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Jon Atack: The ‘Getting Clear’ conference and L. Ron Hubbard’s lies about his life

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.

We’re getting pretty excited about the weeklong seminar Jon is putting on in Toronto later this month. He decided to give us an idea of some of the material that’s going to be covered on the first day…

JON: Let me give a foretaste of the first session at our Toronto seminar, later this month. After quickly introducing myself, I will turn to the true life and times of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard.

I left the mother cult of Scientology with my beliefs intact. I was sure that Hubbard was either dead or incapacitated; that hostile forces had taken over. I really believed in the Tech. I was ‘OT V’ and a Class II auditor. I had also taken the Data Series Evaluator’s Course.

When I left, and for a few weeks, I was willing to believe that the Guardian’s Office had simply gone rogue; that Hubbard would have been appalled at the systematic criminality of Branch One. So, because I was willing to speak out and take a stand, I found myself at the centre of the independent movement in the UK. I should also add that Branch One continued to operate in the person of Myles Mellor (who had simply been moved to RTC, I was told) and Peter Stumbke, so the new management only removed Mo Budlong as director and then it was business as usual.

As a member, I had absorbed the myth of L. Ron Hubbard without question. He was an explorer and a nuclear physicist who had studied with gurus in Tibet, India, and China; he was a wounded and decorated war hero, “crippled and blinded,” who had cured his wounds by developing a “science of mental health.” Although I had (and have) never seen any demonstration of supernatural “OT” powers, I still believed that the “Bridge to Total Freedom” would eventually allow us all to leave our bodies at will and “operate” without the need of such physical encumbrance. I was a true believer.


A few weeks after I left, a wonderful New Zealander called John Hanson turned up on my doorstep. He gave me an 18-inch stack of documents that had been given to him by Boston attorney Michael Flynn. He said that it was too much for him to take in, so I might as well have it.

I didn’t sleep again until I’d read that stack of documents. Most of them had been collected by Michael Linn Shannon, who had already disappeared (I’d still like to thank him for his remarkable researches, if anyone knows where he disappeared to). Here were public record documents about Hubbard that conflicted with his grand claims. For instance, a transcript from George Washington University showing that Hubbard had never studied “nuclear physics” and had failed his class in “atomic and molecular physics” (he confirmed the title of this class in the first edition of Self-Analysis, in 1951). He had been suspended for poor scholarship.

I’ve met many people whose knee-jerk reaction is simply to dismiss documents as forgeries. I was more sKeptical, so I looked for consistency and I found it, by comparing Hubbard’s own statements with the record, and the accounts of others.

Over the years, I collected and read a mass of documentation: Hubbard’s complete Navy records; his father’s Navy records; Hubbard’s Veterans Administration and FBI records. These papers alone came to over 2,000 pages.

I added records from the Montana Historical Society; traced the Blackfoot Indian reservations; checked the Navy records with an officer who had served at the same time as Hubbard (along the way disproving the cult’s hired expert, Fletcher Prouty’s assertion that the records had been “sheep-dipped,” and the claim that Hubbard had served in “Naval Intelligence”). We also checked all of the medals Hubbard claimed.

Russell Miller found the logs of the ship that took a young Hubbard and Commander “Snake” Thompson through the Panama Canal, in 1923. Between us, we interviewed over a hundred people who had known Hubbard, including his aunt; a school friend; his daughter by his first marriage; fellow pulp authors and others who recollected his feats as a hypnotist (by his own admission, he practised hypnosis for more than 20 years before Dianetics); early Dianeticists and Sea Org members. Few biographers have access to so many who have known their subject.

I was given copies of the documents exhibited in the Armstrong case, made during the brief period when the court seal was lifted. These included three of his teenage diaries, which were in stark contrast to his claims to have roamed Mongolia, Tibet, and China. As I have often observed, his single comment about spiritual matters was to complain that the denizens of a Chinese lamasery sounded like “bull frogs.” He added, “The only trouble with China is that there are too many Chinks there.” He visited neither Tibet or Mongolia and spent only a few weeks in China, on holiday. He opined that the Great Wall could be turned into a “rolly-coaster.”

I was given a treasure trove of Hubbard letters to his literary agent (where he crowed about the financial possibilities of Dianetics); to Helen O’Brien, at the time head of his organization (where he crowed about the financial possibilities of the “religion angle”); and to various others. By the time I was done, I had amassed a collection of tens of thousands of pages.

Omar Garrison, who had written two pro-Scientology books before taking on the job of official biographer, visited England just to see me. He told me that he was being harassed, because when he abandoned the biography, he had refused to return the documents provided to him by Gerry Armstrong. He felt that he needed to keep these scandalous records to ensure his own safety. He showed me a copy of the Blood Ritual, a magical ceremony dedicated to the goddess Hathor, in Hubbard’s hand writing.

But, what if the conspiracy theorists were right? Perhaps these tens of thousands of pages had all been carefully forged. The World Bank Conspiracy, the Tenyaka Memorial, the Illuminati – whichever grand conspiracy Hubbard’s followers choose to believe in – had spent years undermining the history of the great man to stop his world-saving technology from breaking the psychiatric grip on Planet Earth.

One of my first tasks was to establish the record according to Hubbard himself. As a member, I had read a few of his biographies and in reading his books and listening to about 150 lectures, I had heard many claims, but I had never taken the time to compare those claims.

I hunted out 24 biographies published by Scientology, almost all of them copyrighted to Hubbard. I wanted to know to what extent the documentation conflicted with these biographies. I soon discovered that no two biographies gave the same information. Furthermore, they were riddled with impossible contradictions.

Some tales were evidently fanciful. So, Hubbard claimed to have been riding “broncos” – untamed horses – at the age of “three-an-a-half” (Hubbard’s notes for biographer Peter Tompkins; repeated in Flag Divisional Directive 69RA, Facts About L Ron Hubbard – Things You Should Know).

Simple matters of fact were at odds. His ridiculous claim to have been a “blood brother” of the Blackfoot Pikune people was made with different ages appended. In one tale, he was two when he joined a Pikune war dance (Answers to some biographical questions provided from So 1 lines, 23 August 1975); others have him aged either four or six years.

It was the contradictions that proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that Hubbard was an unregenerate liar, a fabulist who fictionalised his own life, while insisting that ‘SANITY is basically HONESTY and TRUTH.’ (emphasis in the original, WORD CLEARING OCAs, HCOB 24 February 1972).

I usually give the most extreme example of Hubbard’s frequent contradictions, and today will be no exception. In My Philosophy, hand-written in 1965, and for years on display at Saint Hill Manor, Hubbard said: “Blinded with injured optic nerves and lame with physical injuries to hip and back at the end of World War II I faced an almost non-existent future. My service record states ‘this officer has no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever’ but it also states ‘permanently disabled physically.'” (For the sake of accuracy, his service record makes neither statement.)

In Mission Into Time, it is claimed that Hubbard was “crippled and blinded” in 1944. The words “crippled and blinded” are used in at least seven other biographies. However, in a 1957 lecture, republished as a Professional Auditor’s Bulletin, Communication and Isness, Hubbard said: “Well, sometime early in 1945 I flunked my overseas examination. Well, I crawled around and felt sorry for myself, and the fact of it was that the Judo instructor there at the hospital brought up the idea that there was a shortage of people in the war – there was. So he kept up my training for me. I think it was July 25th that I went down to Hollywood and three sailors with Petty Officers’ ratings accosted me on the street. They were drunk. They were out to kill officers. And the three of them tied into me. An unbelievable thing happened. One of them turned me around facing him while the second one took a heavy beer bottle to bring it down on my skull. I took the fellow, who brought the beer bottle down, threw him over my head into this fellow, who went down and hit the side of a bumper. The beer bottle hit the pavement, broke the end off, and the other fellow reared up where he had been sitting on the running board of a car, and I put it in his face. That’s what you are trained to do.”

World War II ended on 14 August 1945. How is it possible that in the 19 days following 25 July, while serving in California, Hubbard had become “Blinded with injured optic nerves and lame with physical injuries to hip and back” and “permanently disabled physically”? At the end of July, he was cheerfully glassing petty officers or chucking them over his head. He admits that he had “flunked” his overseas examination, so any injury to his optic nerves, his hip or his back must have taken place in the United States, somewhere between Hollywood and Oak Knoll Naval Hospital.

This is compounded by a statement made by Hubbard in a 1950 interview with Look magazine, where he said that his disabilities consisted of “ulcers, conjunctivitis, deteriorating eyesight, bursitis and something wrong with my feet.” This statement is worthy of pause, because, apart from the bit about his feet, his Navy record confirms it completely. He was treated for ulcers with barbiturate drugs (phenobarbital, to which he admitted addiction in a 15 June 1950 lecture, Case Factors: Paralleling the Mind), although X-rays failed to find any ulcer crater; his eyesight was deteriorating (though only according to chart tests, which are completely subjective); he had bursitis and “pink eye”; but no mention of the wounds for which he would later claim to have received two purple hearts. It is an insult to those who have been awarded decorations for valor that Hubbard made such claims.

I had the privilege of working with Russell Miller on his excellent biography of Hubbard, Bare-faced Messiah, from the outset and right through the litigation. Among his material was a copy of my original manuscript for A Piece of Blue Sky (called Hubbard Through the Looking Glass in his bibliography). He crafted a fine and accurate biography. My concern had been to show the conflict and contradiction in Hubbard’s statements, as well as the bombast and exaggeration.

At Toronto, I will offer more detail, in concert with my dear friend, the creator of the Hubbard Archive, Gerry Armstrong.

If you can’t make it, don’t worry, we intend to live stream. Hopefully, some of the die-hard believers once shown the evidence will finally realize the remarkable extent of Hubbard lies and reconsider their trust in him. Let’s face it, if you can’t trust any of the claims of the Source of Scientology, then you certainly can’t trust the claims made for Scientology “Tech.” As the Old Man of the Sea Org said: “Scientology is the road to truth and he who would follow it must take true steps.”

It is abundantly clear that Scientology is actually a road of deception that leads to devotion to Ron Hubbard rather than enlightenment of any kind. There are no Clears; there are no OTs. The “self-determism” that Hubbard claimed to be the end of Scientology is actually “Ron-determinism,” necessitating agreement with every thought that Hubbard expressed.



Karen de la Carriere: New harassment coming in some strange forms

Karen explains how some new attempts by the Church of Scientology to disrupt her life have been arriving in unexpected ways, and how she’s handling it.



Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual Tampa org caption: “Super well done to our amazing Qualifications Secretary, Israel Lopez!! He just attested to the State of Clear!!!!!! We are so happy you made it here and so proud of you!! Congrats on your new State!!”


Queens dentist Bernard Fialkoff (father to the glamorous Meghan Fialkoff) held a summit of some kind with some Dominican leaders in New York for a the Foundation for a Drug-Free World…


Even more staff training in South Texas… “Our P.E.S, Ernesto, finished Student Hat and did his Staff Status again..Our staff are constantly getting trained to bring you the best possible service!”


The Way to Happiness in Madrid…


Here’s the really sad thing — we have a feeling Caitlyn and Grant would actually get along…


Alex Gibney’s tweet from Sydney, showing that 2,300 packed the house for the premiere of “Going Clear” — which means that more people saw this film on its first screening than there are Scientologists in the entire country of Australia. Think about it.





NEW: Reader Sookie put together an index for The Unbreakable Miss Lovely and we’re hosting it here on the website.

We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page.

Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 11: New York City (with Paulette Cooper) 5:30 to 7 pm. Private book party. If you’ve contacted us already, you’ll get venue information soon.

June 20: Chicago (with Christian Stolte) The Annoyance Theater, 5pm: This event is SOLD OUT.

June 22: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) Toronto Public Library, 40 Orchard View Blvd, 7:30 pm, sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry-Canada

June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 6, 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

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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