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Saturday, November 9, 2013

'Going Clear' provides some clarity about Scientology

I have been listening to an audiobook of Lawrence Wright's Going Clear, his history of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. It's a subject I thought I knew quite a bit about, so I have been surprised so far at how much I have been learning, and how much light the book sheds on Robert Anton Wilson's intellectual milieu (though he is not mentioned in the book, at least so far.)

I knew something about the relationship between Hubbard and Jack Parsons, for example, but I did not know that Hubbard believed he had a Guardian Angel (described as a woman with red hair) who dictated much of  his writings to him; Aleister Crowley apparently was an influence on L. Ron. I also did not know that the writings of Alfred Korzybski were a Hubbard influence.

The book has details on Operation Snow White, a massive espionage operation by Scientologists against the U.S. government and other governments, and Operation Freakout, a campaign of harassment and attempted murder directed against Paulette Cooper, who had written a book critical of Scientology. (The book, The Scandal of Scientology, has been allowed to go out of print.) Given the cult's treatment of Cooper, Wright showed considerable courage coming out with his own expose.

One sobering aspect of the book is the way that otherwise apparent intelligent Americans such as John Campell and Robert A. Heinlein fell for many of Hubbard's lies and outlandish claims; I've always had decidedly mixed feelings about RAW's crusade against skeptics and Wright's book isn't doing much to change my mind. I'm all for skepticism about skepticism, but Wright's book implies that people in the U.S. suffer not from too much skepticism, but from too little. (Many American SF fans apparently were less easy to take in.  I read years ago about the "Elron Awards" given at a science fiction convention — a bronze lemon on a plywood base for the worst in SF.)

RAW had little good to say about Hubbard. If you think RAW's comments are extreme, I suggest checking out Wright's book.

RAW, discussing L. Ron Hubbard:

Did L. Ron Hubbard ever get interviewed by you, while you were working for Playboy, Robert Anton Wilson? Did you ever make contact, you and L. Ron Hubbard?
No, thank God, I've never had any contact with him and I've had as little contact as possible with any member of Scientology.

From another interview:

9. What do you think of the works of L. R. Hubbard?
What do you think of Stalin and Hitler?


Ronald Pottol said...

Check out 'sex and rockets', which is a biography of Jack Parsons, and make Hubbard look real bad. Also the movie Bowfinger for Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy mocking Scientology and Tom Cruse (I think), really enjoyed it.

gacord said...

Giggled myself to pieces when I scrolled down and saw that the ad below this post (I know they rotate) is a Scientology ad. I love that their slogan in the ad is "Think for yourself and Find out for yourself." Nicking/twisting Leary's words for nefarious purpose? Or whose words were those to begin with? Find out for yourself and You decide. :-)

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I got the Scientology ad, too. Wanted to click on it out of curiosity, but it's kind of a no-no on Blogger to click on ads at your own site.

Jesse said...

Reason's review.

fyreflye said...

A novel you recommended here recently, Jake Arnett's The House of Rumour, covers a lot of the Parsons/Hubbard/Crowley history and is very well researched: It's also a great read. Don't know if you've read it but I'd recommend it highly to everyone who follows this blog.

I've always meant to read Going Clear and I'm going to move it to the top of my "Next Read" list now.

Drew said...

Fyerfly, I was gonna mention the same thing; also the film Mock up On Mu, Which is made purely out of stock footage (I think) and covers the same kind of area, it is a little unfocused in places which tests your patience but overall it is quite good.

fyreflye said...

That author name should have been "Jake Arnott."

fuzzbuddy said...

I just found this article that I found interesting.

Drew said...

Though robert anton wilson thinks that L ron Hubbard is satan, Celine does seem to be an L Ron Hubbard type character, yet instead of being nefarious his actions seems neutral morally (but seems to be good at heart), I ahve read an article that argues that Celine is a character in a long tradition of cosmopolitan characters like the count of monte christo etc. Its interesting to trace the paralells of the things in illuminatus! triolgy with L ron Hubbard's claims about himself.

my guess is tha tWilson, though he didn't write about hubbard (almost at all) knew quite a lot about him.