This article by L Ron Hubbard was written in response to William Burroughs, who had published an extensive critique of the Church of Scientology entitled, “I, William Burroughs, Challenge you L Ron Hubbard” in the March 1970 issue of “Mayfair”.
Burroughs was convinced of the value of Scientology practice, but criticised Scientology’s repressive ‘discipline’ and the secrecy surrounding Scientology techniques.
He believed that Scientology practices should be freely available for others to develop for the benefit of mankind, not held as trade secrets by the Church of Scientology and L Ron Hubbard. Burroughs was, in fact, one of the first ‘Independent Scientologists’.
Perhaps the prospect of debating with a prominent literary figure in public appealed to Hubbard’s vanity. Whatever the reason, he submitted a reply, which was duly published. You can read it &/or download the full text above and decide for yourself if Hubbard addressed the issues raised by Burroughs or attempted to evade them.
L Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Five-million Strong Scientology Cult speaks out for the first time in a British publication to defend his creed against world-famous author William Burroughs. Read it carefully. It is a revealing self-portrait of an extraordinary man.
The figure of 5-million is high even for 1970, when Scientology was near its peak. The 2011 UK census recorded only 2,418 Scientologists in England and Wales (including dependent children and independents). According to the best independent estimates today, there are only 100,000 to 200,000 Scientologists worldwide, including the 25,000 in the US. This compares with Church of Scientology’s current claim to a membership of 10 million.
Hubbard opens in a characteristically self-contradictory way.
As I didn’t write any of the things William Burroughs quotes, I find nothing there to which I can directly reply. Burroughs is a great thinker, a searching critic of things in his field. I have no faintest wish to attack him. The world needs their William Burroughses.
I was opposed to the abuses he mentions, and I believe they were all removed years ago.
First, Hubbard states that he can’t reply to Burroughs… then does so, by claiming to be ‘opposed’ to policies that he created for the organisation he controlled – and finally claiming that they are all in the past, anyway.
He goes on to blame the negative public perception of Scientology on the mass media’s supposed taste for manufactured controversy and then changes the subject to ‘psychiatric abuses’ supposedly exposed by the Scientology paper “Freedom”.
Various groups, including the Scientologists objected to violence being employed in the field of mental healing. Psychiatry, reacting, got the idea that Scientology should be eradicated before it wiped out psychiatry and its millions of pounds in government ‘research’ grants.
In other words Psychiatry and the British government are conspiring against us and, among other things, sponsoring anti-Scientology propaganda in the press. Why? Because we exposed their abuses.
The next page (pg 4) and the majority of the article, is devoted to a lengthy rant against psychiatry, psychiatrists and establishment support for them. In it, Hubbard also claims that Scientologists are working to render this supposedly abusive profession obsolete.
It takes until page 5 for Hubbard to begin develops the argument that Scientology has been deprived of research funds by the supposed conspiracy he has described.
Finance for research was never available to Scientology. It has had to develop its own organizational finance. Any and all monies for research in the field of mental healing are poured into the coffers and pockets of psychiatry.
Hubbard is still smarting from his rejection by academic psychology. When he offered dianetics for publication in a variety of journals dealing with psychology and psychiatry in 1950 it was not accepted by none – and Hubbard’s subsequent book was heavily criticised in reviews by psychologists and psychiatrists (for example in this scathing article which appeared in New Republic on August the 14th 1950).
His point seems to be that Scientology must maintain control over its material because it needs money to develop, and government grant are being denied to it by a conspiracy of jealous psychologists and psychiatrists.
Also, Hubbard submits that Scientology is unfairly penalised for its occasional bad behaviour because psychiatry is (supposedly) getting away with much worse.
Knocked about by irresponsible false reports and invalidation by psychiatric opposition operating through the controlled mass news media and the establishment, Scientology organizations have developed highly effective organizational technology completely aside from mental tech. And all this is to insure that the practice develops […].
In other words, the”organisational technology” (AKA authoritarian structure) of Scientology is justified because Scientology is fighting a war against an ruthless establishment conspiracy – and the ends justify the means. He adds,
The psychiatric efforts to get rid of a dangerous competitor is having the effect of forcing the Scientologists to handle government influences and reorganize to take over the whole field of mental healing. (pg 6)
Hubbard is suggesting that Scientology works so hard to keep people away from psychiatric treatment and recruit them into Scientology instead because psychiatry made it do it.
In passing, it is worth noting that delicately avoid using the derogatory term ‘psychs’ which he coined, and is in common use among Scientologists
Then, he descends into paranoia:
The extent of this covert operation against Scientology would do credit to the CIA! It must have cost a fortune. […] Kidnapping, murder and false witnesses all weave their tale in this incredible adventure […].
The truth about critics, as revealed in these newspaper reports View Online | Download as .pdf is more prosaic. They were simply people complaining about the Church of Scientology’s abuses – the same abuses which were the subject of Burroughs’ criticisms. Not having Burroughs’ high public profile, these individuals were routinely harassed and persecuted for their trouble.
Hubbard did these things to insure that he retained tight control over his creation. As a result Scientology was never ever going to be set free to stand up for itself as Burroughs’ wanted.
Of course, it is perfectly clear to everyone (except, apparently, Burroughs and Hubbard) that The Church Scientology could not exist without its oppressive apparatus because its techniques could never make their way in the real world – they simply do not work as advertised.
Hubbard fails to specifically address any of Burroughs’ expressed concerns. He ignores the man’s questions about ‘Security Checking’, ‘Conditions’ and the secrecy of ‘advanced’ Scientology materials. Hubbard does not explain why, if Scientology is a scientific endeavour, he forbids the involvement of workers in other fields.
Perhaps he believed that his tall tale of cruel conspiracy and courageous resistance would be so compelling that nobody would notice. Like so many demagogues before him, Hubbard can only justify his behaviour in general by putting the blame on jealous persecutors (in this case psychiatrists and government agencies) who exist only in his imagination.
Burroughs “Final Word”
Although Burroughs objected to the growing authoritarianism of the Church of Scientology and its obsession with control, he seemed to genuinely believe that auditing, and other Scientology practices were scientifically valid and beneficial – he might have been one of the first ‘Independent Scientologists’.
When given a space at the end of the article to reply, he wasted it in agreeing with Hubbard about the flaws of the mass media, psychiatry and the oppressive ‘establishment’.
Perhaps he left it to readers to observe that the issues he raised had not been addressed – or perhaps Hubbard appealed so successfully to his own preoccupations that he didn’t notice. Either way, no meaningful answers to Burroughs’ challenge were provided.