Dianetics and Scientology in “Astounding Science Fiction” (Pt 6) The Practice of Dianetics

dianetic therapyDownload “Astounding Science Fiction” (May 1950)  – the “Dianetics” Issue – as a .pdf file

Today, I am going to complete my examination of the article in the May 1950 issue of “Astounding Science Fiction” which introduced L Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics” to the world (which began in this post).

To recapitulate: the editor of “Astounding” Jon W Campbell (an early convert) gave L Ron Hubbard, whose science fiction stories Campbell had published, an unprecedented amount of space in his magazine to describe a supposed  ‘new science’ called Dianetics.

This article appeared just before the book “Dianetics: The Modern Science of mental Health” was published, and contributed greatly to the dianetics fad that followed.

In this post, I will discuss the last part of the Dianetics article, in which Hubbard discusses the supposed  future applications and development of Dianetics (none of which actually came about) beginning on page 84.

On pages 84-85 Hubbard asks:

Who will practice Dianetics? In severe cases, doctors. They are well-schooled in the art of healing, they are always being bombarded by psychosomatics and mental situations. […] In the general case, however – the psychotic, neurotic or merely sub-optimal individual – Dianetics will probably be practised by people of intelligence and good drive on their friends and family. […]Dianetics is easy to apply to the fairly normal individual and can relieve his occlusions and arthritis and other psychosomatic ills.

With a few exceptions, doctors did not take up dianetic therapy. One exception dianetics_-_a_doctors_report_joseph_a_winterwas Joseph A Winter, an early supporter of Hubbard, who used it in his practice. He wrote the introduction to Hubbard’s “Astounding” article and served for a time on the board of the short-lived “Dianetic Foundation.”

Despite his early enthusiasm, Winter eventually concluded that dianetic therapy could be dangerous. He resigned his post and wrote a critical book, “Dianetics: A Doctor’s Report” (AKA “A Doctor’s Report on Dianetics”).

The medial establishment did not approve of Dianetics from the beginning, as this almost contemporary article in “Look” magazine shows. It reports that,

The American Psychological Association, for example, has denounced Hubbard’s claims as “not supported by empirical evidence,” and has called upon its members “in the public interest” to avoid using Hubbard’s techniques except when making “scientific investigations to test the validity of his claims.”

This earned psychologists and psychiatrists the undying hatred of L Ron Hubbard. In modern Scientology, they are believed to be  representatives of an alien conspiracy, which is responsible for offences ranging from sadistic treatment of patients to the Nazi holocaust. Scientologists do all their power to keep people out of the hands of “Psychs”.

Also, Hubbard’s understanding of psychosomatic illness is highly eccentric. A psychosomatic disorder is generally understood to be one in which symptoms are generated or aggravated by mental states, not physical causes (for example panic attacks which have distressing physical symptoms caused by a mental state).

In Hubbard’s muddled thinking, a mental state can be the direct cause of many ( if not all) physical diseases. Arthritis is not caused by wear on joints, or by an autoimmune disorder – according to Hubbard it is imagined in to existence and can be dispelled by imagination. Whether he believes that these diseases even exist in their conventional form is not made at all clear – only that Dianetics can cure anything from arthritis to cancer.

Hubbard then lays out a 17-point account of the future promise of Dianetics. The “Look” magazine article article sums the ambitions expressed there as follows,

To dianetics for individuals, Hubbard and his busy associates are hastily adding political dianetics, child dianetics, judiciary dianetics, medical dianetics and industrial dianetics. “Education, medicine, politics and art and, indeed, all branches of human thought, are clarified with dianetics,” Hubbard claims.

In closing (on page 86) Hubbard resorts to flattering the readers of “Astounding” – people who knew him from his fiction and had been looking forward to the “Dianetics” article which had been extensively promoted by John W Campbell in previous editorials.

These were people who had faith in the idea that Science could bring about a better world – and an appreciation of the fact that it could also destroy that world. The Second World War had just ended after the near-miraculous annihilation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Readers of “Astounding” saw themselves as ahead of their time, and Hubbard was one of their own. Many were willing to believe that he had achieved a comparable – but beneficial- feat.

This is part of the story of the search. I wrote it for you this way because you have minds with which to think. For strictly professional publications I can, will and have dressed it up so that it is almost impossible to understand, it’s so exact. A lot of you have been reading my stories for years.  And  I  have given you the story as it is and I have given you the major results exactly how they turned out. A lot of you are fellow engineers. I thought you’d enjoy seeing the structure built.

In other words, ‘You are all clever and sophisticated people. You know me, and you know that I share your ideals – you can trust me’. Despite Hubbards claims, this is the approach of a confidence trickster, not a scientist.

Ultimately, Hubbard offered no evidence to support his claims. They failed all of the basic tests of  real science, which requires repeatable experiments, evidence and peer review.

 A Personal Note

It’s taken me so long to get around to the second part of Hubbard’s article because I found the Dianetics article so dreary to read. Sorry for the delay. Now I have this over with, I can move on to the reactions to Dianetics that were published in subsequent issues of “Astounding” – there is a great deal more to come.

Why did I find it dreary?

  • Hubbard constantly refers to his ‘research’ and to ‘experiments’ which ‘prove’ his thesis beyond a reasonable doubt but no evidence was (or ever has been) published.
  • The bulk of the article consists of unsubstantiated assertions and elaborate but puzzling descriptions of Hubbard’s thought process. He presents these musings as profound insights, with an unattractive false modesty.
  • The entire article, contains much filler, but only enough actual content content  for a large postcard. To demonstrate this, here is my précis of the ‘thesis’ that it took Hubbard so many pages to present:

Your consciousness is divided between ‘analytical’ and ‘reactive’ minds (CF Freud’s conscious and unconscious minds). Both are constantly aware and record all of your sensory impressions to a perfect memory. The analytical mind processes information faultlessly. However, whenever a person is rendered unconscious the analytical mind temporarily ceases to function, and the  more primitive reactive mind takes over.

The things that the reactive mind records in memory these periods of unconsciousness prevent the analytical mind functioning correctly after it recovers. This thesis was promptly falsified by independent research. For example if you knocked out by someone who (rather melodramatically) shouts “Take that” as he continues your beating, you may become a kleptomaniac (this example actually appears in Hubbard’s book).

The incidents recorded by the reactive mind (Engrams) accumulate, causing almost all of mankind’s physical an mental ailments. However, engrams can be neutralised by bringing them into consciousness. This is done by talking to the patient while they are under a light trance (“Dianetic Therapy” is closely similar to Freud’s psychoanalysis, which claimed to relieve neurotic symptoms caused by repressed experiences by bringing them to consciousness). All that you need to know to is in the book “Dianetics”.

Once all engrams are removed, the patients analytical mind reigns supreme  -they are ‘Clear’. Clears have perfect memories, enhanced intelligence (a claim that has been examined and falsified by independent research), can correct their own faulty eyesight, grow new teeth and display other extraordinary powers. Arthritis can be caused by an unconscious attempt to revive the sympathy that a person received when they broke their leg, years ago (pg 84) and, along with most other ‘physical’ ailments, cured by dianetic therapy.

Dianetics will revolutionise all areas of human endeavour, including art, industry medicine,  jurisprudence, politics and education.

65 years later,instead of Dianetics we have The Church of Scientology, instead. Scientology claims to be a ‘religion’ because it’s testable claims, which elaborate on Dianetics (e.g. you have to deal with engrams acquired in previous lives, as well) don’t stand up to independent scrutiny.

It is become progressively more socially isolated and is declining in membership.


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