L Ron Hubbard and “Astounding” Part Company – Dianetics and Scientology in “Astounding Science Fiction” (Pt 13)

Download November 1950 Issue as .pdfDownload December 1950 Issue as .pdf

ASF november 1950in this post we examine both the November and December 1950 issues of “Astounding”.ASF december 1950

It will become clear that, as 1950 draws to a close, the ties  between Hubbard and Campbell, and the association between dianetics and “Astounding” are beginning to dissolve.

The dianetics institutes are now making money – but only for Hubbard. Campbell and “Astounding” have been left out in the cold. What’s more, both readers and authors are starting to look elsewhere to read and sell the science fiction stories which were “Astounding’s” bread and butter.

Over these two issues we can see Campbell taking control of the helm once more, and turning his ship around. He  implicitly promises readers that there will be no more dianetics articles and a return to a varied selection of quality stories. Also, he reaches out to new writers to replace those he has lost to dianetics.

Editorial – John W Campbell Demonstrates Doublethink

ASF november 1950The first page of the November 1950 issue features the now-familiar advertisement encouraging subsrcribe to ASFreaders to take out a subscription to “Astounding” on the strength of  the magazine’s supposed discovery of the ‘new science’ of dianetics (image right).

This provides more free publicity for L Ron Hubbard’s burgeoning ‘dianetic research foundation’ whether or not this indicates  Campbell’s continuing commitment to the cause is now becoming a moot point.

In Campbell’s editorial (pg 4) he argues that no man has a right to an opinion that goes against demonstrable scientific facts. He states that leaders who act upon unsupported, irrational beliefs are now simply too dangerous in a nuclear-armed world.  This is a sensible and relevant observation, even today.

It is a pity that Campbell did not follow his own advice. Up until now, he had practically given “Astounding” over to the promotion of dianetics – a system which has no objective, scientific evidence whatsoever to support it.  By his own argument, his uncritical belief in Hubbard’s creation was irrational and potentially dangerous. He would soon regret this.

Dr Joseph Winter and “The General Adaptation Syndrome”

dianetics_-_a_doctors_report_joseph_a_winterBeginning on pg 76 is a non-fiction article by Joseph A Winter MD appears. Winters was a real doctor, who specialised in endocrinology. He was an occasional contributor to “Astounding” and member of the dianetics ‘inner circle’ with Hubbard and Campbell.

Unexpectedly, this article is a clever popular presentation of aspects of his own medical speciality. There is not a mention of dianetics, nor any evidence of its influence.

It will not be long now before Winter abandons his post as medical advisor to the Dianetics institutes and publishes a critical book.

“In Times to Come”

This article (on page 150) would normally contain news of upcoming articles and stories. This month, however, Campbell uses it to decisively distance “Astounding” from dianetics. Campbell seems to have belatedly realised the effect that his obsession with dianetics had been having not only upon his readers but also his contributors.

lost rene.pdf

We have seen that, during the time Campbell promoted dianetics, there was very little dissenting opinion published in “Astounding”. This does not mean to say that it did not exist – and it would also be  very interesting to see the circulation figures for this period.

50's pulpsCampbell’s article suggest that he has been forced to address a backlash from both readers and authors.

The readers may have been writing letters telling him that they wanted their science fiction back (or just buying rival publications with more stories in them). Also, Campbell’s authors may also have been turning to other pulp SF magazines to sell their wares. “Astounding” was known for the superior quality of its stories and Campbell could not afford to lose his best contributors to rivals as he had already lost two to dianetics (see above).

Rene Lafayette and L Ron Hubbard were, of course, the same person. A E Vogt initially abandoned fiction writing to run dianetics (and later Scientology)  in California. He would later return to his writing to subsidise the organisations that he headed – but would never again be a regular and reliable source of popular stories for Campbell.

Although the Dianetics Institutes were rapidly expanding and making a lot of money, “Astounding” saw none of it (except for a little income from its advertisements). Even the prestige that Campbell had expected to accrue to his magazine for introducing a ‘revolutionary science’ to the world was never to materialise. He was losing readers and authors and it was time to turn the ship around.

Campbell’s closing words, “I’ve gathered you like variety; I know I do” seen to translate to mean, ‘OK, I get the message. You don’t want dianetics hogging the magazine any more. You want that space used for SF stories – which is, after all, why you buy it. I promise to publish more good, varied stories in future’.

L Ron Hubbard Fiction on Sale

After an unprecedented period of promotion by Campbell, only four of Hubbard’s stories are on sale by mail order in this issue. On page 151 one retailer offers “Triton,” “Slaves of Sleep,” “Final Blackout” and  “Death’s Deputy” as part of a “five books for the price of three” deal.  Another bookseller (on page 153) offers no fiction by Hubbard at all.

Even at the height of his fame in the SF community, Hubbard’s books were evidently not flying out of the door.


dianetics letter.pdfDianetics receives one substantial mention on the letters page (pg 156) . It is made by a reader who has “[…] recently been engaged in dianetic therapy both as patient an auditor”.

He asks for “[…] a few pages, or at least paragraphs, in  each monthly issue devoted to a survey of progress made in the field of dianetics” and adds “[…] in first informing the public of Dianetics I feel  you have incurred the obligation to keep this public further informed.

Campbell takes the opportunity to quash this idea and drive the point home to readers that discussion of dianetics is now the business of Hubbard’s foundation – not “Astounding” (see his reply, right).

Science and Revelation – Another Reason Why Scientology Replaced Dianetics

NY free dianeticsAlongside this letter is a fascinating advertisement (pg 157). which reveals  the fatal flaw in L Ron Hubbard’s plans for dianetics.

Hubbard had presented dianetics as a rigorous science of the mind that could be practised by anyone, simply by following the guidance in his book on the subject.

Even as he was offering paid  ‘training courses’ in his new ‘Dianetics Institutes’ people in New York  were apparently taking him at his word, and setting up independent dianetics groups (see advertisement, left) from which he derived no income.

Even within the ‘Hubbard Dianetic Foundation’, the founder had a problem. Other people could now make ‘discoveries’ and perhaps become more popular than Hubbard and displace him. They, too, had taken him at his word and began pursuing their own ‘research’, which was beyond his control.

A traditional religious prophet did not face this difficulty. His revelations were unique, and only available from him. Hubbard had made the mistake of over-emphasising the ‘scientific’ aspect of dianetics and inadvertently made himself replaceable.

The Dianetics Institutes were soon to collapse, giving Hubbard the opportunity to insure that Scientology did not contain the same flaw. He largely succeeded. Even today, among Scientologists Hubbard is referred to as “Source”. This means is the only source of valid ‘research’ – in effect he has made himself a latter-day prophet dispensing unquestionable revelations as required, all dressed up in ‘scientific’ clothes.

The flaw in dianetics still persists to some extent in Scientology. If it really is a scientific endeavour, anyone ought to be able to study it and improve upon it. It is difficult to believe that L Ron Hubbard could have learned everything there was to know on the subject during his life.

The Church of Scientology has never found a  rational solution to this difficulty. It’s response has always been to ruthlessly suppress individual interpretations of its doctrines – and ruthlessly attacks any group which has set itself up to practice Scientology (or any variation thereupon) independently.

Traditionally, the Church of Scientology have been prepared to do anything it takes, including suing for copyright violation, outright harassment and persecution.

For now, however, the Dianetics Foundations were expanding – and made their only financial contribution to “Astounding” in the form of advertisements like this one, which appears on the very last page of the November 1950 issue.

Hubb diantetic courses.pdf

December 1950 Issue

ASF december 1950This issue is very light on dianetics.

The dianetics-related advertisement promoting subscriptions to “Astounding (also seen on page 1 of the previous issue) appears on page 2 .

A mail-order bookseller offerers three works of fiction by L Ron Hubbard on pg 149 (enter 75 in your .pdf reader to find it – this issue has been scanned two pages at a time)

A Real Prophet Speaks – and He’s a (Trainee) Psychiatrist

The first letter that it really critical of both Hubbard and Scientology is published in “Astounding” appears on pg 153 (77 for .pdf reader). It is worth showing in full.

critical letter

The writer chillingly anticipates a major criticism that has been levelled against Scientology.

Throughout its history. The Church of Scientology has demonised psychiatrists, and absolutely forbidden members from seeking psychiatric help – it even tries to prevent them reaching members of the public.

This can and does result in tragic consequences  – for example the death of Scientologist Elli Perkins at the hand of her Schizophrenic son, whom she deprived of appropriate treatment on the advice of her local Church of Scientology. according to teachings of L Ron Hubbard.

It’s worth repeating the prophetic words of the letter:

The real danger in such articles is that readers will first, be frightened away from recognized effective treatments, and second, that they will waste precious time on whatever-dianetics-is when they should be getting proper psychiatric treatment. Many mental diseases, like cancer, can be arrested if they are treated early, but are hopeless after the disease has progressed.

Campbell’s reply (right) is half-hearted. It totally fails to  address the central ASF critical letter replypoint  – that dianetics is nonsense, and involvement in it is likely to delay a person seeking real treatment for psychological problems, to his or her detriment.

In the past, Campbell would have replied that dianetics can cure all non-organic mental diseases, and psychiatry was obsolete. In this reply, however he is reduced to nit-picking, about whether psychiatry is  both recognised and effective.

He implies that dianetics is effective – but can not quite bring himself to say so.

The “Official Statistics” he refers to are not referenced, and and his suggestion that “75% of physical ailments stem from psychosomatic causes” is based on an assertion that “doctors have said” this. The 75% figure is, of course, really derived from the claim made by Hubbard that physical diseases (ranging from asthma to cancer) are caused by engrams.

You get the feeling that Campbell is still a believer… but is now beginning to hedge his bets as:

  • Dianetics fails to live up to Hubbard’s promises
  • Its prominence in “Astounding” is beginning to damage the reputation of the magazine.

Adding Insult to Injury

On pg 137 (79 for .pdf software) Hubbard’s book “Slaves of Sleep” is offered free with a subscription to “Astounding”. This was normally done with books that were failing to sell, in order to clear out the stockroom.

free hubbard book with sub

The relationship between L Ron Hubbard, John W Campbell and “Astounding Science Fiction” seems to be drawing to a close.


3 thoughts on “L Ron Hubbard and “Astounding” Part Company – Dianetics and Scientology in “Astounding Science Fiction” (Pt 13)

    • You are most welcome, as always.

      I have been surprised at how much more there was to the connection between “Astounding” and dianetics that that iconic May 1950 article. I think Scientologists would like everyone to believe that this was all there was to it, and Hubbard went from strength to strength after this ‘breakthrough’. As we have seen, this is far from the truth. The Hubbard Dianetic Institutes were soon to collapse, bankrupt, and the whole thing would have to be reinvented as Scientology.

      Since I have not yet read any Issues of “Astounding” later than 1950, I’m wondering myself if this series is effectively over. On the other hand, I have scans that go all the way to 1960. Watch this space…

  1. Pingback: L. Ron Hubbard Fiction on Sale

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.