A Piece of Blue Sky is the only comprehensive work on the Church of Scientology and the life of L. Ron Hubbard published from a critical viewpoint. It was written by a mid-level ex-Scientologist named Jon Atack, although since the book has an overall very high level of research, organization and prose, there may have been a ghost writer or two involved.
Before reading this book I was slightly wary about doing any research on Scientology: I was afraid that learning any of their secrets would make me too paranoid about them, that I would no longer be able to walk past, for example, their Portland, OR building without raising either my temper or the hairs on my neck. Fortunatly, this book removed most of my fears about Scientology. Not that the book didn't describe in great detail the corruption, criminality and brutality of the Scientologists, but at the end I saw that no matter how tricky and weird the orgs were, they were too wrapped up in their own bizarre politics to really run a dangerous conspiracy.
The author doesn't describe either the cosmology or the "technology" of the church in any great detail, instead deciding to give a historical description of Scientology. His prologue consists of telling of his own participation in Scientology. While the author was an OT V and did train at St. Hill, he was never a part of the Sea Org or any of Scientologies confusing array of interlocking management bodies. The rest of the book, consisting of the histories of L. Ron Hubbard's life before and after Dianetics and the history of the Scientology organizations, were affairs that the author only found out after leaving Scientolgy through research, although he most probably had some inside information.
The section on L. Ron Hubbard's early life is very illuminating, and not totally insulting. While the fact that their founder was not a superman who tamed wild horses at the age of three, trained in Tibetan monasteries as a teenager and was commander of a corvette squadron in WWII may be suppression worthy for people who think that Hubbard was a god, the book merely paints a normal biographical sketch. While Ron does not have all the accomplishments he claimed (which would have been a chronological impossibility) he was fairly well travelled as a youth, and did have a quick mind. In World War II, while he was not the combat veteran that he claimed, his superior officers did call him a clever and capable officer, who would flourish with close supervision.
The after war years are just as revealingly bland. The entire affair with Jack Parsons is covered. However, I got the impression that while the dabbling in magick was perhaps a bit weird, Hubbard was not any sorcerer working in the shadow of Alester Crowley to establish any secret societies for unnameable purposes. He was merely playing with a game that he didn't understand, it seems. Even though Dianetics was established right after Hubbard's dabbling with black art, there is no tie to link the therapeutic mix of techniques of early Dianetics with anything bigger or more sinister. The same split could be said of later Scientology: there is not much to connect the routine tech of counselling and auditing with the infamous story of Xenu.
This pattern of random connections between seemingly disparate cosmologies and practices seems to continue throughout the Scientologist's history. Why was there a Sea Org? Because the Scientologists decided to buy some boats. Why did the Sea Org get a billion year contract? Because someone mentioned it one night on one of those boats, and L. Ron Hubbard adopted it. The entire mixture of beliefs and practices in Scientology came about, the author suggests, because Hubbard had a problem (and like everyone he had his share of mental and physical problems), experimented with ways to deal with it, and immediatly released a line of memos that became scripture amongst the Scientologists. The only thing that held these beliefs and techniques together was the charisma of the leader , the blind loyalty that members had to their organization and the fear that people had of the Scientology secret police, aka The Guardian's Office.
The entire section with the Guardian's Office and Operation Snow White is detailed very well, as well as the resulting fallout. Any organization capable of spying on and stealing from the United States Government is to be feared; but even in this case, the entire scheme seems to be a frightened reaction against a percieved threat, or else just a grandiose gesture. The author points out that with all the talk of the reactive mind, the Scientologist's policy has been consistently pour all their resources and energy into fighting off whatever enemy threatens them at the moment, or that they think is attacking them at the moment.
The fallout of Operation Snow White was the Scientology equivalent of the Cultural Revolution, the takeover of Scientology by the members of the Commedore Messenger Organization, a group of young people, some of them still teenagers, who had been raised as Hubbard's personal messengers. This was the last major split in Scientology, occuring around 1982, and the event that led the author out of the fold. Although the CMO clique seems quite scary, even by Scientology standards, the book doesn't give any indication that they are anything else than another clique wrapped up in money and politics.
Reading this book let me know something about the Scientologists, and convoluted organizations in general. The Scientologists are so convoluted because they have no depth. If you look behind the front groups, constantly reshuffling corporations, you won't find any depth. All you will find is more front groups and constantly reshuffling corporations. Scientology is convoluted because it is "all surface".
Be that as it may, and despite my belief that Scientology is in a way "not dangerous", they are still dangerous in many ways. John Atack suffered a great deal to get this book published, and it would be good for anyone who is concerened about criminal subversive groups to find and read this book, if they can do so without too much risk.