Monday, February 21, 2011

The dawn of Dianetics

With the recent New Yorker exposé of Scientology and the news that the FBI is investigating the church over allegations of human trafficking, it's hard to remember those more innocent (naïve?) times when it was first unleashed on an unsuspecting world in the pages of a science fiction magazine. It was in John W. Campbell, Jr's Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950, that sf author L. Ron Hubbard's essay "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" first appeared, followed quickly by his book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

This relatively innocuous D.I.Y. pop-psychology book was the nucleus of what would later become the religion of Scientology. Although the book failed to impress practicing psychologists such as Eric Fromm, who observed that "Hubbard's book can hardly be taken seriously as a scientific contribution...", it appealed to others, notably William S. Burroughs. It also struck a cord among several sf authors, such as Campbell, James Blish, and A. E. Van Vogt, who ran a Dianetics Center in L.A. for years. And while many of those early adherents quickly became disillusioned with the new religion the initial enthusiasm felt by some can be glimpsed in this review of the book by Blish for Planet Stories.

Dianetics: A Door to the Future

By James Blish

An increased life-span, freedom from 70% of all human illnesses and a major increase in intelligence - these are only a few of the benefits promised us by a new science called "dianetics."

"Dianetics" is both the name of a recent book about how the human mind operates, and the general term used to cover specific methods of repairing, healing and perfecting the human mind.

Just how does the human mind work? Up to a few years ago nobody really knew.

Why does the human mind fail to work efficiently at times, or all the time ? Another mystery.

If the claims made for the new science of dianetics are borne out, both those mysteries are now solved. Some of these claims are so flabbergasting as to stagger even the hardened science-fiction fan. For instance:

Dianetics claims to have cured many types of heart ailment, arthritis, the common cold, stomach ulcers, sinus trouble, asthma, and many other diseases, amounting to about 70% of the whole catalogue of human ills.

Dianetics also claims to have cured virtually every known form of mental disease. These cures have encompassed the severest form of insanity, workers in dianetics declare flatly.

Furthermore — and in this claim (among others) lies dianetics' bid to be called a science - dianetics claims to be able to cure all these aberrations and diseases every time, without fail. At the time this is being written, some months before you will read it, dianetics has been tried on a minimum of 500 people, and, its originators say, has worked 100% without failure in all these cases.

Nor is this all, fantastic though what Fve already written may seem to be. Use of dianetic therapy on so-called "normal" people seems to produce changes in them which can only be described as dynamite.

"Normal" people treated by dianetic therapy, it's said, undergo a rise in intelligence, efficiency, and well-being averaging a third above their previous capacity! In one case, a woman, the IQ — intelligence quotient — rose 50 points before the full course of therapy was run!

Such "clears," as they are called, are said to be immune to any and all forms of mental disease, and to any and all forms of organic diseases caused by mental or emotional difficulties.

It might be a good idea to stop here and ask the names of the people who are making these incredible claims. They are none of them professional quacks, faith-healers, bread-pill rollers, or other forms of swindlers. They are all men with solid reputations, and all, as it happens, quite familiar to the science-fiction reader.

The leader of the new school of thought is L. Ron Hubbard, author of "Fear," "Final Blackout," and many other science-fiction classics. By trade, Hubbard is an engineer.

Hubbard's two principal confreres are John W. Campbell, Jr., and Dr. Joseph E. Winter. Mr. Campbell, of course, is widely known even to the general public as a government consultant in nuclear physics, the author of "The Atomic Story," and to us as the editor of a top-notch science-fiction magazine. Dr. Winter, who by the way is an M.D., not a Ph.D., has published some science-fiction stories; but until dianetics came along, he was best known as an expert endocrinologist of unimpeachable reputation.

Hubbard's book,* however, does not include any formal evidence for the claims. The Dianetics Institute in Elizabeth, N. J., is equally unwilling to offer authenticated case records or any other evidence of that specific kind. The book, dianetics men point out, offers the therapy procedures in complete detail. If you want case histories, perform your own experiments.

As it happens, one of the more spectacular cures claimed by dianetics took place in the New York area, and could be checked from outside sources. Jerome Bixby, editor of Planet Stories, checked it. The claim was so; hospital authorities who have no connection with dianetics as a movement vouch for it, cautiously but definitely.

My own personal tests of the therapy — on my-self, my wife, and a friend (namely, Jerome Bixby) — haven't proceeded very far as yet. But as far as they've gone, they check with the claims. The phenomena Hubbard describes in the book do appear. They appear in the order in which he says they appear. And they match his descriptions of them to the letter. Such after-effects as we've been able to observe also check.

If dianetics does work — and every check I've been able to run thus far indicates that it does - it may well be the most important discovery of this or any other century. It will bring the long-sought "rule of reason" to the problems of local and world politics, communication, law, and almost every other field of human endeavor — the goal of a 3000 year search.

♦DIANETICS, by L. Ron Hubbard. Hermitage House, New York, 1950; $4.00. Hermitage, by the way, is the publisher of a number of books on psychology and psychoanalysis universally acknowledged to be serious contributions to the field.

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