Going Clear
Author:Lawrence Wright

Meantime, in Havana, Hubbard hired a couple of women to take care of the baby. They kept her in a crib with wire over the top. To de Mille, it seemed that Alexis was being held like a monkey in a cage.

Cuba was run by mobsters, who had turned it into a hedonistic paradise, but Hubbard took little advantage of the nightlife; he locked himself in a hotel room, rented an old typewriter with Spanish-language keys, and began to write. According to de Mille, Hubbard wrote all night with a bottle of rum at hand, which was empty in the morning.

The book Hubbard was pounding out in Havana was Science of Survival. He introduced his readers to the Tone Scale, which had evolved since he sketched it out in his letter to Robert Heinlein two years before. The scale classifies emotional states, starting at zero, Body Death. The lower tones are characterized by psychosis, where hatred and anger give way to perversion, artful lying, cowardice, withdrawal, and apathy. “People below the 2.0 level, no matter their avowed intention, will bring death or injury to persons, things and organizations around them if in the anger bracket, or death to themselves if in the apathy bracket,” Hubbard writes. “Anyone below 2.0 level is a potential suicide.” Their bodies stink, as does their breath. At 2.5, there is a break point between the normal and the neurotic. This stage is characterized by boredom, vagueness, indifference, and pointless conversation. At level 3.0 one enters a stage that Hubbard characterizes as “very high normal,” where one is resistant to infections, tolerant, and reasonable; however, he is also insincere, careless, and untrustworthy.

Clear registers 4.0 on the scale. A person who has attained this level is nearly accident-proof and immune to bacteria. He is exhilarated, eager, strong, able, curious, ethical, creative, courageous, responsible, and impossible to hypnotize. And yet this state is only one-tenth of what Hubbard forecasts in the realm of human potential. His scale goes all the way to 40.0, Serenity of Beingness, but the capabilities of the upper regions are largely unknown.

Given the circumstances that surrounded the creation of this book, it’s interesting to read what Hubbard writes about sexual behavior and attitudes toward children. Not only was he on the run in Cuba with his abducted daughter when he wrote this, he was also being sued for non-support of the two children from his first marriage, whom he hadn’t seen for years. “Sex,” he wrote, “is an excellent index of the position of the preclear on the Tone Scale.” The highest levels are characterized by monogamy, constancy, a pleasurable attitude toward sex, and an intense interest in children, although the urge to procreate is mitigated by the sublimation of sexual desire into pure creative thought. At 3.0 on the scale, sexual interest is diminished but the urge to procreate remains high. That begins to fall off at 2.5, “not for any reason beyond a general failure to be interested in anything.” Children are tolerated, but there is little interest in their affairs. At 2.0, sex becomes revolting and children provoke anxiety. Rape and child abuse characterize 1.5.

Then Hubbard arrives at a level that preoccupies him, 1.1 on the Tone Scale. “Here is the harlot, the pervert, the unfaithful wife, Free Love, easy marriage and quick divorce and general sexual disaster,” he writes. “A society which reaches this level is on its way out of history.” A mother who is at 1.1 on the Tone Scale will attempt to abort her child. However, once the child is born, “we get general neglect and thoughtlessness about the child and no feeling whatsoever about the child’s future or any effort to build one for it. We get careless familial actions, such as promiscuity, which will tear to pieces the family security upon which this child’s future depends. Along this band, the child is considered a thing, a possession.”

Hubbard finished the book and wrote this dedication:


Alexis Valerie Hubbard

For Whose Tomorrow May

Be Hoped a World That

Is Fit To Be Free

Hubbard eventually wrote a note to Sara to explain his whereabouts, saying that he was in a Cuban military hospital, about to be transferred to the States “as a classified scientist immune from interference of all kinds.” He adds, “I will be hospitalized probably a long time. Alexis is getting excellent care. I see her every day. She is all I have to live for. My wits never gave way under all you did and let them do but my body didn’t stand up. My right side is paralyzed.… I hope my heart lasts.… Dianetics will last 10,000 years—for the Army and Navy have it now.” He concludes by warning that in the event of his death, Alexis will inherit a fortune, but if Sara gains custody, the child will get nothing.

Hubbard did return to the United States and hunkered down in Wichita, Kansas, where a wealthy supporter, Don Purcell, provided him sanctuary. Hubbard’s old friend Russell Hays was there, consulting for the Cessna Aircraft Corporation. Hubbard arrived with “a Cadillac so damn long he couldn’t hardly park it anywhere, and two concubines,” Hays marveled. When Sara discovered where her husband was, she sought to enjoin his assets. Hubbard retaliated by writing a letter to the US attorney general, explaining the peril he was in. “I am, basically, a scientist in the field of atomic and molecular phenomena,” he said by way of introduction. He said that his own investigation showed that Sara was tied to Communists who had infiltrated the Dianetics Foundation. This was at the height of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. “I did not realize my wife was one until this spring,” Hubbard wrote. He named several of his disaffected followers, including Gregory Hemingway, son of the famous novelist. “When, when, when will we have a round-up?” he implored.

Meantime, Sara came to Wichita to pursue the divorce and to get Alexis back. Ron blithely suggested that they should take a trip together. “He told me that I was under the influence of this communist cell” run by her husband, Sara recalled. “And that they were dictating to me what to do, and that I was in a state of complete madness. I told him, ‘Yep, I think you’re right. The only thing I can do is to work through it and do whatever they say.’ ” Ron replied that the Communists had hypnotized her. Sara played along, but insisted she would have to go through the divorce; only then would she be able to break free of their power.

“You know, I’m a public figure and you’re nobody,” Ron said, “so if you have to go through the divorce, I’ll accuse you of desertion so it won’t look so bad on my public record.” As long as she was going to get Alexis back as part of the bargain, Sara agreed.

Sara Northrup Hubbard in April 1951, when she was suing Hubbard for the return of their baby daughter, Alexis

On the day of the divorce, Ron was convinced that the spell the Communists had cast over Sara would be broken, and she would come back to him. When they walked out of the courtroom, Sara told him that she had to get their daughter. Ron took her to the place where Alexis was being held. Sara said that the last thing she had to do was go to the airport. She already had a ticket. Then the enchantment would dissolve and she would be free.

On the day of her scheduled departure, Ron drove Sara and Alexis to the airport. “We got halfway there and he said he wasn’t going to do it,” Sara recalled.

“You’re going to get on that plane and go away, aren’t you?” Ron said.

“Well, I have to follow their dictates,” Sara replied. “I’ll just go to the airplane.”

Ron parked the car. He told her that he couldn’t stand the idea that she would be under the influence of psychiatrists, and that he might never see either of them again. “I’m not going to let you go,” he said.

“I got out of the car, it was on the edge of the airfield,” Sara remembered. “I left all Alexi’s clothes in the car, I left my suitcase, one of her shoes fell off and I had my purse. I just ran across the airfield, across the runways, to the airport and got on the plane. And it was the nineteenth of June and it was the happiest day of my life.”

IN THE SPACE of a year, Hubbard had gone from destitution and obscurity to great wealth and international renown, followed by a crashing descent. The foundation he had created to train auditors plummeted into debt and soon declared bankruptcy. Close supporters, such as John Campbell and Dr. Winter, deserted. Dianetics proved to be a fad that had swept the country, infatuating tens or even hundreds of thousands of people, but then burned itself out more quickly than the hula hoop.

Once again, Hubbard got a house trailer, and this time he drove it to Lawrence, Kansas, where Russell Hays now lived. Hays instructed Hubbard to park his trailer on some raw land he owned nearby. “That didn’t please him,” Hays said. “I wouldn’t want to have to live with him, he’d get on my nerves.” Hubbard was drinking and had a number of drugs along with him, and he pressed Hays to supply him with marijuana. Hays later dried some horseweed and mailed it to Hubbard, signing the letter, “I. M. Reefer.”

Hays advised the discouraged Hubbard to make use of his extensive mailing list. There were many followers who still believed in the man and his method. Some had had meaningful emotional breakthroughs. Others had experiences—such as leaving their bodies—that conclusively proved to them the validity of Hubbard’s claims. These acolytes provided the bedrock of support that Hubbard needed to regenerate his broken organization, rebuild his finances, and repair the stain on his reputation caused by his personal scandals.

In addition to Hubbard’s relentless self-confidence, several new factors salvaged his movement. He had a new device, the E-Meter, developed by one of his followers, which Hubbard revealed in March 1952. The E-Meter would replace the Dianetic reverie with what appeared to be a more scientific approach, one that didn’t look so much like a hypnotic trance. “It sees all, knows all,” Hubbard declared. “It is never wrong.” And he had a new wife, Mary Sue Whipp, a petite Texan, twenty years his junior, whom he married that same month. She was already pregnant with the first of their four children.

Hubbard also had a new name for his movement. From now on, it was Scientology.