Get Your MFA from L. Ron Hubbard
I wish someone would try to take over my mind when I read their novel, make me give them all my money, make me go on TV and jump up and down on sofas barking.
I’m not a Scientologist, nor do I give a shit about a book like Battleship Earth, one of the many sci-fi novels L. Ron Hubbard wrote before he steered headlong into inventing a religion. I must admit, though, after having recently peered through a couple of volumes of Hubbard’s writing in the manuals he sells en masse to batshit practitioners such as Beck and Tom Cruise: The writing in this shit is kind of amazing. Or if nothing else, it’s often like nothing else, which is what they said about Beckett.
Hell if I can tell you from where Hubbard drummed the logic and sounds in his sentences. Sure, we assume he’s nuts, not to mention a dickface who raked in money manufactured in god’s name, but isn’t that in some way what the majority of all authors in their secret dreams wish would come about for them? L. Ron Hubbard is pretty much just an even more vilified and mega-loaded Gordon Lish.
Here are some example sentences culled from Hubbard’s Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (which he originally thought about calling The Dark Sword, Excalibur), pretty much the cornerstone of the whole religion, published in 1950, and all of which could serve as more effective teaching tools than…oh, I don’t know, take your pick:
1. There are many demon circuits which snarl up thinking, but these particular “dub-in” demons mean that the operator is going to get a most awful cargo of what the auditors colloquially call “garbage.”
OK, what the fuck? Dude, “demon circuits”? “‘Dub-in’ demons”? I love the idea of a hyper-accessed realm inside a person, their “awful cargo” that masks them from the people who would come to “audit.” There’s a logic here that flexes in the sentence in a way that uses both sound and terminology to provide a kind of wall that makes the subject mysterious, destructured. People seem to often want language to either be plain or screwy. This satisfies both. Fill me with the garbage and let the demons in. That’s pretty much all I want of art.
See also: Ben Marcus, Dennis Cooper, Lynne Tillman, Jane Unrue.
2. “I am a jub-jub bird,” “I can’t whistle Dixie,” “The world is all against me,” “I hate policemen,” “I am the ugliest person in the world,” “You haven’t any feet,” “The Lord is going to punish me,” “I always have to play with my thing,” may be very interesting to the patient and even amusing to the auditor and may have caused a considerable amount of trouble in the patient’s life.
If anything sucks in a lot of writing, it’s dialogue. A lot of dialogue I believe fails either because it is trying too hard to sound realistic, and thereby feels tedious or easy; or other times it wants to keep the motion of the story going forward when it would have just been easier to say what happened. I like the way this string of short declarative sentences and the wall they fall together develop a speech-photograph of sorts, a collage where each prior sentence falls onto the one following and/or the one before it, building something else in its place. I am a jub-jub bird? This is in a religious document. These words are some people’s Bible, and this guy just farted them right out. I’m kind of starting to believe it. Get the ugliest person in the world all up inside you.
See also: George Saunders, Diane Williams, Amy Hempel, William Burroughs.
3. FIGHT CHAIN. 1st incident embryo. 38 succeeding incidents. Three falls, loud voices, no beating.
I have at least two dozen books of poetry that I could copy this line into the middle of and you’d never notice the difference. In fact, last night I read Paul Legault’s The Other Poems, and after finding this line in Hubbard, I had to go back and make sure he actually hadn’t sampled the line. I love that I both don’t know what the fuck Hubbard is talking about here, but can souse sense from it, and it feels menacing, deeper than it seems: a kind of self-hypnotism required in a way at once mathematical and arcane, which is to me part of the prowess of language in the first place. I mean to believe in poetry, like god, you have to be willing to go under. Did I mention bro gets PAID?
See also: Fence Books, Action Books, Ugly Duckling Presse, Ann Quin.
4. This is a coitus experience. It has, as its somatic, varying pressure. It is not painful and, by the way, no matter how painful these engrams may be in present time when restimulated, no matter how forceful, when they are actually contacted, their reexperienced pain is very mild, no matter what it was when received. So this is a shaking up of the unborn child, that is all. But it says, “Oh, darling, I’m afraid you’ll come in me. I’ll just die if you come in me. Oh please don’t come in me!”
Egg on your face, Best American Sex Writing 1950? But seriously, that is hot. Makes Steve Almond look like Steve Almond.
See also: Kathy Acker, Donald Antrim.
There are so many sentences in this thing, I almost want to quote them all. Read them out loud!
5. As images on the desert are distorted by the glass snakes of heat waves, so are the engramic commands distorted to the analyzer through the veil of “unconsciousness.”
6. To listen to some pre-clears one would think they read Keats and drank lemonade every afternoon at four throughout the prenatal period.
7. The reactive bank is like a pyramid which is fairly well armored everywhere but just under the point, and which becomes unarmored when the point is contacted.
8. He strikes Mother because he is afraid Mother is pregnant and Father is blocked on Dynamics One, Two, Three and Four.
9. In nitrous oxide the pain is filed and the content is filed with high and brilliant fidelity.
10. There are two little men on each side of the brain, a set for each lobe, hanging by their heels.
11. “The somatic strip will now go to birth,” says the auditor.
Call me an asshole, but dude is going for it. More than fiction or nonfiction, the book is kind of mesmerizing. It scrambles your psychology while pretending to explain ways to the center of it. Dude is messed up. I wish more writers were more messed up. I wish someone would try to take over my mind when I read their novel, make me give them all their money, make me go on TV and jump up and down on sofas barking. I wish I felt I walked away reprogrammed and conformed.
Beyond just the sentences, Hubbard’s instructional advice to a would-be auditor (which, in Scientology, if you don’t know, is the special meeting leader who leads a regular person to spiritual awakening through what’s basically a deformed version of hypnotized psychiatry, which anyone could read as: mentor) reads as better advice for how to reach an audience than pretty much anything I heard while getting my MFA:
Being clever does not mean talking a lot… Being clever in the sense of the repeater technique is being able to pick out, from the subject’s conversation or action, just what the engrams contain which will prevent his reaching them, progressing through them.
The auditor who tries to go chasing backwards through time will find that he will have on his hands an artificially restimulated case and that the work is much impeded.
Time, topic, value, somatic and emotion are the methods of filing.
Be surprised at nothing. Audit.
Are you in yet? Have you felt touched by the light? If so, PayPal $50 to blakebutler [at] gmail [dot] com to receive further instructions.
If you can't get enough of this kind of language, you'll love the 2012 issue of International Scientology News--we give you a peek inside here.