On Sunday, December 22, 1968, John McMaster, the world's first *clear* - a being enlightened and totally free - spoke at the weekly services of New York's Church of Scientology. The church is headquartered at 49 West 32nd Street in the main ballroom of the Hotel Martinique, a moderately priced establishment of well-worn respectability which is just off Herald Square, on the fringes of the bustling crowds that daily attack Macy's, Gimbel's, and E.J. Korvette. I had been in the ballroom once before, at a Scientology congress. Then, the large high-ceilinged room had been a dun-yellow, with something used and shabby about it. Now, presumably in honor of McMaster's singular appearance, the whole room had been painted white and the ceiling had been cleaned. Because it was approaching Christmas, there were decorations and a tinseled tree.
The proceedings began with some singing of blues songs by a girl named Doreen Davis. She introduced each song with a few simple appropriate words, linking them to Scientology if possible, to what she had learned from being part of it. She was well received and then introduced her accompanist, Amanda Ambrose, herself an accomplished blues singer, who followed Miss Davis and sang a few more songs, finishing with what was obviously the gathering's favorite, "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever."
The room was packed. There must have been four hundred
people there, filling all the seats and crowding the narrow aisles. In the hack, in areas usually partitioned off into small offices, the partitions had been pushed back and people stood on desks, a few having scrambled up to sit on filing cabinets. A little boy, not at all lost, pushed his way with young determination among the people crowding everywhere, the sweat shirt he wore bearing the announcement "Scientology Works!" At the front of the room, dominating everything, was an enormous black and white photograph of L. Ron Hubbard, the man who had devised and developed all of the basic theories and teaching techniques of Scientology, from its melodramatic beginnings as Dianetics to the present day and its promise of the realization of one's *theta*, one's true spirit. It was an imposing photograph, a head shot, three-quarters face, his chin resting on the thumbs of his joined hands, his receding white hair smoothly combed hack from a high forehead, his eyes slightly narrowed giving him something of a vulpine look. It was a study in self-confidence.
Then McMaster was announced and appeared. He was wearing clerical garb and a clerical collar, white cuffs of a thin wool turtleneck showing at the wrists of his black jacket. He had a purple sash around his neck, with some kind of pendant hanging just at the juncture of the jacket, under the button. McMaster, a one-time medical student who was born in South Africa, is of indeterminate age, anywhere from forty-two to fifty. His features are very fine and his face is soft, almost beautiful, almost ascetic, with very clear light blue eyes that always gaze out peacefully, with only one or two moments when, while making a point, they widen the way William F. Buckley's do when he is on to something pertinent and rich on the tongue to say. McMaster's hair is corn-silk blond and looks whitened by the sun. His hands, as he speaks, move slightly, airily, meeting in front to let fingers touch in the barest kind of clasp.
He began almost immediately by telling of his experiences
with a television program, the Alan Burke Show, which had invited him to appear to talk about Scientology. He had arrived at the studio, he said, and found that people he knew to be hostile to Scientology had been placed in the studio audience to question Him when open questioning was invited. Challenging the program's producer on this, McMaster said the man had explained the program was merely trying to present both sides of the subject. McMaster, looking out at us with the same calm he had shown the producer, told the man, "How can there be two sides to the truth?" and walked out.
The audience loved it! They applauded warmly, very very warmly, and watched him as he spoke with a kind of adoring, sure hunger, knowing that here was the proof, the living proof, that everything they were studying and absorbing and accepting and agreeing upon led *somewhere*. McMaster said "reality is *agreement*," and spoke of the warmth he felt emanating from the gathering, and how the last time he had spoken in New York there was so much agreement it was as if the entire Hotel Martinique would rise and float gently down Broadway. The audience laughed again and clapped, knowing it wouldn't be so, knowing they could do it if they wanted to, but it didn't have to be challenged. Because they believed it, and John McMaster believed it, and there *agreement* was all that counted. "Scientology," he said, "is essentially the study of truth...." "The basic human right," he said, "is the right to be you."
There were many children in the hall. their parents let them wander with a kind of soft indulgence, and the children were never in the way; one little girl wandered from person to person, reaching up to grasp a lapel clumsily and be helped up onto a lap, there to sit and listen for a while until the urge to move on made her slide back down to the floor and continue her wanderings. Another tot, barely walking, clutched a man's knee, tears coursing down her little face. The man, who
was not her father, soothed her with gentle words and picked her up and held her in his lap. In two minutes the child was asleep. In front of me, a mother wearing bell-bottomed denims, her light chestnut hair "natural," round-rimmed granny glasses on her nose, raised her poor-boy knit T-shirt and suckled her tiny son, who had been whimpering uncomfortably. Nobody seemed to mind. Here was fellowship, communion, understanding, *agreement*. And all the while McMaster, exuding something enormously benign, spoke on, about levels of agreement, about "Ron" being just somebody who was offering the world liberation, about the love he sensed around him, about - all of a sudden a digression, and he shifted his stance because he wanted us to know what had happened - wandering into one of the porny-type magazine and book stores next to the Hotel Dixie where he was staying and seeing the covetous quality of the guarded browsings of the men there, saddened to think it could not be all out in the open. It was, to me, a curious admission of appetite, and I admired McMaster for bringing it up: into the bookstore, masses of photo books, the young men pictured lax and bland-faced, pendants drooping, legs asunder, strength seeped out, eyes watching, waiting, some half-closed, a few smiles, so little joy.
McMaster continued speaking with an infinite calm which seemed to emanate from some deep wellspring of febrile tension kept in extraordinary check. He interspersed what he said with moments of light, graceful wit. He bathed us all in the loving clarity of Scientology's sweet reason. Then he was finished, and the congregation rose, applauding wildly, unable to make their hands and the expressions on their faces communicate what they really felt for him as he moved sideways to an exit, raising his arm in gentle benediction, stopping to accept an embrace from a girl, nothing shy, no embarrassment - were the Apostles embarrassed? - continuing to the door,
turning once more, right hand raised, a blessing, a grateful farewell, and he was gone.
The hall emptied slowly but I lingered behind, and turning, I found myself once more staring at the photograph of L. Ron Hubbard, the man whose inventive genius had allowed McMaster to become the world's first *clear*. What he had said, I realized with some surprise, had not impressed me very much. In the now almost empty room, I barely remembered whether or not he had actually spoken on any particular theme. Only one thing stuck in my mind, and I saw him saying it once more, fingers of his hands touching to form a delicate bridge, his eyes slowly sweeping all of us with a look both generous and shy: "How can there be two sides to the truth?"
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