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L. Ron Hubbard and ‘Going Clear’ — a reading list to celebrate Scientology’s birthday boy!

HubbardBirthdayHey, it’s the Commodore’s 104th birthday! And what better way to celebrate the Great OT’s March 13, 1911 birth in Tilden, Nebraska than to welcome the theatrical release of Alex Gibney’s documentary about Scientology, Going Clear, which opens today in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York.

Speaking of the film’s release, let’s get this out of the way first, because we’re getting a lot of questions that suggest some people are really confused about this movie and how they get to see it.

First, this 2-hour documentary was produced by HBO, and it is getting a short theatrical release so it can qualify for next year’s Academy Awards. So that’s why it’s playing only a week (maybe two, if enough people go this weekend) in Los Angeles (at the Hollywood Arclight), San Francisco (at The Presidio), and New York (at the Francesca Beale Theater at Lincoln Center). No, it won’t be coming to a theater near you in Chicago, or Charlotte, or St. Louis or all the other places that people have been emailing us.

But if you live in those places you can still see this movie! It will be aired on Home Box Office (HBO) on Sunday, March 29 at 8 pm, and then on Monday, March 30 at 9 pm, and then a bunch more times.

“But Tony, I live in Gutbomb, Arkansas, where the film isn’t playing, and I don’t have HBO. What am I going to do?”

Here’s an idea: Get three or four of your friends together, and spend the equivalent of a nice lunch each to buy a hotel room for Sunday night, March 29. Most hotel rooms in America feature HBO (but check, first!), and for not much money you can make a little holiday out of it. Or just go over and watch it at a friend’s house, whatever. If you can’t manage to see Going Clear during its theatrical run or its HBO showings, you can still see it in September, when Vimeo will get the rights to it, and you can then pay a few bucks to stream it on your computer. If you live in a foreign country, please bother your president or prime minister or premier or what have you and not us. We really, really can’t do anything about it.


OK? Now, we’re going to assume that at some point you will be seeing this movie. And if you’re like us, the first thing you do after seeing a really interesting movie with a ton of history and some wild claims, you’ll go right to Google and start searching on things like “L. Ron Hubbard,” and “Sara Northrup,” or “Hana Whitfield,” or “Jason Beghe” and the rest. So we thought we’d provide a landing page of links to get you going on further reading to satisfy your curiosity about all things Scientology that captured your interest in Going Clear.

L. Ron Hubbard, the man. Alex Gibney found amazing new material from Sara Northrup, Hubbard’s second wife, about what it was like to be the object of his affection (and his mania). You’ll find some of it in Lawrence Wright’s book around page 46 and following. Here at the Bunker, recently we’ve been looking at the character of L. Ron Hubbard as reflected in his academic record, what his friends thought of him, and how he was seen by his literary agent, a former lover, and his former medical officer.

L. Ron Hubbard and the occult. Gibney’s movie does a great job reviewing Hubbard’s post-war fascination with Aleister Crowley, Jack Parsons, and the Ordo Templi Orientis. (Gibney found some wild footage of Marjorie Cameron getting up to some eerie stuff on film.) Lawrence Wright handles the sex magick experiments by Hubbard and Parsons really well in his book. We talked to Jon Atack about it, and Ohio State University professor Hugh Urban made sure we were aware of his really great work showing how much Scientology owes to Hubbard’s post-war occult hijinks.

Dianetics. If someone tells you they picked up L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 masterpiece Dianetics and couldn’t put it down, don’t believe them. Hubbard’s book is a turgid mess that is filled with midcentury madness, and we slogged through every page of it with the help of former Scientologist Vance Woodward, whose good humor kept us from shoving knitting needles into our eyes. This is a very, very bad book, and if you really want to know what’s in it, you may find our series a lot more useful and fun than the old man’s painful prose and preposterous “science.” For bonus Hubbard book fun, check out the time we read his strangest work of all time, “History of Man,” with the help of biologist blogger PZ Myers.

David Miscavige and Tom Cruise. One person whose knowledge is key to many of the things in Going Clear, but who doesn’t appear in it and isn’t even mentioned, is the last person to escape from the secretive Hemet base and speak publicly. His name is John Brousseau, and he worked closely with Cruise and was at one time Miscavige’s brother-in-law. No one knows more about the relationship of those two enigmatic men, and he told us the entire, dramatic saga in a two-part piece we did for the Voice in 2012. Please give it a look: Part 1, Part 2. You might also look at our story about how Miscavige spied on Tom Cruise, as well as our open letter to Tom. Also, in Going Clear, you’ll see your proprietor talk about a full 35-minute celebration of Tom Cruise from the 2004 IAS gala which includes the notorious 9-minute black turtleneck interview of Tom. You can see the full Cruise hoopla in this post at the Voice.

Child labor. We hear it all the time. If Scientology is taking advantage of children, why doesn’t someone do something about it? You got us. All we’ve been doing is investigating cases like the one that’s been going on for years in Los Angeles: Laura DeCrescenzo is suing Scientology for the way she was treated as a child in the church’s “Sea Org.” At 12 years old, after signing the Sea Org’s billion-year contract (yes, you read that right), she was working 98-hour weeks. At 13, she moved up to an adult schedule of 112-hour weeks. Her take home pay was standard Sea Org — about 50 dollars a week. Documents in her lawsuit (which Scientology went to the US Supreme Court to keep out of the case, but failed) show that she was punished for missing her family — at twelve years old. At 17, while still technically a child, Laura got pregnant, and claims that she was coerced into having an abortion (having children is against the rules in the Sea Org). Laura’s trial starts on December 7, 2015, and we hope at that point we’re not the only news organization in America following the ups and downs of her case.

Disconnection. One of the most emotional stories in Going Clear is the story of Sara Goldberg and the choice forced on her by the Church of Scientology regarding her two children. Please read the original telling of that story by Joe Childs in the Tampa Bay Times. It’s one of his best. For our stories about Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection,” check out our piece about then-spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded as he pressures a church member about never seeing his mother again if he doesn’t quit his job and disconnect from his boss. We had a round-up of other examples of disconnection that we’ve covered over the years. And a great story when a family defeats disconnection, and another family defies it.

The FBI investigation. Going Clear presents a theory that the 2009-2010 FBI investigation into Scientology human trafficking was upended when the lawsuit brought against the church by Marc and Claire Headley was dismissed on appeal. We understand why Lawrence Wright explains things that way, but we have an alternative theory to what actually caused a problem for the FBI that prompted higher ups at the Justice Department to end the probe. We think it has to do with an FBI special agent trying to serve justice in a way that ran afoul of the rules. Here, read our story and see if you agree with us.

Oh wow, there’s so much more. Don’t hesitate to ask, in the comments, for suggestions on further reading. Our commenters have read everything everywhere, and can quickly give you a link.

Hey, after you see the movie, tell us your favorite parts! Happy viewing.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 13, 2015 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 cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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