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The “Ethics” of Political Power: Scientology’s Worship of Ruthlessness

Simon_BolivarJefferson Hawkins was once the top marketing executive for the Church of Scientology and helped it reach its greatest extent with the famous “volcano” TV ads in the 1980s. He’s told his tale of getting into and out of the church with his excellent books Counterfeit Dreams and Leaving Scientology, and he’s helping us understand the upside-down world of Scientology “ethics.”

Where are we going today in L. Ron Hubbard’s world of ethics, Jeff?

JEFFERSON: This week we have a treat — Scientology leader David Miscavige’s favorite L. Ron Hubbard essay. It’s Chapter 6 of the book Introduction to Scientology Ethics, and it’s called “Responsibilities of Leaders.”

THE BUNKER: Really? Miscavige’s favorite essay?

JEFFERSON: I’m not joking. He had everyone on the Base read it and word clear it many, many times. If you disrespected him in any way you got crammed on it. If you failed to comply with his orders you got crammed on it. And one year, he even sent specially bound copies to all of the top celebrities so they would know what was expected of them.

THE BUNKER: And by “word clearing,” you mean look up every unfamiliar word in a dictionary, a Scientology obsession. So what is this essay about?


JEFFERSON: It’s about power, which, as we covered last week, Hubbard considered to be the highest “Ethics Condition.” Ostensibly, the essay is a book review. Hubbard had read a book called The Four Seasons of Manuela, written in 1952 by Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, which was a biography of Simon Bolivar, the South American revolutionary leader, and his mistress, Manuela Sáenz.

He states at the beginning that he considers that Bolivar and Sáenz “failed.” It’s interesting that a lot of Hubbard’s philosophical ramblings begin with the premise that this or that philosopher or historical figure “failed.” His main yardstick for failure in this case seems to be that they both “died in poverty.” Sure, they achieved their goal of liberating South America, but they didn’t then consolidate their personal power or use it to make a fortune for themselves, their family and close supporters. So in Hubbard’s mind, they failed! He then does a lengthy analysis of what he considered the “errors” of Bolivar and Sáenz.

THE BUNKER: That seems a bit ironic, considering Hubbard’s condition at the end of his own life. What did he see as Bolivar’s failings?

JEFFERSON: In Hubbard’s view, Bolivar was a supremely vain, idealistic man who thought he could “glow things right” but who lacked the practical organizational skills and the ruthlessness to ensure political and personal victory. As an example, he thought Bolivar should have sequestered all of the property of the royalists (those who supported Spain) so that he could give it to his own friends and supporters. And he suggested that Bolivar should have appointed his officers and supporters to all key government positions, thus ensuring complete control of the wealth and power of the nation.

He also suggests that Bolivar should have killed his political enemies. Literally. He says:

[Bolivar] never began to recognize a suppressive and never considered anyone needed killing except on a battlefield.

And he further criticizes Bolivar for not “suborning or taking out” the Catholic Church, which was allied with Spain — and taking all of their property as well.

THE BUNKER: That hardly sounds like an example of a “free” country.

JEFFERSON: Exactly. And by the way, I read the same book but came to totally different conclusions. I think that this essay says far more about Hubbard than it does about Bolivar. One interesting Hubbard criticism of Bolivar is that he didn’t use people. According to Hubbard, he didn’t delegate power to others.

He feared their blunders. So he did not dare unleash his many willing hounds…It is a frightening level of bravery to use men you know can be cruel, vicious and incompetent.

This will take on a more ominous meaning when we get into his criticism of Manuela Sáenz.

THE BUNKER: So what did Manuela do wrong?

JEFFERSON: Here’s where Hubbard’s analysis gets really interesting. Hubbard states that the main problem with Manuela was that Bolivar never used her to forward his agenda. He states that she was a tremendously able and intelligent woman, but that she should have been more aggressive and ruthless in asserting her role in reinforcing Bolivar’s power.

Here are some of Hubbard’s suggestions as to things Manuela failed to do:

She knew for years Santander [Bolivar’s political rival] had to be killed. She said or wrote it every few days. Yet never did she promise some young officer a nice night or a handful of gold to do it in a day when dueling was in fashion

She was a fantastic intelligence officer. But she fed her data to a man who could not act to protect himself or friends, who could only fight armies dramatically. She did not see this and also quietly take on the portfolio of secret police chief…

…she never collected or forged or stole any documents to bring down enemies…

In a land of for-sale Indians, she never used a penny to buy a quick knife or even a solid piece of evidence…

She never handed over any daughter of a family clamoring against her to Negro troops and then said, “Which oververbal family is next?”

So we get a glimpse at what Hubbard meant when he talked about “unleashing willing hounds.” We’ve discussed utilitarian ethics, where the end justifies the means. Here is one of Hubbard’s most bald-faced statements of what he considers legitimate “means:” murder, bribery, forgery, rape, secret police. He concludes:

Life bleeds. It suffers. It hungers. And it has to have the right to shoot its enemies until such time as comes a golden age.

And this – a clear statement of utilitarian ethics:

…the foremost law, if one’s ambition is to win, is of course to win.

THE BUNKER: So if a Scientologist is assigned a Condition of Power, are they supposed to follow these principles?

JEFFERSON: Yes, this is considered part of the “Power Formula.” But aside from conditions formulas, staff and Scientologists are supposed to follow these principles at all times.

Hubbard ends this essay with his “seven principles of power.” I won’t repeat all of them here, but they involve the things he’s been talking about — delegating power and using people to forward your power. There are a couple of points that are especially chilling. One is the famous “Bulgravia” quote:

When you move off a point of power, pay all your obligations on the nail, empower all your friends completely and move off with your pockets full of artillery, potential blackmail on every erstwhile rival, unlimited funds in your private account and the addresses of experienced assassins and go live in Bulgravia and bribe the police.

THE BUNKER: Again with the blackmail, murder, and bribery.

JEFFERSON: Yes. And here is some choice advice if you are in a subordinate position on how to deal with the top dog:

He doesn’t have to know all the bad news and if he’s a power really, he won’t ask all the time, “What are all those dead bodies doing at the door?” And if you are clever, you never let it be thought HE killed them — that weakens you and also hurts the power source. “Well, boss, about all those dead bodies, nobody at all will suppose you did it. She over there, those pink legs sticking out, didn’t like me.”

“Pink legs” became a meme in the Sea Org. You got the stats up any way you could, and any questions about how the stats were raised were answered with “pink legs,” meaning “you don’t want to know.” You complied with Miscavige’s orders any way you could, and the methods you used were “pink legs.”

And finally this bit of self-serving advice:

…always push power in the direction of anyone on whose power you depend. It may be more money for the power or more ease or a snarling defense of the power to a critic or even the dull thud of one of his enemies in the dark or the glorious blaze of the whole enemy camp as a birthday surprise.

And that’s how you’re supposed to support Hubbard or Miscavige — get him more money, snarl at his critics, and destroy his enemies. It’s the ultimate authoritarian rule.

THE BUNKER: Well, that is a very eye-opening look at what is supposedly Scientology’s highest ethics condition.

JEFFERSON: You often hear Scientologists describe themselves as “the most ethical group on the planet.” When you hear that, you have to understand that this is what they are talking about. It is utilitarian ethics gone wild. And you can see why this is David Miscavige’s favorite essay, the one that he has people study over and over, and even sends to celebrities. Scientologists are supposed to “push power to power,” that is, to support the power of David Miscavige no matter what. Here’s Hubbard again:

Real powers are developed by tight conspiracies of this kind pushing someone up in whose leadership they have faith…All failures to remain a power’s power are failures to contribute to the strength and longevity of the work, health and power of that power.


Posted by Tony Ortega on November 21, 2013 at 07:00

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