From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 49 - November 2000
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org/
IVy on the Wall
by Ken Urquhart, USA
Suburban Skies: Comfortably Blue
Chapter Two of an examination of Jon Atack's 'Piece of Blue Sky'.
As is usual in non-fiction, our author acknowledges help he has received in producing his book. His Acknowledgements attempts to set scholarly and authentic tones. Jon states that he had worked with people who had insight into Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, but in no case does he specify the basis on which we should have confidence in their conclusions. All we can know about them is that they agreed with and supported Jon. We observe then that the work of passing the book off as scholarly and authentic is not carried out in a scholarly and authentic manner.
The book's Preface is the work of Russell Miller, author of 'Bare-Faced Messiah', an earlier similar exposé. Miller's book focused on LRH as an individual. It scrutinized the lies LRH had told about himself and his past. In that respect, I found it thorough, apparently based on good, painstaking investigation and documentation. Miller is very careful not to get into any examination or discussion of the technology of Scientology. It's clear, however, that his ignorance of the subject doesn't stand in the way of his abhorrence.
In this Preface, Russell Miller praises Jon's work in compiling a 'treasure trove of reliable information on a subject positively riddled with deeply unreliable information'. I did see for myself the outside of Jon's cabinets and cupboards and shelves and can believe that his tidy archives are extensive and very well organized. I accept that to the uninitiated and biased the subject of Scientology is riddled with deeply unreliable information but believe that the emphasis on the unreliability of the information is a ruse to cover up a deliberate refusal or inability to understand the subject. Russell Miller seems to be saying that because Jon's archive is so big and so orderly it contains all the facts one needs to know about LRH and Scientology. What he is actually saying is firstly that Jon has assembled enough documents of one kind or another to support his, Jon's, finding of guilt against LRH, and secondly that there is nothing else for anyone to want to know about LRH and Scientology. Russell Miller and Jon Atack, and their supporters, refuse to perceive beyond their own self-limited perspectives of outraged suburban comfort.
Thus, Russell Miller can quite sincerely refer to Jon's work as a 'dispassionate, thoroughly documented account of how Scientology was created and nourished by a struggling science-fiction writer and how it has managed to dominate (and damage) so many thousands of lives.' I have three comments on these words:
1.That an examination of a person and an organization is 'dispassionate' tells us very little about its validity, or accuracy, or completeness; one can be extremely dispassionate in severe prejudice. What R. Miller hopes we will take his words to mean is that Jon has been passionate about finding the truth and that he has found the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The empty words want us to feel vaguely that the mass of 'documentation' in the tidy archives proves something beyond doubt. In fact, a mass of documentation proves a mass of documentation; Jon's passion has been to collect the documentation he needs to prove his case - not necessarily to know the truth. Validity of interpretation of documentation depends on the quality and scope of the documents and on the breadth and depth (with discernment and judgment) of the interpreter.
2.Note the suburbanite put-down in 'a struggling science-fiction writer'. To be a science-fiction writer is bad enough in suburbia; to struggle is in itself as good as a crime. Both together put one well beyond the suburban pale. To the suburbanite anyone who has to struggle is known at once to be on the point of failure. A struggler is capable of desperate and deceiving strategies to improve his lot or to disguise his condition. Is this true of all strugglers? Well, of course--clearly not. Individuals who have put forward ideas and ideals to improve Man's lot usually have to struggle against ignorance, bias, and fear of change. The suburbanite abhors struggle as it is a sign of inability to maintain the suburban facade of suburban equilibrium. The suburbs maintain equilibrium by firmly shutting out from their comfort zones anything that brings the discomfort of having to look and think uncomfortably. That which invites the suburbanite to experience discomfort, he or she instantly proves to be bad.
3.That the C of S has come to dominate and damage lives has truth in it - but it is a generalization and an over-simplification formulated to bolster a bias. Not every member of the C of S (staff or public) is dominated or damaged. Doubtless some are, some less so, some very little, and some not at all. To infer from the damaged and dominated that all must be damaged and dominated is not discerning.Rattling sabers
Russell Miller goes on to assert that the book's 'stark truth' about Scientology is 'certain to provoke the ferocious hostility of practicing Scientologists around the world. Anyone who dares to publicly criticize the C of S or its founder is liable to be vilified and hounded through the courts'. In response, I note the following:
1.'Stark truth' is wishful thinking.
2.Not all practicing Scientologists around the world are sufficiently dominated and damaged to react with ferocious hostility to criticism of the C of S or of LRH. Some are simply too sane to involve themselves in the internal politics, though it is true that many throw themselves happily into the corporate culture (we note that the C of S is the only outfit on Planet Earth which has a corporate culture and internal politics to match).
3.The former GO(1) and its reincarnations have attacked very viciously certain people who have gone out of their way to attack the C of S and LRH. That those GO and later people have misbehaved themselves abusively and abhorrently is true. That they have similarly attacked everyone against Scientology and LRH is not true.
LRH, says Russell Miller, was a 'charlatan and a congenital(2) liar.' A charlatan is one who claims abilities and skills falsely. That Russell Miller, who studiously avoids studying Scientology, claims knowledge that LRH is a charlatan, tars Russell Miller with his own brush. That LRH lied about his past to make himself appear other than he was is true. The use of the adjective 'congenital' is mere meaningless British huff-and-puff that signifies an intent to insult without truth with which to really wound. That inferring and telling falsehoods about self and past are very common human activities does not excuse them. But their being so human makes whining about the subject rather superfluous.
Jon Atack, declares the loyal Miller, has motives undoubtedly decent and honest; never did malice or any unworthy desire to settle old scores spur Jon on. I won't quarrel with this. Decency and honesty are central to the suburban code which absolutely forbids all malice and every unworthy desire.
'Jon', Russell goes on, 'simply wanted the truth to be known about the antecedents and antics of his former church and its founder'. And he (Jon) 'believes that people have the right to know the truth about Scientology. That belief is the laudable genesis of this book'.
We know that the use of the word 'antics' arises out of malice and very unworthy desire to ridicule. LRH did indulge in some behaviour that the suburbanites have every right to label as 'antics' if they want to (and they love to) according to their own standards. LRH certainly let himself in for the label; I don't know that he cares very much. We can let it pass now. That the truth be known is certainly a worthy desire. Yes, people do have the right to know the truth. As the genesis of a book, I agree that it is laudable, as it always has been and always will. Yet the tellers of the truth tell only the truth that they perceive and are willing to accept and to pass on: to know the message we must first know the messenger. Is the mind of Messenger Atack clear enough, his eyes keen enough, his heart steady enough, his soul strong enough, and his shoulders broad enough, to bring us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Scientology and LRH?
To the attack
The first serious blow against the enemies, LRH and C of S, comes in a quote given on a page by itself immediately after the Contents. It is from an opinion that a Justice Latey handed down in a London court in 1984. 'Scientology is both immoral and sociably obnoxious...it is corrupt, sinister, and dangerous...because [it is] based on lies and deceit and has as its real objective money and power for Mr. Hubbard, his wife, and those close to him at the top.' We need to examine these statements briefly:
1.Justice Latey lumps together (in this quote) the technology of Scientology, the practice of Scientology, and the people and behaviours of the C of S in its various forms. The first two are not the second two. Much of the second two moved farther and farther away from the first two, from the late 60's on.
2.Nothing that Justice Latey states in this quote was true of the entirety of the C of S (or its predecessors) through all of its history. The organization always had to pay its bills so there was always a focus on income, which its people had to work for and earn. Over time that focus did become obsessive, but it was not always so. Not until the seventies did money become the supreme importance for either the organization or for LRH personally. Until he took action in the seventies to force some of the income into his own pockets he did not receive large amounts. I was close to the top up until 1978. I was responsible until around (I think) 1972 for the safekeeping of the money he did receive: his weekly pay of $80 (if I remember the figure aright) and his monthly VA pension checks. Ruth Minshull, author of 'Miracles for Breakfast', sent LRH a check every quarter for 10% of her receipts. He invariably returned these checks to Ruth with a friendly and gentlemanly note. As for all the money that poured into my pockets as one close to the top: I never received more than around $12 a week in pay for years and then it increased slowly to all of $20 a week. I once got a bonus of (I think) $500. During my time all his principal aides received the same pay. What happened at the top after 1978 I did not witness.
3.The general practices of the C of S were not, in my experience, wholly corrupt, sinister, and dangerous. But there was enough that was corrupt, sinister, and dangerous for the label to be appropriate in part. I believe that the practices in the GO towards their perceived enemies could be to some degree corrupt, sinister and dangerous. I believe that the Church's practices in pulling public people in for services could be, during the 70's and later, corrupt, sinister and dangerous. I believe that a culture grew up within the Church in the 70's regarding relations with LRH and amongst each other on the command chains that could be corrupt, sinister, and dangerous (but no more so than in many organizations who are a lot less open in their manipulation of their people). For many who are slow in mind and biased in opinion, that which applies to the part might as well apply to the whole. But again, what the C of S became by the early 80's was vastly different from what it I had seen of it in the 50's, 60's, and early 70's. The organization changed immensely. The judgment that labels it as corrupt and so on for all time is not well-founded - no matter that such judgment does come with a red robe, a large white wig, an imposing presence, the full force and fury of Her Majesty's Government, and a very comfortable salary.
I accept that it might be fairly accurate to say, as Justice Latey pronounces, that the C of S sought to 'indoctrinate and brainwash [people] so they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult'. That is, in the C of S as it had become by the 80's. It certainly is not at all true of the majority of the people I worked with up until the mid-seventies. It is also true of the vast majority of almost all groups and corporate and governing entities since the beginning of human activity on Planet Earth. Justice Latey's opinion is a fine example of indoctrinating and brainwashing propaganda.
To point out that generalities are not true of all components of the whole or for all time is of course to state the obvious. I point it out only to indicate the ineptness of the thought processes behind these criticisms by Justice Latey, Russell Miller, and Jon Atack. I have no interest in defending the C of S (except, as we just saw, inasmuch as criticism I care about reflects on me personally - and the defense is not so much of the C of S or of me as of good people I knew and still respect).
More than ineptness of thought processes - ineptness of simple integrity: 'I have formed my opinion. I have completed a collection of information that backs up that opinion. I have no need to look further. No information that might make me change my opinion can be relevant. I do not need to review whether I have included all that is pertinent. There is no slightest need to negate or neutralize any internal and external influences that might deflect me from my inevitable conclusion. I have fulfilled the highest intellectual standards: I have decided somebody I do not know is wrong and bad, and I have proved it.' Our critics, with their own words and decisions, show themselves thus inept in awareness and understanding. Not that they are any more so than the vast majority of the middle class they come from. They are loyal to the standards with which they were raised, educated, indoctrinated, and brainwashed.
Their opinions of the C of S are the business of the C of S, as is the business of answering or not for the C of S. What these critics perceived of LRH and the opinions they arrived at out of those perceptions are their business. They made it their business to publish their opinions in the open market so that we will be impressed with their work. My business here is to show that they were selective in their perceptions and therefore not sound in their opinions of LRH-that there is a lot more truth to know than these critics were willing to see.
This we will examine further in Chapter Three.
©2000 Kenneth G. Urquhart