What is Scientology | The ‘Reverend’ Robert H Thomas | Amazing Science Fiction Stories | March 1971 | Pages 104 – 112 | Download entire issue as .pdf (download link will appear in new tab).
I have posted an issue of “Amazing” here before . That one was from November 1970. It featured a reassessment of ‘Dianetics, more-or-less 20 years after it was introduced to the world in the May 1950 issue of “Amazing’s” rival, “Astounding Science Fiction“.
In it, Barry N Malzberg went along to a Scientology org, took a ‘communications course’ and was generally very unimpressed by the whole proposition. He was scathing about Hubbard and dianetics.
It must be said that this expression of scepticism was good for the magazine. “Amazing” had a little catching up to do in the credibility stakes and knew it. Five years before “Astounding Science Fiction” published the first article about dianetics, they had fallen for a author whose claims were at least as implausible as Hubbard’s. Although they had traded on “The Shaver Mystery” fad that resulted, it ultimately damaged their reputation.
Now they had an opportunity to implicitly criticise the credulity of the editor of the market-leading “Astounding Science Fiction”, John W Campbell, for falling for dianetics to the extent that he heavily promoted it as “a new science of the mind”. They took it.
However, in March 1971 “Amazing” had been struggling with a falling circulation for some time, and was in dire straits. It was vulnerable. At this time, it incomprehensibly published an propaganda piece entitled “What is Scientology” written by the ‘Reverend’ Robert H Thomas – Deputy Guardian for the US Churches of Scientology.
The Guardian’s Office was, of course, Scientology’s secret police and dirty tricks department. I think it’s likely that this uncritical article appeared as a result of improper pressure from the Guardian’s Office – Scientology took the opportunity to kick “Amazing” when it was down and settle a score.
Authentic Science Fiction Monthly No 41 | Jan 1954 | Featured Novel: The Phoenix Nest | Richard DeMille | Download Issue as .pdf (to download, click on the grey ‘Download through Browser’ button which will appear in a new tab).
If you mention Scientology today, to anyone who who has not looked into it, a typical response will be: “Isn’t that the cult Tom Cruise is involved with?”
Scientology has cultivated celebrities for years, now and treats celebrity members like royalty. They are one of the few means that the Church has left to project a positive image and attract attention to its message. Tom Cruise is the Jewel in Scientology’s tarnished crown, but they also count a number of minor celebrities and fading stars among their members.
This obsession isn’t new. In early1955, an article in the Scientology periodical “Ability” by L Ron Hubbard offered a reward to any Scientologist who recruited anyone on a list of named celebrities .
That article is probably the first written evidence of such a policy, but Hubbard recruited minor celebrities before it became a fixed doctrine, and exploited the resources they provided him with and interest they drew.
One of the early Scientology celebrities was Richard deMille who was, for many years, presented as the son of the film director Cecil B deMille. Among other things, he wrote for science fiction pulp magazines (as did L Ron Hubbard).
Although he was probably valued by Hubbard as much for his potential to influence his famous father as for himself, deMille did subtly promote Scientology in his writing, as we can see in the story featured in this post
Appearing in the British pulp science fiction magazine “Authentic Science Fiction” its plot depended crucially on Scientology concepts (principally the incorporeal ‘Thetan’) and developed a theme of personal immortality through Science. Continue reading
Dianetic Processing: a Brief Survey of Research Projects and Preliminary Results | Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation | 1951 | Download as .pdf (Click the grey ‘download through your browser’ button in new tab)
After L Ron Hubbard’s first article about dianetics in the May 1950 article of “Astounding Science Fiction” people and organisations started asking for evidence for the claims he had made regarding ‘dianetic therapy’. They included:
One year after the first article about dianetics in “Astounding” (the iconic May1950 issue) another SF pulp magazine, “Marvel Science Stories”, published an ‘debate’ assessing dianetics. They followed this article up in August 1951 by publishing reader’s letters on the subject.
The letters to “Marvel” included on by Lew Cunningham MD of the Department of Anatomy at Stanford University. He mentions receiving a copy of a pamphlet which sounds very much like this publication. Cunningham speculated that Hubbard wanted to get doctors on board the dianetics bandwagon, and thought this pamphlet would do the trick.
Unfortunately for dianetics, Cunningham judged that neither Hubbard, nor those who wrote for the Dianetic Foundation, know enough about medicine or science to realise how inadequate their submission actually was. In his letter, Cunningham effectively demolishes its credibility.
With a little help from Dr Cunningham’s lettert in”Marvel”, we will now closely examine the pamphlet which Hubbard apparently published in January1951, and presented as evidence for his claims regarding dianetics.
Marvel Science Stories |August 1951 | Download as .pdf (Click on the grey ‘download through your browser’ button in new tab).
In my previous post (which was published simultaneously here and on Tony Ortega’s excellent blog) I examined an article in the May 1951 issue of the science fiction pulp magazine “Marvel Science Stories”.
This was published one year after the first description of “Dianetics” appeared in “Marvels” greatest rival, the market leading “Astounding Science Fiction“.
In the “Marvel” article, L Ron Hubbard defended dianetics, and two prominent SF writers put alternative views. Theodore Sturgeon, (whose opinion was presented as “middle of the road”) appealed for an open-minded assessment, advising critics to “read the more understandable parts of the (acutely badly-written) book [i.e. Dianetics].” Lester Del Ray demolished both dianetics and Hubbard’s counter-arguments. Hubbard’s creation did not emerge well.
Back in 1951, reader’s letters were the only feedback available to publishers, and it took a long time for them to appear in print. It wasn’t until the August 1951 that “Marvel” published a large selection of letters commenting upon, “The Dianetics Controversy” (they begin on page 99).
In this post, we will closely examine the first of those reader’s letters, from a doctor, which unexpectedly reveals a lot about the campaign mounted by L Ron Hubbard to persuade members of the medical profession to climb on board the dianetics bandwagon. Continue reading
Marvel Science Stories | Special Feature – The Dianetics Question: A Controversy| L Ron Hubbard, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey | Portraitist Carl Burgos | May 1951 | Download whole issue as .pdf |Download Article Only as .pdf (Click on the grey ‘download through your browser’ button in new tab).
This issue of the pulp science fiction magazine, “Marvel Science Stories” was published in May 1951 – one year after the first article describing “Dianetics” appeared in “Astounding Science Fiction.”
During this time, the editor of”Astounding”, John W Campbell ( initially an enthusiastic convert) had promoted dianetics for all he was worth.
However, by March 1951 the dianetics fad had run its course in “Astounding” (you can follow the rise and fall of dianetics in “Astounding Science Fiction” here).
“Marvel” took this opportunity to capitalise on the interest in the subject that had been generated by “Astounding” among SF fans by publishing a written debate between Hubbard and two prominent SF authors.
Hubbard didn’t get the easy ride he’d had from Campbell. Although Theodore Sturgeon rather sat on the fence, he was far from enthusiastic and Lester del Rey dismissed dianetics as absurd pseudo-science.
Interzone | May 1990 | The Big Sellers – L Ron Hubbard | Lee Montgomerie | Download as .pdf (A new tab will open – click on the grey box ‘Download through your Browser’ )
Interzone is a minor miracle. It’s a monthly British science fiction magazine founded in 1982, which is still published on paper. Its founders included prominent critics of the genre and the writing is still good. It’s a demonstration that the slapdash days of the pulps are long past, and the genre has grown up.
This article, from 1990, was part of a series that assessed the writing of popular SF authors – the ‘”Big Sellers”. It seems that the author could not ignore L Ron Hubbard in this context.
Montgomerie examines “Battlefield Earth” (which was recently reissued by a publisher wholly owned by the Church of Scientology) and the “Mission Earth” series in detail. However, he makes it clear that there was something suspicious about the ‘best-seller’ status of those texts. As for his opinion on their literary quality, download the .pdf, and read on… Continue reading
In 1982, a work of fiction by L Ron Hubbard called “Battlefield Earth” was published. It was a long rambling story in which a hero inspires humanity to rise up and expel an alien occupation.
Recently a new edition was released by “Galaxy Press,” a publishing house that is wholly owned by the Church of Scientology. They also produced a long ‘dramatised’ audio book, based on the story, featuring a small cast of voice actors.
The promotional campaign has now made its way to the Scientology Org in Plymouth, in the UK. Both the book and its audio version are on display to staff there.
Strangely, these products are presented so that the covers can only be seen by the people inside. They have their backs turned to the window display and the buying public. (images below).
Subsequently, I went to all of the bookshops in the nearby shopping centre. Not a single copy of “Battlefield Earth” was on sale in any of them, and assistants had never heard of it. In fact, no Plymouth bookshop stocks it.
In the letters page of the March 1951 issue of “Astounding” John W Campbell, the magazine’s editor, makes it clear that he was waiting for L Ron Hubbard to deliver on his promise to provide supporting evidence for dianetics.
This promise had been reported in the New York Times for September 1950. Hubbard, under pressure from the American Psychological Association, had stated that he would publish case studies which provided objective evidence – and that they would ‘prove’ all of the claims he had made on behalf of dianetics.
Of course, this ‘evidence’ simply didn’t exist ,and what was eventually produced was inadequate. Hubbard also privately told Campbell that he would publish “[…] a book of ‘case studies” in order to persuade him to extend his support just a little longer. If so, it didn’t work.
After March 1951, the next six issues of “Astounding” contained no significant editorial reference to dianetics or Hubbard. Campbell was calling Hubbard’s bluff. These six issues (April to September inclusive) are included in this post, so that they can be contrasted with their predecessors, which so enthusiastically promoted dianetics. Continue reading
March 1951 Download as .pdf
John W Campbell, the editor of “Astounding” had staked his reputation (and that of the magazine he edited) on the truth of dianetics. He was now becoming impatient for vindication. He hoped this would be provided in the form of ‘case studies’ from L Ron Hubbard which would ‘prove’ the effectiveness of ‘dianetic therapy’.
He had good reason to do so. On September the 9th 1950, the American Psychological Association had issued a statement strongly advising members not to use dianetics in their practice because there was no evidence it was of benefit. This forced Hubbard’s hand. He responded with a statement promising to release the evidence which would he asserted would prove his case.
Campbell reacted cautiously to Hubbard’s statement. He seems to have resolved not to publish any more pro-dianetics articles dianetics until Hubbard made good on his promise.
We can see this situation develop in the pages of the March 1951 issue of “Astounding Science Fiction”.
“Astounding Science Fiction” February 1951 Download as .pdf
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Over a year after its editor, John W Campbell, began promoting dianetics (in the December 1949 issue) L Ron Hubbard’s free ride in “Astounding” had drawn to a close.
Readers had been complaining that the coverage of dianetics had replaced too many of the stories which they bought the magazine for. Also, popular contributors (e.g. L Ron Hubbard and A E Van Vogt) had abandoned fiction writing to head the new ‘Dianetics Institutes’.
To maintain his circulation, Campbell had to start publishing more quality stories and recruit the new authors who could be relied upon to write them.
In the November and December 1950 issues Campbell, had explicitly promising more SF. He also (symbolically) changed the subscriptions advertisement from one (which had boasted about being the magazine which first introduced dianetics to the world) to a more conventional version (which boasted of the quality and variety of its science fiction instead).
The new ‘Dianetics Institutes’ now had to pay their way by advertising, like everyone else. There would be no more articles about dianetics.
Campbell was likely also beginning to have doubts about Hubbard’s claims for Dianetics, and beginning to distance himself from the fad that he played a major part in creating. This theory is supported by the terse rely he gave to a reader’s letter inquiring after L Ron Hubbard (and additional evidence will be presented in the next post in this series).
Despite Hubbard’s relative absence, the February 1951 issue (presented here) still contains interesting insights into Hubbard’s curious personality and the phenomenon of dianetics.