Family Life, from my perspective – part 1

1951 – 1963

1945 – 1951

In 1945, World War II ends and the Cold War begins. President Harry Truman signs the National Security Act in 1947, which starts the U.S. on the path of being a security state,1 and by 1949, the Cold War is officially well underway.

The “war to end all wars,” World War I (1914–1918), was officially joined by the United States in 1917, and it fought in it for about five months. Winning that war helped Europe prepare the stage for World War Part II which the U.S. officially joined in 1941, and in which it fought for about three years and eight months. Then comes the Cold War, in which the U.S. will fight in several “hot” conflicts totalling about eleven years. After the cold war comes various other debacles and conflicts totalling, so far, about twenty-eight years of war, and counting.

Clearly, the United States, at least to more evolved minds, has long required a better way to play games and, now as then, also requires better games to play, especially after the end of the Cold War Part I.

The point is that in 1950, the competition between a few stalwart souls and the vast military industrial complex to try to switch out the Orwellian “perpetual war” game for something different, something more creative, is officially joined by my father, and it’s this race that becomes the setting for his personal and private life when he marries again in 1951 and starts a new family.


Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, my father, was born in the mid-west of the United States in 1911. His parents were middle-class; his father was in the navy. This is ten years after the end of the Victorian era, while the debate about the death of God is raging on, and three years before it’s all but a proven fact with the outbreak of World War I.

My mother, Mary Sue Whipp, was born in Houston, Texas, in 1932, also into a middle class family, her father was a manager for Sears, Roebuck & Co. This is at the start of the Great Depression, and seven years before WWII breaks out.

Twenty-six years later, I’m born, the last of the seven children my father would have and the fourth and last child of my mother’s.

The 20th century was a century of real chaos. In fact, by the time I was born, the world had been experiencing unusually dramatic change for a good while—close to 200 years. By the late fifties, though, the previous 44 years since 1914 had seen the Earth groan from two world wars, one of the greatest medical catastrophes in history (the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918–1920), and the organised mass murder of some estimated 250 million souls by their own governments, which includes the Nazi Holocaust. There was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean Conflict, the Cold War, and much more mayhem besides. Wildly, it was also a time of unprecedented economic growth, and so there was also some optimism, especially among the many thousands who were getting involved in Scientology.

From all reports, family life was pretty great for the first seven years before I was born. The next nine years were pretty straight-forward, with only the very end of that time getting difficult for the family as a whole. The following nine years, though, a lot changed for our family, with us four children getting subsumed into group machinery, a group entity that was pretty unusual from any perspective. Sadly, at the end of that period, my brother died. Then there were the next three years, which were, for me at any rate, pretty good family-wise, although they saw the geographical separation of my mother and father.

After that, by the end of 1979, my dad was gone from the family for good, and my mother was away fighting to stay out of jail. All of us children were adults by this time, with me turning 21 that year.

L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, and Mary Sue Hubbard died in 2002.


I was born in the late spring of 1958. My father was 47; my mother was almost 27. They had been married for 6 1/2 years and already had three children: a girl, Diana, born in 1952; a boy, Quentin, born in 1954; and then another girl, Mary, called by her second name Suzette, born in 1955.

It’s the late spring of 1958, and we were living in Washington, D.C., at that time. As I was told, home life in Washington, D.C., was pretty normal by the standards of the day. We had a place in town and another somewhere outside of town, in Maryland, I think. We had household staff that took care of us, run by my mother, who was also working at the Scientology Foundation, which was nearby (across the street?). Dad was spending his time at the foundation too, of course, but would be home in the evenings. I remember he would come in every day to the room where I had a crib to say hello, and he would chat with me like I was a real person and not a little baby. He always talked with children as if they were real people, which, I believe, was unusual then and, pretty much from what I’ve seen, today as well. I loved those visits, from what I can remember of them.

Things moved at an organised and predictable pace because he also felt that children shouldn’t have to experience too much randomness because they’re busy enough getting themselves sorted out and don’t really need the kind of excitement adults so crave. Basically, home life seemed pretty good.

At some point around this time, a friend of the family, Peggy Conway, passed away, leaving my parents her estate (in Connecticut, I believe), which they sold and then used the money to purchase Saint Hill Manor in Sussex, England. Built in the 18th century during the reign of George III, it was at one time the home of one Raja or another (I was never clear about that). Because England was still reeling from the effects of World War II, land was relatively cheap. In 1959, maybe in March, we moved there.

Part of the reason for this move was that my father felt that the U.S. Federal government was failing in its legal duty to abide by the First Amendment (which states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”), and the other reason was that the U.K. had much better global communication networks than the U.S. (which was basically true all the way up until the World Wide Web came online in 1991 and even then for quite a few more years). What he apparently didn’t know was that, like almost every other country on the planet, the United Kingdom has no Bill of Rights either, so if the government doesn’t like you, that’s it for you, pal. All this will develop later, and I’ll discuss it in the Scientology 1.0 and 2.0 articles as well as in the second and third parts of this one.

The house in England was big and had some land—even a little lake with an island. There were more staff now running the home, as well as more staff running the church organisation, which was quickly gearing up to take on an even more international role than it had before, with students arriving from all over. Almost right away, buildings were being erected to accommodate the overflow, so there were bricklayers, carpenters, etc. The place was extremely busy.

The next few years were pretty good, at least for me, with the green fields, woodlands, pastures, and our little lake. A tutor had been hired for the older children, and I was left to roam. Which I did. A lot. Looking at maps of the area now, much of which is the same, I had the run of quite a range of square miles, trespassing on private property and farms all around. Nearby was Ashdown Forest, home of Winnie-the-Pooh. It was too far for me to get there, but we would get taken there to play, climb around, walk through the woods, and also visit the somewhat nearer Weir Wood Reservoir.

Raising up

A sketch of one of my father’s views on raising children: After establishing basic ground rules such as schedule, discipline, reduction of unnecessary changes and other haphazards, as well as an education program, he would leave us be to develop our own interests and activities which, like all good dads, he would contribute to from time to time; this is “fathering 101,” I’d say. Mary Sue was more involved in direct caretaking, such as supervising the household staff in looking after us during the day and seeing us to bed at night.

My eldest sister, Diana, was dutiful, taking on whatever responsibilities were asked of her, such as helping to look after the rest of us. Quentin, the next eldest and the most eccentric, was given more firm guidelines because he was physically awkward. He loved airplanes, so he was given plenty of books on them as well as toys and models. Suzette, the third child, had ever-changing interests, which were always encouraged. She was a reader too, as they all were, and books on whatever subjects were always provided. Whatever any of us were interested in, our parents were interested in—very normal stuff. I think today many parents are overeager to be “interested” in their children, smothering them with too much attention and “protecting” them from a dangerous world (which, in fact, was statistically much more dangerous in the 1960s than it is today, at least in the U.S., anyway). Good parenting, I believe, must consist of a rather large dose of benign neglect.

Speaking of which, discipline was very mild. We were never hit or spanked, and we were rarely “told off” or “admonished.” Occasionally, one of us might be taken into Dad’s office and given some piece of information, as in, “You should know…” more instructional than castigatory. The main tool for discipline was “the look” from either parent, and that was plenty. If you’re a parent and you are repeating instructions and directions over and over to your children, then you haven’t developed “the look.” There’s just one “it’s off to bed now” or whatever, and then… “the look,” not endlessly repeating orders and discussions.

This last was to illustrate how mild everything was in those days. Certainly, we kids fought, and sometimes Mom and Dad would argue, but mostly peace reigned. Later, when my schoolmates discovered I was never hit or spanked, they thought it showed a shocking lack of parental care and attention. Apparently, and I discovered this to be true, many of them were regularly cuffed, spanked, whipped, and yelled at, all while being told it was for their own good. Reading Dianetics, this sort of behavioural training is right out of the Pavlovian handbook: Thwack! “I love you!” Pow! “It’s for your own good!” Thump! “This hurts me more than you!” Etc., etc.

As for how my parents handled me, I showed this propensity for wandering off, starting around age three (I don’t want these descriptions to be about me overly much; I just can’t avoid it since family life must necessarily be seen through my eyes). Apparently some staff began to complain to Dad that I kept disappearing and that they would go hunting for me and not find me until I showed up again. His response was to ask them if I was fine. They told him yes. Then he asked if I was missing meals, and they answered no. So he told them to leave me alone. Later, I found out that the missing meals thing wasn’t just because he thought I might go hungry but also because the cook had worked to make them, and it wasn’t right to make staff do work that would go to waste; one had to appreciate what was being done for them. Even so, I was eventually given a wristwatch on my fourth birthday. I never got lost or hurt on these regular solo walkabouts, by the way. I got chased by bulls once, though, and I thought I was done for. That was scary.

I was also given a little footstool to carry around in the house so that I could reach all the doorknobs, and a bowl of apples was placed on a low table so that I could get to them. There was a lot of freedom.

Another little note as to the service we received: Despite the fact that everything was done for us—our beds were made, our clothes were washed, our rooms were cleaned, meals were prepared, and dishes were washed—none of us grew up expecting to be waited on hand and foot. Years later, while attending public school (public means “private” in England), some of the other boys would accuse my brother and I of being spoiled, which wasn’t right at all. What they meant was that we had nice stuff because we were “rich Yanks” (the English hated Americans at that time). All of us Hubbard children always had lots of nice stuff, and we shared what we had with our friends.

South Africa

In 1960, the whole family flew on British Overseas Airways to South Africa and lived in a house in Johannesburg. That house had the greatest view. Life was really good there.

Because I was not yet two, we brought with us a friend who was my nanny, Mary, who was really fantastic. We also had a gardener named John, whom I followed everywhere when he was at work. I’ll never forget how patient he was. Everyone that was part of our home there was really great; it was one of the best times.

We stayed for about six months before returning to England.

Children and Scientology

As I got a little older—four or five—I began to climb every tree, high wall, and roof that I could find. People would call out to me, “Get down from there!” “What do you think your father will do to me if anything happens to you?” (Always a perplexing question; I mean, what would happen to me if I fell out of a 100-foot tree or off a five story building?) My dad was complained to once again. He asked, “Is he injuring himself?” “Falling down?” They said no, and again he said, “Well, then, leave him alone.” My brother wasn’t doing any of these things, but if he had, he would have caused concern for his parents. Me, though, no, apparently not at all.

Eventually he did write a letter to all the staff and public visiting the place instructing them not to play roughly with me, even though I begged them to, because it’d make me so overexcited that I’d have trouble settling down. That may have been true (I doubt it), but I think the real reason was that I was so insistent that the stronger guys play so roughly that he was afraid I’d get myself hurt and they’d feel responsible. This letter was to cause me embarrassment later as it was included in a compilation of such letters of organisational policy by people who often could not tell what was relevant to include and what was not. But his basic policy of leaving me be was a good one.

Although Dad had little worry about me walking on the roof, teetering along the tops of high walls, etc., he had more concern about my brother, who, from the earliest age, fairly wobbled about, bumping into things. I’m saying Quentin was so uncoordinated that he started running before he learned to walk. This sounds counter-intuitive, but look, you try to stand, you’re off balance, so you run. He needed to wear a little baby-size football helmet to prevent head injuries. He really learned to run, though.

In my family, there was never any sort of suppression of communication; all such breakdowns only began to occur later, when certain staff were allowed to insert themselves into our lives. We kids certainly failed to communicate with one another all too often, as children often do, but not with our parents, at least not in my experience. Only later, after I was introduced to the code of silence imposed on every boy in boarding school, did my communication line with my dad and mom begin to suffer, but that was on me.

When it comes to communicating about Scientology, each specialty has its own language and lexicon. Unlike almost all the Scientologist families I would witness later, we didn’t use much of the language amongst ourselves. At one point, when I was about four, some staff member working at the Saint Hill organisation who was training people in Scientology procedures was asked to give us children some instruction in basic Scientology principles and terminology so that we might understand what everyone was talking about. Notice that this was not designed to “indoctrinate” or “convert” us but so that we wouldn’t be left out of all the conversations being had by the hundreds of people coming and going from Saint Hill. Mom and Dad always wanted us to feel included, as they felt one of the biggest errors would be keeping their children “out of the loop.”

This idea of including children in family survival would really stick with me. I guess the idea is that throughout history, children were put to work pretty much as soon as they were able. You know, things like feeding the chickens, keeping an eye out for wolves, milking goats, and other things that children as young as two or three can do. (Yes! I’ve read about this, children as young as two performing duties, check it out.) Watching documentaries of people still living this way, you don’t see a lot of children whining, crying, and complaining. It’s a hard life, but I believe my dad is right about the fundamental ethical nature of man. Not that he is naturally civilised, no, but that he needs to pitch in wherever he sees things being done all around, especially if things are being done for him. keeping the proper exchange going and, as a result, the burden of obligation off. Not to belabour the point, but today’s children are raised more as property or as pets and are not expected to do any actual work at all beyond cleaning their rooms and going to school, which they know does not actually meet their true obligations.

Today, it seems many children see they are not needed, except in some treacly-feely sort of way, and this could quickly turn into the feeling of not being valued. That plus the unrelieved burden of obligation and the failure of many parents to teach proper manners results in unruly, miserable kids and, inevitably and almost invariably, ill-mannered, resentful, and narcissistic teenagers. If people don’t have time to quickly supervise their children into becoming productive, useful humans, then this could wreck a society as quickly as the failure to stay married once one has them. Of course, there is now the problem of other parents resenting and hating good parents because they seem “hard” by comparison. Modern parents want their children to be their “friends”; no worse affectation could be imagined.

Going back to our language. Over the years, I would hear the children of other Scientology families bandying about Scientology words with no clue as to what they were talking about. This was because their parents and their parents’ friends used the language around their children without making things clear. They would also “run” their kids in certain Scientological ways, so different from non-Scientologist homes that it often left their children baffled and their playmates even more so. This was even more evident with a British slang word, “wog,” which gained more and more use amongst Scientologists in the 1960s.

“Wog” means “worthy Oriental gentleman” in British argot. I don’t know where and when it originated, but it was used as a sarcastic and snide way of referring to people of East Asian origin, especially Indians. As much as I love the British, I know of no other culture that can be even half as cutting and contemptuous as they are when they want to be, especially the still existing and extraordinarily snobby “upper classes.” Oof, you do not want to deal with it! By contrast, when Americans want to be insulting and nasty, it’s comparatively adorable.

Anyway, “wog.” Well, somehow the word “wog” entered Scientology jargon; I don’t know when, maybe after 1959, but I do know what it meant originally. It meant a person who thinks that “nothing can or should be done to help the human spirit.” In other words, a devout materialist who feels that “all humans are pathetic meat-puppets” and that thinking that one could help them to get better is the height of folly. I have met many such people, and as far as I know, there is no word for them. Anti-social, cluster B personality, and sociopath don’t cover the concept; perhaps “wog” could, except that it really means “non-Anglo-Saxon East Asian ‘mud person’.” Just awful.

In our home, though, Scientologese did not get used much because Dad knew that this would potentially segregate us from the rest of the world. So the lexicon was used to discuss Scientology and not other subjects, usually anyway (we kids would throw these special words at each other as if they were brickbats; children, tsk). Even so, we were sufficiently versed in what the special words meant, especially over time as we became better educated in English, that, to this day, when I hear the language of Scientology being used incorrectly, it’s like nails on a blackboard. By the time non-students get hold of it, it’s mostly gibberish. Watching documentaries on Scientology and reading books and articles on it and seeing these people mangle the words and concepts is so cringeworthy, it becomes practically callisthenic. This also happens all the time with eastern religious terminology, the Vedas, Buddhism, etc., not to mention the subject of religion itself.

There was another thing that differentiated us from most other Scientology families, and this was the use of Scientology within the home. There was nothing “special” about how we were raised other than the relative wealth. We weren’t required to do Scientology training drills or undergo specific Scientology-oriented justice procedures or anything during the early years. Scientology was quietly used when applicable; no fuss was made about it, and it was so integrated with all the normal things of life that we could go out into the world and never think we were “different.” Except for the fact we were “rich Yanks,” that’s how it worked.

I just mentioned the use of Scientology procedures as applicable in the home; here’s an example. When I was two, I began to be difficult like many children of that age, the “terrible twos,” as I’ve heard it called. So my mother decided to “run” me (as in “cause to be in operation”) through a number of Scientology processes designed to gently train or rehabilitate a person’s ability to tolerate control, both in terms of controlling others and allowing oneself to be controlled, a necessary ingredient in a successful society. We did short, little sessions of only a few minutes a day over a period of a few weeks—two or three, if memory serves—and, magic!, the terrible twos were done with. No instructions, no complicated explanations—it was a game. She asked if I wanted to do the processes; I said yes, and we did these little therapy sessions. I didn’t even know what they were until years later. I’ll tell you something else as well: not only does this process make a person more capable and saner regarding the sticky subject of control, but it also allows a person greater presence of mind, something that has come to be known as “mindfulness” in popular culture today. This might explain why I can recall those years so clearly—the years between birth and four, which many people seem to forget.

Daily routines

Anyway. Wherever we were, life was always on a schedule and had a comfortingly predictable rhythm that would go like this: We children got up usually around 7:30 a.m. and had breakfast in our own dining room that was near the kitchen and pantry and looked out on the driveway that was at the manor’s front. At some point in the morning, the tutor had arrived and would take breakfast with us. After breakfast, she would take the other kids to the schoolroom that was set up overlooking the swimming pool and surrounding gardens at the southwest part of the house. There they would study until noon and then break for lunch. I was too young for school, being three and a half years behind in age, so I was left to roam. The rule was that I could join the classes any time I felt like it, stay as long as I wanted, and join in if it were possible, just so long as I didn’t interrupt the lessons. After lunch, the others would continue with lessons, and I would go off wandering some more. The school day ended sometime in the afternoon; I don’t know when. Dinner was at 6.

Ron and Mary Sue would rise later in the morning, having been up until after midnight. England was 8 hours earlier than the U.S., so Dad could catch the early telex traffic from there (telex was a station-to-station switched network of teleprinters similar to a telephone network). He was always something of a night owl in any case, and his wife always kept to his schedule in those years. They would then work a full day.

We kids ate dinner earlier than Mom and Dad, as they would take their dinner a little later. After dinner and getting ready for bed, the family would gather in the living room for some TV and then story time. Myself, I learned that I could bathe, brush my teeth, and get into my pyjamas quickly enough to race to the other end of the manor in order to catch them having their after-dinner coffee in the dining area, set up in a room at the east end of the house known as the “winter garden.” This was because of the glass ceilings and the gratings arranged in the floor about the edges of the room that had steam pipes, which could keep the room at summer temperatures throughout the year. I suppose it was once full of hothouse plants or something; I don’t know. By the way, steam from a main boiler powered by coal heated the entire house. It would still get cold, and we’d frequently have to sleep with hot water bottles. This is not mentioned as a “we lived in hard times” story, just to give an idea as to the romance of the place. It was absolutely lovely in every way. After TV, Dad would spin yarns, making up various plots involving all of us kids; I loved it. Then, around 8:30 p.m. or so, Mary Sue and all of us children would repair to our rooms on the mezzanine at the north-west end of the house.

We each had our own room and shared one bathroom. Diana, Quentin, and Suzette’s rooms were near the staircase that came up from the back entrance hall. My smaller room was down a corridor and had a little window that looked directly on the great cedar tree standing on a hill just to the north, which was the pride and glory of all the natural features of the estate. We would choose which room we would all go to, and there, Mom would read to us before finally being put to bed and going to sleep.

She read Kipling, Beatrix Potter, Chandler Harris, Aesop, C.S. Lewis, A.A. Milne, Helen Bannerman, Charles Kingsley, Louisa May Alcott, and others. Really, it was too great. After reading time, she would get each of the other children to their beds and then take me to my room, if that wasn’t where we were having story time, and, bliss of all blisses, read to me a few pages from one of my various weekly comic books. After a little quibbling, she’d kiss me goodnight and take the tiny back stairs from the mezzanine to her own rooms and office, where she would work until she and Dad went to bed—I’d guess around 1 or 2 a.m.

The house, estate, and staff

That was the general round of the early days up until ’63. All this was helped by the household staff and office personnel: there was our housekeeper, Mrs. Foster; the nanny (there were several over the years); the tutor; and the cook (we had two; I don’t remember the first one’s name except that he was from Hong Kong and a really good cook; the second one was named Henry and was from St. Helena and had worked at Buckingham Palace). There was Dad’s valet, the chauffeur, Bond (his name was Bond), Dad’s personal secretary, Mrs. Thrupp, and his librarian, Anne. There were the gardeners run by Mr. Foster, the laundress, and other odd-job personnel. Besides the manor and its gardens and fields, there were all the staff running the activities of the Scientology organisation, plus the armies of students coming and going from all over the United Kingdom, the British Commonwealth (Australia, New Zealand, Canada), South Africa, and the United States. Saint Hill was a very busy place.

All the household staff and the organisational staff were a mix of Scientologists and other denominations, as well as some who weren’t religious at all but also weren’t involved in Scientology; if you could do the work, you were hired. The staff were all extremely respectful, and most were also kind. I don’t know about the other children, but I was often called “master” or “master Arthur,” which wasn’t done humorously but as a term one calls small boys in lieu of the title, “mister.” I don’t know if I’ve ever felt I belonged anywhere as much as I did there, surrounded by people who respected my family and honoured them in every way. Those were the halcyon days.

Another thing about our world back then: in those days, children were treated more like small animals in England, whereas at Saint Hill, children were treated as the very young people that they were. Although this would change later with the creation of the Sea Organisation,2 where children began to be treated more like adults (a mistake), unlike the world around Saint Hill, we Hubbard children were treated mostly with respect, as if we were valid humans, as were all the other children there, as far as I could tell. Most of the time, anyhow. Nobody and nothing is perfect.

There wasn’t much space for all the staff and students, so new buildings were planned and erected in the first few years after we moved there. From 1959 to 1962 or ’63, there were crews of carpenters, bricklayers, roofers, glaziers, electricians, plumbers, and so on. I don’t know the whole story, but apparently there were laws that limited the building on private property, and some sort of local council referendum was held that put a halt to all this construction, something on the order of “only so much square footage of such and such a type of structure may be built.” So, after these buildings were completed and up and running, they were already overfilled, and some other solution was needed.

So Dad looked at the exact definition of what he was no longer permitted to build and asked if the restriction extended to the building of castles. Now, I don’t know how true this story is; I forgot to ever ask about it (if I were ever to compile a list of things that we all took for granted but today would be interesting to find out about, it would probably be dozens of pages long), but upon discovering that no, it didn’t, he had someone create blueprints for a smallish castle and right away set about getting it built. It was just this sort of thing that absolutely had to have the authorities gnashing their teeth. But man, you’ve got to laugh. I mean, how fun was that? (It wasn’t completed before we left, but it provided all the extra space needed in any case.) His life was full of this kind of practical mischief; if you want real action, you’ve got to go full steam ahead. But he drove bureaucrats and government stooges absolutely crazy, which often worried his wife. It never stopped him, but I could see her point too.

1 National security is the security of a nation state, including its citizens, economy, and institutions, which is regarded as a duty of government. The difference between a simple nation state and a security state is that in a security state, the government targets its own citizens as much as foreign threats and restricts civil liberties in the name of “national security.” It is one of the early steps toward totalitarianism.

2 The Sea Organisation was a separate group from the church and Saint Hill originally created to operate the ships and boats that Hubbard and his family relocated to after conflicts with the U.S. and U.K. governments. The S.O. was to eventually take over management of the Church of Scientology.

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Arthur Ronald Conway Hubbard

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