Dear Dean Wilbur

With the publication of yesterday’s article, To be or not to be critical? we were sent the letter below. It was written by L. Ron Hubbard to a one of his former professors who had since retired.

It seemed appropriate to publish it here in light of the discussion of critical thinking and not simply being agreeable.


March 16, 1936

Dean William Allen Wilbur

c/o George Washington University

Washington, D. C.

Dear Dean Wilbur;

I was again at GWU for a few hours to talk to Douglas Bement’s short story class. I had looked forward at that time to seeing you again, but I was informed that you had left the university – much to my disappointment and, I assure you, to the detriment of the school. However, I suppose you are enjoying your boats and a well deserved rest.

You could not possibly pick out my name from the tens of thousands of names which have passed over your class rolls. Perhaps you can best remember me for something I did which was rather worrying to you – a sad fact to be so remembered. I once handed you a theme at the term (probably 1931) which was one sentence, five hundred words long. On receipt of this you called out my name in class and asked me to see you afterwards. You were, I recall, rather shocked that anyone would quite dare hand you a critique of mass education under the guise of an English theme. It was, of course, rather bitter and, in a way, I have been rather sorry that I caused you concern. But although I apologized at the time I am afraid that the apology was more respect for you than disowning my ideas. And to complete the picture, I am tall and red-headed.

I hope that recalls me to you. It is noted only for that purpose. The real reason I am writing you is somewhat abstract. I have since done a little coaching on my own and I know that no contact is satisfactorily final unless you know that the man has either wrecked himself or made good, and it might be some small satisfaction for a master to know that his teachings have helped.

The engineering school was supposed to be my catapult to fame and fortune. My father had wanted me to be an engineer. My mother thought it was a sound profession, although both of them have, at one time and another, written and sold newspaper stories. I stuck to engineering for two years and college doors have closed no more upon me.

My profession, as I knew it would be from the first, is that of a writer. At present I am writing for the pulps—which is not a shameful or degrading thing as many people hint. I am giving the best that is in me for the purpose of entertainment and I find that many, many great writers first served their apprenticeship to blood and thunder. It is something to be a big frog in even a pulp paper puddle, to make excellent money, to be able to keep your own hours, and to shift whenever the scene grows monotonous, to be able to use a packing case in Nicaragua or a mahogany desk in New York at will. I am smugly satisfied that I have just started, and I am conceited enough to say that I write for the best of the pulps (Adventure, Detective Fiction Weekly) as well as the worst.

When I wrote that theme for you (I wish I had it now) I was not referring to rhetoric, but to the rest of the university. Besides yourself, no other man there had anything to say other than dry, textbook things. That was not education to me. I wanted the contact of culture, perhaps, or maybe I wanted a chance to think. You were the only man there who would let a chap think. Walking into your classes or walking with you back to your office after a class was quite like stepping out of a hydraulic press into a spring day. You wanted a man to figure things out for himself and you respected your students. You were one bright spot in an otherwise zero-zero world.

This is not flattery, but something I have honestly wanted to tell you for some time. When I asked after you a year or so ago I was presented with a sight I shall not forget within my lifetime. I felt as though they had shown me something grisly when they pointed to the stack of books on Professor so-and-so’s desk. They were nice, thick books, capable of breaking any student’s arm. They were blue books and brown books, and they contained, the lot of them, thousands of stiff pages like starched collars—immensely respectable and utterly useless. These were the books, they told me, they were using now. These were the books which had taken the place of that stately little rhetoric manual—which somehow reminded me of a very scholarly little man with a taste for oddities, solemnity and vast kindness. I noticed they used books, not a book.

Somehow—and I’m getting rather hard—I wanted to take off my hat as though I stood beside a coffin in which some close friend lay. Books, that’s all they were. Just books. They were orderly and uniform and quite overbearing like pompous generals who bellow and rant and never say anything.

This all, of course, stamps me as a rebel, but I care nothing for rubber stamps. There was one remaining link between cultural and regimented education which had survived American mass production and that link was yourself. And now the chain is broken and the campus might as well hum with looms and lathes for all the individual personality it has, with you gone.

Perhaps I should have been born an Englishman, in wanting something besides a Latin conjugation and a calculus formula from my school. Perhaps I expected more than I should have. Perhaps I had just grown up too soon. But I still wanted a university to be what it says in the name.

They told me, those other fellows (but you never did) that I was not doing my best, that I shirked and was lazy, that I had to get higher marks to match a machine-made intelligence test which made me out as brilliant merely because I had been over the world and back acquiring general knowledge since boyhood. They told me I would never amount to anything, that I was not a scholar. But you never did. You were quite willing to talk over all sorts of things and I appreciated it even though you have, most likely, forgotten.

Now, four years after leaving the place, I find that I was a scholar after all, that I am a student, that I have a keen and devouring interest for mathematics of all things, for history and economics and politics. I am studying because, for the first time in my life, I have been left alone. I have written several quality group (literary and artistic magazine) articles—which satisfy the mind but sadly not the stomach—on subjects for which credit hours are granted.

But I doubt in the extreme that I ever would have carried on had it not been for your very sane treatise on the world at large which you labeled “rhetoric” and which was nothing at all but culture, as alone and isolated upon a regimented horizon as a steamer’s plume of smoke against the horizon.

I hope none of this makes you feel badly. It is not intended to be so. I felt all this long ago, but I was a student then. I am a professional writer now. I have earned a difficult thing, the permission to think and act for myself.

A year or more ago, I stood behind Douglas Bement’s desk—so lately watching that same desk from the other side—and talked to his class about this profession of writing. The students were, many of them, attending when I was attending myself. I knew a lot of them by their first names. I talked to them about the profession of writing, not the art and I left them somewhat cold. No amount of impassioned argument could sway them aside from a foregone conclusion concerning the outside world. They were being taught—and Bement is a fair teacher—how to write, they thought. That was enough. I was there, I told them, because Bement had delivered several erroneous remarks over the radio two days before on this profession of writing. I tried to assure them that out in the world they could sell their wares and save themselves from the ugliness of desks and time clocks, that they could make a decent living with a pen if they had it in them. Nobody ever told me that. I had to find it out through hard experience. But they did not want that worldliness. They wanted crammed facts. I did not talk to them with topic sentences and outlines, I talked to them because I knew what they would soon face. It was all for nothing. I could not shake them from a mental apathy which was quite as sticky as glue. They did not really want to think, and they would not even argue even when I spurred them to it.

I suppose this is what we call mass education. Frozen, fact-laden minds. Perhaps some of us should feel grateful for it because it is our own salvation. But I could not help but feel the sorrow of it. They were not being taught to think or study, they were being taught to gorge facts, however disrelated, obtuse or useless.

And out of all that vast shroud of darkness there had always been one sunburst, but it was gone. I went away from the university that night feeling melancholy. They had a pile of books sitting on a desk and they looked at them with pride and said, “Rhetoric? We’ve changed that. We have so many students (units such as 100 ccs. of water) to a class and so many classes to a professor and . . .” Squads right, column left and to hell with it, we’ve got too many to educate.

Your own definition of teachers will forever stand out in my mind as something beautiful and almost as rare as radium. It takes a genius to teach. You are that genius. From your rhetoric class, large as it was, there have come men I have since met, men who are thinking. No matter that those things fell upon so much barren ground. That could not be helped and never can be. There are many of us, casting about in this world, who remember and revere you. I have heard them speak.

Do not allow this to upset you in any way. Put it down that I am a rebel, a nonconformist, anything. Some of these days I am going to set down these things in a book, and your rhetoric, very battered now, will be open on the desk beside me when I write it.

At twenty-five it might be dangerous to think such things, it might be better to leave these matters to more regimented minds than mine.

However and whatever . . . This letter was to be written to you this morning, hoping that you were well and telling you that you helped me in more ways than one . . . and here it is, some kind of a rabid essay on education and I’m certain you’ve had quite enough of that.

Anyway, here’s the best in the world to the best man I ever met.

Best regards,

L. Ron Hubbard

41 thoughts on “Dear Dean Wilbur

  1. “I have earned a difficult thing, the permission to think and act for myself.”
    Permission to agree / disagree / criticize – as Tony said yesterday.
    Those who disconnect and stick their heads in the sand have not yet earned their dues.
    I love this letter. It gives a snapshot into the true underlying character of LRH, and is not anything like the unrealistic Shermanesque Saint that is unpalatable because it is not real.
    LRH got “skelled out” (admonished) for shirking and being lazy. He quit engineering school after two years. He didn’t like it. Students were not impassioned by his lectures and he knew it. It does not diminish him in the least.

  2. It seems that Hubbard’s reality was very different from those around him. Hubbard thought in cultural domain with broad brushstrokes, whereas, the university environment was more pedantic, and out of touch with down-to-earth culture.
    That doesn’t make anything right or wrong. That was just the way it was. Universities were oriented toward formalism in the prevailing scientific environment. Science has made great progress since then. However, cultural progress has stymied. Hubbard was simply a pioneer in the large area of culture.
    Hubbard was disappointed because his talk on writing was not received well at GWU. His success in the field of writing was not well acknowledged. Hubbard was more concerned with the practical aspects of writing, whereas, the university was concerned with formalism.
    I think that both the practical aspects, as well as the formalism, has their place in the field of writing.
    It seems that Hubbard wanted to be acknowledged, to be granted beingness, in an academic setting, but he was disappointed. He is making the university wrong in this letter.
    Hubbard was a perennial rebel with a big ego. Here he is criticizing the university in broad brush strokes. Later he criticized the psychiatric field in broad brushstrokes. And then he criticized the non-scientology wog culture in broad brush strokes.
    Hubbard was a genius, but he was very fixated in the correctness of his vision. He wanted to mould the whole culture around him according to the vision he carried. That vision has been Scientology. He was so fixation on his own rightness that he ignored the rightness around him. In his genius there was also the seed of destruction.
    The current Church of Scientology is simply dramatizing that seed of destruction, which was present in Hubbard’s thinking. It is the result of Hubbard’s thought.
    But let’s not make the mistake that Hubbard made. He allowed no self-criticism, while being very critical of anything that he disagreed with.
    Let’s recognize the rightness where rightness is, even when it is not according to Scientology. Let’s recognize the things that are right in Scientology as well, and not ignore things that are wrong in Scientology.

    • I’m afraid I agree with you, Vinaire. While LRH expected to have the right to question, he was dictatorial in that he didn’t permit others to question especially him and/or his doctrine. It was a case of do as I say but don’t do as I do.
      I’ve stuck my neck out and ventured into other people’s writings about the real person that was L Ron Hubbard. I would suggest this be done by others if you’re ever to know the truth. It’s not what we have been led to believe. By LRH himself.

      • I am only interested in Hubbard’s writings and what has resulted from the implementation of those writings. I am interested in facts that can be directly observed. So, I am not interested so much in Hubbard as a person.

        LRH is the source of Scientology, and we can see where the Church of Scientology is going. If you blame DM and not Hubbard for the current stuation then one wonders about Hubbard’s foresight. If you think that DM deceived Hubbard, then DM can be considered an OT, who is superior to Hubbard.

        So, the outpoint staring at us is, if Hubbard is the source then he is fully responsible for the condition of Scientology today according to his own writings. Hubbard is shirking his duty at the moment.

        Scientologists avoid looking at this outpoint. They pick and choose from Scientology, to keep themselves aligned with Scientology, but by doing that they support all of Scientology, both good and evil.

        That evil in Scientology is coming from source just as the good is coming. One needs to confront this reality.

  3. A Scientologist is conditioned not to look at LRH critically. Until he can overcome this conditioning his ability to think critically will remain compromised.
    Hubbard is source, and one cannot be critical of the source. This kind of conditioning is unique to Scientology. This is very different from Buddha, who actually encouraged his followers to be critical of his teachings and not to take anything for granted.
    It is interesting to note that Hinduism allows its scriptures to be questioned, but the semitic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) don’t. The semitic religions are religions of the book.
    Scientology has also become a religion of the book.

    • Touche, Vinaire. Scientologists are not allowed to have critical thought. The fact that LRH suggests. If it’s not true for you, it’s not true. However, he didn’t mean it. That is what the koolaiders are stuck with, the tech is perfect and LRH can never be wrong, can never have made a mistake. It’s not conceivable to them. Plus the horror which is perceived by them evern to question!

    • I disagree Vinaire,
      Obviously you haven’t read the DAB Education and the Auditor and you seem to ignore the article on Personal Integrity.
      Also in a earlier comment you seem to confuse “source” . Ron never said that he himself was the source of Dn & Scn but that his writings and lectures based on his research into these subjects were.
      Also you write glowingly about a Buddhism that for the most part with the exception of a few scattered monasteries hasn’t existed for at least 2000 years.
      The fact is that like all the other “great religions” it has moved from a gnosticism to a system of worship:
      However I agree that Hubbard was a genius and yes he was critical of many aspects of the culture just as many great thinkers are when they look beyond the shabby facade of modern culture.
      Just as Siddhartha Gautama did 2500 years ago.

      • As I wrote elsewhere on this thread, Scientologists simply pick and choose from Scientology and make it their whole reality. They do not confront all of Scientology.

        There is ample of evidence that Hubbard did not follow his own advice. I question his personal integrity.

        But let’s not worry about Hubbard’s personal behavior and his ability to evaluate, and focus on his writings only. There also I find him lacking. His fundamental assumption underlying Scientology Axiom #1 and Factor #1 (see are lacking in consistency. So, whichever way you look at it, the source of Scientology is flawed.

        Again I am not worried about Buddhism and its monasteries. I am only interested in Buddha’s teachings. Buddha taught mindfulness. Just google ‘mindfulness’ and you’ll surprise yourself.

        Organizations change their form especially after 2600 years. So, you can only go by the usefulness and popularity of Buddha’s teachings. Please don’t get stuck with the form.

        Hubbard’s biggest flaw is that he censored any criticism of himself and Scientology. DM is following on his footsteps.

      • In your *opinion* Factor 1 and Axiom 1 lack consistency.

        In my opinion they are completely consistent.

        Maybe in the beginning he censored criticism per the Manual of Justice ,Fair Game and various Branch 5 activities but do you know any other organization that would send a survey out to thousands inviting criticism and then using that data for Reform the Church?

        So no Miscavige is not following in Ron’s footsteps.

        He, OSA and various critics may say he is for various reasons of their own which is at least something *they* agree on but in my *opinion* that is just another lie.

        Just to prove the lie as a lie.

        Miscavige if he was truly following in Ron’s footsteps would have issued a general amnesty per Amnesty Policy if GAT II and the release of Super Power.

    • Tony. Thanks for the previous article. Very astute. It’s an identification of a criticism with the observation of an outpoint. They ain’t the same.

      • But Hubbard looked at somebody pointing out outpoints in him or in Scientology, also as criticism. He was blind to his own outpoints.

  4. Hubbard says:
    “Some of these days I am going to set down these things in a book, and your rhetoric, very battered now, will be open on the desk beside me when I write it.”
    It appears he learned rhetoric quite well.
    “rhet·o·ric noun \ˈre-tə-rik\
    : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
    : the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people”

  5. Hind sight being always 20/20 we have the luxury of seeing where LRH’s creations went right and wrong. I find it rather difficult to be overly critical of him. Simply put, he got things more right than not. Consider other philosophers if you dont agree. LRH tech has done more than any other, most would agree.
    His letter shows such vibrance and intent. He laments at the loss of an old mentor yet feels enthralled by what the future holds too! LRH the adventurer, the seeker and philosopher who wrote his way through it all. There is much to admire. Yes Im still a fan, not a zealot or a parishoner, just some oke who likes a good adventure and happens to use the tech too.
    For those who have put the tech behind them in dismay, disgust or dispair I say its your right. It is also your right to change your mind. I hope you do one day, there is so much to be seen and done!

  6. If this letter proves anything, it’s that Hubbard’s mind stopped developing at the level of teenage “false maturity”. By the age of 25, most normal people have already long grown out of it, but not LRH; he remained a mental adolescent to his dying day. Here he comes across as a patronising, arrogant windbag – it’s a lecture, not a letter!

      • The difference between subjectivity and objectivity, you mean? Well, subjectively, I find Hubbard’s letter patronising and verbose – which leads me to suggest that objectively, he was immature for a 25 year-old (and as his writing-style changed so little later on, remained so).

    • I’m not impressed. He could charm when he wanted to and had the gift of the gab. How sincere he was always is questionable. Take that letter saying that disconnection was not a fact for the church. It was written only for the person or persons he was writing to. He didn’t mean it. He meant that Fair Game policy.

      • The irony of it all even if you despise the man and his works, here you are! Commenting, disagreeing and agreeing all done on this blog where most think they got something out of this subject. Perhaps you forgot the times you were winning using the tech? Or was there no experience of that? Just curious?

    • Shame Mark, clearly you lacked a mothers love and a little validation. Is it too much to take that someone else received a little praise? You appear not to even understand what LRH is doing in this communication. Actually in my opinion you come across as an arrogant patronising jerk and if you are so hateful of LRH why don’t you go get a life and leave Scientologists to their own. Hate always needs to find a target. Join a radical political movement, I think that would give you lots to vent at!

  7. Thank you for this post. It is interesting to hear how he thought in his mid 20’s.

    I found this interview and thought I would see what others thought about it.

    I do like what LRH says about the “Suppressive”!

    Too bad Scientology does not use that definition!

    • I think I found out why he did not like the Media because I don’t believe he did any other interviews except the one with the British Reporter, who Scientologist’s told me – joined the Sea Org after that interview.

      Does anyone know if it is true? Did that guy join the Sea Org and what is his name? Is he still in?

      • No he didn’t like the media because it distorted the facts and faithfully supported the system.
        This is obvious when they fawningly quote the Home Office and the “Mental Health” establishment.
        I notice that a lot of ex-scientologists make a total pendulum swing when they leave Scientology and embrace the lies that the media usually generate with corporate and agency backing as some kind of solemn truth.
        Just because the Church of Scientology has gone so wrong. Does not make these sleaze balls right.
        End of rant.

    • He had the gift of the gab and knew how to deflect the awkward questions.
      He did have Swiss bank accounts and plenty money stashed there, also in other places in Europe. He kept his cash in bank vaults, not in bank accounts.

  8. What a classic letter to a teacher that was a key to the spirit,hubbard found this and was taking the time say thank you,
    These kind of teachers are very rare , i would like to have met this guy and studied with him.
    I had a teacher like this that is a complete stand out and a legend , a insperation still to this day, i was blessed to know and work with this man and know him as a friend.
    Out of all this mess the great souls glide by like a shark in brakish water its rare and exiting but so suttle. praise the great teachers

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