Hubbard, or Jack Farnsworth, as he was known to the locals, died in circumstances less than fitting for an almighty leader. It was a bit ironic, as he had taken great care in researching how other great men died. He had specifically noted how Simón Bolívar, the liberator of South America from Spanish dominion, was a tragic figure who, in Hubbard’s version of history, made so many mistakes that though he conquered the continent, he died alone and penniless in a ditch. Hubbard was not by any means penniless, but despite his self-proclaimed wisdom and knowledge of all things, to expire from a stroke in a motor home parked in a barn was hardly a noble end.
The concocted story Miscavige presented (perhaps dreamed up with the Broekers; no one really knows), that Hubbard “causatively discarded his body to continue his OT research,” was, I realized much later, another stroke of evil genius. Hubbard, far from being the powerful OT at cause over matter, energy, space, time, and thought, was, at the end of his life, a mess. He had suffered several previous strokes as well as pancreatitis, he had been taking strong drugs for the pain, and his mental capacity was seriously impaired—not that I, or any other scientologist, knew that at the time. Without the story of his necessity to “discard his body” to “continue his OT research,” Hubbard’s death would have thrown a lot of followers into doubt. It may well have been the end of scientology.
Instead, the “acceptable truth” that Hubbard was so far beyond mere mortal status that he had left this physical world on his terms was what we all wanted to believe. This was the promise of scientology straight from the mouth of Hubbard: Follow the path I have laid out and you will transcend the endless cycle of birth and death and realize your full potential as a spiritual being independent of your body and the physical universe. Even better, it was now possible for the Commodore to finish his job of saving everyone. Yet again, what should have been a crack in the armor of certainty that shielded my mind became instead a reaffirmation and impetus to do even more. Now we had to make sure the goals of the Old Man were achieved no matter what— he had entrusted us with that task while he moved on to bigger and better things.
Hubbard’s demise raised an interesting question. As we had all signed up for a billion years of service, we were expected to return lifetime after lifetime to complete our contracts. Hubbard had written that Sea Org members who died would be granted a “21-year leave of absence” before they were expected to report for their next tour of duty, and they would even recall their history in the Sea Org. The motto of the Sea Org, after all, is “We Come Back.” But in all my years, I never saw anyone return to duty. The big question was: Would Hubbard come back? Was the Commodore returning to us in twenty-one years, in 2007? Or, because he was LRH, would he require less time off and return sooner? I, like most Sea Org members, I am sure, wondered about this, but never spoke of it to anyone. Questions about LRH and his abilities, intentions, or actions were just not acceptable. Asking would have been interpreted as being critical of Hubbard—questioning him in death was even more unthinkable than doing so when he was alive.
His demise also raised one of the most puzzling inconsistencies: though he’d had the time and foresight to clearly specify he did not want an autopsy done and wished to be cremated immediately, and though his elaborate estate planning had detailed precisely where his money was to go, he had not provided instructions or even a briefing for scientologists on what was to happen to the organization and who was to be his successor.
This was the man who wrote millions of words and delivered thousands of lectures explaining everything from how to wash windows to how to cure yourself of cancer. He routinely sent out “Ron’s Journals,” in which he updated scientologists on his activities and latest thoughts. Despite his supposed “causative departure” from this earth as he “discarded his body,” he neither spoke nor wrote anything that laid out his plans for the future or who would be in charge after he left or how long he was planning on being gone. To not have anything from Ron was an enormous omission that should have been a signal flare to every scientologist. But in the void his death brought to the scientology world, the thought never crossed my mind. It was probably the same for every scientologist. Or if they did think about it, they certainly were not about to voice any concern. It would be doubting Ron to second-guess anything he had done, especially in such an important matter as the future of scientology. It was unthinkable that he would not have had this well planned. I simply assumed in any circumstance like this that there was information I was not privy to that explained any inconsistencies or oddities.
Mike Rinder was raised as a Scientologist from early childhood. He went on to serve as Scientology’s international spokesperson and as the head of its Office of Special Affairs, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Church of Scientology International from its creation in 1983 until he left in 2007. Since renouncing Scientology, Rinder has become a prominent whistleblower against its abuses. He appeared in the HBO documentary Going Clear and cohosted all three seasons of the Emmy Award-winning show Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath on A&E. He and Remini currently cohost the podcast Scientology: Fair Game.