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EXCLUSIVE: The rise and fall of the ‘Pope of Scientology’ — in his own words

[John McMaster]

Historian Chris Owen just keeps coming up with gems. He notified us this week that he’d made a killer find digging through some British government files — a 30-page affidavit submitted by the “World’s First Real Clear” — John McMaster — for the defense to use in a 1977 libel lawsuit filed by the Church of Scientology. It’s basically John McMaster’s testament to his career in Scientology, which is pretty amazing. Because it’s so long, we’ve divided it into two halves. Here’s Chris’s intro for the first half of this amazing document…

For most of its history, Scientology has been synonymous with L. Ron Hubbard. For a few years in the late 1960s, though, a slim, fair-haired South African named John McMaster held an exalted position as the “World’s First Real Clear” (designated thus by Hubbard) and the first and only “Pope of Scientology.” His charisma and spirituality made him a highly effective spokesman for Scientology and attracted thousands to his talks at Saint Hill Manor in England and other locations around the world. Celebrity Scientologists like William Burroughs flocked to receive auditing from him. Bent Corydon, who attended McMaster’s talks, felt that they were “evidence to me that he had attained and experienced something paranormal, existential, or whatever words people use in a vain attempt to convey whatever is considered a true ‘religious experience.’ John’s glow of affection, and his other spiritual qualities, seemed evidence of the achievability of the most cherished dreams of Scientologists. The fact that he was Hubbard’s representative and ‘the world’s first real Clear’ gave credence to Hubbard’s many written claims. John’s talks and ‘presence’ reminded each listener of their own brushes with this ‘reality of our true godlike nature.'”

A decade later, however, McMaster was nearly destitute and living in a shabby apartment in London’s Waterloo district. He was drinking heavily and felt deeply embittered towards Hubbard, whom he had once revered but now contemptuously called “Fatty.” He had walked out of the Sea Org in 1969 and was expelled from Scientology in 1971 with the claim that he had set himself up for blackmail through his (self-acknowledged) homosexuality. Hubbard himself claimed that McMaster had “let himself in for a hell of a blackmail line-up” having “actually apparently got across the lines of the Mafia.” In reality, the perennially paranoid Hubbard, fearing McMaster’s popularity, had driven him from Scientology and ruined his life.

When British government investigators came calling in August 1977, McMaster was all too happy to testify against Scientology in a libel lawsuit. The lawsuit was abandoned two years later and his testimony was never used. Today and tomorrow the Underground Bunker will feature his previously unpublished account of his rise, fall, and betrayal at Hubbard’s hands.


— Chris Owen



This is a 30-page affidavit, which we’ll supply in full tomorrow. For today, we’ve taken highlights from the first half. McMaster begins the document by saying that he had first heard about Scientology from his stepmother in 1959 and then became involved in it in 1960, when he was 34 years old. At the time he was in medical school, but he became enamored with auditing. He soon became unhappy with the people running Scientology in South Africa and pursued auditing on his own. But his father encouraged him to return to the organization, and then in 1963 he went to Saint Hill Manor in England, where he became a very popular auditor.

McMaster goes into some detail about what auditing is, how the E-meter works, and such terms as “clear” and “preclear.”

By 1964, McMaster was being singled out by founder L. Ron Hubbard as a leading figure in Scientology, trusted by Hubbard to answer his mail.

My success as Letter Registrar was marked by reason of the fact that L. Ron Hubbard spoke to me personally and asked me to reply to all enquiries which he received, and for this purpose I was to be provided with a rubber stamp of his signature to enable me to attend to the speedy despatch of the letters on his behalf. I worked very long and hard hours in this post, more often than not to three o’clock in the morning. In September of 1964 I was appointed Case Supervisor for the Briefing Course at Saint Hill Manor. This involved the general supervision of the various sessions of auditing which were being carried out there. In this capacity I learned from people who had undergone auditing that in the early days of the Organisation sessions of auditing led to sexual stimulation and culminated in sexual activity. I was told this by people of both sex who had been involved in such sessions of auditing, but I never had such an experience myself. It was in my capacity as Case Supervisor that I began to realise the adverse effects which bad auditing could have on people.

McMaster believed that auditing not only could be done incorrectly, but that more often than not, the fault lay in Hubbard himself.

I believe that auditing, properly carried out by a trained person who has an aptitude for the function, can be very beneficial. However, not everyone can carry out auditing. If the auditor is not competent it is like putting atomic weapons in the hands of apes. I witnessed many cases of people going through mental hell due to the incompetence of the auditor. Much of the problem arose because of the attitude instilled into the auditor by the Organisation inspired by Hubbard. It appeared to me from the case papers that I read that the auditors were directed towards seeking out any possible criminal aspect from the past of the person being audited. Such criminal incidents were termed overts (withholds before disclosure) and Hubbard had decreed that before a person could attain freedom as a result of admitting to such activity, the date, time, place and nature of the act had to be recorded by the auditor in the presence of the person being audited… That is to say the person in question had to suffer the humiliation of reliving the experience.

But even as Scientology is harming people, it is giving the impression that it can cure just about anything.

There can be no doubt that the intention of the publicity distributed by the Church of Scientology is designed to create the impression that Scientology can cure ailments. Indeed, in various editions of the “Auditor” and “Freedom” claims are made that Scientology is the largest mental health organization in the world. Moreover, it is the clear intention of the Church of Scientology to poison the minds of its adherents against orthodox medicine and, in particular, psychiatry. This is patently obvious from the anti-psychiatry material which appears in publications of the Church of Scientology.

He cited some specific examples…

Daphne Parselle, a Londoner, came to Scientology when she was suffering from cancer. I was present in the Chapel at Saint Hill sometime in 1967 when she made her clear speech, following completion of the clear course, in which she claimed to have been cured thereby of her ailment. She died shortly afterwards. There was also the case of an American, Ellen Carder. This lady again had cancer. She told me that Hubbard had promised her recovery from the disease. I never audited this lady because she could not afford special fees which Hubbard prescribed should be paid for auditing by me. She told me that she had undergone processing and had been personally told by Hubbard that the clearing course would cure her complaint. This lady died however in June 1966 at the Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead. I was with her when she died. There was also the case of Coton Bustamante. He was an aide to Fidel Castro and arrived in this country in a wheel-chair, rigid from the hips downward. I, in fact, gave this person some auditing after he had failed to respond to 80 hours of auditing by another auditing, and indeed was showing adverse symptoms. As a result of my endeavours a modicum of progress was achieved. From files which I read during 1964 to early 1966, and they were many, a clear pattern emerged. If people came to the Scientology Organisation with any form of complaint they were offered auditing. When this did not have the desired effect they were told that the next higher level of auditing would have the desired effect. People were thereby prevailed upon to pay for additional courses in the hope of having ailments cured. Moreover, restrictions were placed on students concerning their taking medical advice. This is confirmed by the copy HCO Policy Letter dated 26th July 1965 which has been produced to me. I have seen the original thereof and can authenticate the copy. The object was to secure that the auditing had cured people and not orthodox medicine.

McMaster got a new position, and a new request from Hubbard…

In December of 1964 I was appointed by Ron Hubbard as The Communicator at Saint Hill. I was in fact a General Manager of the Organisation. I was responsible for the general running of the establishment, I still gave advice on auditing and supervised sessions of auditing. I developed technology, conducted correspondence and also attended to some of the financial matters. I recall that very early in 1965 I had to arrange for a large sum of money (something in excess of £5,000 to be withdrawn from a Bank Account in Switzerland to enable Ron and Mary Sue Hubbard to take a holiday.

That £5,000 translates to about £91,000 or $120,000 today, which would buy a pretty nice vacation.

Hubbard then changed his position again, and he was to oversee “John McMaster Auditing Sessions,” marketed to the public.

By the Summer of 1965 Saint Hill Manor was full. Things went swimmingly until August of 1965 when quite unexpectedly, I was denounced by Ron Hubbard who claimed that I had given wrong instructions in a case. I was never given any details in order for me to check and I suspect that I was becoming too successful and that Hubbard was jealous. This was the first of many times when Hubbard turned on me. I had of course come to know him quite well since working at Saint Hill Manor. Looking back on the matter it is my firm belief that the man is paranoic. This is substantiated by his pattern of behaviour.

McMaster then describes a case involving wealthy couple whose auditing he succeeded with after Hubbard had failed. Showing up Hubbard made the founder furious, and once again McMaster was in trouble. He faced expulsion and “disconnection” from his family.

But once again, Hubbard found he needed McMaster, this time to help organize the Clearing Course at Saint Hill.

And then, in the fall of 1965, there was a major development — Hubbard had decided that auditing should involves “a search and discover project” to find the suppressive persons who were holding back a subject’s auditing.

Looking for a person to blame was diametrically opposed from his own conception of auditing, McMaster explained.

“It later transpired this particular slant by Ron L. Hubbard heralded the vigorous onset of the Ethics Section,” he complains.

Auditing became orientated towards the identification of a person having a suppressive influence upon the person being audited. Once the person supposedly exerting the suppressive influence was identified, then the person undergoing auditing was required to “disconnect” from that person. People undergoing auditing were, in this context, required to “disconnect” from their wives, their parents or their children or other relations and the result was total disharmony within families. This happening was commonplace, but by way of illustration I mention the case of Mr. Cyril Vosper whose family were required to “disconnect” from him. This gentleman subsequently wrote a book entitled “The Mind-Benders.” There emerged an organisation staffed by the Ethics Officers who were encouraged to be vicious in the pursuance of their duties. Such officers were responsible for the execution of orders promulgated by Ron L. Hubbard. The said orders were designed to secure complete allegiance by adherents of the cult of Scientology to the Organisation. Ethics Officers were a form of enforcement agency. They were responsible for security checks on students, convening of committees to investigate misdemeanors perpetrated by Scientologists and the enforcement of penalties prescribed. The Committee of Evidence was supposed to be a fact-finding Committee and if, and only if, they found some rule had been infringed a Court of Ethics was convened to pass sentence. There developed what I can only describe as a quasi-judicial system to manage and control the activities of Scientologists with a type of secret police as the enforcement agency. In my view it was nothing more than an internal system of indoctrination of tyranny to secure complete allegiance to Hubbard.

That tyranny, he explains, was encoded in a set of “conditions” that people would be assigned to, with such degrading levels as “liability, treason, doubt, and enemy.”

To each of the lower conditions penalties were attached and in addition a formula was applied which had to be satisfied by the person in that condition to enable him to be released from it or to progress from it. The person moreover had to suffer up all intermediate conditions until he attained a state of normal operation. The punishments varied in severity according to the lower condition and the formula appropriate for release from a particular condition also varied accordingly. I have had produced to me a copy HCO Policy Letter dated 18th October 1967 setting out the penalties for lower conditions I can authenticate this document. The black mark referred to under “Treason” was of a symbolic nature. It was made with soot, grease, black ink or some other suitable material. Under the condition “enemy” there is reference to persons being injured or destroyed. This is taken literally. I have seen people beaten up by Scientologists, and I overheard Mary Sue Hubbard giving instructions to Herbie Parkhouse at Saint Hill Manor in 1964 to beat up a person. I witnessed the beating up of a Mr. Horner in Los Angeles in 1970 by people I recognized as Scientologists. There were at least three assailants. I was staying with Mr. Horner at the time. He was beaten up on his front door step. When I heard the commotion I ran and opened the door and saw the assailants make off. Mr. Horner was badly bruised. I have had produced to me a copy item headed “Racket Exposed.” One Peter Goodwin is named therein. I am familiar with his case because I was asked to do the clear check-out on him. I was not content to clear him and referred his file to Ron Hubbard. This would be in or about September 1966. Hubbard instructed me to clear Goodwin on the basis that we “could catch him on the O.T. Course.” I accordingly cleared Goodwin, but he did not take the O.T. course. He went off on his own and I was given to understand that he was selling for private gain, material he had acquired on the Course. I subsequently saw the original of the Order reproduced in the photocopy. I was appalled at the contents thereof because Auditing Process R2-45 is an implicit instruction to use a revolver to dispose of a person. I have seen written instructions dealing with Auditing Process R2-45 but cannot identify the document in which I have seen them. It is only members of the Sea Org, who are armed, as will appear from what I say later. I fully understand the gravity of the allegation I am making. The reference to ‘Insanity and Death’ in paragraph 1 of the Order is exaggeration on the part of Hubbard. He however believed, or wanted others to believe, that the material in question was so powerful that if not used properly it would bring about insanity and death. He told me so on more than one occasion. I did not approve of this order of conditions and took the view that if anyone had done anything harmful to the Organisation, then the sooner they realised the fact the better it was for them to be restored to a condition of normal operation. But Hubbard insisted they must suffer up the intermediate conditions. It was a process of degradation.

By 1968, McMaster says, the Ethics Section had grown, and on the ship Apollo, punishment had taken sadistic forms.

For the most petty crimes people were bound hand and foot, blindfolded and then thrown overboard from the deck of the “Apollo” into the sea. This happened in the Harbour at Corfu. I personally suffered in this respect and will describe the incident in detail later. Reverting to the penalties for other conditions, that is before the concept of “instant ethics,” certain of the penalties were truly barbaric. Starting with the condition of non-existence, the normal penalty was that people were not permitted to bathe, wash or shave and their food was limited. People in this condition at Saint Hill were not permitted to leave the premises and had to sleep there, regardless of whether or not there was proper accommodation for them. As one descended the list of conditions so the penalties became more barbaric. People were manacled in chains for being in a condition of liability, or lower, and I recall an incident where a lady in her mid-fifties was made to climb up to the crow’s nest at the top of the mast of the “Apollo” whilst the vessel was anchored in Bizerte, North Africa. This was in approximately October of 1968 and the lady in question was required to stay in the crow’s nest all day. The punishment was inflicted because of a mistake she had made in connection with auditing. If a person was to be placed in a condition of treason then it was not unusual for people on board the “Apollo” to be confined in the chain-lockers of the vessel and made to chip rust for long periods without rest or proper food. The customary diet was bread and water. I have frequently seen this particular punishment administered. Another similar punishment was that people were required to stand knee-deep in water in the water-tanks and chip rust from the sides of the water-tank. This they did for periods of up to 80 hours and I have personally witnessed people undergoing this punishment. They were rigorously supervised by Ethics Officers who were only on duty for four hours at a spell. On the vessel the Ethics Officers were called Masters-at-Arms. Whilst on the vessel I recall a particular Master-at-Arms, who was an exceedingly attractive young lady, come to me in a state of great distress relating that a young deaf-mute, aged between 5-6 years, had been placed in a chain-locker because she was in a condition of enemy. The child had apparently been in the locker for a matter of days. Normally to remove oneself from that particular condition it is necessary to take some positive action which, of course, is very difficult, if not nigh impossible, for a deaf-mute of such tender years. I cannot recall the name of the infant, but it was heartrending to see the child who was absolutely terrified. I was instrumental in securing her release.

And the use of spies was also becoming common, even before the Snow White Program later in the 1970s…

The Ethics Organisation also developed a system of spies. People in Government Service and elsewhere would steal documents and report to the Scientology Organisation. I recall being present in an office of the Organisation in New York when a girl arrived who was a typist in the employ of the Department of Health there. In my presence she reported on some document she had stolen from the files of the Department. The document was handed over by her to the Guardian’s Office of the Scientology Organisation.

In 1966, McMaster received the title he became famous for…

On 11th February 1966 L. Ron Hubbard and I sat talking all night. During that conversation he asked me to forgive him for all the hardships which he had inflicted upon me. He also said that he must get Mary Sue off the Technology lines because she had not got a clue. He left England the next day for Gibraltar and North Africa leaving instructions for me to go to the United States to “straighten out” the technology and generally check on the running of the Organisation. On 23rd February 1966 I departed for Los Angeles having been given an international post styled “Organisational Executive Secretary Communicator for Qualifications World Wide.” Hubbard enjoyed devising new titles. I had only been in Los Angeles for about a week when L. Ron Hubbard published a news-letter in which he stated “in the Spring of 1966 the first clear was made.” A few days later I received written instructions to confront the examination for clear at Saint Hill in England. This meant that I had to be audited and security checked. I flew back to England on 8th March 1966 and was examined and passed the necessary test. I was then proclaimed “the World’s first real clear”… There had previously been hundreds of people who had been clears but none of them had been acceptable to the public at large. I apparently was, and I think this is the reason I was called “the World’s first real clear.” I am convinced that I was the publicity gimmick for which Hubbard was looking. I accepted the title, but “clear” had no status for me…. In August Hubbard asked me to return to England which I did. In the Chapel at Saint Hill he publicly declared me to be the first Pope of Scientology. This I regarded as a singularly high-sounding title, but it had no other significance to me because up to that time I have never thought of Scientology as a religion.

With his new title, McMaster toured the world, giving lectures. But then in 1967, he found himself being targeted again.

I returned to England in January of 1967 when I was subject to the most rigorous security check which lasted for some three weeks. This security check was carried out in the form of auditing and it was on the express instructions of Mary Sue Hubbard. I recall seeing her written orders to this effect. Every time I entered the premises at Saint Hill I was required to submit to the security check. This was carried out with the aid of an “E-Meter” and would last for spells of up to two hours every time I entered the premises. The basic theme of the security check appeared to be whether I had done anything to undermine Ron L. Hubbard, whether I had done anything to undermine Mary Sue Hubbard, whether I had done anything to undermine the Organisation, whether I was seeking to take over Scientology and whether I was a pervert. It did not occur to me at the time, but on reflection it seems to me that the Organisation was at that time searching for information with which to blackmail me because they were frightened of the success which I had achieved.

After more ups and downs, McMaster then found himself taken to Hubbard’s new project in 1967 — the Sea Organization.

On arrival at Southampton I was greeted by a party of Scientologists who had come from the ship, the “Royal Scotsman.” This, for practical purposes, was a one-time cattle ferry. It subsequently became Hubbard’s flag-ship and was renamed the “Apollo”… We were soon all put to work in cleaning up the ship, including the cattle-holds, which was a messy business. I had no particular objection to this type of work but Hubbard justified the work as Special Ethics Punishment. My offence, so I understand, was sending confidential mail in an unsealed envelope. This was completely untrue but Hubbard had to find some basis for requiring senior members of his staff to take part in menial chores.

Tomorrow: Life on the high seas, and being targeted after leaving Scientology.



Hey, we’re only 15 days away from this year’s HowdyCon in Chicago, June 21-23. As in past years, we’re looking forward to meeting readers of the Bunker, culminating in Saturday night’s main event.

The biggest difference this year is that our Saturday night event is separate from that evening’s dinner. Chee Chalker is setting up an inexpensive pizza dinner that you don’t need to pay for ahead of time, after which we’ll walk over to the theater where our event, hosted by Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte, will take place. Because it’s a separate event, we’re asking that you pay $10 each to get into the Saturday night event, which will help us recoup what the Bunker paid for the venue. (We have never made a penny on our HowdyCon meetups, we only try to break even.)

Please email your proprietor (tonyo94 AT gmail) in order to reserve your spot for Saturday night’s main event. Seating is limited, and we’re going to have some really interesting people on stage and they may make a few announcements that you don’t want to miss.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,137 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,740 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 283 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 171 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,346 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,120 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,894 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,240 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 10,806 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,474 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,734 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,774 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,486 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,012 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,101 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,241 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,561 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,536 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 892 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,194 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,300 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,703 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,575 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,157 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,662 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,906 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,015 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 6, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | 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 non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news


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