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The Mind Behind the Religion : Chapter Two : Creating the Mystique : Hubbard's image was crafted of truth, distorted by myth.

The Scientology Story. Today: The Making of L. Ron Hubbard. First in a six-part series.NEXT: Part Two-- The Selling of Scientology.

June 24, 1990|Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos | Time Staff Writers

In seeking disability money, Hubbard told military doctors that he had been "lamed" not by a bullet but by a chronic hip infection that set in after his transfer from the warm tropics of the Pacific to the icy winters of the East Coast, where he attended a Navy-sponsored school of military government.

Moreover, his eye problems did not result from an exploding bomb or the blinding flash of a gun. Rather, Hubbard said in military records, he contracted conjunctivitis from exposure to "excessive tropical sunlight."

The truth is that Hubbard spent the last seven months of his active duty in a military hospital in Oakland, for treatment of a duodenal ulcer he developed while in the service.

Hubbard did, however, receive a monthly, 40% disability check from the government through at least 1980.

Government records also contradict Hubbard's claim that he had fully regained his health by 1947 with the power of his mind and the techniques of his future religion.

Late that year, he wrote the government about having "long periods of moroseness" and "suicidal inclinations." That was followed by a letter in 1948 to the chief of naval operations in which he described himself as "an invalid."

And, during a 1951 examination by the Veterans Administration, he was still complaining of eye problems and a "boring-like pain" in his stomach, which he said had given him "continuous trouble" for eight years, especially when "under nervous stress."

Significantly, that examination occurred after the publication of "Dianetics," which promised a cure for the very ailments that plagued the author himself then and throughout his life, including allergies, arthritis, ulcers and heart problems.

In Hubbard's defense, Scientology officials accuse others of distorting and misrepresenting his military glories.

They say the Navy "covered up" Hubbard's sinking of the submarines either to avoid frightening the civilian population or because the commander who investigated the incident had earlier denied the existence of subs along the West Coast.

Moreover, church officials charge that records released by the military are not only grossly incomplete but perhaps were falsified to conceal Hubbard's secret activities as an intelligence officer.

To support their point, a church official gave the Times an authentic-looking Navy document that purports to confirm some of Hubbard's wartime claims. After examining the document, though, a spokesman for the Naval Military Personnel Command Center said its contents are not supported by Hubbard's personnel record.

He declined further comment.

Hubbard's biographical claims were not confined to the events of his adult life.

He claimed, for example, that as a youth he traveled extensively throughout Asia, studying at the feet of holy men who first kindled in him a burning fascination with the spirit of man.

"My basic ordination for religious work," Hubbard once wrote, "was received from Mayo in the Western Hills of China when I was made a lama priest after a year as a neophyte."

Hubbard did, in fact, tour China while his father was stationed in Guam with the Navy. However, a diary of that period makes no mention of his spiritual awakening. Rather, it portrays him as an intolerant young Westerner with little understanding of an unfamiliar culture or race.

He described the lama temples he toured as "very odd and heathenish."

After visiting the Great Wall of China, Hubbard remarked: "If China turned it into a rolly coaster it could make millions of dollars every year."

He described the "yellow races" as "simple and one-tracked." Wrote Hubbard: "The trouble with China is there are too many chinks here."

Hubbard also claimed that he spent many of his childhood years on a large cattle ranch in Montana, where he grew up.

"Long days were spent riding, breaking broncos, hunting coyote and taking his first steps as an explorer," according to a Hubbard-approved biography issued by the church.

But Hubbard's aunt laughed when asked whether he had been a pint-sized cowboy.

"We didn't have a ranch," said Margaret Roberts, 87, of Helena, Mont. "Just several acres (with) a barn on it. ... We had one cow (and) four or five horses."

Hubbard's biographical claims took center stage during the 1984 Superior Court lawsuit in which the church accused a former member of stealing the Scientology founder's private papers. Ex-member Gerald Armstrong said he took the documents as protection against possible church harassment.

Judge Paul G. Breckenridge Jr. found in Armstrong's favor and, in his ruling, issued a harsh assessment of the church's revered leader.

"The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background and achievements. ..."

"At the same time," Breckenridge continued, "it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating and inspiring his adherents."

Hubbard, the judge said, was "a very complex person."

The church and Hubbard's widow, Mary Sue, have appealed Breckenridge's decision, saying that it was based on "irrelevant, distorted and, in many instances, invented testimony" of embittered former Scientologists.

"Any controversy about him (Hubbard) is like a speck of dust on his shoes compared to the millions of people who loved and respected him," a Scientology spokesman said. "What he has accomplished in the brief span of one lifetime will have impact on every man, woman and child for 10,000 years."

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