by Mark Owen ©, Jan. 27th, 2006
All men shall be my slaves.
All women shall submit to my charms.
All mankind shall grovel at my feet.– L. Ron Hubbard Affirmations
There has been a revival of interest in Scientology recently, largely driven by the ministrations of Hollywood jackanapes Tom Cruise.
An episode of South Park titled ‘Trapped in the Closet’ aired in late 2005. The cartoon featured Scientologists Nicole Kidman and John Travolta trying to coax Cruise out of a closet, a reference to rumors concerning his sexual preference. Also featured was an L. Ron Hubbard character denigrating Cruise’s acting ability. The extremely litigious Cruise immediately threatened Paramount with legal action, and it is unlikely that the episode will air again.
It is perhaps timely to revue some of the history of the ‘church,’ its membership and especially its mercurial founder Lafayette Ronald Hubbard.
Various Scientology hagiographies of Hubbard are widely divergent from known facts. This is mainly due to the phantasmagoric history that Hubbard fashioned for himself and repeated ad nauseum to his followers.
Hubbard would often boast of a distinguished pedigree, claiming descent from nobility going back to the Norman Invasion. He also claimed at various times to have been a barn-stormer in a circus, a great white hunter in Africa, an explorer of the upper Amazon and a heavily decorated naval officer, the recipient of more than 2 dozen medals and palms. He also claimed that his naval exploits were the inspiration for Henry Fonda’s character in the film Mister Roberts. On the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor he stated that he was the only person to survive the sinking of the destroyer he was on near the coast of Java and that he swam ashore and lived for weeks on the jungle flora. Later he would be wounded in the back and kidneys by machine-gun fire, making urination difficult.
The truth is somewhat more prosaic. In fact, Hubbard’s urinary difficulties stemmed from a bout of gonorrhea contracted after sex with a prostitute named Fern. Court documents in Hubbard’s own handwriting later confirmed this.
His shirking in the navy was commented upon several times by superior officers. In 1942 the US Naval Attache wrote, “…he [Hubbard] became the source of much trouble […], is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give the impression of his importance.”
Twenty years later Hubbard would brag to credulous followers that after he left that particular assignment, it took a captain, several commanders and 15 junior officers to replace him.
Although Scientology accounts claim that Hubbard served in all five theaters in WWII, more often than not, records find him on the sick list complaining of a variety of ailments from conjunctivitis to ulcers. These same records show that he was never engaged in enemy action and that he received only 4 awards, none for action or combat. Upon being mustered out of the navy, he immediately applied for disability benefits, often writing to the VA pleading for an increase citing long bouts of depression and recurring thoughts of suicide.
Hubbard spent his convalescence in Los Angeles. When his terminal leave from the navy commenced in December 1945, he immediately went to the home of Jack Parsons in Pasadena. Parsons was a science fiction fan, a rocket and explosives chemist and a practitioner of black magic. He operated the California branch of the Ordo Templi Orientis out of his house. The OTO was an advanced secret society to which high-ranking Freemasons migrate in a process of occult succession. OTO rituals were fine-tuned by British Satanist, magician and Intelligence agent Aleister Crowley.
Parsons was in communication with Crowley, regularly informing him of the progress of the California chapter. Hubbard also felt a keen bond with Crowley after reading his Book of the Law in the Library of Congress as a teenager. Later, in a taped 1952 lecture Hubbard would thank, “…the late Aleister Crowley, my very good friend.”
Parsons and Hubbard engaged in various black magic rituals over many nights in an effort to produce a homunculus. Although reports of their association make interesting reading, the two eventually had a falling-out and Hubbard would abscond to Florida with Parsons’ mistress and life savings. At the time, Crowley wrote to Karl Germer, the OTO head in America. A keen student of human nature, Crowley observed, “Suspect Ron playing confidence trick. Jack evidently weak fool. Obvious victim of prowling swindlers.”
Parsons would later self-immolate in his garage during an experiment that went awry. His mother committed suicide the following day. Police would find home movies of Parsons having sex with his mother and the family dog.
Thereafter, L. Ron Hubbard spent several years grinding out science fiction and short stories for New York pulp magazines for a penny a word. Although his output was prodigious, he didn’t see any real money until the 1950 publication of his book Dianetics, a self-help manual tinged with the eastern mysticism that Hubbard allegedly picked up from his years of wandering the Far East as a lad, engaging Tibetan shamans and Chinese mystics in philosophical discourse.
In truth, Hubbard loathed China, having visited it as a teenager very briefly while en route to see his father who was stationed in Guam. At the time, Hubbard’s main lament was for all of the ‘Chinks’ despoiling the country. And the only use he could conceive of for the Great Wall was to convert it into a roller coaster.
Hubbard would later morph the tenets of Dianetics into the spiritual crazy glue known as Scientology, employing a confounding nomenclature sometimes referred to as ‘org-speak.’ The first Church of Scientology was incorporated in California in 1954. Hubbard claimed that his system could be used to increase spiritual freedom, intelligence and to produce immortality. Recruits go through auditing (counseling) sessions of ever escalating cost in order to be ‘cleared’ of ‘thetans’ (souls). A free soul must purge these body thetans in order to be truly liberated. Only after investing $100,000 and countless hours of auditing will the ultimate secret of Scientology be revealed to the recruit. This is the secret of Xenu.
According to Hubbard eschatology, 70 million years ago the planet Earth, then known as Teegeeack, had been one of 76 planets of the Galactic Federation that was badly overpopulated with hundreds of billions of people. The evil overlord Xenu decreed that excess populations on these planets should be sent to Teegeeack, put next to volcanoes and blown to pieces. The spirits or thetans of the victims were implanted with religious and technical images for 36 days. They were then sent either to Hawaii or Los Palmas to be stuck together in clusters. Humans are a collection or cluster of body thetans. Xenu was rounded up after the fact and imprisoned in a mountain. The reader is spared from a comprehensive rendition of the history of the Galactic Federation.
In a 1983 Penthouse interview, L. Ron Hubbard Jr. stated that he was born prematurely after his father botched an abortion attempt on his mother. He claims that his father used copious quantities of drugs and even witnessed him injecting cocaine. Hubbard Jr. has stated, “I believed in Satanism. There was no other religion in our house! What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic spread out over a long time period. It’s stretched out over a lifetime and you don’t see it. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology and it is probably the only part that really works. Also, you’ve got to understand that my father did not worship Satan. He thought he was Satan.” Ron Hubbard Jr. also claimed that his father practiced something called ‘soul-cracking.’ Hubbard Sr. would apparently beat his many mistresses and shoot them full of drugs in order to reach a state whereby, like a psychic hammer, he would break their souls and allow demonic powers to pour through them. Junior also declared that the Scientology Operating Thetan techniques do the same thing. Junior would go on to co-author the popular 1987 book L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman. In that year the Church listed $503 million in income.
Two sinister Scientology graduates of the 60s were Robert DeGrimston and his wife Mary Ann. He was a former architecture student and she was a former prostitute who believed herself to be Joseph Goebbels incarnate. Both had an insatiable preoccupation with death and violence and it is perhaps inevitable that they ended up in San Francisco in 1967 where they established themselves as The Process Church of the Final Judgement. They took up residence on Oak St., in the so-called Devil House, two blocks from where Charles Manson had his ‘family’ and close by Anton Lavey’s Church of Satan. Processans wandered the Haight sporting black capes and black suits and preaching a gospel of doom and destruction. The first edition of Ed Sanders’ book The Family carries an interesting chapter on the Process Church. But a Chicago lawyer convinced them to sue for defamation and the offending chapter was deleted from subsequent editions. Robert Degrimston published several books on war (his favorite theme) and commanded his followers “THOU SHALT KILL!” Another Process publication urged readers to experience the pleasures of grave robbing and necrophilia. A rant in the ‘Death’ issue of their magazine was penned by Charles Manson. Manson’s rap was an amalgam of Process ideology and the 150 hours of Scientology auditing he’d received during one of his numerous prison stints (Charlie declared himself a ‘Theta Clear’).
Contrary to popular belief, the Process is still around, having undergone numerous name changes over the years. The first was the ‘Four-P Movement.’ Author Michael Newton wrote that the cult, “is also deeply involved in white slavery, child pornography and the international narcotics trade.” Still other name changes for the Process included The Foundation Church of the Millenium, The Foundation Faith of God and then Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Today it is known as The Best Friends Animal Society and is located in Kanab, Utah. Mary Ann Degrimston makes her home there along with several other former members. Gone are the days when Process members journeyed to San Quentin to interview Manson. Gone too are all references to Satan and doomsday. Members now softpeddle their involvement in the Process Church of the Final Judgement citing juvenile misguidance. The goal of the reformed church now is to save animals. The large compound in southern Utah is their testament to this end. And the animal sanctuary is a huge cash cow. In 2003 the Society raised more than $20 million. Perhaps the Degrimstons were wise to abandon Scientology when they did. Robert currently works in New York City as a business consultant.
The Sea Org-
In the 1960s, after several years of generating vast sums from credulous recruits, Hubbard took Scientology to sea, in order to stymie various governments who were set to move against his church for fraud and tax evasion. He purchased several large ships and drifted around the Mediterranean searching ancient archaeological sites where he’d lived past lives. These adventures lasted for almost a decade.
He devised cruel methods of discipline for recalcitrant followers that were enforced on a whim. Once, he confined a 5-year old deaf mute to a chain locker, the cold, wet, rat-infested area of the ship where anchor chains are stored.
Other malefactors were consigned to rusty tanks below decks where they chiseled off rust while standing in filthy bilge water. Oxygen was supplied via tubes. Other Scientologists would periodically pound on the hull to ensure that the scraping continued, oftentimes the punishment lasting for days. A food bucket would be lowered down to the offending parties. Stories of shipboard abuse are legion and too numerous to recount in this limited forum.
In the power vacuum that followed the death of L. Ron Hubbard in 1986, high school dropout David Miscavige emerged as the de facto head of Scientology. Known to his enemies as ‘the poison dwarf,’ the diminutive and asthmatic Miscavige even managed to depose Hubbard’s wife. He also ordered Hubbard’s son Arthur to be his personal servant. Miscavige and his followers do their best to attract high-profile members such as John Travolta, who has been in the cult for 20 years.
Gay porn star Paul Berrisi claims to have engaged in a homosexual relationship with Travolta that began in 1982 and lasted eight years. Berrisi claims that Travolta dumped him for another man in 1990. In revenge, he sold his story to the National Enquirer in April of that year. Shortly after the story broke, Travolta hastened to marry Scientologist Kelly Preston. In 2000 Travolta starred in Battlefield Earth, a film adaptation of a Hubbard science fiction novel. Critics roundly excoriated it as one of the worst films of all time. Roger Ebert declared that it was like, “…taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It’s not merely bad, but unpleasant in a hostile way.”
Alt rocker Beck [Hansen] was raised in the cult. His parents have been members for 30 years. When pressed in interviews to admit his Scientology bona fides, he replies with a terse, ‘no comment.’
Obviously, Tom Cruise is the most high-profile Scientologist in the world. For 20 years he has been assiduously courted by David Miscavige. Both men traded effusive praise at a 2005 Scientology gala in England. Referring to Cruise as “the most dedicated Scientologist I know,” Miscavige presented him with the church’s first Freedom Medal of Valor. According to Scientology’s Impact Magazine Cruise replied, “I have never met a more competent, a more intelligent, a more tolerant, a more compassionate being outside of what I have experienced from LRH.”
Scientologist Nicole Kidman often accompanied Cruise to the church’s 500-acre compound at Gilman Hot Springs in the California desert. Former member Maureen Bolstad was at Gilman for 17 years before leaving after a falling-out. She recalled a night from years ago when a state of emergency was declared at the compound. Dozens of Scientologists worked through the night planting a field of wild flowers so that Tom could impress Nicole. On another occasion, dozens worked around the clock for three days renovating a skeet range so that Miscavige could impress Cruise.
Snickering and jibes aside, Tom Cruise is a major Hollywood player. During the filming of War of the Worlds, he insisted that a Scientology info-booth be available on the set for interested crew members. He had it staffed with ministers from the church. Director Spielberg later complained that Cruise spent more time on film junkets promoting Scientology than the film.
And Scarlett Johansson was bounced from the cast of Mission Impossible 3 after proving unreceptive to Cruise’s Scientology pitch. Notwithstanding all of the celebrity endorsements, the church continues to suffer large financial losses. In May 2002, they paid more than $8 million to former member Lawrence Wollersheim after a 22-year legal battle. Miscavige astutely surmised that payment of the money would prevent additional evidence being presented in court that could expose Scientology’s controversial IRS charitable tax exemption to review or repeal and the risk that top executives could be jailed for corporate and asset fraud.
Perhaps the final word on Scientology should go to Jamie Kennedy, great-grandson of L. Ron Hubbard. Kennedy is a 25-year old slam poet from San Francisco who bills himself, not inappropriately, as the ‘Hellspawn Leprechaun.’ He was expelled from high school after writing an epic poem vividly describing the massacre of all of his teachers, followed by a school explosion. This was pre-Columbine. He was kicked out of another school for obsessively writing about sex, death and murder. Yet again, he was booted out of two college classes due to student complaints and obscenity charges. His wife gave birth to a daughter a couple of years ago and Kennedy prays that she is the female Antichrist. “They can’t shut me up. I’ve made a career out of not giving a f___!” he declares. Kennedy has the same red hair and occult predilections of his infamous relation. “Genetically, I think we share some traits. In high school a psychiatrist asked me if I had a history of mental illness in my family. I said, well, my great-grandfather was a cult leader.”
- Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller
- L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman by Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard Jr.
- Religion Inc. by Stewart Lamont
- Programmed to Kill by David McGowan
- Blood on the Altar by Craig Heimbichner
- The Confessions of Aleister Crowley by John Symonds
- Sex and Rockets by John Carter
- A Piece of Blue Sky by Jon Atack
- The Family by Ed Sanders
- Open Secret: Gay Hollywood by David Ehrenstein
- Raising Hell by Michael Newton
- June 1983 Penthouse interview with L. Ron Hubbard Jr.
- “Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley and British Intelligence” by Richard Spence in Volume 13, #3 Journal of Intelligence & Counterintelligence
- Scientology Revealed For the First Time in the Sunday Times 5 October 1969
- Hubbard Used Black Magic by George Wayne-Shelor Clearwater Sun May 16, 1984
- Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power by Richard Behar TIME Magazine (cover story) May 1991
- Friends Find Their Calling by Louis Kilzer in the Rocky Mountain News February 28, 2004
- At Inland Base Scientologists Trained Top Gun by Claire Hoffman December 18, 2005 LA Times
Mark Owen is a freelance writer living in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org