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May 16, 1999
Amongst the chapters happens to be a biography of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology's latest update on his ever-changing life story. It is considerably different from the much more hyperbolic biographies still included in books such as "Mission into Time". However, it does continue to include a significant number of inaccuracies. Unlike the compilers of the "Mission into Time" biography, who only had Hubbard's own descriptions to go on, Scientology's current biographical team has full access to the archives gathered by Gerry Armstrong and his successors. Those archival documents - I have some of them - show beyond doubt that some of the claims made in the current biography are false. Scientology's biographers have, bluntly, knowingly lied.
So what are the counter-factuals?
Claim: "While [in Helena, Montana], Mr. Hubbard became friendly with the indigenous Blackfeet [Indians], and particularly a tribal medicine man, who was ultimately to honor the young Hubbard with the unique status of blood brother."
Truth: Other than Hubbard's own statements, there is no evidence to connect him with the Blackfoot (Pikuni) tribe. The reservation nearest to Helena, Montana was more than 100 miles away. They do *not* have a "blood brother" rite, making Hubbard's claimed status "unique" indeed.
Claim: "With his father's posting to the US naval station on the island of Guam in 1927, L. Ron Hubbard began a period of travel that would consume the next several years."
Fact: Hubbard's travels stack up as follows:
So, in the seven years between 1927-1933, Hubbard spent about a year and a half outside the US, in the company of his family; he was on his own only on Puerto Rico, and then only for six months. His trips to China and Japan occupied no more than three weeks at the most. He was certainly more widely travelled than most of his contemporaries, but he was hardly a great explorer, nor were his formative years "consumed" by travel - he spent most of them in the US.
Claim: "Included [in his travels] were extended voyages throughout the South Pacific and South China Seas and treks across China to its western hills."
His "voyages" were in fact straightforward to-and-from journeys:
In those three years, his total time spent afloat was probably not more than a month to six weeks, his travels confined largely to the northern Chinese littoral and the western edge of the Pacific. Furthermore, Guam is in the *North* Pacific, not the South - it is a full 13 degrees above the equator. Hubbard's only visit to the South Pacific was while was en route to a post in Australia, during the Second World War; he is not known to have stopped anywhere on the way.
Claim: "As a natural result of the interest that was kindled in Asia, he soon embarked on a search for what he then termed 'the Life essence'. To that end, he enrolled on one of the nation's first nuclear physics classes..."
Truth: Hubbard studied civil engineering at George Washington University (and dropped out, though this obviously doesn't get mentioned in the biography). Part of the standard course was a class on "Atomic and Molecular Physics". This was nothing particularly new, nor was it in any way Hubbard's own choice that he took that class - it was part of the standard C.E. course. Had he taken it at all seriously, one might have thought that he would have completed it instead of dropping out after two years.
Claim: "Following his stint at George Washington University, he embarked on international ethnological expeditions to the Caribbean and to Puerto Rico."
Truth: Hubbard's own writings give the lie to the preposterous claim that his expeditions were in any way "ethnological". This from the GWU student newspaper, The Hatchet:
" L. Ron Hubbard Heads Movie Cruise Among Old American Piratical Haunts
As Hubbard edited The Hatchet at the time, it is probable that he wrote this article; the overblown style is certainly very much like his.
As for Puerto Rico, Hubbard's father arranged his visit there in a letter to the US Navy dated 13 October 1932:
" The purpose of sending my son to Puerto Rico is to place his services at the disposal of the American Red Cross in their relief work on that island. "
But Hubbard quickly abandoned the boring work of aiding hurricane-hit Puerto Ricans (displaying a disdain for charitable work which was later to become official Scientology policy). In Adventure magazine of 1 October 1935, he recalled:
" Harboring the thought that the Conquistadores might have left some gold behind, I determined to find it... Gold prospecting in the wake of the Conquistadores, on the hunting grounds of the pirates in the islands which still reek of Columbus is romantic, and I do not begrudge the sweat which splashed in muddy rivers, and the bits of khaki which have probably blown away from the thorn bushes long ago...
What is claimed to be Hubbard's original gold pan is on display to this day as an exhibit in his old home, Saint Hill Manor.
As shown by these contemporary quotes - which Scientology certainly knows of, as they come from unofficial biographies of Hubbard which its lawyers tried to have banned - there was nothing ethnological whatsoever about Hubbard's journeys to the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.
Claim: "With the outbreak of the Second World War, Mr. Hubbard was commissioned a lieutenant (junior grade) in the United States Navy, and saw service in the Pacific and Atlantic. By 1945 he was adjudged partially blind from injured optic nerves and lame from hip and back injuries and admitted to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, in Oakland, California, for treatment."
Truth: Disposing of four years of Hubbard's life in two sentences, this skates blandly over Hubbard's inglorious service career. His Atlantic command was terminated before he had even left the dockyard, while his Pacific command was terminated within only about 90 days after he inadvertently shelled Mexico.
The biography is quite simply wrong about his "injuries"; his medical records show that he was admitted to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital on the grounds of "epigastric distress", caused by a suspected duodenal ulcer. He was neither blind nor lame nor even injured, but his record shows a long litany of complaints including headaches, rheumatism, conjunctivitis, pains in his side, stomach aches, pains in his shoulder, arthritis, and haemorrhoids. On 6 December 1945, having left the hospital, he applied for a pension on the basis of a sprained left knee, conjunctivitis, a chronic duodenal ulcer, arthritis in his right hip and shoulder, recurrent malaria and sporadic undiagnosed pain in his left side and back. In February 1946 he was awarded a pension of $11.50 a month for a ten per cent disability caused by his ulcer. His "blindness" did not manifest itself until March 1946, when he claimed that "I have lost between sixty and eighty per cent of my vision." For some reason he had neglected to mention this in his earlier claim or while he was in hospital.
Claim: "Given the inherently religious nature of these discoveries, it was not surprising that those studying Scientology came to see themselves as members of a new religion. Consequently, in 1954, Scientologists established the first Church of Scientology in Los Angeles".
Truth: The conversion of Scientology (established on a secular basis in 1952) into a religion was initiated by Hubbard. In March 1953, he wrote to a colleague, Helen O'Brien [see http://bible.ca/scientology-hubbard-1953-clinic-letter.htm]:
The biography is false about the date of the founding of the first Church of Scientology. The Los Angeles Church was incorporated in California on February 18, 1954, by Burton Farber, a Scientologist (presumably acting on Hubbard's instructions). However, the Church of American Science and a Church of Scientology had been incorporated without fanfare by Hubbard in December 1953, in Camden, New Jersey, along with the "Church of Spiritual Engineering." (This was the "religious charter [in] NJ" referred to in his earlier letter to Helen O'Brien). The incorporation record is signed by L. Ron Hubbard Sr, L. Ron Hubbard Jr and Henrietta Hubbard (his son and daughter, later disowned and abandoned). [See also http://cisar.org/swoe/swoe07.htm]
Quite why Scientology insists on promoting this falsehood is unclear. Presumably it is done to maintain consistency with a statement issued by Hubbard in 1980, saying Scientologists had "insisted" their organization become a "Church" and adding, "It is sometimes supposed that I founded the Church. This is not correct." They obviously cannot contradict Hubbard, even when caught in a transparent lie! The more interesting question is why Hubbard felt it necessary to lie in the first place. He probably felt that it was politically convenient to portray Scientology as a grassroots movement with himself as reluctant leader, rather than admit the reality of it having been founded by himself largely for his own financial benefit.
There are many other areas in which the biography blandly skates over unflattering periods in Hubbard's history. The attentive reader will notice many omissions. This is, perhaps to be expected, as Scientology understandably does not want to dwell on Scientology's problems and Hubbard's less creditable activities. But in its promotion of exaggerated and known false claims, Scientology shows that it intends to continue deceiving the public and its own members about the true life story of its messiah.