Scientology is one of the most argued-over religions in the World. It is often in the public eye because of the number of Hollywood stars who practice it. To understand why it’s so controversial, we’ll start by taking a look at the astonishing life of the man who founded it.
L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was an American, born in Nebraska in 1911. He died from a stroke in 1986 leaving an estate valued at $600 million. He was a controversial figure, even during his own lifetime. Scientology biographies have portrayed him as an expert in many fields although some former scientologist and independent researchers dispute these claims. Let’s just pick out some of the highlights:
Blackfoot Indian Blood Brother?
Hubbard’s father was in the Navy and so the family moved constantly. While living in Montana, Hubbard claimed to have made friends with a medicine man and become a blood brother of the Blackfeet Indians. However, a Blackfeet historian has reported that the Blackfeet never performed blood brother ceremonies.
Youngest ever Eagle Scout in the USA?
This was reported in the Washington Evening Star in 1930 and yet the Boy Scouts of America say that their records were kept alphabetically so it would be impossible to tell who was the youngest.
Hubbard learns about Freud
Between 1927 and 1929, Hubbard’s father was posted to Guam. There, Hubbard met Navy Commander Joseph ‘Snake’ Thompson who had recently studied with Sigmund Freud in Vienna. He passed on some of Freud’s teachings to Hubbard.
Studies with Holy men?
Several Scientology biographies state that Hubbard studied with Holy men in China, India and Tibet. Hubbard claimed that he was made a lama priest in China. However, his diaries of those years were used as evidence in a trial and no mention was made of any form of Eastern Philosophy.
Hubbard majored in civil engineering at George Washington University. However, he was put on probation after poor exam results. After another year of failures, he left without completing his degree.
During WWII, Hubbard attended a short course at the Naval Training School at Princeton. The course, which he failed, offered some teaching on molecular and atomic physics. Hubbard later claimed to be a nuclear physicist and co-authored a book about radiation and its’ effects on the human body in 1957.
The ‘Caribbean Motion Picture Expedition’
After leaving University, Hubbard became a writer. In 1932, he led this 5,000 mile voyage on a schooner with over 50 college students. They were to collect flora and fauna and document pirate activity. However, they only visited 3 of the 16 ports that they had planned to see.
The Explorers Club
Hubbard became a member in 1940 and gained a licence to drive steam and motor ships. In 1961, he completed the ‘Ocean Archaeological Expedition’ and in 1966 was awarded the Club flag for the ‘Hubbard Geological Survey Expedition’
Ph.D for Dianetics
In 1953, Hubbard received an honorary Ph.D. from Sequoia University, California, for “…his outstanding work and contributions in the fields of Dianetics and Scientology.” In 2009, The Times newspaper (UK) obtained documents from the National Archives which said that “Hubbard and [some other people] had rented premises in Los Angeles, registered them as a university called Sequoia and then awarded each other doctorates.”
Mysterious submarine attack
In 1943, Hubbard was performing poorly as a Junior Grade Lieutenant in the Office of Naval Intelligence. This continued when he was assigned to test the performance of the PC-815, a ‘submarine chaser’ ship on a voyage to San Diego, Hubbard attacked two enemy submarines. The battle went on for two days and Hubbard involved at least four other ships plus two blimps to resupply the ship. After the action, Hubbard wrote in a Naval report that he had “definitely sunk, beyond doubt” one submarine and critically damaged another one. However, in a memo to the Fleet Admiral, Vice Admiral Frank Fletcher noted “…there was no submarine in the area…unable to obtain any evidence of a submarine except one bubble of air…due to a depth charge explosion…The Commanding Officers of all ships except the PC-815 state they had no evidence of a submarine and do not think a submarine was in the area.” Fletcher also implied that Hubbard and his crew were not operating the PC-185’s SONAR correctly as the ‘submarines’ were actually million year old deposits of magnetic ore on the sea bed.
Unauthorized Gunnery Practice
The following month, Hubbard anchored off the Mexican Coronado Islands without permission and ordered unauthorized gunnery practice. He was ordered to return to base but didn’t. The Mexican authorities lodged an official complaint. This led to a Board of Investigation chaired by Vice Admiral Fletcher who wrote “Consider this officer lacking in the essential qualities of judgment, leadership and cooperation. He acts without forethought as to probable results…” Hubbard was relieved of command.
Four years later, Hubbard wrote to the Veterans Administration asking for psychiatric help. His letter was ignored.
Aleister Crowley criticizes Hubbard
In 1945, Hubbard met John Parsons and subsequently lived in a trailer in his yard. Parsons was obsessed with the British Occultist Aleister Crowley’s ‘Sex Magick’ and was a member of Crowley’s Ordo Tampli Orientis international group. Parsons had a girlfriend called Sara Northrup who ditched him for Hubbard. Sara subsequently became Hubbard’s second wife, with one catch – he was still married to his first wife at the time. He later tried to persuade Sara to kill herself to save him the trouble of a divorce. The three formed a business partnership and Hubbard eventually absconded with all of the money. Prior to this, Parsons and Hubbard regularly performed a homosexual ‘sex magick’ ritual, with the aim of calling up ‘Babylon the Great’ from the Bible – an abominable character. Parsons frequently updated Crowley on their progress and Crowley wrote to a colleague in New York “I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts.”
Hubbard the writer and Dianetics, the birth of Scientology
Hubbard had already published many science fiction and adventure books and aviation novels and wrote for magazines. In 1950, he (with several other people) began the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey. This was to coordinate the work on Dianetics. In 1950, the first article, called Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science appeared in a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction. Around that time, Hubbard also completed Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health allegedly finishing the 180,000-word book in only six weeks.
The book brought in a large amount of money, which Hubbard used to start Dianetics centers in six American cities. However, the book was received with a mixture of bemusement, concerned alarm and some hilarity by Medical and Scientific reviewers. Complaints were made against Dianetics practitioners for allegedly practicing medicine without a license which led to advocates of the practice disclaiming medical benefits to avoid prosecution.
Hubbard responded to the critics by saying that they were involved in a plot conceived by the American branch of the Communist Part. Years later, he claimed that the psychiatric profession (who he believed were secretly in control of most of the Governments in the world) had initiated the criticism of Dianetics.
What is Dianetics?
Hubbard invented the word from the Greek dia, which means though and nous which means mind. Dianetics addresses the relationship between mind, body and spirit. It postulates that the mind has three parts. The conscious ‘thinking’ mind, the subconscious ‘reacting’ mind and the somatic (to do with the body) mind.
Scientologists believe that the reactive mind stops people from becoming more ethical, happier and more sane. Their goal is to remove the reactive part and to do this, they use a method called ‘auditing’. The ‘auditor’ asks a series of questions which are designed to rid the ‘patient’ of painful past experiences – which they believe cause the mind to be reactive. This has been reported to be quite a traumatic process with the person being audited often suffering a form of breakdown.
Hubbard loses ‘Dianetics’
Dianetics continued to attract cautionary and hostile reviews with Consumer Reports magazine calling it ‘the basis for a new cult’ and said it contained generalizations not backed up with scientific evidence. However, it sold well. Despite this, the foundations ran out of money, in part due to proceedings against them for teaching medicine without a licence. Some supporters left. Hubbard later told the FBI that these ‘deserters’ were ‘communists’. Hubbard sold the rights to ‘Dianetics’ to avoid bankruptcy but it remained the basis for today’s Scientology.
Scientology takes off…
In 1952, Hubbard moved to Arizona and worked on what he called “…the applied religious philosophy” of Scientology. He coined the name Thetan (pronounced Thay ton) for the human soul and claimed that it could be improved with Scientology. This was to be achieved with auditing. In 1952 he started a Dianetics Center in London. 1953 saw the birth of the Church of Scientology in New Jersey and in 1955 he began the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington D.C. In 1959, he bought a Georgian Manor House in Sussex which became the world headquarters for Scientology.
‘Auditing’ continued and he introduced the ‘E-meter’, a biofeedback device which had originally been developed for use by a chiropractor. This was said to quantify what Hubbard called ‘mental masses’. These masses apparently prevented thetans from advancement.
He also claimed that most physical ailments were ‘all in the mind’ and that enlightened Scientologists would be free of illness. He claimed they were just due to negative memories, which he called ‘engrams’. These would stay in the ‘reactive mind’ of an unenlightened thetan for ‘billions of years’.
Scientologists had to give donations (at a fixed rate) for training courses, being audited, books and ‘E-meters’ to use when they became auditors. This was extremely lucrative.
Scientology – a Religion or a Business?
- In a letter written in 1952, Hubbard said “…calling Scientology a religion…solves a problem of practical business…A religious charter could be necessary in Pennsylvania or NJ to make it stick.”
- In a further letter in 1962 he wrote that Scientology “…is being planned on a religious organization basis throughout the world. This will not upset in any way the usual activities of any organization. It is entirely a matter for accountants and solicitors.”
- In 1948, in front of 23 members of the Eastern Science Fiction Association Hubbard allegedly said that he “…wanted to start a religion to make money…” He allegedly repeated the same desire according to the Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and to other independent witnesses.
During the 1960’s, the UK, New Zealand, Victoria in Australia and Ontario in Canada all held public enquiries into Scientology. The Australian conclusion was that Hubbard’s sanity was “to be gravely doubted”. New Zealand held an enquiry too. Hubbard had moved there in 1966 and claimed that he was Cecil Rhodes reincarnated. Rhodesia had been hit by UN sanctions and although Hubbard offered to plough vast sums of money into the country, they asked him to leave.
Hubbard takes to sea
In 1967, Hubbard resigned as director of Scientology and awarded himself the title of ‘commodore’ to a fleet of ships that spent the following eight years in the Mediterranean. The group was called ‘Sea Organization’ and became the management group for Scientology. Hubbard was waited on by teenage girls and became renowned for having screaming fits. Witnesses have testified in court that he also drank and took drugs and that anyone who crossed him was put into a dirty ship’s locker for weeks on end. Others were blindfolded, tied up and thrown overboard. This was done to both adults and children. This ended when he was asked to leave by the Greek Government.
Other high points
- In 1977, the FBI raided Scientology offices because the IRS had found evidence of millions of dollars taken from Churches and put into overseas banks.
- In 1978, in a case brought against French Scientologists, Hubbard was found guilty of ‘fraudulent promises’. He received four years in prison and a fine of 35,000 Francs. However, Hubbard was not in France and escaped these penalties on a technicality. However, because he refused to talk to British immigration about this, the Home Office banned him from the UK. This was overturned in 1980.
- In 1984, following a child custody case involving a Scientology family in London, Justice Latey branded Scientology “dangerous, immoral, sinister and corrupt.” He added that it “its real objective is money and power for Mr. Hubbard.”
- Hubbard introduced what he called ‘Fair Game’ against anyone who tried to ‘suppress or damage Scientology. The ‘ENEMY – SP (suppressive person) Order’ said that these people “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.” He withdrew the term ‘Fair Game’ in 1968 as he considered it to ‘cause bad public relations’ however, the order went on to say “This does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP.”
What is the power of Scientology?
Hubbard was at best a money-driven fantasist. At worst he was a compulsive liar, bigamist, fraudster, drug and alcohol abuser, practitioner of satanic rituals, wife beater (claimed in Divorce papers) and possibly suffering from a psychiatric disorder (as evidenced by the medicinal drugs and injection marks found on his death). His own son, L. Ron Hubbard Jnr. said “I would say that 99 per cent of what my father has written about his own life is false.”
The following celebrities are known to have once followed Scientology but no longer do:
- Oliver Stone – film director J.D. Salinger – author of The Catcher in the Rye
- Brad Pitt – actor
- Christopher Reeve – actor who played “Superman”
- Van Morrison – influential singer, songwriter, musician (lapsed)
- Sharon Stone – actress
- Mikhail Baryshnikov – ballet dancer
- Patrick Swayze – actor
- Kate Capshaw – actress, Steven Spielberg’s wife
- Rock Hudson – actor, movie star
- Emilio Estevez – actor
- Leonard Cohen – songwriter
- Ricky Martin – singer
- Gloria Gaynor – singer
- Frank Stallone – actor brother of Sylvester Stallone
- Demi Moore – actress
- Gordon Lightfoot – singer
- Aldous Huxley – writer
- Charles Manson cult leader
The following are still followers:
- John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston
- Tom Cruise and his wife Katy Holmes (ex wife Nicole Kidman left Scientology prior to their breakup)
- Nancy Cartwright – voice of “Bart Simpson” on The Simpsons
- Kirstie Alley – actress
- Juliette Lewis – actress
- Priscilla Presley – actress and wife of Elvis Presley
- Lisa Marie Presley – daughter of Elvis Presley
- Isaac Hayes – musician
- Chaka Khan – singer
- Sonny Bono (a follower during his lifetime) – singer and ex husband of Cher
The only question is…why?