Scientology and the Occult: Hugh Urban's New Exploration of L. Ron Hubbard and Aleister Crowley

The Rosy Cross, appropriated in a similar form by Crowley and OTO
Last June, we brought you the first review of The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion by Ohio State professor Hugh Urban, and then the first interview with the good professor himself.

During that interview, Urban told us that he was planning to continue his research into Scientology, and would be looking into a variety of areas. But we didn't know that one of those interests included a closer look at L. Ron Hubbard's wild occult history that preceded his publication of 1950's Dianetics.

Longtime Scientology watchers will be at least somewhat familiar with the tale: that after his involvement in WWII, Hubbard shacked up with Jet Propulsion Lab rocket scientist Jack Parsons, a man heavily into the occult, and in particular the teachings of The Great Beast, British occultist Aleister Crowley. You may even know something about the kinky things Parsons and Hubbard did trying to create a "Moonchild." But what Urban does in a new piece for the journal Nova Religio is produce a thorough, academic study of the ways that Crowley's "magick" found parallels in what would become Hubbard's most famous creation, Scientology.

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Hugh Urban: An Interview With the Professor Who Took on Scientology

Urban, with Nancy Jesser, their daughter Maya Urban-Jesser, and Shiva the dog
In June, we reviewed a remarkable new book about Scientology. A review copy of Hugh Urban's The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion, put out by the Princeton University Press, had arrived at our desk almost the same day as Janet Reitman's highly anticipated book about the church, Inside Scientology.

We were impressed by the way Urban, in only 216 pages, not only laid out a robust history of Scientology in a highly readable narrative, but also did what others really hadn't before: put L. Ron Hubbard's creation in the cultural and political context of its time -- Scientology is a Cold War product, and absorbed all of that era's paranoia and desire for secrecy.

Urban's book was also impressive for its depth of research -- here in one volume were citations of many of the most significant court decisions that have rocked Scientology over the decades, as well as concise rundowns of many other church controversies. The book makes for a great companion to Reitman's journalistic approach: both books have come out at about the same time, and both with common goals of looking at a controversial subject from an objective, scholarly point of view.

I really only had one question after I was finished with the book: who the heck is Hugh B. Urban?

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Scientology's Anti-Commie, Space Opera Beginnings, and Other Nuggets From New Academic Book

Thumbnail image for HughUrbanBook.jpg
There's a new academic treatise on Scientology coming out this September, and it's a very welcome addition to the literature surrounding L. Ron Hubbard's odd organization.

Hugh B. Urban, Ohio State University religious studies professor, has given us, in his Princeton University Press tome, a history that does its best to keep above the fray between claims and counterclaims about Scientology, and, for the most part, he succeeds.

But along the way, if Urban is somewhat charitable to Hubbard at times, The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion also holds very little back about the controversies that Scientology has found itself in, and that are largely of its own making.

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