Scientology's founder, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986), was born in Tilden, Nebraska, the son of U.S. Naval officer Harry Ross Hubbard and his wife, Ledora May Waterbury. During Ron's infancy the family moved to Oklahoma, and then later to Helena, Montana. In 1923 the family moved to Washington, D.C., for a couple of years before returning to Montana. His father's position in the Navy enabled Hubbard to travel widely during his youth. His first international excursion included stops in Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Guam in 1927. He returned to the far east the following year, with stops in China, Japan, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Hubbard's role as the editor of the Helena High School newspaper helped him to develop an early career as a writer. After completing high school at the Woodward School for Boys in Washington, D.C., Hubbard entered George Washington University (GWU). While at GWU he began to pursue his two passions -- writing and exploring. During his student years he led a group of his fellow students on a tour of the Caribbean and later joined a mineralogical survey of Puerto Rico.

Leaving the university in 1933 after only two years, Hubbard married and began a writing career with basic work published in the various pulp magazines of the era. He wrote quite rapidly and was thus able to turn out numerous pieces of fiction under a variety of pen names. His career as a writer was on the rise, and he gained special recognition for his science fiction stories. In 1935 he was elected president of the New York chapter of the American Fiction Guild. Hubbard's first novel, Buckskin Brigades, was published in 1937, and later that year Columbia Pictures purchased the film rights to his second novel, Murder at Pirate Castle, which he turned into a screenplay released as the serial Secret of Treasure Island.

In December 1940, the U.S. Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation awarded Hubbard a "Master of Steam and Motor Vessels" license. In March 1941 he was granted his "Master of Sail Vessels" license. Then in June of that year he was commissioned as a lieutenant (junior grade) in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Hubbard was called to active duty. He served in the Philippines, Australia, and in the north Pacific. He spent the last months of World War II at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California.

Following his release from active duty in February 1946, Hubbard returned to his prewar life. After his divorce, he married again and resumed his writing career. Besides his fiction writing, Hubbard spent an increasing amount of time and energy during the postwar years on personal research aimed at understanding the nature of the human mind and creating a technology that would help vanquish the basic mental problems besetting humankind.

Once he founded the Church in Washington in 1954, Hubbard oversaw its basic development and spread first through the English-speaking world and then into major European countries. Along the way, Hubbard authored a multi-volume organizational manual on the best way to manage any organization, whether a church or a business. The Church of Scientology still follows the pattern outlined in the manual and now makes it available to executives as a means to organize businesses into more successful and profitable companies.

In 1966, Hubbard resigned from his official position in the church and spent the next years of his life at sea, researching the more advanced levels of Scientology. He and a select group of followers formed the Sea Organization (Sea Org), a church-sponsored association, and lived aboard three ships for several years as Hubbard continued his studies. Just before he resigned, he released the initial materials for church members who had finished the process of achieving Clear. Post-Clear church members were offered training in the advanced or Operating Thetan (OT) levels (I-II) of Scientology. He followed up in 1967 and 1968 with the materials for OT levels III-VI. The materials selected for these higher levels contain the essential spiritual teachings of Scientology, but are intended only for the members who have previously reached the state of Clear. The release of each level (presently OT I-VIII, with a projected fifteen levels) has depended upon an initial group having reached that level and the subsequent training of auditors who could assist future students who wished to attain them. Hubbard trained the first instructors and auditors and wrote the manual for the training of additional persons in the future.

Hubbard continued to research and write (and offer his opinion on a variety of questions that arose at every level of the international organization) even after the era aboard the ships ended in 1975 and the Sea Org offices controlling the upper levels were established at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida. For the rest of his life, Hubbard assumed a low profile and made few personal appearances. He remained, however, actively involved in the development of the church, especially during the crises it faced. In 1977, a group of church leaders were arrested for infiltrating several government offices, including those of the FBI, in order to locate and copy any government files on the church. They had previously sought these files through Freedom of Information requests, but had been denied. Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue Hubbard, was among those convicted in a trial that centered on the Church's Guardian's Office efforts to deal with criticism of the church around the world.

In the years immediately before his death in San Luis Obispo, California, on January 24, 1986, Hubbard made a final excursion into the science fiction world, authoring one massive novel, Battlefield Earth, later made into a movie, and a ten-volume series under the collective title Mission Earth. Posthumously, his writing career would be memorialized in a series of volumes -- L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future -- twenty-four volumes of which had appeared by the end of 2008.

Study Questions:
     1.     Who was Lafayette Ronald Hubbard? What events throughout his life influenced his success?
     2.     How did Hubbard spread the message of Scientology?
     3.     Why were legal sanctions brought against Scientology in the 1970s?

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