In the mid-1940s, he fell in with John Parsons, a wealthy and brilliant young rocket scientist in California, who also happened to be under the tutelage of the infamous satanist Aleister Crowley (no relation to yours truly, thankfully). According to Russell Miller's damning biography of Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, Parsons was a science-fiction fan who briefly hosted Hubbard at his Pasadena, Calif., mansion, which featured a domed backyard temple and a rotating cast of occultists and eccentrics. Parsons described Hubbard as his "magical partner," and together the men engaged in a rite in which Parsons tried to impregnate with an antichrist child a woman he considered the whore of Babylon, a goal that Crowley had long promoted. With Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead" playing in the background, Hubbard allegedly chanted spells over the copulating couple, according to Miller and others.
Dabbling in (or investigating) witchcraft didn't pay the bills, and by the late 1940s Hubbard was in debt and despondent. Then in 1950 he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which he billed as "a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch." The theory of Dianetics promised to cure almost any physical and mental ailment—including wrinkles—by cleansing people's memories of traumatic past experiences so they could arrive at a "clear" mental state.
On or around Jan. 17, 1986, Hubbard suffered a catastrophic stroke on a secluded ranch near Big Sur, Calif. A week later he was dead. Scientology attorneys arrived to recover his body, which they sought to have cremated immediately. They were blocked by a county coroner, who, according to Scientology critics, did an autopsy that revealed high levels of a psychiatric drug. That would seem like an embarrassment given the church's hostility to such medications (witness Tom Cruise's recent feud with Brooke Shields), but it didn't stop the church from summoning thousands of followers to the Hollywood Palladium days after Hubbard's death. There they were told that Hubbard "willingly discarded the body after it was no longer useful to him," and that this signified "his ultimate success: the conquest of life that he embarked upon half a century ago."
Jul 18, 2005
L. Ron Hubbard, A life
A brief biography of the father of Scientology. Best bits: