To most people in Scientology, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard is accessible only as a disembodied voice on a reel of tape, or as the source of a never-ending stream of books, pamphlets, mimeographed bulletins and directives, or as somebody they once saw on film, seated behind a large desk, patiently answering questions about Scientology. The man they see in the film wears an open-necked shirt and exudes a sense of enormous self-confidence, tempered with a certain joviality and homeyness. He is sleek and sure, with the suggestion of something once robust, totally in command, snatching at random, as he speaks, for simple analogies with which to prove a point, unexpectedly somber at the thought of man's inability to see what existence is all about. The voice itself is rich, with a kind of Don McNeill rolling of the "r's," and careful enunciation of words which are particularly telling to the comprehension of a particular thought. Where once, according to once-intimate acquaintances, there was an immediate sense of sheer power, of a "very big" man, with "tremendous" even "fantastic charm," not unlike *Henry VIII*, a man with "a powerful mind," and "a bit cynical," there is now calm and control and something very patriarchal.

Today, living in semimystical isolation on a converted ex-cattle boat in the Mediterranean, L. Ron Hubbard has, with characteristic grandeur, officially retired from the public arena,



having withdrawn to his secular seclusion for the purpose of continuing his "studies and researches."

Assembling the facts of Hubbard's personal history was extremely difficult because whatever information I was able to unearth carried within itself seeds of its own contradiction. For example, references to places and events were written to imply that Hubbard had been on the spot without coming right out and saying unequivocally that L. Ron Hubbard had, on such and such a date, been *there* and done *this*, and if you wish you can quickly verify this by checking *The New York Times Index*, or *Who's Who*, or *The Encyclopaedia Britannica*, or...*something*. As a result, I began to wonder whether information given was always accurate, or whether one made conclusions about the man which were based on vague comments he might once have dropped, and had not disputed when they crept into print, as if to help create that aura of being shrouded in that charismatic vagueness obligatory to all men of vision. The technique of implication which Hubbard used - and continues to use - is clearly evident in the following, which he wrote in his book *Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science*:

I remember one time learning Igoroti, an Eastern primitive language, in a single night. I sat up by kerosene lantern and took a list of words that had been made by an old missionary in the hills of Luzon - the Igorot had a very simple language. This missionary had phoneticised their language and he had made a list of their main words and their usage and grammar. And I remember sitting up under a mosquito net with the mosquitoes hungrily chomping their beaks just outside the net, and learning this language - three hundred words - just memorizing these words and what they meant. And the next day I started to get them in line and align them with people, and was speaking Igoroti in a very short time.

I don't dispute that Hubbard did find himself at some point in the Philippines. This was more than confirmed for me when I talked to Jack Horner, who for many years had been if not the most dedicated of Scientologists, then certainly among the

"RON" 29

first and the most faithful. Now working and living in Chicago, where he is an actor and free-lance writer and is developing his own system of thought which he is calling "Dianology," Horner told me: "I have a very parallel background to Hubbard: My father was in the Navy, my father was from Montana, I grew up for part of my childhood in the Orient. Hubbard and I even swam in the same swimming pool, only at different times; in Cavite, in the Philippine Islands. Near Manila, before World War II, there were some large naval bases, and there was a town called Cavite, which was fight near Manila. And the Cavite swimming pool had salt water, and Hubbard and I got to discussing this one day and realized we had actually swum in the same swimming pools out there." This is the kind of tantalizing reference which is continually being fleshed out to form a substantial element in L. Ron Hubbard's past. Nothing is ever absolutely precise, and we are never sure when and under what circumstances he did something or went someplace. And it is all cloaked in a kind of prophet's discontent.

Hubbard was in the U.S. Navy. That is certain. And he was raised for some years of his life in Montana, on the cattle ranch owned by his maternal grandfather. He was born on March 13, 1911, in Tilden, Nebraska. His father was Commander H. R. Hubbard, U.S.N., and his mother was Ledora May Hubbard nee Waterbury. But even these few bedrock facts may be open to question. When I was talking to Horner, he suddenly said, "By the way, if you want to check his birthplace and birth date, you will find there is no record." You mean, I said, in Tilden, Nebraska? "Yep," Horner said. Well, I asked, where was Hubbard born? "I don't know," Horner said. "But you won't find any records there." Is it true, I asked further, that Hubbard's father was in the Navy? "Yes," Horner said, "though I'm not sure whether that was his father or his stepfather. His [Hubbard's] son told me that years ago, and then recently somebody doing research tried to find a record of his birth in


Tilden and couldn't." Regarding Ron Hubbard's own military career, Horner said, "I'm sure he was in the Navy, but I'm sure a lot of the things he said happened in the Navy didn't."

Assuming Hubbard's father was his true father, the family was Scottish on the father's side and came to this country in the nineteenth century. Hubbard has embellished these bare bones by claiming other ancestry as well, particularly a Count de Loup, "who entered England with the Norman invasion and became the founder of the English de Wolfe family which emigrated to America in the seventeenth century." This is an attractive, even thrilling, notion, but in all fairness to the Almanach de Gotha, I must mention that in one of Hubbard's science-fiction adventures, he created a character named Mike de Wolfe - de Wolfe being the anglicized version of de Loup - who found himself back in 1640 as Miguel Saint Raoul Maria Gonzales Sebastian de Mendoza y Toledo Francisco Juan Tomaso Guerrero de Brazo y Leon de Lobo. De Lobo is Spanish for de Loup, which is French for...de Wolfe. Which inspired which?

Hubbard lived on his grandfather's Montana ranch until he was ten. A brief biography which appeared in *Scientology: The Field Staff Magazine*, written in a declamatory style which was to become increasingly familiar to me, said that he "could ride before he could walk," and "later became a blood brother of the Blackfeet (Pikuni) Indians, and his first novel, published in 1936, concerns them." The reference is probably to *Buckskin Brigade*, which appeared in hardcover in 1937.

Hubbard left Montana to rejoin his family, and when he was twelve was living in Washington, D.C., where Calvin Coolidge, Jr., was supposedly one of his best friends. The sudden death of the President's young son was supposed to have inspired Hubbard's "early interest in mental research."

The biography I'm quoting goes on to relate that when Hubbard was fourteen years old, his father was sent to the Far East, and it was not long before the boy found himself in

"RON" 31

China, spending the next few years traveling throughout Asia. In northern China and India, the anonymous biographer explains, "he became intensely curious about the composition and destiny of Man, and studied on the one hand with Lama Priests, and made himself agreeable on the other hand to warlike people by his ability to ride." In 1930, this biography continues, Hubbard returned to Washington, D.C., and was enrolled at George Washington University. I found, however, that Hubbard had attended Helena High School in Helena, Montana, and had then come to Washington, D.C., where, in June of 1930, he graduated from Woodward School for Boys, a YMCA preparatory school. When, I asked myself, did he travel throughout Asia?

Hubbard's career at George Washington University is important because many of his researches and published conclusions have been supported by his claims to be not only a graduate engineer, but "a member of the first United States course in formal education in what is called today nuclear physics." The facts are that Hubbard never received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. He flunked freshman physics, was placed on probation in September of 1931, and failed to return to the university after the 1931-32: academic year. In later years, in addition to the "C.E." which he allowed to appear after his name, he added a "Ph.D." It eventually came out that the degree had been "granted" by Sequoia University, a nonaccredited California institution with the reputation of being something of a diploma mill.

The inhospitable memories of academic life did not seem to dim Hubbard's ravenous curiosities and zest for adventure. The biography in question states that upon leaving college, whenever that might have been, he led an expedition into Central America. "In the next few years he headed three further expeditions, all of them undertaken to study savage peoples and cultures to provide material for his articles and stories. Between 1933 and 1941 he visited many barbaric


cultures and yet found time to write seven million words of published fact and fiction."

Put this all together and you have very few facts about the first thirty years of the man's life. I was very lucky to stumble across a zippy little profile which appeared in the July 1934 issue of a West Coast magazine called *The Pilot*, "The Magazine for Aviation Personnel," which threw a bit more light on Hubbard's youth. "Whenever two or three pilots are gathered together around the Nation's Capital," the column's author, one H. Latana Lewis II, wrote, "whether it be a Congressional hearing or just in the back of some hangar, you'll probably hear the name of L. Ron Hubbard mentioned, accompanied by such adjectives as 'crazy,' 'wild,' and 'dizzy.' For the flaming-haired pilot hit the city like a tornado a few years ago and made women scream and strong men weep by his aerial antics."

The colorful little sketch goes on to tell how Hubbard - "(also known as 'Flash')" - had stayed out west only long enough to be born, that he had then traveled all over the world, and eventually "fell from grace and became an aviator." Lewis reveals that Hubbard had already been, by the tender age of twenty-three, "a top sergeant in the Marines, radio crooner, newspaper reporter, gold miner in the West Indies, and movie director-explorer, having led a motion picture expedition into the south seas aboard an ancient windjammer." Hubbard then turned to flying a glider and became so proficient and fearless that he could make a sailplane perform stunts which brought "undertakers...out to the field...." Lewis gives a brief, vivid account of one day in Chicago when "Flash" took up a glider and kept it aloft so long sailing on the heat waves rising from the baked tarmac that he set some record "for sustained flight over the same field."

Turning to power planes, the amazing Hubbard is credited with soloing his first time in a prop-driven craft, and quickly began to barnstorm around the country, flying "under every

"RON" 33

telephone wire in the Middle West." The piece concludes by saying that "after being one of aviation's most distinguished hell-raisers, he finally settled down with great dignity and became director of the flying club at George Washington University. And to make his taming complete, he took unto himself a co-pilot, a very wise and charming little aviatrix, whom Ron refers to as 'the skipper.' At present," the piece ends, "our young hero is buzzing around on the West Coast, where he writes magazine stories between flights. His playboy days over, he is now recognized as one of the outstanding glider pilots in the country."

The whole question of exactly how many expeditions Hubbard actually led into the uncharted wastes of Central America when he was not buzzing cows and hopping hedges from coast to coast is left unanswered. It is a fact that in 1940 - not 1936 as his Scientology biography asserts - he was duly elected a member of the august Explorer's Club in New York. On his application, which Ward Randol, the club's executive director, refused to let me see because it was against policy, Hubbard wrote that since 1931 he had supported himself as a writer, specializing in adventure, with an outpost over the nine years of four million words.* In explaining the circumstances of Hubbard's election to the club, Mr. Randol told me in no uncertain terms that he personally knew the members who had sponsored Hubbard and certainly does not hesitate to vouch for their integrity and judgment. What is more, Randol was quite ready to reveal, in 1940 Hubbard made his first expedition as a member of the Explorer's Club, and was granted the club flag to carry on his voyage, a distinct honor given only when a member's application and description of an intended expedition has been given the severest scrutiny. "It's easier to

* This business of how many words Hubbard has actually written and had published insinuates itself perpetually though unobtrusively and manages to play a continuing role in reaffirming the substantiality of his labors. The figure also fluctuates enormously. 34 SCIENTOLOGY

get money from us," Randol said drily, "than it is to get the flag. The flag is awarded only to members, and is treated rather jealously." Hubbard's expedition that year was to Alaska, under the title of the Alaskan-Radio Expedition. In the years since, Hubbard has made two more voyages flying the Explorer's Club flag, one in 1961, an Oceanographic-Archeological Expedition, and one in 1966, the Hubbard Geological Survey Expedition.

Much earlier, by 1941, American science-fiction fans were already familiar with Hubbard's distinctive writing style, which was bold and highly imaginative. His first serials began to appear in a pulp magazine called *Astounding Science Fiction* in 1938. One after another, titles such as *Slaves of Sleep*, *Kingslayer*, *Typewriter in the Sky*, *Fear*, *Death's Deputy*, and *Final Blackout* were eagerly welcomed by devoted fans. In addition to his own name, Hubbard also wrote under a variety of pen names, including Rene Lafayette (whose work appeared in such magazines as *Thrilling Wonder Stories* and *Startling*), Winchester Remington Colt, and, I suspect, some of the peripheral characters with names such as Jules Montcalm and Kurt von Rachne who popped up in his stories.

Moments in some of his sagas are particularly interesting because they offer insights into the workings of Hubbard's sense of fantasy, an imagination which was to achieve its full flower years later in Scientology. *Typewriter in the Sky* was the story of one Mike de Wolfe, who found himself trapped in the past as the unwilling villain of a swashbuckling tale being churned out by a science-fiction writer named Horace Hackett. How it happened never quite makes sense to Mike, but "he had no doubt at this was 'Blood and Loot,' by Horace Hackett, and that the whole panorama was activated only by Horace Hackett's mind. And what Horace Hackett said was so, was so. And what Horace Hackett said people said, they said." Mike eventually survived what he suspected was going to be a nasty finish, not because Horace Hackett wanted him dead, but because

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he knew how Horace's prolific mind resolved his melodramas. The end of the book finds Mike miraculously back in New York, at first grateful to have survived, thinking of seeing all of his old friends again. Then, remembering how he had wandered into Hackett's bathroom only to hear a typewriter begin to type and have everything disappear, only to awaken on a beach in the year 1640. Mike grows furious. It was Horace who had been responsible for the fate he had suffered, the killing of men he did not know, the falling in love with a woman he knew could never be his because she was just one of Hackett's creations. And then..."Abruptly Mike de Wolfe stopped. His jaw slackened a trifle and his hand went up to his mouth to cover it. His eyes were fixed upon the fleecy clouds which scurried across the moon.

Up there -


In a dirty bathrobe?"

In a novella entitled *Fear*, Hubbard told of James Lowry, an ethnologist particularly fascinated by the notion of demonology in modern society, who, in what can only be described as a moment of blind jealousy, murders his wife and best friend, and then blanks out, growing steadily convinced that he is being secretly controlled by actual demons for reasons which he cannot understand. At one point in the story he hotly defends an article he has written on his favorite subject. "I have sought," Lowry argues, "to show that demons and devils were invented to allow some cunning member of the tribe to gain control of his fellows by the process of inventing something for them to fear and then offering to act as interpreter-"

Much later, just before everything falls back into some kind of order in his mind and he realizes what he has done, Lowry actually confronts what he knows to be his demons. They have told him he is the "Entity."

"You are the Entity, the center of control. Usually all life, at fleeting instants, takes turns in passing this along. Now


perhaps you have, at one time in your life, had a sudden feeling, 'I am I'? Well, that awareness of yourself is akin to what men call godliness. For an instant nearly every living thing in this world has been the one Entity, the focal point for all life. It is like a torch being passed from hand to hand. Usually innocent little children such as myself are invested [the *demon* has appeared in the guise of a four-year-old girl with blonde locks, bow lips, and lewd eyes] and so it is that a child ponders much upon his identity."

Lowry does not seem to understand completely. The *demon* explains. "So long as you live, then the world is animated. So long as you walk and hear and see, the world goes forward. In your immediate vicinity, you understand, all life is concentrating upon demonstrating that it is alive. It is not. Others are only props for you....You are the Entity, the only living thing in this world."

Gripping and inventive, the story is interesting because Hubbard later uses this idea of man's capacity to realize his godlike "Entity" in some of Scientology's fundamental beliefs and theories.

World War II found Hubbard an officer in the U.S. Navy, commissioned, according to the Scientology biography, before Pearl Harbor. "He was ordered to the Philippines at the outbreak of the war and was flown home in the late spring of 1942 as the first U.S. returned casualty from the Far East." What his wounds were is unknown, but he was in sufficiently good trim to be ordered at once to take command of a corvette, this due, it is said, to his considerable experience with small boats. He spent most of 1942 with his corvette and with the British and American antisubmarine vessels of the North Atlantic, rising to command an entire squadron. In 1943 he was back in the Pacific. No mention is made of the name of the ship he served on, in which campaigns, and in what capacity, but Hubbard has said on several occasions that it was he who provided Thomas Heggen with the model for "Mr. Roberts." This has never been substantiated. Heggen, before his

"RON" 37

untimely death in 1949, would only say about Roberts: "He is too good to be true, he is a pure invention."

When the war was over, Hubbard, to continue quoting his revealing, anonymously authored, and totally unsubstantiated biography, was "crippled and blind....He resumed his studies of philosophy," this document goes on, "and by his discoveries so fully recovered that he was reclassified in 1949 for full combat duty. It is a matter of medical record that he has twice been pronounced dead and that in 1950 he was given a perfect score on mental and physical fitness reports....Revolted by war and Man's inhumanity to Man, he resigned his commission rather than assist government research projects." With due respect to Hubbard's personal feelings of revulsion for war and man's inhumanity to man, I was unable to confirm a single one of these critical claims: that he had been crippled and blind, the nature of his "discoveries," and the medical records stating he had "twice been pronounced dead."

I flew to Washington, D.C., and learned that the Unite States Navy would not confirm or deny the details of Hubbard's military career.

"The records of members and former members of the armed forces," I was told in an official letter from the Department of the Navy, "are privileged in nature and information therefrom cannot be furnished without the written consent of the person whose records are concerned." I was able to learn, in conversations I had when I was in Washington, that Hubbard had been commissioned before the war broke out, that his rank during his military service was that of lieutenant, and that his classification or specialty was DVS, something called Deck Volunteer Specialist, if I understood the designation correctly. It also seems he did spend some time in a military hospital.

Several ex-Scientologists have told me that Hubbard was an outpatient while in the Navy, and that he felt free to roam around the grounds and wards and make friends with various patients, particularly those with psychological disturbances. It


may be one of those apocryphal tales which only serves to cement the notion of already-developing wisdom and insight, but I think it is essentially true. Gary Watkins, a young man who had been a highly placed auditor* in Scientology at the time of being expelled by the movement, says that Hubbard, in the hospital, would talk to various patients. "He had lots of doubts about the theory [theories of mental illnesses] and would run off and find out what they knew - the experts in the books - about these patients and their cases, and then probably made his own extensions on that, and would sort of meet them casually in the garden and try to treat them."

After the war, according to an article in the *Saturday Evening Post* in 1964, Hubbard "banged around L.A. and Pasadena, where he was known as a fellow of an intense curiosity." Hubbard himself says that he first went to Hollywood as a screenwriter in 1936. This may be so, but the only screenplay which can be directly attributed to him is a fifteen-episode serial made by Columbia Pictures called *The Secret of Treasure Island*. I could find no mention anywhere of what happened to his wife, "the skipper," as Hubbard had called her, though he was, by the end of the war, the father of two children, a son, L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., nicknamed "Nibs," now working for a home protection agency in the Pacific Northwest, and a daughter, Kay. Hubbard himself has said only that his first wife died.

Whatever the facts may be, Hubbard was certainly a man of nervous versatility. Yet the wandering glider pilot and small-boats mariner who once sang and played the banjo on a radio program in California seemed gripped, in his various stories, by a genuine determination to explore the helplessness of man

*Scientology's own official definition of an auditor is: "A listener or one who listens carefully to what people have to say. An auditor is a person trained and qualified in applying Scientology processes to others for their betterment." The application of Scientology processes is called auditing, and will be defined and examined at length later.

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as he inhabits his body, of being constricted by his own shell and thus unable to discover the higher meanings of existence. In one tale, *Death's Deputy*, the story of a fighter pilot chosen by Death to lead a charmed life which magnetically surrounds itself with tragedy after tragedy to create a source of supply for Death, the ill-fated hero is led to meet Death by a messenger who, when the pilot unconsciously touches his collar and finds no flesh there, says, "Don't be a fool. Does a man have to drag a body everywhere?"

So it was the *mind* of man which fascinated Hubbard, and his biography emphasizes that life and travel in Asia kindled the flame of this interest. Expeditions into savage wildernesses intensified his hunger for knowledge and resulted, in 1938, in the writing of a book which has never been published. Its subject, according to Hubbard, was "the basic principles of human existence." Its name: *Excalibur*. Like the steel of its namesake, the title rings on the imagination. "Mr. Hubbard wrote this work in 1938," advertising copy announced in the early 1950's. "When four of the first fifteen people who read it went insane, Mr. Hubbard withdrew it and placed it in a vault where it has remained until now. Copies to selected readers only and then on signature. Released only on sworn statement not to permit other readers to read it. Contains data not to be released during Mr. Hubbard's stay on earth. The complete fast formula for clearing. The secret not even *Dianetics* disclosed. Facsimile of original, individually typed for manuscript buyer. Gold-bound and locked. Signed by author. Very limited. Per copy...$1,500."

Somewhat conflicting details about this phenomenal work were revealed in the July 1952 issue of *Science-Fiction Advertiser*, a sort of science-fiction newsletter published in Glendale, California. The article was written by a science-fiction devotee named Arthur J. Cox and related how, in 1948, Hubbard had told his fans about "dying" for eight minutes during


an operation performed on him while in the Navy. According to Cox,

Hubbard realized that, while he was dead, he had received a tremendous inspiration, a great Message which he must impart to others. He sat at his typewriter for six days and nights and nothing came out. Then, *Excalibur* emerged. *Excalibur* contains the basic metaphysical secrets of the universe. He sent it around to some publishers; they all hastily rejected it....He locked it away in a bank vault. But then, later, he informed us that he would try publishing a "diluted" version of it....*Dianetics*, I was recently told by a friend of Hubbard's, is based upon one chapter of *Excalibur*.

Whatever the price tag, *Excalibur* has actually inspired fans to try and buy it. Jack Horner told me of being with Hubbard in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953, when Hubbard was living and lecturing there, "and some guy came to the door trying to buy it. Well, Hubbard sent the guy away - handled him - and then looked at me and Jim Pinkham, and smiled." The moment seemed right, so Horner, who had begun to wonder if *Excalibur* really exists, got up enough courage and asked Hubbard point-blank. "I don't really recall word for word what he said," Horner went on, 'but he implied that *Excalibur* was something that had been put there to create interest."

"You mean Hubbard made the whole thing up?" I said, stunned. "*Excalibur* doesn't exist?"

"I do not believe it does," Horner said candidly. "I don't believe that such a book did or does exist." Not that Hubbard was incapable of sitting down and knocking out a book he would title *Excalibur*. He was always prolific, almost driven, and had once said to Horner, "Any writer who can't write forty thousand words a week is not worth his salt." To help you appreciate that claim, 40,000 words is somewhat more than half the size of the book you are reading at this moment.

Hubbard's innate sense of what creates *interest* was definitely failing into place in the late 1940's when he wrote something called *Original Thesis*. He peddled it unsuccessfully to several

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publishers, including Shasta, a Chicago house specializing in science fiction which had published some of his other works. It was when he changed the name of his thesis to *Dianetics* that things began to happen. Whatever fire had burned inside Lafayette Ronald Hubbard for thirty-eight years had now found the beginning of its ultimate outlet and form of expression. He was home. Or, put another way, he had begun to fulfill a promise he once made, according to Jack Horner, to well-known science-fiction writer A. E. Van Vogt. "One of these days," he supposedly said to Van Vogt before he had written *Dianetics*, "I'm going to come out with something that's going to make P.T. Barnum look like a piker."

Jack Horner grows almost nostalgic when he talks about Hubbard and their closeness - "about the same relationship, over the years, that Mr. Nixon had with Mr. Eisenhower when he was in office" - and the gol'darned *similarities*. "We grew up in fairly parallel lives," he said to me. "I lived all over the United States; I was in the Navy myself during World War II, I lied about my age to get in. And because of having lived in many countries and around in different places, I had a very definite sense of equality and of people. Just before Hubbard came out with *Dianetics*, I was saying to myself: 'Why do people remember what they remember? And why do they forget what they forget?' I was doing my own line of thinking on this whole thing when *Dianetics* came out. I read what it had to say and I was fascinated! I got hold of the damn book and I sat down and audited three people and Boy! it worked just like Hubbard said it would. I was familiar already with the techniques of Freud and Breuer and pretty well into the history of Western psychology, so I said, 'Gee, he may not have it *all*, but he sure got a good piece of it! Let's go!' I just dropped everything and got involved. I was a very hardheaded, pragmatic atheist at the time *Dianetics* came out. You talk to me about past lives, I was very skeptical. Because as far as I was concerned, you had one life to live and that was it; you better


do what you could while you were living it. However, when I audited enough people, and all of a sudden they kept dropping into past lives without my having mentioned them or their having read any books-" Horner suddenly gave a long, machine-gun-like laugh, as if to break the tension of what he was about to profess to believe, "-you begin to wonder, you know?"

The substantial contradictions of fact regarding Hubbard's background seem suddenly unimportant, or, as novelist William S. Burroughs put it in an article called "Scientology Revisited," published in England in *Mayfair* magazine: "Mr. Hubbard's degrees and credentials seem hardly relevant. Dianetics and Scientology are his credentials and he needs no others."

I agree. Let's take a look at the credentials.

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