Just a few weeks after the Scientologists at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, Florida experienced it for themselves, here it is: video from this year’s L. Ron Hubbard birthday event. On March 13, LRH would have turned 101 years old (if he hadn’t so wisely dropped his meat body in 1986 to research higher levels of spiritual havingness among the stars).
Let the message of this intro sink in — L. Ron Hubbard really is your friend — and then join us as we take a look at some of the scenes from a life that is almost too stupendous to contemplate…
As you can see, the people in the audience are dressed very nicely and fill the hall, which has a seating capacity of 2,180. They roar with approval when church leader David Miscavige takes the stage to begin what will be a three-hour presentation on the life of Hubbard and the achievements of his movement, Scientology.
We have spared you the task of sitting through all three hours by pulling out only the very best highlights, including several short video segments.
And right here at the beginning, there’s an oddity. We’ve listened several times, and we hear Miscavige kick things off by saying, “Thank you” and then “Good night,” like he’s at the end of the show instead of the beginning. We have no idea what that signifies.
The important thing is, we’re here to celebrate the life of a man who lived twenty lives.
Miscavige kicks off his tribute to LRH with a celebration of his career as a writer, saying that Hubbard is now responsible for 61 bestselling books. And get this — Hubbard’s works today, Miscavige says, are receiving “greater critical acclaim” than at any time in the past.
In fact, Hubbard’s influence on the publishing world is so great, Miscavige has a fascinating example to make that point: the church’s “Writers of the Future” contest.
We’re positive the past winners of the contest will feel proud that David Miscavige himself makes use of their success in this eye-catching graph, which shows that they have subsequently published 273 bestselling books…
(Firewall? What firewall?) Anyway, Miscavige then plunges into a torrent of good news about how much Scientology is multiplying and exponentially octopussing its way around the globe like a juggernaut. 100 million people affected by this pamphlet, 36 nations signed on for that program, Narconon all over the everlovin’ place, Study Tech approved by the federal governments of Belarus and Lithuania and Upper Belgravia, and a thousand other government entities around the planet using the old man’s tech. It’s a downright blizzard of expansion!
The thing is, through all of this amazing news, we kept getting hung up on the way Miscavige says the word “seafaring.” He utters it a few times, and each time it came out “sea-furring.” We think he might want to clear that word with one of his acting buddies, who can help with his enunciation skills.
So anyway, the upshot of all this unrelenting success turns out to be Miscavige’s first big reveal of the night: the Basics have now been published in Chinese! (For beginners, the super-fast explainer: the church considers Hubbard’s writings and lectures about Scientology — millions of words in various forms — to be sacrosanct, unalterable, and law. In 2007, however, Miscavige announced that in fact, many of Hubbard’s most important books — the “Basics” — were flawed because of transcription errors, and he published a new set of volumes and lectures that all church members were required to purchase, in multiple sets, for up to $3,000 each. Many longtime Scientologists were deeply disillusioned by this seeming cash grab, and it is one of the key reasons behind a mass exodus that is currently splitting the church apart. Now, Miscavige will be exporting the Basics to China as well.)
Scientology already publishes Hubbard’s works in a heap of other languages, and hands out stuff all the time, all over the place, and so by that logic, the church now has the power to reach…
Yes, 2/5 of the world’s population, which works out to 2.8 billion human beings that we suppose are now officially registered in the Church of Scientology.
Um, er, well, not quite. It may be theoretically, hypothetically possible that Scientology, with its state-of-the-art printing facilities, could cover the earth with Hubbard paperbacks. But actual evidence, as we’ve pointed out here before, suggests that the number of active church members is on a magnitude closer to the number of people we see in the audience of tonight’s event — maybe 40,000 total participating members around the world. (And, for those keeping score, 40,000 people is 0.001428 percent of 2.8 billion.)
But math never held back Miscavige, and he continues with a stream of expansion claims that build to such a fever, you can’t help getting the feeling that the entire planet will be cleared not by the end of this decade, but by the end of this very night.
Mercifully, however, Miscavige finishes his pep talk, and then gets off the stage because, well, it’s time to bring out the mullet.
This was our first experience watching Dan Sherman, the writer behind Miscavige’s speeches, and the man who serves as the church’s official Hubbard historian. We were struck by his odd voice, we dug his shaggy mullet, but most of all, it was just fascinating as hell to hear the man speak who, we now realize, supplies the bizarre, twisted way of talking that characterizes Miscavige’s own presentations.
This is the man, in other words, behind all the odd sentence constructions and repeated bizarre phrases that turn every Miscavige utterance into a logical pretzel: consequent to that fact, and in so far as, and specifically and summarily, and no less than, and amplifying and in contrast to, and so many others.
Here is the man himself…
Sherman was brought on to spin tales of Hubbard’s life, and we were especially intrigued that he skipped past all of the hagiography of the early life — Blackfeet Indian tribe member at 3, Eagle scout at 13, yadda yadda — and immediately went to Ron’s World War II record.
Yes, we know your jaw just dropped open.
Was Sherman really going to go there, we wondered? He really did. We can’t tell you how entertaining it was to hear about Ron’s two experiences commanding vessels in the war.
It was the spring of 1942, Sherman tells us, when Hubbard took command of the YP-422 in Boston Harbor. To Sherman’s credit, he divulges that this craft was just a fishing trawler that had been hastily refitted with a rather pathetic forward gun that couldn’t dent a submarine, though he does repeat the fib that the YP-422 was a “sub-chaser” (actually, Hubbard’s orders were just to patrol the harbor and deliver food and other supplies to other ships).
No, the big whoppers didn’t come from Sherman but from, well, the old man himself. Please enjoy this excerpt from one of Hubbard’s post-war lectures, illustrated so skillfully by Scientology’s audiovisual wizards at Golden Era Productions… (And please note, this is the voice of Hubbard himself you’re hearing in this re-enactment.)
Now, it may not have been obvious from that heartwarming tale, but in fact, Hubbard ended up commanding the YP-422 for only one, 27-hour training run that involved firing the gun to test it. Before the ship set off again for its real shake-down cruise, Hubbard had been removed from command over a squabble with his commanders.
His tall tale of turning a bunch of prisoners into top-flight sailors has never been corroborated with any evidence, but what we found most precious about it (besides its sheer self-serving unbelievability) was the upshot — that Hubbard had freed some men by taking away the bureaucracy oppressing them.
Yeah, that’s a good one. In fact, one of the most charming things about Scientology is its absolute obsession with bureaucracy. Hubbard’s “admin tech” is almost fetishistic in its infatuation with layers of control, its preoccupation with quasi-military titles, and its craze for following regulations.
After that tale about Boston, it’s time for Sherman to utter his own whoppers as he shifts the scene to Portland, Oregon in the spring of 1943. Gird yourself as you prepare to swallow this one from Dan…
Oh, where do we begin. First, while it may be true that in early 1943 the residents of the West Coast worried about shelling by Japanese submarines, how “realistic” were these fears, as Sherman claims? The year before, a Japanese sub had fired between 12 and 25 rounds at an oil storage facility near Santa Barbara, damaging some structures and equipment, and hitting the local pier. That produced a panic all right, but in fact, Japanese-Americans then had more to fear from internment than coastal residents ever had to worry of further bombardment.
But Sherman tells us the residents of the Pacific Northwest considered the launching of Hubbard’s ship, PC-815, as a “godsend.” (In fact, it was just one of several craft completed and launched at the time.)
And then, Sherman utters these amazing words: “Yes, he would indeed encounter two marauding submarines at the mouth of the Columbia River on the 18th of May, 1943, and yes, his subsequent victory is still regarded as among the most regionally famed encounters of the war…”
Sigh. We feel obliged, of course, to point out that although Hubbard and his executive officer claimed that they were locked in mortal combat with a couple of sneaky Japanese subs for more than a day off the coast of Oregon, the seven other commanders of vessels and airships that joined the chaos that day were all just as convinced that no submarines were ever in the area, and that Hubbard had been launching depth charge after depth charge at phantoms.
The Navy itself concluded that Hubbard had spent 34 hours fighting a magnetic deposit on the sea floor.
But the thing that really puzzles us is that characterization by Sherman. What does it mean, exactly, that Hubbard’s “victory” is regarded as “among the most regionally famed” of the war? If your fame is more “regional” than another person’s, is that really a brag? We’ve looked at this statement a dozen times, and we’re still not sure what Dan means by it.
Sherman then transitions into a story of Hubbard continuing to observe sailors, and another of LRH’s lectures is played. In this one, he ridicules the “college boys” who were sent to his ship who didn’t know which way was up and kept trying to apply their book-learning without any common sense. (College boys. What morons.)
Sherman then works his way through 1945 and Hiroshima, and how Hubbard would develop Dianetics a few years later to save mankind from itself. (Humanity. Morons.)
Then, we learn that Hubbard met with Robert Heinlein around this time, and the two great science fiction writers decided that they had a heavy responsibility to shift the interest in atomic weapons into a quest for space.
Having thus settled the matter, Hubbard then wrote a short story, “Fortress in the Sky,” which suggested that man make an effort to colonize the moon, and it was this story — read at highest levels of the atomic energy community, that created the ensuing space race between the Soviets and the U.S.A…
(Did you know that? We didn’t know that. Amazing.) Oh, it gets better, kids. See, at the end of 1945, just before his commission in the Navy was over, and while he was still in uniform, L. Ron Hubbard did the most amazingest thing we ever heard in the history of amazing. He and a friend…
Well, perhaps we should let the man explain for himself… (Again, the voice of Hubbard from an actual lecture.)
To recap: Hubbard and his friend Johny Arwine visited Caltech near the end of 1945 and, honest to goodness, every important atomic scientist in the land gathered to hear these two soon-to-be demobbed middling Navy men give them a lecture about what a bunch of reckless morons they were and how they ought to get a grip on that there bomb of theirs.
The scientists, for their part, took umbrage and lashed out at Hubbard, admitting to him that what they actually had in mind was to use the doomsday weapons at their disposal to overthrow the government of these here United States!
Whew! We sure are glad Hubbard and his Navy pal turned in these scoundrels, who were then punished and the country was saved from their treachery. Which reminds us: why isn’t there a national holiday dedicated to this ginger God of a man?
But wait — Dan Sherman hasn’t yet delivered the punch line! Yes, the be-mulleted one comes back on to not only finger some of the scientists by name, but he also outs the “henchman” of the scientist-revolt: none other than Tricky Dick!
Now, we know that this will come as something of a million-volt shock to many of you. But apparently, L. Ron Hubbard — again, why is there not a monument to this man in Washington? — singlehandedly (well, maybe with some help from Arwine) kept Dick Nixon and a bunch of rogue scientists from overthrowing the government with the use of nuclear arms shortly after the second world war!
Look, we know what you’re thinking — surely we misheard what Sherman said, or we were so mesmerized by his hair that we just weren’t paying close enough attention. And we don’t blame you for thinking that, we really don’t. So just to show that we’re not crazy, we’re going to play that portion of the show for you and provide a transcript, and you don’t see if you believe, with us, that Sherman blames Nixon and Linus Pauling and other scientists for trying to nuke Washington!
Dan Sherman: There are a couple of ancillary notes relevant to what transpired on the 15th of November in the basement of Caltech’s Atheneum Hall. In the first place, those participating in what is remembered as the Nuclear Scientists’ Revolt most definitely suffered severe punishments. Specifically and summarily, a full 64 were stripped of security clearances, thus effectively ending their careers in government research departments. Well, for another telling footnote, the henchman was none other than future American president and Watergate villain, Richard Nixon. In the second place, those in attendance indeed represented the cream of America’s atom bomb project, including a chief engineer who designed the triggering device, and no less than three Nobel Laureates for theoretical physics. Not in attendance but not far away in sentiment was A-bomb father Robert Oppenheimer who, when the first mushroom cloud arose was overheard whispering, “Now I become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” But the overriding point, and vastly so, is simply this: How is it, LRH asks, did these brilliant minds come to believe America would never actually drop the bomb? How is it they swallowed the story that went something like this: The government was to build a grandstand where Hitler and the Japanese emperor would sit, whereupon, as LRH described it, “They were going to press a button, they were going to have an atom bomb go off, and they were going to say, ‘See what we’re going to do to you’.” To which he adds, “And these dopes fell for that. These so-called great brains fell for that story.” But in so far as the bomb was now an inexorable fact of existence, and, as Heinlein so colorfully phrased it, “You can’t turn the sausage back into a hog,” we come to the next turn in our LRH trail.
See what we mean? How is it this isn’t in every school book in this great land of ours? L. Ron Hubbard stopped Richard Nixon from leading a group of rogue scientists to overthrow the U.S. government. Oh, and the Manhattan Project was going to fly Hitler and Emperor Hirohito over to watch an A-bomb demonstration from a giant grandstand in the New Mexico desert. Yeah, we didn’t hear about that one either.
Well, now that the war is good and over, we really get to the good stuff. After all, Scientology Watchers know that it was in this post-war period that Hubbard consorted with JPL rocket scientist Jack Parsons, studied the occult teachings of Aleister Crowley, and with Parsons tried to create a “moonchild” with all sorts of kinky occult sex.
Somehow, Dan Sherman forgot to put any of that in.
Instead, we learn that Hubbard lived and worked out of a trailer he towed here and there (sorry, his “mobile research laboratory”), and then in San Francisco set himself up as some kind of therapist or something, talking to some hysterical middle-aged women who were “a flock of ambulant lunatics from a matrimonial bureau.”
Hey, isn’t that insulting?
Anyway, Sherman tells us that these women belong to the “Frances De Mont’s Social Club”…
(Lonely women. Such morons.)
Hubbard then does more research on the human condition, Sherman tells us, by becoming a special officer of the Los Angeles Police Department. Hubbard, in a taped lecture, tells us that he walked a beat just so he could learn “what the cops were so afraid of.” But after handling a drunk guy who kept trying to take his gun to kill a friend, LRH found that, actually, all criminals are just confused people and not to be feared at all.
(Cops. What morons.)
His next encounter was with psychiatrist who was just too book-learned for his own good. In another yarn spun by Hubbard, he was for some reason invited into a clinic so that the scientist in charge could show off his extensive files on patients. But when Hubbard got hold of those files and showed that scientist that he wasn’t actually learning anything from them — well, that psych got pretty angry for being showed up…
(Psychiatrists. The ultimate morons.)
But hold on to your hats. Because the best tale of all is coming up, and once and for all we’re going to show you that L. Ron Hubbard was just too smart for all these so-and-sos who thought they knew something.
This was, after all, the dawn of the Information Age, and one of its architects was MIT product Claude Shannon. But look what transpired when Shannon eagerly invited the founder of Dianetics and Scientology to come see his latest computer. You’re not going to believe it! (Once more, the voice of Hubbard from one of his lectures.)
(Computer scientists. Those morons.)
Well, there you have it. The secret to the success of L. Ron Hubbard — he was just smarter than every single human being he ever met.
Finally, Dan Sherman’s long presentation was finished, and it was time for the next big phase of the show — the Birthday Game! (That is, after an incredibly boring half hour of Miscavige crowing about new empty buildings — er, Ideal Orgs that is — in Hamburg, Sacramento, and Cincinnati. Talk about sleep-inducing stuff.)
And who should Miscavige bring out to present the winners of the big Birthday competition? Why, none other than fresh-from-the-Hole Guillaume Lesevre, looking more skeletal than ever! How’s that steady diet of slop, Guillaume?
We’ll spare you the sight of a cadaverous Lesevre shaking hands with winners of the Birthday Game, which is a series of competitions between various Scientology orgs to get more money out of the suckers — er, deliver more services, that is — and end up with the most “points” at the end of the past year. We’ll just note here that the number one Ideal Org in the world turned out to be none other than our recent favorites, Melbourne Day! (Unfortunately, the Melbourne Day Rap Battle Team was not called upon to perform in celebration.)
Once Lesevre was finished with the game, Miscavige came back on to make his next big reveal of the night — the new L. Ron Hubbard biographical encyclopedia! (Our readers have already seen the video that Miscavige played.)
And now, for those of you who have stuck with us this far, we saved for last the one really big piece of news that actually emerged from all of this folderol.
Nearly three hours into the celebration, with only a few minutes to go, David Miscavige made his one really, truly, shocking and stupendous announcement of the night.
He appeared to promise that the Super Power building — the $100 million, 13-year fantasyland structure in Clearwater, Florida that’s going to increase Scientology’s oiliness by a factor of five — the building that Scientologists have been donating money towards, maxing their credit cards for, taking out second mortgages to help fund…
THE SUPER POWER BUILDING WILL BE OPENING “BEFORE SUMMER DAWNS”
Watch it yourself to see if you agree with us…
Isn’t that what he said? Super Power OPEN by June 21? Could it be? Really? Finally?
Oh, please say it’s so. And that we’ll get a tour. We need the oiliness, we really do.
After that incredible announcement, there was really only one thing left: after all, what do you do at a birthday party but sing a song?
Please, join in if you know the words… “Happy Birthday to you, Ron!”
Well, we hope you enjoyed the show as much as we did. (Actually, you probably enjoyed it more than we did, since you didn’t have to sit through all three hours of it.)
That L. Ron Hubbard. What a life. Hip, hip, hooray.
Now, for those expecting to see our regular Friday morning feature, we did not forget you. And after that, we have some words about how things might be changing around here, at least a little…
Scientology on the High Seas
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard’s previously unpublished “Orders of the Day,” which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we’re looking at what was happening the week of March 25 through 31 during those years.
Just a short notice this week, but an important one…
The Wedding of Diana Hubbard and Jon Horwich went off beautifully.
The reception at the hotel was extremely nice.
They will go on a honeymoon to the states on April 15.
It is planned to have a second ceremony at Jon Horwich’s home.
There will be a party with the same band aboard on the evening of 3 April for those who did not attend the reception yesterday evening.
Jon Horwich is now out of the church, I understand, and I’m told that Diana Hubbard is, to this day, at Int Base in California. I looked for some photos of this momentous wedding online, but didn’t find any. Can someone point me in the right direction?
Bonus 1970s Awesomeness
While L. Ron Hubbard plied the seas, back on dry land Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with its tales of “OT Phenomena.” Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes — er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 26, November 1974…
When my mother was growing up, she spent some time with a gentle lady whom she came to see again a short time ago. This gentle spirit had been institutionalized, shocked and drugged and was in pretty bad shape. My mother helped her along for a while until she was able to live again on her own.
One day my mother told me that her friend complained of a “presence” that followed her around. So, one night after I went to bed, I left the body and paid her friend a visit. I found the room extremely enturbulated and, sure enough, she had a visitor. He was without body but mocked up as a Union Cavalry officer.
I got him to talk to me and soon he cognited and left. About two weeks later my mother wrote and told me how much better her old friend was.
It feels good to be OT and help others. — Fred Roeschke
I can’t really think of a good reason why someone shouldn’t spend about $300,000 to rocket up the bridge so they can leave their body and then go hunting down Civil War ghosts, can you? If you think of any reasons, let us know in the comments.
A programming note: We recently noticed that a daily schedule of stories was making it a bit tough to put together some of our meatier, larger investigations. So we’re going to try a different schedule to see how it works. Please go to our Facebook author page for updates and schedules.
Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories. As for our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week’s best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology’s wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 30, 2012