Thomas Hardy Leahey and Grace Evans Leahey
This site began as an attempt to compile a comprehensive and up-to-date list of books examining Scientology from an academic and critical perspective. It branched out partly because I was running out of books. However, now and again, an overlooked but very valuable text turns up – and this is one such.
The book begins by using the work of Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper in the philosophy of science to clearly draw the distinction between real science (specifically psychology) and pseudoscience.
The authors then develop their thesis by examining a number of historical pseudosciences which claimed to understand the human mind – Phrenology, Mesmerism, Spiritualism, Psychical Research and finally, “Contemporary Therapeutic Cults”. Their discussion of Scientology in this section is brief, but penetrating.
The Church of Scientology is one of a very few new religious movements which originated in the 1950s and still survives today. Many of Hubbard’s concepts were influenced (or just appropriated) from other fringe ideas that were popular at the time. One of the reasons the beliefs of Scientology now seem so bizarre is that those other beliefs have declined, so Scientology doctrine is out of context.
This book, written in 1983, restores some perspective. For example, the authors argue that,
There are various therapies that try to overcome the psychic scars of birth trauma. Primal Screaming […] offers to cure the traumas of birth and and an unhappy childhood[…]. These therapies have much in common with Scientology – except that Scientology has taken the next logical step and tries to exorcise the traumatic engrams left from previous incarnations.
The authors go on to examine the influence of early psychoanalytic theory (particularly abreaction therapy) on Dianetics, and an assessment of the early Dianetic Foundation. This includes (on pg 219) a description of a scientific study which disproved a the most basic assumption of Dianetics – that engrams were formed from things people heard things which occurred when a traumatic experience rendered them unconscious – which is available here.
Scientology ‘Training Routines’ are also described, and an early ‘squirrel’ group called “The Power”, which split away from the mainstream Church of Scientology, is described. This is particularly interesting because the book upon which the analysis is based (Satan’s Power by William Simms Bainbridge) is out of print, rare and expensive.
Used copies of “Psychology’s Occult Doubles” are still available relatively cheaply. While it contains very little about Scientology what is there is extremely insightful. It is also valuable in that it shows that Scientology was once part of a thriving ecology of fringe ideas which strongly influenced Hubbard – Scientology was not an original creation but a patchwork of obsolete fringe ideas.