Going Clear
Author:Lawrence Wright

The red-haired Guardian Hubbard visualizes so vividly is a kind of ideal mother, who also functions as his muse and is the source of his astoundingly rapid writing. Hubbard loves her but reassures himself that his Guardian does not control him. In all things, he is the controlling force. She seems to be an artifact of the influence of Aleister Crowley. Jack Parsons had said that Hubbard called his Guardian “the Empress.”

His fear of hypnotism is quite striking. He was an accomplished stage hypnotist, a skill he displayed at a meeting of a group of sci-fi fans in Los Angeles, when he put nearly everyone in the audience into a trance, and persuaded one of them that he was holding a pair of miniature kangaroos in the palm of his hand. He also once tried to hypnotize Sara’s mother, after she had a stroke, to persuade her to leave her money to him. But then he would accuse Sara of hypnotizing him in his sleep.

If one looks behind the Affirmations to the conditions they are meant to correct, one sees a man who is ashamed of his tendency to fabricate personal stories, who is conflicted about his sexual needs, and who worries about his mortality. He has a predatory view of women but at the same time fears their power to humiliate him.

The third and final section of this document is titled “The Book.” It contains a checklist of personal goals and compliments he pays to himself, but it is also a portrait of the superman that he wishes to be. He does make mention of an actual book—he calls it One Commandment—that seems to be a reference to Excalibur. “It freed you forever from the fears of the material world and gave you material control over people,” he writes.

You are radiant like sunlight.

You can read music.

You are a magnificent writer who has thrilled millions.

Ability to drop into a trance state at will.

Lack of necessity of following a pulp pattern.

You did a fine job in the Navy. No one there is now “out to get you.”

You are psychic.

You do not masturbate.

You do not know anger. Your patience is infinite.

Snakes are not dangerous to you. There are no snakes in the bottom of your bed.

You believe implicitly in God. You have no doubts of the All Powerful. You believe your Guardian perfectly.

The judge in the Armstrong suit, where this document was presented as evidence, offered his own amateur diagnosis of Hubbard’s personality in a crushing decision against the church:

The organization is clearly schizophrenic and paranoid, and this bizarre combination seems to be a reflection of its founder LRH. The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating, and inspiring his adherents.… Obviously, he is and has been a very complex person, and that complexity is further reflected in his alter ego, the Church of Scientology.

IN 1948, ten years after his first attempt to establish himself as a screenwriter, Hubbard had returned to Hollywood, setting up shop as a freelance guru. “I went right down in the middle of Hollywood, I rented an office, got a hold of a nurse, wrapped a towel around my head and became a swami,” Hubbard later said. “I used to sit in my penthouse on Sunset Boulevard and write stories for New York and then go to my office in the studio and have my secretary tell everybody I was in conference while I caught up on my sleep,” he recalled on another occasion. He painted a far different picture in a letter to the Veterans Administration, which was demanding reimbursement for an overpayment: “I cannot imagine how to repay this $51.00 as I am nearly penniless and have but $28.50 to last me for nearly a month to come,” he writes. “My expenditures consist of $27 a month trailer rent and $80 a month food for my wife and self which includes gas, cigarettes and all incidentals. I am very much in debt and have not been able to get a job.” Instead of repaying the VA, he boldly asks for a loan.

In Hollywood, Hubbard began perfecting techniques that he first developed in the naval hospital and that later became Dianetics. He boasts to Hays, “Been amusing myself making a monkey out of Freud. I always knew he was nutty but didn’t have a firm case.” He adds that he has been conducting research on inferiority complexes: “Nightly had people writhing in my Hollywood office, sending guys out twice as tall as superman.” For the first time, he floats the idea of a book, which he tentatively titles An Introduction to Traumatic Psychology. He thinks it will require about six weeks to write. “I got to revolutionize this here field because nobody in it, so far as I can tell, knows his anatomy from a gopher hole.”

Hubbard was casting around for a new direction in his life. He took up acting at the Geller Theater Workshop, paid for in part by the VA, but that didn’t satisfy him. There was a larger plan stirring in his imagination. “I was hiding behind the horrible secret. And that is I was trying to find out what the mind was all about,” he recalls. “I couldn’t even tell my friends; they didn’t understand. They said, ‘Here’s Hubbard, he’s leading a perfectly wonderful life. He gets to associate with movie actresses. He knows hypnotism and so has no trouble with editors. He has apartments and stuff.’ ”

IT WAS THE LARVAL STAGE of Hubbard’s astonishing transformation—from the depressed, rejected, impoverished, creatively exhausted figure he paints in the Affirmations, to his nearly overnight success as a thinker and founder of an international movement when his book Dianetics was finally published. He wrote his friend Robert Heinlein, “I will soon, I hope give you a book risen from the ashes of the old Excalibur which details in full the mathematics of the human mind, solves all the problems of the ages, and gives six recipes for aphrodisiacs and plays the mouth organ with the left foot.” He writes a little about recovering from the war, then remarks, “The main difficulty these days is getting sane again. I find out that I am making progress. Of course there is always the danger that I will get too sane to write.” He is angling for a Guggenheim grant for his book on psychology. Meantime, he was so pressed financially that he begged Heinlein for a loan of fifty dollars. “Golly, I never was so many places in print with less to show for it,” Hubbard complained. “I couldn’t buy a stage costume for Gypsy Rose Lee.”

Hubbard was writing these letters from Savannah, Georgia, in the waning days of 1948 and the spring of 1949. He said he was volunteering in a psychiatric clinic at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, “getting case histories at the request of the American Psychiatric Assoc.” It is a shadowy period in his life, but it was in Savannah that he began to sketch out the principles that would form the basis of his understanding of the human mind. He claimed to be getting phenomenal results on nearly every malady he addressed. “One week ago I brought in my first asthma cure,” he writes to Heinlein. “I have an arthritis to finish tomorrow and so it goes.”

It’s unclear whether Hubbard himself was receiving treatment in Savannah. “My hip and stomach and side are well again,” he writes to Heinlein, adding that he is “straightening out the kinks that have held down production on the money machine.”

In his letters, Hubbard continually speculates about the book he hopes to finish soon. “It ain’t agin religion,” he boasts to Heinlein. “It just abolishes it.… It’s science, boy, science.” He makes a vague reference to the research he’s performing on children. “This hellbroth I cooked up works remarkably well on kids,” he remarks. “Took a scared little kid that was supposed to be stupid and was failing everything and worked on him about thirty-five hours just to make sure. That was last month. So now he turns up this afternoon with all A’s and all of a sudden reading Shakespeare.” He was also noting improvement in himself, both in his work and in his recovered sexual powers. “I am cruising on four hours sleep a night. But the most interesting thing is, I’m up to eight comes. In an evening, that is.”

Heinlein was eager for details. Hubbard responded by outlining what he would later call the Tone Scale. It describes the range of human emotional states, from one to four. At bottom, there is Apathy, then Anger. These lower tones were governed by the unconscious, which Hubbard says should be called the “reactive mind.” The third level, which was as yet untitled, is the normal state for most of humanity; and the fourth is a condition of happiness and industriousness. Hubbard’s experimental technique aimed at raising an individual out of the lower tones and into the superior state of the fourth tone. His method, as he described it to Heinlein, was to drain off the painful experiences and associations that an individual has accumulated in his lifetime. Once that’s done, “astonishing results take place.” Asthma, headaches, arthritis, menstrual cramps, astigmatism, and ulcers simply disappear. There is a huge boost in competence. The reactive mind is eliminated, and the rational mind takes over.

At the end of April 1949, Hubbard sent a note to Heinlein that he was moving to Washington, DC, for an indefinite stay. There was no word about Sara. Three weeks later, the thirty-eight-year-old Hubbard applied for a license in Washington to marry twenty-six-year-old Ann Jensen. The application was canceled the next day at the request of the bride. Perhaps she had learned that Hubbard was already married to his second wife and had previously committed bigamy. In any case, Ann Jensen’s name disappears from Hubbard’s life story.

He and Sara moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where John Campbell, Hubbard’s editor at Astounding Science-Fiction before the war, resided. Campbell visited Hubbard often and became one of his first and most important converts. “Dammit, the man’s got something—and something big,” he wrote excitedly to Heinlein.

Campbell underwent the treatment, which employed “deep hypnosis.” In that entranced state, Campbell was able to retrieve traumatic memories of his birth. “I was born with a cord wrapped around my neck, strangling me,” he recounted to Heinlein. The doctor who delivered him, whom Campbell now remembered had a German accent, had barked at Campbell’s mother, saying, “You must stop fighting—you are killing him. Relax!” Later, the doctor put some corrosive medication in the baby’s eyes, and said, “You’ll forget all about this in a little while.” Campbell characterized these instructions as “unshakeable posthypnotic commands of tremendous force,” which governed much of his subsequent behavior. “The neighbor bratlings could tease me unmercifully—and did—because I couldn’t fight,” he told Heinlein; his mother would often attempt to console him by telling him that he would forget the painful experiences of his childhood soon enough, with the result that many of the most important moments of his life were lost to him. “Ron’s technique consists of bringing these old memories into view, and then erasing the memory,” Campbell explained. He writes that although he now doesn’t remember his actual birth, he does remember retrieving it and relating it to Hubbard, who then erased the real memory, with its painful associations, leaving Campbell with the experience of knowing what happened to him without actually having the memory continue its sinister influence. Obviously, the line between a real memory and an implanted one, or a confabulation, was very difficult to draw.

This was the most potent medicine ever discovered, Campbell continued, but also the most dangerous weapon imaginable if not properly handled. “With the knowledge I now have, I could turn most ordinary people into homicidal maniacs within one hour.” And yet, as an editor, Campbell recognized the commercial possibilities: “This is the greatest story in the world—far bigger than the atomic bomb.” He added in a postscript that he had also lost twenty pounds in twenty-five days—another commercial bonanza. Campbell was beside himself because Hubbard had yet to actually start writing the book. “The key to world sanity is in Ron Hubbard’s head, and there isn’t even an adequate written record!”

In December, Ron and Sara moved into what Hubbard termed “a little old shack” in Bayhead, New Jersey, with eight bedrooms, near the beach. In March 1950, he sent the Heinleins a handmade miniature book catalogue from “Hubbard House” publishers, proclaiming the spring collection:


A New Hubbard Edition

Completely New Material

Not a revision

Co-Authors—Ron & Sara Hubbard

Release Date March 8, ’50—11:50 A.M.

Weight—9 lbs. 2 oz. — Height—21 in.

Alexis Valerie

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