This blog started out as Michael Doherty's Personal Library, containing reviews of books that normally don't get reviewed: basically porn and cult books. It was all just a bit of fun, you understand. But when I embarked on a three-year Shakespeare study, Shakespeare basically took over, which is a good thing.
Friday, January 3, 2014
Dianetics: The Evolution Of A Science – A Cult Classic
L. Ron Hubbard was a busy boy in the 1950s, creating his
cult and winning that bet with Robert Heinlein. Dianetics: The Evolution Of A Science is a thin volume in which he
describes just how he came up with some of these wild ideas. By the way, if
it’s a science, then why does it have tax-exempt status? I suppose that’s a
question for the Internal Revenue Service, and one I’d like them to answer.
At the beginning of the book L. says that if the reader
gets confused, it’s because there was a word he or she did not understand. It’s
an interesting tactic, a pre-emptive strike of sorts. If this book confuses
someone, it’s that person’s fault, not that of the writer. Well, I am certainly
at fault then. This book has something to do with hypnotism and insanity and memory
and pain, but who really knows? It’s mostly stream-of-consciousness, repetitive
gibberish, the kind Scientologists spend their lives pretending to decode.
L. writes: “We knew
WHAT Man was doing. He was surviving. Somehow, some way, he occasionally became
irrational. Where did hypnotism fit into this?” (p. 26). L. is basically
going on about his own journey, the quest to create some kind of religion to
sell. He writes: “We look for some
demons, one way or another. And we found some! This was a discovery almost as
mad as some of the patients on hand. But the thing to do was try to measure and
classify demons. Strange work for an engineer and mathematician! But it was
found that the demons could be classified” (p. 27). Sure.
Then: “The demons,
since none of them consented to present themselves for a proper examination as
demons, were, it was concluded, installed in the brain in the same way one
would install a new circuit in the optimum brain. But as there was just so much
brain, it was obvious that these electronic demons were using parts of the
optimum brain and that they were no more competent than the optimum brain
inherently was. This was more postulating. All one wanted was a good result. If
this hadn’t worked, something else would have been tried” (p. 28). It’s
difficult to get demons to step in off of Hollywood Blvd. and subject
themselves to Scientology testing. But then L. writes, “There are no demons” (p. 28). So that’s why they wouldn’t come in.
Makes sense to me. Maybe anyone who does not present themselves for a proper
examination doesn’t actually exist.
Anyway, L. then goes into his usual bit about the
aberrated people being miserable, and Scientology being the only helpful tool
in getting folks back to their basic, good personalities, their “optimum brain.” “Somehow the exterior world gets interior. The individual becomes
possessed of some unknowns which set up circuits against his consent, the
individual is aberrated and is less able to survive” (p. 35). “How did the exterior world become an
interior aberration?” (p. 36). Throughout the book, L. comes up with insane
questions, then describes the insane process through which he came to his
insane conclusions. It’s actually interesting. That is, it’s interesting to
follow the process of someone inventing bullshit. That’s basically what he’s
doing – letting us know how he came up with these notions. It’s like he’s
testing out ideas, but including all of the testing in a book rather than just
the outcome. And this makes sense too, because he has to have a large number of
books to sell to the cult members to keep them interested and to keep the money
Here is an example of L. working out this bullshit: “Very well, let’s take the mind itself, the
optimum mind. Compare it to itself. When did Man become sentient? It’s not
absolutely necessary to the problem or these results to know just when or where
Man began to think, but let’s compare him to his fellow mammals. What does he
have that the other mammals don’t have? What can he do that they can’t do? What
does he have that they have?” (p. 46). Then he adds, “All it takes is the right question.” Of course, and if you fill a
book with various ridiculous questions, perhaps one of them will be right. Why
not? L. then says that after millions of years of evolution, man’s brain should
be incapable of making mistakes. And yet some people join Scientology.
L. admits to some pretty screwed up methods. “So I pinched a few patients and made them
pretend they had moved back to the moment of the pinch. And it hurt them again.
And one young man, who cared a great deal about science and not much about his
physical being, volunteered for a nice, heavy knock-out. And I took him back to
it and he recalled it” (p. 41). Doesn’t that make you want to join Scientology?
He said he was trying to prove that memories of pain would be the strongest
memories. It must have been fun to be a part of these early experiments. (Again,
L. is calling it science, not religion. IRS folks, are you paying attention?
Taxing the fuck out of Scientology would help put California back on its feet.)
L. certainly had his way with his so-called “patients.”
He conducted some experiments to see if man still had the same responses to
pain that fish have. He writes: “Drug him
with ether and hurt him. Then give him a whiff of ether and he gets nervous.
Start to put him out and he begins to fight. Other experiments all gave the
same conclusion” (p. 68). Did people volunteer for this? Well, either way,
they certainly contributed to the greater good of humanity. After all, where
would we be without L.’s enlightening work on the reactive mind and engrams and
red-tab banks and all that?
Again, I have to wonder just how this pseudo-science was
granted tax-exempt status. Seriously. Or are we to suppose all religions
conduct experiments on people? L. writes, “Someday
somebody may cut off a chunk of brain and cry ‘Eureka, this is the reactive
mind!’” (p. 84). Yes, you’re probably thinking it’s best not to
volunteer for any more of these religious experiments.
L. writes that our memory banks “contain a complete color-video record of a person’s whole life, no
matter the demon circuits” (p. 60), and that “There is no inaccuracy in the banks” (p. 61). He then makes one of
his wonderful claims (a claim that is impossible to prove or disprove, simply
because everything about it has been invented): “But a ‘memory’ in the red-tab bank, when properly approached by
Dianetic technique, will vanish out of that bank entirely” (p. 77). L.
continues: “For instance, a man who
supposes that the whole world was ugly and sordid is guided through therapy.
The aberration which made the world seem ugly and sordid folds up when the
engram or engrams to that effect deintensify and refile” (p. 78). Oh yes, “Dianetics can break up habits, simply by
relieving the engrams which command them” (p. 80).
Watch out! It turns out that “Engrams are contagious” (p. 91) L. explains: “Papa has an engram. He beats mother into anaten. She now has an engram,
word for word, from him. The child was anaten, maybe booted aside and knocked
out. The child is part of mother’s perceptics for that engram. Mother
dramatizes the engram on the child. The child has the engram. He dramatizes it
on another child. When adulthood is attained, the engram is dramatized over and
over. Contagion” (p. 91). Makes sense? It seems that L. is really into the
idea of knocking people out. In scenario after scenario someone is knocked out.
In this scenario, it’s the child who was booted aside. Remember, this was the
1950s, and in those days people were knocked out easily with just one punch.
You see it all the time in films and television programs that document the
You don’t just have engrams to watch out for. There are
also locks. L. writes, “A lock is a
situation of mental anguish” (p. 93). “I
discovered that any patient I had, had thousands upon thousands of locks –
enough to keep me busy forever” (p. 94). And that’s why folks aren’t permitted
to leave Scientology. L. writes: “Then
began the most persistent search possible to find the earliest engram in any
patient. This was mad work. Utterly weird” (p. 95). You don’t say? Well, no
argument from me, L. He says you have to find the earliest engram, which
apparently is usually twenty-four hours after conception. Utterly weird,
indeed, and also completely unbelievable. What is also utterly weird is that
there are people out there who believe this stuff. Weird and frightening.
They believe that Scientology helps the aberrees. And
who, you might ask, is an aberree? L. asks that question: “Who is an aberree?” (p. 99). And, guess what, he provides an
answer: “Anybody who has one or more
engrams. And since birth itself is an engramatic experience – every human being
born has at least one engram!” (p. 99). Uh-oh! I guess we’d all better join
Scientology. After all, no one else is out there to help us remove our engrams.
He writes: “Dianetics
is easy to apply to the fairly normal individual and can relieve his occlusions
and colds and arthritis and other psychosomatic ills. It can be used as well to
prevent aberrations from occurring and can even be applied to determine the
reactions of others” (p. 103). Oh, I think I can guess the reactions of
others. Wait a moment – arthritis is psychosomatic? L., boy, you continue to
At the end of the book, there is a sixty-page glossary,
defining such complex terms as “by golly”:
“a mild exclamation used to emphasize
what is being said or to express surprise, wonder, puzzlement or the like”
(p. 136). Interestingly, one of the terms L. includes is “cults of Los Angeles,” which he defines as “a reference to the diversity of devotions, crazes and fanaticisms
characteristic of the greater Los Angeles area in the time period of this book,
ranging from palm reading to drug use, health fads and bodybuilding” (p.
142). Is this a nod to his audience that he’s having them on? The glossary is
also clearly a way of padding the book, as he is obviously doing by including
this definition twice – once under “cults
of Los Angeles,” and then a second time under “Los Angeles, cults of.” If its inclusion is a bit of a joke, L.
wanted to make sure his audience had a couple of chances to get it. How