The 193+ files available through the links above are .pdf versions of dated “Ability” magazines. They run from its inception in 1955 to issue 192, published in April 1967 and include the advertising inserts as separate files.
This publication was a short, ‘easy read’, designed principally to maintain contact with Scientology’s customers – essential in the days before the Internet.
Published roughly every month, the format alternated between a ‘Major Issue’ (heavy on articles, light on advertisements) and a shorter ‘Minor Issue’ (which concentrated on persuading people to sign up for training and meetings).
The style of this magazine shows a marked contrast between the organisation of Scientology under Hubbard and the modern micro-managed Church of Miscavige. “Ability” appears to have been run by committed staff who were able to exercise their own initiative (and were probably more motivated as a result).
Hubbard seems to have had minimal involvement in it’s day-to-day running, despite the fact that its subject matter revolved around his writings and ‘cult of personality’.The magazine quickly settles down to a remarkably consistent format.
- A ‘headline’ cover An article, almost always by Hubbard, about some aspect of Scientology. This often involved the announcement of a new ‘discovery’ or ‘technical advance’.
- The first and second pages of Hubbard’s article are typically separated by advertisements for items of services for sale.
- News – for example the opening of a new Scientology group, or announcements of a number of people who have been ‘cleared’ since the last issue.
- An article by another writer (usually in praise of Hubbard and the power of his ‘discoveries’).
- More advertisements for items for sale – principally e-meters, books and congresses (meetings at which Hubbard lectured about and ‘demonstrated’ Scientology practices).
Hubbard’s ‘article’s are often extracts from his books (and when he publishes a new book, an extract is used as a promotional device). Sometimes they are billed as “[..] especially written for this publication” – however, it seems more likely that he lifted them from other writings.
Readers who have taken to following Scientology recently may find it surprising that other authors were credited with writing articles for the magazine – including Mary Sue Hubbard, L Ron Hubbard Jr (AKA “Nibs”) John Samborn, Paul Twitchell and Julia Lewis. Also, books by authors other than Hubbard were not only published by the Church of Scientology, but also officially promoted by “Ability”. For example “This is Life: An introduction to Scientology” by Reg Sharpe, which was offered for sale in issue 137 (Feb 1962).
Since we know the date of publication of each issue, we can follow Hubbard’s public reaction to various historical events – for example the article he wrote after the FDA raid in which stocks of the e-meter were seized on the grounds that they it a “[…] fraudulent healing device.”
This is an approach I may take in future posts – contrasting the ‘Hubbard version of history’ (as expressed in “Ability” and other Scientology publications) with accounts from more objective, sources.