Scientology Symbol Logo.png
The Scientology symbol is composed of the letter S, which stands for Scientology, and the ARC and KRC triangles, two important concepts in Scientology.[1]
FormationMay 1952[2]
HeadquartersGold Base
Riverside County, California[3]
RemarksFlagship facility: Church of Scientology International, Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Scientology is a body of religious beliefs and practices launched in May 1952 by American author L. Ron Hubbard (1911–86). Hubbard initially developed a program of ideas called Dianetics, which was distributed through the Dianetics Foundation. The foundation soon entered bankruptcy, and Hubbard lost the rights to his seminal publication Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1952. He then recharacterized the subject as a religion and renamed it Scientology,[4] retaining the terminology, doctrines, the E-meter, and the practice of auditing.[5][6] Within a year, he regained the rights to Dianetics and retained both subjects under the umbrella of the Church of Scientology.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Hubbard describes the etymology of the word "Scientology" as coming from the Latin word scio, meaning know or distinguish, and the Greek word logos, meaning "the word or outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known". Hubbard writes, "thus, Scientology means knowing about knowing, or science of knowledge".[13]

Hubbard's groups have encountered considerable opposition and controversy.[14] In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners brought proceedings against Dianetics Foundation on the charge of teaching medicine without a license.[15] Hubbard's followers engaged in a program of criminal infiltration of the U.S. government.[16][17]

Hubbard-inspired organizations and their classification are often a point of contention. Germany classifies Scientology groups as an "anti-constitutional sect".[18][19] In France, they have been classified as a dangerous cult by some parliamentary reports.[20][21]


L. Ron Hubbard

Two men in naval uniform
L. Ron Hubbard and Thomas S. Moulton in Portland, Oregon in 1943

L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986) was the only child of Harry Ross Hubbard, a United States Navy officer, and his wife, Ledora Waterbury. Hubbard spent three semesters at George Washington University but was placed on probation in September 1931. He failed to return for the fall 1932 semester.[22]

In July 1941, Hubbard was commissioned as a Lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve. On May 18, 1943, his subchaser left Portland. That night, Hubbard ordered his crew to fire 35 depth charges and a number of gun rounds at what he believed were Japanese submarines.[23] His ship sustained minor damage and three crew were injured. Having run out of depth charges and with the presence of a submarine still unconfirmed by other ships, Hubbard's ship was ordered back to port. A navy report concluded that "there was no submarine in the area." A decade later, Hubbard claimed in his Scientology lectures that he had sunk a Japanese submarine.[24]

On June 28, 1943, Hubbard ordered his crew to fire on the Coronado Islands. Hubbard apparently did not realize that the islands belonged to US-allied Mexico, nor that he had taken his vessel into Mexican territorial waters.[25] He was reprimanded and removed from command on July 7.[25] After reassignment to a naval facility in Monterey, California, Hubbard became depressed and fell ill. Reporting stomach pains in April 1945, he spent the remainder of the war as a patient in Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California.[26] According to his later teachings, during this time Hubbard made scientific "breakthroughs" by use of "endocrine experiments".[27]

On October 15, 1947, Hubbard wrote a letter to the Veterans Administration formally requesting psychiatric treatment, but admitted that he was unable to afford it.[28] Within a few years, Hubbard would condemn psychiatry as evil, which would grow into a major theme in Scientology.

Excalibur and Babalon Working

In April 1938, Hubbard reportedly reacted to a drug used in a dental procedure. According to his account, this triggered a revelatory near-death experience. Allegedly inspired by this experience, Hubbard composed a manuscript, which was never published, with the working titles of "The One Command" or Excalibur.[29][30] The contents of Excalibur formed the basis for some of his later publications.[31] Arthur J. Burks, who read the work in 1938, later recalled it discussed the "one command": to survive. This theme would be revisited in Dianetics, the set of ideas and practices regarding the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body which became the central philosophy of Scientology.[32] Hubbard later cited Excalibur as an early version of Dianetics.[33][better source needed]

In August 1945, Hubbard moved into the Pasadena mansion of John "Jack" Whiteside Parsons, 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).[34][35] Parsons and Hubbard collaborated on the "Babalon Working", a sex magic ritual intended to summon an incarnation of Babalon, the supreme Thelemite Goddess.[16] The Church of Scientology admits to Hubbard's involvement with Parsons while claiming that it was for the purpose of naval intelligence.[36]

In the late 1940s, Hubbard practiced as a hypnotist[37] and he worked in Hollywood posing as a swami.[38] The Church says that Hubbard's experience with hypnosis led him to create Dianetics.[39]


L. Ron Hubbard in 1950

In May 1950, Hubbard's Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science was published by pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction.[40][41][42][43] In the same year, he published the book-length Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, considered the seminal event of the century by Scientologists.[44] Scientologists sometimes use a dating system based on the book's publication; for example, "A.D. 25" does not stand for Anno Domini, but "After Dianetics".[45]

Dianetics uses a counseling technique known as auditing in which an auditor assists a subject in conscious recall of traumatic events in the individual's past.[46] It was originally intended to be a new psychotherapy and was not expected to become the foundation for a new religion.[47][48] Hubbard variously defined Dianetics as a spiritual healing technology and an organized science of thought.[49] The stated intent is to free individuals of the influence of past traumas by systematic exposure and removal of the engrams (painful memories) these events have left behind, a process called clearing.[49] Rutgers scholar Beryl Satter says that "there was little that was original in Hubbard's approach", with much of the theory having origins in popular conceptions of psychology.[50] Satter observes that in "keeping with the typical 1950s distrust of emotion, Hubbard promised that Dianetic treatment would release and erase psychosomatic ills and painful emotions, thereby leaving individuals with increased powers of rationality."[50][51] According to Gallagher and Ashcraft, in contrast to psychotherapy, Hubbard stated that Dianetics "was more accessible to the average person, promised practitioners more immediate progress, and placed them in control of the therapy process." Hubbard's thought was parallel with the trend of humanist psychology at that time, which also came about in the 1950s.[50] Passas and Castillo write that the appeal of Dianetics was based on its consistency with prevailing values.[52] Shortly after the introduction of Dianetics, Hubbard introduced the concept of the "thetan" (or soul) which he claimed to have discovered. Dianetics was organized and centralized to consolidate power under Hubbard, and groups that were previously recruited were no longer permitted to organize autonomously.[53]

Two of Hubbard's key supporters at the time were John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and Campbell's brother-in-law, physician Joseph A. Winter.[54] Dr. Winter, hoping to have Dianetics accepted in the medical community, submitted papers outlining the principles and methodology of Dianetic therapy to the Journal of the American Medical Association and the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1949, but these were rejected.[55][56]

Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health spent six months on the New York Times bestseller list.[15][57][58] According to religious studies professor Paul Gutjahr, Dianetics is the bestselling non-Christian religious book of the century.[45](subscription required) Publisher's Weekly gave a posthumous plaque to Hubbard to commemorate Dianetics' appearance on its list of bestsellers for one hundred weeks. Studies that address the topic of the origins of the work and its significance to Scientology as a whole include Peter Rowley's New Gods in America, Omar V. Garrison's The Hidden Story of Scientology, and Albert I. Berger's Towards a Science of the Nuclear Mind: Science-fiction Origins of Dianetics. More complex studies include Roy Wallis's The Road to Total Freedom.[45]

Dianetics appealed to a broad range of people who used instructions from the book and applied the method to each other, becoming practitioners themselves.[43][59] Dianetics soon met with criticism. Morris Fishbein, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and well-known at the time as a debunker of quack medicine, dismissed Hubbard's book.[60][61] An article in Newsweek stated that "the Dianetics concept is unscientific and unworthy of discussion or review".[62] Hubbard asserted that Dianetics is "an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences."[63]

Hubbard became the leader of a growing Dianetics movement.[43] He became a popular lecturer and established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he trained his first Dianetics counselors or auditors.[43][59]

Some practitioners of Dianetics reported experiences which they believed had occurred in past lives, or previous incarnations.[59] In early 1951, reincarnation became a subject of intense debate within the Dianetics community.[64] Hubbard took the reports of past life events seriously and introduced the concept of the thetan, an immortal being analogous to the soul.[59] This was an important factor in the transition from secular Dianetics to the religion of Scientology. Sociologists Roy Wallis and Steve Bruce suggest that Dianetics, which set each person as his or her own authority, was about to fail due to its inherent individualism, and that Hubbard started Scientology as a religion to establish himself as the overarching authority.[65][53]

Also in 1951, Hubbard incorporated the electropsychometer (E-meter for short), a kind of electrodermal activity meter, as an auditing aid.[64] Based on a design by Volney Mathison, the device is held by Scientologists to be a useful tool in detecting changes in a person's state of mind.[64] The global spread of Scientology at the latter half of the 1950s was culminated with the opening of churches in Johannesburg and Paris, while world headquarters transferred to England in Saint Hill, a rural estate. Hubbard lived there for the next seven years.[66]

Dianetics is different from Scientology in that Scientology is a religion while Dianetics is not. The purpose of Dianetics is the improvement of the individual, the individual or "self" being only one of eight "dynamics."[67] "According to Hugh B. Urban, Hubbard's early science of Dianetics would be best comprehended as a "bricolage that brought together his various explorations in psychology, hypnosis, and science fiction." If Dianetics is understood as a bricolage, then Scientology is "an even more ambitious sort of religious bricolage adapted to the new religious marketplace of 1950s America," continues Urban. According to Roy Wallis, "Scientology emerged as a religious commodity eminently suited to the contemporary market of postwar America." L. Ron Hubbard Jr. said in an interview that the spiritual bricolage of Scientology, as written by Hugh B. Urban, "seemed to be uniquely suited to the individualism and quick-fix mentality of 1950s America: just by doing a few assignments, "one can become a god." [68]

Harlan Ellison has told a story of seeing Hubbard at a gathering of the Hydra Club in 1953 or 1954. Hubbard was complaining of not being able to make a living on what he was being paid as a science fiction writer. Ellison says that Lester del Rey told Hubbard that what he needed to do to get rich was start a religion.[69]

Church of Scientology

Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C.

In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners began proceedings against the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation for teaching medicine without a license, which eventually led to that foundation's bankruptcy.[70][71][72] In December 1952, the Hubbard Dianetic Foundation filed for bankruptcy, and Hubbard lost control of the Dianetics trademark and copyrights to financier Don Purcell.[73] Author Russell Miller argues that Scientology "was a development of undeniable expedience, since it ensured that he would be able to stay in business even if the courts eventually awarded control of Dianetics and its valuable copyrights to ... Purcell".[74][75]

L. Ron Hubbard originally intended for Scientology to be considered a science, as stated in his writings. In May 1952, Scientology was organized to put this intended science into practice, and in the same year, Hubbard published a new set of teachings as Scientology, a religious philosophy.[76] Marco Frenschkowski quotes Hubbard in a letter written in 1953, to show that he never denied that his original approach was not a religious one: "Probably the greatest discovery of Scientology and its most forceful contribution to mankind has been the isolation, description and handling of the human spirit, accomplished in July, 1951, in Phoenix, Arizona. I established, along scientific rather than religious or humanitarian lines that the thing which is the person, the personality, is separable from the body and the mind at will and without causing bodily death or derangement. (Hubbard 1983: 55)."[77]

In April 1953, Hubbard wrote a letter proposing that Scientology should be transformed into a religion.[78] As membership declined and finances grew tighter, Hubbard had reversed the hostility to religion he voiced in Dianetics.[79] His letter discussed the legal and financial benefits of religious status.[79] 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.[80]

In December 1953, Hubbard incorporated three churches – a "Church of American Science", a "Church of Scientology" and a "Church of Spiritual Engineering" – in Camden, New Jersey.[81] On February 18, 1954, with Hubbard's blessing, some of his followers set up the first local Church of Scientology, the Church of Scientology of California, adopting the "aims, purposes, principles and creed of the Church of American Science, as founded by L. Ron Hubbard."[81][82] The movement spread quickly through the United States and to other English-speaking countries such as Britain, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.[83] The second local Church of Scientology to be set up, after the one in California, was in Auckland, New Zealand.[83] In 1955, Hubbard established the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C..[59] The group declared that the Founding Church, as written in the certificate of incorporation for the Founding Church of Scientology in the District of Columbia, was to "act as a parent church for the religious faith known as 'Scientology' and to act as a church for the religious worship of the faith."[84]

The Church experienced further challenges. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began an investigation concerning the claims the Church of Scientology made in connection with its E-meters.[60] On January 4, 1963, FDA agents raided offices of the Church of Scientology, seizing hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices and tons of literature that they accused of making false medical claims.[85] The original suit by the FDA to condemn the literature and E-meters did not succeed,[86] but the Court ordered the Church to label every meter with a disclaimer that it is purely religious artifact,[87] to post a $20,000 bond of compliance, and to pay the FDA's legal expenses.[88]

In the course of developing Scientology, Hubbard presented rapidly changing teachings that some have seen as often self-contradictory.[89][90] According to Lindholm, for the inner cadre of Scientologists in that period, involvement depended not so much on belief in a particular doctrine but on unquestioning faith in Hubbard.[89]

In 1966, Hubbard purportedly stepped down as executive director of Scientology to devote himself to research and writing.[59][91] The following year, he formed the ship-based Sea Organization or Sea Org which operated three ships: the Diana, the Athena, and the flagship the Apollo.[59][92] One month after the establishment of the Sea Org, Hubbard announced that he had made a breakthrough discovery, the result of which were the "OT III" materials purporting to provide a method for overcoming factors inhibiting spiritual progress.[92] These materials were first disseminated on the ships, and then propagated by Sea Org members reassigned to staff Advanced Organizations on land.[92]

Hubbard in hiding, death, and aftermath

In 1972, facing criminal charges in France, Hubbard returned to the United States and began living in an apartment in Queens, New York.[93] When faced with possible indictment in the United States, Hubbard went into hiding in April 1979. He hid first in 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 August 1979.[94] In February 1980 he disappeared into deep cover in the company of two trusted Messengers, Pat and Anne Broeker.[95][96]

In 1979, as a result of FBI raids during Operation Snow White, eleven senior people in the church's Guardian's Office were convicted of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. In 1981, Scientology took the German government to court for the first time.[97]

On January 24, 1986, L. Ron Hubbard died at his ranch in Creston, California.[98] David Miscavige emerged as the new head of the organization.

Splinter groups: Independent Scientology, Freezone, and Miscavige's RTC

While Scientology generally refers to Miscavige-led Church of Scientology, other groups practice Scientology. These groups, collectively known as Independent Scientologists, consist of former members of the official Church of Scientology as well as entirely new members.

In 1950, founding member Joseph Winter cut ties with Hubbard and set up a private Dianetics practice in New York.[99] In 1965, a longtime Church member and "Doctor of Scientology" Jack Horner (born 1927), dissatisfied with the Church's "ethics" program, developed Dianology.[100] Capt. Bill Robertson, a former Sea Org member, was a primary instigator of the movement in the early 1980s.[101] The church labels these groups "squirrels" (Scientology jargon) and often subjects them to considerable legal and social pressure.[102][103][104]

On January 1, 1982, Miscavige established the Religious Technology Center (RTC).[105] On November 11, 1982, the Free Zone was established by top Scientologists in disagreement with RTC.[106] The Free Zone Association was founded and registered under the laws of Germany, and espouses the doctrine that the official Church of Scientology led by David Miscavige has departed from Hubbard's original philosophy.[107]

The Advanced Ability Center was established by Hubbard's personal auditor David Mayo after February 1983 – a time when some of Scientology's upper and middle management split with Miscavige's organization.[108]

More recently, high-profile defectors Mark Rathbun and Mike Rinder have championed the cause of Independent Scientologists wishing to practice Scientology outside of the Church.[109][110]

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