I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is."
- L. Ron Hubbard to Lloyd Eshbach in 1949, quoted by Eshbach in OVER MY SHOULDER: REFLECTIONS ON A SCIENCE FICTION ERA. Donald M. Grant Publisher, 1983

L. Ron Hubbard established the Church of Scientology (CoS) in 1954 against the following backdrop: He had dropped out of college with failing grades. Although he would later claim a distinguished wartime naval career, Hubbard in fact never saw combat and left the US Navy petitioning the Veterans Administration for psychiatric care.  Two bigamous marriages failed. He found success writing pulp/science fiction, but as he declared in the late 1940s: "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." (1)

Hubbard took up ritual magic, the occult and hypnosis, giving demonstrations of hypnosis in 1948 and writing to his literary agent about a therapy system he was working on that had tremendous promotional and sales potential. (2)  Piecing together hypnotic techniques, Freudian theories, Buddhist concepts and elements of other philosophies and practices, Hubbard came up with Dianetics. He published DIANETICS: THE MODERN SCIENCE OF MENTAL HEALTH in 1950.


In Dianetic practice the "patient," working with a partner called an "auditor" recalls past painful experiences in reverse chronological sequence, supposedly erasing their negative effects and attaining a state called "clear," allegedly free from all ills. (3)  The auditor carefully records any intimate revelations, including sexual or criminal activities and marital or family troubles; these records are kept on file.


Hubbard represented Dianetics as a mental health therapy. He asserted that it was scientifically based and developed through careful research, and his use of the word "patient" suggests that he anticipated acceptance of Dianetics by the medical profession. But he never produced copies of any research protocol.  Dianetics was opposed immediately by the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, the latter recommending that its members limit use of Dianetic techniques to investigation only, until Hubbard’s claimed results could be corroborated. (4)


The public, however, made the book a bestseller, and it seemed that Hubbard’s ship had come in.

He created the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation to promulgate his theories and techniques. 


With auditors repeatedly asking patients in trance state to recall "earlier similar incidents," patients began to report past lifetime experiences. Hubbard incorporated belief in past lives into his evolving ideology, discussing the concept in his second Dianetics book, SCIENCE OF SURVIVAL.


The Hubbard Foundation began to collapse as the initial Dianetics craze wore off, and Hubbard’s new-found emphasis on past lives exacerbated tensions with the Foundation’s financial partners.  By 1952 Hubbard was penniless and had lost control of Dianetics.

Scientology is Born

Hubbard became interested in a type of lie detector called the "electropsychometer" that he believed would yield better results in auditing. He obtained a franchise for this device, which he renamed the Hubbard Electrometer, or E-meter.  He began calling patients "pre-clears" and "within six weeks had created a new subject apparently out of thin air." (5)


Hubbard called his new subject Scientology and in introducing it, he claimed to have discovered the human soul.  Whereas Dianetics had addressed the body, Scientology involved freeing souls (which Hubbard called "thetans") from supposed entrapment in the physical or material world and restoring their alleged supernatural powers.


Hubbard established a headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, awarded himself the degree of D.Scn. (Doctor of Scientology) and in May 1952 incorporated the Hubbard Association of Scientologists International under the personal control of himself and his third wife, Mary Sue. The AMA meanwhile continued its opposition to Dianetics and Scientology.

In 1953 Hubbard regained control of Dianetics after a protracted legal battle and incorporated the Church of Scientology, Church of American Science and Church of Spiritual Engineering. In 1954 he incorporated the Church of Scientology of California, which became the mother church. In 1956 the church was granted US federal tax-exempt status.

In 1957, passing himself off as a nuclear physicist, Hubbard gave a series of lectures in London on "nuclear radiation and health," promoting a vitamin compound which he claimed cured both "radiation sickness" and cancer. Also that year the CIA began a file on him.

Hubbard repeatedly wrote to the FBI with complaints of Communist and Nazi persecution. The Bureau considered him a mental case, but kept a file on him and would later, as his organization grew, investigate him actively...abusively, Scientologists maintain. (6) (7)


International Expansion

In 1959 Hubbard moved to England and bought Saint Hill Mansion in Sussex, from which he would direct international operations and expansion of the CoS until 1967. The 1960s saw the introduction of "Ethics" procedures, which include harsh punishments (even for children) and the "disconnection" policy, which requires Scientologists to sever ties with family and friends critical of Scientology.

Although the essentials of Scientology had been thoroughly presented early on, Hubbard turned out a steady stream of books and audio tapes that are aggressively marketed to his followers. He created systems of "Security Checks" in which members are interrogated to ensure loyalty and extract confessions. He produced reams of policy directives on subjects varying from Scientology "tech" (technology) to church management to approved cleaning solvents to his own recipe for baby formula; all these missives are considered by CoS members to be sacred scripture.

In the late 1960s Hubbard released the "upper levels." Scientologists who had spent hundreds or thousands of hours vainly pursuing often-promised supernatural abilities were guaranteed that these procedures would finally deliver on the promise. Based on a science-fiction-like story taking place millions of years ago and involving a cruel Galactic despot named Xenu and his evil minions (elsewhere identified as present-day Christian clergy and psychiatrists), the upper levels are kept secret until a member is deemed ready to receive them. The estimated cost from beginning Scientology courses through completion of the upper levels is today $300,000 - $500,000 in US dollars.

In 1967 the IRS stripped Scientology’s mother church of its tax-exempt status. With his organization coming under increasing scrutiny from a variety of governments and tax woes abounding, Hubbard wrote his famous "Fair Game" law, which states that anyone named an enemy of Scientology "may be tricked, sued, lied to or destroyed." (8)  A year later, he would issue a directive canceling use of the term, "Fair Game," (due to negative publicity) but making plain that attacks on Scientology’s perceived enemies were to continue. (9)

In mid-1967 Hubbard bought three ships and put to sea with a small cadre of followers. Styling himself "the Commodore," he spent the next several years wandering the Atlantic, pursued by imaginary Reds and Nazis and attended by "Commodore’s Messengers," teenaged girls dressed in white hot pants who waited on him hand and foot, bathing and dressing him and even catching the ash from his cigarettes. He had frequent screaming tantrums and instituted brutal punishments such as incarceration in the ship’s filthy chain-locker for days or weeks at a time and "overboarding," in which errant crew members were blindfolded, bound and thrown overboard, dropping up to 40 ft. into the cold sea and hoping not to hit the side of the ship with its razor-sharp barnacles on the way down.  These punishments applied to children as well as to adults.


Hubbard made bungling attempts to take over Morocco and Rhodesia and was banned from further entry into Britain. He began the Sea Organization (SO), whose members wear pseudo-naval uniforms, adopt naval ranks, sign billion year contracts and are pressured to have abortions when they become pregnant because children are perceived as interfering with their SO obligations. Hubbard created the infamously abusive Rehabilitation Project Force as a special punishment for SO members who fail to follow orders, make mistakes or fall short of production goals.

Going Religious
During the early 1970s the IRS "proved that Hubbard was skimming millions of dollars from the church, laundering the money through dummy corporations in Panama and stashing it in Swiss bank accounts. Moreover, church members stole IRS documents, filed false tax returns and harassed the agency’s employees." (10)


A US federal court in 1971 ruled that Hubbard’s medical claims were bogus and that E-meter auditing could not be called a scientific treatment. The CoS responded by "going fully religious, seeking First Amendment protection...counselors started sporting clerical collars. Chapels were built, franchises became ‘missions,’ fees became ‘fixed donations,’ and Hubbard’s comic-book cosmology became ‘sacred scriptures.’" (11)

After years of running the Scientology organization from aboard his flagship, the Apollo, in 1975 Hubbard bought the Fort Harrison Hotel and a former bank building in downtown Clearwater, Florida under the name United Churches of Florida, to hide Scientology’s connection. He moved his crew to Clearwater, establishing the Flagship Land Base, a.k.a. "Flag."


While the Church of Scientology continued to expand, its private intelligence agency known as the Guardian’s Office (GO) ran cloak-and-dagger operations against the mayor of Clearwater, various governmental agencies and anyone else perceived as in their way.

Hubbard had established the GO in 1966 for internal and external security purposes. The GO’s purview included attacking critics, keeping members in line and silencing defectors. GO agents "stole medical files, sent out anonymous smear letters, framed critics for criminal acts, blackmailed, bugged and burgled opponents, and infiltrated government offices stealing thousands of files...Critics were to be driven to breakdown or harassed into silence." (12)  Eventually, in the early 1980s, eleven GO officials, including Hubbard’s wife, were imprisoned following a massive bugging and burgling operation against government offices across the US that Hubbard had personally created and code-named "Operation Snow White." Hubbard, himself was named as an unindicted co-conspirator but escaped justice because no one could find him.

Almost from the beginning, Hubbard had been in trouble with the law. In 1951 the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners brought proceedings against him for teaching medicine without a license; he fled to Los Angeles to escape prosecution. His organizations were repeatedly charged with practicing medicine without a license; E-meters and vitamin compounds were seized. The FDA accused Scientology of falsely claiming the E-meter could cure medical ailments and all E-meters were required to carry labels disavowing such claims.


At various times, Hubbard (and/or the church) was investigated by the US Justice Department, the FBI, FDA, CIA, IRS, NSA, Bureau of Customs, DEA, DOD, the Secret Service, the US Post Office, INS, BATF, Department of Labor, police departments of various US cities as well as Interpol and a host of other governmental agencies worldwide. Hubbard was convicted in absentia of fraud in France. The Church of Scientology was convicted of breach of the public trust and infiltration of government offices in Canada. Scientology was banned by the state of Victoria, Australia. Hubbard attributed all these events to widespread plotting by Russian communists, neofascists, bankers, the media, the IRS, Christian clergy, fiendish extraterrestrials and the psychiatric profession, which he considered his arch enemy.

Scientology Post-Hubbard

Hubbard went into seclusion following the "Operation Snow White" debacle and in the early 1980s David Miscavige, a second-generation Scientologist, took the reins of Scientology at age 21. At that time "...high-level defectors [were] accusing Hubbard of having stolen as much as $200 million from the church [and] the IRS was seeking an indictment of Hubbard for tax fraud. Scientology members ‘worked day and night’ shredding documents the IRS sought," (13) according to a defector. Hubbard died in 1986 before the criminal case could be prosecuted.

During the power struggles and purges of the 1980s, many people left the church. Some established independent organizations based on Hubbard’s writings. The CoS quickly undertook mass copyrighting of all Hubbard materials and took legal steps to shut down the independents. In 1983 the Office of Special Affairs was created to carry on the purposes of the defunct Guardian’s Office. (14)

In 1991 the internet newsgroup alt.religion.scientology (A.R.S.) appeared. Scientology immediately pounced, but the church’s heavy-handed attempts to shut down A.R.S. failed.  The conflict attracted the attention of free speech advocates worldwide and sparked a proliferation of anti-Scientology newsgroups and websites.

Hubbard advocated harassment of opponents by lawsuit, and so following the CoS’s loss of tax-exempt status in 1967, Scientology declared war. For 26 years "...they attacked the IRS consistently on many fronts; suing and investigating individual IRS agents, deliberately obscuring their records, constantly suing the IRS directly, taking out anti-IRS advertisements, funding anti-IRS groups, lying, infiltrating, stealing, bugging, offering rewards for IRS whistleblowers, pressuring congressmen to investigate the IRS, filing countless Freedom of Information Act requests, creating a corporate maze, publishing anti-IRS articles in their own magazines, and other methods. The attacks worked." (15)


In 1993 the beleaguered IRS and the Church of Scientology International reached an agreement, the terms of which were kept secret but were leaked to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL four years later.  Per the agreement, the church gained tax-exempt status for itself and its subsidiaries and in return agreed to drop the lawsuits and settle its back tax obligations with a payment of $12.5 million -- a fraction of the estimated amount owed.  Many questions have been raised about provisions of this agreement, however the IRS and CoS maintain that it is confidential and will not discuss it. (16)


Scientologists have sought to undermine anti-cult groups by infiltrating them or shutting them down outright. Multiple lawsuits were filed against the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), which was for 20 years the US’s best known resource for information and advice on religious cults. CAN’s legal fees forced it into bankruptcy; the rights to CAN’s name, logo and hotline number were bought by a Scientologist in bankruptcy court and the new CAN is staffed by Scientologists.

The CoS relies heavily on celebrity spokespeople and front groups for favorable publicity and recruiting. A number of organizations working in the areas of literacy, drug counseling, human rights, and business and management techniques, while not legally connected to the Church of Scientology, promote Hubbard’s philosophy and draw people into the church. The CoS capitalized on the Sept. 11, 2001 World Trade Center tragedy, with its corps of "Volunteer Ministers" setting up a flurry of centers to help/recruit traumatized emergency workers and grieving families, while simultaneously interfering with mental health professionals wherever possible. (17)   And US troops returning from service in Iraq have apparently been targeted for recruitment into the church. (18).  


Governments in France, Germany, Australia, Israel, Spain, Canada, Greece, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, England and elsewhere have taken actions to protect their citizens from exploitation by religious cults, with Scientology frequently a focus of concern.

In recent years, hundreds of longtime Scientologists have quit the church (many charging emotional and physical abuse) and are criticizing it, despite the CoS’s well known reputation for ruthlessly harassing critics. (19) (20) Some have continued practicing Scientology outside the CoS. Others have sued the church and won; most notable perhaps is Lawrence Wollersheim, who was paid over $8 million by the church in 2003 after winning a case in which he claimed that Scientology practices had nearly driven him to suicide.

In 2003 Fox News and other media outlets reported that the Church of Scientology has begun requiring its members to sign a release form agreeing to be held against their will for indefinite periods, isolated from friends and family and denied access to medical care (particularly psychiatric care) and absolving the church of responsibility for any resultant harm. (21) The document was apparently drawn up in response to a wrongful-death suit brought against the church in 1997 by the family of Lisa McPherson, a 36-year-old Scientologist who died in 1995 after being held in isolation for 17 days while undergoing Scientology "processes" at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater. At the time of her death, she was comatose, severely dehydrated and covered in cockroach bites. Following a seven-year legal battle, an out-of-court agreement settling the suit was reached in May 2004; the terms of this agreement were sealed. (22)

Today, directly across the street from the Fort Harrison Hotel, where Lisa McPherson suffered and died, Scientology’s new 380,000-square-foot headquarters is under construction. It is called the "Super Power" building, after the "Super Power Rundown" ("rundown" in Scientology parlance = a series of steps designed to produce a certain result) which, according to Hubbard, "consists of 12 separate high power rundowns which are brand new and enter realms of the tech never before approached... [giving a Scientologist] the super powers of infinity." (23)



1.         Eugene M. Methvin, "Scientology: Anatomy of a Frightening Cult," READER’S DIGEST, May 1980. http://tinyurl.com/2dkw2

2.         Jon Atack. "The Total Freedom Trap: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard," Chapter 9. Online article:  http://tinyurl.com/245dd

3.         L. Ron Hubbard. DIANETICS: THE MODERN SCIENCE OF MENTAL HEALTH. (Los Angeles, Bridge Publications, original copyright 1950, edition 1992., pp. 13-14).

4.         Lucy Freeman.  "Psychologists act against Dianetics," THE NEW YORK TIMES, September 9, 1950.

5.         Op. cit., Jon Atack, chapter 10. http://tinyurl.com/245dd

6.         CHRONOLOGY OF THE SCIENTOLOGY MOVEMENT, compiled by the Free Zone Association, individuals practicing Scientology outside the CoS. http://tinyurl.com/2ws9u

7.         Collection of FBI files relating to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. http://tinyurl.com/28ur2

8.         L. Ron Hubbard, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 18 October 1967.

"ENEMY SP Order. Fair game. May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." [SP = Suppressive Person a.k.a. critic of Scientology]

9.         L. Ron Hubbard, Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter, 21 October 1968, "Cancellation of Fair Game" 

"The practice of declaring people FAIR GAME will cease. FAIR GAME may not appear on any Ethics Order. It causes bad public relations. This P/L does not cancel any policy on the treatment or handling of an SP."

10.       Richard Behar. "Scientology: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power," TIME MAGAZINE, May 6, 1991. http://tinyurl.com/28nox

11.       Ibid.

12.       Op. cit., Atack, chapter 16.

13.       Op. cit., Behar.

14.       Chris Owen.  "Scientology’s Secret Service: An exposé of the shady activities of Scientology’s intelligence agencies."  Online article:   http://tinyurl.com/37nw4

15.       Jeff Jacobsen.  "Scientology’s Tax Exemption Should be Rescinded." July 19, 2001.  Online article:  http://tinyurl.com/26ow5

16.       Ibid.

17.       Chris Owen. "Scientology at Ground Zero." May 2003.  Online article: http://tinyurl.com/23kt3

18.       Press Release, April 26, 2004, from L. Ron Hubbard Public Relations West U.S., "Collateral Damage in Iraq Includes Military Suicide"  http://tinyurl.com/2n8gk

19.       Guardian Order, GO 121669 MSH, 16 December 1969, "Programme: Intelligence: Internal Security"

[MSH = L. Ron Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue, head of the Guardian’s Office]  http://tinyurl.com/2mkst

20.       Sworn affidavit of former CoS executive Jesse Prince. http://tinyurl.com/2uuof

21.       The Church of Scientology’s release of liability agreement. http://tinyurl.com/35lws

22.       Robert Farley. "Scientologists settle death suit," ST. PETERSBURG (Florida) TIMES, May 29, 2004. http://tinyurl.com/yqxj5

23.       L. Ron Hubbard, Ron’s Journal 30, 17 December 1978.  Super Power Rundown Series, Confidential, Executive Directive. 


Jon Atack. A PIECE OF BLUE SKY: SCIENTOLOGY, DIANETICS AND L. RON HUBBARD EXPOSED  (New York: Lyle Stuart/Carol Publishing Group, 1990). http://tinyurl.com/25rov


Jon Atack. "Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology." Online article, extensively referenced.



Stacy Brooks. "My Perspective on Auditing."  Online article. http://tinyurl.com/ypzkl


Paulette Cooper. THE SCANDAL OF SCIENTOLOGY. 1970. Web edition November 1997. Cooper’s groundbreaking book on Scientology precipitated a 15-year ordeal of harassment by the Church of Scientology that included  nineteen lawsuits, theft, malicious prosection and framing her for bomb threats. http://tinyurl.com/ypk3k


"Cult Awareness Network now in the hands of Scientology." Online notice at the American Family Foundation website:  http://tinyurl.com/37kep


"Did the cult Scientology bludgeon the IRS into a billion dollar tax revenue give-away?" Online article at factnet.org. http://tinyurl.com/ywept


Essays on Scientology.  An online collection of 37 articles.  http://tinyurl.com/2ho4m


Martin Gardner. "Propheteering business," Nature, 14 January 1988, p. 125  http://tinyurl.com/3ehor


L. Ron Hubbard. SCIENCE OF SURVIVAL (Los Angeles: Bridge Publications, original copyright 1951, edition 1989).


"Human rights group in hands of a cult." IOL World online news service, June 16, 2000. French anti-cult official claims that the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights has been infiltrated by the Church of Scientology. http://tinyurl.com/2g595


Jeff Jacobsen.  "A Brief History of Scientology."  Online article.  http://tinyurl.com/2jsyj


Stephen A. Kent, "The Creation of ‘Religious’ Scientology."  Paper presented at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 1992.  Published in RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND THEOLOGY, Vol. 18, No. 2, December 1999, pp. 97-126.  This paper references L. Ron Hubbard’s Professional Auditor’s Bulletin, No. 31, 23 July 1954, "Duplication" which describes Hubbard’s belief that Christian clergy and psychiatrists "implanted" thetans (Scientology’s term for the soul) with false and misleading information in the cosmological past and that both occupations continue to implant people today. http://tinyurl.com/22xt4


Stephen Koff.  "Scientology Faces New Charges of Harassment," ST. PETERSBURG [FLORIDA] TIMES, December 22, 1988.  http://tinyurl.com/2erl5


John A. Lee. LEE REPORT ON DIANETICS AND SCIENTOLOGY. This is chapter 4 of SECTARIAN HEALERS AND HYPNOTHERAPY, a study for the Committee on the Healing Arts, Canadian government. Ontario, 1970.  http://tinyurl.com/3hlyr


LMT Literati Contest: Essays on the nature of Scientology. Winning essays online: http://tinyurl.com/ywrkl


Eugene M. Methvin.  "Scientology: The Sickness Spreads," READER’S DIGEST, October 1981. http://tinyurl.com/237px


Russell Miller. BARE-FACED MESSIAH: THE TRUE STORY OF L. RON HUBBARD (London: Michael Joseph Ltd., 1987).  http://tinyurl.com/3d2sk


Bette Swenson Orsini and Charles Stafford won a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 for their 14-part investigation of the Church of Scientology for the ST. PETERSBURG [FLORIDA] TIMES.  http://tinyurl.com/35jbv


REPORT OF THE BOARD OF ENQUIRY INTO SCIENTOLOGY, by Kevin Victor Anderson, Q.C.  Published 1965 by the State of Victoria, Australia.  Also known as the "Anderson Report."  Exhaustive report on Scientology.  http://tinyurl.com/yq6co


Joel Sappell and Robert W. Welkos, "The Scientology Story," LOS ANGELES TIMES, a six-part series, June 24-29, 1990  http://tinyurl.com/3djd9


Scientology v. the IRS.  An online clearinghouse for reports and court records on the Scientology v. IRS controversy. http://tinyurl.com/2t5yw



The official Church of Scientology website:



Websites for the Freezone, practicing Scientology outside the CoS:





Alternate views:


















All quotations of copyrighted material herein fall within Fair Use guidelines.

Note: The Scientology organization is commonly referred to as the Church of Scientology.  The reader should be aware that, in reality, global Scientology is a complex international legal structure of multiple corporations, some of which are nonprofit and some of which are not.


The terms "Scientology" and "Dianetics" are trademarks and service marks owned by Religious Technology Center (RTC), Los Angeles, California, USA. For a detailed explanation of Scientology's copyrights, trademarks, and other legal issues involving the names and symbols used by the organizations collectively known as "Scientology" and "Dianetics," see the Trademark Section of the Official Scientology Web Site.


Last updated June 2004.