The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, September 27, 2002
CORRECTION ... AND THEN SOME: Emmanuelle Richard has been releasing her interview with Beck in installments, and I've only just gotten to the
section where she asks him about his connection to Scientology. He points out that he grew up around the religion (both his parents were members), and he shies away from confirming that he's any more attached to it now than in childhood. So the journalists who say he's had a "conversion" to Scientology -- a group that, as of this past Tuesday, has included me -- may be wrong. Or perhaps he's just being evasive.

It's all academic, anyway, at least as far as Beck's music is concerned. I think Scientology is a silly belief-system in whose name some rather unpleasant things have been done. But I also think the same thing can be said about obsessive anti-Scientology, which in Europe at least has evolved into outright witch-hunting. What people who don't live in Los Angeles don't understand -- and I never completely grokked this even when I lived there myself -- is that in the Hollywood area, Scientology is just another denomination. It's not as mainstream as, say, the Catholic Church, but it's no more unusual than Zen Buddhism or Christian Science. (Idea for a high school debate topic: RESOLVED: Christian Science and Scientology are the only truly scientific religions, because of their names.) Beck's involvement with L. Ron Hubbard's church is, in a peculiar way, an expression of his local roots.

The oddest entry in Hubbard's checkered résumé may be his youthful association, in the 1940s, with the mystic cum pop-culture icon Aleister Crowley. This is detailed in, among other places, Sex and Rockets, John Carter's uneven but interesting biography of Jack Parsons. Parsons is an intriguing character who was (a) responsible for some important advances in rocket science, (b) a devout occultist and Crowley associate, and (c) taken for a serious ride by Hubbard, who helped himself to Parsons' money and Parsons' girlfriend and generally behaved like a con artist. There are people who argue that Hubbard lifted large chunks of his religion from Crowley. Hubbard himself claimed that he had infiltrated Crowley's mystic order for Naval Intelligence, an unsupported assertion that hardly anyone seems to believe.

I'm not sure how to wrap this up, so I'll give Beck the last word:

Goin' back to Houston
Do the hot dog dance
Goin' back to Houston
To get me some pants



posted by Jesse 12:59 AM
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