bs1-1.htm A Piece Of Blue Sky - Part 1, Chapter 1: My Beginnings

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This is useful knowledge. With it the blind again see, the lame walk, the ill recover, the insane become sane and the sane become saner. By its use the thousand abilities Man has sought to recover become his once more.

L. Ron HUBBARD, Scientology: A History of Man, 1952

My Beginnings

It was 1974 and I was nineteen. I had just returned to England after a disastrous tour of the South of France only to find that my girlfriend, with whom I had been living for over a year, had been sleeping with one of my friends and was going to live with him in New Zealand.

A few weeks later while alone at a friend's house, I found a copy of Hubbard's book Science of Survival. After reading 200 pages, I was hooked.

I was impressed by Hubbard's insistence that his "Dianetics" was not dependent on faith, but was completely scientific. The book began with an impressive array of graphs purportedly depicting increases in IQ and betterment of personality through Dianetics, which appeared to have undergone extensive testing.

Dianetics claimed to be an extension of Freudian therapy. By re-experiencing unconfronted traumas it was allegedly possible to unravel the deep-seated stimulus-response patterns which ruin people's lives. Hubbard departed from Freud by denying that sexual repressions were basic to human aberration. He promised a new and balanced emotional outlook through the application of Dianetics.

It seemed that Dianetics had been absorbed by Scientology. Science of Survival contained an out-dated list of Scientology Churches. Eventually I found a phone number for the "Birmingham Mission of the Church of Scientology." After a few minutes of conversation, the receptionist insisted that I take a train immediately. About three hours later, after a complicated journey, I arrived at the "Mission." It was over a launderette in Moseley village, at that time the dowdy home of the Birmingham hippy community.

The receptionist sat behind an old desk at the head of the steep stairs. It was just after six in the evening, and the rest of the Mission staff had gone home to take a break before returning for the evening session. The receptionist was in her early twenties, and had abandoned a career in teaching to become a full-time Scientologist. She was cheerful and self-assured, and she looked me straight in the eye. She exuded confidence that Scientology was the stuff of miracles. I mentioned my interest in Buddhism, so she gave me a Scientology magazine called Advance! which claimed that Scientology was its modern successor. I was passionately interested, but she would not trust me to take a copy of Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and pay the next day.

Perhaps to her surprise, I did return the next day and bought the book. I spent the Christmas season locked away with my misery and "Dianetics." The 400 pages took ten days to read. The book was turgid and difficult, but I was not interested in Hubbard's style, I was interested in Dianetic therapy.

Hubbard claimed to have found the source of all human unhappiness. Dianetics would eradicate depression, and the seventy percent of all ailments which Hubbard claimed are mentally generated, or "psychosomatic." According to Hubbard's book, each of us has a stimulus-response mind which records all trauma. This "Reactive Mind" is hidden from the conscious or "Analytical Mind." When elements of an environment resemble those of an earlier traumatic incident, the Reactive Mind cuts in and enforces irrational behavior upon the individual. The Reactive Mind is idiotic, and tries to resolve present situations by regurgitating a jumble of responses from its recording of the traumatic incident. Failing to see the cause of this irrational behavior, the Analytical Mind justifies it, in exactly the way a hypnotized subject justifies his enactment of implanted suggestions.

According to Hubbard, the deepest personal traumas were moments of unconsciousness or pain, which he called "engrams." By relieving engrams an individual could erase the Reactive Mind and become well-balanced, happy and completely rational. The earliest engram would have occurred before birth, and would be the "basic" of all subsequent engrams. Those who had relieved this original engram, and consequently erased their Reactive Mind, Hubbard called "Clears." People receiving Dianetics were "Preclears." I began to absorb this elaborate and complex new language.

More recent incidents would have to be relieved before the Preclear would be capable of reliving his birth and his experiences in the womb. I was wary of Hubbard's constant assertion that most parents try to abort their children, but glossed over it, thinking his initial research must have been done on rather strange people. What severe "engrams" had I received? Because so much emphasis was put on birth and the prenatal period, I asked my mother about her pregnancy. Her answers horrified me. After an emergency operation to treat a twisted ovary, the doctor had told her she was pregnant. The doctor said he had held the evidence (me) in his hand. A very nasty "prenatal engram" indeed; perhaps explaining my backache, my slight near-sightedness, or my current intense depression.

I was a romantic teenager, deeply upset by the end of a love affair. I wanted help and I thought that L. Ron Hubbard could provide that help. A year before, a Zen teacher had warned me to join only groups where all the members had something I wanted. The people I met at the Scientology "Mission" all seemed unusually cheerful. They were confident and positive about life. Qualities I sorely needed. l had met Moonies, Hare Krishnas, and Children of God, but Scientologists had an easy cheerfulness, not the hysterical euphoria I had seen in these "cult" converts.

Within a few weeks, I moved into the house where most of the Mission staff lived. I asked my Scientologist roommate if he had any pet hates. He smiled broadly and said, "Only wogs." I was startled, and launched into a defense of dark-skinned people. He laughed, and explained that "wog" was a Hubbardism for all "non-Scientologists." This gave me pause for thought, but I dismissed it as an unfortunate turn of phrase. I thought that Hubbard probably did not realize how racially offensive the term is in Great Britain.

I became intrigued by the many claims Hubbard had made about himself. In the 1930s he had been an explorer. A trained nuclear physicist, he had applied the rigorous precision of Western science to the profound philosophy of the East, which he had encountered at first hand in his teens in China, Tibet and India. One of Freud's disciples had trained him in psychoanalysis. During the Second World War Hubbard had distinguished himself as a squadron commander in the U.S. Navy, sinking U-boats and receiving no less than 27 medals and awards. 1 The end of the war found him in a military hospital, "crippled and blinded." 2 Applying scientific method to Eastern philosophy, and combining the results with Freudian analysis, Hubbard claimed to have cured himself completely. Out of this miracle cure came Dianetics. Because of his experience of "man's inhumanity to man" in the war, he had continued his research and brought Scientology into being. 3

The young woman who ran the Scientology Mission was attractive, intelligent, and bubbling with enthusiasm. She was a "Clear," having "erased" her Reactive Mind, and seemed living proof of the efficacy of the system. The five Mission staff members generated a friendly atmosphere. They listened to whatever I had to say and steered me towards a more optimistic state of mind. I was convinced that they were genuinely interested in my well-being, and found their positive attitude very helpful.

Scientology Organizations are eager to make new converts, and all Scientologists who are not Organization staff members are designated "Field Staff Members," or FSMs, and are expected to recruit new people. Desperately wanting to help, I became a full-time FSM. Before I really knew anything about Scientology, I was recruiting everyone I could. I did "body-routing" from the street, which is to say "routing" people's "bodies" into the Mission.

I was "drilled" step by step, by an experienced Scientologist. Pretending to be a member of the public, the coach dreamed up situations. If I made a mistake the coach would say "flunk," and the mistake would be explained. Then the coach would repeat the phrase and the gestures I had mishandled. Through the drills I was meant to become confident in real life situations. The drills often took strange turns. One coach asked if I wanted to "screw" her. I was flunked for not simply excusing myself. She explained that we were not trying to interest prostitutes in Scientology. Homosexuals, Communists, journalists and the mentally deranged were not to be approached either. Scientology's goal was to "make the able more able."

I would introduce myself to someone on the street as if I was conducting a survey. I would ask "What would you most like to be?" then "most like to do?" then "have?" The questions were purely a device to start people talking. As soon as they did, I would slip into Hubbard's "Dissemination drill" 4 by saying I was a Scientologist, and dealing with any negative response by attacking the person's source of information. If someone said, "Didn't the Australians ban Scientology?" I would say, "Where did you hear that?" They would almost inevitably say, "In the newspapers." This could often be dismissed with "Well, you can't believe anything you read in the papers," diverting attention from the complaint. It sounds remarkable, but many people would agree and abandon their criticism. This trained tactic underlies Scientology's self-defense: divert the critic, attack the source not the information.

Next, I was told to direct the person to their "ruin": whatever they thought was ruining their life. I would keep asking questions until they showed genuine emotion about some aspect of their life. Then I was supposed to "bring them to understanding" by letting them know that whatever their problem was, there was a Scientology course that dealt with it. "You're frightened of dying? Scientology has a course that can help you! .... Oh, yes, Scientology can help you with your asthma!" I was told to say these things, and I believed what I was saying. The course which would help their problem, from obesity to pre-menstrual tension, was always the "Communication Course."

I would take an interested person to the Mission, and hand them over to a "Registrar" to be given a lengthy Scientology personality test, or a free introductory lecture. I took many strangers into the Mission, and most of my friends. Several started courses, though most drifted away without finishing.

The yellow walls of the Mission were covered with small notices, newspaper clippings about Scientology "wins," testimonials ("Success Stories"), and Hubbard quotes: "Scientology leads to success in any walk of life," for instance. The Mission consisted of a course room, an office, a tiny kitchen, a lavatory, and two counselling rooms. The course room could hold about 30 people, but most of the time only a few students were present. The receptionist doubled as a Course Supervisor. In the evenings seasoned Scientologists would arrive to take more advanced courses. Among these were a bank manager and his wife, who held a senior position with the county Health Authority. I also did drills with the managing director of an engraving business, and with an active Quaker. They were all very encouraging about the benefits they felt they had experienced because of Scientology.

I expected to take a short course in Dianetics, and then start shifting my engrams around. This was not to be. In the quarter century since the publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard had allegedly conducted a great deal of research, and the original procedure was now outmoded. A rigidly defined series of steps constituted the Scientology "Bridge." It was possible to receive counselling for a fee, or to train as a counselor and co-counsel with another student for free. There were several courses involved, but before Mission staff would even discuss the cost, they insisted that I do the Communication, or "Comm," Course.

The Comm Course is the beginning of most Scientology careers. Hubbard claimed to have been the first person to scientifically dissect communication. The Comm Course drills are called Training Routines, or TRs. 5

The first two TRs are similar to meditation. They are supposed to help you focus your attention on the person you are talking to. Two people sit facing each other, without speaking or moving. In the first drill (OT TR-0) they sit with their eyes closed, in the second (TR-0) open and staring at one another. These drills are often done for hours without pause, and form part of most Scientology courses. As with meditation, I hallucinated while doing the open-eyed TR-0. My coach explained vaguely that people who had taken drugs often experienced this. In fact, hallucination is not unusual for anyone who stares fixedly for long enough, but I did not realize this, and was genuinely concerned.

The next step is "TR-0 Bullbait." One student baits the other, verbally and through gestures, trying to disturb the recipient's motionless composure. If the recipient moves, laughs, speaks, or even blinks excessively, the coach "flunks" him. It is presumed that something the coach said or did provoked the reaction, so the drill is restarted, and the coach tries to repeat the earlier stimulus exactly. This is done until there is no reaction from the recipient.

I was first "bullbaited" by a dour, middle-aged house painter who had little time for me. In "bullbaiting," the coach can do anything save leave his chair; so he sat and insulted me, told obscene jokes, and pulled faces until I stopped responding. The idea is to find "buttons" which when pushed force an immediate reaction and, through drilling, to overcome these reactions, allowing a more considered response to real-life stimuli. His main approach was to insist that because I had long hair I must be a homosexual. It took about two hours before I attained immobility in the face of this onslaught. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

The next Training Routine, TR-1, is supposed to teach the student to speak audibly and coherently, and to teach him to ask written questions in a natural way. In TR-1, the student reads lines at random from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland; he "makes the line his own," and then repeats it to the coach. The coach must hear clearly what is said, and feel it was intended that he hear it. A course room full of people declaiming, "Off with his head!" or "Contrariwise" is one of many surreal experiences Scientology provides.

TR-2 deals with acknowledgments. In counselling it is necessary to show you've heard, so you say "Good," "Thank-you," "Okay," or something similar. This ends what Hubbard calls a "cycle of communication," and prepares the way for a new "cycle." The coach reads a line from Alice in Wonderland and the student acknowledges it.

By the time the student comes to TR-3, he has learned to concentrate on the person in front of him and not be thrown by his reactions. The student has also learned to make sure that he is clearly audible, and to show he has heard what is said to him. The lessons of the earlier TRs must be retained throughout the course. In TR-3, the student learns to repeat an unanswered question without variation. TRs were designed for Scientology counsellors, and Hubbard's counselling questions are exactly worded. To prevent the drilling from turning into counselling, two non-sensitive questions are used: either "Do birds fly?" or "Do fish swim?" If the coach answers, the student accepts the answer by acknowledging it. If the coach does anything else, the student says, "I'll repeat the question," and does so.

TR-4, the last Training Routine on the Comm Course, drills the student to "handle originations" made by the coach, and to return his attention to the original question. For example:

Student: Do birds fly?

Coach: It's hot in here!

Student: I'll open the window (opens window). Okay, I'll repeat the question, do birds fly?

Over the years I persuaded about 20 people to do the Communication Course. I instructed some of them, or in Scientology terms "supervised," as Hubbard's course materials do all the talking, and the supervisor adds nothing by way of explanation or comment. He meets the confused student's queries with, "What do your materials state?" This is supposed to ensure that Hubbard's materials are not altered by personal interpretations.

The Comm Course helps people to hide, though not overcome, their nervousness, and to look people "right in the eye." It also inculcates persistence with questions until they are answered. It can have a positive effect, generating self-confidence. Of course, people on the receiving end sometimes feel intimidated. Critics of Scientology usually mention the "relentless stare" which for the great majority of Scientologists is habitual.

After completing the Comm Course, I was allowed a few pounds against the "Hubbard Qualified Scientologist Course" for all the people I had brought in. Scientology usually pays a 10 or 15 percent commission for recruitment. I was already too involved in Scientology to realize I had been working for the Mission for several weeks without pay.

The Hubbard Qualified Scientologist (HQS) Course packages many of the basic ideas of Scientology. The student does the Comm Course Training Routines again, and four additional Training Routines called the "Upper Indoctrination TRs." These drill the student to maintain control of someone through physical contact, but more so through "intention," or sheer will power - really by having a very determined approach.

On the HQS course I learned about several of Hubbard's many "Scales," among them the key Scale of Scientology: the "Emotional Tone Scale." Hubbard believed that there is a natural progression of emotional states, and that any individual can be led through these simply by conversation. The purported idea of Scientology counselling is to permanently raise the Preclear on the "Tone Scale." The scale rises from Death through Apathy, to Grief, to Sympathy, to Fear, to Hostility, to Boredom, to Cheerfulness, to Enthusiasm. Scientology seeks to take someone who is apathetic, miserable, anxious, or antagonistic and make of him someone cheerful and positive.

While on the HQS Course, I had my first stab at "auditing," or counselling. A friend and I drilled the procedures using an over-size rag doll as the Preclear receiving counselling. One of us would be the "Auditor," and the other the coach, making verbal responses on the rag doll's behalf.

Despite painstaking drilling, my first Auditor collapsed while giving me a session. He was asking me to touch objects in the room, one by one, and suddenly crumpled against the wall, sinking to the floor in uncontrollable laughter. The artificial atmosphere of auditing was too much for him. I was unprepared for this, and felt dizzy and confused. A seasoned Auditor gave me a "Review," asking questions about the session and "earlier similar incidents." After 20 minutes I felt better. To me it seemed to prove Scientology's validity.

Considering myself a Zen Buddhist, I readily accepted Hubbard's ideas about reincarnation. He said that during counselling so many people had spontaneously volunteered "past life" incidents that he had had to accept it as a reality. Auditing is virtually impossible without such a belief.

By the time I became involved in Scientology, "Clear" was no longer the ultimate attainment; now there were levels beyond. Hubbard used the word "thetan" to describe the spirit, the "being himself," and beyond "Clear" were the "Operating Thetan" (OT) levels. Here the individual would purportedly break away from the limitations of human existence. Having completed the "OT levels" one would be able to remember all of one's earlier lives, to "exteriorize" from the body at will and perform miraculous feats.

Such ideas were completely foreign to me. Interest in psychic abilities is frowned upon in the Zen community as a distraction from the road to wisdom. What I wanted from Scientology was emotional equilibrium, so I could win my girlfriend back, make a successful career in the Arts, and concentrate on achieving Enlightenment. But gradually I was absorbed into the pursuit of the state of "Operating Thetan."

By this time I had a fairly well developed picture of Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. His voice on tape was rich and jocular. Photographs of Hubbard in Scientology magazines and on the walls of the Mission showed a smiling man, not a dry philosopher, but a man of action with a tremendous love for humanity, who had devoted his life to the solution of other men's ills. Hubbard seemed to be a true philanthropist; a learned man with a grasp of science and a comprehension of the mysteries. Hubbard had a sense of humor, and was given to anecdotes. He was not trying to impress anyone with his intellect, instead he wanted you to help yourself, and all mankind, by using the subject he had developed. This view of Hubbard is shared by all devoted Scientologists.

By the summer of 1975 I was coming back onto an even keel. My life revolved around Scientology, and I had put my ex-girlfriend out of mind, although the subject had never been addressed in my counselling. I had abandoned those of my friends who were not interested in Scientology, because my lifestyle had changed so much, and I had made new friends - all of them Scientologists. I had a powerful feeling of comradeship for the Mission staff, and wanted to become one of their number. I knew that they took only a day off each week, and worked all the weekday evenings too. From their comments it was obvious that the pay was very low. Even so, I wanted to work with them. I was told that I would have to "petition" the Guardian's Office of the Church to obtain permission to join the Mission staff and that I would also have to become more highly qualified in Scientology.

In order to qualify for staff, I would have to do Auditor training courses which were only available at a "Church of Scientology," or "Org" (for "Organization"). The nearest was in Manchester, and was in a partially condemned building in the Chinese district. Some of the walls had just been painted purple to try and brighten up the remarkably dingy premises. There was only one student there. The "Registrar" was too insistent, even belligerent. He seemed to take an immediate dislike to me. I decided to go to Saint Hill instead.


1. Flag Operations Liaisons Office East US letter to National Personnel Records Center, 28 May 1974.

2. Flag Divisional Directive 69RA.

3. FSM mag 1.

4. "The Dissemination Drill," Organization Executive Course vol. 6, p.112.

5. HCO Bulletin, "TRs remodernized," 16 August 71R.

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