Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

HUBBARD, L. RON (1911-1986)

L. Ron Hubbard developed the spiritual healing technology known as dianetics and the applied religious philosophy of scientology. While some details of Hubbard's life are disputed in scholarly studies of scientology, Hubbard's public achievements are remarkable by any standard of measurement.

Hubbard was born on March 13, 1911, in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of Harry Ross Hubbard, an officer in the U.S. Navy, and Ledora May Waterbury de Wolfe. He traveled the world during his teen years and published a number of adventure stories. By the 1940s he had established himself as one of the most prolific science fiction writers in the world.

Hubbard's career took a dramatic turn during a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy during World War II, when he became interested in discovering the cause of physical and emotional problems. His studies led him to conclude that ideally the mind has control over the body. He developed a new form of psychotherapy, which was spelled out in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, a perennial best-seller since its publication in 1950. The goal of dianetic therapy was to clear the mind of painful memory blocks called "engrams," which limited the mind's control of the body. Unlike similar-sounding therapies, dianetics claims that these engramatic memories extend to the prenatal period and must be cleared in chronological sequence, beginning with the earliest painful experiences. When the mind is cleared, the person becomes totally self-determined.

Hubbard's experience with dianetic therapy led to the astonishing discovery that his clients were troubled by engrams from previous lives. Hubbard believed that this finding proved conclusively that humans are spiritual beings who inhabit a body and use a mind but are identical with neither. On the basis of this discovery, Hubbard developed the religious philosophy that he called "scientology," a system of spiritual counseling and training to liberate the immortal and omniscient self from all dependence on matter, energy, space, and time.

The first Church of Scientology was established in 1954 to deliver these spiritual services in the precise ways prescribed by Hubbard. Under his personal supervision, a worldwide network of scientology churches was established. During this time, he wrote numerous books and hundreds of papers standardizing the teachings and practices of scientology. Hubbard resigned his position as executive director of the Church of Scientology in 1967 to research higher levels of spiritual attainment and to develop community development programs in literacy, drug rehabilitation, and administrative techniques.

Hubbard died in Creston, California, on January 24, 1986. He left a legacy of fiction and nonfiction works that have been translated into thirty-three languages, with more than 120 million copies in circulation. His nonfiction works serve as the sacred scripture for a worldwide religious movement, whose more than 3,000 churches and missions minister to some eight million people in more than 100 countries and thirty languages. Hubbard is neither idolized nor worshiped by his followers. Rather, he is honored as the founder of a contemporary religion that combines the spirituality of Eastern religions and the rationality of Western science.

Lonnie D. Kliever Southern Methodist University

Anonymous. Scientology: Theology and Practice of a Contemporary Religion. Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, 1998.

Wallis, Roy. This Road to Total Freedom. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

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