THEOSOPHY, Vol. 38, No. 12, October, 1950
(Pages 541-547; Size: 20K)
(Number 55 of a 57-part series)



The chief condition of success is habit. In the first trial nearly everything fails, but after several everything succeeds. This process of breaking in a patient has been called hypnotic education. The determination of the subject not to be entranced has no effect. (Review of Le Magnétisme Animal, by Alfred Binet and Charles Féré, collaborators of Prof. J. M. Charcot, 1887. See The Theosophist, April, 1887, p. 402.)

The exaltation of memory during somnambulism, though it does not give absolute proof to the theory that nothing is lost in the memory, shows at any rate that the memory of preservation is much greater than is generally imagined in comparison with the memory of reproduction, or recollection. It is evident that in a great number of cases, where we believe the memory is completely blotted out, it is nothing of the kind. The trace is always there, but what is lacking is the power to evoke it; and it is highly probable that if we were subjected to hypnotism, or the action of suitable excitants, memories to all appearance dead might be revived. 

--Alfred Binet and Charles Féré
THE world of the twentieth century is a world ripe for panaceas. There has been evidence enough that the cycle of psychism, which students of Theosophy have expected to see blossom in all its fullness during the middle years of the century, will present much more than a mere repetition of the Spiritualistic interests of a hundred years ago. The pressures of our time are different from the pressures of 1850. An atmosphere of desperation and extremity is all-pervading, today. There is personal, cultural, national, and international anxiety. The will-to-believe gains abnormal energy from the frustrated lives of great masses of human beings. Instead of wondering about death, people wonder how they can become equal to life. Not Spiritualistic "communications" from the dead, but "how to win friends and influence people" -- how to be a better salesman, to develop one's "personality," to live without pain, stress, or worry -- these are the psychic longings of the age.

As part of -- or rather, one might say, in defense against -- this general tendency, a "new science of mental health" has recently made its appearance, heralded, appropriately enough, in the May issue of Astounding Science Fiction, and bursting into public attention a month or so later in the form of a 400-page book. Dianetics is the name given this new "science" by its discoverer or inventor, L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard is an engineer and writer who apparently makes regular contributions of the "Astounding" variety, and the racy narrative style appropriate to scientific fantasies makes his book on Dianetics easy-reading, plausible, and quite informal.

Dianetics (from the root meaning "thought," says Hubbard, loosely) is offered as an experimental method needing immediate verification on as many fronts as possible. The author would have all who read his book embark on dianetic research without delay, if they so desire. He merely suggests "a few hour's study" before experimenting. Mr. Hubbard reports that he has been ten or twelve years evolving the new "science," but now that he has done the monumental preliminary work, the material is so simple and the therapy technique so foolproof that no experience is necessary.(1)

Needless to say, there is no hint that the therapist's motive may be important, not to say crucial; nor is any particular understanding of the mind and its functions required. Hubbard treats all questions of what and why with ill-concealed scorn, and has concentrated exclusively, one might say, on making things happen. He does go so far as to state, at one point, that engineers make the best "auditors" is not strong on self-analysis.) [Note: One of the parentheses is missing and it is obvious that a few words are also missing; it must have been a typesetting mistake. --Compiler.] If one could imagine a technocracy of the mind, Dianetics would have first rights to the title.

Ignoring for the moment the unblushing claims to absolute originality with which the book opens (Hubbard blames them on the publisher), let us briefly mention the elements of dianetics, and the therapy method presently in use. "Presently in use," because, resting doggedly on the trial-and-error principle, Hubbard, on page 408, announces his belief that in twenty or a hundred years the dianetic therapy outlined in his book will be obsolete: it is still being tested, and better means are expected to appear.

For the most colorful performer in the human mind, Hubbard has adapted the term "engram." Engram originally meant, in psychology, "a lasting trace left in an organism by psychic experience," but in Hubbard's scheme the engram is considerably anthropomorphised, and behaves "almost like an entity." (The existence of elementals, presumably, has been kept a dark secret from dianetic researchers.) The engram is a recorded moment of pain or painful emotion, impacted in the "memory bank" of a primitive layer of consciousness to which Hubbard gives the graphic name of "reactive mind." Completely divorced from rational consciousness, the reactive mind, we are told, operates instinctively, unreflectively. When the basic purpose of human life -- SURVIVAL, as Hubbard writes it -- is threatened, especially in moments of unconsciousness or shock, the "analyzer" (conscious, rational mind) fades out, and the reactive mind "keys in." (Hubbard approaches the "mind" by strict analogy from the electric computer machines.)

It is in these moments of unconsciousness (from whatever cause) that engrams gain entry. Once in the "memory bank," they operate unnoticed upon the organism as a whole, and to these unknown dictators Hubbard traces all psychosomatic ills, insanity, and aberrated personalities. The engram, in Dianetic theory, is pain and painful emotion. Pleasure impacts are said to be recorded elsewhere, and are held to be dianetically not significant, since they are not supposed to interfere with rational deduction. (Hubbard believes them permanent.)

Erasing the engram is the business of dianetic therapy, which consists in re-living the moment of pain until the emotional charge is dissipated and the experience can be "re-filed" in the "standard memory banks" of the conscious, rational mind. (The rational mind, says Hubbard, is a perfect computer, once its mechanism is relieved of the confusing, extraneous data supplied by engrams, and therefore when engrammic records become part of "conscious memory" their nefarious influence is supposed to be at an end.) Since an engram of which the mind is conscious is a contradiction in dianetic terms, re-living engrams necessitates by-passing the conscious mind, or the analyzing conscious mind, and consequently, dianetic therapy must operate with the patient in a "hypnotic amnesia trance" (to use one of Hubbard's expressions), despite all the wishful thinking to the contrary.

Hypnotism per se was used by Hubbard in gathering data for dianetics, but he denounces hypnotism as a therapeutic device, asserting repeatedly that dianeticists should not use hypnosis. Hypnotism, he declares, is "a wild variable," and "belongs in your parlor in about the same way the atom bomb does." Nevertheless, the technique of dianetic "reverie" and the necessity for "sonic recall" (actual re-hearing of sounds and words from past experiences), and "visual recall," inevitably raises the question as to whether or not Hubbard has rejected the principle of hypnotism. Certainly, dianetic therapy will go a long way toward increasing "suggestibility." Dr. Frederick J. Hacker, a psychiatrist, is of the opinion that Dianetics "is more the symptom of a disease than its cure" and "pretends to offer a relief from a condition it itself represents." (Los Angeles Daily News, September 9.)

Hubbard's book mentions the idea of reincarnation, in passing, but this hypothesis, he says, is not "needed" for dianetic purposes -- a typical example of the limits within which he is seeking "impartial" and "new" information. It was H. P. Blavatsky's opinion that--

By trying the magic effect of the human will on weaker wills; by deriding the existence of occult forces in Nature -- forces whose name is legion -- and yet calling out these, under the pretext that they are no independent forces at all, not even psychic in their nature, but "connected with known physical laws" (Binet and Féré), men in authority are virtually responsible for all the dire effects that are and will be following their dangerous public experiments. ... Thus experiments in "suggestion" by persons ignorant of the occult laws, are the most dangerous of pastimes. The action and reaction of ideas on the inner lower "Ego," has never been studied so far, because that Ego itself is terra incognita (even when not denied) to the men of science. Moreover, such performances before a promiscuous public are a danger in themselves.
If the Theosophical teachers emphasize the black magic of hypnotism almost exclusively, this is probably for the reason that no one but an "Adept of the Right-hand Path" could use hypnotism as white magic -- in which case it would not be "hypnotism." The most fevered protestations of pure motive and altruistic purpose on the part of hypnotists are beside the point. From the basis of occult science, the only beings sure of their motives and irrevocably committed to altruism as a principle are -- the perfected men. It is therefore no crime for a human being to have "mixed motives," but it is unquestionably the better part of valor for all human beings to refrain from entering the psychic realm, except naturally and as a matter of strict necessity. In the astral world, motives are projected with far greater power than through lethargic physical matter.

Possibly, Hubbard himself has some latent sense of the hazardous features of dianetic therapy. In speaking of hypnotism, he observes that suggestions do not always vanish, despite the intention of the operator. While stoutly denying that the "repeater" technique(2) and "reverie" involve hypnosis, Hubbard insists that a "Canceller" be installed at the beginning of every therapy session and re-impressed at the end. The "Canceller" is the direction that no remark or suggestion received from the auditor is to be retained by the patient. Hubbard is extremely anxious that the auditor shall not, intentionally or unintentionally, install new engrams while the patient is in reverie. Out of this concern (which would be an exaggerated one, if the patient were not in some form of hypnosis or suggestible state), comes one of the most valuable passages in the book: the Auditor's Code, the crux of dianetics.

No technique is better than the technician, yet Hubbard several times stills the misgivings of would-be auditors by the bland statement that dianetics cannot hurt the mind, cannot "injure the mechanism." On the other hand, the auditor is advised to follow the Code absolutely and without deviation, for dianetic treatment is a precision instrument of immense potentialities. What are we to conclude?

To the layman, Dianetics may be a dazzling new idea, and psychologists who attempt to show that all Hubbard's "discoveries" are to be found in the researches of his predecessors will find themselves talking into the wind. Even less popular with dianetics enthusiasts would be the theosophist's consideration of this "new science" as a study in the karma of irresponsibility, the karma of mediumship and psychism, and especially in the karma of hypnotism. In the twentieth-century cycle of psychism, hypnotism appears to be usurping the place spiritualism occupied about a hundred years ago, and those who know the history of the abandonment of Mesmer's theories and practice (Mesmer sought to have his patients remain conscious during his treatment), and the consequent development of the opposite technique -- hypnotism -- are better prepared to account for the confusion in many branches of psychic research today.

Since Hubbard is an engineer, it is hardly surprising that the phrase "It works," should be for him a mantram, an axiom, an all-justifying principle (unless, of course, it is an engram). In terms of logic, "It works" is the undistributed middle of the dianetic syllogism. Dianetic therapy gets "results." What more, Hubbard naïvely asks, do we need? If at first an auditor fails to get results, he must not be discouraged; he has only to continue. Hubbard assures one and all that "if you keep asking for it, you will get it." ("It" in this case being the engram.) With the utmost self-confidence, and with a righteous contempt for the results of any experiments other than his own, Hubbard pursues the ancient principle that the end justifies the means. Vehemently opposed to "butchery" of the brain by lobotomy, and to narcosynthesis, shock therapy, hypnoanalysis, and the use of nitrous oxide, he nevertheless offers for dianetics the same "proof of value" as did the proponents of each of these unnatural techniques before him. It is the same argument, in principle, which rationalized both the atom bomb and the concentration camp -- the only argument for the use of force: it works.

Hubbard is doubtless sincere in his attempt to alleviate the miseries of the mentally ill. The dianetics program contemplates the application of dianetic therapy to the over-all problems of punishment and crime, marriage and divorce laws, education, war, and preventive therapy. But sincerity is not enough. Nor are hard labor, sustained effort, and kind intentions. Hubbard might at least have gone about the business of fathoming the human mind as he would the study of engineering. It is possible to assume that no one in the world, in all past centuries, has ever discovered anything about engineering: but this approach to the science of engineering is puerile. For Hubbard, then, to postulate that never before has anyone made "his" discoveries about the human mind is equally juvenile, even if he himself has somehow escaped contact with the results of all previous investigations.

Brushing "mysticism" out of his way, Hubbard has also eliminated the checks and balances which might have made dianetics a genuine contribution to scientific psychology. Instead, technically speaking, dianetics should probably be described as a form of mediumship practised by the patient at the will of the auditor. The operator is convinced (Hubbard's book is one long attempt to graft this particular conviction on the reader's mind) that "there always are engrams" and that only dianetic therapy can remove them. Under such circumstances, the bare repetition of "catch phrases" -- colorless and "impersonal" though the repetition be intended to be -- is enough to secure the patient's "cooperation," that is, a standard dianetic result. Thus dianetics is less "thought" than thought control, the fixing of the auditor's will -- or the flow of his "animal magnetism" -- being accomplished by the Hubbard formula: "If you keep asking for it, you'll get it." It can be remembered, in this connection, that, as H. P. Blavatsky has written, "It would be extremely difficult to find on earth a human being who could not be more or less influenced by the 'Animal Magnetism' or by the active Will (which sends out that 'Magnetism') of another."

Dianetics will have a certain vogue, as the "newest" mental science, since "confession" is still believed to be good for the soul. To be philosophical, however, we must follow out this notion to its logical conclusion. When this is done, we are again confronted with a fear-producing mechanism -- disbelief in self, distrust of one's own powers, and apprehension lest Life or Fate should deal us a hand we can not play. Of what avail is it to know that a dianetic therapist can erase engrams, if at any time the mind may meet a situation that it cannot cope with? All the locks on all the stable doors for miles around will not make up for the one stolen horse: all the marvelous techniques that have ever been invented for the "cure" of mental ills will not compensate the human being for the loss of faith in himself.

Karma, the doctrine of responsibility, may not be comfortable to begin with, but a great load of fear and mistrust of the universe and of ourselves is lifted from the mind that realizes the unalterable justice of the universal moral law. Psychologists have exclaimed over the fact that people cannot forgive themselves for the wrong they have done -- no amount of "laying one's sins on Jesus" (or, we might add, on the psychoanalyst's couch) eradicates the deep-seated sense of self-judgment. The "sin-complex" needs to be replaced by the intuition of our own internal power and responsibility, which can only be as great as is our knowledge. Which shall we cherish and strengthen -- our thirst for health-phenomena, or philosophy? There is no soul-satisfying philosophy in "dianetics."

Next article:
(Part 56 of a 57-part series)

Back to the
series complete list of articles.

Back to the full listing containing all of the
"Additional Categories of Articles".


(1) Evidence of Hubbard's persuasiveness is the case of one hypnotherapist (who describes himself as "also a very good auto-hypnotic subject") who began his first dianetic experiment, with a house guest for his subject, two minutes after finishing Hubbard's book. As a psychic phenomenon, Dianetics is already holding its own!
Back to text.

(2) Stimulating the patient to produce engrams by repeating certain catch phrases or clichés of psychological unease, such as "I might as well give up," "I'm so confused," "I never remember names," etc.
Back to text.

Main Page | Introductory Brochure | Volume 1--> Setting the Stage
Karma and Reincarnation | Science | Education | Economics | Race Relations
The WISDOM WORLD | World Problems & Solutions | The People*s Voice | Misc.