L. Ron at Ground Zero

by Kieran Healy on October 4, 2003

The New York Times reports that a number of firefighters have been receiving treatment for stress at a clinic located near the site of the World Trade Center and run along lines prescribed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. The “detoxification program” has the Firefighters “take saunas, engage in physical workouts and swallow pills.” The precise composition of the pills is unclear. Tom Cruise has paid for many of the treatments.

Ah, Scientology. Was there ever a more entertaining belief system embedded in a more ruthless organization? (Apart from the obvious one, I mean.) And then there is L. Ron Hubbard himself — a man whose abilities and achievements were quite literally incredible. But don’t take my word for it.

Instead, read and ponder “L. Ron Hubbard: A Chronicle“, an official summary of Hubbard’s life and legacy. My favorite section of this biography is the period between 1970 and 1973, when L. Ron turned his gargantuan intellect to topics in sociology and philosophy:

bq. Having developed a successful and standardized pattern of organizational form and function, Ron turns to resolving the problems of how to manage an international network of organizations. Ron streamlines organizational management technology – laying out highly workable principles of personnel, organization and financial management and handling which are found today in the Management Series volumes.

This work forms the cornerstone of graduate-level reading in the sociology of organizations. Whenever I teach Orgs, L. Ron gets the first six weeks to himself. Then maybe we move on to Weber or Herb Simon or one of those guys.

bq. His breakthroughs at this time include the first significant advances on the subject of logic since ancient Greece.

Consult your local copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica or any work on the history of the field for further information. Bandwidth constraints mean I can only make passing mention of Hubbard’s Begriffsschrift, his Calculus of Logic, the Hubbard-Lowenheim-Skolem theorem, Principia Lronica, his subsequent “On Formally Outrageous Propositions of Principia Lronica and Related Systems” and finally Hubbard’s Completeness Theorem for Modal Logic which proves Scientology correct in all possible worlds.

bq. Ron conducts a comprehensive study of all existing public relations theories and practices and also releases his discoveries in the field of public relations, providing an entirely analytical and ethical approach to the subject.

L. Ron’s ethical approach public relations is exemplified by this very Chronicle, and throughout all of Scientology’s websites.

bq. In 1972 L. Ron Hubbard carries out a sociological study in and around New York City. Through the remainder of the year and into 1973, he researches vitamins and nutrition which will later become significant in his breakthroughs in the handling of the residual effects of drugs.

L. Ron’s attentions shift to the Arts in 1974. If you’ve done six impossible things before breakfast then it’s time to shake your booty:

bq. In February 1974, while aboard the Apollo [his ship, and — surprisingly — not the spacecraft — KH], Ron forms a music and dance troupe to provide entertainment and goodwill at Spanish and Portuguese ports of call. He personally instructs the musicians and dancers in artistic presentation, music, composition, sound, arranging and recording.

But back to the serious stuff, and our Firefighters:

bq. Ron discovers that drugs remain in the body even years after usage has ceased. Consequently, he develops the Purification Program to rid the body of harmful residual substances. … These techniques [are] used by churches of Scientology and drug rehabilitation organizations around the world…

The many success stories just cry out for publicity. Incidentally,

bq. It is also in 1979 that Ron isolates and solves the problem of increasing illiteracy.

Just in case you thought he was slacking off with the Iberian Cabaret.



Ophelia Benson 10.04.03 at 2:18 pm

Ah, L Ron the universal genius, the Renaissance man, il Cortegiano himself. I didn’t know he was that omniscient. It all reminds me of the entry for Ayn Rand in the Fashionable Dictionary:

Rand, Ayn
Hollywood screenwriter, later writer of huge thick novels, then a philosopher, but for some reason I can never find her in the philosophy reference books I look in. Maybe I have the spelling wrong.


John Landon 10.04.03 at 5:01 pm

Hubbard, behind the gasoline fired ‘brilliance’ of his speeding ticket ‘occult faust’ was an empty nothing in the end, but left a legacy that others have to hope to clean up (perhaps impossible given the thuggisness of his membership). The PR about fireman is too good to screw up and will prove harmless, but a lot of people get hurt in such never to be desired ‘orgs’. ‘Sufi fart’ is the right spiritual level category and anyone who leaves behind such a large mess ends in the lower rungs of hell’s pedigree by that measure.
The only people who can create benign ashrams are the Indian yogis, though their success rate is not tops either.
Don’t get this day glow junk the time of day. These farts are dime a dozen in sufi land.


Zizka 10.04.03 at 5:50 pm

The overlap between pyramid marketing scams and religious groups is substantial. Quite a few of the pure business operations use large doses of self-help spiritualism in their training programs, whereas a number of the rlegious organizations are organized in pyramids (Scientology and EST but I think the Hare Krishnas and Moonies also).

I forgot to mention the LaRouchies. LaRouche and Hubbard are similiar in that they are intelligent, well-read, “brilliant”, and “original” in the bad sense of the scare-quoted words.

“Like Aristotle (the Persian double agent), Benjamin Franklin was a knowing tool of the reactionary forces…..”


anon 10.04.03 at 6:53 pm


Keith M Ellis 10.04.03 at 7:40 pm

I think what bothers me about the European response to Scientology and the LDS, is that the majority of other people believe things that are just as fucking nuts. And just as backed by entrenched, self-interested organizations that employ or have employed questionable or clearly illegal methods.

I’ve always been uneasy with the supposed distinction between “cult” and “religion”. Some of today’s crazy cultists are undoubtedly tomorrow’s conventional religionists.

And then you have the crypto-cults like Objectivism, as someone has already mentioned. People need bedtime stories and alpha males and females for reassurance. I don’t see that changing any time soon.


Francois Lachance 10.04.03 at 8:09 pm


How did “Ground Zero” come to be applied to the site of the attacks on the World Trade Centre?
Why does the designation persist?



Kevin Drum 10.04.03 at 10:28 pm

So who wins in a cage match between L Ron and Lyndon LaRouche?


Bill Humphries 10.04.03 at 11:36 pm


I think LaRouche wins by forfeit since he’s alive and Hubbard’s not.

However, if we allow Hubbard’s followers to drop his crypt on top of LaRouche…

And just to taunt them: Free Keith Henson! :p


Zizka 10.05.03 at 12:32 am

BTW, Nicole Kidman is on the prowl. In all her recent photographs she’s got that steely-eyed Scientology look on. Hot but scary.

The LaRouchies are better at streetfighting but I think that the Scientologists are better at black ops and finance. There are also more Scientologists. But where did anyone get the idea that Hubbard is dead? That’s what he wants you to believe.

LDS is an example of a church that has made the cult-to-mainstream transition successfully. The Mormons have some excellent beliefs and practices (charity, no hellfire, less puritanical than most Christians). In a way the Mormons are a survival of XIX c. American communal utopianism. I know some third-generation Mormons, and they’re basically trying to modernize the church. Mormons and ex-Mormons are a considerable demographic in science and scholarship; Mormons as such have made contributions to linguistics, geneology, and especially hydrology (irrigation, etc.)


Russell L. Carter 10.05.03 at 5:06 am

“Mormons as such have made contributions to linguistics, geneology […]”

Why are they interested in geneology, pray tell?

And it’s a curious thing to look at those Scientology price lists. We’re not talking about trailer trash customers here (um, that would be my people). I’d say they’re mainstream.

Dontcha love Faith Based Initiatives?


Zizka 10.05.03 at 5:27 am

Russell, I suspect you know the answer, but Mormons believe that it is possible to baptize and save one’s deceased ancestors as long as you know their names. But you have to know their names, so the Mormons have compiled these enormous databases (not only for Mormons, but for any future Mormon converts).


bigring55t 10.05.03 at 6:07 am

zizka- You might want to check out “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer before assuming Mormons are a force for good in our society. They have some pretty scary beliefs too.


laura 10.05.03 at 6:16 am

I’m not sure where you would get the claim that Mormons are less puritanical than most Christians. If I were going to make a generalization along those lines, it would have been the opposite one.


Russell L. Carter 10.05.03 at 7:58 am

zizka, yep. That explanation though is the blandest one can put on that aspect of their theology. But I didn’t intend to start some Mormon bashing. I have hired Mormons, liked them well not just for their productivity but also for their equanimity and will hire more. (Did I mention they have so far been nice persons?) In the context of this thread the interesting notion is the idea of how ‘marginal’ religious groups are leveraging taxpayer monies to promote their ideologies.

I am going to throw a crank idea out: What’s wrong with crank ideas getting public funding? What happened to the marketplace of ideas?


Dan the Man 10.05.03 at 9:09 am

I was just looking at an article describing Mormons and
their database here.

Here’s a choice quote.

“The LDS Church believes the dead who did not have a
chance to convert while alive can and should be baptized.
According to Mormon theology, they retain the ability to
choose or reject the baptism in the next life.”

That is just wierd. It’s a good thing I was never raised
in a Mormon family because that just sounds too goofy
for me.


Antoni Jaume 10.05.03 at 9:21 am

“I am going to throw a crank idea out: What’s wrong with crank ideas getting public funding? What happened to the marketplace of ideas?”

Depends, here in Spain an ultra-Catholic group has bought a private school, without giving advance notice to the parents of the pupils. I believe it is the second time that happens. It is claimed that they paid 36 millions of euros, for about a thousand pupils. That is a lot of money in Spain, so I doubt of the openness of their intentions.



raj 10.05.03 at 1:32 pm

If memory serves, LRon was a science fiction writer–not a very good one–before he was committed to an insane asylum. He founded Scientology after he was let out of the–uh–looney bin.

Apparently, after he was released, he was sufficiently unlooney to recognize that there were more than a few americans who would adhere to something real looney as long as they couched it as a religion.

Hence Scientology.


Eric Pobirs 10.05.03 at 2:41 pm

Well, no. L.Ron started Dianetics as a pop psychology fad, gaining a lot of support from a few prominent names like John Campbell. This gave easy access to a lot of genre fiction readers. The promised miracles of human perfection were already staples of SF and Fantasy fiction so those readers were perfect targets.

In the lat Fifties Hubbard sold off the rights to Dianetics to a group of businessmen. After he’d blown through most of the payment he wanted to get back in the game. To evade the copyright issues and taxes he went the religion route this time. Within a few years he’d done well enough with the scam to buy back ownership of Dianetics and related materials.

If you ever find an early edition of Dianetics check it out. The current edition is substantially different. The stuff in the original is incredibly loony and offers an amazing perspective of the things one could present with a straight face back then.


Keith M Ellis 10.05.03 at 2:42 pm

Yes, the Mormons have some very strange beliefs, and they’re certainly quite reactionary on many issues. Furthermore, there’s that weird bit of conspiracy-like bombing and stuff that went on a few years ago. Having said that, I’ve had the interesting experience of every Mormon I’ve known more than casually to be what I’ve intuited as a very good person.

But I brought up LDS because it’s my understanding that some European countries have restricted their activities and investigated them similarly but not as extensively as they’ve investigated Scientologists.

Anyway, it’s absolutely astonishing the nonsense the Scientologists believe. But I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, I can’t get my mind around the idea that so many people swallow such utterly crackpot and transparently _ad hoc_ bullshit. But then, when I try to approach conventional religious docrtine with as fresh a viewpoint as possible, I’m equally astonished. Creationism, anyone?


Steve 10.05.03 at 5:25 pm

BTW, Nicole Kidman is on the prowl. In all her recent photographs she’s got that steely-eyed Scientology look on. Hot but scary.

As any good reader of Entertainment Weekly knows, Kidman was born and raised a Catholic; her half-hearted embrace of Scientology (and her move back to Catholicism) was reportedly a factor in the end of her marriage to Cruise. In particular, she apparently refused to let any children of hers be brought up Scientologist.


Rob 10.05.03 at 5:52 pm

Hell, creationism is rational next to the trinity.


Ray 10.05.03 at 5:55 pm

“What’s wrong with crank ideas getting public funding? What happened to the marketplace of ideas?”

Well, here in the United States, we’re supposed to maintain at least one distinction between “the marketplace of ideas” and “public funding.” It’s called separation of church and state.

At any rate, Scientology hardly lacks private funding. It can enter boldly into any marketplace it chooses to. Even one of ideas.


Neel Krishnaswami 10.05.03 at 8:15 pm

I’ve always thought that the difference between a cult and a religion is that most of a religion’s members were born into it, rather than converting. I mean, any major religion you can name has at least as much screwed-up headjob ideology in it as Scientology, but since most of its members grew up with it they don’t take it seriously. Converts are basically scarier because they take the nonsense seriously.


--kip 10.05.03 at 8:43 pm

My favorite book on Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard is Jon Atack’s exhaustive A Piece of Blue Sky. (Scientologists have been checking it out of libraries and failing to return it for years.) –Best pre-cult Hubbard anecdote (aside from being the only Naval commander to fire on Mexican soil during WWII): Hubbard fell in with Jack Parsons, founding member of JPL and head of a Californian branch of the OTO, and proposed a venture to buy motorboats in Florida that left Parsons shy of several thousand dollars and his girlfriend. Apparently, Aleister Crowley himself tried to warn Parsons that Hubbard was little more than a mountebank…


Zizka 10.05.03 at 9:03 pm

Nicole still has that scary steely-eyed look. I don’t feel quite up to it. I’m pretty much waiting for Winona Ryder to sink a bit lower in the world, down to my level. I figure another felony should do it.

Neel — one of the defining features of “born-again” Christianity is that, while you ARE born into it, it doesn’t count until you have an adult conversion experience. It goes back to the Anabaptists who didn’t believe that infant baptism could mean much. Episcopalians, Lutherans or Catholics are born that way and stay that way unless expelled for serious cause.

I was married to a Mormon and she told me that the church is not guilt-based. No hellfire, no images of Christ on the cross, and little sex guilt. Early marriage is the solution for the problems of puberty. I’ve also been told that guys are allowed/encouraged to go out in the world and see if they want to stay there, or whether they’d prefer the coziness of the church.

Mormons actually hold boy-girl dances in their churches. I don’t know of any other church of which this is true. The music and dancing are watched but not terribly closely, and a non-Mormon friend from a Mormon town claims that they use the girls as bait to encourage the conversion of promising young guys. Early marriage again.


Armature 10.05.03 at 9:15 pm

Speaking of Scientologists at Ground Zero…

BTW, NB: the CoS spiders the web and Usenet aggressively for anti-CoS voices. Post here and you will probably end up in their “shit list” database; you do so at your own risk.


bigring55t 10.05.03 at 10:55 pm

amature- That was one hell of an article you linked to. I no longer feel bad about ordering pizzas delivered to Mr. Hubbard at CoS addresses for fun when I was youger.


Harry Tuttle 10.06.03 at 4:49 pm

1946: After discharge from the US Navy in February 1946, Ron returns to writing, although his primary thrust continues to be the development of a means to better the condition of men.

Do they mean this?

Not a single credit to the Ordo Templi Orientis in his “official” biography… Scientologists hate competition.


Tom 10.06.03 at 6:21 pm

“As any good reader of Entertainment Weekly knows, Kidman was born and raised a Catholic; her half-hearted embrace of Scientology (and her move back to Catholicism) was reportedly a factor in the end of her marriage to Cruise.”

You mean Cruise dumped the paralyzingly gorgeous Kidman because she wasn’t drinking enough of the Scientology Kool-Aid?

What more proof do you need that Scientology drives you nuts?

(BTW, anybody remember Frank Zappa’s parody of “L. Ron Hubert” on “Joe’s Garage”?)


KevinNYC 10.06.03 at 7:24 pm

During the massive East Coast blackout, when most folks were worrying how they would get home or if it was terrorism Scientologists were out on the Streets of New York recruiting.


xenuphile 10.07.03 at 12:48 am

A politician I know is constantly getting (discreetly labelled) Co$ literature, in which Isaac Hayes and other celebs tout the efficacy of the Church’s various drug treatment programs. Especially popular are programs for the ultimate captive audience- prison inmates and recent releases.

Watch for the Co$ to hit the ground running when/if the faith-based insanity starts in the US. And watch the prompt backlash from your more ‘respectable’ religions.

btw- zizka:
“Mormons actually hold boy-girl dances in their churches. I don’t know of any other church of which this is true.”

You might just not get out much.


Keith 10.07.03 at 12:48 pm

Dan the Man:
“The LDS Church believes the dead who did not have a chance to convert while alive can and should be baptized.” That is just wierd…. that just sounds too goofy for me.
Unless I’m wrong, the Catholic Church initially allowed for baptisim of the dead. If a religion believes in Heaven and in the concept of Original Sin, it’s a pretty elegant way of getting everyone born more than 2000 years ago, and non-believers since then, into Heaven. Now, what about angels and the heads of pins?

Neel Krishnaswami:
any major religion you can name has at least as much screwed-up headjob ideology in it as Scientology
I’m aware of several major religions, and I can’t think of any — not a single one — with as much “screwed up headjob ideology” as Scientology. Feel free to elaborate! But before you do, watch “Repo Man” first!


Zizka 10.07.03 at 10:39 pm

I agree with Neel. If you look at the most objectionable things that the established churches have ever done, or even what they’re still doing somewhere in the world, a lot of them reach Scientology levels. Brainwashing, manipulation, and extortion of money are not new tactics.

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