The Early Letters and Journals of L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard

     At the age of sixteen, L. Ron Hubbard tells us, he began to fill the pages of an old account ledger retrieved from his grandfather’s attic. It was canvas-bound, bore only scant notations from family transactions and otherwise provided ample room to write of “life and dreams and adventure.”

     Presented in this very special issue of the Ron series, are selections from that journal as well as subsequent journals and letters recounting the same. In the main, these entries span the years 1926 to 1934, or that time of continuous travel between his home in Helena, Montana, the South Pacific where his father had served with the United States Navy, the Asia where he witnessed so much that was strange and unusual, and the island of Puerto Rico where he conducted his famed mineralogical survey. As a first introductory word, let us say that if nothing sheds more light upon an author’s public works than his private papers, the statement is especially pertinent here. For remembering Ron drew heavily from these travels when shaping his later stories, here are the settings for those works. Here is the inscrutable China where a heartbroken officer sails to his death along the Yellow River; here the sullen jungles where tragic leathernecks engage unseen rebels; here, too, those foreboding South Pacific isles where raucous engineers slash roads through impenetrable brush — all the stuff of early tales soon to catapult him into the forefront of popular literature.

     But there is another subject upon which these letters and journals shed much light, and that is the young L. Ron Hubbard himself.

     Twelve years after filling the last page of his old account ledger, he tells of chancing upon what he wrote and dismissing it all as hopelessly adolescent, and “most unwise.” Yet still later — as a leading figure of American fiction and well along the path of discovery to Dianetics and Scientology — he returned again to that journal and had to concede, “I was right when I was sixteen. I knew things. My opinions were those of today. And so I have advanced in a circle and arrived merely at a better understanding of what ailed me.”

     What had ailed him, and thus what ultimately drove him on that path of discovery, is also the stuff of these letters and journals: “Our platforms are so frail, our importance so small, our immortality so unassured,” he writes from a flyblown Puerto Rican village just shy of his twenty–second birthday. Then outright admitting, “I’ve discovered a certain presence of philosophy which I’m not supposed to have at my age,” he proceeds to pose the proposition of all propositions: “How can we understand that outside us when we can barely realize that which goes on within?” Also scattered through these pages are references to the Asian deprivation he would never forget, and encounters with those who had crashed against “the most horrible things life can offer.”

     In addition to contemplative letters from the Caribbean and journals from the Chinese mainland, we include his first impressions from Hawaii and Guam, notes from a long night in Haiti, thoughts through restless days in Montana, and memories of a perilous trek across the Rocky Mountains. And if, as he elsewhere tells us, these were only the travels of youth and shed little light on what finally came from his greater journey, here, nonetheless, is some of what he recorded on that journey. Here is what he saw, what he felt and what he had to say about it. Then, too, here is a young L. Ron Hubbard who is also the later L. Ron Hubbard. Merely, here he is at the start of his journey when all he knew for certain was: “I feel that I would, in some unclear way, improve the world and that all of my energies are bent toward a reformation for the better and the raising of my fellow man.”

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