All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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Copyright The Vancouver Sun
The fright created by a Stephen King horror novel can be quickly laughed off. But this highly unauthorized biography of the founder of Scientology creates a weirder-than-fiction chill that doesn't go away.
Dozens of people who once adored L. Ron Hubbard testify in the book that he attacked with cruel vengeance those who threatened him.
Hubbard had a policy that Scientology's critics "may be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist . . . May be tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed," the book says. (Hubbard publicly rescinded the policy in 1968, but the book says it remained in force and was carried out covertly.)
Although the book tells of physical violence against ex-Scientologists, it is mainly stories of lawsuits against critics that pervade it.
This is not a book of subtlety or high style. The material is presented almost like evidence at a trial. But, since the tales of goings-on in the upper realms of Scientology are so bizarre, it's rarely dull.
Hubbard died (or, as his followers say, "discarded his body,") in California in January, 1986.
But Scientology, which the author of New Gods in America, Peter Rowley, described as "the largest of the new religions," is far from dead.
A massive advertising campaign recently pushed the Hubbard book that inspired Scientology, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, back on to the New York Times bestseller list. Followers who say they've become happier and more successful from Hubbard's therapy include John Travolta, Sony Bono, Priscilla Presley and jazz musician Chick Corea.
The lawsuits did not end with Hubbard's death, either. The publishers say on the dust jacket that they've endured "enormous legal and personal problems" in releasing the book. One can almost say they've been courageous.
The same goes for Bent Corydon, who rose to high rank in Scientology during 17 years of membership. As a result of the book, he says, his assistant was beaten and his wife abused with repeated obscene and threatening telephone calls. (L. Ron Hubbard Jr., named as co-author, was involved at the beginning of the book, but withdrew, Corydon says, when ". . . he was offered an undisclosed amount of money by Church of Scientology representatives to settle his claim against his father's estate." But the publishers of the book held a prior contract with Hubbard Jr., and decided to retain his name, Corydon writes.)
But it is the hundred or so ex-Scientologists who connected their real names with descriptions of scandalous goings-on within Scientology who deserve the most praise for their involvement in this book.
Along with Hubbard's ex-wives, they describe a greedy, suspicious, uncontrollable man who locked toddlers in cells, masterminded break-ins, practised bigamy, surrounded himself with adoring teenyboppers, had followers put knives to the throats of those who threatened him, told countless lies about a phoney distinguished past, diverted non-profit church millions to himself, preached against drugs but pumped himself full of cocaine, hallucinogens and testosterone and once wrote: "All men shall be my slaves! All women shall succumb to my charms! All mankind shall grovel at my feet and not know why!"
You won't get far into this book before coming up with your own answer to the title's question: messiah or madman?[Illustration: Black & White Photo; L. Ron Hubbard]