In 1975 Michael Linn Shannon stumbled upon Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard. After reading some Scientology books he became highly suspicious of Hubbards claims concerning his life and personal achievements. Four years later he had amassed findings that would eventually rock the world of this secretive cult.
The following excerpts are from chapter One, “A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed.” By John Atack,
“Novelists often elaborate their own mundane experience into fictional adventures. Hubbard did not confine his creativity to his fictional work. He reconstructed his entire past, exaggerating his background to fashion a hero, a superhero even. Although Hubbard wrote many imaginative stories, his own past became his most elaborate work of fiction.
Hubbard’s works are peppered with references to his achievements. He often broke off when lecturing to relate an anecdote about his wartime experience or his Hollywood career. Even before he generated a following he would tell tall stories to anyone who cared to listen. He stretched his tales to the ridiculous, claiming he broke broncos at the age of three and a half, for example. Most Scientologists believe these tales. Few have bothered to compare the anecdotes or the many and varied biographical sketches published by Hubbard’s Church, so the many discrepancies pass largely unnoticed. The pattern of Hubbard’s reconstructed past is the translation of the actual, sometimes mediocre, sometimes sordid, reality into a stirring tale of heroic deeds.
Even critics of Scientology occasionally swallow part of the myth. Paulette Cooper, in her penetrating exposé of Scientology, assured her readers, quite erroneously, that Hubbard was “severely injured in the war… and in fact was in a lifeboat for many days, badly injuring his body and his eyes in the hot Pacific sun.”
But Hubbard’s accounts are not the only source of information. By the summer of 1984, the fabric of his heroic career had been badly torn, largely through the work of two men: Michael Shannon and Gerald Armstrong.
In July 1975, on a muggy evening in Portland, Oregon, Michael Shannon stood waiting for a bus. A young man approached him, and asked if he wanted to attend a free lecture. Shannon went along, thinking that at least the lecture room would be air-conditioned (it was not). He listened to a short, plausible talk about “Affinity, Reality and Communication,” and after a brief sales pitch signed up for the “Communication Course.”
Many Scientologists’ stories begin this way. Shannon’s soon took a different turn. The next day he decided he did not want to do the Communication Course and, after a “brief but rather heated discussion,” managed to get his money back. He kept and read the copy of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health which kindled his curiosity, not for Dianetics, but for its originator.
I started buying books. Lots of books. There was a second hand bookstore a few blocks away and they were cheaper, and I discovered they had books by other writers that were about Scientology – I happened on the hard-to-find Scandal of Scientology by Paulette Cooper. Now I was fascinated, and started collecting everything I could get my eager hands on – magazine articles, newspaper clippings, government files, anything.
By 1979, Shannon had spent $4,000 on his project and had collected “a mountain of material which included some flies that no one else had bothered to get copies of – for example, the log books of the Navy ships that Hubbard had served on, and his father’s Navy service file.” Shannon intended to write an exposé of Hubbard.
After failing to find a publisher, Shannon sent the most significant material to a few concerned individuals and ducked out of sight, fearful of reprisals. Five years later, he was still in hiding and my efforts to contact him failed. The hundred pages Shannon sent out included copies of some of Hubbard’s naval and college records, as well as responses to Shannon’s many letters inquiring into Hubbard’s expeditions and other alleged exploits.
The “Shannon documents” also found their way to Gerald Armstrong. Armstrong had been a dedicated Sea Org member for nearly ten years when he began a “biography project” authorized by Hubbard. Much of the immense archive collected by Armstrong consisted of Hubbard’s own papers, not the forgeries that Hubbard claimed had been created by government agencies to discredit Scientology. The archive largely confirmed Shannon’s material. Armstrong and Shannon reached the same eventual destination from opposed starting points.”
This is taken from Shannon’s preface in Hubbard’s biography.
“In many of the dozens of books published by the Church of Scientology (COS) over the years, there is included, as in many books, some ‘information about the author’. In the case of the COS books, this ranges from a couple of lines on the inside of the dust jacket, to the elaborate 16 page spread in “What is Scientology” in which the life of their founder is depicted in reproductions of a series of oil paintings, with accompanying text.
All of these, when put together, tell of a man who, descended from royalty grew up in the wilds of Montana, became the youngest Eagle Scout in America traveled throughout the world as a teenager, graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering, earned his masters license to command ocean going vessels, was the leader of a number of expeditions to various areas of the world, was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, was highly decorated, and a real life hero in the U.S. Navy in WWII, wrote and had published fifteen million words, and spent years and years researching the composition and destiny of man
And did all this before his 35th birthday.
Shannon begins then to chop up each of these lies and exaggerations with the sharp knife of truth. Here are a couple of favorites of mine.
Ron the scholar and nuclear scientist. A straight “A: student? Hardly. See for yourself.
For the year 1931-1932, the second semester.
Integral Calculus D
English, Short Stories B
and magnetism D
Nuclear Physics F
How about “Ron the war-hero?” Hubbard puffed himself up with vain glory and told tales about how his combat experiences and how he healed himself from wounds; this healing was to be an important part of Dianetecs at a later date. It would be incorrect to say that Hubbard never fired a gun or smelled the reek of powder. But alas, the target was an island belonging to Mexico. His wounds? An ulcer and eye inflammation. He collected a ten percent disability payment for the rest of his life.
Here is what the navy thought of Hubbard: “On July 7 a fitness report on Hubbard was written by Rear Admiral Braisted, Commander Fleet Operational Training Command, Pacific. In the “Remarks” section, the Rear Admiral said: “Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results. He is believed to have been sincere in his efforts to make his ship efficient and ready. Not considered qualified for command or promotion at this time. Recommend duty on a large vessel where he can be properly supervised.”
In Australia they didn’t think much of Hubbard either, ” “By assuming unauthorized authority and attempting to perform duties for which he has no qualifications, he became the source of much trouble. This, however, was made possible by the representative of the U.S. Army at Brisbane …. This officer is not satisfactory for independent duty assignment. He is garrulous and tries to give impressions of his importance. He also seems to think that he has unusual ability in most lines. These characteristics indicate that he will require close supervision for satisfactory performance of any intelligence duty.”
This continues on and on in Shannon’s biography. Lie after lie is exposed. Later researchers would expand his work but he had the honor of being the first one. This had a big effect on Scientology although to this day they still retail some of the lies to their unwary victims.
For the rest of the Shannon papers go here: http://www.lermanet.com/shannon/
Here is a link to, “A Piece of Blue Sky.” http://www.xenu.net/archive/books/apobs/contents.htm
Here is a look at some of Hubbard’s followers, this is his legacy.