Fortnight on Dianetics Sept. 1950
29 Dec 2000
"frank howell" <email@example.com>
Lo, the Poor Scientific Mind!
Dianetics Has Caught the Public Fancy
and Left the Solemn Academic
Theorist Loaded with Horrible Engrams
Fortnight, 15 September 1950
It would be an amusing and strange fact and a rather disturbing one to the academic world should it transpire that one of the major scientific discoveries of the 20th century was announced - not in the pages of a learned professional journal nor in a government press release - but in a popular pulp magazine called Astounding Science Fiction.
Dianetics, "the modern science of mental health" as it is termed by its author, L. Ron Hubbard, continues to astound. In the space of four months it has become a serious rival of psychiatry. Whereas the theories of Freud, Jung and Adler made their way slowly in the world, resisted by professional and layman alike, dianetics has gained overwhelming acceptance by thousands of the lay public and the cautious approval of a handful of MD's and psychiatrists.
The bulk of professional opinion, however, bitterly condemns dianetics where it does not ignore it entirely. Hubbard, the PhD's savagely comment, should have stuck to science fiction instead of using his considerable talents to delude a gullible public. Whether dianetics is merely a spectacular theory without substance or is destined to become a major social science remains to be tested by the world. Its originator, at any rate, appears to have no doubt concerning its scope and application to the riddle of human behavior. Medical dianetics, political dianetics, judiciary dianetics, and educational dianetics are among the areas claimed by Hubbard for his new science of the mind.
The Originator. Red-haired and six feet tall, Hubbard is a mathematician, writer and a former naval officer. His friend, John W, Campbell, broke the news of dianetics in the May issue of Astounding Science Fiction, of which he is the editor. Campbell is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of The Atomic Story. Another science-fiction writer, A. E. Van Vogt, is an officer in the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Los Angeles. Van Vogt is the author of The World of A, a science-fiction novel based upon the concepts of general semantics.
In formulating dianetics, Hubbard has drawn chiefly upon such sciences as psychology, psychiatry, biology, general semantics and cybernetics. While the most obvious comparison is with psychiatry, it is clear that general semantics and cybernetics play an especially important part in Hubbard's theoretical structure. He claims as philosophical pilots Lucretius, Francis Bacon, and Herbert Spencer. Ancient Hindu writings and the strange practices of tribal medicine men also were explored. In place of the conscious, fore-conscious and unconscious of Freud, Hubbard postulates an analytical, somatic, and reactive mind. Freud thought of consciousness simply as an organ of perception. Similarly, Hubbard's analytical mind is engaged upon perceiving and retaining data, composing or computing conclusions and posing and resolving problems.
Beyond this point the concepts of psychiatry and dianetics sharply diverge. The unconscious of Freud is the seat of instincts which are in conflict with man's ego and super-ego. This conflict is the source of the individual's difficulty. On the contrary, Hubbard says, the source of man's irrational behavior lies in the reactive mind which stores engrams. An engram is simply a moment of unconsciousness containing physical pain or painful emotion. During such periods, when the analytical mind is totally or partially out of circuit, recordings are made by the organism at the cellular level. These recordings form the content of the reactive mind. Hubbard terms this the reactive mind because engrams react so powerfully upon the analytical mind and the somatic mind, the latter being that part of the mind which controls the physical functioning of the organism.
'I've Been Here Before." The recordings made by engrams are quite precise. All perceptions such as sounds and smells are faithfully registered. From the moment engrams are received they become a potential source of aberration. Every time a situation is encountered similar to the one recorded by the engram there ensues an attenuation of analytical power; the subject suddenly feels the same as he did when the engram was received or else he dramatizes the engram.
All recordings are aberrative in their effect upon the individual but engrams containing words are especially vicious. This follows from the engram's command power over the organism. Since the analytical mind was out of circuit or in the process of being cellularly constructed there is no evaluation of data. Hence engrams containing such phrases as "I've been sick all my life," "I'm no good," "I can't do anything well," will, when keyed-in by a situation similar to that when such phrases were first spoken, render the subject sick, no good, and unable to do anything. Such, at least, is Hubbard's theory. If correct, it follows that we get a type of behavior which may be termed reactive, since it follows the content of the recordings in the reactive mind.
The Pre-Clear. Dianetic therapy or "processing," as it is now termed, consists in returning the analytical mind of the "pre-clear" to the period when the engram was received. This is accomplished by placing the person in "reverie." The pre-clear is merely requested to close his eyes and "return" to the incident.
There is a difference, Hubbard maintains, between "returning" and "remembering." By "returning" one fully re-experiences the incident-any incident, not merely those contained in engrams. Indeed, those contained in engrams are very difficult to reach. Dianetic technique consists in rendering engrams accessible.
Just how the dianetic reverie differs from a hypnotic state is not altogether clear. However, those who have experimented with it, including professional hypnotists, appear not to doubt that there is a distinction. Former hypnotists who have taken professional training under the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation are now busily engaged in removing by reverie the engrams laid in the subject's mind by hypnosis. In reverie most people are fully conscious of their immediate surroundings even though they have fully returned to an incident. Another indication of the difference between the two states is said to lie in the fact that the subject who slides into a trance state- - the naturally hypnotic subject - gradually attains the ability to work with full awareness. A "clear" (one from whom dianetic processing has removed all engrams) is supposed to possess the ability to return at will anywhere along his "time track."
The Refiling. The theory behind reverie is that when the analytical mind is returned to an engram it is able to evaluate the data received when the subject was unconscious or when analytical power was otherwise attenuated. The recording at the cellular level is contacted and played off until the phrases refile in the standard "memory banks" as experience, following which they are no longer a source of aberration.
In dianetic processing moments of painful emotion are treated and run as engrams. The theory is that such moments depress the tone scale of the individual to the point where he approximates the level of the physical pain engrams, which there-upon seize the painful emotion and hold it stored in the engram bank along with moments of physical pain. Processing therefore has a dual purpose: that of discharging moments of physical pain and painful emotion from the engram bank which comprises the reactive mind.
Example. The role of the "auditor" in processing is to direct the pre-clear along his "time track" which extends from conception to "present time." Originally the conception sequence, which is referred to in Hubbard's book as the "sperm dream," was not thought to be important. Today it is standard dianetic practice to run it as early as possible. Here is a typical conception incident as noted by the auditor of one pre-clear re-counting this experience: "Eyes seem hot. A sensation of motion, of moving upstream. Feels self as a shape which is flat on top, tapering to a tail. Pressure on the eyes and on the head above the eyes, A feeling of moving along a channel. A feeling of coming to the end of something and making contact with a spheroid shape. As this happens, a sharp pain in the head. A feeling of dropping down into something and then a feeling of joining and unification."
The auditor who ran this incident had the pre-clear reexperience it ten times before it reduced to the point where no somatics were experienced. A somatic in dianetic terminology is any pain or bodily feeling present in the engram. All engrams, including moments of painful emotion, are run in this manner. The pain in the engram is thereby discharged. Since an engram is simply a moment of pain or unconsciousness, this means that the engram itself has been erased and in its place is merely a notation in the memory banks that such and such an experience occurred.
First Is Worst. From Hubbard's cellular theory of the reactive mind, it follows that the most severely aberrative engrams are received from conception through birth. The axiom is that the earlier the engram the more aberrative. Since the millions of cells which comprise the mature organism are all lineal descend-ants of the original fertilized egg, any recording by the early cellular structure permeates the entire organism and is more deeply impressed upon it. The really basic area is supposed to lie between conception and the first missed menstrual period.
In his book, Science and Sanity, the late Count Alfred Korzybski criticized psychiatrists for paying too little attention to the colloidal structure of life, stating that their arguments about the body-mind problem are still incomplete and unconvincing. Defining colloidal behavior as a physico-electrochemical occurrence, the father of the science of general semantics suggested that new fields for the study, of living cells lay open and of the "optimum conditions for their development, sanity included."
"There is much evidence," Korzybski wrote, "that the mechanical work of the muscles, the secretory action of the glands, and the electrical work of the nerve cells are closely connected with the colloidal structure of these tissues. This would explain why any factor (semantic reactions included) capable of altering the colloidal structure of the living protoplasm must have a marked effect on the behavior and welfare of the organism."
Korzybski had a great many more pertinent comments to make which suggest that Hubbard's theory of mental health is not so far-fetched as it at first sounds. (See especially Chapter IX, Science and Sanity.) In general, such famed psychiatrists as the Menninger Brothers of the Menninger Clinic, Dr. Rollo May and Dr. Fredric Wertham have not faced up to the fundamental scientific questions raised by Hubbard, namely:
Do living cells have the ability to record? Do such recordings occur during moments of pain and unconsciousness? If so, are such recordings the source of mental aberrations? Does dianetics provide a valid technique for recovering and discharging the effect of these cellular recordings? Cautious Cynicism. Instead of testing and evaluating dianetics upon this objective basis, the psychiatrists currently are offering the public such comments as the following:
"Hubbard ... proceeds to appropriate psychiatric terms and to give his own meaning to them, so that the average reader who is unacquainted with psychiatric language becomes thoroughly confused." (Dr. John W. Pratt, Los Angeles Menninger associate.)
"None of it is either new or novel. It has been practiced in one form or another since time began. In many parts of the world, where the aborigines dwell, it is considerably more popular than it is in Los Angeles." (Dr. Frederick J. Hacker, Beverly Hills psychiatrist.)
Way Out. Of course, there is no denying the fact that dianetics has provided an enormous psychological compensation to modern man. In view of what science is accomplishing, it is certainly soothing to be told that the human brain perceives. records and produces the optimum solution in terms of the data available to it. Who wouldn't want to be a "clear"-that optimum individual who can return at will along his "time track" and contact all past experience in Technicolor, who has available to him anything he has seen, read or heard? Isn't it fine that the basic nature of man is good, without exception?
Given these assumptions, it is little wonder that a considerable section of the populace is now reclining on its back when it is not sitting in the auditor's chair, either returning or directing a return down the time track.
Hubbard's "fantastic" claims, however, do not necessarily invalidate his theory. Whether and when a "clear" state is reached can be objectively determined. Simply stated, the clear has available all the data of a lifetime. If the clear state can be produced it can be easily measured. And if certain people do indeed attain it, others will go on to do so, no matter what the "authorities" say.
Popularizing. Hubbard's book is written in a racy language that has scandalized the professional world. Knowing Americans are a mechanically minded and pragmatic people, he has deliberately employed a down-to-earth terminology that gets across some rather complicated ideas. It is evident that he has put his knowledge of general semantics to expert use. And to use a favorite dianetic expression, his "computation" on breaking the news of his theory in Astounding Science Fiction was a masterpiece of public relations which at once assured him of an audience which could take such astonishing news in its stride.
Apparently a lot of people applying the techniques Hubbard has outlined are at least getting some of the predicted phenomena contained in engrams. As long as this happens, to put it facetiously, a lot of people will continue to truck down the time track and do a somatic strip tease. The somatic strip, in case you haven't read Hubbard's best-seller, is a switchboard of some sort in the brain which is capable of reaching the somatics contained in engrams.
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