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The History of Scientology’s Weird Vaults — The Bizarre Battlefield Earth Connection!

Trementina Base's "Vault House," a prop that covers up the vault entrance itself.

Trementina Base’s “Vault House,” a prop that covers up the vault entrance itself.

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.

THE BUNKER: Jon, new photography of the Trementina Base in New Mexico has people talking about Scientology’s vaults again. The underground vaults are built and operated by a church entity known as the Church of Spiritual Technology, or CST. Shelly Miscavige’s mysterious existence — probably at CST’s HQ in the mountains above LA — also has the press talking about CST.

CST is a weird animal when it comes to the rest of the Scientology organization. As you pointed out last week, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard left a huge amount of money to CST when he died in 1986 — half a billion dollars — plus the copyrights and trademarks to his works, and that makes CST a key entity. But CST’s actual activities — building vaults to store copies of Hubbard’s works so they survive a nuclear holocaust — are bizarre and very separate from the rest of the church. We wanted to try and trace the reasons why. With your help, and that of a surprise guest, we were stunned by what we learned — and we’ve saved the best for last.

ScientologyMythbustingThe operation of these vault facilities in California, New Mexico, and now Wyoming almost seem quaint. The New Mexico property, for example, is basically set in amber. One house which is essentially a prop to cover up the vault entrance, and another, larger house that sits empty while waiting for LRH to return. One or two CST employees live at the place, while the rest of it just sits dormant. Marc Headley tells us that the archive project — to put Hubbard’s words on steel plates and his lectures on gold discs — was completed long ago, and those materials may only take up small portions in each of the vaults.

JON: CST got the money because it seemed the most likely to gain tax exemption. The money can then be shuffled about, just as it is between the hundreds of other corporations which make up the fictitious entity known as the Church of Scientology. Although Scientology’s lawyer, Sherman Lenske, registered CST, it has been run by various executives of that fictitious church — at the outset by Lyman Spurlock, Maria Starkey, and Rebecca Hay, who all had positions in other Scientology entities. Maria Starkey, wife of Norman, was the receptionist (!) at Author Services, Inc. (Hubbard’s literary agency), before joining the board of CST. Rebecca Hay had also been at ASI. I suspect that the usual practice of taking undated, signed resignations from board members, lest they suddenly become Suppressive, worked for CST just as it does for the other entities.

I think that CST was initially a way of channeling money out of the “religious” corporations to Hubbard, one of many back doors established over the years.


THE BUNKER: Last year, with the help of the only former CST employee ever to give a press interview, Dylan Gill, we published a lengthy piece about CST, with maps to all of its vaults. Now, another facility is being built in Wyoming. Some of the CST facilities have vaults, some do not, and three of them feature giant CST logos (interlocking rings) visible from the air. (Gill told us the logos were designed to help L. Ron Hubbard’s returning “thetan” — or spirit — find its way home.)

CST's properties: 1. The CST Headquarters compound, which has a vault. 2. Creston Ranch, where L. Ron Hubbard lived his final days (CST logo, but no vault). 3. Lady Washington Mine (vault only). 4. Petrolia, CA (logo and vault). 5. Trementina Base, New Mexico (logo and vault). 6. Sweeney Ranch, Wyoming (under construction).

CST’s properties: 1. The CST Headquarters compound, which has a vault. 2. Creston Ranch, where L. Ron Hubbard lived his final days (CST logo, but no vault). 3. Lady Washington Mine (vault only). 4. Petrolia, CA (logo and vault). 5. Trementina Base, New Mexico (logo and vault). 6. Sweeney Ranch, Wyoming (under construction).

Meanwhile, the crises gripping Scientology are about as far away from those vaults as can be: Miscavige and his Ideal Orgs, Super Power, and donation fatigue, all centered at Flag, the spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. That’s the story of Scientology today, not sleepy CST.

But why is CST digging these vaults anyway? That’s something no one ever seems to explain. But we think we have a clue.

There’s a hint of it in the 1938 letter you excerpted here last week, which Hubbard wrote to his first wife, Polly. Look again at these words: “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.” (Emphasis ours.)

JON: Exactly what I meant to say.

THE BUNKER: Isn’t that an odd sentiment to include in a letter to your wife? Not only the notion of smashing your name into history, but the idea that the world’s books — its knowledge — are somehow threatened?

JON: Hubbard is a godsend for anyone wanting to study the narcissistic personality. He couldn’t restrain himself, not simply when talking to his wife. His recommendation of Bolitho’s Twelve Against the Gods as his “favorite book” should scare anyone who continues to believe in him. As I said in Blue Sky, if it had been written after WWII, Bolitho would definitely have included Hitler. Hubbard wanted to be celebrated. And I’ve been happy to oblige.

THE BUNKER: Fast forward to 1945, and the post-war Hubbard is struggling to find something to do after his discharge. It’s at that time that he, apparently with some involvement from Robert Heinlein, began promoting a notion he called “The Federation of Atomic Scientists.” By 1951, Hubbard was calling the scheme “Allied Scientists of the World,” and the FBI was looking into it, as detailed in some fine research by Caroline Letkeman.

JON: Very interesting. Hubbard was a prolific starter of scams (though not so good at finishing his “cycles of action” but, as he pointed out, this is characteristic of anti-social personalities).

THE BUNKER: A news clipping from the time describes the plan, which comes off sounding like a simple shake-down attempt of scientists gullible enough to be interested in Hubbard’s scheme. But what caught our eye was this line about one thing the Allied Scientists were supposedly planning…

Also the organization announced it planned to compile and build an atomproof library of vital scientific information, and to take a hand in the government’s plans for civil defense. Solicited scientists were told the organization, once it got going full steam, would be turned over to the United Nations.

So Hubbard, at least as early as 1951, had the idea of constructing an underground vault to protect the world’s scientific knowledge — or at least, he saw the value in such an idea to get money from other people.

As far as we can tell, Jon, this idea died in 1952, and it was never brought up as something Scientology might get involved in. Not until, that is, Hubbard ordered the corporate reorganization of Scientology in the early 1980s while he was in seclusion.

JON: He came and went with various anti-nuclear options, including “Dianazene,” a pill purported to protect against radiation damage, which brought unwelcome attention from the FDA (and resurfaced in the Purification Rundown). Maybe he was trying to complete this “cycle of action,” after all. Though the only significant material would be his own, because, as he somewhat immodestly said, his was the only advance in the field of the mind in 50,000 years (what advance happened then, he failed to tell us).

THE BUNKER: So in 1982, CST is born as one of the new entities of Scientology’s byzantine corporate structure, and it has the task of digging vaults and storing not the world’s scientific knowledge, but Hubbard’s “technology” for safekeeping. It seems utterly disconnected from what Scientology had been doing for 30 years at that point.

JON: What a fantastic way to move money around, though. The Orgs all accumulate debt to those above them — so Saint Hill, for instance, has been practically bankrupt for most of its existence, because it cannot meet the charges for training its personnel. The money was moved out of the “mother church” — the Church of Scientology of California — before the Wollersheim case closed. The properties are owned by the Building Investment Committee — after CST the only corporation to be substantially in credit (and they’ve made some very bad investments, over the years). But a project with many sub-contractors would be ideal, if you wanted to move cash around. Amazing how expensive titanium boxes for storing steel etchings can be. Of course, the gold will have peeled off the laser discs long before the promised “forever,” and the first project was undertaken before DVD technology (whoops).

THE BUNKER: Most Scientologists we’ve talked to, whether in or out of the church, give hardly a thought to CST. “Yes, the archive project,” is about all they’ll say, like it’s something the church just does like pay its electric bill.

CST, it seems to us, is one of the most spectacular, bizarre enterprises in the history of American “religion” — at the same time that it is completely unimportant and disconnected from the crises that are tearing apart Scientology.


The CST logo, carved into the desert at the Trementina Base, New Mexico

The CST logo, carved into the desert at the Trementina Base, New Mexico

JON: I couldn’t agree more. It is a bizarre story. Imagine the followers of Mary Baker Eddy building a facility to store all of her work. Well, yes, just like Scientology it would go on a single hard drive, but, heck, let’s dig up the desert, so that when Elron Elray comes back with the mothership, he’ll be able to remember what he’s already said. The Buddha had a rather different take. He said that it didn’t matter if all the dhamma were to be lost, because it is true, so will be rediscovered. Krishnamurti’s followers boasted that his teachings would never be lost, because they had videoed his lectures. Krishnamurti, however, seemed to think that rather than following anyone, it is better to observe your own mind…

THE BUNKER: We are aware that some researchers believe that the vaults are being prepared for some kind of end-of-the-world scenario where the top church executives can scramble to be sealed underground, along with the church’s celebrities, who have purchased space in the vaults. It’s nutty stuff, and it just doesn’t fit with the actual evidence — we’ve seen little indication that Scientologists are “preppers,” or that John Travolta and Tom Cruise are awaiting the signal to burrow underground.

JON: I like the idea of putting the Scientology celebrities in a vault. Don’t knock it.

THE BUNKER: The other thing that excites some people is the identities of CST’s directors, and a notion that the IRS or the CIA “took over” Scientology in the mid 1980s while Hubbard was in seclusion through CST’s shadowy leadership. It’s in the CST’s bylaws, for example, that for a payment of $100, CST could take back the use of the trademarks and copyrights from the Religious Technology Center — RTC essentially runs Scientology day to day. So with that kind of leverage, are the unknown directors of CST the real power behind the organization?

Well, we have some interesting news. Because CST is actively working on a new facility in Wyoming, it was required to apply for status with Wyoming’s Secretary of State. And because of that, we now have the current list of directors and officers of CST:

President: Russell Bellin, Secretary: Jane McNairn, Treasurer: Arthur Bolstad

And the three directors are the same: Russell Bellin, Jane McNairn, Arthur Bolstad

We have previously reported that Bellin, the Commanding Officer of CST, spent years in “The Hole” — Scientology’s bizarre office-prison at the International Base near Hemet. Miscavige, we are assured, wields similar control over the other two, McNairn and Bolstad.

So are these the people with the secret power to usurp David Miscavige and take over Scientology?

DENISE BRENNAN: That goose chase you’re on — that’s what we tried to make people do, lead them to follow that paper trail and think they were on to something. The people who think they’re following the power of control by looking at the lists of directors for CST are falling for the sham we set up.

THE BUNKER: Thanks for joining the discussion, Denise. If there’s anyone who understands what the Scientology corporate “sort-out” was all about in the early 1980s, it was you. You were the one overseeing the drawing up of the corporate bylaws and creating these entities as a member of the Watchdog Committee and prior to that. So please, tell us about the creation of CST, and what its purpose was.

DENISE: CST was designed to be the final backup when everything else went down. It was something that was supposed to be completely off the command lines, even more than RTC. So if a local org was sued on a fraud claim, and that lawsuit somehow managed to rope in CSI (the Church of Scientology International), and then even RTC — taking years to get there legally — well guess what, there would be one entity that you could never get to: CST. You could never get to CST because it wasn’t giving any orders.

THE BUNKER: So it was designed to be a final, untouchable entity in case everything else collapsed.

DENISE: If RTC was removed, all we had to do was pay the 100 dollars, and CST could pull the trademarks. It’s the ultimate protection. If you put all the church’s money into CST, how would anyone get to it? If there was a $100 million judgment against the LA Org, and it somehow got to CSI and RTC, how the hell would it get to CST?

THE BUNKER: It’s just a protection scheme.

DENISE: I think the mistake people make is thinking that there’s some brilliance in this setup. It was only created to protect the assets.

THE BUNKER: So the apparent layers of control — the officers, directors, trustees, special directors…

DENISE: All a sham. The special directors — they had no authority. It looks like they have power, but they have no power at all. Pursuant to the CST bylaws the primary things they were charged with looking into were ensuring that CST qualified for tax benefits. And the regular directors who had to be Scientologists in good standing could overrule them at will. Throughout organized corporate Scientology we had undated resignation letters from all corporate trustees, directors, and officers. We used to go up to directors with meeting minutes already typed up and have them sign them without reading them. All of the corporate papers and layers of directors — it’s all just a scam that has nothing to do with who really runs Scientology. Who runs Scientology is David Miscvaige, and he controls it through the Sea Organization.

THE BUNKER: In 2002, former Scientology spokesman Robert Vaughn Young prepared an affidavit for a court hearing, and in that affidavit he said the same thing you are (here’s our 2008 story about it). He used Scientology’s own documents to prove that the Sea Org — which has no legal corporate existence — has the power to take over any Scientology entity with no notice whatsoever. And the person who has the highest rank in the Sea Org is David Miscavige. The morning that affidavit was going to be introduced in a court hearing in Los Angeles in May 2002, the church, which had been fighting Lawrence Wollersheim for more than 20 years, suddenly showed up with a check for almost $9 million to prevent the hearing from happening and to end the case.

DENISE: Vaughn pegged it. He was exactly right.

THE BUNKER: OK, so CST is a final shell to protect assets, but why the hell is it digging vaults? Where did that idea come from?

DENISE: Steve Marlow was my superior when I was on the initial corporate sort-out missions before I took it over from him. When we were coming up with CST, he had me read Battlefield Earth. The story referred to underground bunkers of previous civilizations. I was told that that was what we were going to be doing.

THE BUNKER: Wait a minute. CST’s goofy vaults come from BATTLEFIELD EARTH?


"That's first intelligent thing I've heard yet" -- Terl

“That’s the first intelligent thing you’ve said yet!” — Terl

DENISE: Steve didn’t say that Hubbard had given the order, but clearly he had. I was told to read Battlefield Earth, during study time, and to get an idea of the underground vaults and how the tech was going to be preserved against anything. I don’t know if it was just a scam by Hubbard, but everyone accepted it. OK, we need to build underground vaults, so let’s get it done.

THE BUNKER: Battlefield Earth had just been published, in 1982, when CST was created. And the vaults, from the beginning, the idea was just to preserve Hubbard’s ideas for future generations?

DENISE: Yeah. The vaults in Battlefield Earth maybe were an imperfect analogy. We weren’t planning for a doomsday so 50 people could live in the vaults and run the world from bunkers. It was to preserve the tech, not house people.

THE BUNKER: You’re an amazing help, Denise. And now we know why CST digs holes in the ground. Because Jonnie Goodboy Tyler needs somewhere to store Dianetics against the invasion of the Psychlos.


Karen de la Carriere on OSA and PR Spin!

Another great video from Karen de la Carriere, J. Swift, and Angry Gay Pope — made in Hollywood, California!




After a long delay, Janet Reitman’s 2011 hardcover, Inside Scientology, has finally come out in paperback! Go here to read our original review of the book, and our interview with Janet. And you don’t have long to wait for Jenna Miscavige Hill’s memoir, Beyond Belief, to follow suit (on September 17), and Lawrence Wright’s great history, Going Clear, on November 5!


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 31, 2013 at 07:00

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