L Ron Hubbard’s Necronomicon Love

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an author of pulp horror fiction who died penniless from cancer and malnutrition in 1937. Like many great artists his brilliance only came to light posthumously. Today, his stories sell by the bucketload, have been adapted into movies, his name entered into common parlance and thousands of societies formed to unravel the secrets of his fictional Cthulhu folklore.

Many of Lovecraft’s stories involve a naive everyman plunging into an inescapable nightmare as he encounters unimaginable horrors left on Earth by the Old Ones, an alien race of gigantic uber-bastards who created humanity to be their slaves, and will one day return to torture and destroy us all. The secrets of the cosmic monster-god Cthulhu and the Old Ones were said to be written in a textbook of magic called the Necronomicon. To this day, some believe the book to be real.

One man especially influenced by Lovecraft’s menacing imagery and dreams of alien monsters was charlatan guru Lafayette Ronald Hubbard. As transfixed as he was by the master’s eloquent prose and prolific turnover, he was also horrified at the hardships of his poverty-stricken life, and swore he would not befall such a fate.

Like Howard, Lafayette scraped a living churning out stories for pulp science fiction magazines, but slowly realised he was emulating his mentor in more ways than one, as the paucity of his income could barely accommodate his two wives, and he sunk into depression. Ever the pragmatist, he began to study psychology in an effort to self-medicate. In 1950 he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which rapidly became his first bestseller. Dianetics espouses that the power of the mind can conquer physical illness.

Due to bankruptcy and scandal, the Dianetics Foundation was renamed the Church of Scientology in 1953, as Lafayette realised that reclassification as a religion would finally bring him the money, respect and fawning sycophancy he so desired. It was also a great way to avoid business taxes and accept charitable donations. The religion believes that a chosen few (subscribing members of the church) are Thetans, reincarnated cosmic super beings more powerful than the lowly humans they are destined to rule over, a bit like Lovecraft’s Old Ones.

The fact that the Church of Scientology has a global membership of anywhere between 8 and 15 million saps who may actually believe in their fictional ideology is more terrifying than anything the unfortunate Howard Phillips could have imagined. Now that’s Lovecraftian.