My last post about L. Ron Hubbard for Real – Part 2- ruffled a lot of feathers. There was humor intended in the post which some people didn’t get. However, in that post and all the previous posts I have written the main point I attempt to communicate is that ex-cultists should try to learn to think critically in its truest sense. Critical – not in the Scientology sense, meaning you have unspoken transgressions – but critical through examination and significant study of the subject at hand. Carefully examine Scientology and other subjects you are involved in, the leader(s), its genus, and belief system before taking the plunge to be a follower. The other key factor in the last post was that the narrow and rote thinking of many Independent and Scientology counselors can cause severe damage to their client’s psyche and health. The what, when and to who needs to be carefully considered by those who claim they can solve cases in the name of the Scientology Bridge. Fully understanding Scientology, what it is and what it is not, is vital. The same goes for learning about Hubbard.
The movie, “The Master,” gives a melodramatic visage of Hubbard and his fledgling organization in the 1950s to the early 1960s. Every Hollywood movie about historical figures or the characters based on them usually takes major liberties with the truth to forward dramatic content. Reality is lessened. In the movie, “A Beautiful Mind,” the central character, John Nash, had visual hallucinations for cinematic purposes; in reality his disorder was auditory. The movie about the famous racehorse Secretariat portrayed his owner as nearly bankrupt. The truth was that her ranch was solvent because the year before, her horse, Riva Ridge, had won two of the Triple Crown races. But the fictional character and the historical figure in the movie “Shogun” were very closely actualized. The fictional Shogun was named Toranaga, the real Shogun was Tokugawa. The story was very close to true history; both stories are equally dramatic and fascinating. The same goes for the movie, “The Master.”
For a sense of what it was like to be around Hubbard and the flavor of the times, it was a good snapshot. However, the movie’s title, “The Master” is misleading. Hubbard did not herald his mastery until he became “Source” and “Commodore” in the mid 1960s. After that he claimed to be a master in most everything: administration, logic, sailing, photography, music, cinema, cleaning windows, what have you… The movie’s Lancaster Dodd, played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, showed Hubbard’s penchants for storytelling, charade, addiction, need for speed, space opera case evaluations, infidelity in his early years, and his worst character defect, revenge. Hoffman could not or did not fully capture his gregariousness, warmth, charm, humor, ability to entertain, and his bigger than life persona. Hubbard was so charming when he chose to be that strangers would practically float out of their shoes. On the other hand, his wrath could make you feel like you were as insignificant as a cockroach on the Apollo. Hoffman tried to show this dichotomous behavior in the movie, but didn’t seem to have the horsepower to do so.
Quell and Miscavige, A Theory
QuellPaul Thomas Anderson, the movie’s director, added a character that did not exist in the early years of Dianetics or Scientology as far as I know, but foreshadows what was to come. One of my astute friends surmised that the director took the liberty to create a Miscavige type character for the movie. Every scene in a drama requires conflict. What better character to create conflict than a Miscavige type. In order for a “master” to build a cult they need a close dedicated circle of true believers; some are wealthy to fund the movement, some are friends and/or family who provide undying loyalty, and there is always an enforcer to do the dirty work. Anderson added Freddie Quell, played by Joaquin Phoenix. Thugs don’t usually rise to the top of the group because they aren’t smart enough, but in Scientology’s case the enforcer became the new leader.
Research and Processing
The research techniques shown in the movie could have been accurate; I don’t think anyone really knows what went on behind closed doors in initial Dianetic development. What was exactly done and for how long is not recorded. That has been an unending source of conjecture and controversy for followers and critics alike. The research scenes with Dodd and Quell in the movie were certainly interesting, yet eerie. I commented about Hubbard’s research techniques in my Purification Rundown post (http://blog.scientologyrecovery.com/the-pufication-rundown-deaths-and-the-reasons-why/).The assertions that the research was not scientific were made loudly and clearly in the movie. I wasn’t there to see the research unfold in the 1950s, but I have firsthand knowledge of what occurred in the later years. None of the research ever complied with lay scientific criteria. The movie son’s and Hubbard’s real life son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr., claimed the science was made up as he went along. A very chilling statement if it was true.
The processing and training sequences were recreated somewhat accurately. They showed what can turn on in a session and what happens when processing goes awry. They didn’t show much in the way of wins. For dramatic effect the film represented the processing as bizarre and made it clear that the possibility of heavy psychosis could result from it. Psychotic breaks have occurred throughout the history of Dianetics and Scientology. The original backers of Dianetics withdrew their support due to them, the UK outlawed Scientology in the 1960s after a well publicized one, and people leave now if they are spun in by processing (read “My Billion Year Contract” by Nancy Many). The causes of the breakdowns are usually caused by unskilled practitioners delving into the mind and/or the innate risk in the upper level’s use of exorcism.
The movie family was portrayed fairly accurately with a few exceptions. The actress, Amy Adams, did an excellent job capturing the strength it takes for a wife to stand behind and deal with a charismatic, controversial figure. The real Mary Sue was tough and usually fair minded. She was about the only person that Hubbard would take any advice from up until the “Snow White” FBI raids. After that Hubbard distanced himself from her. Snow White led to the marriage’s demise.
Hubbard didn’t spend very much time with his children, especially the ones from the wives before Mary Sue. I met Hubbard’s daughter Katie. She didn’t know her father too well. She would come to the LA Org to talk to the old timers and drop off a letter for her father once in a while. I worked with each one of the children by Mary Sue except the youngest, Arthur. On the Apollo, the family met once a week when Hubbard was aboard. The family dinner was always a source of angst for them; especially Quentin. He told me that his stomach would tie up in knots beforehand and he rarely ate at the meal. He dreaded the penetrating looks his father gave him. Diana and Suzette were not as afraid. None of the children talked about their father too much, if at all. The movie took place in an earlier, kinder era. By the time I was on the scene, the oldest son, LRH, Jr., was long gone. LRH’s relationship with his own children and family was eventually displaced by his attachment to the messengers.
I recommend Scientologists go see “The Master” to get a glimpse of what Hubbard and the birth of Scientology was like. But be aware that the movie was basically a “bromance” between the Master, Dodd, and his indigent miscreant (wrongdoer) follower, Quell. The film has the requisite amount of nudity, sex, and dramatic content for Hollywood executives to fund it. It is definitely not for children or the chaste. The audience at the theater seemed to be enthralled. There is award talk for the actors and director, and deservedly so. However, it is not the best cult movie I have ever seen. There was a spellbinding movie called “Split Image” that can be found on Amazon.com. It shows the cult leader and the true believer experience much more accurately. It details cult mind control, recruitment, indoctrination, and the blind loyalty of the followers. It has a capture and deprogramming segment that is compelling. The film exposes the victim’s mind in pictures coming through the dissonance, the thought stopping, and the dissociation that destructive cults can cause. It also shows the deep isolation and disenfranchisement of the post cult experience.
“The Master” is about Scientology and that is important for those who follow it. It is also meaningful for those of you who hope beyond hope that this movie furthers the snowball effect of negative exposure that will miraculously get the corporate church to change for the better. The dream underpinning this hope is a safe return to a Miscavige-less church. Scientology has officially hit the big time in pop culture with “The Master.”
I wonder when Miscavige sees the film if he will identify with any of the characters in the movie? I also wonder if Joaquin Phoenix will credit Miscavige for inspiration in playing Quell… Gee, maybe he and Miscavige will be signing autographs at award shows in the near future.