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Pournelle on Hubbard and Scientology

The trouble with weblogs is the same as the trouble with library research. You read a posting, which teases you into reading the comments (there goes the day already), which forces you to follow some of the interesting-looking links, which….

This report comes to you because Johnathan Pearce yesterday posted at Samizdata a SQUOTD by Eric Raymond, and along with commenter Alisa urged us to read E.R.’s entire posting, so as to get to the punchline; to which posting he, Johnathan, provided the link.

Knowing the dangers described above, I nevertheless did so. And so should you, despite the obligatory religion-bashing, for the sake of the punchline. The Raymond posting, entitled “How Do You Bait a Trap for the Soul,” is about cults, at

http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4757

Now, the fruits of proceeding down this dangerous path. A short way (relatively speaking, as there appear to be thousands of comments discussing cults, addictions, …) down in the comments, there was a link to a short write-up by Jerry Pournelle on L. Ron Hubbard, the invention of Dianetics, and the Church of Scientology. It’s an Afterword to his posting on the 1999 “Writers of the Future” Awards, with several photos from the conference.

It’s short, but I think informative (and readable*):

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/pictures/wotf.html#scientology

*”Readable”: Meaning “not dry.” But what am I supposed to say, that Mr. Pournelle’s writing here is “wet”? :)

11 Comments

  1. John Galt says:

    “Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wanted to make a million dollars, the best way to do it would be start his own religion.”

    - L. Ron Hubbard, Spring 1949 (disputed)

    Poor old “Elrond” Hubbard just wanted what anyone wants, to have lots of money and not get taxed or sued too much. He was practically forced by his critics and the US IRS to form his own religion just to protect his interests. Wouldn’t anyone else have done the same?

    “Scientology is not a cult”

    - L. Ron Hubbard, Cult Leader

  2. Julie near Chicago says:

    LOL!

  3. NickM says:

    JG,
    Yes, they were on a cent a word. Hubbard started his religion. Phil Dick on the otherhand stuck to SF plotted at his typewriter (he claimed he could do 140wpm! and took shed loads of speed, went completely off his trolley (married five times.

    “Dick sold his first story in 1951. From that point on he wrote full-time, selling his first novel in 1955. The 1950s were a difficult and impoverished time for Dick. He once said “We couldn’t even pay the late fees on a library book.”"

    So Hubbard was right.

    Or was Heinlein?

    “Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him—one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don’t agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn’t raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I’m a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.”

    Or both Dick and Heinlein,

    “Films based on Dick’s writing have accumulated a total revenue of over US $1 billion as of 2009.”

    The first was Bladerunner in ’82 of course. Dick died in ’82. I dunno if he ever saw it.

    The movie that is. He never saw the $$$.

    There is a personal tragedy there for Dick but also a wider literary tragedy. Dick’s early shorts are brilliant but his later stuff whilst full of brilliant ideas lacks organisation to the extent that it is “brilliantly annoying”. That is why the essentially posthumous adaptions have done so well. They took the ideas and were edited. Dick was either too bombed out of his box or too busy or both to do that. A great shame at a truly deep level. With time and sanity he’d probably be knocking Borges off his pedestal as the greatest writer of the fiction of metaphysics of the C20th. A great shame.

    So there is the choice. Make a fortune in your lifetime and hang-out on a very bosh yacht with a bevvy of lovely ladies and make your million(s) or wind-up drug-addled, mad and dead yet create a body of work that inspires millions and shall do so whilst the English language exists. And make a billion you never get to see any of because the IRS and ex-wives are after it. And dead.

    It’s a tough one? I know which I’d like to think I’d do and I know which I would. I’d take the later course, obviously. Although with the former the opportunity to glean hordes of monies from the likes of Tom Cruise and make him look like a moron is a temptation. Except that is too easy. He does that off his own bat!

    At a more philosophical level. Hmm… Dick worried himself spare over the nature of reality whereas Hubbard merely invented one that was (highly) convenient for himself. Oddly enough the idea of invented realities is very Dickian (and Borgesian). So [Nelson Muntz]“Ha Ha!”[/Nelson Muntz] to you Hubbard.

    …what is good belongs to no one [ . . . ] but rather to the language and to tradition.

    - Jorge Luis Borges

  4. Simon Jester says:

    Nick,

    On the subject of Hubbard, Heinlein and Scientology, here’s my pet theory on the inspiration for Lazarus Long:

    I came up with this idea when I was reading a biography of Elron – one which
    could be classified as somewhere between unfriendly and muckrake. (If you’re interested, it is “Bare-faced Messiah”, by Russell Miller; RAH is
    only mentioned once, about halfway through.)

    [Before I go any further, a little weaselling: although I think LL is mostly
    LRH, I don't think he is meant to be a 100% copy - I think Heinlein wanted a
    more creditable, as well as credible, character; call it maybe 80%?]

    At first, I noticed a few similarities in upbringing and background – but
    these were understandable, given Woodie Smith’s place and date of birth.
    Even so, it did strike me that Elron’s year of birth – 1911 – was noticeably
    closer to LL’s (1912) than was Heinlein’s (1907).

    I only really started to think about it when I found that Elron’s preferred
    nickname at school was Lafe (short for Lafayette, which he apparently
    *hated*). Lafe Hubbard … Lafe Hubert?

    After that, I started noticing other things. For example, Elron was
    described as a compulsive liar, while LL is described as delighting in lying
    for its own sake.

    Then there are physical similarities – LL is described as being red-headed
    and big-nosed, with feral blue-green eyes. The picture of Elron on the cover
    of this book shows a balding, red-headed, big-nosed man – and Jack
    Williamson is quoted inside: “I recall his eyes, the wary, light-blue eyes
    that I somehow associate with the gunmen of the old West, watching me
    sharply as he talked as if to see how much I believed. Not much.”

    A fairly obvious point is religion – Elron started his own church, which is
    normally regarded by those outside of it as simply a racket. Elron himself
    once said something to the effect that the safest, most reliable way to make
    money would be to start your own religion – guaranteed safe under the
    constitution. In TEfL (I think), LL is reported as having destroyed the
    masters of the Jockaira – ie. as having killed God. (This account is
    immediately challenged, by recollections of another account where he claimed
    to have gone back to their world where he found the “Gods” already dead.)
    There is also a passage where LL describes the advantages and disadvantages
    of being a priest in a religion he didn’t believe, ending with “…it’s
    lovely work if you can stomach it.”

    However, what really convinced me was the description of the later years of
    Hubbard’s life, when the Church of Scientology (to avoid persecution) took
    to travelling around the world in ships commanded by Hubbard via the
    Messenger organisation. This was a group of teenage girls in special
    uniforms, “trained to deliver Hubbard’s orders using his exact words and
    tone of voice”.

    In other words, LRH cruised around the world on a ship crewed by female
    teenaged clones of himself.

  5. RAB says:

    The man who buried my father and two uncles, Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Fanthorpe

    knew Hubbard quite well back in his Sci Fi writing days. I must ask him what he thought of Ron and Scientology. Probably not a lot, being a proper man of the cloth and all.

    Course the next best thing to setting up a Cult is to work for one. My business partner and I were erm… Media consultants to one back in the 80′s. They paid us eye-watering amounts of money, and we had a ball! God the stokes we pulled and the fun we had. We even had the loan of the Scientologist’s Private Eye at one point. A bloke who looked and sounded like Ray Winstone. I must do a post on it. I guarantee that none of you will believe a word of it, but I swear it’s all true.

  6. Sam Duncan says:

    “The first was Bladerunner in ‘82 of course. Dick died in ‘82. I dunno if he ever saw it.”

    Don’t think he did, although he met Ridley Scott and was present during much of the production, so he probably had a fair idea of how it was going. There was a series made by Discovery (recently re-shown on Quest), “Prophets of Science Fiction”, presented by Scott. I recommend trying to see the Dick episode if you can find it.

    “I guarantee that none of you will believe a word of it, but I swear it’s all true.”

    Perfect cult material then, RAB. ;)

  7. John Galt says:

    @RAB:

    As a good Fortean (like myself), the old Rev. probably had a lot of tolerance for old-Elron Hubbard. He probably also saw straight through him like a piece of transparent aluminium.

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    The whole life of Elron from the founding of Scientology through the various criminal exploits (Operation Snow White, Operation Freakout, etc.) the internal schisms, the heretical breakaway sects, it’s all absolutely compelling. If it wasn’t for the thousands of destroyed lives it would be utterly laughable.

    Initially, I suspect that he thought he was just doing ‘good business’ when setting up Dianetics and the lecture circuit, but by the mid 1960′s had surrounded himself with only acolytes, sycophants and true-believers. Like the court of the Sun King at Versailles, each simply reflected and magnified his already inflated ego.

    I wonder in the final moments of his life, when surrounded by his followers, did he believe that he was going onto his next Thetan rebirth or did he believe that as a heretic he would burn in the VI circle of Hell for all eternity.

    “Hello Mr. Hubbard, welcome to the Infernal City of Dis. We have your red hot coffin waiting for you over here. Please step this way. I have a Pitchfork if it’s necessary.”