Of Two Minds
July 24, 1950
A new cult is moldering through the U.S. underbrush. Its name: dianetics.
Last week, its bible, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health," was steadily climbing the U.S. bestseller lists. Demand was especially heavy on the West Coast. Bookstores in Los Angeles were selling "Dianetics" on an under-the-counter basis. Armed with the manual, which they called simply "The Book," fanatical converts overflowed Saturday night meetings in Hollywood, held dianetics parties, formed clubs, and "audited" (treated) each other.
In many ways, dianetics ("the science of mind") is the poor man's psychoanalysis: it has the touch of Couéism and a mild resemblance to Buchmanite confession. It purports to cleanse the mind of previous harmful influences, thus vastly increasing its powers and efficiency, by making the individual relive former painful experiences to "discharge" their evil power. According to dianetics' discoverer L. (for Lafayette) Ron (for Ronald) Hubbard: "The hidden source of all psychosomatic ills and human aberrations has been discovered and skills have been developed for their invariable cure." Sample ills: arthritis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, ulcers, migraine headaches, sex deviations.
Ron Hubbard, 39, a swashbuckling, red-haired six-footer, originally unveiled dianetics in the magazine "Astounding Science Fiction." As a result, its earliest devotees were science fiction fans. When "Dianetics" was first published (Hermitage House: $4), doctors and psychologists paid it little heed. But last week some were getting in on what seemed like a good thing.
The Los Angeles Times carried an ad: "Those interested in receiving dianetic auditing please telephone DU 2-3260." At the end of the line was Dr. Vernon Bronson Twitchell, psychologist; he said he got about a dozen calls a day.
Reason & Records
According to Hubbard's "science," the mind consists of two parts: 1) the analytical, (corresponding roughly to Freud's "conscious" mind), which perceives, remembers and reasons; and 2) , the reactive (something like Freud's "unconscious"), which neither remembers nor reasons but simply records. Normally, the analytical mind is dominant. But it can be "switched off" by unconsciousness from injury or anesthesia, more often by acute emotional shock or physical pain.
Then says Hubbard, the reactive mind is switched on. It does not store memories, but "engrams" -- impressions on protoplasm itself. An engram is, he declares, "a complete recording, down to the last accurate detail of every perception present in a moment of . . . 'unconsciousness.'"
Modern man's analytical mind, says Hubbard, is a perfect computing machine, incapable of error except when it is supplied with wrong data. An example, typical of Hubbard's cases: a woman is struck by a man, and while she is unconscious he kicks and reviles her. A chair is overturned and a faucet has been left running. she does not "remember" these things because she is unconscious, but according to dianetics her reactive mind records them all in an engram. Later, the crash of an overturned chair and the sound of running water might make the engram "key-in" to her analytical mind, vaguely bring back the pain of the kicks or actually make her ill.
Count to Seven
To exorcise such a demon engram, the dianetics patient lolls on a couch or easy chair in a dimly lit room. The auditor says: "When I count from one to seven your eyes will close." He keeps counting to seven until the patient's eyes close. (The patient, says Hubbard, is still awake but in "reverie.") In a typical procedure, the auditor may next command: "Let us return to your fifth birthday." The patient's mind is then supposed to slip back along its "time-track" to that birthday. Having "returned," he "relives" the experience.
By skipping from one point on the time track to another, the patient eventually relives a variety of painful experiences. In so doing, he may reel from the relived pain of a blow on the head, double up with stomach cramps, sweat or shiver in terror. Once these painful engrams have been run through the waking analytical mind, says Hubbard, they lose their "charge" -- their power of evil. The analytical mind puts them in a dead file like so many closed accounts. The final goal of dianetics -- in its own jargon -- is to make a patient a "clear," a person whose every engram has been resolved.
Hubbard's most striking departure from older psychoanalytical schools is his insistence that protoplasm begins to record engrams immediately after conception. He sees the period of gestation as one of dire discomforts and great perils. The most important of all engrams, which he dubs "basic-basic," is the one received after conception -- perhaps during the mother's examination by her doctor, or in some mishap before her pregnancy is known.
Frank Dessler, an office manager at 20th Century-Fox, had dabbled in dianetics and was persuaded to audit an actor's wife who had suffered from migraine. Says Dessler: "She was suffering a severe headache, but it wasn't like migraine. It seemed to be sharp and on either side of the head. Finally, she actually experience birth. She crouched on the couch in foetal position with her head between her knees." She attributed the pain she felt tot he pull of the forceps on her head. Having relived her birth, her migraine disappeared.
A couple in their 30s, Arthur and Elena Tracy, were auditing each other. Says Elena: "I'd had a great deal of illness all my life -- every psychosomatic illness you can think of. I was in bed all through my last pregnancy and for three months after it. Now I believe I'll have no more trouble. I believe it with all my heart. My husband took me back to what I believe was the prenatal period of my life. I began to feel as if I were drowning. I brought up phlegm . . . and my eyes were running. I almost choked and began gasping for breath. Apparently my head was twisted to one side in my mother's womb. The pain was intense."
Some professional psychologists have taken up dianetics. Says Dr. Jean Bordeaux, psychotherapist (Ph.D., no M.D.): "I'm using dianetics every day and using it on dozens of patients. It works. Hubbard made a contribution -- make no mistake about that."
However, Hubbard insists that the treatment, even at the hands of an untrained layman, can do no harm. "On this," says Dr. Bordeaux, "we part company."
More specific is the concern of Dr. Pauline K. Pumphrey (as osteopath with an M.D.), in whose ultramodern Santa Monica home two-score dianetics fans met last week to pool their resources (some hoped to audit each other -- somewhat in the fashion of a Buchmanite meeting). There is danger, Dr. Pumphrey holds, if Hubbard's cellular theory is right, that an inept auditor "contacting" the engram recorded at the time of a severe hemorrhage, for example, might cause the hemorrhage to be repeated.
But most dianetics fans are laymen and some accept every Hubbard word as revealed truth. Said one: "I have trouble only when I have any doubts. The main thing is for the auditor to subject himself to a thorough indoctrination which amounts to a sublime faith."
Hubbard's own opinion
of his contribution: "The creation of dianetics is a milestone for
man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions
of the wheel and the arch."