How Scientology Works

A Brief History of L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, seen here in the 1960s, founded the Church of Scientology based on his book "Dianetics." Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in Nebraska in 1911. His father was a navy man who was posted to numerous locations around the world and the young Hubbard traveled widely with his family. After graduating high school, he enrolled at George Washington University where he studied engineering. But he dropped out before completing a degree. Instead he took up science fiction writing and began establishing a name for himself in that field.

In 1941, he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Navy. He would later claim a storied military career during World War II, alleging that he earned numerous medals including a Purple Heart, which is given to servicemen wounded in combat. Hubbard also liked to say he was an elite commander who captained a fleet of ships.

During a test run of the ship in the Pacific, Hubbard reported sighting two Japanese subs and over the next two-and-a-half days ordered his men to drop 37 depth charges on them. He also called in air and sea support. He credited his boat and its crew with having so thoroughly destroyed the subs that no trace of them could be found.

U.S. Naval records tell a somewhat different story. Hubbard did command two boats, including the PC 815, a submarine hunter. But in its report on the matter, the Navy could find no evidence either of these Japanese submarines existed in the area. The investigators concluded that Hubbard fabricated them.

Still in command of his ship, Hubbard took the PC 815 down the California coast and illegally entered Mexican waters where, again illegally, he ordered his men to test the ship's guns by firing on an uninhabited Mexican island. Mexico complained and Hubbard was reprimanded. Navy records show that the future religious leader was relieved of his command of two different boats over the course of his military career. He was assigned to onshore duties in the late 1940s [source: Sappell and Welkos].

After attending that fateful meeting of the Hydra Club and resigning his military post in 1950, Hubbard published an article in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, called "Dianetics: A New Science of the Mind." It was the founding moment in the movement that would become known as Scientology.