Explore the Phoenix Roots of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology

Moviegoers will gain insight into an L. Ron Hubbard-like cult leader in director Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master — scheduled for release here on September 14 — but the wild beliefs taught by the real Hubbard go beyond any fictional version.

Hubbard's Scientology is based on revelations by the science-fiction author that can't be made odder by embellishment:

Mental problems, for instance, often are caused by traumatic memories of past lives as clams, sloths, and cave people.

The Phoenix house where L. Ron Hubbard dreamed up Scientology.
The Phoenix house where L. Ron Hubbard dreamed up Scientology.

You couldn't make this stuff up. But L. Ron Hubbard did — right here in Phoenix in the early 1950s.

Sixty years later, on June 23, Hubbard's church gave the "Birthplace of Scientology" its proper due by launching its new "Ideal Org" at the northeast corner of Indianola and 44th Street, just down the street from the house Hubbard rented from 1952 to 1955. In an October 13, 2011, cover story ("Alien Invasion"), New Times chronicled the fate of business owners at the building who were booted out after the church bought it.

During the opening ceremony in June, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton told a crowd he was "proud" that the religion had gotten its start in Phoenix.

How proud Phoenicians should be of this bit of history is debatable.

According to journalist Russell Miller's 1987 biography, Bare-Faced Messiah, Hubbard and his new teenage bride — his third wife — moved to the rental house near Camelback Mountain in April 1952. Some of his followers had launched the Hubbard Association of Scientologists at an office on Central Avenue, and Hubbard founded the religion officially that year.

Building on the past-life doctrines Hubbard first described in the 1950 bestseller Dianetics, which purported to teach techniques that could improve mental health, Hubbard created a universe populated with alien "Thetan" souls. (He later would reveal, in church materials that followers paid tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to read, that the souls are really the ghosts of alien beings destroyed 75 million years ago by the evil galactic overlord Xenu.)

The hyper-prolific Hubbard cranked out a foundational book in mid-1952 that provides details on how the extraterrestrial spirit world affects the mental health of people today.

Published by the Scientific Press of Phoenix and titled What to Audit (the name later was changed to Scientology: A History of Man), it was a tour de force of incredible claims that Hubbard insisted was a "cold-blooded and factual account of your last 60 trillion years."

Miller called it "possibly the most absurd book ever written," adding that "it was treated with great reverence by his followers."

For instance, Hubbard claims that humans' fear of falling stems from terror felt by clams as they were dropped by predatory birds. Hubbard made a demonstrable misstep by declaring that some mental anguish was caused by past-life memories of Piltdown Man, supposedly an early human with large jaws — but a year after History of Man was published, the remains of Piltdown Man were revealed to be a fraudulent amalgamation of human and gorilla bones.

Hubbard lectured to followers hundreds of times in Phoenix before moving to Scientology's headquarters to Washington, D.C, in 1955, and the church always has maintained a presence here as it grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Though the religion has far fewer followers than the 10 million it claims worldwide (perhaps as few as 25,000), it's not going away.

Church leader David Miscavige, though hated by some former Scientologists, who consider him a tyrant, launched the Ideal Org program in 2003 to help spread the influence of the religion — and make lots of money from followers in the process. Since then, Scientology has built or acquired 24 new facilities, including the one in Phoenix.

Critics say the new churches aren't needed, since membership, by many accounts, is shrinking. Once Scientologists fork over big donations to open an Ideal Org, they're hit up to make more contributions for renovations, as seen in flyers obtained by insiders and published online.

One flyer published last month encourages families to attend Sunday Services at the Phoenix Ideal Org, noting a "Special Kids Corner."

New Times went to one such Sunday Service last year, before the Ideal Org opened, at Scientology's other office at 1002 North Third Street, and found it sparsely attended.

Standing in front of Scientology's Christian-like cross, Chaplain James Bennett, wearing a white collar, spent a half-hour answering questions for six people sitting on folding chairs.

We asked him about Hubbard's claim in Dianetics that once someone becomes a "clear," essentially a devout follower of the religion, their eyesight transforms to a perfect 20/20.

Bennett, who wears eyeglasses, admitted that he was disappointed the miracle didn't work for him, though he had been "clear" for years. But he did know some people whose eyesight had been cured by Scientology, he said.

Bennett also admitted some of Hubbard's teachings had "science fiction" overtones. But in keeping with the church's penchant for extreme secrecy, Bennett wouldn't acknowledge the existence of "Xenu" in official church teachings. He later wrote in an e-mail that he had given his word not to discuss the issue "and I will continue to honor that agreement."

Visting the new Ideal Org, the public can find numerous books and audio recordings by Hubbard. But be prepared — the material isn't cheap.

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10 comments
cactusrich
cactusrich

How the New Times can write articles about Scientology and miss the real point is beyond me.  Unless the real purpose is to distort and falisfy.  I am always tempted to assume that your writers are simply jealous of a writing talent that put Hubbard on the NYT best sellers list several times and garnered him acolades around the world. Ever think of mentioning that?  Hubbard never had to tear people down in his writings to be a success as a writer.  A point that seems to be lost on the PNT.

 

A world without war and without crime where man is free to rise to greater heights are the oft-stated goals of Scientology and Hubbard's research and writings.  Detractors of any worthwhile purpose will always exist but to focus on them is, as I say, to miss the point.

 

People should read the original work, be it Dianetics , Fundamentals of Thought or some other book  by Hubbard, and make up their own mind.  These books are available in bookstores and libraries which evidently found it worthwhile to put them on the shelves over the past 40 years or so.. 

 

My suggestion to you is to find out for yourself, not through the pages of a newspaper or some TV show.  Read a book written by Hubbard. You just might be pleasantly surprised what you discover.

Margaret2011
Margaret2011

Russell Miller's bio on Hubbard is an antagonistic treatment, and doesn't do Hubbard or his philosophy much justice.  I would recommend the book I mentioned below ("The Phoenix Lectures") for the curious and neutrally minded. 

Margaret2011
Margaret2011

Actually, an excellent book on Scientology is called "The Phoenix Lectures".  As the title suggests, it's based on some lectures that Hubbard gave in 1954 in Phoenix.  The book goes into the philosophical underpinnings of Scientology, as well as some historical influences, and may give readers an idea of why people might be attracted to the subject, if not the organization.  The book is out of print these days, but I've seen old versions listed for pennies on ebay. Definitely worth a read for the curious.

pimacountyaz
pimacountyaz

Much history missing from piece. Dianetics was actually invented in Pasadena, CA near JPL @senyorreporter Scientology was founded in Phoenix

Harold
Harold

The Aberree newsletter was published by a Phoenix Scientology couple in the 1950's, it was used by Anderson as a history source of Scientology for The Master script.

http://www.aberree.com/

BosonStark
BosonStark

Russell Miller generously allowed his out-of-print bio of Hubbard to be in free online and downloadable versions:

 

http://www.spaink.net/cos/rmiller/index.html

 

Keep in mind Miller's bio is the real bio of Hubbard, not the absurd propaganda put out by this cult.

 

In addition to people regaining perfect eyesight after reading or doing Dianetics, several members testified that you could grow a third set of perfect teeth. I have researched this 3rd set of teeth phenomena and when it does occur, the teeth are merely boney protuberances that usually have to be removed surgically, because they are not functional.

 

Hubbard claimed that Dianetics could cure 80% of all diseases, and that he had the secrets to "controlling the aging process." Hubbard died at 74, a physical and mental wreck, because he needed to get to the implant station on Mars to continue his research there, to help the Martians extend their lives, or something like that.

 

Sometimes Hubbard's ideas are so idiotic it is painful to contemplate that people take them seriously.

SpenBen
SpenBen

Wow!  This sounds so like what Joseph Smith did back in the 1820's!   It's comic book cosmology and blue sky!

 

buttersquash
buttersquash

 @cactusrich Agreed.  Start out with History of Man, and you will instantly realize how guano crazy this nonsensical "religion" is.

 
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