L. Ron Hubbard, founder

Sunday, July 24, 2005

By Virginia Linn, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, a science fiction writer who founded the Church of Scientology 51 years ago, saw his teachings span the globe before his death in 1986.


L. Ron Hubbard
Born in Tilden, Neb., on March 13, 1911, the son of a Navy officer, he described an early life rich in adventure and travel to exotic lands, where his encounters with Blackfoot Indians, Chinese Buddhist priests and other cultures helped influence his writings as well as his spiritual beliefs.

Hubbard was a writer of pulp science fiction when his book, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Modern Health," landed on the best-seller list in 1950. Becoming one of the first pop psychology fads, it described a type of therapy to uncover "engrams," or past-life memories, as a self-help technique to achieve perfect mental health.

Hubbard then began researching what could be done to help an individual regain natural abilities, forming the basis of Scientology in 1954.

As the popularity of Scientology grew, so did the controversy surrounding it. Hubbard has been called a charismatic Renaissance man by admirers and a quack by critics.

Hubbard and church leaders began facing charges of fraud and legal attacks from authorities in the United States and several foreign countries concerned over the organization's practices. After a 40-year legal battle with the Internal Revenue Service, the church won tax-exempt status in 1993.

He wrote more than 530 books and articles and gave thousands of lectures around the world. One of his last science fiction books, "Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000," was turned into a movie in 2000 starring John Travolta, who is a Scientologist.

A multimillionare, Hubbard lived his last years in seclusion at his ranch near San Luis Obispo, Calif. By the time of Hubbard's death at 74 of a stroke, the Church of Scientology touted 2 million members. His passing is described on the Scientology Web site as "Ron departs his body.''

Church members continue to speak of Hubbard in the present tense, and all Scientology missions have an office set aside for him.

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