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Sunday Times
15 Nov 87
Books: Face to face with fanaticism / 
Review of 'Bare-Faced Messiah' by Russell Miller 


   BARE-FACED MESSIAH by Russell Miller/Michael Joseph Pounds 12.95 pp390

   Ron Hubbard's theory of Dianetics was introduced to the public in the
United States in a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction in May 1950.
The purpose of Dianetics was to gain access to the 'engrams' caused in the
mind by physical or emotional pain. To relieve the patient from the stress
of 'engrams' it was necessary to locate the earliest ones which HUBBARD
claimed were often pre-natal and which sometimes occurred within 24 hours of
   Having cleared the 'engrams' out of the way, the mind would then function
like a computer at full efficiency and the patient's IQ would rise
dramatically. He would then be freed of all psychological and psychosomatic
illnesses and his memory would improve to the point of total recall. The
treatment was given by an 'auditor' who interrogated his patient, whose
responses were recorded on a device called an E-meter. This was a black
metal box with a lighted dial, adjustment knobs and wires connected to tin cans.
   In 1952 Dianetics gave way to Scientology which HUBBARD said was a
logical extension of Dianetics. The difference between Dianetics and
Scientology was alleged to be that while Dianetics addressed the body,
Scientology addressed the soul. Both theories were without any scientific
foundation whatsoever but a remarkable number of people were beguiled into
believing in their efficacy.
   In 1953 HUBBARD incorporated three Churches in the USA, aware that there
was a need among his followers for some religious belief. He was also
mindful of the tax benefits which would follow the acceptance of the cult as
a religion. In 1959 the cult purchased Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead
for the purpose of establishing the world-wide headquarters of Scientology.
   Hundreds of young Americans came to the headquarters to be audited and
trained in the theory of Scientology and thereafter to proselytize and enrol
other young persons in the extremely expensive training for auditing and
   The member of parliament for East Grinstead was Geoffrey Johnson Smith
who was concerned about the complaints he had received from his constituents
and others. He appeared on television on July 25, 1968, and repeated much of
what was said by the minister of health, Kenneth Robinson, in the House of
Commons on that day and on an earlier occasion: 'He (the minister of health)
says that what they do is direct themselves deliberately towards the weak,
the unbalanced, the immature, the rootless and the mentally or emotionally
unstable; to promise them remoulded mature personalities and set about
fulfilling the promise by means of untrained staff ignorantly practising
quasi-psychological techniques including hypnosis. And he thinks that it can
be, on occasions, harmful to people.'
   Geoffrey Johnson Smith was immediately sued for damages for libel by the
cult. He defended the proceedings and pleaded that what he had said was true
and that it was fair comment on a matter of public interest. The hearing
took place in November 1970 and lasted for about two months. A succession of
unhappy witnesses told the court of the alienation of their children by the
cult, of the impoverishment and punishment of the students at Saint Hill
Manor and of the kidnapping of at least one sick student. Mr Johnson Smith
succeeded in his defence to the action and the cult had to pay a substantial
sum for his costs. Not deterred by this setback the cult continued its
policy of harassing its opponents and using litigation to that end.
   Another, half-hearted, intervention by the Government in the affairs of
the cult took place in January 1969 when Richard Crossman, the then
secretary of state for Social Services, set up an enquiry into its
activities. The Foster Report was published in December 1971 and one of its
recommendations was that the practice of psychotherapy for a reward should
be restricted to members of a profession properly qualified in its
techniques. I am not aware of any legislation proposing such a sensible
safeguard for patients.
   Russell Miller has done a service to his readers by surmounting the legal
obstacles placed in his way by the Scientologists who attempted to discredit
him and to prevent the publication of this book. It is admirably written,
well documented and it must have entailed a great deal of painstaking
research. The evidence Mr Miller adduces to support the facts in his book
has been gathered carefully from witnesses who were once bemused by the cult
and who were fearful of giving him the information he required. Unless one
has come face to face with the fanaticism of the cult's adherents, it is
easy to dismiss the fears of these informants as imaginary. But it must be
borne in mind that although HUBBARD disappeared in 1980 and died in 1986,
the cult still has sufficient power to entrap the young and the lonely.

Ben Hooberman is a solicitor who acted for Geoffrey Johnson Smith in the
libel action brought against him by the Scientologists

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