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Hubbard, L. Ron


HUBBARD, L. RON (19111986), the founder of the Church of Scientology, emerged in the last half of the twentieth century as one of the most controversial leaders of new religious movements. Hailed by the members of his church as one of the most creative minds of the century, he was equally assailed by his critics.

Lafayette Ron Hubbard was born on March 13, 1911, in Tilden, Nebraska. His father, Harry Ross Hubbard, was an officer in the U.S. Navy. Hubbard spent much of his childhood in Montana on his grandfather's ranch. He was able to take advantage of his father's occupation, however, to make two trips during his youth to the Orient and returned with vivid memories of his time in China.

Hubbard attended the Swavely Preparatory School in Manassas, Virginia, and began his college work at George Washington University in 1930. College proved not to be his forte, and he dropped out after only two years. He spent the rest of the decade participating in a variety of expeditions as an explorer (which earned him membership in the Explorers Club) and writing. He published more than 150 short stories and nonfiction articles. The subject matter ranged from aviation to western adventure stories, though his most memorable work was in science fiction.

Hubbard was commissioned as a lieutenant in the navy in 1941. Holding a variety of posts and commands, he finished World War II at Oak Knolls Naval Hospital, Oakland, California, where he gained the initial insights that led to his development of Scientology. After the war Hubbard continued to make his living as a writer as he accumulated insights into the human mind. His new ideas first appeared in several articles and culminated in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The book describes his therapeutic techniques for ridding individuals of the causes of aberrant behavior and leading them to a state he termed clear. The response to his book, including the emergence of many amateur efforts to practice the book's teachings, led Hubbard to found the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation and to write a set of texts on the proper application of his theories.

The next few years proved to be intense and decisive. Hubbard continued his exploration of human existence, shifted his focus from the mind to the spirit, and expanded Dianetics into a complete philosophical and religious system he began to call Scientology. The change proved costly in some respects, as many of his early supporters were unable to accept his new findings (such as the preexistence of the human soul) and withdrew. In 1954, however, the first Church of Scientology opened in Los Angeles, California. Hubbard now turned his full attention to the development of the church (including the writing of a detailed organizational manual) and the growth of Scientology into a comprehensive scientific religion.

Hubbard resigned all official positions he held in the church in 1966 and turned his attention to further research into the higher levels of Scientology, in which the soul (which Hubbard termed the thetan ) learns to operate free of the body. The first of the Operating Thetan (OT) levels, or training steps, was released in 1966, with others released periodically through Hubbard's lifetime. Beginning in 1967 he conducted a significant part of OT research aboard an oceangoing vessel in company with a group of his more dedicated followers. There he founded the Sea Organization, or Sea Org, an ordered though nonmonastic community originally designated to take charge of the delivery of the OT levels. The 1970s were a time of extensive writing on all phases of Scientology.

Hubbard encountered the next crucial test of his ideas at the end of the 1970s. In 1979 a number of church officials connected with the Guardian's Office, including Hubbard's wife, were arrested. The Guardian's Office, which had been established in 1966 to handle a variety of attacks upon the church, had engaged in several clandestine operations to uncover U.S. government files believed to be the source of its problems. The conviction of those arrested led to the disbanding of the Guardian's Office, a complete reorganization of the church at the highest levels, and the assumption of control by the Sea Organization of the church's international and policy-making offices.

Hubbard spent the last years of his life in seclusion, his whereabouts disclosed to only a few friends and high church officials. He returned to fiction writing and produced a major novel, Battlefield Earth (1982), and a ten-volume science fiction series, Mission Earth (19851987). He died on January 24, 1986, in Crestone, California.

Hubbard left his considerable wealth and all his copyrights to the church, which had already assigned scriptural status to his Scientology texts. The church subsequently established a new corporation, Author Services, to handle the ongoing publication and licensing of Hubbard's non-Scientology writings. The church has published a number of smaller works describing Hubbard's various accomplishments, although no comprehensive critical biography had appeared by the beginning of the twenty-first century.

See Also



Friends of Ron, comp. L. Ron Hubbard: A Profile. Los Angeles, 1995. A comprehensive biographical work to date from the Church of Scientology.

Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. New York, 1950; reprint, Los Angeles, 2000.

Hubbard, L. Ron. Scientology: A New Slant on Life. Los Angeles, 1965. One of several basic Scientology texts.

Melton, J. Gordon. The Church of Scientology. Salt Lake City, Utah, 2001.

Whitehead, Harriet. Renunciation and Reformulation: A Study of an American Sect. Ithaca, N.Y., 1987.

J. Gordon Melton (2005)

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