Dianetics book review
by Robert D. Brookes, M.D.
October 29, 1950
"Dianetics, the New Science of Psychological Health"
Edward Lear was the master of implausible nonsense. For this title in the field of the plausible, I nominate the author of "Dianetics.
This is a thick volume, this "Modern Science of Mental Health," and it is filled with words. What naked assertion can prove is proven. If precision is gained by insistence, precision is achieved. If doubt can be dissipated by repetition, doubt is utterly dispelled. For those who seek them there are welcome words - "invariably cured". "startling discoveries". "hitherto unsuspected". "deletes all the pain from a lifetime." And should it be needed there is high reassurance.
"Charlatanism is almost impossible where dianetics in any of its principles is being practiced. that is a mechanical scientific fact."
Two simple devices are used to generate the atmosphere of science. One is the creation of new word-meanings; the aberrant, the clear, the pre-clear, returning, the time track, and the reactive bank: all these for conditions and processes which have familiar titles.
The second device is the assertion of accepted truths as though they had been discovered by "computation" to give body to this "Dianetics." "Authority" is attacked as stifling investigative thought: ergo embrace the "New Idea," Dianetics. Indeed, endorsement by so reputable a thinker as Will Durant is implied by reprinting his definition of "The Philosophic Method."
If one penetrates the fog of the dianetic language he may detect a thesis. "Clear the time track of blocking engrams by returning to all periods when the analytical mind was shut down and the reactive bank was open." This Alice in Wonderland construct appears to be a naïve glorification of the concept that ventilating repressed neurotic conflicts provides the key to the Kingdom of Heaven. Not only does the "reactive mind bank" receive impressions when the individual is unconscious or anesthetized, but the unborn child on whom abortion has been attempted reactively knows he is living with murderers - and the parents responsible for this crime should not rest until the child is "cleared" as soon as possible after the age of 8.
There is no mention of the undifferentiated egg receiving "engrams" as to the state of mind of its sponsors at the moment of conception. So the author is not without restraint in his claims.
All that is required to achieve successful "clearing" of the "aberrant," be he "psychotic, neurotic, deranged, criminal, or normal," is that he not have organic disease of the nervous system and that he have a sympathetic listener who, too, has studied "Dianetics." The subtitle might have been "Everyman Someman's Psychoanalyst."
Presented as a supermarket of dynamic psychology, "Dianetics" discloses itself as a rambling, gaudy bazaar, displaying shoddy goods as though of value.