When golden-age science fiction and Scientology parted ways

Longreads posted an excerpt from from Alec Nevala-Lee’s new book, Astounding, recounting the events that led to L. Ron Hubbard creating a religion and its origins in the golden age of science fiction: Dawn of Dianetics: L. Ron Hubbard, John W. Campbell, and the Origins of Scientology.

In the summer of 1949, Campbell was thirty-nine years old and living in New Jersey. For over a decade, he had been the single most influential figure in what would later be known as the golden age of science fiction, and he had worked extensively with Hubbard, who was popular with fans. The two men were personally close, and when Hubbard, who was a year younger, suffered from depression after World War II, Campbell became concerned for his friend’s mental state: “He was a quivering psychoneurotic wreck, practically ready to break down completely.”

Hubbard had sought medical treatment for his psychological problems, which he also tried to address in unconventional ways. While living in Savannah, Georgia, he began to revise Excalibur, an unpublished manuscript on the human mind that he had written years earlier. In a letter to his agent, Hubbard said that the book had information on how to “rape women without their knowing it,” and that he wasn’t sure whether he wanted to use it to abolish the Catholic Church or found one of his own. He concluded, “Don’t know why I suddenly got the nerve to go into this again and let it loose. It’s probably either a great love or an enormous hatred of humanity.”

The degree of Campbell's involvement in shaping early Scientology lore came as quite a surprise. Hubbard's religiose sci-fi is always the shiny thing about it, but presenting the occult in uncanny technical and bureacratic language – "auditing", "dianetics", "clear" – was apparently Campbell's contribution and always seemed to me the deeper current of its appeal. His disinterested wife was the original "Suppressive Person."

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