Scientology's Dept. 20:: a memoir
Part 5 - Beginnings
by Robert Vaughn Young
The Guardian's Office used to have a piece of promo that I personally found quite compelling. All it said was something like, "Everything to this point has prepared you to join the Guardian's Office."
I think I liked it because it was true for me. I had acquired years of experience in various forms of public relations and confrontational situations long before stepping into the GO.
I remember the precise moment that I learned about the Guardian's Office. The odd part was that I wasn't even a Scientologist. In fact, it probably helped me to become one.
It was in 1968. I was a graduate student in Philosophy at the University of California, Davis. Officially, I was a "Teaching Associate," which was an important notch up from a Teaching Assistant. Rather than being attached to a professor, I had my own classes (two "Introduction to Philosophy" classes each quarter). Put another way, I was one notch down from faculty. I selected my own texts, gave the grades, received a salary and even had an office but I wasn't listed as faculty. As far as I was concerned, it was a great place to be.
My area of interest was a relatively new field that we called Philosophy of Mind or Philosophy of Psychology. Between the death of Skinner's Behaviorism and the rise of the computer as the newest model and the issue of artificial intelligence, it was an exciting field.* It was what was driving me on through school, rather than a desire for a PhD.
One day one of the graduate students told me that someone who had been a grad student at UCD was coming back through town and I should meet him.
"He's into something called 'Scientology' or something like that," Gary said. "I couldn't figure it out but I told him that it sounded like something you'd be interested in so Bill's throwing a party for him this Saturday and we want you to come over and meet him."
It sounded intriguing.
"What's his name?" I asked.
"Martin Samuels," Gary replied.
Each of us have moments in our lives that stand out as historical. Precise and exact moment that are etched forever, cast in stone, marked as immortal moments that we wish others really appreciate as much as we do.
This was one of those moments for me. At the time no one knew Martin Samuels. He was just a UCD grad student who went off and studied something odd and came back with some odd ideas. Big deal. But years later Martin would become a major Scientology figure/player and then become one of its largest headaches, including for me. Maybe it's merely an insider's joke that Martin Samuels recruited me. Maybe one has to know who Martin Samuels was, to appreciate the irony. Regardless, it was but the first of many synchronicitous events in my Scientology career.
As I had been alerted that night to Martin, so he had been alerted to me. He had been told that I was "into" the "mind-stuff" that Martin seemed to be dabbling in. So when we spoke, as he later confessed to me, he was able to make Scientology sound like another graduate philosophy study and I bit. Over the next few days we garnered an empty UCD courseroom and he filled the blackboard with diagrams about Dianetics and Scientology.
It was perhaps on the third day that he moved into how the Scientology organization was built. There was an "organizing board," he said, breaking the group down into seven divisions, consisting of three departments each, giving a total of 21 departments. He began to tell me about them all and finally came to Division Seven, consisting of Departments 19, 20 and 21. Department 19 was the executive division. Department 20 was the Guardian's Office. And...
Wait, wait, I said, unable to believe what he had said. My favorite philosopher had come to be Plato and in his largest work, "The Republic," he laid out the structure of the ideal state, with the "philosopher-king" as the "guardians" of the state.
"Do you mean "guardian" in the sense that Plato used it?" I asked.
Yes, Martin replied with a smile, knowing he had me hooked.
That was when I knew I had to join.
Looking back on my decision, I can see how frivolous it was. At least I was consistent. That attitude played a part in my joining the US Marine Corps and requesting - and getting - duty in the Far East, which was like asking if I could be issued a rifle. As a civilian later in conservative Orange County (California), I championed liberal causes and hit the picket lines in 1960 for equal housing and had even been the subject of a story in a controversy at Orange Coast College where I had been studying.
When I went to (what was then known as) San Francisco State College, was an activist there and the Bay Area in the era of the Free Speech Movement and the various demonstrations and riots, not to mention the Haight-Ashbury. My political activism on the SF State Campus for Jack Shelley's city mayoral campaign caught the eye of a Democratic Party regular with offices at the state capitol in Sacramento. I was brought onto his personal staff, but working out of the California Democratic State Central Committee in San Francisco, on Sutter Street. One day in early 1964, he called me up to say that Pierre Salinger was coming to California to announce he was going to run for the US Senate. Did I want to join?
The pain and the loss in Kennedy's assassination was only months old and Salinger's name called to the magic that had died at Dallas.
"It means bolting [the regular party]," he warned. "If we lose, we're out."
He was right. Salinger was a complete Party renegade. A wild cat. His sudden entry into the California Democratic primary had no Party approval. He and anyone with him would be taking on the Democratic Party, possibly splitting it. The price for losing would be worse than losing with Party support.
The political danger only made it more challenging. Besides, Don had been my mentor. I liked him and he was a good Kennedy man.
"Sure," I said, with a cavalier attitude. "I'm with you."
I met Pierre Salinger the next day and we were off and running, making California Democratic history.
For a learning experience, the campaign was great. I worked everything from press conferences to fund raisers to mailing parties. Typical of most backlines staff, I seldom met Salinger after that. Meetings with the candidate were reserved for high-level strategy staff or high-rolling contributors or big-name celebrities or media. I watched Salinger as he moved between them, sometimes with but a moment's briefing before walking through the door to shake hands and schmooze. If I had any romantic thoughts left about the truth in political campaigns, they were dispelled in those months of campaigning. But the romance was replaced by a new love: the love of the campaign itself. It had its own intoxication.
Salinger won the June primary but at a heavy cost to Party support. But our staff grew and there was more had than my mentor could handle.
"Want to try another campaign?" he asked me a few days after our victory.
Having won the Primary for a US Senator seat, my mentor's power base had grown and he could return to one of his primary functions: political broker. He staffed campaigns, amongst other political duties. And he was offering me one.
"It's purely optional," he said with a fatherly grin. "But I thought you'd enjoy a change of scene."
"Santa Barbara. A state senate race."
Santa Barbara is one of California's most beautiful cities. Located on the coast about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles, it carries the Early California (Spanish) tradition in most of the homes and the architecture of many businesses. So between the locale and the political opportunity, I took the offer and moved south with wife Toby for four months.
My mentor's interest in the race was typical of his loyalty to JFK. A JFK financial supporter needed help and he was ready to return the favor. The candidate was Al Weingand who owned a small but beautiful ranch resort in nearby Montecito that the Kennedy's had visited during their honeymoon. A private photo of the couple at the San Ysidro Ranch hung on Weingand's wall as one of his most prized possessions.
The race itself was more boring than I had imagined, especially after the high power of a US Senate race. But it was more education and I was beginning to love the PR life.
We won the race but Salinger lost his, even after being appointed to fill the empty seat. I had mixed emotions. I was stunned at the loss but relieved I wasn't there for it and pleased I was with a winning campaign. But Salinger's loss meant we had come down a few notches so it was time to cash in. Three campaigns - city, state and county - had taught me much but it was time to head back to the safety and comfort of the university campus. I went back to SF State and entered their graduate program, teaching "Introduction to the Humanities." I was burned out and lecturing on Homer's "Iliad" was a good change of pace. After the turmoil of nearly two years in politics including JFK's assassination, I found solace in Plato's "Republic." He had tried to integrate a personal, social and metaphysical philosophy in a way that I had not found since, in a form (dialogue) that I found refreshing. Coupled with my growing interest in philosophical psychology, it gave me a chance to recover so I "retired" from my activism days.
A couple of years later I was awarded my Associate position at UC Davis. While teaching two "Introduction to Philosophy" classes a quarter, I could pursue my other interests, starting with Plato.
One day, I had an epiphany into Plato that stunned me. I had managed to convert a "flaw" in one of his dialogues into an actual "key" to unlock some of his most basic enigmas. I was so excited that I quickly called the only Greek scholar we had on the faculty who, unfortunately, was an Aristotelian. For two hours I filled a blackboard in his office and expounded my theory, answering all of his questions, or at least I felt I did. He finally shrugged and said he would have to think about it. I walked out dejected and met a visiting Russian professor that I had come to know. He invited me into his office and coaxed my theory from meI managed to get it down to less than an hour, including his few, intelligent questions.. At the end of it, he rubbed his chin and said, "You know, I've never seen this approach to Plato. Is this your doctorate thesis?"
"Nope," I said as I tossed the chalk into the tray. "I'm done."
And I was. After years of work, Plato was resolved for me. Now I merely had to find a way to integrate Plato's work with the modern insights into the human mind, as it was being developed through computer models and artificial intelligence.
A few weeks later, Martin Samuels was telling me how Plato had been taken to the next level by L. Ron Hubbard. I was intrigued, especially with an organization that had a "Guardian" structure, right out of "The Republic."
"Let's do it," I said to Martin. "What do I do next?"
"You get audited," Martin replied.
"Sounds good," I said. "What's auditing?"
* The field developed on its own and came to be known as "Cognitive Science." Universities now offer degrees in the subject.
** The "flaw" occurs in the "Parmenides." Parmenides was a sophist who, in the dialogue, dismantles Socrates with an argument (since called the "third man argument") and then command. The rest of the "dialogue" is a monologue by Parmenides. The nature, structure and intent of the "Parmenides" has been a continuing source of debate among philosophers for centuries.
end of Part 5
copyright © 1997 by Robert Vaughn Young
All Rights Reserved