Dianetics is a set of ideas and practices regarding the metaphysical relationship between the mind and body created by L. Ron Hubbard; Dianetics is practiced by followers of Scientology and separate independent Dianeticist groups. Hubbard coined Dianetics from the Greek stems dia, meaning "through," and nous, meaning "mind." Dianetics has achieved no acceptance as a scientific theory and is a widely accepted example of a pseudoscience.
Dianetics divides the mind into three parts: the conscious "analytical mind," the subconscious "reactive mind," and the somatic mind. The goal of Dianetics is to remove the "reactive mind," which Scientologists believe prevents people from becoming more ethical, more aware, happier and saner. The Dianetics procedure to achieve this is called "auditing." Auditing is a process whereby a series of questions is asked by the Dianetic auditor to help a person locate and deal with painful experiences of the past, which Scientologists believe to be the content of the "reactive mind."
Practitioners of Dianetics believe that "the basic principle of existence is to survive" and that the basic personality of humans is sincere, intelligent, and good. The drive for goodness and survival is distorted and inhibited by aberrations "ranging from simple neuroses to different psychotic states to various kinds of sociopathic behavior patterns." Hubbard developed Dianetics, claiming that it could eradicate these aberrations.
When Hubbard formulated Dianetics, he described it as "a mix of Western technology and Oriental philosophy". He said that Dianetics "forms a bridge between" cybernetics and General Semantics (a set of ideas about education originated by Alfred Korzybski, which received much attention in the science fiction world in the 1940s) — a claim denied by scholars of General Semantics, including S. I. Hayakawa, who expressed strong criticism of Dianetics as early as 1951. Hubbard claimed that Dianetics could increase intelligence, eliminate unwanted emotions and alleviate a wide range of illnesses he believed to be psychosomatic. Among the conditions purportedly treated were arthritis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, ulcers, migraine headaches, 'sexual deviation' (a category which for Hubbard included homosexuality) and even death. Hubbard asserted that "memories of painful physical and emotional experiences accumulate in a specific region of the mind, causing illness and mental problems." He taught that "once these experiences have been purged through cathartic procedures he developed, a person can achieve superior health and intelligence." Hubbard also variously defined Dianetics as "a spiritual healing technology" and "an organized science of thought."
Dianetics predates Hubbard's classification of Scientology as "applied religious philosophy." Early in 1951, he expanded his writings to include teachings related to the soul, or "thetan." Dianetics is practiced by several independent Dianetics-only groups not connected with Scientology,[clarification needed] and also Free Zone or Independent Scientologists. The Church of Scientology disapproves of independent Scientology activities and has prosecuted them in court for misappropriation of Scientology and Dianetics copyrights and trademarks.
Hubbard always claimed that his ideas of Dianetics originated in the 1920s and 1930s. By his own account, he spent a great deal of time in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital's library, where he encountered the work of Freud and other psychoanalysts. In April 1950, Hubbard and several others established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey to coordinate work related for the forthcoming publication. Hubbard first introduced Dianetics to the public in the article Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science published in the May 1950 issue of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health at that time, allegedly completing the 180,000-word book in six weeks.
The success of selling Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health brought in a flood of money, which Hubbard used to establish Dianetics foundations in six major American cities. The scientific and medical communities were far less enthusiastic about Dianetics, viewing it with bemusement, concern, or outright derision. Complaints were made against local Dianetics practitioners for allegedly practicing medicine without a license. This eventually prompted Dianetics advocates to disclaim any medicinal benefits in order to avoid regulation.
Hubbard explained the backlash as a response from various entities trying to co-opt Dianetics for their own use. Hubbard blamed the hostile press coverage in particular on a plot by the American Communist Party. In later years, Hubbard decided that the psychiatric profession was the origin of all of the criticism of Dianetics, as he believed it secretly controlled most of the world's governments.
By the autumn of 1950, financial problems had developed, and by November 1950, the six foundations had spent around one million dollars and were more than $200,000 in debt. Disagreements emerged over the direction of the Dianetic Foundation's work, and relations between the board members became strained, with several leaving, even to support causes critical of Dianetics. One example was Harvey Jackins, founder of Re-evaluation Counselling, originally a sort of discrete reworking of Dianetics, which L Ron Hubbard later declared suppressive to Scientology.
In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners instituted proceedings against the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth for teaching medicine without a licence. The Foundation closed its doors, causing the proceedings to be vacated, but its creditors began to demand settlement of its outstanding debts. Don Purcell, a millionaire Dianeticist from Wichita, Kansas, offered a brief respite from bankruptcy, but the Foundation's finances failed again in 1952.
Because of a sale of assets resulting from the bankruptcy, Hubbard no longer owned the rights to the name "Dianetics", but its philosophical framework still provided the seed for Scientology to grow. Scientologists refer to the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health as "Book One." In 1952, Hubbard published a new set of teachings as "Scientology, a religious philosophy." Scientology did not replace Dianetics but extended it to cover new areas: Where the goal of Dianetics is to rid the individual of his reactive mind engrams, the stated goal of Scientology is to rehabilitate the individual's spiritual nature so that he may reach his full potential.
In 1978, Hubbard released New Era Dianetics (NED), a revised version supposed to produce better results in a shorter period of time. The course consists of 11 rundowns and requires a specifically trained auditor. It is run (processed) exactly like Standard Dianetics, widely practiced before the advent of NED, except the pre-clear (parishioner) is encouraged to find the "postulate" he made as a result of the incident. ("Postulate" in Dianetics and Scientology has the meaning of "a conclusion, decision or resolution made by the individual himself; to conclude, decide or resolve a problem or to set a pattern for the future or to nullify a pattern of the past" in contrast to its conventional meanings.)
In the book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, Hubbard describes techniques that he suggests can rid individuals of fears and psychosomatic illnesses. A basic idea in Dianetics is that the mind consists of two parts: the "analytical mind" and the "reactive mind." The "reactive mind", the mind which operates when a person is physically unconscious, acts as a record of shock, trauma, pain, and otherwise harmful memories. Experiences such as these, stored in the "reactive mind" are dubbed "engrams". Dianetics is a proposed method to erase these "engrams" in the "reactive mind" to achieve a state of "Clear". A "Clear" is one who is thought to no longer possess his reactive mind.
By his own admission, Hubbard made what he considered was one of the greatest mistakes of his life when he used the biological definition of engram as a "trace on a cell", which was not in line with the proper biological definition.
Hubbard described Dianetics as "an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences". These Dianetic axioms can be found in Hubbard books such as Scientology 0-8: The Book of Basics and Advanced Procedure and Axioms. Unlike conventional therapies, Hubbard said, Dianetics would work every time if applied properly and "will invariably cure all psychosomatic ills and human aberrations." In April 1950, before the public release of Dianetics, he wrote: "To date, over two hundred patients have been treated; of those two hundred, two hundred cures have been obtained."
In Dianetics, the unconscious or reactive mind is described as a collection of "mental image pictures," which contain the recorded experience of past moments of unconsciousness, including all sensory perceptions and feelings involved, ranging from pre-natal experiences, infancy and childhood, even the traumatic feelings associated events from past lives and alien cultures. The type of mental image picture created during a period of unconsciousness involves the exact recording of a painful experience. Hubbard called this phenomenon an engram, and defined it as "a complete recording of a moment of unconsciousness containing physical pain or painful emotion and all perceptions."
Hubbard proposed that painful physical or emotional traumas caused "aberrations" (deviations from rational thinking) in the mind, which produced lasting adverse physical and emotional effects, similar to conversion disorders. When the analytical (conscious) mind shut down during these moments, events and perceptions of this period were stored as engrams in the unconscious or reactive mind. (In Hubbard's earliest publications on the subject, engrams were variously referred to as "Norns", "Impediments," and "comanomes" before "engram" was adapted from its existing usage at the suggestion of Joseph Winter.) Some commentators noted Dianetics's blend of science fiction and occult orientations at the time.
Hubbard claimed that these engrams are the cause of almost all psychological and physical problems. In addition to physical pain, engrams could include words or phrases spoken in the vicinity while the patient was unconscious. For instance, Winter cites the example of a patient with a persistent headache supposedly tracing the problem to a doctor saying, "Take him now," during the patient's birth. Hubbard similarly claimed that leukemia is traceable to "an engram containing the phrase 'It turns my blood to water.'" While it is sometimes claimed that the Church of Scientology no longer stands by Hubbard's claims that Dianetics can treat physical conditions, it still publishes them: "... when the knee injuries of the past are located and discharged, the arthritis ceases, no other injury takes its place and the person is finished with arthritis of the knee." "[The reactive mind] can give a man arthritis, bursitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, coronary trouble, high blood pressure ... And it is the only thing in the human being which can produce these effects ... Discharge the content of [the reactive mind] and the arthritis vanishes, myopia gets better, heart illness decreases, asthma disappears, stomachs function properly and the whole catalog of ills goes away and stays away."
Some of the psychometric ideas in Dianetics, in particular the E-meter, can be traced to Carl Jung. Basic concepts, including conversion disorder, are derived from Sigmund Freud, whom Hubbard credited as an inspiration and source. Freud had speculated 40 years previously that traumas with similar content join together in "chains," embedded in the unconscious mind, to cause irrational responses in the individual. Such a chain would be relieved by inducing the patient to remember the earliest trauma, "with an accompanying expression of emotion."
According to Bent Corydon, Hubbard created the illusion that Dianetics was the first psychotherapy to address traumatic experiences in their own time, but others had done so as standard procedure.
One treatment method Hubbard drew from in developing Dianetics was abreaction therapy. Abreaction is a psychoanalytical term that means bringing to consciousness, and thus adequate expression, material that has been unconscious. "It includes not only the recollection of forgotten memories and experience, but also their reliving with appropriate emotional display and discharge of effect. This process is usually facilitated by the patient's gaining awareness of the causal relationship between the previously undischarged emotion and his symptoms."
According to Hubbard, before Dianetics psychotherapists had dealt with very light and superficial incidents (e.g. an incident that reminds the patient of a moment of loss), but with Dianetic therapy, the patient could actually erase moments of pain and unconsciousness. He emphasized: "The discovery of the engram is entirely the property of Dianetics. Methods of its erasure are also owned entirely by Dianetics..."
While 1950 style Dianetics was in some respects similar to older therapies, with the development of New Era Dianetics in 1978, the similarity vanished. New Era Dianetics uses an E-Meter and a rote procedure for running chains of related traumatic incidents.
Dianetics clarifies the understanding of psychosomatic illness in terms of predisposition, precipitation, and prolongation.
HCO Bulletin 11 July 1973RB
Injury and illness are PREDISPOSED by the spiritual state of the person. They are PRECIPITATED by the being himself as a manifestation of his current spiritual condition. And they are PROLONGED by any failure to fully handle the spiritual factors associated with them.
— Hubbard, LR, Assist Summary
With the use of Dianetics techniques, Hubbard claimed, the reactive mind could be processed and all stored engrams could be refiled as experience. The central technique was "auditing," a two-person question-and-answer therapy designed to isolate and dissipate engrams (or "mental masses"). An auditor addresses questions to a subject, observes and records the subject's responses, and returns repeatedly to experiences or areas under discussion that appear painful until the troubling experience has been identified and confronted. Through repeated applications of this method, the reactive mind could be "cleared" of its content having outlived its usefulness in the process of evolution; a person who has completed this process would be "Clear".
The benefits of going Clear, according to Hubbard, were dramatic. A Clear would have no compulsions, repressions, psychoses or neuroses, and would enjoy a near-perfect memory as well as a rise in IQ of as much as 50 points. He also claimed that "the atheist is activated by engrams as thoroughly as the zealot". He further claimed that widespread application of Dianetics would result in "A world without insanity, without criminals and without war."
According to the Scientology journal The Auditor, the total number of "Clears" as of May 2006 stands at 50,311.
Scientific evaluation and criticisms
Hubbard's original book on Dianetics attracted highly critical reviews from science and medical writers and organizations. The American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1950 calling "attention to the fact that these claims are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations." Subsequently, Dianetics has achieved no acceptance as a scientific theory and scientists cite Dianetics as an example of a pseudoscience.
In August 1950, amidst the success of Dianetics, Hubbard held a demonstration in Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium where he presented a young woman called Sonya Bianca (a pseudonym) to a large audience including many reporters and photographers as 'the world's first Clear.' However, despite Hubbard's claim that she had "full and perfect recall of every moment of her life", Bianca proved unable to answer questions from the audience testing her memory and analytical abilities, including the question of the color of Hubbard's tie. Hubbard explained Bianca's failure to display her promised powers of recall to the audience by saying that he had used the word "now" in calling her to the stage, and thus inadvertently froze her in "present time," which blocked her abilities. Later, in the late 1950s, Hubbard would claim that several people had reached the state of Clear by the time he presented Bianca as the world's first; these others, Hubbard said, he had successfully cleared in the late 1940s while working incognito in Hollywood posing as a swami. In 1966, Hubbard declared South African Scientologist John McMaster to be the first true Clear. McMaster left the Sea Org in November 1969, expressing continuing belief in the Scientology Tech, but disapproval of the way Scientology was managed.
Few scientific investigations into the effectiveness of Dianetics have been published. Professor John A. Lee states in his 1970 evaluation of Dianetics:
- Objective experimental verification of Hubbard's physiological and psychological doctrines is lacking. To date, no regular scientific agency has established the validity of his theories of prenatal perception and engrams, or cellular memory, or Dianetic reverie, or the effects of Scientology auditing routines. Existing knowledge contradicts Hubbard's theory of recording of perceptions during periods of unconsciousness.
The MEDLINE database records two independent scientific studies on Dianetics, both conducted in the 1950s under the auspices of New York University. Harvey Jay Fischer tested Dianetics therapy against three claims made by proponents and found it does not effect any significant changes in intellectual functioning, mathematical ability, or the degree of personality conflicts; Jack Fox tested Hubbard's thesis regarding recall of engrams, with the assistance of the Dianetic Research Foundation, and could not substantiate it.
Hubbard claimed, in an interview with the New York Times in November 1950, that "he had already submitted proof of claims made in the book to a number of scientists and associations." He added that the public as well as proper organizations were entitled to such proof and that he was ready and willing to give such proof in detail. In January 1951, the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation of Elizabeth, NJ published Dianetic Processing: A Brief Survey of Research Projects and Preliminary Results, a booklet providing the results of psychometric tests conducted on 88 people undergoing Dianetics therapy. It presents case histories and a number of X-ray plates to support claims that Dianetics had cured "aberrations" including manic depression, asthma, arthritis, colitis and "overt homosexuality," and that after Dianetic processing, test subjects experienced significantly increased scores on a standardized IQ test. The report's subjects are not identified by name, but one of them is clearly Hubbard himself ("Case 1080A, R. L.").
The authors provide no qualifications, although they are described in Hubbard's book Science of Survival (where some results of the same study were reprinted) as psychotherapists. Critics of Dianetics are skeptical of this study, both because of the bias of the source and because the researchers appear to ascribe all physical benefits to Dianetics without considering possible outside factors; in other words, the report lacks any scientific controls. J.A. Winter, M.D., originally an associate of Hubbard and an early adopter of Dianetics, had by the end of 1950 cut his ties with Hubbard and written an account of his personal experiences with Dianetics. He described Hubbard as "absolutistic and authoritarian", and criticized the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation for failing to undertake "precise scientific research into the functioning of the mind". He also recommended that auditing be done by experts only and that it was dangerous for laymen to audit each other. Hubbard writes: "Again, Dianetics is not being released to a profession, for no profession could encompass it."
Commentators from a variety of backgrounds have described Dianetics as an example of pseudoscience—that is, information presented as scientific that fails to meet the criteria for science. For example, philosophy professor Robert Carroll points to Dianetics' lack of empirical evidence:
- What Hubbard touts as a science of mind lacks one key element that is expected of a science: empirical testing of claims. The key elements of Hubbard's so-called science don't seem testable, yet he repeatedly claims that he is asserting only scientific facts and data from many experiments. It isn't even clear what such "data" would look like. Most of his data is in the form of anecdotes and speculations ... Such speculation is appropriate in fiction, but not in science.
W. Sumner Davis similarly comments that
- Dianetics is nothing more than an example of pseudoscience trying to legitimize itself ... Hubbard, had he indeed been a scientist, would have known that truth is not built on axioms, and facts cannot be found from some a-priori knowledge. A true science is constructed on hypotheses, which are arrived at by the virtue of observed phenomena. Scientific knowledge is gained by observation and testing, not believing from some subconscious stipulation, as Hubbard would have us believe.
Procedure in practice
The procedure of Dianetics therapy (known as auditing) is a two-person activity. One person, the "auditor", guides the other person, the "pre-clear". The pre-Clear's job is to look at the mind and talk to the auditor. The auditor acknowledges what the pre-Clear says and controls the process so the pre-Clear may put his full attention on his work.
The auditor and pre-Clear sit down in chairs facing each other. The process then follows in eleven distinct steps:
- 1. The auditor assures the pre-Clear that he will be fully aware of everything that happens during the session.
- 2. The pre-Clear is instructed to close his eyes for the session, entering a state of "dianetic reverie", signified by "a tremble of the lashes". During the session, the preclear remains in full possession of his will and retains full recall thereafter.
- 3. The auditor installs a "canceller", an instruction intended to absolutely cancel any form of positive suggestion that could accidentally occur. This is done by saying "In the future, when I utter the word 'cancelled,' everything I have said to you while you are in a therapy session will be cancelled and will have no force with you. Any suggestion I may have made to you will be without force when I say the word 'cancelled.' Do you understand?"
- 4. The auditor then asks the pre-Clear to locate an exact record of something that happened to the pre-Clear in his past: "Locate an incident that you feel you can comfortably face."
- 5. The pre-Clear is invited by the auditor to "Go through the incident and say what is happening as you go along."
- 6a. The auditor instructs the pre-Clear to recall as much as possible of the incident, going over it several times "until the pre-Clear is cheerful about it".
- 6b. When the pre-Clear is cheerful about an incident, the auditor instructs the pre-Clear to locate another incident: "Let's find another incident that you feel you can comfortably face." The process outlined at steps 5 and 6a then repeats until the auditing session's time limit (usually two hours or so) is reached.
- 7. The pre-Clear is then instructed to "return to present time".
- 8. The auditor checks to make sure that the pre-Clear feels himself to be in "present time", i.e., not still recalling a past incident.
- 9. The auditor gives the pre-Clear the canceller word: "Very good. Cancelled."
- 10. The auditor tells the pre-Clear to feel alert and return to full awareness of his surroundings: "When I count from five to one and snap my fingers you will feel alert. Five, four, three, two, one." (snaps fingers)
Auditing sessions are kept confidential. This has come into question, though, as confidential information has been used to blackmail possible defectors (see Fair Game). A few transcripts of auditing sessions with confidential information removed have been published as demonstration examples. Some extracts can be found in Dr. J.A. Winter's book Dianetics: A Doctor's Report. Other, more comprehensive, transcripts of auditing sessions carried out by Hubbard himself can be found in volume 1 of the Research & Discovery Series (Bridge Publications, 1980). Examples of public group processing sessions can be found throughout the Congresses lecture series. Recently, a rash of ex-Scientologists, most notably actor Jason Beghe, have come forward with claims that not only are audits verbally recorded and kept in a file, which was the concern of actor Leah Remini after her departure, but also videotaped by cameras placed sporadically around the auditing room.
According to Hubbard, auditing enables the pre-Clear to "contact" and "release" engrams stored in the reactive mind, relieving him of the physical and mental aberrations connected with them. The pre-Clear is asked to inspect and familiarize himself with the exact details of his own experience; the auditor may not tell him anything about his case or evaluate any of the information the pre-Clear finds.
The validity and practice of auditing have been questioned by a variety of non-Scientologist commentators. Commenting on the example cited by Winter, the science writer Martin Gardner asserts that "nothing could be clearer from the above dialogue than the fact that the dianetic explanation for the headache existed only in the mind of the therapist, and that it was with considerable difficulty that the patient was maneuvered into accepting it."
Other critics and medical experts have suggested that Dianetic auditing is a form of hypnosis, although the Church of Scientology has strongly denied that hypnosis forms any part of Dianetics. To the contrary, L. Ron Hubbard expressly warns not to use any hypnosis or hypnosis-like methods, because a person under hypnosis would be receptive to suggestions. This would decrease his self-determinism instead of increasing it, which is one of the prime goals of Dianetics. Winter  comments that the leading nature of the questions asked of a pre-Clear "encourage fantasy", a common issue also encountered with hypnosis, which can be used to form false memories. The auditor is instructed not to make any assessment of a recalled memory's reality or accuracy, but instead to treat it as if it were objectively real. Professor Richard J. Ofshe, a leading expert on false memories, suggests that the feeling of well-being reported by pre-Clear at the end of an auditing session may be induced by post-hypnotic suggestion. According to Hubbard: "Laughter is definitely the relief of painful emotion."
According to Hubbard, the majority of the people interested in the subject believed they could accomplish therapy alone. "It cannot be done" and he adds: "If a patient places himself in autohypnosis and regresses himself in an effort to reach illness or birth or prenatals, the only thing he will get is ill".
- See e.g. Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science; Bauer, Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method and Science Or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies; Corsini et al., The Dictionary of Psychology.
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- This description is based on "The Dianetics Procedure - 10 Simple Steps"
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- "The 'Scientology Organization' (SO) as of July 2003", chapter 2, Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz Baden-Wuerttemberg, 2003
- "What is auditing?", Church of Scientology International
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- "A Very Brief Overview of Scientology", Richard E. Ofshe, Ph.D.
- Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health, ibid. p. 147
- Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health -5oth anniversary edition- pp. 443-4.
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- Behard, Richard: The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power, Time.com 
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