Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Jon Atack puts it to Scientologists — did L. Ron Hubbard have the qualities of a leader?

HubbardThinksJon 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.

This week, Jon weighs the qualities of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and finds him wanting.

JON: Christians teach the imitation of Christ and Buddhists look to Siddhartha Gautama as their role model. Before I left Scientology, I knew that Hubbard did not embody every virtue. I also knew that we project virtue into our heroes and awfulness into our villains. But, for the first few years of my involvement, I did imagine that Hubbard would be utterly virtuous, as he claimed to be Maitreya or Metteya, the future Buddha, who in one lifetime would lead all of humanity to nirvana. Yet another prophecy that failed.

When Peter Warren gave a talk at Birmingham Org, back in about 1981, I realized that Hubbard fell short of my ideal human being, and was certainly no Buddha. Warren told us about his first encounter with Hubbard, aboard ship. In traditional Sea Org fashion, he was punished on the day he arrived. He was let down over the side of the ship on a plank, attached by two ropes, with no safety harness or, indeed, safety apparatus of any kind.

The hours went by, and Warren slapped more paint onto the hull. Night fell, and he struggled on, in the dark, until a voice boomed out asking what he was doing. Now, I expected my hero, Hubbard, to order Warren brought aboard, lest he tumble unnoticed into the briny deeps, but, in fact, Hubbard simply ordered that the floodlights be put on. I was disappointed, because I believe that compassion is the primary virtue, and there was none on display here.

ScientologyMythbustingA little over a year later, I hired a high-ranking Sea Org officer, who was on leave, to help in my business. I was shocked when he took my then wife into our tiny office and screamed at her without pause for ten minutes. He accused her of “suppressing” me, of having “evil intentions” and the like, but it was the blistering attack in his voice that scared me. Because I believed not only in Scientology, but in the good reputation of this former Hubbard aide, I did not stop him. It took me three days of careful thinking to realize that there could be no justification for burning a person down to the ground with fury. It was directly and evidently “suppressive” to humiliate anyone in this barbarous way. Because of his high status in the cult, I was apprehensive about tackling my friend, as if he might report me (the shadow of “Ethics” lurks inside every Scientologist). I asked him where the policy was that supported such abusive behaviour.


Rather than berating me, as I half expected, his head sank into his hands and he cried. I had known him for five years, but I had never seen him cry before. He admitted that there was nothing in writing. I undoubtedly cited Hubbard’s “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true,” and asked where he had learned this dehumanising terror tactic. “From Hubbard,” he said. “He does it all the time.”

My heroes are more like the Buddha. My ideal is emotional equilibrium. Rage would not be any part of that ideal. I have never admired it. My then wife, who was experienced and successful, never sold another painting after that “severe reality adjustment.” Up until that time, she had sold about two hundred, so I had little doubt about the inefficacy of the “tech” that had been used.

I met Harvey Haber, soon after I left the cult, in November 1983. He was devoted to Hubbard, but mortified me with his matter of fact stories about Hubbard’s rage. His own first meeting with the Great OT was during filming, when he failed to snap a window shutter to in the barn/studio, at the required moment. Hubbard screamed obscenities at him. Harvey told me this story with fondness bordering on reverence, but I was again dismayed to realize that Hubbard was a creature of rage not reason.

When I found that Hubbard did lose his temper hourly, and that a teenage Messenger might be sent to the RPF labour camp for failing to hand his next lit cigarette to him, I decided that I wanted nothing more to do with any subject created by such an intemperate man. Scientology did not make Hubbard a good man, but instead a despot, a martinet, and a tyrant. Since that time, I have confirmed his daily rages with tens of witnesses. This is perhaps why there was no longer anyone in the Sea Org who could stop David Miscavige, because he is as mean-tempered as Hubbard, and no one had retained enough “self-determinism” to stand up to him. They fell into line, chucked their fellows in the fetid lake, played musical chairs and lived in the Hole, exactly as their commandant ordered. Because they had become followers, which is surely the true intent of the “Tech.”

I joined Scientology with the hope that it would bring me emotional equanimity. If it hadn’t worked on Hubbard, then how on earth could it work on me? The truth is that after nine years of training and auditing — I was a Class II auditor and on OT V when I left — I was far less calm than I had been when I began.

There are many other ways in which Hubbard was not a hero. Gerry Armstrong, who has revealed the extent of Hubbard’s deceptions, despite the serious risk to his own well being, has been pilloried by Free Zoners, who are obsessed with a conspiracy to discredit Hubbard to such an extent that they fail to see the massive contradictions in his autobiographies. It isn’t necessary to go to the Armstrong documents — although some of the most damning have been copyrighted by the cult, by way of authentication — simply look out the various autobiographies analysed in Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky, and be courageous enough to look out the references.

Hubbard expanded upon his claims at every stage. He pretended to have studied with gurus in India, Tibet and China; headed “expeditions”; qualified as a “nuclear physicist” and had been a war hero. None of these claims is true. All can be rebutted from Hubbard’s own published writings. He expanded his autobiography from year to year, and these autobiographies are in the public record. For instance, with the publication of Buckskin Brigades, Hubbard said the material about the Pikuni Blackfoot people came from someone who had actually met them and related his experiences to Hubbard. By the time he wrote the preface to Mission Into Time, thirty years later, he had become a “blood brother” of the Pikuni at the age of four. As Hubbard said, “the road to truth” must be trod with “true steps.” He also said “honesty is sanity.” Judged by his own criterion, he was a mad as a loon.

As I have often pointed out, Hubbard was a self-confessed multiple drug abuser. He recommended amphetamines frequently in early lectures (benzedrine has not been censored out of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health yet, either). He admitted addiction to phenobarbital, and faked a prescription for more of this powerful hypnotic drug, 20 years after he was first prescribed this powerful hypnotic for his “war wounds” (an ulcer, as he admitted in a published 1940s interview). He drank heavily, according to several close associates, and chain-smoked 120 cigarettes a day, complaining to the Messengers that he could not give up the habit.

As to the “second dynamic,” Hubbard abandoned the children of his first marriage, when Nibs was eight and Katy six. He paid no more toward their support, even when receiving full Navy pay. He abandoned his second wife, and abducted their year-old daughter, keeping her for three months, until his second wife withdrew her allegations of mistreatment and torture and signed a waiver. Twenty years later, Hubbard wrote to his daughter, Alexis — to whom Science of Survival was originally dedicated — and denied paternity. Again, he paid nothing toward her support, until a pay off was made, after his death.

The fate of his third family is similarly awful. Quentin killed himself, despite the benefits of the full Scientology Bridge. He was a Class XII auditor and as full an OT as it was possible to be. Diana has certainly not had a happy career, unable to realize her talents as a musician. Suzette and Arthur seem to have withdrawn from Scientology. Whichever way, Hubbard spent little time with his children and a great deal of time on vacation in exotic climes.

As a teenager, I spent a couple of days in a Zen monastery, and the Abbot there advised me not to join any group where the least member had nothing that I wanted. I’m sure he would have agreed that belonging to a group where the leader has no quality that you want would be a very bad idea indeed.


Kirstie unplugged

When we visited Claudio and Renata Lugli in Italy, they showed us not only the photos of Shelly Miscavige that we’ve been making public here at the Underground Bunker over the last year, but also some fascinating shots of Kirstie Alley. In previous years, the actress was very close to the Lugli family, including the two sons, Tiziano and Flavio. (Only Flavio remains in Scientology, and has disconnected from the rest of the family.)

Last night, Tiziano Lugli made one of the family photos of Kirstie Alley public on Facebook, and we thought you’d want to see it…


The photo (Tiziano says it was taken in 2003) reminds us of something Jason Beghe told us — that he loved Kirstie, who he said was one of his favorite people in Scientology. And from this photo and others owned by the Luglis that we’ve seen, we get the idea that Kirstie is really warm and fun-loving in person.

But it’s a shame that she turns away from people who leave her church.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 22, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email