When citizens of Pinellas County learned in early 1976 that a new religion, the Church of Scientology, had purchased two Clearwater landmarks -- the Fort Harrison Hotel and the old Bank of Clearwater building -- they wondered.
Local newspapers, responding to this wonder, attempted to explain a 26- year-old religion called Scientology.
That can be a hazardous undertaking.
Writing in The Scientologist: A Manual on the Dissemination of Material, (copyright 1955), Scientology's founder L. Ron Hubbard said: "... We do not want Scientology to be reported in the press, anywhere else than on the religious page of newspapers. It is destructive of word of mouth to permit the public presses to express their biased and badly reported sensationalism. Therefore we should be very alert to sue for slander at the slightest chance so as to discourage the public presses from mentioning Scientology."
Scientology is Hubbard's creation.
A precocious child, the son of a Navy commander and his wife, Hubbard spent his teen-age years in Asia where -- according to his church biography -- "he explored many out-of-the-way places and saw many strange-seeming peoples and customs. But it was in northern China and India, while studying with holy men, that he became vitally engrossed in the subject of the spiritual destiny of Mankind."
Hubbard attended George Washington University -- there is no record that he graduated -- and went on to a career in writing science fiction.
He went into the Navy in 1941.
"L. Ron Hubbard, A Brief Biographical Sketch" -- obtained from the Church of Scientology -- tells us this was his period of creation:
"He survived the early war in the South Pacific. He saw enough of war at first hand to be sickened by it. In 1944, crippled and blinded he found himself in Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. From Commander Thompson of the Medical Corps of the U.S. Navy, a friend of his father and a personal student of Sigmund Freud, he had received while still young an extensive education in the field of the human mind. He developed techniques that would help him overcome his injuries and regain his abilities.
"Altogether, he spent nearly a year at Oak Knoll, during which time he synthesized what he had learned of Eastern philosophy, his understanding of nuclear physics and his experiences among men. He says, 'I set out to find from nuclear physics and a knowledge of the physical universe, things entirely lacking in Asian philosophy.'
"He concluded that the results he was obtaining could help others toward greater ability and happiness, and it was during this period that some of the basic tenets of Dianetics and Scientology were first formulated.
"By 1947 he recovered fully."
That story conflicts with Navy records and with a government document seized by the FBI in 1977 raids on church offices -- one of many government documents that had been copied by secret agents of the church.
A Navy spokesman recently told the Los Angeles Times that Hubbard rose to the rank of lieutenant during World War II but his service record did not show that he received a Purple Heart, a medal routinely awarded for combat injuries. The spokesman also said, "a review of L. Ron Hubbard's medical record ... does not indicate he was treated for any injuries sustained during his military career."
Documents released by the FBI in 1977 under the Freedom of Information Act show that Hubbard wrote the FBI many times during these years complaining that the Communist Party was attacking him and that Russians were trying to lure him to the Soviet Union to steal his secrets of brainwashing. Someone at the FBI wrote "appears mental" on one of the letters, and after that the FBI ceased acknowledging them.
Among the documents seized by the FBI from church offices was a letter written by Hubbard in 1947, to the Veterans Administration in Los Angeles.
"After trying and failing for two years to regain my equilibrium in civil life, I am utterly unable to approach anything like my own competence," Hubbard wrote. "I cannot account for nor rise above long periods of moroseness and suicidal inclinations and have newly come to realize that I must first triumph above this before I can hope to rehabilitate myself at all."
He requested psychiatric treatment on an outpatient basis.
Did he receive it? The documents do not say.
Nor does the church biography. Instead, it tells us: "In 1948 he wrote Dianetics, The Original Thesis, his first formal report of his discoveries about the mind and life. The manuscript was copied out extensively and quickly passed from hand to hand in many countries. A grass roots interest in Dianetics spread. Letters began to pour in asking for clarifications and advice."
By way of response, Hubbard wrote a book: "180,000 words of breakthrough, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, exploded onto the booklists of May 1950 like a roman candle of life and hope. Providing, as it did, for a truly workable school of the mind that would predictably improve the human condition, it leapt to the top of The New York Times bestseller list and just stayed there.
"Almost immediately, thousands of readers began to apply the data from the book and Dianetic groups sprang up across the country, with and without sanction.
"Realizing already at this stage that the mind in itself, no matter how liberated, was limiting and that there was something 'animating' the mind, he permitted the founding in 1950, of the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation to facilitate investigation into the realm of the spirit. Thus was Scientology born."
There is a less romantic version of the creation. It begins with Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, science fiction writer, quite prolific, grinding out sci-fi stories for publications like Astounding Science Fiction at 2 to 3 cents per word, or about $200 to $300 per story.
It recalls that in a 1949 lecture on science fiction, Hubbard said -- a remark the church does not challenge but dismisses as a joke: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
It traces the creation to a Hubbard article in the May 1950 issue of Astounding entitled, "Dianetics -- A New Science of the Mind."
Then came the book, and the birth of Scientology.
Scientology has its foundations in the eastern religions: Buddhism, Hinduism.
According to the Scientologists, the Judeo-Christian religion begins with a God and relates man and nature to Him. The Eastern traditions begin with man as a spiritual agent and offer ways for him to attain salvation.
Scientology, a book of the Church of Scientology setting forth its beliefs, tells us that the "Eastern religio-philosophic mode has been that adopted by Scientology. The expressed ideal that from self-realization, and the resulting increased spiritual awareness, comes harmonious integration with other life forms, the physical universe and ultimately, the Supreme Being, is the seminal concept of Scientology."
Scientology centers on the Thetan, "the individual life force, the soul ... the person himself ... simply that which is aware of being aware." The Thetan is immortal.
Scientology believes "that Man is basically good, and seeking to survive, but is encumbered in so doing by painful past experiences, and his harmful acts against others."
Hubbard theorized that the mind -- which he considers a vehicle of the spirit, used to establish orientation in the physical world -- is divided into two parts, the "analytical" and the "reactive." The analytical mind is described as an efficient, rational instrument, but it rarely works at full capacity because of interference from the reactive mind, a memory bank of painful past experiences known as "engrams."
"... The stored pain and command phrases in past upsets and injuries, acting like hidden hypnotic commands imposed on the Spirit, can cause the misery of countless psychosomatic illnesses," Scientology states. "All these have variable manifestations but all stem from the same basic cause: old and forgotten incidents containing pain and language command value ... As in an electrical condenser, this potentially harmful significance and energy is stored in the sub-levels of the reactive mind, and when activated, is discharged against the analytical mind of the Thetan. This is the real but underlying cause of the eternal recurrence of war, illness and aberration. To reverse this pattern of human misery in all its tragic multiplicity is the goal of auditing, the religious practice of the Church of Scientology."
The book says, "Auditing is the Scientology pastoral counseling procedure by which an individual is helped through confessional unburdening, and in stages, to recover his complete self-determination and ability. It is done during a precise period of time called a 'session,' in which an auditor ... utilizes inter-personal communication and carefully devised questions and drills ... which enable the person audited, called the PRECLEAR, to discover and thereby remove his self-imposed spiritual limitations."
The auditing process is done in stages, like climbing stairs, the book states. "When no part of the mind remains which is not under the individual's own control and direction, the State of CLEAR has been achieved -- a state of supra-human awareness and ability ..."
The person who seeks relief from his engrams contracts for auditing. The schedule of "donations" for auditing services range from $25 for a beginning session to between $1,000 and $5,000 for more advanced auditing. Converts might pay $10,000 to $12,000 to obtain the "State of CLEAR."
This is the source of the church's wealth, of the funds used to purchase the Fort Harrison and the Bank of Clearwater building.
Scientology is governed by a creed written by Hubbard. The creed -- the church's bright face -- has the ring of virtue: "We of the Church believe: That all men of whatever race, colour or creed were created with equal rights. That all men have inalienable rights to their own religious practices and their performance ..."
It goes on to encompass 20 specific beliefs.
Two of these 20 state: "... all men have inalienable rights to their own defense" and "no agency less than God has the power to suspend or set aside these rights, overtly or covertly."
Within those two beliefs, apparently, there is justification for Scientology's long war with the government of the United States.