“This is Life: An Introduction to Scientology” by Reg Sharpe – The Church of Scientology Bans Its Own Books (Pt3)

aThis is Life: an Introduction to Scientology  | Reg Sharpe | Graphis Press Ltd | 1961
Download as .pdf (click on text link ‘Download in Browser’).

As I have described in a previous post the Church of Scientology not only has a list of banned books, but this list consists of works written by Scientologists in good standing which were once published with official approval and sold through orgs.

In 1983 (three years before Hubbards death)  all of these texts were withdrawn, and only books by L Ron Hubbard were permitted. Scientologists are not allowed to read them, now. Only books by Hubbard himself are deemed to contain ‘true Scientology’.

“This is Life” is a book about Scientology  published in 1961. It has been written by a very prominent Scientologist of the period.  Reg Sharpe was the personal assistant of L Ron Hubbard and the book was clearly endorsed by Hubbard himself, so it was quite influential among Scientologists.

The full text can be downloaded from the link above. This is a direct scan of an original copy of the book which, as far as I know, is available nowhere else online.

Reg Sharpe

Reg Sharpe was a man of means.  Before he became involved with Scientology, he had made a lot of money out of the early UK TV boom, from a business which sold new, transistorised, designs of TV receiver. Sharpe joined Scientology in 1961,  shortly before he wrote his book.

At this time, L Ron Hubbard was living in England, at Saint Hill Manor. According to “Bare Faced Messiah“,

In March, Hubbard announced the launch of the ‘Saint Hill Special Briefing Course’ for those auditors who wished to train personally under his auspices. The cost of the ‘SHSBC’ was £250 per person and the first student to enrol was Reg Sharpe, a retired businessman who had become so enamoured with Scientology that he bought a house in the little village of Saint Hill, adjoining the estate, in order to be close to Ron. For the first couple of weeks there were only two students on the course, but more soon began to arrive from around the world, lured by the promise that ‘Ron, personally, would discover and assess with the aid of an E-meter’ each student’s goal ‘for this lifetime’.
(pg 242)

Reg  quickly became a fanatical follower of Hubbard. He was recognised as ‘Clear’ No 7 and rose to the office of Hubbard’s personal assistant. He even attracted his own (negative)  interest from the British press. Cynics, however,  might suggest that Hubbard was more interested in Reg’s money than his personal qualities.

reg-sharpeAccording to a site run by Independent Scientologists, Reg left Scientology around 1967, after a Sea Org ‘Mission’ arrived at Saint Hill.

This occurred during Scientology’s earliest repressive phase, when Hubbard was coming under legal pressure and responding with paranoia. The Sea Org ‘officers’ were supposed to aggressively uncover traitors and restore discipline.

In Sharpe’s case, this approach backfired.

Reg Sharpe, Ron’s oldest (and probably only) friend remained sitting. He lit a cigarette and just looked at them. Fred [one of the Sea Org ‘Officers’] stepped over and smacked it out of his mouth. Reg just looked at him, stood up, put his coat on and walked out, never to return. Fred was screaming at him to remain but Reg simply walked away.

Discussing this later, Sharpe claims to have observed a change in Hubbard before this time.

[Hubbard and Sharpe] were at a circus, taking pictures when Ron turned to Reg and said “I have just worked out a way to take over the world and make us the most powerful and richest Organization on earth!”Reg said; “The look on Ron’s face scared the bejesus out of me! – He was like another person. From that moment on Ron changed dramatically – I knew something bad had taken place – it put a terrible fear in to me in the pit of my stomach!”

It’s also possible that, because he was so immersed in Scientology that he simply did not see Hubbard for what he was until this incident. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Whatever the reason, Les Sharpe was subsequently ‘declared a suppressive person(i.e. excommunicated) only a year after he was declared to be ‘Clear’.  Eventually almost all of the other staff who worked at  Saint Hill at that time were expelled from Scientology, as can be seen from this extensive list.

Les Sharpe’s declaration is shown below. It clearly shows that, even at this early stage of the development of Scientology, other Scientologists were required to ‘disconnect’ from Sharpe, that is, that is  “His is not to be communicated with”.

reg-sharpe-declaration

This is curious as Scientology presents this period as kind of golden age of progress and expansion – as for example in the article below (from issue 16 the Scientology publication “The Auditor” published in 1966)  which celebrates Sharpe’s achievement of the state of clear. There is even a in-joke, referring to the title of his book (“This is Life”) in the caption below the photograph, which reads “This is the life”.

reg-sharpe-clear

“This is Life” – Endorsed By L Ron Hubbard

The file featured in this post contains a scan of the November 1961 edition of Sharpe’s book (it was reprinted in July 1962). This book was promoted not only in the UK but also the US, as extracts from the contemporary Scientology magazine “Ability” show. In the US, “This is Life” sold for $1.50.

“This is Life” was especially heavily promoted in the official Scientology magazine “Ability”, which was produced under the direct control of L Ron Hubbard. Hubbard provided the bulk of the articles either under his own name, or using a variety of pseudonyms (as he had done when writing stories for different markets during his pulp fiction days). The concept of the ‘sock puppet’ is not original to Internet forums.

Hubbard evidently endorsed “this is Life”and (since he was careful to insure that he owned the copyright) likely made money from selling it, too.

For those interested in the early history of Scientology, there are more than 193 scans of copies of this early Scientology periodical available here. For now, here are two extract that make the point.

This is life ability 137

Ability 137 February 1962

Sharpe is described as “[..] one of the most highly-skilled Scientologists in the world” and ” […] a fine auditor among the six best in the world” who has produced […] a nearly perfect beginning book, and a books of vast interest  to old timers”.  This is classic Hubbard boosterism. It would not be surprising to learn who was the No1 auditor in the world – L Ron Hubbard, of course.

Reg Sharpe's book endorsed by L Ron Hubbard

Ability 153 inset 1. Click on the image to open a larger version in a new tab

The second endorsement of Sharpe’s book is  worth quoting in detail.

The first title listed; THIS IS LIFE – is truly a beginner’s book. This one by Reg Sharpe is a favourite of Ron and will introduce Scientology to you or your friends easily. It is non-technical yet it explains how a technology can exist in the field of the Human Spirit and how it is, as a matter of fact, essential to a spiritual science. In an age of technological achievement such as ours, religions succumb without it. As an introduction to a new technology may be painful and sweep away many misconceptions which have been the basis of a painful life or fallacies which have been the basis of one man’s ill gotten fortune, and easy book in this is a blessing and a kindness – possibly the difference between slavery and freedom in this life. We thank Reg Sharpe for this book and think that you will too.

If this magazine stated that “This is Life” was “[…] a favourite of Ron” that was a direct endorsement of it which Scientologists (who were well aware that “Ability” was produced under the direct supervision of their founder) would take seriously.

This passage makes me wonder if Hubbard (who was obsessed with money) was not flattering Sharpe as a prelude to asking for a donation. This theory certainly helps to explain why Sharpe was subsequently subjected to oppressive ‘discipline’, ‘Declared’ and then say his book banned from sale to Scientologists.

“This is Life” – The Text

As with all such derivative works, “This is Life” describes a potted version of Scientology for beginners. Sharpe is a better writer than Hubbard, and makes Scientology sound a little more feasible, and eases them in to more obscure texts like Hubbard’s “Dianetics”.  If you have read Hubbard’s sometimes incoherent text, you can understand why these ‘basic introductions’ were a useful means of promoting Scientology.

The book opens with an introduction which reveals something of Sharpe’s character (pg 7). he attacks reporters “who have little understanding of our motives of of the subject they are criticising”. When you open a book with an acknowledgement of press criticism, you are rather revealing you insecurity.

profile_chronology_41_l-ron-hubbardSharpe’s subsequent description of Hubbard’s life is lifted straight out of the official Scientology version of the time. There is an interesting addition to the myth of Ron’s Naval career.  Sharpe states,

World War II interrupted his studies, and he joined the American Navy – at one time commanding a British Corvette Squadron.

This duty does not appear in Hubbard’s Naval record. A more accurate account can be found in Ron the War Hero.

Sharpe also glosses over the humiliating collapse of Dianetics, presenting Scientology as a something which emerged naturally from Dianetics.

The rest of the book is a presentation of basic Scientology concepts of the time, strained through unconvincing similes. Like Hubbard, Sharpe makes frequent use of assertion – he does not present explanations, he simply presents the most problematic ideas as if they were perfectly obvious.

The Scientology presented here is a cargo cult science. Sharpe is presenting the material in the manner of qualified person without actually understanding the basic requirements of that role. For example he includes no actual evidence. He does not even seem to understand why his assertions require evidence. Like Hubbard, he acts as if writing something down makes it so.

In the final chapter (on page 93)  he makes his pitch.

I have presented a wealth of data for you to examine, sufficient indeed for you to get well on the way to better living, there is so much left for you to discover and it is advisable for you to have the guidance of those who have explored and investigated the subject. So much has been done that it would be foolish not to avail oneself of the experience, counsel and direction of those practised in the science.

This is the appeal of fringe ideas and quack medicine. The illusion of knowledge and self-importance without the effort of real learning. This is what Sharpe fell for, and what he promoted in his book. I hope he learned something from the experience, after he was rejected by the organisation to which he gave so much.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to members of the commenting community of “The Underground Bunker” who sourced the photographs of Reg Sharpe, the extract from “The Auditor” and the document declaring Sharpe to be a ‘suppressive person’, formally ending his career as a Scientologist. These were added to the post on the fourth of November 2016.

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3 thoughts on ““This is Life: An Introduction to Scientology” by Reg Sharpe – The Church of Scientology Bans Its Own Books (Pt3)

  1. Good stuff. Didn’t know all that about Reg Sharpe. Perhaps I’ve been a bit harsh characterising him as yet another Scientology nutter. Seems like he managed to work it out in the end even if he had to be declared before realising.

    Love your work. MOAR

    Greg. (AKA Vistaril)

    • These were strange days, I think, when a charismatic and convincing con man was actually in residence, and the power of social pressure upon those who frequented Saint Hill was unimpeded by any substantial opposition. I came to see Reg as reasonable articulate self-made man who got caught up in the excitement – but walked away the moment it turned nasty.

      Richard de Mille, one of Sharpe’s predecessors as Hubbard’s previous personal assistant, was apparently a lot less discerning and complicit in some nasty business before he left Scientology. I have an incomplete post about him, which I will try to get back to soon.

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