I'M GOING to try to tell something of "Excalibur" - as much as I remember, without having the manuscript by me. If its author, L. Ron Hubbard, told me the truth, I am the first person to read "Excalibur". If it is true that the first half dozen who read it went crazy, then I've been crazy for a long time and I just haven't gotten caught at it. There is some question as to whether there was such a manuscript, but I assure you there was, and probably still is, somewhere. It was a source of considerable disappointment to Ron Hubbard that he didn't get it published.
I think the time was about mid-1938 - maybe a little earlier, May or June. I had known Ron off and on for six or seven years. We 'd gone thru part of the depression together; he came to New York from his home near Seattle, Wash. I had met his first wife, Polly, and both his parents.
I 'd read a lot of material by Ron, and didn't especially like it - and he'd read a lot of material by me and didn't particularly like it. I wouldn't say we were very close friends, but I knew him, I guess, as well as anybody. For instance, I knew Ron was a night owl - he'd sleep all day and work all night - and didn't pay any attention to your working hours at all He was apt to call you at 4 o'clock in the morning and hold you in conversation for an hour or more until you felt like you could break his neck. Then he'd pull down all the curtains and sleep all day.
Ron called me one day - the strange thing about this was that he called during the day - and said, "I want to see you right away. I have written THE book." I never saw anybody so worked up - and he was disturbed over a lot of angles. Apparently, he started to write the book, and had written it without sleeping, eating, or anything else - and had himself literally worked to a frazzle.
He was so sure he had something "away out and beyond" anything else that he had sent telegrams to several book publishers, telling them that he had written "THE book" and that they were to meet him at Penn Station, and he would discuss it with them and go with whomever gave him the best offer.
Whether he actually did this or not, I don't know, but it is right in line with something he would do. For example, Ron would send stories to various magazines without a return address (and if you know anything about the publishing business you could know how this would irritate people), and then call up and ask for a report on it.
He used very heavy paper, which made it very expensive to mail stuff, and he'd mail his manuscripts, not in professional envelopes, but say in a light blue one so that it would stand out from the others.
Also, he was a little careless occasionally - and his stuff needed editing, but he didn't want anybody to edit it. He had a lot of odd ideas about writing. For example, he didn't feel he had to write a certain stint, so when he would do a manuscript, he wouldn't number the pages - just pile them up beside his typewriter. Thus he couldn't see how much he had done so might kid himself into doing 13 pages when he only intended to do 10. He didn't number the pages until he finished, and then he'd number them in pencil.
Going back to "The Book", I don't remember how long it was. It probably was under 70,000, which is considered an average book. He told me what he wanted to do with it - it was going to revolutionize everything: the world, people's attitudes toward one another. He thought it was somewhat more important, and would have a greater impact upon people, than the Bible.
After I'd read the manuscript, we got to arguing over different titles. I asked him what he wanted to accomplish. He wanted to make changes. He wanted to reach inside people and really work them over, and he had to have a title that would be attractive. I am the one who suggested "Excalibur", because Excalibur was King Arthur's sword. This had a certain mystical meaning that suited Ron, and so "The Book" became "Excalibur".
As I remember "Excalibur", it started - in the introduction only - with a king who got all his wise men together and told them to prepare and bring to him all the wisdom of the world contained in 500 books. In the course of time, they succeeded, and the king was very pleased and said so. Then he told them to go away and cut down these 500 books into 100 books. It took them a bit longer this time, but they did it and came back and insisted all the wisdom of the world was contained in these 100 books. He said, "Now, do it over again, and bring it to me in one book."
This was quite a trick, but they did it, and came back some years later and they had, indeed, reduced all the wisdom of the world into one book.
Then he really gave them an assignment. He said, "Now go away and bring to me all the wisdom of the world in one word."
What was the one word? I don 't know how many times we argued, Ron and I, to discover what this one word was. It may have been the creative fiat, it might have just been the word "Be", it might have been the word "Survive". I don't think we ever settled it. But the book "Excalibur" from there on had to do with survival.
I'll try to remember some of it, chapter by chapter, and to explain why it was so squirmy. For example, he started with the very first life - the very first cells - how they struggled for survival - how they tried to be and be "it" the whole time. Im order to do it, gradually thru the ages they associated with other cells, one with another, and they reached the place where they could divide so they would become bigger. This is strictly science as far as it's gone.
After awhile, this conglomeration of cells that would reach down a stream of warm water, would bend its way back in order to catch more - it would extend across the stream, or across a little rill or something like that - and all the time it was gaining more sensitivity and ways of the world in which it finds itself. It finds out that by working together, it can accomplish a great deal more: it can find more to eat - it can eat more and grow faster. So the idea is to survive and reproduce - and this is what the early cell does.
He'd begin to picture the ocean and the seas and ponds as having the life cells growing on them like scum. These are ourselves, our beginnings, our own beginnings because in the womb we start in this very way.
Away back then, we began to develop motives for things. Now, it is seldom that what we tell somebody our motive is, is the real one - and this is where you start to squirm. Somebody will say, "Well, I'd like to do a certain thing," "I would like to do this with you," or something or other, and you look at this person and realize, "I wonder why he's doing that." And you look into yourself and think if you were doing that, what would your motive be and whether you would hide it. You think that perhaps he's hiding his real motive and trying to get you to do something because he's giving you to understand that his motive is thus and so because that appeals to your vanity - and of course this makes you look at yourself to see about this business of vanity - and why you 're likely to do that. All the time, looking at this other person, you can see squirmy things in him. You can see squirmy things in him that make him look like an entity peering at you thru gauze, or around a corner. You don 't see all of him. He's like the iceberg that's seven-eighths submerged - you can' t tell anything about him.
As these things are pointed out to you by Ron in the first chapter, or thereabouts, you begin to see that the cells in any body that you're looking at are all endowed with this ability to survive - a determination to survive - and with motives to survive that are sometimes extremely questionable. When you look at a person, the lips may say one thing, the eyes may say something else, or nothing, and the flesh may say something entirely different. Literally, your right hand doesn't know what your left hand is doing. You shake hands, and this is a friendly gesture, but behind your back you may be holding a knife to plunge into him and he may be holding one for you. You can't tell just by looking at people. One of the things Ron intended to do with "Excalibur" was to make it possible to see and look into this,
Other things I remember is Ron's explanation as to why there is no such thing as a crowd - that a group of people actually still consisted of individuals - but a crowd could get out of hand and do things other people wouldn't. He showed how that could happen by explaining the relationship of people to each other in the same way that he explained the relation of cells to each other before they were people away back when life was developing into different shapes. He would take two persons, for example, and put them side by side, and show how the two of them were both less and more than one person, and yet each one was an individual. Each individual could think of himself as being individual, but being somewhat "crutched", as it were, or held up by the other person. These two people were very wary of each other, like a couple of bantam roosters running around waiting to get in a thrust, but they knew that they needed each other, and each one felt that he needed the other more and that he didn't wish to be taken advantage of, and so there was always this pulling and hauling between two people that kept them at razor's edge all the time.
Each one, to some extent, gradually - a little bit at a time - gave away some of his sovereignty to the other. In other words, he let the other fellow lean, provided the other fellow would let him lean, and the two people became somewhat less than they would have been if they had stayed apart. The relationship between the two people became something that would really get you.
Then he moved in with these two people a third person - could be of the same sex - and you still have all the difficulties, all the problems, and all the squirminess - the questioning as to motive and everything, and wondering why, for example, three males would get together, or three women. If you have a person of the other sex come in on two who were together, you begin to see where the problems are. Of course, he went into this business of sexual attraction to a considerable extent in a way that just made you wonder whether or not your attitude toward sex was reasonable or wrong, whether it was a horrible thing or a beautiful thing spiritual or whatever. I think perhaps it would make you think about it to the point where you'd be almost afraid to perpetrate the act of sex, even with someone you loved tremendously.
Probably the part of the book that has stuck with me the most thru this period of time was the story of the lynch mob going to the prison to take out somebody to be lynched. He puts you with the person who is waiting to be lynched. The warden comes and looks at the person and says, "Well, they're coming for you, Bud. I don't know whether I'm going to be able to stop them, but I'll tell you one thing, it's not going to cost me my life to do it. If they come in and get you, they'll get you." The warden just looked and sort of gloated over the person who couldn't get away. He enjoyed the sadistic feeling of seeing a person who was bound and hog-tied and couldn't get away. He goes on with this to the place where you were both the warden and the person in the cell, and you really get to feel pretty terrible for everybody connected with it.
Then you take a look at the stiff-legged march of the lynch mob. This is something I'll never forget. I don't remember a single word Ron used, but he started back from there with showing how a lynch mob started - somebody got up and said something, and somebody pulled others together - and as soon as they were together, the person who had started it might or might not lead, but the chances were that he would vanish into the mob that he had started in order not to be responsible. Each person knew that very dreadful things were going to be done, but he scarcely would be responsible. He would be there but he wouldn't actually do much taking part in it. Each one felt he was going along for the ride, so to speak, but he walks just as stiff-legged as the other fellow.
Ron has them marching down the street at night, blazing torches to show the way. And when the mutter, or the growl, of this crowd comes to you, it's something that just simply makes the shivers move up your back from your heels to the top of your head. It really ate into you. Not one of these persons was real if you looked at him from the outside as an observer, yet when he'd take you into the heart of each one, you'd find each person going along because the others were going to do it, and he had to go and see. If you would go into each person's mind this way, you'd find each had exactly the same idea. Yet they were moved along by something and they went and, I suppose, got the guy out and lynched him. I don't remember whether they did or not - all I remember actually is the march.
I was so impressed with the book I wanted to publish it. I was interested in a small publishing company called Egmont Press. I took it to my associates. I took it to my managing editor, who sat down and started to glance thru it. When he realized he couldn't get any place by thumbing thru it, he went back and read a little of it. I could see a strange look come into his face as he read it. Then he passed it on to a reader, and after awhile, there were several people involved in it, and it was being passed, page by page, to others, and they were having all kinds of results. It was a squirmy thing - and I watched it. I watched, in fact, until that manuscript was scattered all over East 41st Street in New York.
The upshot of it was that they were afraid to publish it. Ron was angry, and threatened: "You will publish this book and I will have a half-interest in the company that publishes it or we'll know the reason why." But it never came to that. Ron did something that he's frequently done: he went sour on the idea and went back to Seattle
I don't believe "Excalibur" ever would have sent anybody insane - altho you can't be sure. I have the feeling that, unquestionably, if "Excalibur" were in the hands of every person in the world, the world would be that many times different than it is right now. But whether it would make it worse or better, I have no way of knowing.
Some persons are so intent in looking "over the border", they can't see the boredom.
Last updated 30 April 1997
by Chris Owen (email@example.com)