Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology

The Church of Scientology was founded after popular demand led to an effort to translate the essence of L. Ron Hubbard’s major work, Dianetics, into a church that could deliver his message of self-realization and self-fulfillment through rehabilitating one’s soul.

Summary of Event

L. Ron Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska. His father had a career in the U.S. Navy and also was a high school teacher. L. Ron Hubbard attended, but did not graduate from, George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He joined the Navy in 1941, left active service in 1945, and resigned his commission in 1950. He had some health problems during this time period, and it was during his recovery that he refined his beliefs about the human mind, life in general, and the ability of individuals to enhance their quality of life. He was well read in Eastern religion and psychology and wove many of these principles together to form the body of work called “dianetics.” Church of Scientology
[kw]Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology (Feb. 18, 1954)
[kw]Church of Scientology, Hubbard Founds the (Feb. 18, 1954)
[kw]Scientology, Hubbard Founds the Church of (Feb. 18, 1954)
Church of Scientology
[g]North America;Feb. 18, 1954: Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology[04350]
[g]United States;Feb. 18, 1954: Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology[04350]
[c]Religion, theology, and ethics;Feb. 18, 1954: Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology[04350]
[c]Organizations and institutions;Feb. 18, 1954: Hubbard Founds the Church of Scientology[04350]
Hubbard, L. Ron

The term “dianetics” is derived from the Greek words for “through” (dia) and “soul” (nous). The term “scientology” is derived from the Latin “to know” (scio) and the Greek “thought or reason” (logos). Dianetics emphasizes a person’s becoming aware of issues and problems in his or her past. Through a process Hubbard called “auditing,” one is encouraged to examine one’s own existence, recognize problems and worries, and gain control of one’s own life. Auditing is a one-on-one session with another layperson (and not a trained therapist).

In 1952-1953, Hubbard worked to expand his self-help book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health
Dianetics (Hubbard) (which had record sales in the early 1950’s) into a philosophy and then a religion. He would soon found the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles in 1954, a move that seemed timely, both because those who embraced his philosophy found it to be integral to all aspects of their lives and because the concept of a church allowed for donations and support for spreading his ideas.

Hubbard felt that traditional psychotherapy masked much of its usefulness by keeping procedures in the hands of psychotherapists. In the Scientology approach, another person, an auditor, helps guide individuals toward finding their own truth. The auditor does this by taking the seeking person through a set of drills, usually by asking questions. The process seemed so simple when first encountered by the scientific community that they could not fathom its usefulness. Self-reports of those assisted by this process, however, claimed success. Scientology argues that once a person is freed from his or her psychological problems, that person’s individual spirit or soul emerges. This process of the emerging soul and spirit moved dianetics from a “self-help” movement into the realm of religion.

According to the church’s Web site, “Scientology is the study and handling of the spirit in relationship to itself, others and all of life. The Scientology religion comprises a body of knowledge extending from certain fundamental truths.” Primary among these truths is that

Man is an immortal, spiritual being. His experience extends well beyond a single lifetime. His capabilities are unlimited, even if not presently realized—and those capabilities can be realized. He is able to not only solve his own problems, accomplish his goals and gain lasting happiness, but also achieve new, higher states of awareness and ability.

The basic tenets of dianetics includes searching the mind for lost or hidden memories. This process is termed “clearing” the mind. A person who completes this clearing and banishes memories that cause difficulties or irrationalities is called “clear.” Once a person is “clear,” his or her mind is free to be guided by the spirit or soul. The Church of Scientology uses the word thetan to describe the essential being, which consists of a body, a mind, and a spirit. Thus, Scientology, while based on ideas of psychology, added the concept of a spiritual entity or soul.

Dianetics (1950), which sold 150,000 copies in its first year of publication, could be called a “self-improvement” program. Public interest led Hubbard in 1952 to form the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International (HASI) and to begin publishing the Journal of Scientology. The continuing interest in his work, both in the United States and abroad, led to the formation of the original Church of Scientology and the many churches that formed an international church organization.

Hubbard moved to England shortly after founding the church and bought a manor in Sussex, where he set up Scientology’s world headquarters. Members of the church paid for courses and other services with generous donations, leading to the church and Hubbard enjoying a positive cash flow. Hubbard has often been quoted as implying that a forming a church was a great way to succeed in business. He received a substantial income from the church in his later life and was officially separated from church management as early as 1968. He died at his ranch in Creston, California, on January 24, 1986. Controversy followed his death as well as his life, with questions about cause of death, last-minute changes to his will, and allegations that there were traces of a psychotropic drug in his system at the time of death.


A significant aspect of the founding of the Church of Scientology was its transformation from a book and a self-improvement program to a church. Scholars and analysts have discussed this concept in depth. Furthermore, judgments about the impact of L. Ron Hubbard’s life and the founding of the church have been controversial because his supporters make many claims about his accomplishments and his alleged “superhuman” abilities. He has been depicted both as a hero by some and as an unscrupulous individual by others. Similarly, the church has been considered both a life-saving organization and a cult.

In terms of the longevity of his ideas, Hubbard’s books continue to sell well. The church has many followers worldwide. Well-known individuals who are Scientologists include actors John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and Kirstie Alley, and acting coach Milton Katselas. Many have said that they owe Hubbard much for providing a way of thinking that changed their lives. Church of Scientology

Further Reading

  • Atack, Jon. A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed. New York: Carol, 1990. A critical history of Hubbard and Scientology.
  • Christensen, Dorthe Refslund. “Inventing L. Ron Hubbard: On the Construction and Maintenance of the Hagiographic Mythology of Scientology’s Founder.” In Controversial New Religions, edited by James R. Lewis and Jesper Aagaard Petersen. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. A scholarly article on the mythology surrounding Hubbard and on his status to some as a saint.
  • Corydon, Bent. L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman? 1987. New ed. Fort Lee, N.J.: Barricade Books, 1992. Although the title might lead one to believe that this book presents both positive and negative views of Hubbard, the book is a critique of Hubbard as a person and a leader. Cowritten by L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. (as Ronald DeWolf) who was deeply critical of his father’s work. (Subsequent editions do not include Hubbard, Jr., as a coauthor.) Detailed and well documented.
  • Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Los Angeles: Bridge, 2000. In 601 pages, outlines Hubbard’s science of dianetics, which formed the basis for the Church of Scientology. Contents: “The Goal of Man,” “The Single Source of All Inorganic Mental and Organic Psychosomatic Ills,” and “Therapy.” Includes an index.
  • Melton, J. Gordon. The Church of Scientology. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2000. Melton, a religious scholar, provides a concise book that summarizes Scientology and Hubbard’s contributions. There is some controversy over whether this is a “balanced” treatment of the subject or not; however, the book attempts not to take sides.
  • Monsma, Stephen. When Sacred and Secular Mix: Religious Nonprofit Organizations and Public Money. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000. Hubbard made a major business from charging fees for Church of Scientology publications and training materials. This book examines that method in depth.

  • What Is Scientology? Based on the Works of L. Ron Hubbard. Los Angeles: Bridge, 1998. An exhaustive compendium on Scientology and Hubbard’s life, compiled by Church of Scientology international staff. Includes an index.

Billy Graham Becomes a Traveling Evangelist

Roberts Starts the Healing Waters Ministry

Sheen Entertains and Instructs on American Television

Moon Founds the Unification Church

United Methodist Church Is Formed