Saturday, 21 February 2015

From the Archives I: 1972

A 20-minute French programme on Scientology from 1972 includes interviews with some key figures from the movement. Can you help name some of the other members interviewed?

Here's a little gem that turned up during a rummage around the website of France's broadcasting archive, l'Institut national de l'audiovisuel.

This is an extract from a 20-minute report on Scientology, broadcast in January 1972. It was filmed mainly at Saint Hill, East Grinstead, southern England – Hubbard's base in the 1960s until the authorities made it clear he had outstayed his welcome.

It's a fascinating little time capsule, featuring at least two senior figures from the movement at that time. But who were the others? If you can brave the best-forgotten hair styles and fashions, perhaps some of you can help put some names to the faces.

In this opening segment we get six people introducing themselves, some of whom we don't see any more of in the full report.

Pause and savour the title, as it unrolls across the screen 34 seconds in: “La Scientologie”, it says, in the typographical equivalent of flare jeans.

The scene now is a Scientology church service – they have those all the time, right? – featuring a self-conscious looking choir singing what sounds like a tailor-made hymm for Scientology.

Listen hear all you beings near and far,
There's a way you can change the way you are,
You can be free, free just like me,
I found the road that will reach the stars...

Does anyone know if this was one of Hubbard's efforts?

A minister walks to the pulpit and begins reciting the Creed of the Church of Scientology. As the clip ends, he's telling us how all men are created equal and that the spirit can be saved.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but most of what I've heard from former members suggests that this kind of service was for show, to impress outsiders with Scientology's religious credentials.

I was curious to know who the others were, so I ran a short preview of this piece over at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker earlier and appealed to them to fill in the blanks. They delivered, as I knew they would.

Before I went to the Bunker, of the six people who introduce themselves at the beginning I had only identified David Gaiman, one of Hubbard's most capable lieutenants, who died in 2009. You can find an official tribute to him here.

So who are the others? Here are the names the Bunker came up with: unless otherwise specified, I had at least two credible sources. UPDATE: I've been able to add some more names after some emails from contacts and a very helpful exchange at the Ex-Scientologist Message Board (ESMB). This is the line-up we now have:
  1. The spokesman for Scientology is David Gaiman;
  2. The Commanding Officer is John Aczel;
  3. A communicator: blonde woman, couldn't catch the accent; sources at ESMB think this might be Eva (Eva?) Isaacson/Marinowicz/Ronnqvist.
  4. Commanding officer of the college is Malcolm Nieman;
  5. Deputy for Policy Knowledge: I think the consensus is now that this is Donat Perbohner, but if you don't agree have a look at the debate over at ESMB;
  6. The Registrar is Heidi Keeley (now Vos).
We have also made progress identifying the choir, though there is still some uncertainty about the rather uncharismatic Scottish minister.1

Here's a screen shot of that Scottish minister (Tony Ortega has another at his site). A number of people have suggested that this is Ian Logan (or perhaps Iain, given he was Scottish).

For the choir, one source suggested, left to right: Lynn Collins, Doris Brown Annie Watts, Catherine Layton (Barton) and Marion Barton. Collins, Brown and Marion Barton have been named by at least one other source, Barton by her daughter, which I think settles it. (The video above gives you close-ups of them all.)

David Gaiman pops up a little later in the programme, doing a decent job of presenting Scientology as a reasonable way of life. He was rather good at that – better, certainly, than some of his more excitable successors.

He was a delightful man, one source told me. “He was what you would call a real menschHe always tried to do the right thing, whatever the difficulties.

In the early 1980s, John Aczel was one of the victims of the purge carried out by Miscavige. According to several sources he was victim of one of the notorious spitting orders issued by Hubbard, which is to say at least one senior executive spit in Aczel's face in compliance with a written order from Hubbard. Several sources tell me they saw the order: others witnessed Aczel's humiliation.

This is how one former colleague, Joe Howard, described Aczel during a discussion a few years ago over at Marty Rathbun's blog:

John Aczel was the mildest mannered person I ever met in the S.O. [Sea Org]. English, educated at Cambridge. His passion was poetry. He loved cats. Kind of eccentric but very intelligent and a very, very sweet person. I considered him a very good friend... I still consider [him] a friend. One of the many still in the S.O. that I miss.

Scroll down that discussion and you'll find more than one person agreeing with that assessment. Among them is Chuck Beatty, who posts a picture of Aczel, apparently taken in 2008: so far as anyone knows, he is still in Scientology.

The full report also features an interview with another major player from that period: Jane Kember.

Kember, who is is described as the Commander in Chief, would I think at that time already have been the most senior figure in the Guardians Office after Mary Sue Hubbard and the Commodore himself.

Jane Kember
“Ron Hubbard is the greatest man on this planet,” she tells the interviewer. “There is no doubt in my mind of that.” Much good her devotion did her when the U.S. Courts went after them for wholesale espionage a few years later.

She has been showing up on Scientology Service Completion announcements (in their own publications, as recently as 2011).

She is a powerful personality,” Terril Park writes over at ESMB. I recall OTs trembling at rebutting her comments,” he adds. (OTs are Scientologists doing the advanced levels, members who are themselves meant to be powerful personalities.)

Here she is during the interview: is it me, or has she adopted a characterisically Hubbardian pose (which he himself borrowed from Crowley)?

Patrick Deluz (sp?)
As you might expect, the team interviewed a number of French-speakers among the followers. This young man, described as a supervisor, talks about the joie de vivre and the sense of power Scientology has given him.

“I have found a practical philosophy that gives me and gives my friends, desirable changes in life,” he says. One source over at ESMB thinks this might be Patric Deluz (sp?).

This woman, another Francophone, tells the interview how happy she is, adding: “The whole world would be happier if everyone was a Scientologist.”

“And will that happen, one day?” asks the interviewer.

“Yes,” she answers, without hesitation.

The documentary films standard Scientology practice, such as the clay demo exercises that are supposed to help you learn things by expressing them in a tangible manner through clay models.

There is also an extended sequence showing one of the early Training Routines, where two students try to stare at each other without flinching. “To learn to control oneself but also to control other people, is one of the basic exercises,” says the commentary. Someone's done their homework.

Another French member tells how she was recruited in Australia eight years earlier (which would make it around 1964) She explains how she had left France in 63 and met a Scientologist in the house where she was staying. She asked about his beliefs, he gave her a book and everything followed from there.

Asked why she had chosen Scientology and not another system, her response echoes the kind of thing Hubbard says in his lectures and writings. It was something she could observe, understand and apply, she explains.

“I didn't want to – like the intellectuals – learn something and sit on the divan to impress the neighbours. I wanted to really use what I learned in Scientology, you see.”

Describing the benefits of being Clear and then OT II – well into the advanced levels of Scientology training – she says: “I am very sure of myself now, I had much more certainty than I had before, and my ability to learn work and to perform – ” she clicks her fingers “ – is very fast.”

But her most important ability is to be able to love, she says: she really know what love is. By now, the camera has gradually pulled away from its initial close-up of her in front of a window to show her standing beside a giant photograph of Hubbard.

She humours the interviewer with a few scraps in response to questions about past lives, but it is clear she thinks he is trying to make her look foolish.

“Do you believe you are immortal?” the interviewer asks. I don't believe,” she replies: “I know.”

Cut to a ceremony where an official is presenting an ecstatic student – Ina Weiss? – with her certificate for having qualified from the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course as a Hubbard Senior Scientologist.

Ina Weiss?
The venue looks a little like a village hall with a podium covered with a dark green-and-gold Scientology symbol. (According to "Techie", over at the bunker, this is the chapel at Saint Hill, " of the famous Clearing Course films and and the Saint Hill Special Briefing Course." He reckons it held about 60 people.) 

The mistress of ceremonies struggles to generate the kind of charisma and humour that came so easily to Hubbard. The consensus over at ESMB is that this is Sheila Massey-Hicks, from South Africa. (And a trawl back through the message board's archives suggests that she was not universally loved.)

Sheila Massey-Hicks
The scene switches to  another interior, another service, this time on board the Athena. The team interviews the vessels captain, identified only as Captain Spence, but this would probably be Mitch Spence.

He pops up in the accounts of one or two former members and according to Travers Harris, who posts as “Lexmark”, over at the Ex-Scientologist Message Board, he is now dead.

His name appears on this Scientology document, which includes a long list of people declared suppressive. (He's at the bottom of page 21 – and it's a two-column list that runs for nearly 35 pages. No doubt it's got a lot longer since then.)2

Mitch Spence
Spence tells the interviewer that he had spent four years in the United States navy (and perhaps also the Merchant navy – it's hard to catch because of the French voiceover). Certainly he looks the part, and of all those interviewed he comes across as the most natural.

The report does offer a brief interview with Cyril Vosper, one of the few former members to speak out in those day. His exposé, The Mindbenders, had been published a year earlier, in 19713

He explains how he was kicked out of the movement after 14 years because he no longer believed in the system. Scientology has become a fascist organisation obsessed with power and control over people, he tells the interviewer.

The piece closes with Kember giving a sermon and more choir girls singing – exactly the kind of religious service that many ex-members say were staged strictly for visiting journalists and other investigators.

“The Scientologists have been in France for three years,” says the voiceover.4

This programme played on Fr3, one of France's state channels, on its Le troisième oeil slot (The Third Eye). It went out on January 28, 1972.

The commentary is limited, though they do mention that Hubbard is now persona non grata in Britain and that the movement has suffered a string of convictions around the world. Mainly though, the film-makers sit back and let the Scientologists say their piece.

This rather softly-softly approach – giving their interview subjects enough rope, so to speak – is quite effective. Light years away, certainly, from some of the more aggressive investigations of recent years.5

The programme was directed by André Weinfeld, a French-born writer and director. As he explains on his website, from the mid-1960s he made dozens of programmes for French television, covering the music scene in the Paris into the 1970s.

Along the way, he also worked as a war correspondent and made a detour into advertising at McCann Erickson. Later, he covered the music scene in the States, rubbing shoulders with the legends of that era, everyone from Hendrix and Joplin to the Stones and The Who.

And then there was the 10 years married to Raquel Welch – so tough all round really.

If you want to see the full 20-minute programme on Scientology – in French, no sub-titles – you can download it from the INA archives here. It will only cost you two euros.
1  When I hear his delivery I can't help but think of Rikki Fulton's Rev I M Jolly.
2  The document, Flag Executive Directive 2830, is dated September 10, 1990. But since it is an updated list, Spence may well have been declared much earlier. Any details gratefully received.
3  Atack acknowledges Vosper's help in the introduction to his A Piece of Blue Sky.
4  In fact they claim to have been in France as far back as the 1950s, but the reference in the documentary may be to the opening of their first public office – I'll try and get back to you on that.
5  This edition of Le Troisième Oeil went out of FR3 on January 28, 1972. It features interviews with senior Scientology figures from that period, including Neil Gaiman and Jane Kember. “Ron Hubbard is the greatest man on this planet. There is no doubt in my mind of that,” Kember tells the interviewer.