L. Ron Hubbard


Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911 – 1986), better known as L. Ron Hubbard and often referred to by his initials, LRH, was an American pulp fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology. After establishing a career as a writer, becoming best known for his science fiction and fantasy stories, he developed a self-help system called ‘Dianetics’ which was first published in 1950. He subsequently developed his ideas into a wide-ranging set of doctrines and rituals as part of a new religious movement that he called Scientology. His writings became the guiding texts for the Church of Scientology and a number of affiliated organizations that address such diverse topics as business administration, literacy, and drug rehabilitation.

The Church of Scientology describes Hubbard in hagiographic terms, and he portrayed himself as a pioneering explorer, world traveler, and nuclear physicist, with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, including photography, art, poetry, and philosophy. His critics have characterized him as a liar, a charlatan, and mentally unstable. Though many of his autobiographical statements have been proven to be fictitious, the Church rejects any suggestion that its account of Hubbard’s life is not historical fact.

After developing ‘Dianetics,’ ‘the modern science of mental health,’ he founded Scientology in 1952 and oversaw the growth of the Church of Scientology into a worldwide organization. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, he spent much of his time at sea on his personal fleet of ships as ‘Commodore’ of the ‘Sea Organization,’ an elite inner group of Scientologists. His expedition came to an end when Britain, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Venezuela all closed their ports to his fleet. At one point, a court in Australia revoked the church’s status as a religion. Similarly, a high court in France convicted Hubbard of fraud in absentia. He returned to the United States in 1975 and went into seclusion in the California desert. In 1983 L. Ron Hubbard was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in an international information infiltration and theft project called ‘Operation Snow White’ (perpetrated to purge unfavorable records about Hubbard and the religion from government offices). He spent the remaining years of his life on his ranch near Creston, California, where he died in 1986.

Although many aspects of Hubbard’s life story are disputed, there is general agreement about its basic outline. Born in Nebraska, he spent much of his childhood in Montana. He traveled in Asia and the South Pacific in the late 1920s after his father, an officer in the United States Navy, was posted to the U.S. naval base on Guam. He attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C. at the start of the 1930s, before dropping out and beginning his career as a prolific writer of pulp fiction stories. He served briefly in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and was an officer in the United States Navy during World War II, briefly commanding two ships. He was removed both times when his superiors found him incapable of command. The last few months of his active service were spent in a hospital, being treated for a duodenal ulcer.

Biographical accounts published by the Church of Scientology describe Hubbard as ‘a child prodigy of sorts’ who rode a horse before he could walk and was able to read and write by the age of four. A Scientology profile says that he was brought up on his grandfather’s ‘large cattle ranch in Montana’ where he spent his days ‘riding, breaking broncos, hunting coyote, and taking his first steps as an explorer.’ His grandfather is described as a ‘wealthy Western cattleman’ from whom Hubbard ‘inherited his fortune and family interests in America, Southern Africa, etc.’ Scientology claims that Hubbard became a ‘blood brother’ of the Native American Blackfeet tribe at the age of six through his friendship with a Blackfeet medicine man. However, contemporary records show that his grandfather, Lafayette Waterbury, was a veterinarian, not a rancher, and was not wealthy. Hubbard was actually raised in a townhouse in the center of Helena, Montana. According to his aunt, his family did not own a ranch but did own one cow and four or five horses on a few acres of land outside the city. Hubbard lived over a hundred miles from the Blackfeet reservation. The tribe did not practice blood brotherhood and no evidence has been found that he had ever been a Blackfeet blood brother.

During the 1920s the Hubbards repeatedly relocated around the United States and overseas. After Hubbard’s father Harry rejoined the Navy, his posting aboard the ‘USS Oklahoma’ in 1921 required the family to relocate to the ship’s home ports, first San Diego, then Seattle. During a journey to Washington, D.C. in 1923 Hubbard learned of Freudian psychology from Commander Joseph ‘Snake’ Thompson, a U.S. Navy psychoanalyst and medic. Scientology biographies describe this encounter as giving Hubbard training in a particular scientific approach to the mind, which he found unsatisfying. Hubbard was active in the Boy Scouts in Washington, D.C. and earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1924, two weeks after his 13th birthday. In his diary, Hubbard claimed he was the youngest Eagle Scout in the U.S.

In 1927 Hubbard’s father was sent to the U.S. Naval Station on Guam in the Mariana Islands of the South Pacific. Although Hubbard’s mother also went to Guam, Hubbard himself did not accompany them but was placed in his grandparents’ care in Helena to complete his schooling. Between 1927 and 1929 Hubbard traveled to Japan, China, the Philippines, and Guam. Scientology texts present this period in his life as a time when he was intensely curious for answers to human suffering and explored ancient Eastern philosophies for answers, but found them lacking. He is described as traveling to China ‘at a time when few Westerners could enter’ and according to Scientology, spent his time questioning Buddhist lamas and meeting old Chinese magicians. According to church materials, his travels were funded by his ‘wealthy grandfather.’ Hubbard’s unofficial biographers present a very different account of his travels in Asia. Hubbard’s diaries recorded two trips to the east coast of China. The first was made in the company of his mother while traveling from the United States to Guam in 1927. It consisted of a brief stop-over in a couple of Chinese ports before traveling on to Guam, where he stayed for six weeks before returning home. He recorded his impressions of the places he visited and disdained the poverty of the inhabitants of Japan and China, whom he described as ‘gooks’ and ‘lazy [and] ignorant.’ His second visit was a family holiday which took Hubbard and his parents to China via the Philippines in 1928.

After his return to the United States in September 1927, Hubbard enrolled at Helena High School but earned only poor grades. He abandoned school the following May and went back west to stay with his aunt and uncle in Seattle. He joined his parents in Guam in 1928. His mother took over his education in the hope of putting him forward for the entrance examination to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. Between October and December 1928 a number of naval families, including Hubbard’s, traveled from Guam to China aboard the USS Gold Star. The ship stopped at Manila in the Philippines before traveling on to Qingdao in China. Hubbard and his parents made a side trip to Beijing before sailing on to Shanghai and Hong Kong, from where they returned to Guam. Scientology accounts present a different version of events, saying that Hubbard ‘made his way deep into Manchuria’s Western Hills and beyond — to break bread with Mongolian bandits, share campfires with Siberian shamans, and befriend the last in the line of magicians from the court of Kublai Khan.’ However, Hubbard did not record these events in his diary. He remained unimpressed with China and the Chinese, writing: ‘A Chinaman can not live up to a thing, he always drags it down.’ He characterized the sights of Beijing as ‘rubberneck stations’ for tourists and described the palaces of the Forbidden City as ‘very trashy-looking’ and ‘not worth mentioning.’ He was impressed by the Great Wall of China near Beijing, but concluded of the Chinese: ‘They smell of all the baths they didn’t take. The trouble with China is, there are too many chinks here.’

Back on Guam, Hubbard spent much of his time writing dozens of short stories and essays and failed the Naval Academy entrance examination. In 1929 Hubbard was enrolled at the Swavely Preparatory School in Virginia, to prepare him for a second attempt at the examination. However, he was ruled out of consideration due to his near-sightedness. He was instead sent to Woodward School for Boys in Washington, D.C. to qualify for admission to George Washington University. He successfully graduated from the school in the summer of 1930 and entered the university the following September.

Hubbard studied civil engineering during his two years at George Washington University at the behest of his father, who ‘decreed that I should study engineering and mathematics.’ While he did not graduate from George Washington, his time there subsequently became important because, as Hubbard biographer George Malko puts it, ‘many of his researches and published conclusions have been supported by his claims to be not only a graduate engineer, but a member of the first United States course in formal education in what is called today nuclear physics.’ However, a Church of Scientology biography describes him as ‘never noted for being in class’ and says that he ‘thoroughly detest[ed] his subjects.’ He earned poor grades, was placed on probation in 1931 and dropped out altogether in the fall of 1932. Scientology accounts say that he ‘studied nuclear physics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., before he started his studies about the mind, spirit, and life’ and Hubbard himself stated that he ‘set out to find out from nuclear physics a knowledge of the physical universe, something entirely lacking in Asian philosophy.’ His university records indicate that his exposure to ‘nuclear physics’ consisted of one class in ‘atomic and molecular phenomena’ for which he earned an ‘F’ grade.

Scientologists claim he was more interested in extracurricular activities, particularly writing and flying. According to church materials, ‘he earned his wings as a pioneering barnstormer at the dawn of American aviation’ and ‘[he was] recognized as one of the country’s most outstanding pilots. With virtually no training time, he takes up powered flight and barnstorms throughout the Midwest.’ His airman certificate, however, records that he qualified to fly only gliders rather than powered aircraft and gave up his certificate when he could not afford the renewal fee.

During Hubbard’s final semester he organized an expedition to the Caribbean for ‘fifty young gentleman rovers’ aboard the schooner ‘Doris Hamlin’ commencing in June 1932. The aims of the ‘Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition’ were stated as being to explore and film the pirate ‘strongholds and bivouacs of the Spanish Main’ and to ‘collect whatever one collects for exhibits in museums.’ It ran into trouble even before it left the port of Baltimore: ten participants quit and storms blew the ship far off course to Bermuda. Eleven more members of the expedition quit there and more left when the ship arrived at Martinique. With the expedition running critically short of money, the ship’s owners ordered it to return to Baltimore.

Hubbard blamed the expedition’s problems on the captain: ‘the ship’s dour Captain Garfield proved himself far less than a Captain Courageous, requiring Ron Hubbard’s hand at both the helm and the charts.’ Specimens and photographs collected by the expedition are said by Scientology accounts to have been acquired by the University of Michigan, the U.S. Hydrographic Office, an unspecified national museum and the ‘New York Times,’ though none of those institutions have any record of this. Hubbard later wrote that the expedition ‘was a crazy idea at best, and I knew it, but I went ahead anyway, chartered a four-masted schooner and embarked with some fifty luckless souls who haven’t stopped their cursings yet.’ He called it ‘a two-bit expedition and financial bust,’ which resulted in some of its participants making legal claims against him for refunds.

After leaving university Hubbard traveled to Puerto Rico on what the Church of Scientology calls the ‘Puerto Rican Mineralogical Expedition.’ Scientologists claim he ‘made the first complete mineralogical survey of Puerto Rico’ as a means of ‘augmenting his [father’s] pay with a mining venture,’ during which he ‘sluiced inland rivers and crisscrossed the island in search of elusive gold’ as well as carrying out ‘much ethnological work amongst the interior villages and native hillsmen.’ Hubbard’s unofficial biographer Russell Miller writes that neither the United States Geological Survey nor the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources have any record of any such expedition.

According to Miller, Hubbard traveled to Puerto Rico in November 1932 after his father volunteered him for the Red Cross relief effort following the devastating 1932 San Ciprian hurricane. In a 1957 lecture Hubbard said that he had been ‘a field executive with the American Red Cross in the Puerto Rico hurricane disaster.’ According to his own account, Hubbard spent much of his time prospecting unsuccessfully for gold. Towards the end of his stay on Puerto Rico he appears to have done some work for a Washington, D.C. firm called West Indies Minerals Incorporated, accompanying a surveyor in an investigation of a small property near the town of Luquillo. The survey was unsuccessful. A few years later, Hubbard wrote: ‘Harboring the thought that the Conquistadores might have left some gold behind, I determined to find it … Gold prospecting in the wake of the Conquistadores, on the hunting grounds of the pirates in the islands which still reek of Columbus is romantic, and I do not begrudge the sweat which splashed in muddy rivers, and the bits of khaki which have probably blown away from the thorn bushes long ago … After a half year or more of intensive search, after wearing my palms thin wielding a sample pack, after assaying a few hundred sacks of ore, I came back, a failure.’

Hubbard became a well-known and prolific writer for pulp fiction magazines during the 1930s. Scientology texts describe him as becoming ‘well established as an essayist’ even before he had concluded college. Scientology claims he ‘solved his finances, and his desire to travel by writing anything that came to hand’ and to have earned an ‘astronomical’ rate of pay for the times. His literary career began with contributions to the George Washington University student newspaper, ‘The University Hatchet,’ as a reporter for a few months in 1931. Six of his pieces were published commercially during 1932 to 1933. The going rate for freelance writers at the time was only a cent a word, so Hubbard’s total earnings from these articles would have been less than $100. The pulp magazine ‘Thrilling Adventure’ became the first to publish one of his short stories in February 1934. Over the next six years, pulp magazines published around 140 of his short stories under a variety of pen names, including Winchester Remington Colt, Kurt von Rachen, René Lafayette, Joe Blitz, and Legionnaire 148.

Although he was best known for his fantasy and science fiction stories, Hubbard wrote in a wide variety of genres, including adventure fiction, aviation, travel, mysteries, westerns, and even romance. Hubbard knew and associated with writers such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and A. E. van Vogt. His first full-length novel, ‘Buckskin Brigades,’ was published in 1937. He became a ‘highly idiosyncratic’ writer of science fiction after being taken under the wing of editor John W. Campbell, who published many of Hubbard’s short stories and also serialized a number of well-received novelettes that Hubbard wrote for Campbell’s magazines ‘Unknown’ and ‘Astounding.’

According to the Church of Scientology, Hubbard was ‘called to Hollywood’ to work on film scripts in the mid-1930s, although Scientology accounts differ as to exactly when this was. He wrote the script for ‘The Secret of Treasure Island,’ a 1938 Columbia Pictures movie serial. The Church of Scientology claims he also worked on the Columbia serials ‘The Mysterious Pilot’ (1937), ‘The Great Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok’ (1938), and ‘The Spider Returns’ (1941), though his name does not appear on the credits. Hubbard also claimed to have written ‘Dive Bomber’ (1941), Cecil B. DeMille’s ‘The Plainsman’ (1936), and John Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’ (1939).

Hubbard’s literary earnings helped him to support his new wife, Margaret ‘Polly’ Grubb. She was already pregnant when they married in 1933, but she had a spontaneous abortion shortly afterwards; a few months later, she became pregnant again. In 1934, she gave birth prematurely to a son who was named Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, Jr. and the nickname ‘His Nibs,’ invariably shortened to ‘Nibs.’ Their second child, Katherine May, was born in 1936. The Hubbards lived for a while in Maryland, but were chronically short of money. In the spring of 1936 they moved to Bremerton, Washington. They lived there for a time with Hubbard’s aunts and grandmother before finding a place of their own at nearby South Colby. According to one of his friends at the time, Robert MacDonald Ford, the Hubbards were ‘in fairly dire straits for money’ but sustained themselves on the income from Hubbard’s writing. Hubbard spent an increasing amount of time in New York City, working out of a hotel room where his wife suspected him of carrying on affairs with other women.

Hubbard’s authorship in mid-1938 of a still-unpublished manuscript called ‘Excalibur’ is highlighted by the Church of Scientology as a key step in developing the principles of Scientology and Dianetics. The manuscript is said by scientologists to have outlined ‘the basic principles of human existence’ and to have been the culmination of twenty years of research into ‘twenty-one races and cultures including Pacific Northwest Indian tribes, Philippine Tagalogs and, as he was wont to joke, the people of the Bronx.’ According to Arthur J. Cox, a contributor to John W. Campbell’s ‘Astounding’ magazine, Hubbard told a 1948 convention of science fiction fans that the inspiration for ‘Excalibur’ came during an operation in which he ‘died’ for eight minutes. (Gerry Armstrong, Hubbard’s archivist, explains this as a dental extraction performed under nitrous oxide, a chemical known for its hallucinogenic effects): ‘Hubbard realized that, while he was dead, he had received a tremendous inspiration, a great Message which he must impart to others. He sat at his typewriter for six days and nights and nothing came out. Then, ‘Excalibur’ emerged.’

Arthur J. Burks, the President of the American Fiction Guild, wrote that an excited Hubbard called him and said: ‘I want to see you right away. I have written THE book.’ Hubbard believed that ‘Excalibur’ would ‘revolutionize everything’ and that ‘it was somewhat more important, and would have a greater impact upon people, than the Bible.’ It proposed that all human behavior could be explained in terms of survival and that to understand survival was to understand life. As Hubbard biographer Jon Atack notes, ‘the notion that everything that exists is trying to survive became the basis of Dianetics and Scientology.’

According to Burks, Hubbard ‘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.’ However, nobody bought the manuscript. Forrest J Ackerman, later Hubbard’s literary agent, recalled that Hubbard told him ‘whoever read it either went insane or committed suicide. And he said that the last time he had shown it to a publisher in New York, he walked into the office to find out what the reaction was, the publisher called for the reader, the reader came in with the manuscript, threw it on the table and threw himself out of the skyscraper window.’

Hubbard’s failure to sell ‘Excalibur’ depressed him; he told his wife in a 1938 letter: ‘Writing action pulp doesn’t have much agreement with what I want to do because it retards my progress by demanding incessant attention and, further, actually weakens my name. So you see I’ve got to do something about it and at the same time strengthen the old financial position.’ He went on: ‘Sooner or later ‘Excalibur’ will be published and I may have a chance to get some name recognition out of it so as to pave the way to articles and comments which are my ideas of writing heaven … Foolishly perhaps, but determined none the less, I have high hopes of smashing my name into history so violently that it will take a legendary form even if all books are destroyed. That goal is the real goal as far as I am concerned.’ The manuscript later became part of Scientology mythology. An early 1950s Scientology publication offered signed ‘gold-bound and locked’ copies for the sum of $1,500 apiece. It warned that ‘four of the first fifteen people who read it went insane’ and that it would be “[r]eleased only on sworn statement not to permit other readers to read it. Contains data not to be released during Mr. Hubbard’s stay on earth.’

Hubbard joined ‘The Explorers Club’ (a professional society dedicated to scientific exploration of Earth, known for the adventurous, exotic cuisine served at their banquets) in 1940 on the strength of his claimed explorations in the Caribbean and survey flights in the United States. He persuaded the club to let him carry its flag on an ‘Alaskan Radio-Experimental Expedition’ to update the U.S. Coast Pilot guide to the coastlines of Alaska and British Columbia and investigate new methods of radio position-finding. The expedition consisted of Hubbard and his wife — the children were left at South Colby — aboard his twin masted sailboat, ‘Magician.’ Scientology accounts of the expedition describe ‘Hubbard’s recharting of an especially treacherous Inside Passage, and his ethnological study of indigenous Aleuts and Haidas’ and tell of how ‘along the way, he not only roped a Kodiak Bear, but braved seventy-mile-an-hour winds and commensurate seas off the Aleutian Islands.’

Hubbard told the ‘Seattle Star’ in a November 1940 letter that the expedition was plagued by problems and did not get any further than Ketchikan near the southern end of the Alaska Panhandle, far from the Aleutian Islands. The boat’s engine broke down only two days after setting off in July. The Hubbards reached Ketchikan after many delays following repeated engine breakdowns. The ‘Ketchikan Chronicle’ reported — making no mention of the expedition — that Hubbard’s purpose in coming to Alaska ‘was two-fold, one to win a bet and another to gather material for a novel of Alaskan salmon fishing.’ Having underestimated the cost of the trip, he did not have enough money to repair the broken engine. He raised money by writing stories and contributing to the local radio station and eventually earned enough to fix the engine, making it back to Puget Sound in December.

After returning from Alaska, Hubbard applied to join the United States Navy. His Congressman, Warren G. Magnuson, wrote to President Roosevelt to recommend Hubbard as ‘a gentleman of reputation’ who was ‘a respected explorer’ and had ‘marine masters papers for more types of vessels than any other man in the United States.’ Hubbard was described as ‘a key figure’ in writing organizations, ‘making him politically potent nationally.’ The Congressman concluded: ‘Anything you can do for Mr Hubbard will be appreciated.’ His friend Robert MacDonald Ford, by now a State Representative for Washington, sent a letter of recommendation describing Hubbard as ‘one of the most brilliant men I have ever known.’ Hubbard was said by Scientologists to be ‘a powerful influence’ in the Northwest and to be ‘well known in many parts of the world and has considerable influence in the Caribbean and Alaska.’ The letter declared that ‘for courage and ability I cannot too strongly recommend him.’ Ford later said that Hubbard had written the letter himself: ‘I don’t know why Ron wanted a letter. I just gave him a letter-head and said, ‘Hell, you’re the writer, you write it!”

Hubbard was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve in the summer of 1941. His military service forms a major element of his public persona as portrayed by Scientologists. The Church of Scientology presents him as a ‘much-decorated war hero who commanded a corvette and during hostilities was crippled and wounded.’ Scientology publications say he served as a ‘Commodore of Corvette squadrons’ in ‘all five theaters of World War II’ and was awarded ‘twenty-one medals and palms’ for his service. He was ‘severely wounded and was taken crippled and blinded’ to a military hospital, where he ‘worked his way back to fitness, strength, and full perception in less than two years, using only what he knew and could determine about Man and his relationship to the universe.’ He claimed to have seen combat repeatedly, telling A. E. van Vogt that he had once sailed his ship ‘right into the harbor of a Japanese occupied island in the Dutch East Indies. His attitude was that if you took your flag down the Japanese would not know one boat from another, so he tied up at the dock, went ashore and wandered around by himself for three days.’

Hubbard’s official Navy service records indicate that ‘his military performance was, at times, substandard’ and he received only four campaign medals rather than twenty-one. He was never recorded as being injured or wounded in combat and so never received a Purple Heart. Most of his military service was spent ashore in the continental United States on administrative or training duties. He served for a short time in Australia but was sent home after quarreling with his superiors. He briefly commanded two anti-submarine vessels in coastal waters off Massachusetts, Oregon, and California in 1942 and 1943 respectively.

In may of 1942 Hubbard reported that his vessel attacked and crippled or sunk two Japanese submarines off Oregon; his claim was rejected by the commander of the Northwest Sea Frontier. Hubbard and Thomas Moulton, his second in command, later said the Navy wanted to avoid panic on the mainland. A month later Hubbard unwittingly sailed into Mexican territorial waters and conducted gunnery practice off the Coronado Islands, in the belief that they were uninhabited and belonged to the United States. The Mexican government complained and Hubbard was relieved of command. A fitness report written after the incident rated Hubbard as unsuitable for independent duties and ‘lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership, and cooperation.’ He served for a while as the Navigation and Training Officer for the ‘USS Algol’ while it was based at Portland. A fitness report from this period recommended promotion, describing him as ‘a capable and energetic officer, [but] very temperamental,’ and an ‘above average navigator.’ However, he never held another command.

Hubbard’s war service has great significance in the history and mythology of the Church of Scientology, as he is said to have cured himself through techniques that would later underpin Scientology and Dianetics. According to Moulton, Hubbard told him that he had been machine-gunned in the back near the Dutch East Indies. Hubbard asserted that his eyes had been damaged as well, either ‘by the flash of a large-caliber gun’ or when he had ‘a bomb go off in my face.’ Scientology texts say that he returned from the war ‘[b]linded with injured optic nerves, and lame with physical injuries to hip and back’ and was twice pronounced dead. His medical records state that he was hospitalized with an acute duodenal ulcer rather than a war injury. He told his doctors that he was suffering from lameness caused by a hip infection and he told ‘Look’ magazine in 1950 that he had suffered from ‘ulcers, conjunctivitis, deteriorating eyesight, bursitis, and something wrong with my feet.’

He was still complaining in 1951 of eye problems and stomach pains, which had given him ‘continuous trouble’ for eight years, especially when ‘under nervous stress.’ This came well after Hubbard had promised that ‘Dianetics’ would provide ‘a cure for the very ailments that plagued the author himself then and throughout his life, including allergies, arthritis, ulcers, and heart problems.’ The Church of Scientology says that Hubbard’s key breakthrough in the development of Dianetics was made at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California. According to the Church: ‘In early 1945, while recovering from war injuries at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, Mr. Hubbard conducts a series of tests and experiments dealing with the endocrine system. He discovers that, contrary to long-standing beliefs, function monitors structure. With this revolutionary advance, he begins to apply his theories to the field of the mind and thereby to improve the conditions of others.’

An October 1945 Naval Board found that Hubbard was ‘considered physically qualified to perform duty ashore, preferably within the continental United States.’ He was discharged from hospital and transferred to inactive duty in 1946. He resigned his commission in 1950. The Church of Scientology says he quit because the U.S. Navy ‘attempted to monopolize all his researches and force him to work on a project ‘to make man more suggestible’ and when he was unwilling, tried to blackmail him by ordering him back to active duty to perform this function. Having many friends he was able to instantly resign from the Navy and escape this trap.’ The Navy said in a statement in 1980: ‘There is no evidence on record of an attempt to recall him to active duty.’ The Church disputes the official record of Hubbard’s naval career. It asserts that the records are incomplete and perhaps falsified ‘to conceal Hubbard’s secret activities as an intelligence officer.’ In 1990 the Church provided the ‘Los Angeles Times’ with a document that was said to be a copy of Hubbard’s official record of service. The U.S. Navy told the ‘Times’ that ‘its contents are not supported by Hubbard’s personnel record.’ ‘The New Yorker’ reported in 2011 that the document was considered to be a forgery.

Hubbard’s life underwent a turbulent period immediately after the war. According to his own account, he ‘was abandoned by family and friends as a supposedly hopeless cripple and a probable burden upon them for the rest of my days.’ His daughter Katherine presented a rather different version: his wife had refused to uproot their children from their home in Washington to join him in California. Their marriage was by now in terminal difficulties and he chose to stay in California. In August 1945 Hubbard moved into the Pasadena mansion of John ‘Jack’ Whiteside Parsons. A leading rocket propulsion researcher at the California Institute of Technology and a founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Parsons led a double life as an avid occultist and Thelemite, follower of the English ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley and leader of a lodge of Crowley’s magical order, Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO). He let rooms in the house only to tenants who he specified should be ‘atheists and those of a Bohemian disposition.’

Hubbard befriended Parsons and soon became sexually involved with Parsons’s 21-year-old girlfriend, Sara ‘Betty’ Northrup. Despite this Parsons was very impressed with Hubbard and reported to Crowley: ‘[Hubbard] is a gentleman; he has red hair, green eyes, is honest and intelligent, and we have become great friends. He moved in with me about two months ago, and although Betty and I are still friendly, she has transferred her sexual affection to Ron. Although he has no formal training in Magick, he has an extraordinary amount of experience and understanding in the field. From some of his experiences I deduced that he is in direct touch with some higher intelligence, possibly his Guardian Angel. He describes his Angel as a beautiful winged woman with red hair whom he calls the Empress and who has guided him through his life and saved him many times. He is the most Thelemic person I have ever met and is in complete accord with our own principles.’

Parsons and Hubbard collaborated on the ‘Babalon Working,’ a sex magic ritual intended to summon an incarnation of Babalon, the Mother of Abominations. It was undertaken over several nights in 1946 in order to summon an ‘elemental’ who would participate in further sex magic. As author Richard Metzger describes it, ‘Parsons used his ‘magical wand’ to whip up a vortex of energy so the elemental would be summoned. Translated into plain English, Parsons jerked off in the name of spiritual advancement whilst Hubbard (referred to as ‘The Scribe’ in the diary of the event) scanned the astral plane for signs and visions.’

The ‘elemental’ arrived a few days later in the form of Marjorie Cameron, who agreed to participate in Parsons’ rites. Soon afterwards, Parsons, Hubbard and Sara agreed to set up a business partnership, ‘Allied Enterprises,’ in which they invested nearly their entire savings — the vast majority contributed by Parsons. The plan was for Hubbard and Sara to buy yachts in Miami and sail them to the West Coast to sell for a profit. Hubbard had a different idea; he wrote to the U.S. Navy requesting permission to leave the country ‘to visit Central & South America & China’ for the purposes of ‘collecting writing material’ — in other words, undertaking a world cruise. Aleister Crowley strongly criticized Parsons’s actions, writing: ‘Suspect Ron playing confidence trick — Jack Parsons weak fool — obvious victim prowling swindlers.’ Parsons attempted to recover his money by obtaining an injunction to prevent Hubbard and Sara leaving the country or disposing of the remnants of his assets. They attempted to sail anyway but were forced back to port by a storm. A week later, Allied Enterprises was dissolved. Parsons received only a $2,900 promissory note from Hubbard and returned home ‘shattered.’ He had to sell his mansion to developers soon afterwards to recoup his losses.

Hubbard’s fellow writers were well aware of what had happened between him and Parsons. L. Sprague de Camp wrote to Isaac Asimov to tell him: ‘The more complete story of Hubbard is that he is now in Fla. living on his yacht with a man-eating tigress named Betty-alias-Sarah, another of the same kind … He will probably soon thereafter arrive in these parts with Betty-Sarah, broke, working the poor-wounded-veteran racket for all its worth, and looking for another easy mark. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. Bob [Robert Heinlein] thinks Ron went to pieces morally as a result of the war. I think that’s fertilizer, that he always was that way, but when he wanted to conciliate or get something from somebody he could put on a good charm act. What the war did was to wear him down to where he no longer bothers with the act.’

Scientology accounts do not mention Hubbard’s involvement in occultism. He is instead described as ‘continu[ing] to write to help support his research’ during this period into ‘the development of a means to better the condition of man.’ The Church of Scientology has nonetheless acknowledged Hubbard’s involvement with the OTO; a 1969 statement, written by Hubbard himself, said: ‘Hubbard broke up black magic in America … L. Ron Hubbard was still an officer of the U.S. Navy, because he was well known as a writer and a philosopher and had friends amongst the physicists, he was sent in to handle the situation. He went to live at the house and investigated the black magic rites and the general situation and found them very bad … Hubbard’s mission was successful far beyond anyone’s expectations. The house was torn down. Hubbard rescued a girl they were using. The black magic group was dispersed and destroyed and has never recovered.’

The Church of Scientology says Hubbard was ‘sent in’ by his fellow science fiction author Robert Heinlein, ‘who was running off-book intelligence operations for naval intelligence at the time.’ However, Heinlein’s authorized biographer has said that he looked into the matter at the suggestion of Scientologists but found nothing to corroborate claims that Heinlein had been involved, and his biography of Heinlein makes no mention of the matter. In August of 1946 Hubbard bigamously married Sara, while still married to Polly. It was not until 1947 that his first wife learned that he had remarried. Hubbard agreed to divorce Polly in June that year and the marriage was dissolved shortly afterwards, with Polly given custody of the children.

After Hubbard’s wedding to Sara, the couple settled at Laguna Beach, California, where Hubbard took a short-term job looking after a friend’s yacht before resuming his fiction writing to supplement the small disability allowance that he was receiving as a war veteran. Working from a trailer in a run-down area of North Hollywood, Hubbard sold a number of science fiction stories that included his ‘Ole Doc Methuselah’ series and the serialized novels ‘The End Is Not Yet’ and ‘To the Stars.’ However, he remained short of money and repeatedly wrote to the Veterans Administration (VA) asking for an increase in his war pension. In October 1947 he wrote: ‘After trying and failing for two years to regain my equilibrium in civil life, I am utterly unable to approach anything like my own competence. My last physician informed me that it might be very helpful if I were to be examined and perhaps treated psychiatrically or even by a psychoanalyst. Toward the end of my service I avoided out of pride any mental examinations, hoping that time would balance a mind which I had every reason to suppose was seriously affected. I cannot account for nor rise above long periods of moroseness and suicidal inclinations, and have newly come to realize that I must first triumph above this before I can hope to rehabilitate myself at all.’

The VA eventually did increase his pension, but his money problems continued. In1948, he was arrested in San Luis Obispo, California, and subsequently pled guilty to a charge of petty theft, for which he was ordered to pay a $25 fine. According to the Church of Scientology, around this time he ‘accept[ed] an appointment as a Special Police Officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and us[ed] the position to study society’s criminal elements’ and also ‘worked with neurotics from the Hollywood film community.’ Later that year he described a method which could solve his financial problems. He has been quoted as telling a science fiction convention in 1948: ‘Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.’

In late 1948 Hubbard and Sara moved to Savannah, Georgia. Here, Scientology sources say, he ‘volunteer[ed] his time in hospitals and mental wards, saving the lives of patients with his counseling techniques.’ Hubbard began to make the first public mentions of what was to become Dianetics. He wrote in 1949 that he was working on a ‘book of psychology’ about ‘the cause and cure of nervous tension,’ which he was going to call ‘The Dark Sword,’ ‘Excalibur,’ or ‘Science of the Mind.’ Hubbard wrote to several professional organizations to offer his research. None were interested, so he turned to his editor John W. Campbell, who was more receptive due to a long-standing fascination with fringe psychologies and psychic powers (‘psionics’) that ‘permeated both his fiction and non-fiction.’

Campbell invited Hubbard and Sara to move into a cottage at Bay Head, New Jersey, not far from his own home at Plainfield. Campbell recruited an acquaintance, Dr. Joseph Winter, to help develop Hubbard’s new therapy of “‘Dianetics.’ Campbell told Winter: ‘With cooperation from some institutions, some psychiatrists, [Hubbard] has worked on all types of cases. Institutionalized schizophrenics, apathies, manics, depressives, perverts, stuttering, neuroses — in all, nearly 1000 cases. But just a brief sampling of each type; he doesn’t have proper statistics in the usual sense. But he has one statistic. He has cured every patient he worked with. He has cured ulcers, arthritis, asthma.’

Hubbard collaborated with Campbell and Winter to refine his techniques, testing them on science fiction fans recruited by Campbell. The basic principle of Dianetics was that the brain recorded every experience and event in a person’s life, even when unconscious. Bad or painful experiences were stored as what he called ‘engrams’ in a ‘reactive mind.’ These could be triggered later in life, causing emotional and physical problems. By carrying out a process he called ‘auditing,’ a person could be regressed through his engrams to re-experiencing past experiences. This enabled engrams to be ‘cleared.’ The subject, who would now be in a state of ‘Clear,’ would have a perfectly functioning mind with an improved IQ and photographic memory. The ‘Clear’ would be cured of physical ailments ranging from poor eyesight to the common cold, which Hubbard asserted were purely psychosomatic.

Winter submitted a paper on Dianetics to the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ and the ‘American Journal of Psychiatry’ but both journals rejected it. Hubbard and his collaborators decided to announce Dianetics in Campbell’s ‘Astounding Science Fiction’ instead. In an editorial, Campbell said: ‘Its power is almost unbelievable; it proves the mind not only can but does rule the body completely; following the sharply defined basic laws set forth, physical ills such as ulcers, asthma and arthritis can be cured, as can all other psychosomatic ills.’ The birth of Hubbard’s second daughter Alexis Valerie, delivered by Winter in 1950, came in the middle of the preparations to launch Dianetics. A ‘Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation’ was established in Elizabeth, New Jersey, with Hubbard, Sara, Winter, and Campbell on the board of directors. Dianetics was duly launched in ‘Astounding’s’ May 1950 issue and on May 9, Hubbard’s companion book ‘Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health’ was published.

Hubbard called ‘Dianetics’ ‘a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and the arch.’ It was an immediate commercial success and sparked what Martin Gardner calls ‘a nation-wide cult of incredible proportions.’ By August, Hubbard’s book had sold 55,000 copies, was selling at the rate of 4,000 a week and was being translated into French, German, and Japanese. Five hundred Dianetic auditing groups had been set up across the United States. However, ‘Dianetics’ was poorly received by the press and the scientific and medical professions. The American Psychological Association criticized Hubbard’s claims as ‘not supported by empirical evidence.’ ‘Scientific American’ said that Hubbard’s book contained ‘more promises and less evidence per page than any publication since the invention of printing,’ while ‘The New Republic’ called it a ‘bold and immodest mixture of complete nonsense and perfectly reasonable common sense, taken from long acknowledged findings and disguised and distorted by a crazy, newly invented terminology.’ Some of Hubbard’s fellow science fiction writers also criticized it; Isaac Asimov considered it ‘gibberish’ while Jack Williamson called it ‘a lunatic revision of Freudian psychology.’

Other famous individuals became involved with ‘Dianetics.’ Aldous Huxley received auditing from Hubbard himself, the poet Jean Toomer, and the science fiction writers Theodore Sturgeon, and A. E. van Vogt became trained Dianetics auditors. Van Vogt temporarily abandoned writing and became the head of the newly established Los Angeles branch of the ‘Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation.’ Other branches were established in New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Honolulu. Although ‘Dianetics’ was not cheap, a great many people were nonetheless willing to pay; van Vogt later recalled ‘doing little but tear open envelopes and pull out $500 checks from people who wanted to take an auditor’s course.’ Financial controls were lax. Hubbard himself withdrew large sums with no explanation of what he was doing with it. On one occasion, van Vogt saw Hubbard taking a lump sum of $56,000 out of the Los Angeles Foundation’s proceeds. One of Hubbard’s employees, Helen O’Brien, commented that at the Elizabeth branch of the Foundation, the books showed that ‘a month’s income of $90,000 is listed, with only $20,000 accounted for.’

Hubbard played a very active role in the ‘Dianetics’ boom, writing, lecturing and training auditors. Many of those who knew him spoke of being impressed by his personal charisma. Jack Horner, who became a Dianetics auditor in 1950, later said: ‘He was very impressive, dedicated and amusing. The man had tremendous charisma; you just wanted to hear every word he had to say and listen for any pearl of wisdom.’ Isaac Asimov recalled in his autobiography how, at a dinner party, he, Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and their wives ‘all sat as quietly as pussycats and listened to Hubbard. He told tales with perfect aplomb and in complete paragraphs.’ As Atack comments, he was ‘a charismatic figure who compelled the devotion of those around him.’ Christopher Evans described the personal qualities that Hubbard brought to ‘Dianetics’ and Scientology: ‘He undoubtedly has charisma, a magnetic lure of an indefinable kind which makes him the center of attraction in any kind of gathering. He is also a compulsive talker and pontificator … His restless energy keeps him on the go throughout a long day — he is a poor sleeper and rises very early — and provides part of the drive which has allowed him to found and propagate a major international organization.’

Though the movement was growing rapidily, some of Hubbard’s early supporters began to have doubts about ‘Dianetics.’ Winter became disillusioned and wrote that he had never seen a single convincing ‘Clear’: ‘I have seen some individuals who are supposed to have been ‘clear,’ but their behavior does not conform to the definition of the state. Moreover, an individual supposed to have been ‘clear’ has undergone a relapse into conduct which suggests an incipient psychosis.’ He also deplored the Foundation’s omission of any serious scientific research. ‘Dianetics’ lost public credibility in August 1950 when a presentation by Hubbard before an audience of 6,000 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles failed disastrously. He introduced a ‘Clear’ named Sonya Bianca and told the audience that as a result of undergoing ‘Dianetic’ therapy she now possessed perfect recall. However, Gardner writes, ‘in the demonstration that followed, she failed to remember a single formula in physics (the subject in which she was majoring) or the color of Hubbard’s tie when his back was turned. At this point, a large part of the audience got up and left.’

Hubbard also faced other practitioners moving into leadership positions within the Dianetics community. It was structured as an open, public practice in which others were free to pursue their own lines of research and claim that their approaches to auditing produced better results than Hubbard’s. The community rapidly splintered and its members mingled Hubbard’s ideas with a wide variety of esoteric and even occult practices. By late 1950, the Elizabeth Foundation was in financial crisis and the Los Angeles Foundation was more than $200,000 in debt. Winter and Art Ceppos, the publisher of Hubbard’s book, resigned under acrimonious circumstances. Campbell also resigned, criticizing Hubbard for being impossible to work with, and blamed him for the disorganization and financial ruin of the Foundations. By the summer of 1951, the Elizabeth Foundation and all of its branches had closed.

The collapse of Hubbard’s marriage to Sara created yet more problems. He had begun an affair with his 20-year-old public relations assistant in late 1950, while Sara started a relationship with Dianetics auditor Miles Hollister. Hubbard secretly denounced the couple to the FBI in 1951, portraying them in a letter as communist infiltrators. According to Hubbard, Sara was ‘currently intimate with [communists] but evidently under coercion. Drug addiction set in fall 1950. Nothing of this known to me until a few weeks ago.’ Hollister was described as having a ‘sharp chin, broad forehead, rather Slavic.’ He was said to be the ‘center of most turbulence in our organization’ and ‘active and dangerous.’ The FBI did not take Hubbard seriously: an agent annotated his correspondence with the comment, ‘Appears mental.’

Three weeks later, Hubbard and two Foundation staff seized Sara and his year-old daughter Alexis and forcibly took them to San Bernardino where he attempted unsuccessfully to find a doctor to examine Sara and declare her insane. He let Sara go but took Alexis to Cuba. Sara filed a divorce suit in 1951, that accused him of marrying her bigamously and subjecting her to sleep deprivation, beatings, strangulation, kidnapping, and exhortations to commit suicide. The case led to newspaper headlines such as ‘Ron Hubbard Insane, Says His Wife.’ Sara finally secured the return of her daughter by agreeing to a settlement with her husband in which she signed a statement, written by him, declaring: ‘The things I have said about L. Ron Hubbard in courts and the public prints have been grossly exaggerated or entirely false. I have not at any time believed otherwise than that L. Ron Hubbard is a fine and brilliant man.’

Dianetics appeared to be on the edge of total collapse. However, it was saved by Don Purcell, a millionaire businessman and Dianeticist who agreed to support a new Foundation in Wichita, Kansas. Their collaboration ended after less than a year when they fell out over the future direction of Dianetics. The Wichita Foundation became financially nonviable after a court ruled that it was liable for the unpaid debts of its defunct predecessor in N.J. The ruling prompted Purcell and the other directors of the Wichita Foundation to file for voluntary bankruptcy in 1952. Hubbard resigned immediately and accused Purcell of having been bribed by the American Medical Association to destroy Dianetics. Hubbard established a ‘Hubbard College’ on the other side of town where he continued to promote Dianetics while fighting Purcell in the courts over the Foundation’s intellectual property. Only six weeks after setting up the Hubbard College and marrying a staff member, 18-year-old Mary Sue Whipp, Hubbard closed it down and moved with his new bride to Phoenix, Arizona. He established a ‘Hubbard Association of Scientologists International’ to promote his new ‘Science of Certainty’ — ‘Scientology.’

The Church of Scientology attributes its genesis to Hubbard’s discovery of ‘a new line of research,’ first set out in his book ‘Science of Survival’ — ‘that man is most fundamentally a spiritual being.’ Non-Scientologist writers have suggested alternative motives: that he aimed ‘to reassert control over his creation,’ that he believed ‘he was about to lose control of Dianetics,’ or that he wanted to ensure ‘he would be able to stay in business even if the courts eventually awarded control of Dianetics and its valuable copyrights to … the hated Don Purcell.’ Hubbard expanded upon the basics of Dianetics to construct a spiritually oriented (though at this stage not religious) doctrine based on the concept that the true self of a person was a ‘thetan’ — an immortal, omniscient, and potentially omnipotent entity. Hubbard taught that the thetans, having created the material universe, had forgotten their god-like powers and become trapped in physical bodies. Scientology aimed to ‘rehabilitate’ each person’s thetan to restore its original capacities and become once again an ‘Operating Thetan.’ Hubbard insisted humanity was imperiled by the forces of ‘aberration,’ which were the result of ‘engrams’ carried by the immortal thetans for billions of years.

Hubbard introduced a device called an ‘E-meter’ that he presented as having, as Miller puts it, ‘an almost mystical power to reveal an individual’s innermost thoughts.’ (it measures electrical resistance and skin conductance, similar to a polygraph). He promulgated Scientology through a series of lectures, bulletins and books such as ‘A History of Man’ (‘a cold-blooded and factual account of your last sixty trillion years’) and ‘Scientology: 8-8008’ (‘With this book, the ability to make one’s body old or young at will, the ability to heal the ill without physical contact, the ability to cure the insane and the incapacitated, is set forth for the physician, the layman, the mathematician, and the physicist’).

Scientology was organized in a very different way to the decentralized Dianetics movement. The ‘Hubbard Association of Scientologists’ (HAS) was the only official Scientology organization. Training procedures and doctrines were standardized and promoted through HAS publications, and administrators and auditors were not permitted to deviate from Hubbard’s approach. Branches or ‘orgs’ were organized as franchises, rather like a fast food restaurant chain. Each franchise holder was required to pay ten per cent of income to Hubbard’s central organization. They were expected to find new recruits, known as ‘raw meat,’ but were restricted to providing only basic services. Costlier higher-level auditing was only provided by Hubbard’s central organization.

Although this model would eventually be extremely successful, Scientology was a very small-scale movement at first. Hubbard started off with only a few dozen followers, generally dedicated Dianeticists; a seventy-hour series of lectures in Philadelphia in late 1952 was attended by just 38 people. Hubbard was joined in Phoenix by his 18-year-old son Nibs, who had been unable to settle down in high school. Nibs had decided to become a Scientologist, moved into his father’s home and went on to become a Scientology staff member and ‘professor.’ Hubbard also traveled to the United Kingdom to establish his control over a Dianetics group in London. It was very much a shoestring operation; as Helen O’Brien later recalled, ‘there was an atmosphere of extreme poverty and undertones of a grim conspiracy over all. At 163 Holland Park Avenue was an ill-lit lecture room and a bare-boarded and poky office some eight by ten feet — mainly infested by long haired men and short haired and tatty women.’ Only a few weeks after arriving in London, Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue gave birth to her first child, a daughter whom they named Diana Meredith de Wolfe Hubbard.

In 1953, Hubbard acquired a doctorate from the unaccredited Sequoia University. According to a Scientology biography, this was ‘given in recognition of his outstanding work on Dianetics’ and ‘as an inspiration to the many people … who had been inspired by him to take up advanced studies in this field …’ The British government concluded in the 1970s that Sequoia University was a ‘degree mill’ operated by Joseph Hough, a Los Angeles chiropractor. Biographer Russel Miller cites a telegram sent by Hubbard in which he instructed Scientologist Richard de Mille to procure him a Ph.D. from Hough urgently — ‘FOR GOSH SAKES EXPEDITE. WORK HERE UTTERLY DEPENDANT ON IT.’ Hough’s ‘university’ was closed down by the Californian authorities in 1971. British government officials noted in a report written in 1977: ‘It has not and never had any authority whatsoever to issue diplomas or degrees and the dean is sought by the authorities ”for questioning.”

A few weeks after becoming ‘Dr.’ Hubbard, he wrote to Helen O’Brien — who had taken over the day-to-day management of Scientology in the United States — proposing that Scientology should be transformed into a religion. As membership declined and finances grew tighter, Hubbard had reversed the hostility to religion he voiced in ‘Dianetics.’ His letter to O’Brien discussed the legal and financial benefits of religious status. As to his earlier remarks regarding the financial rewards of starting a religion, the Church of Scientology has denied that Hubbard made any such statement and insists that it is a misattributed quote that was said instead by George Orwell, although they offer no proof of this claim. Hubbard outlined plans for setting up a chain of ‘Spiritual Guidance Centers’ charging customers $500 for twenty-four hours of auditing (‘That is real money … Charge enough and we’d be swamped’). He wrote: ‘I await your reaction on the religion angle. In my opinion, we couldn’t get worse public opinion than we have had or have less customers with what we’ve got to sell. A religious charter would be necessary in Pennsylvania or NJ to make it stick. But I sure could make it stick.’

O’Brien was not enthusiastic and resigned the following September, worn out by work. She criticized Hubbard for creating ‘a temperate zone voodoo, in its inelasticity, unexplainable procedures, and mindless group euphoria.’ He nonetheless pressed ahead in late 1953, he incorporated the ‘Church of Scientology,’ ‘Church of American Science,’ and ‘Church of Spiritual Engineering’ in Camden, New Jersey. Hubbard, his wife Mary Sue and his secretary John Galusha became the trustees of all three corporations. Hubbard later denied founding the Church of Scientology, and to this day, Scientologists maintain that the ‘founding church’ was actually the Church of Scientology of California, established in 1954 by Scientologist Burton Farber. The reason for Scientology’s religious transformation was explained by officials of the HAS: ‘[T]here is little doubt but what [sic] this stroke will remove Scientology from the target area of overt and covert attacks by the medical profession, who see their pills, scalpels, and appendix-studded incomes threatened … [Scientologists] can avoid the recent fiasco in which a Pasadena practitioner is reported to have spent 10 days in that city’s torture chamber for ‘practicing medicine without a license.”

Scientology franchises became Churches of Scientology and some auditors began dressing as clergymen, complete with clerical collars. If they were arrested in the course of their activities, Hubbard advised, they should sue for massive damages for molesting ‘a Man of God going about his business.’ A few years later he told Scientologists: ‘If attacked on some vulnerable point by anyone or anything or any organization, always find or manufacture enough threat against them to cause them to sue for peace … Don’t ever defend, always attack.’ Any individual breaking away from Scientology and setting up his own group was to be shut down: ‘The purpose of the suit is to harass and discourage rather than to win. The law can be used very easily to harass, and enough harassment on somebody who is simply on the thin edge anyway, well knowing that he is not authorized, will generally be sufficient to cause his professional decease. If possible, of course, ruin him utterly.’

The 1950s saw Scientology growing steadily. Hubbard finally achieved victory over Don Purcell in 1954 when the latter, worn out by constant litigation, handed the copyrights of ‘Dianetics’ back to Hubbard. Most of the formerly independent Scientology and Dianetics groups were either driven out of business or were absorbed into Hubbard’s organizations. Hubbard marketed Scientology through medical claims, such as attracting polio sufferers by presenting the Church of Scientology as a scientific research foundation investigating polio cases. One advertisement during this period stated: ‘Plagued by illness? We’ll make you able to have good health. Get processed by the finest capable auditors in the world today […] Personally coached and monitored by L. Ron Hubbard.’

Scientology became a highly profitable enterprise for Hubbard. He implemented a scheme under which he was paid a percentage of the Church of Scientology’s gross income and by 1957 he was being paid about $250,000 annually. His family grew, too, with Mary Sue giving birth to three more children — Geoffrey Quentin McCaully in 1954; Mary Suzette Rochelle in 1955; and Arthur Ronald Conway in 1958. In the spring of 1959, he used his new-found wealth to purchase Saint Hill Manor, an 18th century country house in Sussex, formerly owned by Sawai Man Singh II, the Maharaja of Jaipur. The house became Hubbard’s permanent residence and an international training center for Scientologists. By the start of the 1960s, Hubbard was the leader of a worldwide movement with thousands of followers. A decade later, however, he had left Saint Hill Manor and moved aboard his own private fleet of ships as the Church of Scientology faced worldwide controversy.

The Church of Scientology says that the problems of this period were due to ‘vicious, covert international attacks’ by the United States government, ‘all of which were proven false and baseless, which were to last 27 years and finally culminated in the Government being sued for 750 million dollars for conspiracy.’ Behind the attacks, claimed Hubbard, lay a vast conspiracy of ‘psychiatric front groups’ secretly controlling governments: ‘Every single lie, false charge and attack on Scientology has been traced directly to this group’s members. They have sought at great expense for nineteen years to crush and eradicate any new development in the field of the mind. They are actively preventing any effectiveness in this field.’ Hubbard believed that Scientology was being infiltrated by saboteurs and spies and introduced ‘security checking’ to identify those he termed ‘potential trouble sources’ and ‘suppressive persons.’ Members of the Church of Scientology were interrogated with the aid of E-meters and were asked questions such as ‘Have you ever practiced homosexuality?’ and ‘Have you ever had unkind thoughts about L. Ron Hubbard?’ For a time, Scientologists were even interrogated about crimes committed in past lives: ‘Have you ever destroyed a culture?’ ‘Did you come to Earth for evil purposes?’ ‘Have you ever zapped anyone?’

He also sought to exert political influence, advising Scientologists to vote against Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election and establishing a Department of Government Affairs ‘to bring government and hostile philosophies or societies into a state of complete compliance with the goals of Scientology.’ This, he said, ‘is done by high-level ability to control and in its absence by a low-level ability to overwhelm. Introvert such agencies. Control such agencies.’ The U.S. Government was already well aware of Hubbard’s activities. The FBI had a lengthy file on him, including a 1951 interview with the agent who considered him a ‘mental case.’ Police forces in a number of jurisdictions began exchanging information about Scientology through the auspices of Interpol, which eventually led to prosecutions. In 1958, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service withdrew the Washington, D.C. Church of Scientology’s tax exemption after it found that Hubbard and his family were profiting unreasonably from Scientology’s ostensibly non-profit income. The Food and Drug Administration took action against Scientology’s medical claims, seizing thousands of pills being marketed as ‘radiation cures’ as well as publications and E-meters. The Church of Scientology was required to label them as being ‘ineffective in the diagnosis or treatment of disease.’

Following the FDA’s actions, Scientology attracted increasingly unfavorable publicity across the English-speaking world. It faced particularly hostile scrutiny in Victoria, Australia, where it was accused of brainwashing, blackmail, extortion, and damaging the mental health of its members. The Victorian state government established a Board of Inquiry into Scientology in 1963. Its report, published in 1965, condemned every aspect of Scientology and Hubbard himself. He was described as being of doubtful sanity, having a persecution complex, and displaying strong indications of paranoid schizophrenia with delusions of grandeur. His writings were characterized as nonsensical, abounding in ‘self-glorification and grandiosity, replete with histrionics and hysterical, incontinent outbursts.’ Sociologist Roy Wallis comments that the report drastically changed public perceptions of Scientology: ‘The former conception of the movement as a relatively harmless, if cranky, health and self-improvement cult, was transformed into one which portrayed it as evil, dangerous, a form of hypnosis (with all the overtones of Svengali in the layman’s mind), and brainwashing.’

The report led to Scientology being banned in Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, and led to more negative publicity around the world. Newspapers and politicians in the UK pressed the British government for action against Scientology. In 1968, the British Minister of Health, Kenneth Robinson, announced that foreign Scientologists would no longer be permitted to enter the UK and Hubbard himself was excluded from the country as an ‘undesirable alien.’ Further inquiries were launched in Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Hubbard took three major new initiatives in the face of these challenges. ‘Ethics Technology’ was introduced to tighten internal discipline within Scientology. It required Scientologists to ‘disconnect’ from any organization or individual — including family members — deemed to be disruptive or ‘suppressive.’ Scientologists were also required to write ‘Knowledge Reports’ on each other, reporting transgressions or misapplications of Scientology methods. Hubbard promulgated a long list of punishable ‘Misdemeanors,’ ‘Crimes,’ and ‘High Crimes.’ The ‘Fair Game’ policy was introduced, which was applicable to anyone deemed an ‘enemy’ of Scientology: ‘May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed.’

In 1966, Hubbard created the Guardian’s Office (GO), a new agency within the Church of Scientology that was headed by his wife Mary Sue. It dealt with Scientology’s external affairs, including public relations, legal actions, and the gathering of intelligence on perceived threats. As Scientology faced increasingly negative media attention, the GO retaliated with hundreds of writs (formal written order issued by a court) for libel and slander; it issued more than forty on a single day. Hubbard ordered his staff to find ‘lurid, blood sex crime actual evidence [sic] on [Scientology’s] attackers.’ Finally, at the end of 1966, Hubbard acquired his own fleet of ships. He established the ‘Hubbard Explorational Company Ltd’ which purchased three ships — the ‘Enchanter,’ a forty-ton schooner, the ‘Avon River,’ an old trawler, and the ‘Royal Scotman’ [sic], a former Irish Sea cattle ferry that he made his home and flagship. The ships were crewed by the ‘Sea Organization’ or ‘Sea Org,’ a group of Scientologist volunteers, with the support of a couple of professional seamen.

After Hubbard created the Sea Org ‘fleet,’ in early 1967 it began an eight-year voyage, sailing from port to port in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern North Atlantic. The fleet traveled as far as Corfu (Greece) in the eastern Mediterranean and Dakar (Senegal) and the Azores in the Atlantic, but rarely stayed anywhere for longer than six weeks. Ken Urquhart, Hubbard’s personal assistant at the time, later recalled: ‘[Hubbard] said we had to keep moving because there were so many people after him. If they caught up with him they would cause him so much trouble that he would be unable to continue his work, Scientology would not get into the world and there would be social and economic chaos, if not a nuclear holocaust.’ When Hubbard established the Sea Org he publicly declared that he had relinquished his management responsibilities. According to Miller, this was not true. He received daily telex messages from Scientology organizations around the world reporting their statistics and income. The Church of Scientology sent him $15,000 a week and millions of dollars were transferred to his bank accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Couriers arrived regularly, conveying luxury food for Hubbard and his family or cash that had been smuggled from England to avoid currency export restrictions.

Along the way, Hubbard sought to establish a safe haven in ‘a friendly little country where Scientology would be allowed to prosper,’ as Miller puts it. The fleet stayed at Corfu for several months in 1968–1969. Hubbard renamed the ships after Greek gods — the ‘Royal Scotman’ was rechristened ‘Apollo’ — and he praised the recently established military dictatorship. The Sea Org was represented as ‘Professor Hubbard’s Philosophy School’ in a telegram to the Greek government. In March 1969, however, Hubbard and his ships were ordered to leave. In mid-1972, Hubbard tried again in Morocco, establishing contacts with the country’s secret police and training senior policemen and intelligence agents in techniques for detecting subversives. The program ended in failure when it became caught up in internal Moroccan politics, and Hubbard left the country hastily in December 1972.

At the same time, Hubbard was still developing Scientology’s doctrines. A Scientology biography states that ‘free of organizational duties and aided by the first Sea Org members, L. Ron Hubbard now had the time and facilities to confirm in the physical universe some of the events and places he had encountered in his journeys down the track of time.’ In 1965, he designated several existing Scientology courses as confidential, repackaging them as the first of the esoteric ‘OT levels.’ Two years later he announced the release of ‘OT3,’ the ‘Wall of Fire,’ revealing the secrets of an immense disaster that had occurred ‘on this planet, and on the other seventy-five planets which form this Confederacy, seventy-five million years ago.’ Scientologists were required to undertake the first two OT levels before learning how ‘Xenu,’ the leader of the ‘Galactic Confederacy,’ had shipped billions of people to Earth and blown them up with hydrogen bombs, following which their traumatized spirits were stuck together at ‘implant stations,’ brainwashed with false memories and eventually became contained within human beings. The discovery of OT3 was said to have taken a major physical toll on Hubbard, who announced that he had broken a knee, an arm, and his back during the course of his research. A year later, in 1968, he unveiled OT levels 4 to 6 and began delivering OT training courses to Scientologists aboard his flagship.

Scientologists around the world were presented with a glamorous picture of life in the Sea Org and many applied to join Hubbard aboard the fleet. What they found was rather different from the image. Most of those joining had no nautical experience at all. Mechanical difficulties and blunders by the crews led to a series of embarrassing incidents and near-disasters. Following one incident in which the rudder of the ‘Royal Scotman’ was damaged during a storm, Hubbard ordered the ship’s entire crew to be reduced to a ‘condition of liability’ and wear gray rags tied to their arms. The ship itself was treated the same way, with dirty tarpaulins tied around its funnel to symbolize its lower status. According to those aboard, conditions were appalling; the crew was worked to the point of exhaustion, given meager rations and forbidden to wash or change their clothes for several weeks.

Hubbard maintained a harsh disciplinary regime aboard the fleet, punishing mistakes by confining people in the Scotman’s bilge tanks without toilet facilities and with food provided in buckets. At other times erring crew members were thrown overboard with Hubbard looking on and, occasionally, filming. David Mayo, a Sea Org member at the time, later recalled: ‘We tried not to think too hard about his behavior. It was not rational much of the time, but to even consider such a thing was a discreditable thought and you couldn’t allow yourself to have a discreditable thought. One of the questions in a sec[curity] check was, ‘Have you ever had any unkind thoughts about LRH?’ and you could get into very serious trouble if you had. So you tried hard not to.’

From about 1970, Hubbard was attended aboard ship by the children of Sea Org members, organized as the ‘Commodore’s Messenger Organization’ (CMO). They were mainly young girls dressed in hot pants and halter tops, who were responsible for running errands for Hubbard such as lighting his cigarettes, dressing him, or relaying his verbal commands to other members of the crew. In addition to his wife Mary Sue, he was accompanied by all four of his children by her, though not his first son Nibs, who had defected from Scientology in late 1959. The younger Hubbards were all members of the Sea Org and shared its rigors, though Quentin Hubbard reportedly found it difficult to adjust and attempted suicide in mid-1974.

During the 1970s, Hubbard faced an increasing number of legal threats. French prosecutors charged him and the French Church of Scientology with fraud and customs violations in 1972. He was advised that he was at risk of being extradited to France. Hubbard left the Sea Org fleet temporarily at the end of 1972, living incognito in Queens, New York, until he returned to his ship in September 1973 when the threat of extradition had abated. Scientology sources say that he carried out ‘a sociological study in and around New York City.’ His health deteriorated significantly during this period. A chain-smoker, he also suffered from bursitis and excessive weight, and had a prominent growth on his forehead. He suffered serious injuries in a motorcycle accident in 1973 and had a heart attack in 1975 that required him to take anticoagulant drugs for the next year. In 1978, Hubbard had a pulmonary embolism (a blockage of the main artery of the lung), falling into a coma, but recovered.

He remained active in managing and developing Scientology, establishing the controversial ‘Rehabilitation Project Force’ in 1974 and issuing policy and doctrinal bulletins. However, the Sea Org’s voyages were coming to an end. The ‘Apollo’ was banned from several Spanish ports and was expelled from Curaçao in 1975. The Sea Org came to be suspected of being a CIA operation, leading to a riot in Portugal, when the Apollo docked there. Hubbard decided to relocate back to the United States to establish a ‘land base’ for the Sea Org in Florida. The Church of Scientology attributes this decision to the activities on the ‘Apollo’ having ‘outgrow[n] the ship’s capacity.’

Hubbard moved into a hotel suite in Daytona Beach. The ‘Fort Harrison Hotel’ in Clearwater was secretly acquired as the location for the ‘land base.’ Hubbard and his wife Mary Sue moved into a condominium complex in nearby Dunedin. Their presence was meant to be a closely guarded secret but was accidentally compromised the following month. Hubbard immediately left Dunedin and moved to Georgetown, Washington D.C., accompanied by a handful of aides and messengers, but not his wife. Six months later, following another security alert, Hubbard moved to another safe house in Culver City, California. He lived there for only about three months, relocating to the more private confines of the ‘Olive Tree Ranch’ near La Quinta (situated between Los Angeles and San Diego). His second son Quentin committed suicide a few weeks later in Las Vegas. Throughout this period, Hubbard was heavily involved in directing the activities of the Guardian’s Office (GO), the legal bureau/intelligence agency that he had established in 1966. He believed that Scientology was being attacked by an international Nazi conspiracy, which he termed the ‘Tenyaka Memorial,’ through a network of drug companies, banks, and psychiatrists in a bid to take over the world.

In 1973, he instigated the ‘Snow White Program’ and directed the GO to remove negative reports about Scientology from government files and track down their sources. The GO was ordered to ‘get all false and secret files on Scientology, LRH … that cannot be obtained legally, by all possible lines of approach … i.e., job penetration, janitor penetration, suitable guises utilizing covers.’ His involvement in the GO’s operations was concealed through the use of codenames. The GO carried out covert campaigns on his behalf such as ‘Operation Bulldozer Leak,’ intended ‘to effectively spread the rumor that will lead Government, media, and individual [Suppressive Persons] to conclude that LRH has no control of the C of S and no legal liability for Church activity.’ He was kept informed of GO operations, such as the theft of medical records from a hospital, harassment of psychiatrists, and infiltrations of organizations that had been critical of Scientology at various times, such as the Better Business Bureau, the American Medical Association, and American Psychiatric Association.

Members of the GO infiltrated and burglarized numerous government organizations, including the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service. After two GO agents were caught in the Washington, D.C. headquarters of the IRS, the FBI carried out simultaneous raids on GO offices in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. in 1977. They retrieved wiretap equipment, burglary tools, and some 90,000 pages of incriminating documents. Hubbard was not prosecuted, though he was labeled an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ by government prosecutors. His wife Mary Sue was indicted and subsequently convicted of conspiracy. She was sent to a federal prison along with ten other Scientologists.

Hubbard’s troubles increased in 1978 when a French court convicted him in absentia for obtaining money under false pretenses. He was sentenced to four years in prison. He went into hiding, moving to an apartment in Hemet, California, where his only contact with the outside world was via ten trusted Messengers. He cut contact with everyone else, even his wife, whom he saw for the last time in 1979. Hubbard faced a possible indictment for his role in ‘Operation Freakout,’ the GO’s campaign against New York journalist Paulette Cooper, and in 1980 he disappeared into deep cover in the company of two trusted Messengers, Pat and Anne Broeker.

For the first few years of the 1980s, Hubbard and the Broekers lived on the move, touring the Pacific Northwest in a recreational vehicle and living for a while in apartments in Newport Beach and Los Angeles. Hubbard used his time in hiding to write his first new works of science fiction for nearly thirty years — ‘Battlefield Earth’ (1982) and ‘Mission Earth,’ a ten-volume series published between 1985 and 1987. They received mixed responses; as writer Jeff Walker puts it, they were ‘treated derisively by most critics but greatly admired by followers.’ Hubbard also wrote and composed music for three of his albums, which were produced by the Church of Scientology. The book soundtrack ‘Space Jazz’ was released in 1982. ‘Mission Earth’ and ‘The Road to Freedom’ were released posthumously in 1986.

In Hubbard’s absence, members of the Sea Org staged a takeover of the Church of Scientology and purged many veteran Scientologists. A young Messenger, David Miscavige, became Scientology’s de facto leader. Mary Sue Hubbard was forced to resign her position and her daughter Suzette became Miscavige’s personal maid. For the last two years of his life, Hubbard lived in a luxury Blue Bird motorhome on ‘Whispering Winds,’ a 160-acre ranch near Creston, California. He remained in deep hiding while controversy raged in the outside world about whether he was still alive and if so, where. He spent his time ‘writing and researching,’ according to a spokesperson, and pursued photography and music, overseeing construction work and checking on his animals. He repeatedly redesigned the property, spending millions of dollars remodeling the ranch house — which went virtually uninhabited — and building a quarter-mile horse-racing track with an observation tower, which reportedly was never used.

He was still closely involved in managing the Church of Scientology via secretly delivered orders and continued to receive large amounts of money, of which ‘Forbes’ magazine estimated ‘at least $200 million [was] gathered in Hubbard’s name through 1982.’ In 1985, the IRS notified the Church that it was considering indicting Hubbard for tax fraud. Hubbard suffered further ill-health, including chronic pancreatitis, during his residence at ‘Whispering Winds.’ He suffered a stroke in early 1986, and died a week later. The body was cremated following an autopsy and the ashes were scattered at sea. Scientology leaders announced that his body had become an impediment to his work and that he had decided to ‘drop his body’ to continue his research on another planet, having ‘learned how to do it without a body.’

Hubbard was survived by his wife Mary Sue and all of his children except his second son Quentin. His will provided a trust fund to support Mary Sue; her children Arthur, Diana and Suzette; and Katherine, the daughter of his first wife Polly. He disinherited two of his other children. L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. had become estranged, changed his name to ‘Ronald DeWolf’ and, in 1982, sued unsuccessfully for control of his father’s estate. Alexis Valerie, Hubbard’s daughter by his second wife Sara, had attempted to contact her father in 1971. She was rebuffed with the implied claim that her real father was Jack Parsons rather than Hubbard, and that her mother had been a Nazi spy during the war. Both later accepted settlements when litigation was threatened. In 2001, Diana and Suzette were reported to still be Church members, while Arthur had left and become an artist. Hubbard’s great-grandson, Jamie DeWolf, is a noted slam poet.

The copyrights of his works and much of his estate and wealth were willed to the Church of Scientology. In a bulletin, Hubbard told his followers to preserve his teachings until an eventual reincarnation when he would return ‘not as a religious leader but as a political one.’ The Church of Spiritual Technology (CST), a sister organization of the Church of Scientology, has engraved Hubbard’s entire corpus of Scientology and Dianetics texts on steel tablets stored in titanium containers. They are buried at the ‘Trementina Base’ in a vault under a mountain in New Mexico, on top of which the CST’s logo has been bulldozed on such a gigantic scale that it is visible from space.

Hubbard is the ‘Guinness World Record’ holder for the most published author, with 1,084 works, most translated book (70 languages for ‘The Way to Happiness’), and most audiobooks (185). According to ‘Galaxy Press’ (a publishing house owned by the CST) Hubbard’s ‘Battlefield Earth’ has sold over 6 million copies and ‘Mission Earth’ a further 7 million, with each of its ten volumes becoming ‘New York Times’ bestsellers on their release. However, the ‘Los Angeles Times’ reported in 1990 that Hubbard’s followers had been buying large numbers of the books and re-issuing them to stores to boost sales. Opinions are divided about his literary legacy. Scientologists have written of their desire to ‘make Ron the most acclaimed and widely known author of all time.’ The sociologist William Sims Bainbridge writes that even at his peak in the late 1930s Hubbard was regarded by readers of ‘Astounding Science Fiction’ as merely ‘a passable, familiar author but not one of the best,’ while by the late 1970s ‘the [science fiction] subculture wishes it could forget him’ and fans gave him a worse rating than any other of the ‘Golden Age’ writers.

In 2004, eighteen years after Hubbard’s death, the Church claimed eight million followers worldwide. According to religious scholar J. Gordon Melton, this is an overestimate, counting as Scientologists people who had merely bought a book. The City University of New York’s ‘American Religious Identification Survey’ found that by 2009 only 25,000 Americans identified as Scientologists. Hubbard’s presence still pervades Scientology. Every Church of Scientology maintains an office reserved for Hubbard, with a desk, chair and writing equipment, ready to be used. Professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University Lonnie D. Kliever notes that Hubbard was ‘the only source of the religion, and he has no successor.’ Hubbard is referred to simply as ‘Source’ within Scientology and the theological acceptability of any Scientology-related activity is determined by how closely it adheres to Hubbard’s doctrines. Hubbard’s name and signature are official trademarks of the ‘Religious Technology Center’ (RTC), established in 1982 to control and oversee the use of Hubbard’s works and Scientology’s trademarks and copyrights. The RTC is the central organization within Scientology’s complex corporate hierarchy and has put much effort into re-checking the accuracy of all Scientology publications to ‘ensur[e] the availability of the pure unadulterated writings of Mr. Hubbard to the coming generations.’

Danish historian of religions Mikael Rothstein describes Scientology as ‘a movement focused on the figure of Hubbard.’ He comments: ‘The fact that [Hubbard’s] life is mythologized is as obvious as in the cases of Jesus, Muhammad, or Siddartha Gotama. This is how religion works. Scientology, however, rejects this analysis altogether, and goes to great lengths to defend every detail of Hubbard’s amazing and fantastic life as plain historical fact.’ Hubbard is presented as ‘the master of a multitude of disciplines’ who performed extraordinary feats as a photographer, composer, scientist, therapist, explorer, navigator, philosopher, poet, artist, humanitarian, adventurer, soldier, scout, musician, and many other fields of endeavor. The Church of Scientology portrays Hubbard’s life and work as having proceeded seamlessly, ‘as if they were a continuous set of predetermined events and discoveries that unfolded through his lifelong research’ even up to and beyond his death.

According to Rothstein’s assessment of Hubbard’s legacy, Scientology consciously aims to transfer the charismatic authority of Hubbard to institutionalize his authority over the organization, even after his death. Hubbard is presented as a virtually superhuman religious ideal just as Scientology itself is presented as the most important development in human history. As Rothstein puts it, ‘reverence for Scientology’s scripture is reverence for Hubbard, the man who in the Scientological perspective single-handedly brought salvation to all human beings.’ David G. Bromley of the University of Virginia comments that the real Hubbard has been transformed into a ‘prophetic persona,’ ‘LRH,’ which acts as the basis for his prophetic authority within Scientology and transcends his biographical history.

The Church of Scientology has not yet published a comprehensive official biography of Hubbard. During his lifetime, a number of brief biographical sketches were published in his Scientology books. The Church of Scientology issued ‘the only authorized LRH Biography’ in 1977. His life was illustrated in print in ‘What Is Scientology?’, a glossy publication published in 1978 with paintings of Hubbard’s life contributed by his son Arthur. Following Hubbard’s death, ‘Bridge Publications’ has published several stand-alone biographical accounts of his life, notably ‘The Ron Series,’ dedicated to various aspects of Hubbard’s life and work. Marco Frenschkowski notes that ‘non-Scientologist readers immediately recognize some parts of Hubbard’s life are here systematically left out: no information whatsoever is given about his private life (his marriages, divorces, children), his legal affairs and so on.’ The Church maintains an extensive website presenting the official version of Hubbard’s life. It also owns a number of properties dedicated to Hubbard including the Los Angeles-based ‘L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition,’ a presentation of Hubbard’s life, and the ‘Author Services Center,’ dedicated to Hubbard’s writings, and the ‘L. Ron Hubbard House’ in Washington, D.C.

In the late 1970s two men began to assemble a very different picture of Hubbard’s life. Michael Linn Shannon, a resident of Portland, Oregon, became interested in Hubbard’s life story after an encounter with a Scientology recruiter. Over the next four years he collected previously undisclosed records and documents. He intended to write an exposé of Hubbard and sent a copy of his findings and key records to a number of contacts but was unable to find a publisher. Shannon’s findings were acquired by Gerry Armstrong, a Scientologist who had been appointed Hubbard’s official archivist. He had been given the job of assembling documents relating to Hubbard’s life for the purpose of helping Omar V. Garrison, a non-Scientologist who had written two books sympathetic to Scientology, to write an official biography. However, the documents that he uncovered convinced both Armstrong and Garrison that Hubbard had systematically misrepresented his life. Garrison refused to write a ‘puff piece’ and declared that he would not ‘repeat all the falsehoods they [the Church of Scientology] had perpetuated over the years.’ He wrote a ‘warts and all’ biography while Armstrong quit Scientology, taking five boxes of papers with him. The Church of Scientology and Mary Sue Hubbard sued for the return of the documents while settling out of court with Garrison, requiring him to turn over the nearly completed manuscript of the biography.

In 1984 Judge Paul G. Breckenridge ruled in Armstrong’s favor, saying: ‘The evidence portrays a man who has been virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence additionally reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, and vindictiveness and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile. At the same time it appears that he is charismatic and highly capable of motivating, organizing, controlling, manipulating and inspiring his adherents. He has been referred to during the trial as a ‘genius,’ a ‘revered person,’ a man who was ‘viewed by his followers in awe.’ Obviously, he is and has been a very complex person and that complexity is further reflected in his alter ego, the Church of Scientology.’ In 1987, the British journalist and writer Russell Miller published ‘Bare-faced Messiah,’ the first full-length biography of L. Ron Hubbard. He drew on Armstrong’s papers, official records and interviews with those who had known Hubbard including ex-Scientologists and family members. The book was well-received by reviewers but the Church of Scientology sought unsuccessfully to prohibit its publication on the grounds of copyright infringement. Other critical biographical accounts are found in Bent Corydon’s ‘L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman?’ (1987) and Jon Atack’s ‘A Piece of Blue Sky’ (1990).

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