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Jon Atack: The games L. Ron Hubbard played

Jon_AtackJon 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 a year on Saturdays he helped 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. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

Jon, we’re tickled that your column this time was prompted by a response one of our readers made to a previous piece. We really do have a great commenting community here. So please take us on another exploration of Scientology lore…

JON: Some months ago, an astute reader pointed to some of Hubbard’s comments about games. I copied the note, but not the reader’s name, so I apologize for that, because credit is due for pointing out one of the most important Hubbard admissions, in the welter of chatter, contradiction, and misdirection that constitutes the work of Our Founder. I had to hunt out the specific lecture, which deals with the “caste system of games.” It is Philadelphia Doctorate Course lecture 39. The astute reader had this to say: “It contains some priceless insight into how Ron viewed other people, structured his organizations, and generally ran Scientology.” And he (or she) was so right.

On a historical note, Hubbard assigned all of his rights in Dianetics, including the book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, to Don Purcell, the Kansas oilman who had bailed out the original foundation, after Hubbard had spent all the money. Hubbard and Purcell believed that Dianetics would be lost in bankruptcy. Neither had predicted that the rights would be offered by the court, and Purcell was there to buy them, for a few hundred dollars. Hubbard had his new “business manager,” one James Elliot, steal the Kansas Foundation’s mailing lists, and poured forth a stream of over 30 letters, whining about his fortunes and pleading for people to leave Dianetics and join his new venture. He was not very successful.

Because Dianetics was gone, Hubbard had to think of something new. That something was Scientology, which came into being at the start of 1952. The famed Philadelphia Doctorate Course lectures were delivered at the end of the year. Dianetics had swept the US as a craze, with 150,000 sales of the book, before the publisher withdrew it as fraudulent. By the time of the PDC, only 38 people could be persuaded to part with their money.

Scientology was not drawn from whole cloth, but much of it has a single and sinister source. Hubbard had distanced himself from reincarnation in Science of Survival, suggesting that others had introduced the topic (just as he would pretend that he didn’t register the first “Church” of Scientology, which he did, in Camden, New Jersey, in December 1953). Hubbard had been an avid fan of Sex Magickian, Aleister Crowley, for some time, and he drew heavily on Crowley’s ideas, for Scientology. He makes direct reference to his “very good friend” Crowley in the PDC lectures, although they never met and when Crowley heard of Hubbard and Parsons’ attempts to conjure the diabolic Scarlet Woman in an OTO ritual, he wrote about the “idiocy of these louts” (and it is “louts” not “goats” as some authors have reported).

Early on, and heavily influenced by a diet of booze, barbiturates and speed, Hubbard simply grabbed at Crowley’s ideas and wove them into a new “science” to replace the lost Dianetics. Unlike other scientists, he did not bother with any experimental trials. Ultimately, Purcell returned those rights to Dianetics — stimulating Dianetics 55! — but in the meanwhile, Hubbard needed inspiration and Crowley provided it.

Hubbard was never much of a scholar, so most of the ideas can be found in a single volume — Magick in Theory and Practice — which Hubbard, ever deceptive, calls The Master Therion, in a PDC lecture. This was actually Crowley’s “magical name,” not the title of any book (for the curious, the lectures which mention Crowley are numbered 18, 35 and 40). I have documented the plagiarisms long since in Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology. Some other time, I will perhaps talk more about the influence of Crowley’s Book of Thoth and the importance of the Fool and the Empress in the tarot deck, which is analysed in that book — or indeed the use of the crossed out Christian cross on the back of those cards, which was adopted by Hubbard for his Scientology (along with the lisped word “satan” to describe the human spirit). But I digress.

In those early days, before his ducks were in a row, Hubbard often explained principles that he would soon hide. He told us that for anything to persist, it must contain a lie, and Scientology contains some real whoppers — for instance the idea that it is for our benefit, rather than solely for Hubbard’s. The same openness was true for his early statements about hypnosis, examined ad nauseum in my most important paper, Never Believe a Hypnotist.

At the beginning of Scientology, Hubbard let slip some highly significant ideas, which are the true foundation of this pretend science (oddly, the word Scientology was first coined to mean “pretend science”). Marty Rathbun has recently cognited (forgive me) that Hubbard intended to elevate himself to godhood. In this PDC lecture he explained how he would achieve this end.

Here is a tad more of PDC 39 than our astute reader shared, though he found the most relevant passages, a little later: “The aberration above time is ‘there must be a game’ … So, you have the Un-maker of Games quite as important as the Maker of Games. Now, we get ‘the rules of the game are as follows: limitations on self and others, obedience to rules, unconsciousness of rules and reality’ — we pretend the rules are real. ‘ARC [affinity] with others to play. Pain as a penalty which will be obeyed … ‘” In this game, suffering is just the penalty, exactly as Mary Baker Eddy had taught — pain is an illusion. It only hurts because we believe it hurts. Though when Hubbard fell off his motorbike, 20 years after dismissing pain, he most certainly screamed and demanded painkillers. He continues, “Agreement to rules and penalties is necessary to continue a game…”

Here Hubbard has put forward his basic notion that life is a game and that we “satans” are playing that game. Similar ideas can be found in mythology. Indeed, that great expositor of mythology, Joseph Campbell, had much the same to say, though he didn’t exploit people with the idea. The truth is that like anyone else, Hubbard didn’t think it was much of a game when he hit his thumb with a hammer, but, high on uppers and downers, and speaking to his devotees, he was above the world. In private, he was devoured by envy and rage, as many of his personal slaves would discover over the remaining thirty years of his life, but in public he was as cool as a cucumber: the Clear has to pretend that he’s OK pour encourager les autres, as the “Open Letter to Clears” explains, and Hubbard kept his violent emotions off the stage, where life did indeed become a game.

He goes on, in PDC 39, to talk about the “Peculiarity or liability of a maker of games, people attempting to play the game of Maker of Games. It is a game itself … There is a game called freedom, which is what you’re playing right at this minute.” Bear in mind that your freedom is only a game. “And games contain trickery and misdirection to win – your 180 degree vector of Have and Agree.”

Here Hubbard has explained the Game of Scientology. He is the Maker of the Game and it certainly does include “trickery and misdirection”… For instance, it only takes a moment’s thought to realize that believing everything that someone else says and doing everything that they direct is not “self-determinism,” but, in this case the “180 degree vector” of Ron-determinism, yet I spent nine years in that condition — Ron-determinism — without understanding the painfully obvious reality. Eventually, I decided to Not Have Scientology and to Disagree, and thereby became far more self-determined. And far less anxious.

“The prize of winning is making a new game … or permitting a new game to be made or making it possible for a new game to be played. Those are all the prizes and that’s [sic] all the prizes there are.’

He then turns to the “necessity to have a new game coded before one ends the old game.” Adding, “Otherwise, everyone becomes a maker of games with no game.” As is often the case, we are led along a tortuous path. Hubbard is evidently reading from a list of notes, without really fleshing out his ideas, so we have to concentrate to extract the meaning, but meaning, for once, is there to be extracted. This isn’t the usual ramble of anecdotes that makes up so many Hubbard lectures. He has a point to make, and we are almost there.

“Now, the value of pieces. Ownership of pieces may be also the ownership of players. And the difference between players and pieces, and the difficulty of players becoming pieces … so, you’ve got to hide the rules from the pieces…” Oh, yes!

Now we come to the meat of our astute reader’s comments. First to recap: there is a Maker of Games — Hubbard — who makes the rules, but knows that they are bogus, and does not follow them. So, for instance, when Hubbard was sick, it was not because he was PTS. When bad things happened to him, it was not because he had committed overts. When he criticized psychiatrists, it was not because they had missed his withholds, nor were his “broad generalities” about them because he was Suppressive. The rules do not apply to the rule maker.

Below the Game Maker are the Players, who follow the rules, and, finally, there are Pieces (elsewhere he added broken pieces, but lets keep it simple, for today): “Now the caste system of games consists of this: The Maker of Games, he has no rules.” Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on that thought, again: “He has no rules.” And then, “he runs by no rules. The player of the games: rules known but he obeys them.” Now that is thee and me, if we were lucky, we followed the rules. We were obedient. “And the assistant players merely obey the players.”

At the bottom of this caste system we find: “And the pieces obey rules as dictated by players, but they don’t know the rules.” They get their stats up for 2pm on Thursday, as instructed, so that the cash keeps pouring into the Maker of Games’ back pocket. Occasionally, on a Sunday, they’ll be given a baked potato instead of their daily rice and beans, for pouring another fifty grand into the Maker of Games’ back pocket.

We are nearly at the end of this cogent explanation of Scientology, so take heart: “Now, how to make a piece … First, deny there is a game. Second, hide the rules from them” — and the bank accounts — “Third, give them all penalties and no wins” Apart from the baked potato, that is, and the knowledge that Ron is happy with his birthday stats. “Four, remove all goals. All goals. Enforce them – their playing.” This is the RPF. “Inhibit their enjoying” And this is “pain and sex.” Let’s face it, at the end of a Sea Org week, all you have to look forward to is washing your socks.

“Make them look like, but forbid their being like players.” Put them in uniforms, with badges and medals, perhaps. He then says, “[make them] look like God but, you can’t be God.” This is the state of OT, whereby not a single miracle has been demonstrated in sixty years. Unless you count changing traffic lights and moving clouds, by people incapable of moving a bit of tinfoil a single millimeter by willpower alone.

We end our diatribe (I think that’s the word) with this, “To make a piece continue to be piece, permit it to associate only with pieces and deny the existence of players … It can’t be a game. ‘Don’t play with me. I mustn’t be played with. Life is serious. This isn’t a game. We’re playing for keeps. I’ll never get out of this…'” We must clear the planet, and wipe that smug grin off Mrs Pattycake’s face, remember? We’re in it for the duration. “In other words, the postulates which they’ve made to convince themselves that these are the rules and the only rules that can be played.” He ends the lecture, a couple of paragraphs later by saying that this is “the backbone of what we are doing.” Convincing people to follow the rules, without deviation, without discussion, or they’ll come to understand the rules and the flimsy nature of those rules. So, it was that Hubbard the Maker of Games was the only one allowed to make rules, or discover Tech. We’d never be capable of discovering any fundamental law, no matter how OT we became.

There were perhaps a few players: Mary Sue Hubbard at times accused her husband of being a charlatan, because she couldn’t go “exterior,” despite hundreds of hours of trying. Otherwise, the players were simply told the rules – the directors of the Guardian’s Office and those close to Hubbard knew that the rules were fairly nasty, as the wag who wrote the brilliant deconstruction of Scientology, The Story of a Squirrel Part Two, said (and I’m not really quoting, because I’ve misplaced my copy): People confuse tech and ethics. Tech is to make money and ethics is to deal with anyone who finds out about this or me.

But then, the Governing Policy of Scientology, according to Hubbard is “Make money, make more money, make others produce so as to make even more money.” You can see why the IRS thinks it’s a religion! And you can see why Hubbard made life in the Sea Org so hard for his pieces. As he said, “We build a world from broken pieces.” Yes, Ron, but first you had to break them.


Behind the scenes at ‘The War Is Over’

Camilla Andersson gives her eyewitness account of what it was like to be around David Miscavige at a legendary 1993 event…



Scientology’s casting in New York!

Rod Keller spotted this gem and posted it to Facebook yesterday. It was an ad put up by Scientology casting director Valerie Light.

Here are the wonderful descriptions for talent Valerie’s looking for…


Female/Featured/All Ethnicities/18-25: Beautiful, “Ascendance-type girl”, “Anthropologie-model look” walking down the streets of New York and going on the subway… Wardrobe: casual
Rate: $300 for shoot; additional $200 if used in edit


Male/Featured/All Ethnicities/20-25: Hipster/grunge guy living his life in style he is creating — we see him walking down the streets of New York and spending time in library… Wardrobe: casual
Rate $300 for shoot; additional $200 if used in edit

Isn’t that great? And the shoot is tomorrow! Bunker folks in New York, please help us spot this shoot and get a photo of it. It’s got to be epic!


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 21, 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, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

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, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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