When humanitarian and Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard returned to the U.S. in 1973, after 12 years away, he plunged into the largest population familiar with his writings. Expecting reacquaintance, he found instead dysfunction. Instead of the fruited plain he left, Mr. Hubbard was stared down by a socially dying sprawl of an immoral nation.
Mr. Hubbard’s notes from this era point to a “depowering” of the human spirit and a hopeless compulsion towards “oblivion.” He compared the cultural crisis in the United States to fourth-century Rome, and when asked about his impression of life in Manhattan, replied that he felt as if “on an island that had been destroyed by some superior force.”
Since 1961, violent crime—most of it drug-related—had risen 250 percent, divorce had doubled and teenage suicide skyrocketed 360 percent. It was the era of casual, graphic violence in the arts and the birth of terms such as “drive-by shooting” and “gangbanger.”
21 universal precepts make up the nonreligious, common-sense moral code
Driven by a sense of urgency, the prolific author sought a solution in his pen and wrote a compelling treatise called The Way To Happiness. “Mr. Hubbard felt we needed a new moral code, one that was not religious, a common sense moral code for today’s world,” says Caralyn Percy, president of the international The Way To Happiness Foundation. “He felt there had been a decline in the influence of religion on moral values. Moral codes are only useful if people understand them, if they make sense. That’s what guided him to create The Way To Happiness, the first moral code based totally on common sense.”
The resulting code consists of 21 universal precepts (life principles), written simply, with powerfully chosen words. First published in 1981, The Way To Happiness is found very alive today in 112 languages including Hindi, Samoa and Uzbek—the “most translated author, same book” in history, says the Guinness World Records.
Over 115 million copies, with customized covers, translated editions and audiovisual recordings, have been disseminated in 186 nations around the world. The Way To Happiness book-on-film and 21 impactful public service announcements have aired to more than 230 million people through 842 broadcast stations. Another 2.3 million students have been educated on the book’s precepts. To date, the campaign has reached over 422 million people.
112 languages, making it the single most translated work of all time, a Guinness World Record
The book is often featured in discussions of social “miracles” by professors and reviewers, referring to its oft-repeated successes with morality restoration in both ultra-hopeless situations and among lost and violent souls (i.e., prisons: inmates and guards; gangland areas: dealers, users and addicts; ghettos: drug traffickers, homeless, the poor, etc.). The Foundation’s Percy says she carries The Way To Happiness booklets with her “everywhere I go. I hand them out to people all the time.”
As a case in point she tells a story of a motorist standing up through the sun roof of a fancy car, screaming and cursing at a little old lady walking nearby who was screaming back. “I pulled over, got out and approached the lady walking and gave her a booklet; then I went to the lady in the car and gave one to her. I told them both, ‘This is a gift for you.’”
Surprised, both women immediately started to read. And then it all ended and both went their respective ways. Quietly. “I still don’t know what they were yelling about!” says Percy. “I just know it works!”
The Way To Happiness was among Mr. Hubbard’s last writings. Is it possible the author, who died in 1986, could have foreseen the book’s vital role and stunning success rate in moral compass repair beyond mere individuals on up to entire governments? Caralyn Percy has a theory: “He was a very smart person. I believe he knew. Why, just look at the back of the booklet.”
There, a disclaimer states: “[The text] was written by L. Ron Hubbard as an individual work and is not part of any religious doctrine. … It is therefore admissible for government departments and employees to distribute it as a nonreligious activity.”
Still, it took a bit of serendipity, a series of coincidences, planned events and just plain being in the right place at the right time to inspire a massive distribution of The Way to Happiness throughout narco-insane 1980s Colombia, including in cities ranked among the most dangerous in the world. Several successful interventions of the booklet at large public gatherings led both the National Police and the Ministry of Defense to undertake a nationwide training of soldiers and police personnel with a goal of distribution nationwide. By the time 20 percent of the population had been reached, national crime plummeted and Colombia dropped out of the Most Dangerous country club.
115 M copies of The Way to Happiness distributed internationally
A similar result occurred in Ecuador, where distribution of The Way to Happiness preceded a crime rate drop of 17 percent. Also in Plettenberg, South Africa where following distribution in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa, shoplifting dropped by 63 percent and aggravated robbery by 100 percent. Police implementation of the program saw crime in Slovakian cities drop by 40 percent. Juarez, Mexico, the perennial “World’s Most Dangerous City,” dropped to No. 37 in one year coincident with a distribution of The Way To Happiness. In the South Los Angeles suburb of Compton, one of the top 10 most dangerous cities in the United States, Peace Rides by rival gangs achieved crime drops of 15-30 percent.
842 TV stations in 63 countries have aired The Way to Happiness public service announcements
In Cuba, just last May, The Way to Happiness booklets were distributed across the country, to an enthusiastic response: at human rights meetings in Taguayabon; at youth baseball games at Las Tunas; among Cantimplora farmers in their farm fields and La Islenas tobacco men in their drying barns. You could comprehend The Way To Happiness in the eyes of an international peace and human rights activist in Santa Clara, in the grim stare of a former Cuban Army Commander in Naranja. In Zulueta, a Masonic Temple meeting of somber old men erupted in cheering and circle dancing following a presentation of The Way To Happiness. An entire downtown Havana produce market froze while shoppers and vendors stopped shopping and selling, their eyes fixated on the booklet’s opening pages.
230M viewers have seen those public service announcements
A new The Way to Happiness Foundation center has recently opened in downtown Clearwater north of the Fort Harrison Avenue and Cleveland Street intersection. The center facilities include volunteer offices, colorful informational displays and videos and a seminar room where individuals can train in the curriculum. It is hoped that this new center will play its part in leveraging the power of the booklet to help reverse alarming erosions of morality the world over (including the Tampa Bay area, where a recent survey found 50 percent of students in Pinellas County had been bullied).
The Way to Happiness
33 N. Fort Harrison Ave.
Clearwater, FL 35755
“All people need a moral compass,” said David Miscavige, ecclesiastical leader of the Scientology religion. “Our solution is nonreligious—it speaks to all people regardless of their religion or lack of religion. The Way to Happiness offers a way people can live together and prosper. It has been used to de-escalate violence and deter crime. It now has a base in Clearwater from which to spread goodwill.”