A Note On Excalibur

ong 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. 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.

     Rather, all life is said to be directed by chance, by a dumb roll of genetic dice as it were. Thus, for example, the ancestral bird develops wings purely as a biochemical function and not according to some inherent thrust towards survival. Yet the moment we introduce survival as a pervasive drive, passed on from cell to cell, we are introducing an intelligence behind the scheme of life—an “X-Factor” as Ron initially termed it, that shapes and gives meaning to life in ways that Darwin simply could not explain. As of those first weeks of 1938, and the drafting of his manuscript, Ron would say little more regarding this X-Factor. But in considering the central message of Excalibur, he could not help but wonder who or what first gave that resounding one command, Survive!

     Needless to say, the scope of Excalibur is immense and proposes, not only the means of placing all life—be it human or cellular— into a definitive framework of survive, but a method of resolving any problems related to existence. Or as Ron himself explains, “This book’s design is to indicate the true perspective of man’s life.” That Excalibur did not, however, also offer a workable therapy was the principal reason Ron finally chose not to publish the manuscript. That is, if the whole of his quest may be defined in terms of a conviction that philosophy must be workable, must be capable of application, then Excalibur could only be regarded as a steppingstone. Nevertheless, with the eventual development of Dianetics, all that is essentially Excalibur was made public and, in fact, may be found in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and The Dynamics of Life.

     Presented here are the opening pages of Excalibur . As an additional word, it might be mentioned that all events recounted here took place in Ron’s Port Orchard, Washington, cabin—except, of course, Ron’s prefatory note on his near fatal operation at the Bremerton, Washington dental office of Dr. Elbert E. Cone...

A Note On Excalibur Continued...

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