Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 1/17/2013
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I’ve fallen down my fair share of internet rabbit holes searching for information on Scientology out of pure curiosity before this book was published, so I was really excited when my book club chose to read it in April. Even though I already had a decent understanding of L. Ron Hubbard and the religion, there were quite a few surprises waiting for me in Going Clear.
The book begins by following the early life of L. Ron Hubbard, as he grew from a child with few connections to religion to Scientology’s founder. Hubbard’s time in the military is detailed extensively, as the records kept by the US government seem to clash with the journals Hubbard kept (and what is now seen as truth by the Church of Scientology).
“In the hospital, Hubbard says, he was also given a psychiatric examination…He conspired to take a look at the records to see what the doctor had written. ‘ I got to the end and it said, “In short, this officer has no neurotic or psychotic tendencies of any kind whatsoever.” ‘ (There is no psychiatric evaluation in Hubard’s medical records.)”
Hubbard gains popularity as a science fiction writer, penning thousands of stories for pulp fiction magazines. He eventually ends up developing a series of counseling techniques, known as Dianetics, which he is said to have first tested on fans of his stories. Though Dianetics had a brief period of popularity, a series of problems lead Hubbard to shift toward a new focus: Scientology. Going Clear then begins to expose the major beliefs, practices and controversies surrounding the Church of Scientology. I don’t want to spoil any of this section, since no one should miss the opportunity to discover all that craziness on their own. Hubbard was a fascinating leader and will no doubt leave you puzzled by the legacy he left behind.
“The broad canvas of science fiction allowed Hubbard to think in large-scale terms about the human condition. He was bold. He was fanciful. He could easily invent an elaborate, plausible universe. But it is one thing to make that universe believable, and another to believe it. That is the difference between art and religion.”
If you want to take a quick little dive into the Scientology’s secrets, you can listen to Lawrence Wright’s interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air, where they discuss some of the book’s highlights.