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Long before the advent of either Dianetics or Scientology, those at all familiar with L. Ron Hubbard had come to expect he would eventually make a remarkable entrance into the philosophic realm. That entrance, largely conceived through the course of an extraordinary week in early 1938, is remembered today as Excalibur. In the simplest terms, the work may be described as a first philosophic statement. Previously (and as we shall see in forthcoming articles) he had traveled far and established much as regards a philosophic foundation. Yet here, at the age of twenty-six, came his earliest formal summary, “to align my own ideas,” as he modestly termed it, “for my own particular benefit.” Given all the manuscript eventually inspired, however–two copies were actually stolen by agents of foreign intelligence services who wished to appropriate those ideas for political ends and only sections remain–such a description seems hardly enough.
At the core of Excalibur is Ron’s revelatory statement on survive as the single common denominator of existence. That all life forms are attempting to survive is, of course, a known datum. But that life is only attempting to survive–this was new. Moreover, how he interpreted the datum was new, i.e., a “finite measuring stick,” as he elsewhere terms it, with which whole fields of knowledge might be coordinated. Those at all familiar with the works of Herbert Spencer (Ron himself apparently waded through at least the principal ten volumes of Synthetic Philosophy) may recognize the concept:
“The proper field and function of philosophy lies in the summation and unification of the results of science. Knowledge of the lowest kind is un-unified knowledge; science is partially unified knowledge; philosophy is completely unified knowledge. Such complete unification requires a broad and universal principle that will include all experience, and will describe the essential features of all knowledge. Is there a feature of this kind?”
To which, of course, Excalibur replies unequivocally with Survive!
How Ron actually arrived at survive is a fairly monumental story, but particularly involves a pivotal sequence of 1937 cytological experiments wherein he was able to demonstrate a cellularly inherited response to toxic substances.2 That is, having cultured a strain of bacterial cells, the culture was exposed to jets of steam, which affected the cells not at all. Next, applying jets of inherently toxic cigarette smoke, he keenly observed the culture both reacting and retreating from the threat. After continued “taunting” with smoke, he then substituted steam to observe the cells now misidentifying the steam as toxic and similarly retreating. Finally, culturing second and third generations of cells from the first, he found that when these later generation cells were exposed to steam, they likewise misidentified the steam for toxic smoke, and retreated in the name of survival.
If the point seems academic, it is not; for according to Darwinian theory, and hence the foundation of all biological and behavioral thought, learned responses cannot be inherited.1
A Note on Excalibur (n.d.). ronthephilosopher.org. Retrieved 28 April 2010 from http://www.ronthephilosopher.org/phlspher/page06.htm
- In 1937, Hubbard’s wife Polly and their children lived in South Colby, Washington. Hubbard was writing stories such as “The Baron of Coyote River,” “Loot of the Shantung,” and “The Blow Torch Murder.” Toward the end of 1937, he sold “The Buckskin Brigades,” and bought the sailboat the Magician. During this time, Hubbard’s closest friend in Bremerton was an insurance salesman by the name of Robert MacDonald Ford. (BFM pp. 70-75)
By the last day of 1937, Hubbard wrote to fellow author Russell Hays giving no hint of significant research breakthroughs: “I speak bitterly, without any humor, without any relieving lightness. But I am Rip, awake to the fact that I have been in the half-death of sleep for five years. Know that I have enjoyed myself only twice in that span because I was able to embattle my wits without fear of sullen silence or lack of understanding. Encinitas, for a while, and then New York for a very short time. . . .” http://literary.lronhubbard.org/page60.htm ↩