Hubbard, L(afayette) Ron(ald) (1911-1986)
Founder of the Church of Scientology. Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska, on March 13, 1911. He spent much of his childhood in Montana on his grandfather’s ranch. His father was a naval officer, and as Hubbard matured, he traveled through the Pacific and to Asia. In 1930 he enrolled in the Engineering School of George Washington University, Washington, D.C., where he studied for the next two years. During the remainder of the decade he roamed the world as a participant in various explorations and wrote over 150 articles and short stories. His first book, Buckskin Brigades, appeared in 1937. In 1940 he was elected a member of the Explorers Club in New York. During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy with the rank of lieutenant. He also worked briefly in naval intelligence.
After the war, he returned to writing as a career. As a writer, Hubbard had a prodigious output and was remembered for the amazing speed at which he could produce copy. Often several stories would be published in the same issue of a magazine and thus many appeared under pseudonyms. No one systematically recorded his output, and reassembling a bibliography was a tedious process, carried out through the 1980s. In the 1930s he turned out Westerns for pulp magazines under the pseudonym “Winchester Remington Colt.” His early science-fiction pulp stories were under the pseudonyms “Kurt von Rachen” and “René Lafayette.” He wrote for Columbia Pictures in Hollywood in 1935.
Through the 1940s, partly based upon his experiences in the war, Hubbard began to develop a new philosophy of human nature and a new approach to dealing with basic human ills. The first public notice of his thinking appeared in an article in Astounding Science Fiction (May 1950), later to prove an unfortunate debut. As Dianetics, the name he gave his new approach, developed into the Church of Scientology and proved both controversial and successful, it would be demeaned as a “science fiction” religion and Hubbard dismissed as just a hack science fiction writer.
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health appeared a few weeks after the Astounding Science Fiction article. The book created a sensation and launched a vast new industry of do-it-yourself psychotherapy. Hubbard created the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation and local Dianetics centers began to emerge based upon Hubbard’s technique for ridding individuals of the causes of aberrant behavior patterns and leading them to a state of “clear.”
As Hubbard continued to expand his thought and work out the implications of his theories, Dianetics grew into a comprehensive philosophical-religious system, Scientology. In 1954 the first Church of Scientology was opened in Los Angeles. The rest of Hubbard’s life would be spent in developing and perfecting Scientology. In 1966 he resigned from any official position in the church, but he continued his research and writing for a number of years. He developed guidelines for the church and left behind writing that focused on the implications of his thought for education and business.
During the last years of his life he dropped out of public sight and remained in contact with only a few church leaders. In the years prior to his death on January 24, 1986, he returned to his love for storytelling and wrote one major novel, Battlefield Earth, and a ten-volume science fiction series, Mission Earth.
As his church became a prosperous international movement, it and Hubbard became the center of controversies involving people who left the movement to found competing organizations, former members who turned upon the church for real or imagined grievances, and the anti-cult movement, which branded the church a cult. In retrospect, early controversy with the American Medical Association, which disapproved of Dianetics, seems to have spilled over into federal government departments and covert actions against the church were instigated. Rumors of illicit actions by the church, many of which led to problems with different governments, began to emerge around the world. Legal actions, most of which were eventually resolved, became the justification for action against the church in additional countries. Some high church officials authorized the infiltration of several government agencies, and this became a major source of embarrassment for the church when the people responsible were arrested and convicted for theft of government documents.
For the Church of Scientology, the years since 1985 have been marked by intense polemics and court action between members of the church and the Cult Awareness Network, which emerged in the mid-1980s as the chief organizational expression of the anti-cult movement. These legal battles continue. However, a several-decades-old controversy with the Internal Revenue Service came to an end.
Hubbard and the OTO
During the 1940s, Hubbard became involved in one of the more bizarre happenings in the world of the occult. In the 1930s, a lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis, the magical group headed by magician Aleister Crowley, had opened in Pasadena, California. Among its members was John W. “Jack” Parsons, a research scientist at the California Institute of Technology. At some point in 1945, Parsons decided to try a magical experiment to produce a magical child. At this point Hubbard showed up at Parson’s house and was eventually invited by Parsons to become the necessary third person in the magical experiment.
The experiment consisted of Parsons and his female partner engaging in sexual intercourse while a third person, a clairvoyant, would tell them what was occurring in the invisible astral realm. The ritual would climax at what the clairvoyant seer suggested was the proper moment. Hopefully the act would result in the pregnancy of the woman and the induction of a spirit in the resulting child.
While Parsons and Hubbard seemed to have developed a strong friendship, early in 1946 they parted ways and Hubbard moved to Miami. Parsons claimed that Hubbard had skipped town with OTO funds and went to Miami to confront him. The present Church of Scientology claims that Hubbard had no attachment to either Parsons or the OTO, and that in spite of Hubbard’s work with Parsons, Hubbard was never initiated into the organization. Rather, they suggest that he was acting as an undercover agent to investigate Parsons and other people associated with Cal Tech who were living in Parsons’s house and working on sensitive government projects. Several of these physicists were later dismissed from government service as security risks. Hubbard did work for a period after the war as an undercover agent for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Hubbard died January 24, 1986