental patients: “If someone has released such a thing it is contrary to policy I laid down.”
As if in explanation, he added: “You cannot stop time. You cannot stop new ideas. What people do with my writing they do with my writing.”
Mr. Hubbard — “My name inspires public confidence. I’m persona grata everywhere” — has no immediate plans to return to Britain. He says he is abroad for health reasons and because “I was too many years in England.”
He is probably remaining in Bizerta for a few more weeks.
He insisted: “If I wanted to return to Britain, I’d walk in the front gate, and the Customs officer would say, ‘Hello, Mr. Hubbard.’ That’s how it’s always been, and it always will.”
Mr. Hubbard spoke more reluctantly of his trips farther afield, to Heaven, Venus and elsewhere in the Universe.
Of his trip to Venus he said, modestly: “Lots of people have seen Venus.”
He had discovered “Part of the genetic trace there.”
And on Heaven: “Like a bush garden in Pasadena,” he once reported. [Underground Bunker note: Hubbard actually wrote “Like Busch Gardens in Pasadena,” a specific theme park there in those days, which the Daily Mail might have been unfamiliar with.]
“My dear sir, you’re running the risk of boring me.” And then more sharply: “”They were never released, you know, these visits to Heaven. They were on confidential papers. They vanished from Saint Hill [the Scientology headquarters at East Grinstead].
“You can always find the bizarre in any subject. Any level of research contains the bizarre. But I haven’t said Scientology is bizarre.”
Mr. Hubbard said all documents in possession of the Daily Mail were forgeries, and as near to the truth as “describing a zebra in terms of a palm tree.”
He knew, he said, because he had seen them. He had spies or “friends” everywhere. He had looked through the files page by page, he said. No one was outside the scope of his intelligence network.
As he finished talking he shook hands and smiled broadly.
Outside in the corridor his followers were still there — still standing rigidly to attention.
A letter has been sent to Mr. Hubbard explaining why Mr. Callaghan will not let him back into Britain, the Home Office said yesterday.
More than 200 foreign Scientology students are being told by the Home Office to get out of Britain by the end of the month.
Hundreds more, mainly Americans, will be told to go over the next few weeks when they apply for extensions to their stay.
If they do not go, they will be deported.
The council at Croydon, Surrey, is to stand by its agreement to let Scientologists hold a three-day national congress at a municipal hall in the town.
A Dutch Scientologist, 42-year-old Evert Doeve, was ordered to leave Britain within seven days by East Grinstead magistrates yesterday. He pleaded guilty to staying in the country unlawfully after July 18. He was fined £20.
It’s interesting to see that Hubbard did not deny the contents of his trips to “Heaven,” only that they were supposed to be secret. He described his two visits to heaven in a 1963 bulletin, saying that he had gone there 43 trillion years ago, and then again 42 trillion years ago. (Or, in Hubbard’s amusing exactitude, “42,681,459,477,315 years, 132 days, 18 hours, 20 minutes and 15 seconds from 11:02½ PM Daylight Greenwich Time May 9, 1963.” Gosh, that e-meter sure is a precise instrument!)
It’s fun to compare the responses he gave here to the filmmakers at Granada TV’s World in Action for a program that came out later that month.
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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