1950 | The Explorers Journal | Terra Incognita: The Mind
L Ron Hubbard Download as .pdf
The publication of “Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health” was the beginning of L Ron Hubbard’s career as a guru.
Before the book appeared, it was promoted in the pulp magazine, “Astounding Science Fiction” in editorials (notably March 1950) and in a article by Hubbard in May 1950.
However, the very first publication of Hubbard’s ideas – a sort of prototype dianetics – was probably in the winter-spring issue of the 1950 edition of “Explorer’s Journal” (the .pdf file linked to above contains a scan of this article).
Why Was This Article Published in an Periodical for Explorers?
Hubbard needed publicity for his brainchild, “Dianetics” – preferably in a respectable publication. He was a member of the Explorer’s Club, and (since he had made his living for some time by writing for pulp magazines) he knew how to persuade an editor to publish his material.
Unfortunately for Hubbard, and account of a ‘new science of the mind’ (which, he claimed, could cure a catalogue of physical illnesses) was surely better placed in a psychological or medical periodical.
Hubbard therefore added material (which is clumsily repetitive) claiming that he had developed Dianetics as a means to reliably select people capable of withstanding the rigours of expedition life – and provide an infallibly effective treatment for those who did crack up. He described,
[…] a therapy which could be applied by expedition commanders or doctors which would work easily and in all cases to restore rationale [sic] to party members unduly affected by hardship and, more important, which would provide a yardstick in the the selection of personnel which would obviate potential mental and physical failure.
This story is obviously tacked on to his original article to make it appear relevant to the interests of “The Explorer’s Journal”. The real pitch was delivered in indirectly, with Hubbard’s characteristic (and comically false) modesty.
The original goal was to provide expedition commanders and doctors with a therapy tool which would increase the efficiency of personnel and reduce incidence of personnel failure. Dianetics, after eleven years of research, bit off a trifle more than it had bargained for. There had been no intention to go holistic and solve the ills of mankind. That it began to cure psych-somatic illnesses such as arthritis, migraine, ulcers, coronary [sic], asthma, frostbite. bursitis, allergies etc., etc., that it did quick thing about mental derangement on the institutional level and began to replace that strange barbarism, the pre-frontal lobotomy, was entirely outside the initial scheme of research. That it would now sail off on a new course to chase down the cause of cancer and cure it was not on the chart.
It’s rather like approaching an employment agency with a new technique for placing clients in appropriate jobs – then casually let slip that, of course, the same technique can also be used to cure cancer, but that wasn’t what it was designed to do, so I didn’t mention it.
The version of Dianetics Hubbard describes here was strange – but so were those of many members of the various Psychoanalytical schools that were current at this time. With benefit of hindsight, we can understand how the Editor of “The Explorer’s Journal” might have been taken in by ‘Dianetic therapy’. However, the fact that he also published Hubbard’s extraordinary medical claims without comment is surely taking credulity a little far.
How Does This Material Differ from Dianetics?
Some of terms are different. In this text, Hubbard uses the invented word “comanome” for the concept that would later be called an “engram”. in a later text, he used the word ‘Norns’. Because Norns were supernatural creatures of myth, who manipulate humanity Hubbard’s disciple, and dianetics was presenting as a science, Dr Joseph Winter suggested the use ‘engram’ instead. This is a recognised term in psychology for ‘memory trace’. In the book “Dianetics”, the term “engram” is used, and it stuck. .
Hubbard asserted that the analytical human mind was potentially capable of infallible decision-making, and maintaining the body in perfect health. Unfortunately, this perfection was marred by traumatic experiences which cause unconsciousness. These traumas are perfectly ‘recorded’ at an unconscious level to form a comonome/engram, which can later be activated to cause not only psychological aberrations, but also physical disease. Bringing those recorded traumas into consciousness (in the manner popularised by psychoanalysis) was supposed to erase their influence and enable the analytical mind to operate to its full potential.
However, there are a few problems with this thesis.
- There is no reliable, peer-reviewed evidence to support it
- When the basic comonome/engram hypothesis was scientifically tested in a experiment it was found to be false
- A scientific before/after comparison of people who have undergone dianetic therapy shows that it confers no benefits.
- Hubbard’s disillusioned collaborator, Dr Winter, later published a book which strongly criticised Dianetics.
For the record, however, here are the elements of Dianetics as described by Hubbard in”Terra Incognita: The Mind”
The Analytical Mind
It was discovered that the human mind has not been too well credited for its actual ability. Rather than a weak and capricious organ, it was found to be capable of amazing strength and stamina that one of its primary purposes was to be right and always right. The normal mind can be restored to the optimum mind rather easily […].
The Reactive Mind
During moments when the conscious mind (Dianetically, the analytical mind) is suspended in operation – by injury, anaesthesia, illness such as delirium – there is a more fundamental level still in operation, still recording. Anything that is said to a man when he is unconscious from pain or shock is registered in its entirety. It then operates, on the return of consciousness, as a post hypnotic suggestion, with the additional menace of holding in the body the pain of the incident.
Almost all comonomes [engrams] occur early in life – amazingly early. The early ones form a basic structure to which it is very simple to append later comonomes. Comonomes can wait from childhood to be “keyed-on” and active at 25, 50, 70 years of age.
Dianetic Therapy (AKA Processing)
Surprisingly (since the Church of Scientology is implacably opposed to the use of medication) the therapy that Hubbard proposes here depends on the use of drugs.
Deletion of all comonomes is practicable. The technique is relatively simple. […] the primary technique consists of stimulants. The best stimulant is benzedrine.
What’s more, this passage suggests that the use of drugs is superior to the un-medicated induction of a ‘Dianetic reverie’.
The patient is made to lie down an shut his eyes. The operator begins to count. He suggests the patient relax. At length the patient’s eyelids will flutter. (Medicine will also accomplish this without producing a harmful amensia [sic] hypnotic state).
The ‘therapy’ consists of taking the patient back through his life to the incident which ’caused’ his present symptoms until they subside. Only one (rather confusing) example is given of a man who falls into crevasse knocking himself out and slightly hurting his arm. Hubbard states that the comonome [engram] he acquires during this experience puts him at risk of developing arthritis in his arm if he continues to be exposed to ice – a condition that can supposedly be cured with Dianetic processing.
“Terra Incognita” and “Dianetics”
Expanding this article to book length required Hubbard to do a lot of padding. In “Dianetics”, he provided more examples (mostly of engrams caused by the patient being abused while still in the womb – Hubbard appeared to have had an obsession about DIY abortion) and he could not resist the temptation to praise himself to the skies – for example,
The creation of dianetics is a milestone for Man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and arch.
If you want to get the gist of the therapy that Hubbard described in “Dianetics”, and the claims Hubbard made for it, read this article in “The Explorer’s Journal”. It covers the same ground and it is (mercifully) shorter.