Early Scientology / Dianetics - 1950
By MILTON R. SAPIRSTEIN
DIANETICS: THE MODERN SCIENCE OF MENTAL HEALTH. By L. Ron Hubbard. Hermitage House. $4.
ORDINARILY, a new book which offers a generalized cure for all the ills of mankind - guaranteed, within twenty hours - would not be reviewed in these columns. This new book on "Dianetics," by L. Ron Hubbard, however, is in a class by itself. In the first place, the author seems honestly to believe what he has written. His own powerful conviction, in turn, seems to have convinced many others - apparently intelligent people who would be inclined to toss aside a book of this type.
Hubbard offers his readers the guaranty of a method which never fails to cure all emotional - neurotic and psychotic - disorders as well as a variety of physical illnesses, from the common cold to cancer. He describes his dianetic method as follows:
The creation of dianetics is a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch .The hidden source of all psychosomatic ills and human aberration has been discovered, and skills have been developed for their invariable cure.
He then goes on to describe how the method has never failed in the 270 cases which he has treated. What is even better, however, is that he offers the reader the opportunity to perform the same feats of therapy on the various members of his family and friends, who in turn can do likewise for him. No outside help of any kind, professional or otherwise, is necessary for the reader of this book.
No case histories are offered to substantiate his claims, nor is there documentation of any kind to indicate that any previous thinker, medical or otherwise, ever made a significant contribution to the subject of human behavior. The system is fool-proof, and any inadequate results are due to the improper understanding of the method.
It is difficult to describe the method without introducing the author's own special vocabulary, which would take too much space. The dianetic method seems to be based on the use of an auditor who helps the harried individual to relive certain traumatic experiences, especially those related to his intra-uterine life. These traumatic episodes are called "engrams," and the clearing of them allows the individual to find liberation. No special training is necessary on the part of the therapist, and there seems to be a constant verbal repetition of certain experiences until they lose their disruptive force. The whole method is based on an obvious analogy in which the human mind is compared to the electronic calculating machine, with a theoretical use of many of the concepts of cybernetics. Norbert Wiener, however, is not quoted.
The actual method combines the techniques of free association, emotional catharsis, abreaction, and hypnosis - which the author vigorously denies. But it is doubtful whether these are the crucial factors in his therapeutic results; for I grant that many of his patients have improved under treatment. If so, how do we explain the effectiveness of such therapy? First, he offers faith and conviction in the goodness of man, and an absolute guaranty for the resolution of man's problems and illnesses. This he accomplishes without any religious connotation and within a "scientific" framework. It no longer becomes necessary to turn to God, a political leader, a physician, or a loved one to find a resolution of insecurities or dependencies.
Secondly, he offers a therapeutic relationship with another human being who will listen to the problems of the harried patient. This is always a profoundly effective therapeutic experience, whether performed in a psychiatrist's office or not. I am sure that many of the devotees of dianetics have never previously experienced the tremendous lift which comes when one shares painful experiences with a sympathetic and helpful listener. I am sure that in practical application many a husband - or wife, child, or parent - may make emotional contact for the first time with his "loved one" under the artificial circumstances of dianetic therapy; and get help regardless of the nature or validity of the verbalizations.
A third source of reassurance and comfort through dianetic therapy is its continuous repetitive emphasis on SURVIVAL. This word is used constantly in capitals as the basic "dynamic" of healthy adaptation and as the goal of all human behavior. For a world frightened by atomic-bomb destruction, with limited faith in the after world, no more hypnotic slogan could have been used to entrance people and to allay their fears.
From a psychoanalytic point of view, one is willing to overlook the fact that Hubbard presents no conception of human relationships, that he has no psychodynamic point of view. One can also forgive him for encouraging neurotic people to avoid all professional sources of help, and even for deluding people into expecting salvation through guaranteed solutions for their problems. After all, there have been many other "faiths," movements, or special therapies which have failed to fulfill these criteria and have still helped people where the experts have failed.
The real and, to me, inexcusable danger in dianetics lies in its conception of the amoral, detached, 100 per cent efficient mechanical man - superbly free-floating, unemotional, and unrelated to anything. This is the authoritarian dream, a population of zombies, free to be manipulated by the great brains of the founder, the leader of the inner manipulative clique. Fortunately for us this is an unattainable dream, on the rocks of which every great authoritarian leader has sooner or later met his fate. We have learned by this time that a human being cannot exist without effective human relationships, which must fulfill some of his healthy emotional dependencies; and that mechanical, detached self-sufficiency does not exist except in a psychotic state. Healthy dependencies cannot exist without some type of reciprocal give-and-take, or democratic liaison - otherwise, hostilities sooner or later disrupt the inequitable arrangement. In these basic psychodynamic truths lies our own salvation.
MILTON R. SAPIRSTEIN