In South Africa, it was like watching a well-known play. The cast was different, but the lines were as familiar as those in the passage from Macbeth: "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow..." Anyone who had attended the performances in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and London could have joined in under his breath.
There on stage was the protagonist, the cosmic pretzelbender from the National Association for Mental Health (played by T. J. Stander) with his overblown rhetoric describing the horrors of Scientology.
There were the Pals in Parliament (Drs. Ventner and Vosloo, and the Hon. Mr. Wood) who duly raise the motions; the Honest Health Minister (Dr. Hertzog) who refuses to act on rumour and second-hand evidence of what allegedly happened in another country half a world away, and is forthwith supplanted by the Second Health Minister, (Dr. de Wet) an obedient servant.
Then, in their turn, come the Chief Headshrinker (Dr. Pascoe) who appears briefly to dispense learned nonsense
and dire warnings; the White Knights of journalism following, ludicrously mounted on jackasses and bearing banners with such inscriptions as "Punish These People", "Ban Scientology" and "Witchcraft Too"; and bringing up the rear, the long-faced clergy (the Reverends de Vos, Botha and van Niekerk) reciting the Word of God, spiced with such pulpit metaphors as "Synagogue of Satan".
Providing an absurdist background of camouflage and confusion to the whole performance is the Anvil Chorus (Rational Thinkers, National Welfare Board members, Professors of psychology, and Medical Association lobbyists) all in fright wigs, intoning passages from the Anderson Report, like a group of Maoists brandishing the little red book.
The entire production is centred, of course, upon the Inquiry, which comes along in due course, and apparently is intended to supply an element of suspense. The False Witness (Capt. Jan Hendrick du Plessis) gives perjured evidence which two and a half years later he will recant, as did Phil Wearne in Australia, saying he was motivated by a desire for revenge. Testimony will be taken from outraged parents and marriage partners, failed Scientologists, an ex-Communist, alcoholics and psychiatric patients.
Although there were a few random laughs imparted by befuddled stand-up comics in baggy trousers; and fragile hysterics when Possessive Mother with voice vibrating like violin strings, told how Scientology lured her forty-fiveyear-old son away from home, on the whole the South African performance was a mechanical replay, put on by an amateur dramatic society.
Viewing it, one sometimes longed for the vigorous, even if vulgar, delivery of a Gordon just; or the Freudian thousand-and-one nights of a Douglas Moon down under.
T. J. Stander, who has played the leading role in the South African extravaganza, began preparing for the pageant as far back as 1960. On November 22 of that year,
he wrote a letter to the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry in New York, asking that organization what steps they had taken against Scientology, explaining that "in terms of existing legislation in South Africa, no steps can be taken to debar Scientologists from practicing, although we are worried in the extreme about the activities of this body". Stander's signature identified him as organizing secretary of the S.A. National Council for Mental Health.
Identical letters were sent to the Philippine Mental Health Association; the National Association for Mental Health (UK); the Department of National Health and Welfare (Canada), and to the American Medical Association.
With the dedicated zeal of a latter-day Savanarola, Stander also began to organize the potential opposition to Scientology at home. On December 7, 1961, he sent a memorandum to all members of the Executive Committee (South African National Council for Mental Health) and to all mental health societies in the Republic, asking them to submit to him information appearing in local papers and magazines, concerning "courses in psychology and related subjects".
Typical of the material being garnered by Stander was an exchange of correspondence between Dr. Scott Millar, medical officer of health for the city of Johannesburg and the Hubbard Association of Scientologists. Millar had written the Scientologists, soliciting information concerning Scientology. After receiving it, he wrote the Scientology organization that "I have read some of these pamphlets and consider that as an example of meretricious pseudo-science Scientology would be hard to beat and that the claims made for it are not only ridiculous [sic] but an insult to the intelligence of any normal person."
Dr. Millar closed his letter with a threat: "I propose to report your activities to the authorities concerned for any action they may wish to take on the matter."
In keeping with Scientology's policy of giving as good as, if not better, than they received, Mary Sue Hubbard replied: "As you have no knowledge as to what Scientology is or what Scientology does, then such a report as you mention you intend to make to the concerned authorities would be more meretricious nonsense and more irresponsibly damaging perhaps to your own position as Medical officer of Health than your opinion of Scientology is to Scientology and those of us who work in it."
Her letter concluded: "Please understand that our concern in this matter is merely that you, knowing nothing of Scientology, have no right to condemn it or not condemn it, and particularly as you hold a public position of responsibility, you, in particular should be much more careful of what statement you make."
When it came to employing the technique of the noiseless, patient spider, T. J. Stander had no equal among anti-Scientology plotters. He tirelessly wrote memoranda and letters. He sponsored and helped co-ordinate informal evening talks on Scientology. He acted as liaison among various medical, psychological and social welfare groups. He solicited and had printed or reprinted articles hostile to Scientology. He planted a spy in the Scientology organization with orders to entrap the adherents. He spent hours on the telephone to members of various "scientific bodies", urging them to "use your knowledge and influence of your position to take action against this organization". In July 1961, he told Dr. A. B. Daneel of Sterkfontein Hospital - another volunteer Scientology fighter:
"I have had the affairs of these people investigated. A detailed memorandum is being prepared for submission to the Ministers of Justice, Health and Education, Arts and Science. A deputation representing my council, the Medical Association of South Africa, the Psychological Association of South Africa, and the S.A. National Council for Child Welfare, will meet the Ministers concerned to press for
legislation declaring not only Scientologists International, but also the Psychology Foundation of South Africa, illegal."
In early April 1966, South African newspapers carried a story stating that leading psychologists "and other mental specialists" in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town were investigating the activities of the Scientologists and that the Psychological Association of South Africa would shortly issue its findings. It was suggested that the report would be "quite startling".
However, the Scientologists promptly announced that investigation was a game any number could play, and that they had set up a team of investigators to probe the activities of certain psychiatrists practicing in Durban, Johannesburg and other South African centres. Dossiers on some of the practitioners had already been compiled and were in the hands of L. Ron Hubbard.
So far as I am able to determine, the shocking expose promised by the Psychological Association never materialized.
Following the original scenario, Dr. E. L. Fisher, Member for Rosettenville, on September 30, 1966, arose in Parliament to ask Dr. Albert Hertzog, the Minister of Health, the customary question: had his attention been drawn to a cult being practised in the Republic under the name of Hubbard Association of Scientologists International, and whether his department had investigated the cult in relation to the people's health. If he had not done so, would he now have such an investigation made?
The answer was that the Health Ministry had made a preliminary investigation of Scientology, but that it had turned up no tangible facts requiring any official action.
Undaunted, Dr. Fisher was on his feet again in the House of Assembly two weeks later, asking whether the Health Minister had received further communications in regard to Scientology, and pressing for an inquiry.
Dr. Hertzog replied that he had received only two letters
from individuals, one in praise of Scientology and one against it. Until more convincing evidence could be put forward, there was no justification for a full-scale inquiry.
So the wind blew and the worlds flew, and there again stood the Hon. Member for Rosettenville, on May 4, 1967, putting down Scientology. The cult, said he, could use information obtained during the "security check", made at the beginning of the course, to blackmail anyone answering the questions for the rest of his life. He also quoted the standard passages from the Anderson Report and then, on cue, called once more for an official inquiry into Scientology.
Dr. Hertzog said in reply that one could not rely solely upon the Anderson Report as a basis for launching a Government inquiry in South Africa. He needed information from people who had allegedly been victimized by Scientology. He simply did not have a prima facie case needed to justify an inquiry.
Dr. Hertzog later told a newsman: "We must be very careful not to have inquisitions against people. This is not a police state. Overseas government commission findings are not sufficient proof."
Such, however, was not the thinking of the National Association for Mental Health and of that organization's Pals in Parliament. Two weeks later, Dr. Fisher once again, during a debate on another Health Department issue, urged the Health Minister "to find some way of assisting persons suffering from the persecutions of Scientologists".
And once more Dr. Hertzog answered that if anyone would provide him with evidence that Scientology was harmful, an investigation would be justified; but no such evidence had been forthcoming.
As a matter of fact, Dr. Hertzog went on, when it became known that Dr. Fisher would introduce a motion against Scientology during the previous parliamentary session, the Health Minister had been astonished by the number of persons in high positions who had approached
him to tell him of the benefits they were deriving from Scientology.
It must have occurred to T.J. Stander and associates that their failure to get official action in Parliament was attributable to the fact that they were represented by the Opposition.
Stander told a visiting French psycho-therapist that "the Government will never decide to accept a motion presented by anyone of the Opposition".
The only way to accomplish their purpose, Stander continued, would be to enlist the help of a Member who was a Nationalist. The man they had in mind was Dr. W. L. D. M. Venter, for Kimberley South.
"I would appreciate it," Stander told his visitor who, during their conversation, had demonstrated an expert knowledge of the subject, "if you could instruct Dr. Venter on Scientology because he knows nothing about it, or very little - and myself also; the only thing I know about it is what I learned in England during my travels overseas, and it's very little. Then we're going to arrange a meeting with Mr. Venter and this time it is going to be a serious business. We have two months for that, and not a minute to lose."
While preparations went forward on this new front, the South African press launched a massive assault on Scientology, making use of the traditional weapons - rumour bombardment and the poison gas of "expert opinion". Scientologists were depicted as "a back-slapping crowd", intolerant, self-righteous, vindictive, who "seemed able to disregard many traditional moral concepts and the normal community's sense of values". They broke up marriages and alienated families. They caused mental breakdowns: "The condition of a man who had suffered from schizophrenia was much aggravated. He is now completely dependent on psychiatric treatment - a Jekyll and Hyde personality."
A seventeen-year-old Durban youth, whom the Sunday
Tribune described as a "schoolboy" who had taken an introductory course in Scientology, was quoted as saying that two women Scientologists "grilled" him about intimate details of his sex life.
"One of the women, he said, asked him if he enjoyed sex and then demanded: 'Do you want to go to bed with me?' At another time she hurled four-letter words at him - while a six-year old child stood by, listening."
The Eastern Province Herald of Port Elizabeth, reprinted portions of a scurrilous article that had appeared in the Women's Wear Daily in New York, labelling Scientology a high-priced confidence game, and asserting that "it worships no god but its founder, L. Ron Hubbard, a sort of Western guru with an unholy smile". Scientologists were described as "flower children, hippies, high school dropouts and disillusioned adults. One of the principal 'dynamics' or commandments for the cult's worshippers is the sex act itself, pure and simple."
On a popular level, in South Africa, where last year alone, a reported 2oo,ooo white weekend swingers ducked over the border into black Swaziland to partake of forbidden fruit (striptease, pornographic books, casino gambling, and racially mixed fun and games), such pungent copy was more likely to arouse interest than to excite indignation. But the group seeking to crush Scientology correctly reasoned that such lurid charges would soften up Members of Parliament who, in their role of law-givers, had to put on the robes of righteousness.
To lend an air of intellectual respectability to what was in fact an unmitigated campaign of mud-slinging, Stander and his associates provided a roster of psychiatrists, leading political figures and university professors to appear before students' associations and public discussion groups, where they gave "objective" analyses of Scientology.
An organization known as the Rational Thinkers Forum announced that it would conduct a full inquiry into Scientology, but drew in its horns when Scientologists made
it clear they would hold the "investigators" legally responsible for their statements.
The Cape Town Evening Post published a story based on a statement by the Forum Chairman, Mrs. Lily Paltiel, saying that prominent people would be asked to give evidence before an investigating committee which would sit in camera. The investigators would include "doctors, philosophers, a minister of religion and a sociologist". Members of the public who wished to give evidence were directed to write to the Investigating Committee, Rational Thinkers Forum, P.O. Box 10086, Cape Town.
Later, when interviewed by a Scientology staff member concerning the project, Mrs. Paltiel denied that the Rational Thinkers were planning anything like an investigation of Scientology. What they had in mind was merely "a symposium of objective opinions aimed at imparting accurate facts".
On April 8, 19 6 8, the Evening Post ran a retraction of its earlier story, saying that the Forum would not conduct an inquiry as reported by the paper in its weekend edition of March 9. Instead, it would hold a symposium on the subject of Scientology.
In what was clearly a move to make certain that they did not have to confront Scientology's lawyers in court, the Rational Thinkers changed even the title of their "Symposium Scientology" to the more generalized one of "Brainwashing".
In a circular letter to members, Mrs. Paltiel rationally explained: "We just dare not ask you to spend an entire evening listening to the promises Scientologists do (or do not) keep. One actually needs to adhere to that cult to acquire so much endurance. And why should we restrict ourselves to a mere aspect of a wide subject?"
The representatives of enlightened opinion who provided the answers at the symposium were Dr. F. D. Pascoe, senior psychiatrist in Government Service; Dr. F. J. M. Potgieter, psychologist and professor of theology at the
University of Stellenbosch; and Mrs. Catherine Taylor, MP for Wynberg.
The illustrious speakers equated Scientology processing with brainwashing, and attacked the E-meter as a misleading diagnostic tool.
In her address, the Hon, Mrs. Taylor imputed to Scientology the evils most characteristic of psychoanalysis rather than of Scientology. "When the anxiety of any client is made use of by means of lengthy and costly consultations and a physical diagnosis is only reached after a long period of time - this is a confidence trick in the accepted sense of the word."
Dr. Pascoe, Senior Psychiatrist in Government Service, spoke of the methods used by a brainwasher whose intention was evil, and gave the rough side of his tongue to "those leaders of cults who start their own cult in the hope of acquiring wealth and power over the lives of others", The scientific quality of Dr. Pascoe's discourse (and perhaps of the entire evening) can best be savoured in his concluding remarks:
"Brainwashing is a good thing in good hands, an evil thing in evil hands. This laundress, this dainty little lady who washes brains, she wears many clothes; she comes like Eve with many apples in her hand. Don't let her deceive you."
The final push towards Governmental action against Scientology came in the early part of 1969. A number of leading South African newspapers ran lengthy statements "to urge, in the highest circles, an enquiry into Scientology".
In a front-page leader, Die Transvaler said the demand for an official inquiry had the support of church leaders, and introduced a racial note into the issue. Scientology, it said, "has an ethical precept which is in conflict with the Christian Ethic, and propagates an inherent liberalistic attitude of equality of rights for all races and colours".
Early in February 1969, T. J. Stander met with Dr. Venter in Pretoria and gave him a file of documents and press cuttings concerning Scientology. Among the papers turned over to the MP was the draft of a motion to be made in Parliament asking for an official inquiry into Scientology.
A week later, Dr. Venter presented a private motion in the House of Assembly calling for an investigation into the activities of Scientology with a view to banning the organization in South Africa.
In the three-hour debate which followed, Scientology's familiar enemies, protected by Parliamentary privilege, spoke with militant mouths. "We must decide," said Dr. W. L. Vosloo, Nationalist MP for Brentwood, "if this monstrosity - this octopus - is a religion as it claims to be."
Mrs. C. D. Taylor declared that Scientology was "silly and sick" and represented a danger to psychologically unstable people.
Nor was that all. Particularly disturbing, said Mr. L. F. Wood (U.P., Berea) had been reports from overseas about the organization's approach to sex. South Africa could not dismiss the situation lightly. As for the founder of the cult, Ron Hubbard, there was ample evidence that he was an impostor and a fraud.
After the Honourable Members had roundly condemned the practices, founder, aims and potentialities of Scientology - both in South Africa and abroad - it was Dr. Carel de Wet's turn. Dr. de Wet was the newly appointed Minister of Health who, unlike his predecessor, was willing to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into Scientology because objections against the organization "have been raised in responsible quarters". Referring to the action taken against Scientology by the Government of Great Britain, Dr. de Wet offered his clencher: "If Britain acts, then you must know that the hour is late."
A month later, on March 28, 1969, the South African Government appointed a nine-member Commission of
Inquiry into Scientology, under the chairmanship of G. P. C. Kotze, a former Supreme Court judge.
The other members of the Commission were, by profession and social background persons likely to be hostile to Scientology. There were: the Rev. G. J. Davidtz, minister of the Nederduitse Kerk, and Welfare Board executive; Professor A. J. van Wyk, Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health and senior psychiatrist at Weskoppies Hospital; Prof. I. J. J. van Rooyen, head of the department of Social Work, Rand Afrikaanse University; Dr. L. van Z. Pretorius, who formerly lectured at Stellenbosch University; Prof. G. A. Elliott, member of the Medicine Control Board, for twenty-one years associated with the medical faculty of Witwatersrand University; Prof. H. L. Swanepoel, dean of the law faculty at the University of Potchefstroom; P. E. Bosnian, ex-secretary of Social Welfare and Pensions; and Mrs. A. M. G. Maytom, career politician and former mayoress of Durban.
Leading the evidence before the Commission, E. O. K. Harwood, Attorney-General for the Eastern Cape, fell easily into the role of prosecutor. Like Gordon just, who had played the part in the original Melbourne production, the style and idiom of Harwood's utterances marked him as a Grand Inquisitor.
He challenged the testimony of pro-Scientology witnesses and treated that of their adversaries with gentle deference. On one occasion he suggested to a Scientologist who was giving evidence that the movement may have relegated Hubbard to the position of founder or "father figure" because he had become an embarrassment to them.
Scientologists had no illusions about what they should expect from those who sat in the seats of the mighty; but with one eye on that greater tribunal, the public, they presented their best advocates, flown in from various parts of the world to give evidence.
Producers of the South African show no doubt welcomed the appearance of the distinguished witnesses from overseas
because they lent an international flavour and importance to proceedings which in themselves were of very limited interest.
Among the foreign witnesses who spoke on Scientology's behalf were Dr. Thomas S. Szasz, noted psychiatrist upon whose unique work I have drawn heavily in the preceding pages; John J. Matonis, chairman of the American Trial Lawyers Association; Prof. Harold Kaufman, a lawyerpsychiatrist of Washington, D.C.; Dr. Edward Hamlyn, a British physician, specializing in psychosomatic illnesses; and David B. Gaiman, Deputy Guardian of the Church of Scientology (World Wide), East Grinstead.
The evidence given by these expert witnesses from abroad was unequivocal and outspoken. For that reason, it stirred interest and was fully reported in the press.
Dr. Szasz told the Commission that, while he was not himself a Scientologist, he agreed to a large extent with the movement's attack on psychiatry. He said the practice of involuntary psychiatry was a communistic ideology and that psychiatry was making "a cancerous invasion" of the law, politics and religion in America. Striking close to home, Dr. Szasz informed the commissioners that in some quarters in the U.S., racism was assumed to be symptomatic of mental disease.
Mr. Matonis upset the commissioners' comfortable conclusion that Scientology was not a religion by citing the case of Aaron Barr, a young ministerial student whom a New York Court of Appeal had granted exemption from military service on the ground that he was a duly ordained Scientology minister.
Dr. Hamlyn likewise dealt harshly with the well-settled notion that there was something about Scientology that was disastrously harmful to health. Only a few days previously Dr. M. G. Feldman, spokesman for the Medical Association of South Africa, had testified that Scientology, "with its confused application of confused concepts", could be harmful.
Dr. Hamlyn said Scientology had provided him the answer to treating psychosomatic illness, which he had been seeking for twenty years. After taking a course in Dianetics, he had decided that the system would be of enormous value to the medical profession and took another course which qualified him to train others in Dianetic auditing.
David Gaiman, a man of subtle intelligence, who heads Scientology's public relations worldwide, countered the thrusts of Dr. Harwood, counsel for the Commission, with ripostes worthy of the most accomplished verbal fencing master.
Referring to the Scientology policy letter cancelling rules relating to second dynamic activities, the counsel asked Mr. Gaiman if that did not "put a premium on fornication".
Gaiman replied in the famous words of Edward III, now the motto of Britain's Order of the Garter: Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil to him who evil thinks).
In another exchange, Harwood asked the Scientology spokesman what reason T. J. Stander (director of the South African Council for Mental Health) could have for maliciously attacking Scientology as the witness had testified. Gaiman replied that "no reason is unreason", and suggested that he could not go beyond this without tarnishing somebody's reputation.
As David Gaiman had no doubt foreseen, Harwood pressed him to give his opinion, assuring him that anything defamatory would be privileged testimony in the setting of an official inquiry.
Gaiman then stated: "Unless Mr. Stander is a Communist, I find it difficult to see why malice should bite so deep."
Thus far, two of the principal witnesses against Scientology have given sworn statements retracting their testimony before the Commission.
One of them, a private secretary named Eileen Drummond, stated in her affidavit that her assertions at the
Inquiry to the effect that Scientology was responsible for family upsets and had changed her daughter for the worse, were false.
Mrs. Drummond declared that her statement that her daughter had cut herself off from her because of Scientology's policy of disconnection should be clarified. "I am clear in my own mind that the reason she seldom contacted me had nothing to do with the philosophy or policy of Scientology."
Even more startling was the recantation of Jan Hendrik du Plessis, former police captain, who had been the featured witness against Scientology.
During his appearance before the Commission, du Plessis had aired a series of unsubstantiated charges and personal opinions aimed at creating suspicion and dread of Scientology. At one point, he even submitted a book on the life and practices of Aleister Crowley, the notorious British Satanist (known as "the wickedest man in the world") and asserted that Hubbard had once been his disciple. Although there was no reference of any kind in the book, either to Hubbard or to Scientology, Commission Chairman Kotze accepted the volume in evidence.
Apparently in a penitential mood two and a half years later, du Plessis retracted the evidence he had given. In an astonishing affidavit sworn to on February 3, 1972, he stated that his testimony before the Commission had been biased, misleading, untrue, and motivated by a desire for revenge. Among the specific false allegations cited in his lengthy recantation were the following:
"I believe the statements I made with regard to the religious nature of Scientology to be misleading. The facts I reported about the Church selling its property as being a purely business proposition and this being an indication that this was contrary to the behaviour of a religious body had nothing whatsoever to do with the issue at hand and were made solely with the intent to slander the Church.
"The statements I made in testimony comparing the
organisations of Scientology with the criminal organisation commonly known as the Mafia were completely unwarranted and completely false in material facts, namely:
"The story which I related before the Commission that I had been followed, and subjected to anonymous and threatening telephone calls is false in all details and was stated by myself to lend credence to my earlier statements about the use of intimidation by the Scientology organisation, of which I have no evidence of any kind whatsoever. "I gave considerable testimony relating to an article published in the Sunday Times (a London newspaper) which claimed to connect L. Ron Hubbard with the black magician, Aleister Crowley, namely.
"I stated in the course of the Commission hearing that
some of L. Ron Hubbard's writings were 'the ravings of a diseased mind'. This is not true and I apologise for the statement unreservedly.
"I said that on visiting the London premises of the Church of Scientology one evening, I found it full of people sleeping on the floor and on benches, which is an untrue statement. I also stated that a London police official told me that they knew about this and that the police raided the organisation every so often. This is definitely not true and in fact the London Scientology organisation has never been raided to my knowledge."
As I write, three years have elapsed since the Inquiry was initiated, but the Commission has not issued a report. The South African speech and drama festival continues. When the final curtain descends on that stage, it will no doubt rise elsewhere for yet another run.
Advance men are already at work in Holland, for example, where as yet there are not more than a hundred Scientologists in the entire country. When a small Scientology mission was established in the Netherlands in 1970, the British National Association for Mental Health arranged a meeting between their representatives and officers of their Dutch counterpart. One of the latter, was the publisher of the newspaper Vrij Nederland, which soon thereafter launched an attack on Scientology, based in part upon material obtained by intimidation from Dutch Scientologists.
There are indications that in the future, the assault on Scientology will be handled in a less obvious and more indirect way. In the Province of Ontario, Canada and in Rhodesia, a law to restrict the practice of psychology has been drafted. In both countries the measures, based partly on the Victorian legislation, ostensibly regulate the practice of psychology, but are sufficiently broad in terms of reference to include Scientology.
In fact, during the Parliamentary debate in Rhodesia, one
of the Senators complained that "the present definition of psychological practices as appearing in the Bill, which is a verbatim representation of the definition which appeared in the Victoria Act, is a definition of so wide a scope that it would be almost impossible to imagine any communication between one human being and another not to be psychological practice".
A study commissioned by the Province of Ontario and carried out by Prof. John A. Lee of Toronto, included not only Scientologists, but also sectarian healers (such as Christian Scientists and Spiritualists) whom medical and psychiatric practitioners would like to see suppressed.
It remains to ask: can the embattled Scientologists survive in their heroic resistance against the organized might of their powerful enemies throughout the world?
L. Ron Hubbard believes they can. "Our opponents," he said,---area small clique running against the trend of the world. They will lose."
I am inclined to agree. As London columnist C. H. Rolph once aptly observed: Scientology is an anvil that will wear out all the hammers.