Annoying Diversion

The Fabricated Face Of Young L. Ron Hubbard

By Edith Sorenson

Ron: Letters and Journals, part of the Church of Scientology's RON Series, edited and published by the Religious Technology Center.

RON: LETTERS AND Journals, is the first in a new series of supplemental Ron publications--the liner notes say so. Moreover, this latest text from the Religious Technology Center is a real book with an ISPN number and everything.

Books L. Ron Hubbard is the father of Scientology; he and his unnamed minions have authored more than 200 books, perhaps even more nuisance lawsuits, and recently even cowed the fearsome I.R.S.

Who was L. Ron? What seminal events shaped the man who would be guru to both John Travolta and CNN newsfrau Greta Van Susteren?

History tells us L. Ron published Dianetics in 1950. (At the time, L. Ron was aiming for psychology. Critics of psychology decry the social science as a modern religion, but ironically Scientology became a religion only after shrinks laughed at L. Ron and refused to let him play their reindeer games.) History is a little fuzzy on when L. Ron shuffled off this mortal coil, but we now have a glimpse of L. Ron's boyhood.

The sub-subhead for Ron: Letters and Journals is "Early Years of Adventure," and the notebook-sized paperback presents the musings and nascent philosophy of young L. Ron.

At the age of 16, according to the introduction, L. Ron "began to fill the pages of an old account ledger found in his grandfather's attic." Young L. Ron was not like other boys. Even then, he knew for certain, "I would, in some unclear way, improve the world."

At present, L. Ron's questionable claims to world improvement are the construction of the Celebrity Center in Beverly Hills and Tom Cruise's career continuing long after his Risky Business cuteness has faded.

The young L. Ron doesn't mention pulp fiction, E-meters or establishing a stable of tax lawyers. He shows a flair for clerical work, though. No errors mar the pages and pages of typed journal entries, even those allegedly tapped out shipboard with "the typewriter perched on the edge of a shifting bunk."

Yes, typed. The usual book of letters and journals is copied over and set in type. Ron is packaged as though the original words of the young L. Ron, whether pen-scratching or typed, had been laid out page by page, and photographed.

What is the reader to think? That young L. Ron somehow kept a bound, typed diary from the mid-'20s? That the prescient young L. Ron footnoted his own diary?

The ostensibly typed entries deserve serious study because the text flows around the photographs, snapshots from Guam, Puerto Rico, and Helena High School. Instead of being covered by the three-by-fives, the words slide to margins moving around the quaint pictures.

Perhaps even more interesting is the handwriting of young L. Ron. It seems he was large, and contained multitudes. At least three distinct styles are present. Perhaps these represent L. Ron's three major life phases. His carefree youth and early writing career; the sour pre-Dianetics days when L. Ron realized that (like the pre-Communion Whitley Striber) he was a money-making science-fiction author without fans and groupies; and the post-Dianetics phenomena.

The presentation is intriguing, the text mostly irksome. We learn that in 1928, the young L. Ron knew the Great Wall of China "is the only work of man's hand visible from Mars." That's wrong, and an unlikely assertion for the time. The young L. Ron usually ignores works of man's hand and the natural world, preferring to drool about the sadness of life and boo and hoo about the plight of others. The only human notes in the dull and humorless whining are cigarette references.

The young L. Ron is soaked in storms and gripes about wet cigarettes, the young L. Ron is broke and can't afford tobacco, and yet there are no photographs of young L. Ron smoking. The whole book is this way. You might stumble across a phrase or image that seems possible, but as a whole this faux scrapbook reeks. Was young L. Ron a phony, or was Ron cooked up later to further the obscure (albeit profitable) purposes of Scientology? And does it matter which?

Scientology is a cereal-box religion, and reading Ron is an idle diversion that quickly becomes annoying. TW

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