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L. Ron Hubbard explains to a friend the real reason he wrote ‘Dianetics’

Forrest Ackerman

Forrest Ackerman

In Russell Miller’s 1987 book Bare-Faced Messiah — the best book ever written about Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard — there’s a letter that Hubbard wrote to his friend Forrest Ackerman that Miller mentions briefly.

It was only recently, however, that we looked at the entire letter and realized how much Miller had left out of his book about it. In some ways, the 1949 letter is one of the most remarkable windows into what kind of a man Hubbard was, and we’re surprised it isn’t quoted more often.

In early 1949, Hubbard was working on what would become in May of 1950 his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. He would eventually get a lot of support on that project from his friends in science fiction, including John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, who published a version of the material, “Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science” in Astounding‘s May 1950 edition.

In this letter, Hubbard fills in Ackerman on how things are going on the project. “Forry” was a science fiction fan who had become close friends with many authors, including Hubbard. Abbreviating Ackerman’s name as “4E,” Hubbard is here talking to a good friend, and perhaps lets his guard down in a way he didn’t to the people who would become his followers.

Box 1796
Savanah, Georgia

Jan. 13, 1949

Dear 4E:

I have been meaning to back up the last note of Sara’s but didn’t, been powerful busy trying to nail down a stack of copy. Been using an old dictaphone arangement which was on the verge of driving me stark staring. Finally today managed to get my big paws on a new Audiograph setup. They were used by the airforce in planes in the war and transcribe or record in any position with a minimum of breakdown. They use a half hour per side vynolile plateing which means an hour of dictation per record. The stuff is clear and the transcribing is very easy and simple. They are very light and streamlined. Been out for two or three years now in commercial work. Rather high priced so I really have to grind now to support my writing.

Have a nice office. Had another one but didn’t take to [the] noise. Present one is in the same apt. building, very neat and very quiet, with its own silk and gilt. Could become a den of vice very easily, I fear, so I only allow women over 16 in there.

Wanted to tell you that Sara is beating out her wits on fiction and is having to do this DARK SWORD -cause and cure of nervous tension – properly – THE SCIENCE OF MIND, really EXCALIBUR – in fits, so far, however she has recovered easily from each fit. It will be considerably delayed because of this. Good as my word, however, I shall ship it along just as soon as decent. Then you can rape women without their knowing it, communicate suicide messages to your enemies as they sleep, sell the Arroyo Seco parkway to the mayor for cash, evolve the best way of protecting or destroying communism, and other handy house hold hints. If you go crazy, remember you were warned.

Good publishing trick, by the way, is to have the bookseller make the buyer sign a release releasing the author of all responsibilities if the reader goes nuts.

Scanning it to insert a few case histories I’d come across here and there, I got interested again and have not decided whether to destroy the Catholic church or merely start a new one. And I grow restless when I think of all the charming ladies and young boys who walk around without the slightest taste for LIFE.

Thought of some interesting publicity angles on it. I might post a ten thousand dollar bond to be paid to anyone who can attain equal results with any known field of knowledge. A reprint of the preface, however, is about all one needs to bring in orders like a snow storm. This has more selling and publicity angles than any book of which I have ever heard, I think, and may very well be able to support them without much effort.

Looking over its project, I find a son of a luckless millionaire here has taken to drink and the millionaire wants him cured bad. Might undertake it for ten grand some afternoon.

Don’t know why I suddenly got the nerve to go into this again and let it loose. It’s probably either a great love or an enormous hatred of humanity. Just a few months ago I would now and then decide [to] use it and start right in to apply and I would lose my nerve. But lo! courage rose and the book is going out before it sinks again.

So here you have the dope.

Looking at all the fantasy movies, how about you contacting Laura Wilck in poisonally and making her scout around when we go in hard covers.

So far what’d Bill Crawford do about assembling the TRITION. Did he like MAN EATS MONSTER?

Best regards my friend, don’t Kroshak the little kids in the neighborhood.

Love and Kisses,


P.S. This here epistle is confidential, pard.

At the time, Hubbard was married to his second wife, Sara Northrup, and he seems to confirm what we’ve heard from our sources, that Sara helped Hubbard with his prodigious productivity by helping to pen some of his fiction.

As for calling his “science of mind” by the name Excalibur, that’s a reference to an earlier manuscript that became something of a legend. At least, Hubbard liked to promote the legend that he’d written a book of the universe’s secrets that was so mindblowing, the few people who had read it had either gone insane or killed themselves.

In a 1961 issue of The Aberee, the early newsletter for Dianeticists, Arthur Burks wrote a lengthy description of what was in Excalibur — Hubbard told Burks that he was the first person he let read it. We’ve read Dianetics from cover to cover, so from the description provided by Burks, it sounds like Excalibur had some of the ideas that would end up in it, such as Hubbard’s (rather obvious) idea that the purpose of life is to survive.

It’s most interesting, of course, to see Hubbard tell Ackerman that he’ll ship a copy of what would become Dianetics and then…

Then you can rape women without their knowing it, communicate suicide messages to your enemies as they sleep, sell the Arroyo Seco parkway to the mayor for cash, evolve the best way of protecting or destroying communism, and other handy house hold hints. If you go crazy, remember you were warned.

The Great Humanitarian sounds like anything but here, and it’s really something to get this glimpse of him.

But is it authentic? The letter exists today because Gerry Armstrong rescued it from boxes of Hubbard material that were slated to be thrown out in 1980. Armstrong rescued those materials, and then helped get them prepared for a writer, Omar Garrison, who was hired by the church to write an official biography of Hubbard. Gerry was later expelled from Scientology, which sued him to get back some copies of the documents that he’d kept for safekeeping. You can read more about his legal saga here (story one, story two).

We called Gerry and asked if he had an image of the letter we could share with readers, and he says he doesn’t have one. But he says its authenticity is solid.

“To my knowledge, the Scientologists have never challenged the letter’s authenticity. I had it when I was doing the biography project, and I have always believed that it is real,” he says.

Well, we’re certainly grateful that Gerry saved the letter from destruction, and for giving us that glimpse into the strange man that was L. Ron Hubbard.


Posted by Tony Ortega on October 23, 2014 at 07:00

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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

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  • Mark Foster

    off-topic: Remember the recent article in DNAinfoNewYork about the church in Harlem? Interesting-or Maybe Not!-comment skirmish going on over there…

    • Sherbet

      Excellent work, Mark F.

      • Mark Foster

        thanks. attempting to plant seeds…in rock, apparently…

    • sookiesookie

      Have they deleted all the comments there now? Because I’m not seeing any…

      • Mark Foster

        looks like that´s what happened

  • ETA: instead of copying these to post on new entry i hit ‘post’….dammit….i’ll go post on new entry but wanted to put what happened—cuz i’m a dork and it’s early and i’m excited! 🙂 can’t hit ‘delete’ cuz they’d still be here! SORRY!!!!

    just a couple this morning, was on the phone all evening and am off to the cleveland zoo this morning! YEAH!!! 😀 i love going there!! yesterday was a great day too cuz i saw the goodyear blimp! (i am, uh, a little obsessed with the goodyear blimp–it’s not a blimp unless it’s the goodyear blimp, outback’s could offer me a ride every day for life and i’d say ‘no thank you’….there’s quite a few obsessed with the goodyear blimp around here! 🙂 it’s unexplainable, i just think for some people there’s something magical when you see it floating and it just brightens the dreariest of days! it should fly daily to spread happiness! 🙂 oooo that just inspired a haiku!

    Off to Cleveland Zoo
    Second best thing around here
    Goodyear Blimp is first.
    @clemetzoo @GoodyearBlimp #GoodThingsInNEOhio #Happiness

    Why the staff re-signs?
    Scis unable to get fresh
    meat into the orgs?
    @scientology #TheStaffLife #haiku #NeedMoreRESIGNSAsInIQuit

    Why the older staff?
    Friendly faces? Working
    to pay off Sci debts?
    @scientology #TheStaffLife #haiku #WhyElderlyStaff

    I.A.S. event
    Had a non-Sci medic, what
    about touch assists?
    #Scientology #haiku #YouMeanTheTechDoesNotWork

    Did Scis really quote
    East Grinstead Councillor or
    is it just made up?
    (Flier here:
    #haiku #FakeRadioStation

    [haiku by Espiando]
    Fake navy and an
    asbestos boat. In six words,
    that is the Sea Org.
    #Scientology #haiku #HelloSailor #BlueAsbestosYummy

  • George M. White

    Thanks for posting this one Tony. A rare look at the big fish in naked detail.

  • Dave Reams

    I wonder what sections of Dianetics Sara Northrup wrote

  • Matt_Sweeney

    Love the Bunker, hate the reductionist tag of “science fiction fan” for Forrest Ackerman. He was so much more than that.

    Next time, read beyond the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry.

    And keep up the otherwise good work.

  • Gene Trujillo

    Yeppers, this letter gives a pretty clear glimpse of Hubbard as a machiavellian covert mind control hypnotist. He reveals his true nature other places too, like “Responsibility of Leaders”.

  • Observer