Letter to ESK from Joe Van Staden
During a wonderful e-mail exchange with Joe Van Staden, Captain of the Apollo, I (Kendra) mentioned to him that a lot of ex-Scientology kids are curious about what LRH was actually like. Unlike their parents, who may have had the chance to meet L. Ron Hubbard in person, we second- and third-generation Scientologists never did. I asked Joe’s permission to re-print this very interesting letter here, which sheds some fascinating and well-written insight on life in the old Sea Org, and on the life of L. Ron Hubbard, who Joe knew quite well.
Thank you for responding so soon to my e-mail. Wow, we missed each other by quite a few years. I left the S O before you were born. Anyway, I am doing fine. The reason I originally got into Scientology in 1960 at the age of 20, was because I felt then that there was more to the conventional picture of existence as provided by “the establishment” – religion, science, politicians etc. Scientology introduced me to a different way of looking at things. From day one I was fascinated by the philosophy and technical application of this philosophy. From that perspective I considered myself lucky to have had all my training as an auditor and trainer of the tech, obtained under the direct supervision of LRH.
It began with my HPA (Hubbard Professional Auditor) course in 1960 in Johannesburg. LRH was in South Africa to deliver the first S A ACC. While here he took over running my HPA course. Then in 1963 – 64, I did my first and second St Hill Special Briefing courses under LRH. Then in 1966 I did my class 7 course also under LRH. Bear with me, there is a point to all this. When the class 8 course came out I was captain of the Apollo. After the first class 8 course on the ship, which was for public, several SO members, including me, were put on course. So I did my class 8 course under LRH as well. Then a couple of years later as Qual Sec on Flag, LRH gave me the task to compile all the internships up to class 12 auditor. During the project we interacted quite a lot. I still have the original commendation from LRH for work done on this project. On several occasions over the years I was the auditor, amongst others, who tested out new routines with LRH as the case supervisor. Apart from that I have put in many hours as an auditor as well as training the various courses.
OK, so what’s the point? I know the Scientology material as well as anyone. I have learnt a lot, all of which culminates in one main lesson. It actually is; all in the mind. In other words, if I can get you to really buy into the premise, with passion, that March is a bad month for you, you are very likely to see and consequently experience mainly bad stuff during March. If I can get you to buy into the idea that your headaches are the result of you falling of a horse when you were ten, simply finding an explanation for your headache s, be it true or not, can relieve your headaches. If I can get you to buy into the idea that only Scientology has the answer to your “spiritual salvation” you are likely to be terrified of being denied The Bridge: Bottom line; you are the source of your happiness, fears – your entire case for that matter. You create your case 24 hours a day. And believe it or not, by simply changing the way you look at your world will also change your case. I could go on for many pages on this subject. The issue of mindset is something I have spent the last 20 years working on. And my conclusion; yes, go up the Scientology bridge if that is what corresponds with your reality (your belief system). It will work for you. But me personally I will focus on managing mindset, it’s much cheaper, more to the point and I don’t have to put up with people who have lost the spirit of play – who take things far too seriously.
You say you have always wondered about LRH. As you know he has been put on a pedestal by many. On the other hand there are those who want to portray him as a ruthless charlatan. I guess to me he was neither. Over the years I have been approached by many to contribute to books or articles about LRH – invariably in the negative. My response has always been pretty much the same. Why should I denigrate someone who provided us with such an interesting game. Here was someone who said; “Hey Joe, here’s a big ship, you be the captain, let’s go mess around and have some adventures – and meet all these amazing people from all over the world – some of them are really interesting characters, not to mention the beautiful woman – at the same time let’s explore the human mind and see what we can discover about the soul”. A simplistic view maybe but back then the air was filled with anticipation, a sense of adventure and romance. Inspired by LRH. There were times when I really got to know him at a different level. As captain of the Athena (Mission into Time) I usually had supper with him, just the two of us. It was then that he opened up and just talked, unguarded, about his feelings etc.
Quite frankly I enjoyed his company. However, in my opinion, as his health deteriorated and he felt that he wasn’t achieving the impact on society he wanted to, his methods got more desperate and “out of touch”. The route taken by LRH during the last 12 or so years of his life was influenced by his sense of failure more than anything else.
I must emphasize that what has been expressed here is based on opinion – my perceptions and experience, which no doubt differ from that of many others. It isn’t about the truth, it’s about what is real for you – that’s what works. And undoubtedly Scientology works for many. What is real for me is that nothing is ever the same from one moment to the next. Everything is in a constant state of flux and unless I can adapt what is real for me today, so as to remain in sync with an ever changing world, I am in trouble. I certainly hope I will see things differently tomorrow. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: Progress is impossible without change and those who can not change their minds cannot change anything. By the way, LRH specifically created the Qualifications division to keep the organization “in touch” with an ever changing world, but that’s another story.