2. STUDY TECH AND L. RON HUBBARD
Applied Scholastics and its associated organizations are strangely tongue-tied about the man who invented Study Technology. L. Ron Hubbard is invariably described as an “author and humanitarian”, with no mention that he was an author of pulp science fiction, and that his “humanitarian” work consisted of his 36 years as leader and guru of Dianetics and Scientology. Indeed, Scientology is not even mentioned on Applied Scholastics’ website despite it being the defining feature of Hubbard’s life. So what role did Hubbard really play in the development of the Study Tech books? And what qualified this college dropout to be an educator?
A curious fact about the Study Tech books is that they list no author or editor. The covers all say “Based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard”, and the copyright registration is held by the L. Ron Hubbard Library, the business alias of the Church of Scientology’s corporate alter ego, the Church of Spiritual Technology. But while the copyright dates are 1992 (or in the case of the Basic Study Manual, 1990), Hubbard died in 1986. So who wrote these books?
The decision to list no author or editor was made by Scientology’s publisher, Bridge Publications, on the grounds that:
“Mr. Hubbard was the author of the ideas and the technology of study… As they are Mr. Hubbard’s ideas and methodologies, and his alone, Bridge Publications assigned the credit where it is incontrovertibly due, to L. Ron Hubbard, the originator.”
(Scott D. Welch, Senior Vice President of Bridge Publications, in a letter to the editor of Education Week, published October 10, 1997)
But why was no one credited for the work of putting Hubbard’s ideas into textbook form? With a few minor exceptions very early in the Church’s history, no one other than L. Ron Hubbard has ever received named authorship or editorial credit for any publication containing Scientology “technology”. Scientology holds Hubbard to be the only source of approved knowledge. He is referred to as “Source” in the Church’s publications. During Hubbard’s lifetime, aides wrote many of his technical bulletins, but the faithful were told that the aides wrote only what Hubbard dictated, and that he approved every document before it was issued.
Despite his death, the Church of Scientology continues to publish new Hubbard religious works, with the explanation that Hubbard left a huge body of unpublished material. A great deal of his output was reportedly dictated onto all manner of recording formats, and the Church has put an enormous amount of work into transcribing and conserving the original recordings. A senior Church committee periodically selects what it regards as key pieces of previously undiscovered “tech” and issues them as new bulletins. It is also engaged in a major process of “cleaning up” Hubbard’s previous publications to remove what are claimed to be unwanted amendments sneaked in by members of his staff. The ostensible idea is to “purify” the scripture of Scientology and return it to a “Golden Age of Tech,” using only that material which definitely originated with Hubbard.
It is a “High Crime” in Scientology to alter any of Hubbard’s writings. This explains why the Basic Study Manual has to list the three word clearing methods as numbers 3, 9, and 7. Renumbering these methods would be a fundamental alteration of “the tech”, and would make the Basic Study Manualincompatible with Scientology scripture. But, curiously, although the overall scheme is still very much Hubbard’s, the details have changed with varying levels of subtlety. Dissident Scientologists have identified many changes made to original Hubbard materials, including taped lectures, that indisputably were entirely the work of the man himself. This process of systematic alteration is apparent throughout Hubbard’s works, not just those marketed as being part of Scientology proper. Despite the absolute prohibition on “simplifying” Hubbard’s works, this is exactly what has happened in the case of the Study Tech manuals and other related “social reform” publications.
b. HUBBARD THE EDUCATOR
Hubbard is promoted by Applied Scholastics and the Church of Scientology as a world-renowned educator and developer of education skills. Applied Scholastics’ website provides a short biographical sketch of Hubbard’s career in education. Another, more detailed, account is given in the Church of Scientology’s official L. Ron Hubbard website under the heading of “Ron the Humanitarian – Education.” The biography given in the manual of the “100% Proficiency Training Workshop,” a course delivered by an offshoot of Applied Scholastics, is typical:
His personal research projects comprise “major contributions to the prevention and cure of social ills such as drug addiction, crime, and illiteracy. His contributions in these areas have found widespread acceptance and use throughout the world in many sectors of society, including families, schools, businesses, governments and religious organisations… Although mainly known for his career as a writer, L Ron Hubbard was fully professional in many fields. His career as an educator spanned the globe and the decades from the 1920s to the 1980s. It spanned the lecture halls of Harvard University and the ships and crews he commanded and trained during WWII, as well as the expedition crews he led as a member of the Explorer’s Club.” His research “formed the basis of entirely new subjects in the fields of mental science and religious philosophy.” He also recognised a collection of barriers to learning “apparently not previously recognised by educators, yet they proved to be the senior factors in all learning.”
(quoted in Magill magazine, June 2002)
The reality, however, was somewhat different. He was a college dropout with no qualifications beyond a purchased degree from a notorious Los Angeles degree mill. Nor had he any experience of teaching children other than one month in a native school on Guam in 1927, when he was just 16 years old. None of this, of course, is mentioned in any official account of Hubbard’s career as an educator. Remarkably, Applied Scholastics omits entirely any mention of the fact that he spent 30 years teaching Scientologists, or that Study Technology itself was invented to “educate” Scientologists.
Since he died in 1986, unauthorized biographers have documented in considerable detail how Hubbard systematically falsified his life story to exaggerate his own achievements and make it appear that Scientology was the culmination of a lifetime of effort (Atack, 1990; Miller, 1988; Owen, 1999). His teaching “career” was no exception to this rule. Applied Scholastics and Scientology both allude to how
L. Ron Hubbard’s concern for education began when he realized the “influence of a mislearned word on a life.” At that time, he was teaching English in a school in Guam.
(Applied Scholastics, “L. Ron Hubbard & Education“)
What none of the official accounts mention is that he taught at the school for just one month. According to contemporary accounts, he found it a challenge and “good experience” but one that he did not particularly want to repeat. His diary recorded his dislike of the natives of Guam, the Chamorros. He referred to them as “gooks” who were “really more or less savage at heart.” He considered them more intelligent than the Filipinos, but felt that they had hardly been touched by civilization. They were far inferior to American youngsters. His diary gives only the briefest mention of his teaching “career,” in the course of a paragraph discussing the remarkable effect that his flaming red hair had on the local people:
Whenever I sat down outside a doorway, the children would gather around me with a very dumb and astonished look upon their faces. The real test came when I commenced a teacher’s career. The Chamarroettes would not study, they would just look at my hair.
(Hubbard, personal diary for June-July 1927)
Hubbard’s dissatisfaction with the Guamese natives made itself felt in other contemporary records. When he got back to his home town of Helena, Montana, the local newspaper interviewed him about his voyage to the Far East. He described his tour of the region, on which he had been accompanied by his parents, and mentioned his time in the Guamese school:
“While with my parents in Guam I taught school for about a month. It was good experience and in my opinion an adventure. The natives were none too easy to handle and I would not care to continue as a teacher there.”
(“Ronald Hubbard Tells of His Trip to Orient and Many Experiences”, Helena newspaper, September 1927)
According to Applied Scholastics and Scientology’s accounts, Hubbard devised novel methods of teaching utterly foreign concepts to the natives:
“In order to convey the utterly foreign concept of a skyscraper, he tells of sketching nipa huts, one atop the other, until he had a sketch resembling the Woolworth Building.”
(L. Ron Hubbard, The Humanitarian – Education, p. 10)
This is not mentioned anywhere in his diary and only appears in a Scientology lecture of January 15, 1957 entitled “Evil.” It is highly probable that he invented the anecdote on the spot to dramatize the point that he was making. Hubbard did this sort of thing on many occasions, inadvertently setting his Scientologist biographers a hopeless task when it came to reconciling his multiple and often contradictory accounts of his own past.
Hubbard’s schooling was disrupted by his father’s Naval service abroad and by his own impetuousness, when at the age of 17 he abandoned high school and travelled to his father’s post at Guam without his parents’ knowledge or consent. They reluctantly accepted his fait accompli, and what would have been Hubbard’s twelfth grade was completed on Guam, taught by his mother. On returning to the United States he enrolled first at the Swavely Prep School, Manassas and then the Woodward School for Boys, an institution for difficult students and slow learners. He graduated at the age of 19, a year late.
The next major step in Hubbard’s education was his enrollment at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. This was not a successful venture. At his father’s prompting, he had signed onto a degree course in civil engineering, a subject in which he had little interest and less aptitude. His grades were correspondingly poor, averaging only a ‘D’. The Church of Scientology claims that “From the outset, George Washington University failed to impress him”; it would be truer to turn the statement the other way round. Hubbard was placed on probation at the end of his first year for his poor results but suffered a further slippage in the second year. He did not return to GWU for his third year, apparently deciding that the degree was unattainable.
Scientology and Applied Scholastics either do not mention his flunking at all, or else attribute it to an improbable and unsupported switch of attention to “the greater track of research towards Dianetics and Scientology.” It is claimed that Hubbard’s time at GWU was crucial in his development as an educator, as it was there that he supposedly learned of the damage being wrought by “Wundtian psychology” and embarked on the research that led to Scientology. The official Scientology account (in “L. Ron Hubbard, The Humanitarian”) cites a claim by Hubbard concerning a visit to the GWU psychology department, headed by a Dr. Fred Moss. Again, though, there is no contemporary evidence of this. The account is based on yet another dubious anecdote related many years after the fact, this time in a Scientology lecture entitled “Universes,” delivered in Phoenix on April 6, 1954.
In fact, Hubbard’s problems at GWU appear to have been largely self-made. He had always had difficulties with mathematics, which was a real problem for a would-be civil engineer. But he did not bother to spend much time on academic matters at GWU. He instead spent much of his time trying to become a “barnstorming” glider pilot. Having established a glider club at GWU and got himself elected president, Hubbard soon qualified for a pilot’s license. He gave a far higher priority to his gliding endeavors than to his coursework, routinely cutting classes if they got in the way of his “going up.” In just two months in 1930, he recorded 116 flights (Miller, p. 49). On top of that, he also wrote a steady stream of articles for the Sportsman Pilot journal and for GWU’s own internal newspaper, which he edited. It is hardly surprising that his academic career suffered as a result.
After he dropped out of university in 1932, Hubbard lived a hand-to-mouth existence as a modestly successful though financially troubled writer of pulp fiction stories. Some of his biographies claim that he lectured at GWU during this period. He did do this but only once, in 1934, having been invited by one of his old professors to give a talk on creative writing.
Hubbard joined the U.S. Navy in 1941, a few months before Pearl Harbor, as a Lieutenant (junior grade). He had a remarkably error-strewn service, twice being removed from command, and spent most of the war ashore without once seeing action against the enemy (Owen, 1999). Nonetheless, Scientology and Applied Scholastics claim Hubbard’s war service as another milestone in his development as an educator:
“During the Second World War, he became involved in the direct instruction of military personnel as well as the redrafting of instructional materials.”
(Applied Scholastics, “L. Ron Hubbard & Education“)
This vague description of “direct instruction of military personnel” may be a reference to his overseeing the commissioning of the USS YP-422, a harbour patrol boat based in Boston, from which he was summarily removed after only two months in command. Or it may be a reference to his subsequent tour of duty at the Submarine Chaser Center in Florida, at which he was supposed to be undergoing training but ended up regaling fellow students with his (completely fictional) exploits aboard a destroyer fighting Nazi U-Boats in the North Atlantic. His shipmate Lt. Thomas Moulton recalled decades later that Hubbard was “used as something of an authority in the classroom” (Miller, p. 130). As for his work on “instructional materials,” that may refer to the two weeks’ work that Hubbard did in 1941 for the Navy Hydrographic Office concerning the Sailing Directions for British Columbia, a coastline with which he was familiar following a private voyage the previous year. None of these episodes amounted to much at all in terms of Hubbard’s own educational development.
Scientology used to claim that Hubbard attended Princeton University. This claim, however, seems to have been abandoned in recent years after being exposed as false. He had attended the US Navy’s School of Military Government on the Princeton campus in 1944. The school was, however, not part of Princeton University.
Hubbard lecturing Scientologists in the late 1950s
(Channel 4 Television, “Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard”)
Hubbard’s “modern science of mental health,” Dianetics, became an unexpected and lucrative success following its launch in June 1950. The delivery of education now suddenly became a serious issue for him. From 1950 through to the mid-1970s, much of his work on Dianetics and Scientology was imparted to his followers through lecturing, which he soon found to be a highly profitable activity. It was a perfect role for Hubbard. He was a natural and extremely fluent public speaker. At his peak in the 1960s, he was able to deliver two one-hour lectures a day, five days a week, without notes and very often seemingly making them up as he went along. He recorded literally hundreds of lectures; today, they serve a crucial role in indoctrinating Scientologists, who know “Ron” chiefly as a voice on a tape. Many ex-Scientologists have commented on the impact that his “rich and jocular” dispensations of wisdom had on them (Atack, 1992).
Seemingly not content just to enjoy the near-worship of his followers, Hubbard also craved the respect of his peers. His lack of a degree became an embarassment to him during this period. In the 1950s he appended the title “C.E.” to his name, despite never having actually qualified as a civil engineer. He also claimed to have been a “nuclear physicist” on the basis of having attended a class in “Atomic and Molecular Phenomena” during his civil engineering course. In 1953, he decided to bolster his academic credentials with a degree purchased for $20 from “Sequoia University,” a notorious Californian degree mill run by a Los Angeles chiropodist named Joseph Hough. On 27 February, Hubbard sent a cable to his agent in Los Angeles: “PLEASE INFORM DR HOUGH PHD VERY ACCEPTABLE. PRIVATELY TO YOU. FOR GOSH SAKES EXPEDITE. WORK HERE UTTERLY DEPENDANT ON IT. CABLE REPLY. RON.” The reply came through the following day: “PHD GRANTED. HOUGH’S AIRMAIL LETTER OF CONFIRMATION FOLLOWS. GOOD LUCK.” (Miller, 1988)
Hubbard thereby acquired wholly bogus titles as a “Doctor of Divinity” and “Doctor of Scientology,” and subsequently took to referring to himself as “Dr” Hubbard. But this too became an embarassment when the falsity of the degree was pointed out, prompting Hubbard to insist that “I was a Ph.D., Sequoia’s University and therefore a perfectly valid doctor under the laws of the State of California” (“Doctor Title Abolished,” HCO Policy Letter of 14 February 1966). The latter assertion was certainly untrue, as Sequoia was never accredited and was eventually forced to closed by the Californian authorities. In the end, Hubbard ostentatiously renounced the degree with an announcement in the personal column of The Times of London in March 1966. He declared that
“having reviewed the damage being done in our society with nuclear physics and psychiatry by persons calling themselves “Doctor” [I] do hereby resign in protest my university degree as a Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), anticipating an early public outcry against anyone called Doctor.”
(quoted in Miller, p. 335)
If he intended this to have a moral effect on the professions that he chastised, it didn’t work. The following day’s Daily Mail pointed out, somewhat churlishly, that the “degree” had never been valid in the first place.
|Hubbard and his family circa 1960
(Channel 4 Television, “Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard”)
As a teacher of Scientologists, Hubbard’s educational efforts focused primarily on adults. But from the very earliest days of Dianetics and Scientology, he paid close attention to children. This was not least because he had five of his own. It has to be said that he was not a very successful father; of his five children, he disowned and disinherited two, and one committed suicide. His surviving children were brought up as Scientologists but never saw him again after he went into hiding in 1977. He was actually closest to the children of other Scientologists, who became his most loyal followers and confidantes. In a bizarre twist, these loyal Scientology children took control of their Church in a “palace coup” in the early 1980s, and continue to run the Church to this day.
One curious aspect of Scientology’s ideology is that children are not actually treated as children. Hubbard claimed that human beings are actually immortal spirits or “thetans,” trillions of years old, housed in “meat bodies.” An individual’s body might be ten years old or thirty, but the thetan – the person himself – would be entitled to equal treatment regardless of physical age.
This underlies the similarity between the two versions of the Study Tech considered in this essay – that provided to children by Applied Scholastics and to adult drug addicts by Narconon. Both have identical texts, but the Applied Scholastics version features cartoons of children whereas the Narconon one shows adults – an obvious bid to make the first one child-friendly. The methodology in both versions is likewise identical. There is no obvious recognition of the fact that children are different from adults – that, for instance, their vocabulary and experience of language is smaller than that of adults. This reflected Hubbard’s view that there was no real difference between the age groups.
For the first 15 years of Scientology, children appear to have been present but largely stayed in the background. They were typically the offspring of local Scientologists who wanted their children to have a Scientology upbringing. At this stage, there were no Scientology-run schools – Hubbard’s own children went to a non-Scientologist (“wog”) school in East Grinstead in England. Children were encouraged to do Scientology courses as well as regular secular education, and the pages of the Scientology house magazine The Auditor featured an ever-younger series of pre-teen children showing off their newly-acquired Scientology certificates. In his book Child Dianetics, Hubbard wrote:
It is possible to process a child at any age level beyond the point when he learns to speak. However, no serious processing should be undertaken until the child is at least five. Extensive dianetic processing is not encouraged, except in very unusual circumstances, until the child is at least eight years of age.
(Hubbard, Child Dianetics)
Hubbard eventually took a more relaxed approach, subsequently advising Scientologists that they “may accept a child of any age for processing (except psychos as per present policy)” (“HGC and Academy Prices for Minors,” HCO Policy Letter of 29 March 1960).
His treatment of children took a much more sinister turn in the late 1960s. It was a very difficult time for Scientology, and for Hubbard personally: he had been expelled from Britain, convicted of fraud in France and added to the Nixon administration’s infamous “enemies list.” Hubbard stayed one step ahead of the law by buying his own small fleet of ships, aboard which he, his family and nearly four hundred loyal Scientologists spent the next nine years cruising the Mediterranean. The “Sea Org,” as it was dubbed, was soon declared to be “the most élite group on the planet.” It became a very powerful faction within Scientology, due to its proximity to Hubbard and the unbridled fanaticism of its members.
A number of those accompanying Hubbard were children – his own and those of crew members. Some were unaccompanied, their parents having quit Scientology or returned to shoreside Scientology organizations. Hubbard organized those children that he deemed most loyal into their own organization within the Sea Org – the “Cadet Org.” This was constituted just like the Sea Org in miniature, with all the regular posts being held by children. At one time its Ethics Officer, responsible for discipline, was just eight years old. Hubbard went so far as to redefine the meaning of the word “children.” A child, he declared, was “one who cannot handle an org or ship post.” Any child who could handle such a post was no longer a child, but a Cadet.
Scientology children were treated like their parents in another important respect – they were subjected to Hubbard’s stringent regime of Scientology Ethics, including the occasionally sadistic punishments that Hubbard inflicted for infringements. Scientology-run schools continue to use Scientology Ethics as the basis for educational discipline. He even devised a “Children’s Security Check” for use on children aged between six and twelve (those over twelve were considered to be adults) to identify any possible ethical infractions. The questions for this gruelling, hours-long interrogation included items like:
“10. Have you ever refused to obey an order from someone you should obey?
19. Do you have a secret?
34. Who have you made guilty?
71. Have you ever been a coward?”
(“Security Check Children,” HCO Bulletin of 21 September 1961)
Aboard his flagship Apollo, Hubbard’s behavior had become increasingly erratic by the end of the 1960s. Drastic punishments, including being thrown overboard and being confined to the chain locker or bilges, eating out of a bucket, were arbitrarily inflicted on Hubbard’s band of followers. Adults and children alike were brutalized. Some of the more thoughtful Scientologists were horrified by the vicious punishments meted out to young children on Hubbard’s direct orders. Hana Eltringham, the captain of the Apollo, recalled what Hubbard did with a small boy who had chewed a telex:
“He put this 4½ year old little boy – Derek Greene – into the chain locker for two days and two nights. It’s a closed metal container, it’s wet, it’s full of water and seaweed, it smells bad. But Derek was sitting up, on the chain, in this place, on his own, in the dark, for two days and two nights. He was not allowed to go to the potty. I mean he had to go in the chain locker on his own, soil himself. He was given food. And I never went near it, the chain locker while he was in there, but people heard him crying. That is sheer, total brutality. That is child abuse.”
(Hana Eltringham, interview on Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard, Channel 4 Television, November 19, 1997)
Hubbard (on the right) at the wedding of his daughter Diana, circa 1970. Note the group of at least eight teenage Messengers behind him.
(Channel 4 Television, “Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard”)
Children who pleased Hubbard received a different but perhaps no less sinister kind of treatment. He had already been using children to relay his verbal orders around the ship. Around 1970, he established an elite unit made up entirely of children, called the Commodore’s Messenger Organization. Its members were almost all teenage girls dressed in tight blue uniforms and gold lanyards. They were trained to relay Hubbard’s orders using his exact words and tone of voice; if he was bellowing abuse, they would go to the target of his ire and scream Hubbard’s invective at them. They waited on Hubbard hand, foot and finger, 24 hours a day. Organized into six-hour shifts, they would perform every imaginable personal service, no matter how menial. Two would accompany him when he walked on the deck, one carrying his cigarettes, the other an ashtray to catch the ash as it fell. They washed him and massaged him, helped him to dress and undress, mixed his drinks and arranged his clothes. Tanya Burden, then a fourteen-year-old Messenger, later recalled:
“When he woke up he would yell “Messenger” and two of us would go into his room straight away. He would usually be lying in his bunk in his underwear with one arm outstretched, waiting for us to pull him up to a sitting position. While one of us put a robe round his shoulders, the other one would give him a cigarette, a Kool non-filter, light it and stand ready with an ashtray. I would run into the bathroom to make sure his toothbrush, soap and razor were all laid out in a set fashion and I prepared his bath, checked the shampoo, towel and the temperature of the water.
‘When he went into the bathroom we would lay out his clothes, powder his socks and shoes and fold everything ready to get him dressed. Everything had to be right because if it wasn’t he would yell at us and we didn’t want to upset him. The last thing we wanted to do was upset him. When he came out of the shower, he would be in his underwear. Two of us held his pants off the floor as he stepped into them. He didn’t like his trouser legs to touch the floor, God forbid that should happen. We pulled up his pants and buckled his belt, although he zipped them. We put on his shirt, buttoned it up, put his Kools in his shirt pocket, tied his cravat and combed his hair. All this time he’d be standing there watching us run around him. Then we’d follow him out on to the deck carrying anything he might need – cloak, hat, binoculars, ashtray, spare cigarettes, anything he could possibly think of wanting. We felt it was an honor and a privilege to do anything for him.”
(Tanya Burden, interview with Russell Miller, February 1986)
Hubbard’s fanatical teenage Messengers – soon to become the new masters of Scientology.
(Channel 4 Television, “Secret Lives – L. Ron Hubbard”)
The Messengers’ physical proximity to Hubbard effectively gave them control of his communications, placing them in an extremely powerful position in a Church that was totally dominated by Hubbard. For his part, Hubbard came to see the Messengers as the only people that he could trust entirely, much to the distress of his family. In 1977, following the arrest of his wife on charges of conspiracy against the United States Government, Hubbard went into hiding and was never seen in public again.
The Messengers now became his sole conduit to the rest of the world. Using their newly acquired power, they mounted a palace coup in 1980-81, removing from power (and often expelling from Scientology) most of the Church’s leadership. The leader of the “revolutionaries” was a 21-year-old Messenger, David Miscavige. Under his authority, squads of teenage Scientologists fanned out across the world to take over Scientology organizations controlling thousands of staff and assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The Commodore’s Messenger Organization thus became the top management organization in Scientology. Despite the extreme youth of some of its members, they acquired extraordinary power and responsibilities. A fairly typical example could be found in Britain, where a fourteen-year-old, Gulliver Smithers, was placed in charge of all other Scientology organizations in the country. He was not even the youngest CMO executive in Britain.
The CMO was disbanded following Hubbard’s death in 1986. By this time, and despite considerable turmoil within the Church, its members had gained a lockhold on Scientology’s management. The CMO’s former members continue to dominate the senior ranks of the Church and former Messenger David Miscavige remains the head of the Church of Scientology to this day. As a direct result of Hubbard’s bizarre management style, Scientology had been taken over by its children.