In 1950, pulp science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard published a nonfiction book titled “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.” The book rode the New York Times Bestseller List for 28 weeks. On the heels of the book’s success, Hubbard created an organization based upon the principles of Dianetics. He described it as a new religion -- Scientology. Hubbard authored numerous follow-up books, but “Dianetics” remains the fundamental text for Scientologists.

Hubbard’s Claims for Dianetics

Hubbard described Dianetics as “a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch.” Dianetics, he said, cured not only psychological ills, but physical disease as well. It increased human intelligence to levels “considerably greater than the current normal.” But how? The human brain, Hubbard wrote, is a perfect computer “incapable of error,” containing a complete, flawless record of a person’s life from the instant of conception. This perfection is marred only by “engrams,” unconscious, painful memories that obstruct the brain’s function. A technique Hubbard called “auditing,” when performed correctly, “cleared” engrams and allowed the brain to return to its original state of perfection.

Scientology Gets a New Doctrine

The prolific Hubbard added to the Scientology canon with such works as “History of Man,” “The Creation of Human Ability,” and “Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought.” In 1960, he published “Have You Lived Before This Life?” another of the religion’s most important books. Hubbard now asserted that engrams resulted not only from present life experiences, but from previous lives dating back billions of years. There remains some question whether Hubbard believed his own past life hypothesis, but to Scientologists it became doctrine.

The “Secret” Texts of Scientology

In Scientology members undergo a series of courses, each of which can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Members who make it to advanced levels gain access to Hubbard’s “secret” writings, though in recent years court cases and internet leaks have made many of these writings public. The essence of the secret teachings is that, billions of years ago, a despotic galactic dictator named Xenu banished a benevolent race known as the Thetans to a planet called Teegeeack, now called Earth, where he attempted to obliterate them with atomic weapons. A remnant of one of the Thetans lives within each human mind. The true goal of Scientology is to recover the inner Thetan.

Criticism of Scientology, Dianetics and Hubbard

Critics say Hubbard presents no evidence for the claims in “Dianetics,” which were never empirically tested. More importantly, Scientology allegedly employs coercive tactics to insure member loyalty and to intimidate critics. While Scientology claims 10 million members worldwide, investigators believe the number to be somewhere between 10,000 and 40,000. Hubbard himself considerably inflated his credentials, claiming among other things to be a nuclear physicist who graduated with an engineering degree from George Washington University, and a decorated Naval combat veteran. None of those claims were true.