From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 55 - January 2002
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org/
IVy on the Wall
by Ken Urquhart, USA
Chapter Eight in a Consideration of 'A Piece of Blue Sky' by Jon Atack
We proceed to Part 4 of this book, 'The Sea Organization 1966-1976'. Its six chapters are: Scientology at Sea; Heavy Ethics; The Empire Strikes Back; The Death of Susan Meister; Hubbard's Travels; The Flag Land Base.
In a number of places in this part our author, Jon Atack, includes or introduces a number of factual discrepancies that I am going to correct - trusting to my memory, let it be admitted beforehand. And let the reader also be forewarned that some of the discrepancies are hardly important - but I believe that it is not unimportant to have a true record of fact or at least of report. Having said my say on that subject, I will then explore an aspect of Hubbard's work that Jon highlights with obvious contempt - Hubbard's system of Ethics.
Fog warnings and hornings
1. On p.166 Jon refers to references to the accounts for the Hickstead Garage, a local business in which one of the companies in the Saint Hill corporate structure invested. The accounts were evidently suspicious. Jon's inference is that LRH made them so. The opposite is true. The garage was under the direct supervision of an executive working at SH. My personal and direct observation is that in 1964, that executive, Peter Hemery, took his annual summer vacation. Mary Sue Hubbard covered his duties. I saw MSH on several different days on her hands and knees on his office floor, with stacks of invoices spread out before her. She had found some discrepancy and was auditing the books. LRH himself told me a few days later that she had discovered that the manager of the garage had been cooking the books under the nose of the executive he was hoodwinking. They were both fired. Shortly after that the garage was sold. Far from being another example of LRH's dishonesty, it was actually a case of his distancing himself from another's dishonesty.
2. On the same page, Jon has LRH welcomed at London Airport on his return from South Africa, where he had been kicked out of Rhodesia, by hundreds of cheering Scientologists. I was one of them; we were not more than 40 in number.
3. p.168. Jon asserts that LRH took information from a 1950's book by a psychologist on the Anti-Social Personality to write material he (LRH) presented as his own original work on the subject. This is a possibility; the existence of the earlier work does not prove that it caused the later. Jon's inference is not a fact; it requires verification.
4. p.171. Jon says that the reported expenditure for one year of 70,000 pounds sterling on sending mailings to the US Mailing List is 'astonishing'. A large part of the prosperity at SH came from the mailings of 'The Auditor' magazine over the world, mostly to the USA. The magazine went to around 70,000 addresses in the US alone. I know. I was Director of Communications SH for a while and had to get the thing out to the post office. These were huge mailings. What exactly astonishes Jon is not clear - but it evidently is something in his own head, not something in the facts of the matter.
5 p.180. Jon shows his ignorance of ships more than once. He says here that the chain locker is in the 'bowels' of the ship, that it is cold, wet, and has rats, is unlit, and that access is by way of a tiny manhole. The chain in question is the chain attached to a ship's anchor; an anchor is always located at the bow and possibly also at the stern; the 'Royal Scotsman' had two bow anchors, as most large ships do, and a stern anchor. The locker that stores the anchor's chain is directly below the opening on the deck through which the chain runs to let the anchor out or bring it in. There is not very much ship below the bows and the chain locker is hardly anywhere near the ship's bowels. I once inspected one of the bow chain lockers; I looked in through a large opening and found it flooded with daylight, dry, and not a rat in sight.
6 p.180. Jon tells how the first person to be thrown overboard hit the rubbing strake as he fell, with a horrendously loud crash. Jon explains to us that the rubbing strake is a ledge jutting out from the ship beneath the waterline to keep other ships at bay in a collision. This is twaddle. The rubbing strake runs most of the length of the ship on each side and its purpose is to keep the ship from rubbing or banging its hull against jetties and piers. It is placed a few feet above the water line; below the water it would seriously impede control of the ship. Such a thing would be completely useless in the event of a collision. If a man were to fall on the rubbing strake from a height high enough that the meeting of the two would create a very loud noise, he would have been seriously injured. I believe that Jon has swallowed an old salt's tall story told (and relayed) for effect, not truth.
7. p.181. Jon asserts that 'Scientologists were used to Hubbard's auditing techniques, where they did not question the reasoning behind a set of commands, but simply answered or carried them out'. He is saying that this is the reason why we all obeyed (or tried to obey) Hubbard so compliantly and robotically. Here he compresses reality down to an unimaginably stupid simplicity that has little or no connection with the actuality of what was going on. Firstly, most people on the ship had had no or very little auditing. Secondly, few on the ship had regular auditing, most of the time. Thirdly, no auditor with any self-respect would ever permit a preclear to run a process not fully understood by the preclear. Fourthly, if a preclear did not question the reasoning behind a process, the auditor ran the process in such a way that the preclear would come to understand it. This certainly was the ideal, at any rate, and certainly was no less than what LRH himself demanded strenuously from auditors around him who would not dare try to deceive him. Here Jon reveals his inability to conceive of the actuality of what auditing could be. Discussion of whether or not anyone should audit another on Hubbard's processes is a different argument altogether
8. p.181. Jon states that most Sea Org members accepted the bizarre ethics practices out of devotion to LRH. This is largely correct; one could add that most of us answered a call we heard to do something effective about the state of Planet Earth. Whether we should have heard it, or, having heard it should have answered it, is again a separate argument. It was not devotion to the person of LRH alone that motivated us.
9. p.181. Jon: 'It is impossible to add to these stark details [of Ethics practices on board] a convincing picture of Hubbard's charisma'. It is impossible for Jon to see any convincing picture of Hubbard's charisma: that is the whole point of his whole book. That Jon cannot convince himself is a fact; that others around Hubbard actually experienced his charisma is as certain a fact.
10. p.181. 'Hubbard released religious and military fervors in his disciples'. Military, yes. Religious, hardly.
11. p.187. Jon says that people were overboarded from the Prom Deck, 40 feet up from the water. I never saw such a thing or heard of it; I was called to the ship in November 1968, well after overboarding began. The claim needs verification by eyewitnesses before I will accept it. Jon also says that people were blindfolded and their feet and hands tied before they were thrown. This also I seriously doubt. He further says that they were hurled 15 feet from the quarterdeck. When I saw any overboarding, the quarterdeck gunwales were opened; I would guess the distance from the deck level to the water to be 9 to 10 feet. And he reports that people feared terribly that they would fall against the hull of the ship and have their flesh ripped open by barnacles. Some people may have had the fear; an inspection of the physical realities would have shown how ridiculous it was. Jon seems eager to listen to any story that sensationalizes his version of history.
Chaos, Horror, and Confusion
12. p.187. He says that students on the Class VIII course held on the ship wore a 'noose of rope' around their necks. The term is 'lanyard'. I suppose that the word 'lanyard' is not sensational enough and is too closely connected with the healthy innocence of the Boy Scouts.
13. p.188. Jon seems to be saying that I had said that OT III and the Sea Org had transformed Hubbard into a screamingly angry madman. I have never intended such an interpretation of anything I might have said on the subject, not having meant to convey the meaning Jon chooses to see in it.
14. p.191. According to Jon, the Greek Government received 'many complaints' about the ship and therefore took action to send the ship away. He doesn't specify what is the number, who reported, and what was reported, and when. I cannot accept as a fact that the Greek Government received 'many complaints' until the report is reliably verified. The phrase is an embroidery; the important fact is that the Greek Government demanded that Hubbard and his ship leave Corfu.
15. p.194. Jon says that John McMaster left the C of S because he 'probably feared for his own safety'. Let's remember that 'probably' is an expression of an opinion. In justification of his opinion, Jon goes on to say that John Mac 'had been overboarded several times, and the last time was left struggling in the water for three hours with a broken collarbone'. That Jon should give credence to such melodrama stretches my credence. John Mac might have gone overboard as many as several times before I got to the ship, but certainly wasn't after I had arrived there. That he or anyone else would have been left in the water for three hours is not credible to me. That he swam for three hours with a broken collarbone and was left neglected in the water all that time is plain silly.
16. p.196. Jon refers to 'several years of chainlocker punishments and overboarding'. This is his imagination at work. 'The Royal Scotsman' was a Sea Org vessel from late 1967. She left Corfu in March 1969. This is a period of about 17 months. After she left Corfu, overboarding ceased. And, since she was so often moving about, and using her anchors, so did imprisonment in the chain locker. Jon did not check his facts.
17. p.196. The 'kitchen' staff (the seagoing term is 'galley') worked disgraceful hours in the heat and stench of the kitchens. So? We all worked disgraceful hours. Many of us worked in the heat and stench below decks without benefit of doors and portholes for fresh air - as had the galley. In seeking sensationalism, Jon is willing to part from reality.
18. p.207. Jon raises the matter of the death of Susan Meister, and strongly suggests that foul play caused it. I never heard LRH mention foul play. By the time of this incident, we had GO people on the ship, and that office took charge of the investigation and handling of her terrible end. If they had proof of foul play it is conceivable that they would have withheld it - but not from MSH and I doubt extremely that she would have withheld it from LRH. It is possible that LRH would have withheld it from me.
I was involved unknowingly in Susan Meister's situation. A week or so before her death, she had written to LRH asking his permission for her to leave the ship and return home. At that time, his policy on such was to refuse (it varied). I composed a reply to this effect and included it in his mail for signature. He signed it. He was considerably put out when I reminded him of this - he had signed the reply without reading it or its original request (and this was not unusual practice for him - I should have known better). From then on, I put a warning note on any similar reply composed for him to sign.
Further, on Susan Meister: Jon quotes some letters she wrote home in high enthusiasm about Scientology and what she took to be the mission of the Sea Org. He quotes them as examples of how gullible SO members were. We had a number of people on the ship who came without a great deal of education but with at least some experience of street drugs (I don't know if Susan had a drug history or not; she was certainly not well educated). Finding themselves on the ship, and sometimes with menial jobs and very unattractive berthing, some of them let their imaginations run wild, and their false enthusiasms flap. Many of them graduated through that phase to some maturity and, in some cases, great ability. I believe that Susan Meister was unable to face the growth that staying on the ship challenged her to encompass; I will always deeply regret that her cry came through me, and I chose to adhere to the current policy rather than to hear her, listen to her, and help her in compassion and good sense.
19. p.203. Jon states that officials in Morocco in 1972 gave Hubbard 24 hours to leave the country. I did not hear that. He showed up unexpectedly in Lisbon from Tangier where he had been staying, and he came without MSH. Had there been any 24-hour order to leave he would have brought her. My understanding of his move was that he had to leave Morocco and Lisbon to avoid being extradited to stand trial in Paris. I arranged a flight for him and two attendants to New York; we booked him through to Chicago as a red herring. I believe that the order to leave Morocco was issued to others after he had left.
20. p.204. Jon again brings up that LRH 'continued to insist' in 1972 that he did not benefit financially from Scientology, not being paid for his lectures nor having collected royalties on his books. Strange as it is, I can confirm that LRH was telling the truth. Up until LRH appointed Vicki Polimeni to be his personal LRH Accounts (I think that was in 1973), I oversaw the disposition of his income. His income consisted of his weekly paypacket (about $80, if I remember aright) and his monthly VA checks ($84, I think). These I put in his safe. There were years of VA checks and paypackets in the safe. On the other hand, his personal expenses were paid through ship and corporate accounts. Up until 1972, I did not see any conspicuous consumption at all, but of course only the accounts themselves will tell. After 1973 he began to get very interested in money for himself, but I was not privy to what went on between him and LRH Accounts or anyone else on the subject. He certainly did control the large corporate accounts. I do not know that he used them for direct personal benefit. I do remember him voicing frequently, in 1972 or 3, the complaint that he had no money at his disposal for purely personal purposes.
21. p.205. Jon claims that during a refit, the crew climbed into the ventilation shafts and cleaned them with toothbrushes. He omits to mention that in the cleaning of the shafts the crew in them used bigger brushes, sponges, and cleaning cloths. Toothbrushes we used for details. The whole crew was involved in cleaning the ship. The larger members of the crew were not called on to squeeze themselves into ventilation shafts.
22. p.205. Jon reports LRH's motorbike accident in the hills of Tenerife, and says that he walked back to the ship after it. I am almost certain that he not only walked back to the ship but walked back with his bike as well, and perhaps on the bike.
23. p.206. The RPF(1) was introduced by me, not by LRH. I designed it all by myself, in response to an order from him to do something about the people on board who were not, in his view, pulling their weight - but had time to complain loudly. Jon says that the RPF was equivalent to imprisonment; it was only slightly more so than being on the ship in the first place. A person in the RPF could have left if he/she had tried hard enough, just like anyone else on board; the RPF member would probably have had to work at it a bit harder.
There are a few things about the original design of the RPF that I now certainly think were wrong, and wish I had done otherwise; in practice, on the ship at least, these things worked themselves out well and eased my conscience. The principal one I have in mind is that the RPF should be fed on the remains of the food given to the general crew. This requirement was well within the traditions of the Sea Org but nonetheless was wrong and unworkable. People have to have decent food and enough of it. I also demanded that RPF people not speak to any crew unless spoken to first. On the ship, this gave way to the practical needs of working together, and nobody made any fuss about it.
Off the ship, others set up RPFs. By all accounts, some of these became sadly distorted. By that time, the Byzantine(2) politics of the organization made my intervention pointless.
Whatever else one reads into the documents that set up and formed the RPF on the ship, I don't see how one can miss that the RPF (a) took people out of a highly enturbulated environment, (b) gave them physical tasks to do that they could complete, task by task, (c) encouraged them to do very good jobs of what they were doing, (d) gave them plenty of time in which to study and deliver auditing sessions of each other, (e) was intended to help them recover their own morale (or, in some cases, find it for the first time), (f) returned them to the regular crew.
That Jon can say that they spent all their time 'revealing their evil purposes' is ranting nonsense. In session, they were given all the rights of preclears everywhere. If there were evil purposes demanding handling they were addressed. There were technical fads from time to time that might have included checking for evil purposes. RPF members received tough Ethics handlings, yes. That was expected and accepted.
I saw a lot of people improve their own conditions markedly by working through the RPF on the ship. If some had a hard time because of incorrect ethics or technical handling I hope they have had or will have the opportunity to repair the damage completely.
24. p.206. Jon says of the RPF: 'This careful imitation of techniques long-used by the military to obtain unquestioning obedience and immediate compliance to orders, or more simply to break men's spirits, was all part of a ritual of humiliation for the Sea Org member.' Here is another careful mix of fact and opinion according to a recipe that tries to make a soufflé out of bad eggs.
That the RPF was made by some an instrument of humiliation is not questioned. Those doing so did it out of their own urges, not mine, and not for long on the ship if I came to hear about it.
I do not believe that the RPF, even when so used, broke anybody's spirit. The freedom of the street, the means of escape, the opportunity to speak up and demand that one leave, were always to hand. I can not accept that anyone was 'imprisoned' against his or her own real will. I can accept that some were so weak that they had not will enough to fight for their freedom, and I regret that there was no-one near who listened, understood, and addressed with compassion and common sense.
At no time was the RPF ever intended by me to break men's spirits - quite the reverse. If another or others used it for such a purpose, then let it be on their consciences; their doing so was a violation of the documents on which the RPF was based. Again, if it was so, I regret it.
The RPF was very easily used by some as a personnel pool to fill holes that the regular channels of the organization had failed to recruit people for. A delicate balancing act was required. There were functions that the RPF was ideal to fulfill and their fulfilling them provided a real and valuable service to the organization, as in food service and in cleaning. There were activities so large, and so chaotically and stressfully organized that the RPF involvement in them destroyed the purpose of the RPF, as in the renovations of the Cedars Hospital buildings in Los Angeles. In the latter case, the pressure on those assigned responsibility to complete the renovations was so great, and the RPF by its design so vulnerable to exploitation (if not carefully shielded by senior management) that extremely unacceptable abuse of its members definitely occurred. In my view, unpardonably so. As I have said above, I do not think that any permanent harm was done to anyone. I do not see that anyone's spirit can have been broken without the person's deliberate submission to the process.
As to obtaining 'unquestioning obedience and immediate compliance to orders': this was to some extent part and parcel of the approach which infused the entire Sea Organization. However, the approach was naval rather than military, and had more to do with the sea than with the Navy as such. Hubbard's idea was that he would discipline people to work together to manage a ship. As he said, the sea is a very hard taskmaster indeed. The sea punishes sailors' mistakes by wrecking them and drowning them, both very uncomfortable fates. There are right ways to manage ships in different conditions, and wrong ways. Sailors have to learn the right ways and to execute them correctly and at little or no warning. It was the spirit of the sailors that LRH wanted to inculcate into Sea Org people, originally - the spirit of having expertise at one's total command, the ability to think quickly and sensibly on one's feet, the speed to move and to change, courage to face difficulty, resourcefulness and initiative with the willingness to give up individuality for the sake of the group when the group needs it, and to fulfill the needs of the group without hesitation when the group demands it. This is a spirit that leaders have needed, wanted, and looked for, since the beginning of groups.
LRH achieved a significant degree of success, but his partial success led to the failure of the whole endeavour. I suspect that the simple reason he failed is that he didn't run the process on the group (a) with the correct and relevant leadership technology, and (b) to full end result. He allowed himself to be sidetracked by his own internal issues. Instead of a shining and supportive force, he saddled himself with a bureaucratic and fanatic mess.
25. p.207. Madeira(3) and the rock-throwing: Jon says it started with a taxi load of people and stones. Not so. The taxi came later. He implies that Capt. Bill Robertson turned the fire hoses on a small, defenseless, and passive group. Not so. He says some crew threw back some stone and bottles. I did not see this. He says that 'the Commodore marched up and down in his battle fatigues yelling orders'. A complete fabrication.
I first became aware of the 'invasion' when I heard the noise of a small band of people, about 30 persons at a guess, marching towards the dock. They arrived at the dock where the ship moored at the time. Either at once or at some point, one of them approached the end of the gangway still reaching from the ship to the dock. I don't know if he was going to manhandle the gangway or come aboard. As he was about to put his hands on the gangway rails, Bill Robertson ordered the fire hose turned on him. I saw this with my own eyes from the Prom Deck. I thought Bill R was a bit too hasty, myself. Anyway, the fireworks then started - a hail of stones hitting all over the ship from the dock. LRH and MSH stood together on the port Prom Deck on the side away from the dock. LRH dressed in his ordinary every-day gear. He stayed where he was, later moving into the landing at the top of the internal stairs up to the Prom Deck, in front of the door to his office. He did not yell anything at all at any time to anyone. If he issued any orders to anyone he did so very quietly and through his messengers. But I don't think he sent any orders down to Bill Robertson by way of his messengers; to get there they would have had to expose themselves to the rock-throwers. I was outside on the Prom Deck when I heard a scream from a female crew member who had unwisely exposed her face. She had been hit on the jaw by a rock. Together we scuttled on our haunches towards the nearest opening to the ship's interior. We passed LRH and MSH, who said nothing. I had someone take the woman down to the Medical Officer - I don't know how they got there, but they did, without further injury. The woman's jaw was found to be broken. In the general chaos, the fight went on, but the protesters gained no foothold on the ship. A fairly good account of the event, its evolution, and its culmination is in R. Miller's 'Bare-Faced Messiah'. Jon seems not to have read it or not to believe it.
Leaving the Mediterranean
26. p.208. Jon thinks that LRH decided to leave the east Atlantic for the west because the Spanish and Portuguese governments were against him. At no time during that period did I hear or sense that he was under any pressure from outside the ship to cross the Atlantic. Had there been such pressure MSH would have been very busy on the subject, and she was fairly relaxed at the time. In fact, it seemed to me that the sole pressure Hubbard was under to cross the Atlantic was from his own wife, MSH. She spoke about it rather frequently as a personal desire.
27. p.208. According to Jon, Hubbard, while crossing the Atlantic, got word somehow that waiting at the dock to greet him at Charleston was a large party of Federal agents. That word actually came over the ship's radio-telephone and it came directly from Jane Kember, the Guardian WW, to LRH and MSH.
28. p.209. Jon fancies that LRH chose the Fort Harrison in Clearwater to move ashore into because of the town's name. This is nonsense. We had been looking intensively for somewhere to move to. He had rejected a number of properties, and time was running short. The building in Clearwater seemed by far the best available so far, and Hubbard more-or-less fell into it by default. The name of the town had nothing at all to do with it. I don't think it hurt. At the time, I didn't particularly take note of the significance of the name of the town, and I didn't hear anyone else aboard talking about it either.
29. p.212. We moved into the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater under the auspices of United Churches, a front created by Hubbard. Jon reports that at some point a spokesman for the Church announced that the purchaser was the C of S. Jon omits that a reporter had discovered that for himself and either was on the point of publishing it or had just done so.
I was responsible for the discovery. When we arrived, I was asked how the mimeo'd orders were to be signed. Hitherto they had been signed on the authority of the C of S. I had this continue. One day, when some journalists were on a tour of the building, one came across one of these mimeo'd orders in somebody's in-basked, stole it, and published it. Had I had more sense, the United Churches deception might have lasted a lot longer.
30. p.212. Jon points to LRH's 'increasingly poor health and appearance', and to the 'large pointed lump on his forehead'. LRH was not in tip-top health. To think of him as an invalid is to go too far. He was a quite active man in his sixties, with a deep reservoir of energy. His appearance was not that of a man broken by illness, at all. His general image was less bright than it had been earlier, true. He did not have a pointed lump on his forehead. He did have an oval lump on his head just above the hairline at the middle of the front. It was not unsightly. As his hair thinned it became more obvious. He had talked of having it removed. I thought it tended to lend him a certain distinction. I am biased, of course.
p.213. LRH's dynastic hopes were pinned on Quentin, says Jon. LRH had put out lists from time to time showing who was to succeed him on his demise. He not once showed any signs of handing any power over to anyone. His relations with Quentin were not good. Quentin was showing no signs of any interest in preparing to take over the organization. Everybody accepted that in LRH's absence power was and always would be invested in MSH. Nobody thought further than that, that I know of.
Jon also states that Quentin was homosexual. Looking back, I think this is a possibility. But I think Quentin had not reached an age at which he could have made his own decision on that subject. As a teenager, of course, he was making discoveries about sexuality. I myself do not see Quentin as a latent homosexual. I see him more as a teenager becoming aware of his different options, and perhaps going through a stage of homoeroticism, such as many boys do experience as they mature into manhood. However, I am not an expert on any of this; I simply have my observations and experience and out of them I do not conclude, as Jon does, that Quentin was in fact homosexual. Jon's mention of it is to point up LRH's presumed (and wished-for) discomfiture at his own son being so inclined.
Jon also reports Serge Gerbode's claim that Quentin had attempted suicide before. As Jon doesn't mention Serge's source, I think this must remain unverified gossip until proven otherwise. I vaguely remember a rumour to that effect on the ship. Its source led me to take no notice of it. If it did happen, the circumstances of the attempt were not serious enough to raise any observable ripples around his parents; those who were close to the parents were very sensitive to all the ripples.
Having said my say on all the alleged discrepancies I wished to have my say about, I have run out of space in which to add comments about Hubbard and Ethics. With my editor's permission, I will address this in my next article.
©2001 Kenneth G. Urquhart