[Note: typos preserved.]
The Age (Melbourne), 20 May 1977, p8
WHATEVER happened to L. Ron Hubbard?
Not much is heard these days of the 65-year-old science fiction writer whose most novel creation is the Church of the New Faith, the cult of scientology.
Sine he stepped down in 1968 as executive director of the multi-million-dollar Hubbard empire, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard has been hard to catch.
The man who has variously called himself an explorer, nuclear physicist and doctor of philosophy has had various "uncontactable" addresses since retirement. He's been on archaeological expeditions, world cruises in his yacht and is now, they say, "somewhere in America".
But while his whereabouts are uncertain, there is no doubt about the growth of his psycho-religious cult.
Since the publication of Mr. Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science Of Mental Health in the early 1950s, more than 80 million people are reputed to have undergone scientology processing, tens of millions of dollars have been channelled to the organisation's headquarters in England and America and the claimed membership now stands at two million.
The basis of the Hubbard philosophy - now articulated in more than 20 publications by the former US naval officer - is: "The human mind should be capable of solving the problems of the human mind."
The scientologists attempt to solve the individual's problems of communication between himself and his environment in counselling sessions in which the Hubbard-patented electrometer (the "E-meter") is used to probe key personal problems.
The methods have provoked international furores which have led to Government bans on the cult in many parts of the world and repeated allegations of "brain-washing", mental cruelty and financial exploitation.
As early as 1963 the Labor leader in the Victorian Legislative Council, Mr. John Galbally, described the scientologists as "a charlatan organisation used for blackmail and intimidation".
The cult was outlawed in Victoria under the Psychological Practices Act in 1965, following a 159-day inquiry which cost £75,000 and condemned scientology as an evil pseudo-science, a danger to the moral and mental health of the community, based on fiction and propagated by falsehood.
The inquiry report, prepared by Mr. K. V. Anderson, QC, said scientology adherents were "... sadly deluded and often mentally ill. Many scientology techniques, beyond the elementary stages, are essentially those of command or authoratative hypnosis, and are potentially dangerous to the mental health."
His finding followed inquiry evidence which included claims that:
The State Government seized files and records from the proliferating scientology centres. The cult responded to the raids and vilification with libel suits.
The elusive L. Ron Hubbard materialised to send two cables to the Premier, Mr. Bolte, threatening a $20 million suit ... which Mr. Bolte dismissed as "nonsensical piffle".
The crackdown was inadequate. By 1968 meetings were again being held in many suburbs and scientology leaders invited police and State Cabinet Ministers to attend one of these underground "services".
The protracted skirmishing was interrupted when, in 1972, the new Federal Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, proclaimed the movement - under the name the Church of the New Faith - a recognised denomination.
Within a year, the West and South Australian Governments had withdrawn their bans.
Now, Victoria, the last area in the world where scientology is outlawed, has moved to allow the operations by registering a minister of the church.
L. Ron Hubbard, his followers say, will be "thrilled". But where do we send the telegrams?