Going Clear
Author:Lawrence Wright

EVEN IF HUBBARD WAS a government spy, as the church claims, the available records show him at what must have been his lowest point in the years just after the war. His physical examination at the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles in September 1946 notes, “No work since discharge. Lives on his savings.” (The VA eventually increased his disability to forty percent.) Sara noticed that he was having nightmares. That winter, they moved into a lighthouse on a frozen lake in the Poconos near Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It was an unsettling time for Sara; they were isolated, and Ron had a .45 pistol that he would fire randomly. Late one night, while she was in bed and Ron was typing, he hit her across the face with the pistol. He told her that she had been smiling in her sleep, so she must have been thinking about someone else. “I got up and left the house in the night and walked on the ice of the lake because I was terrified,” Sara said in 1997, in an account she dictated shortly before she died. She was so shocked and humiliated she didn’t know how to respond.

Ron had begun beating her in Florida, shortly after her father died. Her grief seemed to provoke Ron—she assumed it was because she wasn’t being who he needed her to be. No one had ever struck her before. She recognized now how dangerous their relationship was; on the other hand, Ron’s need for her was so stark. He had been blocked for a long time, and Sara had been churning out plots for him, and actually writing some of his stories. Ron worried that he would never write again. He frequently threatened suicide. Sara didn’t believe in divorce—it was a terrible stigma at the time—and she still thought she could save Ron. “I kept thinking that he must be suffering or he wouldn’t act that way.” And so, she went back to him.

Ron took a loan and bought a house trailer, and he and Sara drove across the country to Port Orchard, where his parents and his undivorced first wife and children were living. Sara had no idea why people treated her so strangely, until finally Hubbard’s son Nibs told her that his parents were still married. Once again, Sara fled. Ron found her waiting for the ferry that was leaving for California. The engines of the ship grumbled as Ron hastily pleaded his case. He told her that he really was getting a divorce. He claimed that an attorney had assured him that he and Sara actually were legally married. Finally, the ferry left without her.

Soon after that, Ron and Sara set out for Hollywood. They got as far as Ojai, California, where Ron was arrested for failing to make payments on the house trailer they were living in.

In October 1947, Hubbard sent the VA an alarming and revealing plea:

I am utterly unable to approach anything like my own competence. My last physician informed me that it might be very helpful if I were to be examined and perhaps treated psychiatrically or even by a psychoanalyst.… I avoided out of pride any mental examinations, hoping that time would balance a mind which I had every reason to suppose was seriously affected.… I cannot, myself, afford such treatment.

Would you please help me?

Nothing came of this request. There is no record that the VA conducted a psychological assessment of Hubbard. Throughout his life, however, questions would arise about his sanity. Russell Miller, a British biographer, tracked down an ex-lover of Hubbard’s, who described him as “a manic depressive with paranoid tendencies.” The woman, whom Miller called “Barbara Kaye” (her real name was Barbara Klowden), later became a psychologist. She added, “He said he always wanted to found a religion like Moses or Jesus.” A man who later worked in the church as Hubbard’s medical officer, Jim Dincalci, listed his traits: “Paranoid personality. Delusions of grandeur. Pathological lying.” Dr. Stephen Wiseman, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, who has been a prominent critic of Scientology, speculated that a possible diagnosis of Hubbard’s personality would be “malignant narcissism,” which he characterizes as “a highly insecure individual protecting himself with aggressive grandiosity, disavowal of any and every need from others, antisocial orientation, and a heady and toxic mix of rage/anger/aggression/violence and paranoia.”

And yet, if Hubbard was paranoid, it was also true that he really was often pursued, first by creditors and later by grand juries and government investigators. He may have had delusions of grandeur, as so many critics say, but he did in fact make an undeniable mark on the world, publishing many best sellers and establishing a religion that endures decades after his death. Grandiosity might well be a feature of a personality that could accomplish such feats.

A fascinating glimpse into Hubbard’s state of mind during this time is found in what I am calling his secret memoir. The church claims that the document is a forgery. It was produced by the former archivist for the Church of Scientology, Gerald Armstrong, in a 1984 suit that the church brought against him. Armstrong read some portions of them into the record over the strong objections of the church attorneys; others later found their way onto the Internet. The church now maintains that Hubbard did not write this document, although when it was entered into evidence, the church’s lawyers made no such representation, saying that the papers were intensely private, “constitute a kind of self-therapy,” and did not reflect Hubbard’s actual condition.

This disputed document has been called the Affirmations, or the Admissions, but it is rather difficult to define. In part, the thirty pages constitute a highly intimate autobiography, dealing with the most painful episodes in Hubbard’s life. Many of the references to people and events made in these pages are supported by other documents. It appears that Hubbard is using techniques on himself that he would later develop into Dianetics. He explores memories that pose impediments in his mental and spiritual progress, and he prescribes affirmations or incantations to counter the psychological influence of these events. These statements would certainly be the most revealing and intimate disclosures Hubbard ever made about himself.

There are three sections in this document, each of which seems to have a different purpose.

The first section is called “Course I.” This is what I have termed the secret memoir, as it contains reflections on the most embarrassing or troubling features of Hubbard’s biography. “The purpose of this experiment is to re-establish the ambition, willpower, desire to survive, the talent and confidence of myself,” Hubbard declares straightforwardly at the start. “I was always anxious about people’s opinion of me and was afraid I would bore them. This injected anxiety and careless speed into my work. I must be convinced that I can write skillfully and well.” Those who criticize his work are fools, he writes. “I must be convinced I have succeeded in writing and with ease will regain my popularity, which actually was not small.”

“My service record was none too glorious,” he admits. He also confesses his shame about his frequent affairs. But he is intent on succeeding in his relationship with Sara, whom he describes as “young, beautiful, desirable.” Unfortunately, he is handicapped by bouts of impotence. “I want her always. But I am 13 years older than she. She is heavily sexed. My libido is so low I hardly admire her naked.”

Sex preoccupies him. He’s worried about his “very bad masturbatory history,” his sexual diseases, and his impotence, which he had been treating with testosterone supplements. “By eliminating certain fears of hypnosis, curing my rheumatism and laying off hormones, I hope to restore my former libido. I must!”

Through self-hypnosis, he hopes to convince himself of certain prescriptive mantras, including:

I can write.

My mind is still brilliant.

That masturbation was no sin or crime.

That I do not need to have ulcers anymore.

That I am fortunate in losing Polly and my parents, for they never meant well by me.

That I believe in my gods and spiritual things.

That my magical work is powerful and effective.

That the numbers 7, 25, and 16 are not unlucky or evil for me.

That I am not bad to look upon.

That I am not susceptible to colds.

That Sara is always beautiful to me.

That these words and commands are like fire and will sear themselves into every corner of my being, making me happy and well and confident forever!

The second part of the document, labeled “Course II,” included the statements that have come to be called Affirmations, although Hubbard refers to them as incantations. He had recently gotten a new recorder for dictation, called a SoundScriber. It may be that he recorded this portion and played it back to himself as a means of self-hypnosis. This section begins with the command “You are asleep.”

In this lesson, Hubbard tells himself, he will learn several important things:

You have no urge to talk about your navy life. You do not like to talk of it. You never illustrate your point with bogus stories. It is not necessary for you to lie to be amusing and witty.

You like to have your intimate friends approve of and love you for what you are. This desire to be loved does not amount to a psychosis.

You can sing beautifully.

Nothing can intervene between you and your Guardian. She cannot be displaced because she is too powerful. She does not control you. She advises you.

You will never forget these incantations. They are holy and are now become an integral part of your nature.

Material things are yours for the asking. Men are your slaves.

You are not sleepy or tired ever.… Your Guardian alone can talk to you as you sleep but she may not hypnotize you. Only you can hypnotize yourself.

The desires of other people have no hypnotic effect on you.

Nothing, no one opposes your writing.… You can carry on a wild social life and still write one hundred thousand words a month or more.… Your writing has a deep hypnotic effect on people.

You will make fortunes writing.

Your psychology is advanced and true and wonderful. It hypnotizes people. It predicts their emotions, for you are their ruler.

You will live to be 200 years old.

You will always look young.

You have no doubts about God.

You are not a coward.

Your eyes are getting progressively better. They became bad when you used them as an excuse to escape the naval academy. You have no reason to keep them bad.

Your stomach trouble you used as an excuse to keep the Navy from punishing you. You are free of the Navy.

Your hip is a pose. You have a sound hip. It never hurts. Your shoulder never hurts.

Your foot was an alibi. The injury is no longer needed.

Testosterone blends easily with your own hormones.… You have no fear of what any woman may think of your bed conduct. You know you are a master. You know they will be thrilled. You can come many times without weariness.… Many women are not capable of pleasure in sex and anything adverse they say or do has no effect whatever upon your pleasure.

You have no fear if they conceive. What if they do? You do not care. Pour it into them and let fate decide.

You can tell all the romantic tales you wish.… But you know which ones were lies.… You have enough real experience to make anecdotes forever. Stick to your true adventures.

Money will flood in upon you.

Self pity and conceit are not wrong. Your mother was in error.

Masturbation does not injure or make insane. Your parents were in error. Everyone masturbates.

The most thrilling thing in your life is your love and consciousness of your Guardian.

She has copper red hair, long braids, a lovely Venusian face, a white gown belted with jade squares. She wears gold slippers.

You can talk with her and audibly hear her voice above all others.

You can do automatic writing whenever you wish. You do not care what comes out on the paper when your Guardian dictates.