Monday, March 26, 2007

Scientology Ahoy!

I've really been laying hard into Christianity in this journal because it is, without doubt, the most powerful religion in America as well as the specific religion that Simon Peter is about, obviously.

However, the character of Jesus in Simon Peter is definitely an amalgam of characters. One of the figures that plays a reasonably big role in the personality of Jesus, in my book, is . . . L. Ron Hubbard. A great online resource is The Bare-Faced Messiah. It's an out-of-print, unauthorized biography of Hubbard and an utterly fascinating read, and a good place to start to learn about Scientology in an entertaining way.

More than any other self-proclaimed messiah, Hubbard embodies the con-man who got suckered into believing his lies. No one believes that Hubbard, originally, was sincere. Enough of his former friends and associates have come forward and said, more or less, that he started a religion to make money – that the talents of a science-fiction writer were wasted writing stories when there were other sheep to fleece. (Since he died worth hundreds of millions of dollars, there's probably something to that. Assuming, of course, that you could look at yourself in the mirror after selling bogus spirituality to needy people.) By the end of his life, few will doubt that he was a complete nutjob, that he was a paranoid, a sexual deviant and quite possibly schizophrenic.

How was he paranoid? Well, after having legal problems in several countries – the US, UK, Germany, Australia – it occurred to him that “70% of the world was without government”. The ocean! So he made this little Scientology navy, the Sea Org, where he went for years going from port to port. Eventually, so many ports in the Mediterranean were closed to Hubbard that he snuck back into the United States where he eventually died.

The Sea Org had some . . . interesting facts about it. One of them was the origin of the Rehabilitation Project Force, the RPF. In Scientology, the two worst sins are “overts” and “withholds” -- which are lies and secrets in English. If you do overts or withholds during “auditing” (the crude bio-feedback enhanced therapy sessions of Scientology) it is possible that you'll be put on the RPF.

When you're on the RPF, you are used for slave labor. I am not exaggerating. You're used for unpaid labor for an indefinite period of time, usually with sleep deprivation and inadequate nutrition. Some people were (and perhaps are) in the RPF for a year or two. You can't leave until they let you. It's literally slave labor.

In the Sea Org, the RPFers would be kept entirely below decks where they'd do the worst jobs – cleaning bilges, chipping paint or rust in bilges and other inaccessible parts of the ships, things like that. Landward, RPFers are often doing manual labor like ditch digging or clearing land.

Another thing that Hubbard started on the Sea Org was the use of “messengers”. Messengers were pretty pre-teen girls that would serve Hubbard – they say not that way, but one of the things they would do is sleep with him. Naked. They would also be his mouthpiece to the fleet, giving his messages – more than a few of them got drunk with this power and became petty tyrants in their own right. But Hubbard liked 'em young, so when they got too sexually developed they got the heave-ho. He also, apparently, often publicly humiliated them if they didn't do things the exact proper way; several of Hubbard's messengers have left Scientology and appear quite emotionally scarred by it.

Speaking of heave-hos, one of the common methods of punishing people would be throwing them off the ship into the water. The main ship of the fleet was a converted cargo ship, and the drop was something like a hundred feet, and often the water itself was cold and choppy. This could happen to a person several times in a row. More than one port revoked their rights based on this punishment.

While in the Sea Org, Hubbard would also go on imaginary treasure hunts. He would say he had a past-life memory of some buried treasure or the other, order the Sea Org to the spot and start trying to find it. Due to the paranoia with which Hubbard regarded all governments, he didn't bother to tell the government or get permission to do treasure hunting and, as a result, caused all sorts of problems for himself because this was during the Cold War. His treasure hunting looked a lot like espionage and his evasions seemed to confirm it.

I could go on for a long time on this vein, but I think my audience out there is seeing what I mean. Hubbard is one of the paradigmic historical messiahs. A sexually deviant person that gets drunk on power and orders people to do the craziest things and acts self-destructively. It's really easy to laugh at the galactic overlord Xenu and body thetans . . . and why not? They're fuckin' funny! But Hubbard isn't funny, really. He was a power drunk madman who's destroyed innumerable lives.

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beepbeepitsme said...

Scientology - the most expensive religious therapy based in psychoanalysis you are ever going to get.

March 26, 2007 10:04 PM  
Chris Bradley said...

Indeed. Radically more expensive than actual psychotherapy.

Which they'd throw you into prison camp for going to. Because psychologists are EVIL. ;)

March 26, 2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous said...

To announce myself off the bat: I am no fan of Scientology or of Hubbard. I have no doubt that Hubbard was an evil man: he was a bigamist, a drug abuser, a sadist and a swindler.

But I question some of the specific accusations here. I've read a sizable amount of the biographical information about Hubbard and I have never encountered the accusation that the Commodore's Messengers slept with him, naked or clothed. Where did the statement that he did this come from? Also, which ports revoked privileges to the Scientology ships because of overboarding?

For what it's worth, I think that the question of whether Hubbard believed his lies was a bit more complex than "yes he did" or "no he didn't". I think that like David Kim Stanley, the scam artist behind Pixelon, he actually did both at the same time: He knew very well that he did not have the miracle technology he'd been selling to everyone, but he had himself completely convinced that he was just around the corner from it. Hubbard had his own health problems and evidence exists to suggest that his continuing "research" into more variations on the theme of auditing was an attempt to find the cure for his own ailments, not just the search for new products to sell.

In Hubbard's case, there's even more evidence that he came to believe some of the lies he told. He must have known that he only earned four decorations for his hardly-distinguished military service, and he must have known that among the medals and decorations he claimed to have received were some that in fact had never existed. Yet in the 1970s he ordered his staff to write to the US Navy requesting these medals!

March 28, 2007 2:14 PM  

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