Memories, 28: No Work for Gentlemen Here

[Recounting, out of chronological sequence, events leading up to the last time I spoke with L. Ron Hubbard and how that episode paralleled an earlier one with my father.]


We were sailing pretty much due West across the Atlantic Ocean, heading for Charleston, South Carolina. That day, we had good weather: sunshine, a stiff but pleasant breeze, relatively gentle seas that rocked us about in friendly fashion. It was October of 1974.

I don’t recall how we became aware that an emergency had arisen. I do recall that Ron and Mary Sue with the then Captain of the ship, the Commodore’s Aides and I assembled on the Prom Deck landing for an impromptu meeting. Ron and Mary Sue stood close together just by the door to his office, Ron closest to it, Mary Sue to his left. The Captain, not tall, but large and imposing, stood close to Mary Sue, just to her left. I was in the doorway to my office facing them from their right. The aides were on the landing surrounding the stair well that led down to the A Deck landing.

As always in such situations, although they were not common, Mary Sue stood by her husband in a deferential frame of mind. She could be strong on her own feet but when, as now, an important decision had to be taken in a hurry and was to be taken by LRH after a consultation, she was quietly close to him, watchful both for where he might want to go (so she could support him) and also for who might be leading the discussion to a place she thought was not in his best interests.

Word had come through from Jane Kember, the D/Guardian WW, who had somehow found a way to radio-telephone the bridge of the Apollo to get through an extremely urgent message warning Mary Sue and Ron that the American authorities had got wind of our planned arrival in Charleston and had a party of officials waiting for us. No question that our plans needed urgent revision. The question we had to contemplate in rather shocked silence was: where do we go?

[I have seen a report that we were five miles out of Charleston when the call came through. My memory is always suspect; even so, I recall nothing of the panic that would have been inevitable had we been in American waters and so close to port. If we had been, the problems facing us would have been wholly different — the chance for escape all but non-existent. But part of our situation in the moment of Jane’s message to us was that we still had the freedom of the open seas and relative certainty that the US had no way of knowing exactly where we were or where we might go. This capacity for unobserved freedom of movement always was a fundamental principle in the Sea Organization’s reason for being. We might note that it’s a fundamental requirement in guerilla warfare also.]

There being no suggestions coming forward, I volunteered that we might tell our agent in Charleston that we’d changed our minds and were making for the Caribbean instead – while actually turning north for Halifax, Nova Scotia. I said it just to get a ball rolling. As soon as I said it, I realized the mistake – it should have been “say we go to Halifax but instead go to the Caribbean”. The mere mention of Halifax brought up pictures of stormy weather, enormous tides, and severe winters. Neither of the Hubbards would have wanted any of that, particularly the winters. Besides, the American government were too close with the Canadians for our comfort. At any rate, I’d said it, and I let the error go. The immediate response that hit wouldn’t have left much chance of correcting it had I wanted to bother to.

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than the Captain gave vent to a loud, brazen, nasal, verbally violent “NAAAAAAAAAH!!!” Meaning of course, that we could expect nothing but nonsense out of that Urquhart, whose place in life was to be put down by real men. And a real man was doing the Hubbards and the crew real service by putting him down right now and taking serious charge of business.

I was taken aback by the verbal violence, as anyone might be, but far more so by the extreme ugliness of the noise itself. One part of my mind was struggling to deal with the fact that this macho male super-self-confident human being had made himself sound just like a randy donkey. But what really shook me was that the fellow had forgotten himself – in his ardour to put me down – in that he had yelled his donkey-screamery right into Mary Sue’s ear, she only inches from his big mouth, and she so devoted to her husband’s wellbeing. At this—what I felt keenly as a real insult to Mary Sue’s dignity, purpose, and intelligence—I stepped back in utter astonishment.

My ears can be outlandishly sensitive to certain kinds of noise. The grating noise the fellow made struck my ears hard and I can suspect that my immediate reaction on behalf of Mary Sue’s sensitivities, she so close to that animal bellow, had more to do with my own. Be that as it may, I stepped back. My assailant continued speaking.

While he spoke, LRH turned his head slightly more in my direction. His eyes were half-closed, head back a bit, looking down his nose, and it was almost as though his nose were sniffing out some faint scent that had wafted in unexpectedly and of no obvious relevance but perhaps of valuable significance, he trying to identify what he’d picked up  and its source. He would come to his conclusion and file it away somewhere in his mind for a useful time.

I knew that my stepping back had alerted him to something. I knew that he had no awareness of my precise sensitivity or of the deep offense I’d taken on behalf of his wife. I knew, therefore, that he was taking stock of my stepping back in the face of the Captain’s onslaught and giving the step back a significance discreditable to me – that I had immediately backed off and shut up in the face of that opposition. I did not care if LRH thought that.

*     *     *     *     *

I’d given up taking much notice of what LRH thought of me after his return to the ship from his hiding-place in New York from 1972 to 1973. Something happened soon after he left for New York in 1973, which I won’t go into now, that reduced his confidence in me. When he came back, he didn’t talk to me about it, he simply re-organized his immediate support by building up his messengers into the Commodore’s Messenger Organization [CMO]. He also promoted Bill Robertson to 2nd Deputy Commodore. Very soon, there were two messengers on duty at a time — and not long after that, four of them. I was out of favour but left in place, and left alone to figure out what I was supposed to be doing now.

I didn’t take this personally; he wanted whatever he wanted done done in a hurry and done his way, and very much more so now he was back on the ship with plans he had formulated while away: we were heading for insistent and overt  dictatorship. As his Personal Communicator, it was theoretically my role to oversee the performance of the recipients of his orders and policies so I could assure him that what he wanted done had been done and how he wanted it done. At the same time, I was responsible for the timely delivery to his desk of (a) the daily traffic [the telexes, despatches, reports, etc., etc., that had accumulated in my in-basket or on my desk during the day (but not needing his immediate attention) and during his and my sleep time, presenting it to him in a way that would ease the work of dealing with it all – it was generally a lot, and also, significantly, (b) urgent traffic he needed to see during the rest of our working day.

To handle the daily traffic, I had to rush to my desk as soon as a Messenger on Duty had woken me up to tell me the Commodore was starting his day. I might have less than an hour to go through a small mountain of paper. If the item I picked up seemed straightforward and clear, not violating existing policy or orders, and making sense, requiring only his initial to approve, it passed. If it didn’t pass, I had three options: to put it aside for my later action; to return it with a brief note requiring corrections, or pointing out a valid reason why it did not need to go to LRH; or to leave my office, to address the issue with the originator. The last action would be to clarify whether the item could be changed for the better quickly or should be reworked for later submission.

I rarely had the time for the last option. I might have time for it after I had put the whole pile of papers into their respective folders for his in-box. There might be time for only a bit of that, depending on how LRH involved me in his responses to what was in his in-basket – he might call me into his office to consult with me on a response and give me a detailed set of instructions; he might call in an Aide or two or three,  to give a briefing, and I would be present for consultation and to take the notes for follow-up.

[My usual practice was to pile the prepared folders on the in-basket on his desk then go to my cabin to wash, shave, shower, and dress; depending on how long LRH’s daily solo session took, I might be back at my desk before he came up to his office or he might already be eating his breakfast with Mary Sue.]

Once the business resulting from the contents of his in-basket was concluded, I had a certain discretion over what I did. My first wish would be to firstly make sure that orders newly issued were begun in good order and second to follow up on orders he had issued the day before or earlier, to make sure that all outstanding matters were proceeding to satisfactory completion. There was one thing that got in my way: he hated it when urgent communications to him sat on my desk or in my in-basket while I was on my rounds, away from my office, chasing up on his orders.

In addition, he often quizzed me on happenings around the boat as regards both marine matters and international management and perhaps shore relations as well. I had to keep in touch with a fair number of people rather nippily. When I went about the ship on these various activities, I put on a grimly determined and focused face so nobody would want to button-hole me as I strode here and there; I just did not have the time to chat. [One time an insistent fellow, newly returned to the ship, did manage to stop me, and, having done it once proved he could do it again and again. But this is a story for another day.]

I tried to explain to LRH that we needed to re-organize my job description since not even I could manage to be somewhere on the ship and in my office at one and the same time, but he waved it off as an unimportant complaint on my part that I should know how to handle without bothering him. I didn’t feel able to discuss with him the fact that he issued many orders and plans to address flaps and opportunities as they hit his desk – so many in fact, that it was impossible to keep up with them all. In addition, the flow of orders sometimes contradicted themselves; worse, they called for resources, usually personnel, that did not exist; in order to  man up one new project, older projects were raided and therefore fell behind or became inoperative. Nightmare.

My best response to the situation I found myself in was to give the random urgent communications higher priority. So I was less and less about the ship chivvying people here and there to do what he had told them to. When he built up the CMO, I could see that he was by-passing me on the matter of getting compliance on what he had ordered or had laid down as policy. He used the messengers also to increase his observation of what was going on and to follow up on indications of possible unsatisfactory performance around the ship. He was hyper-sensitive to such indications (not necessarily a bad thing: he was responsible for a large ship full of people; under not infrequent circumstances it’s fairly easy for ships to sink).

It was up to me to fight back against the by-pass or not. I chose not to. He had made up his mind to by-pass me. What would it have taken to make him change his view? Nobody could possibly know how his capacity for caprice would affect him. Further, I felt firstly that to re-establish myself in his favour I would have to confess my absolute wrongness and go through a convoluted process to get him to favour me again, and secondly, that this process would certainly be humiliating. The humiliation I definitely would not risk. Moreover, a principal of mine was to keep out of office politics; with the build-up of the CMO [which LRH was training up into doing his bullying for him] and with the broadly-perceived diminution of my status with LRH, I had become open to more office politics than before; if I had dedicated myself to restoring myself in LRH’s favour, office politics would have made the work harder if not impossible. Worse than that: had I wanted to curry LRH’s favour, I would have had to curry favour with the messengers also. How was anyone to manage the caprices of the boss along with those of sixteen teenage girls each one with access to his ear and each one anxious for his favour and some of them willing to hit another to get it?

I let LRH take the lead. This was partly my nature, or perhaps more accurately, my nurture: I was the third of three brothers, constantly following and deferring to them as I grew up, and, a relatively orphaned baby due to my mother’s illnesses during which I was separated from the family while being fostered with a stranger. I can’t say I was right or wrong in letting LRH take charge of our relationship. I let him. Since he was in charge, and was not overtly managing me into resumption of our earlier and better relations, I moved into following my own instincts in the new circumstances; he followed his instincts in demoting my status in his eyes but without talking about it. I emulated his example: I demoted him in my estimation; had he raised the question with me I would have told him honestly how I felt so we could sort it out, but since he didn’t ever raise the question, neither did I. I did not hide that I had things I could be saying. On a small number of occasions I made it clear I was not going to cooperate with him: he did not push back.

*     *     *     *     *

We on the Prom Deck landing did in fact decide to make for the Caribbean instead of docking at Charleston. After sailing about the West Indies a bit, we settled in Curacao. Ron and Mary Sue decided they would move us all ashore in the States, and we eventually did. The Hubbards and selected personal staff went to a section of a new and empty apartment complex in Dunedin, Florida. We were not far from Clearwater, where the organizations that had been on the ship were settled in and built up. From Dunedin, Ron carried out his executive and management functions. As his Personal Communicator, I was there with him [but very much out of favour and not involved by LRH in very much of his daily business; he was mostly engaged with MSH and the local Guardian’s Office dealing aggressively with ugly fires in the community, fires he had done much to light and to fan. He dealt with local management issues through his Commodore’s Messengers].

In due course, he had to leave Dunedin quickly to go into hiding from the local Press, who had got word that he was in the neighbourhood. On the point of leaving, he called me into his office. As usual, when he moved away but leaving me behind, he told me to “keep an eye on things.” He was not overtly antagonistic, but he was by no means friendly. He had been clearly distant from me for months. And all that time, I was not understanding how he could be unhappy with me without putting me off the post. Goodness knows I had given him reason enough. I had been waiting for him to tell me to be gone, or to blow up at me angrily, or do whatever he usually did to make trouble for people who’d fallen out of favour (often, on the ship, it was being sent to clean bilges). He did none of these things.

Anyway, here he was, in Dunedin, having to give me some general instructions just as he was leaving, already obviously dissatisfied with me [I could not blame him] and telling me to “keep an eye on things” as though nothing was amiss between us. I nodded to indicate that I understood and had no questions. In truth, I would have liked to ask him: “What are you doing, telling me to keep an eye on things when you have no confidence in me?” However, having no questions for him and not brave enough to confront him, I gave him space and time to continue, open to whatever he might do.

He paused, looked at me balefully, his face solemn, judgmental. A blow was coming.

“You are too much of a gentleman.”

He said no more. I nodded slightly, keeping my eyes on his, waiting for the rest of the scolding. I expected it to take quite a while and perhaps build up into a raging crescendo of complaints. Whatever – at least the air would clear and I’d know where I stood and where I’d be going next. I was not afraid of his wrath. Not that it would ever be enjoyable.

One thing I wanted to avoid was to be dismissed and made a target for Guardian’s Office dirty tricks; it would be hard enough to get work at my age (nearing 40) outside the Scn organization even without the GO spreading tittle-tattle about me and otherwise making life hell. I’d had a glimpse of what they had been doing to Paulette Cooper. [At that particular moment, I was not mindful of how much I knew about LRH and his activities and how dangerous what I knew could be to him if I’d been turned against him – something I was aware of later but had no interest in pursuing. Had I made moves against LRH after leaving the C of S, the Guardian’s Office would have done everything they could to punish me and to discredit me in the eyes of the world in multiple ways so that whatever I said would be discredited because it was me saying it.]

But he spoke no more than that. He ended the meeting silently and I left the room having hardly said one word. What was I to make of “You are too much of a gentleman”?? It was so unexpectedly off-the-wall and weak from such a one as L. Ron Hubbard — he who had so many cards and I so few, and he all of the serious cards, he who had kept his cards so close to his chest and had not challenged me to show mine?

Two thoughts had come to mind when he said it: One was that he was referring to a reply I had put together for him a few days earlier in response to a routine report sent to him by senior Sea Org international management about the latest weekly global organizational statistics (or metrics as they’re often now known as). I knew the kinds of noises he made about these things and I had accordingly composed something for his signature. He changed it to something a lot fiercer. So, it crossed my mind as he spoke to me, that he meant I was too soft and not enough of a bully. I didn’t pursue that as a thought because the second thought came rushing in as I sat, waiting for the rest of an onslaught that wasn’t happening. My instant response to this first thought of mine: “I’ve never been your bully and I’ll never be”.

The second thought was, “With all the things that he can throw at me, this is what he chooses? He could wipe the floor with me with several examples of where I have crossed him both overtly and covertly, but he’s not thinking of them as he makes absolutely clear what he’s been hinting at for months, that I no longer have his confidence? How make sense of this? For all his macho anger, energy, competitiveness, he’s letting me off so lightly? Astonishing!”

There was a third thought underlying all this: I don’t mind a bit if he calls me a “gentleman”. There are worse names. I didn’t know what LRH’s concept of “a gentleman” might be, and I wasn’t terribly interested in whether anyone would consider me a gentleman. As a child, I’d known a man everybody recognized as a gentleman — and in those days, the term had definite social and cultural connotations. That man was my maternal grandfather, a central figure in my upbringing in childhood. I came to love him. It was never an ambition of mine to be exactly like him or to be recognized, as he was, as a “gentleman”. However, it was no shame to me if I carried some of his dignity and integrity to self.

At any rate, later reflection on the incident led me to believe that the probability is that LRH formed this conclusion when I stepped back in the face of that donkey bellow “NAAAH“. In a way, I could see that he was right. Even if he hadn’t known about my anxiety for Mary Sue’s ears, nor had noticed that the man had shouted in her ear, my stepping back in the face of “manly” antagonism instead of immediately attacking back, could have been for him a sign of weakness, the weakness of a man too “gentle-man-ly” to stand up for himself. The sensitivity I showed could not have been “manly”.

If this is what he saw, it would have been a hasty conclusion on LRH’s part, one he might have looked into further before accepting. I was definitely not a bully, and nothing of a warrior, and entirely absent when it came to office in-fighting. But I had shown him defiance. I’d faced him down silently on a couple of issues, eyeball-to-eyeball. I’d overtly sabotaged two pet projects of his. True it was, though, that I found donkeys distressing to work with when they worked and capered out of their usual harness. Hypersensitivity can be a bit of a curse.

At any rate, this was the damp squib with which LRH had at last made clear that he and I were finished as an operating partnership. How or why I’d escaped the whipping with which he usually dismissed a long-time associate, I did not know and still do not. This exchange between us was the last. He indicated that he had finished speaking and I left the room. I did not see him or speak with him again but he did not take action to remove me until 1978, three years later.

Somewhere during the mid-Sixties, I perceived what seemed to be a pattern with LRH: He would either suddenly blow off someone who had been a close associate of long standing, or such a person would blow off, usually suddenly. [Examples I personally witnessed: Jack Horner, Reg Sharpe, Marilyn Routsong.] It seemed that while he could be quick to make and attack enemies, he could not or would not keep a friend. When, in late 1969, he promoted me to be his Personal Communicator, in very friendly fashion: “You have good sense”, I felt that I had graduated into being a close associate (despite my lack of confidence in my judgment). I knew even then that my time for being blown off would come– and would come with little or no warning. This thought was with me night and day while close to him: the axe was likely to fall at any second. I didn’t know how painful he was going to make it, but, knowing him, I expected that he would take care to be extremely wounding. [I soon gave up worrying about it.] By 1974, after I’d defied him a couple of times, I began to think that for some reason he wasn’t going to treat me that way even though I was out of favour and not making any moves to get back into his good graces. I didn’t understand why this should be. I still don’t but won’t pursue the issue.

*     *     *     *     *

Hubbard’s accusation that I was too much of a gentleman has a strange resonance in my life. My father, in high dudgeon with me as a boy of about 17, once said, in characteristically ferocious bad temper: “I will not have my son be more of a gentleman than I am!” I faced him silently then, waiting, as I did later with Hubbard, for his next move. I was poised to absolutely quarrel with my father even to the point of fighting him physically, so deep and strong were the hitherto sleeping family feelings he had clumsily brought into play. In that moment of my waiting, he turned away to his right; I turned away to my right and left the house (I was leaving for a short stay in London, staying with friends and going to concerts). What he had done, clumsily, was to show his resentment at family conflicts – his in-laws looking down on him socially – but in doing so he insulted someone he should have left out of this equation – his deceased wife, my mother.

What was his slight on this woman? She was in fact the daughter of a man who was a gentleman in the old, Victorian sense of the word, applied by them to a man born in a certain stratum of society, educated to a certain standard, and accustomed to the language and manners of other gentlefolk (to their satisfaction as to his belonging with them socially).

There was an additional accomplishment that made my maternal grandfather a “gentleman” – he was of independent means. His means were not abundant and I suspect they were hardly adequate, but nonetheless he had lived a life of no occupation for decades. He was well qualified, with a degree from a German university in pharmacology, and pharmacy was his family’s profession. In those days, pharmacy was one of the professions allowed to gentlemen who wanted or who had to work for a living. But he chose to live on the money coming to him from the family business, using it to finance a life of apparent idleness.

His home was an upper-class abode. He and his second wife (my mother’s mother had died young) retired to a three-bedroom apartment in a small village used by wealthy Clyde merchants for their summer homes. One of the more substantial villas there had been built for not-quite-so-wealthy Clyde merchants; it was what the Americans call a two-family home: one apartment downstairs and another upstairs. My grandparents lived on the upper floor. It had its three bedrooms, two sizable rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. The kitchen had two nooks off it in which at least one servant would have slept in the days when people had servants. My bedroom, the small one at the front of the house, had a view most people could only dream of.

The home, at the ‘posh’ end of the village, was full of beautiful old furniture and decorations of all kinds. There wasn’t a cupboard or a box or a drawer without fascinating smells of old things, old wood, old glue, old felt, old spices, old books, old and fascinating who-knows-what. My grandfather once pointed to a mantel clock, telling me it was from Tudor times. He said a grand portrait was of my great-great-grandmother. There was a spectacularly show-off piece in the form of a table lamp made in silver, a model of the Nelson Column in London with its four lions. A large and dignified golden-oak dining table with Queen Anne chairs and two large matching sideboards dominated the dining-cum-sitting room. On formal occasions, the lady of the house made the table sparkle with silver and glass and her best china.

When my mother, who was ill, found that raising three boys in the midst of the air-raids that began seriously in 1941 was becoming too much for her, she sent her two older boys to her father and stepmother’s house. She herself remained in South Wales, where my father had moved the family in pursuit of work; but later, ill and obliged to get herself into a sanatorium, she took me to the grandparents too.

I hadn’t seen a great deal of my mother in my previous years, she being prone to sickness and spells in hospital or sanatorium. Life was unsettling for me, dropped off with strange women to be cared for while mother was away, and dropped back again with her whenever she came home. It happened three times for fairly extended periods. So, my life was a bit short on stability. [I have read that ‘studies show’ that when a very young child is separated from its family, even briefly, the child can go into deep mourning.]

Mother died shortly after leaving us. It was six weeks before my fourth birthday. My grandmother, the tyrant of the house, was remorselessly cruel with all three of us boys over announcing our mother’s death. Nonetheless, as my fourth year proceeded, she and my quiet grandfather provided me with the thing I needed most: stability. Grannie, as I knew her, though hard, harsh, stern, and cold, never denied me her lap if I wanted it. I grew to love her, and I soon grew out of needing her lap. Not once did she manifest any evident affection or regard for me. However, she did not stint in doing her duty as surrogate mother in providing for the domestic needs of my brothers and me when they stayed with us. [The eldest, 9 ½ years old than I, and the middle brother, a little more than 7 years older, were mostly away at boarding school.] She was an excellent cook of the old Scottish kind; I didn’t care too much for Scotch broth but her steamed puddings were to die for. As it was wartime, she rarely had much more than bare rations to put on the table, but hunger was never a problem for us.

The domestic stability that my grandparents provided me was in itself an enormous blessing. But the beautiful corner of the world in which they happened to be living was the greater blessing– and I look on it as the best gift my mother could have left me. We were in a small village spread out along the sea but sheltered from open waters by the large island opposite us. My young buddies and I were never a few moments away from the shore, the sea, the hills, with their rocks, ferns, woods, and burns. Gentle hills surrounded us and held us in their kindly embrace. Each hill had its own personality and I came to love each one. In fact, I fell in love with Nature in all the aspects she revealed of herself to me in that quiet little backwater; I have heard others refer to it as “the most beautiful place in the world.” Be that as it may, my grandparents’ upper-class home with its gentlemanly aesthetic, my grandfather’s quiet dignity, my grandmother’s constant, undemanding care, and the glorious Nature of the scene were the formative elements in my years from almost 4 to 7 or 8, when I had to return to my father’s house.

The resulting loss of the domestic aesthetic was not too hard to bear; it was something to know that my father wanted me back with him. However, the loss of the village and its Nature was one I mourned for years, as I’d moved to a pleasant but spectacularly ordinary suburban town. Immediately about the house, Nature consisted of small, neat front gardens and some street trees. Instead of my hills I saw straight rows of respectable semi-detached housing. My heart remained always in my seaside village in the hills, and always will.

Now, although Grannie did nothing whatever to hide her contempt for my father and her impatience with his Glasgow lower-middle-class habits, speech, and dress when he visited – usually at least once a year [his work exempted him from call-up into the armed forces] – she did me no harm as regard my mixed feelings towards him. I could understand that Grannie didn’t like his behaviours and I could see he did nothing to soften the effects they had on her. At bottom, though, I knew Grannie and her ways, and I took no notice of her spite and antagonisms towards him. I respected that never she did say one word to me about him that might have turned me against him. Grannie might well have thought that we were two of a kind, but if so she was principled enough not to make my life with her a hell such as she attempted to make for him in his visits.

When I returned to my father’s house, which had not known a woman’s warmth in some years, of course I noticed the differences in furnishings and everything else but they didn’t bother me a bit. [One thing that did disturb me greatly about the house in Wales (in which I’d been born) was the electric lighting. In the village, there was no electricity and we used oil lamps. Their warm and gentle light was lovely. The electric light was harsh to and on my eyes. However, there was nothing I could do so I didn’t fret about it.]

My relationship with my father descended into conflict rather quickly, although in the first few years after my return we got on fairly well much of the time. My father, Ernest, employed a woman live-in housekeeper to take care of all domestic needs. She had two children of her own who lived with us. This was fine with me. Ernest had lost his own mother early on (when he was 8) in tragically violent circumstances which must have scarred him psychically and terribly so. He’d then had an unhappy relationship with his stepmother. He decided not to risk a repeat of that misery for his own children: hence housekeeper.

Although Ernest was an aggressive Glasgow socialist (supporter of the Labour Party) he had also been an active Theosophist and was still a member of the Theosophical Society. So he had a softer, spiritual side to him even though the male, socialist, dominating sides of his personality came to the fore in his handling of me and perhaps because of me. At any rate, he chose to take on the challenge of being both father and mother to me. One of his great strengths was his ability to organize. He proceeded, as both my father and as my mother, to organize me. Alas, as an able organizer, he never bothered to question his judgements. Alas again, in mothering me, a boy of 7 or 8, he began by mothering the boy that had left him at the age of 3. This ridiculous unreality on the part of my male parent seriously disturbed me; I was finding myself with the strangest of unnecessary problems hard to escape from. This recipe for domestic trouble was compounded when Ernest kept getting very upset because I was not showing gratitude for his exertions and self-sacrifices on my behalf.

In this, Ernest had his own set of mental imbalances and consequent emotional needs. I was bitterly sorry to be causing him upset and bitterly sorry we couldn’t sort it out. In the years that followed, the conflict broke me in spirit, utterly. Ernest, it seems, was beyond breaking.

In 1950, my twelfth year, Ernest had a serious accident on the road home from work. He was in hospital with severe concussion. Thereafter, his temper, always volatile, became ever more nasty and in fact vicious. Nowadays, we’d say that he was abusive. And that the concussion affected the workings of his brain, making the outbreaks of aggression ungovernable whether he wanted it or not.

Our relationship deteriorated into almost constant quarrelling, but what I never held against him in my mind or my heart or my words or action, was his social background. He could of course embarrass me terribly in company (what parent doesn’t embarrass a teenage child?) or in public. But I had no difficulty in accepting him in who he was as a member of the community, one intimate to me. It was his bad behaviour towards me that aroused in me deep resentment. He was a bully and a tyrant, but never in front of others; when any visitor had left the house and we were alone, he had no difficulty in letting his temper run free. Seeing this, what was I to make of Theosophy?

Ernest made reference to my grandfather, his father-in-law, seldom, but it was never without a nasty sneer. He said that his bride’s father had come to the wedding only to make sure that the minister wasn’t a friend of my father’s with his collar on back to front [in those days men wore shirts with separate collars; if put on backwards, the collar could make the wearer look like a minister of religion]. Or Ernest would cast the old man as a profligate, idle money-waster. I couldn’t deny any of this as I didn’t know one way or the other but I never forgot the gentle dignity of that old man and how much it had meant to me as Ernest’s child whom Ernest had had to send away.

So there was an undercurrent of family conflict going on all the time. I missed the aesthetics of the grandparents’ house. The snobbishness of the people who lived in the “better” parts of the anglified Welsh town we lived in could be painful (although I would have died rather than show it). I don’t believe I was a snob, ever, to my father. But he was a reverse snob towards the parents of his wife, and one who could be angrily so. What really “messed with my head” was the terrible contrast between the two principal men in my life so far. My grandfather lived ‘dignity’. In doing so, he never failed to assume that I also had dignity, and he never violated it. My father seemed to have no grasp of the concept of dignity, and he trampled on mine from morning till night (well, it sure felt like it: his presence and his attitudes filled the house).

The undercurrent of conflict had never fully surfaced until that day when he assserted that he would not have his son be more of a gentleman than he. When it eventually did surface, I was suddenly ready to fight him tooth and nail.

What prompted this particular outburst on his behalf was my borrowing some of his clothes without permission for a trip to London. I had no decent clothes at the time. By now, Ernest had given up housekeepers and he sometimes forgot about my clothes. This was not deliberate neglect; he just wasn’t too interested in the subject. I was desperate to get away from him for a while and to get to some concerts and opera. I couldn’t go in those awful clothes. What to do? At the very last moment,  I borrowed some of his better things. I said nothing. When ready to leave the house, I put on my raincoat before saying goodbye to him; we stood facing each other in the hallway. He immediately noticed his own trousers on my lower legs. He froze; he spat out his nastiness.

He saw clearly that I was sensitive about my dress (in common with every teenage boy on the planet). He assumed it was because I wanted to look like a “gentleman” in contrast to what I should look like as his son. In truth, I did not care if I was taken for a gentleman or for a beggar, but I didn’t want to be taken for a beggar-child despised.

Ernest did not contemplate “gentlemanliness” without dragging in Socialist resentments about social inequality and its resulting cruelties (I did not like them either). Nor could he contemplate it without going into his dark places about his in-laws. I was on the point of receiving his accumulated bitternesses about both.

I will not have my son be more of a gentleman than I am!

I heard this growl in some bewilderment; the idea and the passion with which he expressed it yanked me suddenly into a new universe, as it were, strange but demandingly real. And it was an adult universe. I stood in that universe, suddenly a little more adult, suddenly on the edge of a nasty adult fight, looking at him, watching for his next move.

In that brief moment, I adopted a firm and clear position within myself: “You married your wife. You had your children by her. I am as much her son as I am yours. I take pride in being her son and I will not have her put down on account of her parents or of anything else. I, and you, owe her parents enormous gratitude for what they did for us, your sons. If some of their ‘gentleness’ rubbed off on me because I lived with them – you with the serious problem on your hands of three boys with no mother, and in war-time — you’ll just have to live with it because I won’t be denying any piece of that inheritance which is quite naturally mine. If you are not happy and proud that she was your wife while she lived and gave you your three boys, then I, the youngest, am going to get extremely angry with you right now and we will just have to fight it out. We will fight it outNOW.” I was quite relaxed, but quite ready.

It was a surprise to me that I actually had such a clear and firm position about something. Usually, I bumbled along, dodging the difficult bits where I could, enduring them when I couldn’t.

It’s quite probable that as soon as Ernest had delivered his assertion he realized that he had jumped on to shaky ground; if so, he might well have picked up on my readiness to challenge him on deep hurts and energies he did not want explored or even exposed. In his defence, one has to acknowledge that Life had been extremely cruel to him and put him in a position he had no idea of how to deal with. He could not deal with the consequences of his inability or refusal to admit that he was out of his depth. Perhaps having me for a son was the straw that broke the camel’s back. At any rate, he dropped the subject and left me to my own devices. I left the house for London. Not for the first time I had the feeling that my male parent was, in some ways, a fool.

The consequences of Ernest’s inability to accept his failure to be both father and mother were sad ones for both of us; I turned against him because of his behaviour, shutting down my love and support; we both had very painful unfinished business we could never discuss together; I went out from home into the world a broken young male adult impossibly badly brought up. [I had most of the symptoms of what they now call “complex PTSD” except that I was not suicidal: at about 15 years of age I seriously considered the idea of suicide as a way out and discarded it at once.]

Strange then, twenty years or so later, to have “gentlemanliness” thrown in my face again and from such a different direction, in such a different context, and with such different meaning. Although I have been beating about the gentlemanly bushes as it were in this long digression, I have not bothered myself one bit about being a gentleman or not, for many decades. In fact, I recognised that gentleman-liness was no longer to be part of my life as soon as I re-entered my father’s house in Wales.

LRH objected to something in me, and he had every right to object to some of my behaviours towards him and quite right to object to some of my attitudes or habits or whatevers. No human being is easy to live with, and I freely admit that I am less easy than most, though I admit it without pride or satisfaction. Reflecting on my younger years, I see (as all humans can when they reflect on the past) that I was frequently guilty of ignorance, foolishness, selfishness, and other stupidities. I must have been a great trial at times to L. Ron Hubbard [among many others] and acknowledge that it was perhaps out of some great deep generosity of his that he did not hit me as hard as he would normally have done with someone who crossed him. Why I would be the object of such generosity I do not know.

Whatever LRH objected to in me, he didn’t want his feelings or their origins explored or perhaps exposed that afternoon in Dunedin, Florida. In contrast with the earlier similar encounter with my father, I had no urge whatever to attack L. Ron Hubbard. I was already grievously disappointed in what he had become and where he was taking the organisation I had wanted so much to be part of and contribute to. I was deeply saddened at my old friend’s wandering off into the impurities of anger, hatred, resentment. He had become mentally unbalanced, just as my father was—just as I had been and still was (and still am). Both he and Ernest had turned away from what I could have given them had we all been able to communicate our differences and adjust better to each other. As I left home, I turned away from what Ernest had become with no regret but with a feeling of having utterly failed him in his great needs [yes, I know he was the adult, but I did want so very much to help him]. I turned away from what LRH had become with infinite regret for what might have been for him, for the group, for mankind, and, a bit, for me.

The Buddha is said to have said:

Never neglect your work/For another’s/However great his need./Your work is to discover your work/And then with all your heart/ To give yourself to it. [from The Dhammapada as rendered by Thomas Byrom, Shambal Press.]

When I first went to Saint Hill Manor to meet L. Ron Hubbard there, I knew when I shook his hand that here was work for me to do. I gave myself to it with all my heart. In due course I saw that what I thought was my work had not changed but was no longer needed and wanted by the man I most wanted to do my work for. I had gone into my experience with my father, an innocent boy of 7 or 8, ready, as any boy would be, to adore him. Over the years what happened absolutely broke my heart. But that experience enabled me to stand close to L. Ron Hubbard with no danger of heartbreak. I did come to love the best of him, but always with a clear eye as to the liabilities of association with him – and indeed, with anyone. But I could not find within me the power to do the work of holding LRH’s feet to the fire of his own Scientology Ethics.

I’ve spoken of three men who have been the dominating influences in my life. My grandfather gifted me awareness of quiet, kindly dignity; I carried that awareness into my happy relationship with the infinitely loving Nature outside my house. Ernest, my father, was the arm by which the karmic hammer smashed me to bits. Hubbard, as a man and as a source of a technology of mercy, helped me put myself back together again; ironically, he helped me get to the point where I could find and stand on my own feet – but by the time I was becoming independent, he  wanted only  robotic followership. Thanks to him, I, like many others, was able to see and refuse the trap he had created.

Perhaps, though, the most penetrating influence on my life has been my mother – by her absence from it. A sentimental inclination of mine is to take the time I spent with Nature in that Scottish village (as I mentioned before) as a parting gift from my mother to me and my brothers. However, my mother’s absence led me to lead myself into my troubles with my father, just as it led him to lead himself into his troubles with me. It surely contributed to the difficulties LRH had with me and to his disconnection from me.

Nevertheless, my mother’s departure from life threw me into the welcoming arms of Nature who taught perhaps more – and, who knows, perhaps more lovingly — than my mother could have, had she lived and even had she guided both me and my father through my difficult teen years (as mothers tend to do or did). My mother also gave me into the rather impersonal arms of her father, he who taught me something of a gentlemanliness transcending all ideologies of class that I never forgot. Therefore, much of any credit that there might be in my living I assign to my mother; that there is a great deal of credit to be found in my living is by no means a certainty. But responsibility for my many deficiencies would not be hers. Nor my father’s. Nor L. Ron Hubbard’s.

But a more comprehensive truth is that the burdens I brought with me into this lifetime were greater than anyone could expect a “normal” parent to deal with, let alone a mother who was tubercular and dying, or a father himself already cruelly over-burdened. The kharmic blows my father gave me were the last of a series that had begun over a hundred earth years before. I believe that in the “normal” course of events it would have taken me several lifetimes to recover from these batterings if left to my own resources. What Ron gave me out of his own gentleness as a friend and out of the best of his public personas in contributing to my this-lifetime ongoing salvation from insanity exceeds by far anything I’ve received from another within this universe in a similar time frame.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

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4 Replies to “Memories, 28: No Work for Gentlemen Here”

  1. Robin ScottOutstanding, Ken – and I feel privileged to have shared some of this with you, my friend.
    1. urqbones@gmx.comThanks, Robin. 🙂
  2. Dan KoonKen, I echo Robin’s sentiments. This is a spectacular piece of writing. Thanks for opening your heart and soul.
    1. urqbones@gmx.comThank you, Dan, for the ack.
      Deep bows to Robin and you.

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