Dianetics is a set of ideas and practices regarding the relationship between the spirit, mind and body that were developed by L. Ron Hubbard. According to Hubbard the word "Dianetics" is derived from the Greek διά (dia) meaning "through" and νους (nous), mind; so it literally means "through mind". Hubbard is said to have discovered that all mental aberrations and psychosomatic illnessed are caused by traumatic recordings called engrams that are stored in the reactive mind. The goal of Dianetics is to erase these engrams in the reactive mind to achieve the state of Clear. A Clear is one who no longer posesses his reactive Mind. Once this state of "Clear" is achieved, according to Hubbard, an individual is able to function at his or her full potential.
Hubbard first introduced Dianetics to the public in April 1950, in an article published in the May 1950 issue of the magazine Astounding Science Fiction. In his subsequent book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950), Hubbard presented Dianetics as a revolutionary and scientifically developed alternative to conventional psychotherapy and psychiatry that can increase intelligence, eliminate unwanted emotions and alleviate a wide range of illnesses he believed to be psychosomatic. The central practice of Dianetics is "auditing," in which a "pre-clear" attempts to confront the engrams in his reactive mind (with the assistance of a counselor called an "auditor"). As a result, a wide variety of unwanted conditions are said to be treated, initially including arthritis, allergies, asthma, some coronary difficulties, eye trouble, ulcers, migraine headaches, and sex deviations.
Scientology churches and missions provide workshops and seminars in Dianetics auditing to help people learn the rudiments of Dianetics techniques by forming teams to co-audit which is to give and receive auditing using the techniques described in the Dianetics book. Other more advanced applications of Dianetics auditing employ a device called an E-meter.
Though Dianetics preceded Hubbard's classification of Scientology as "applied religious philosophy," as early as 1951 in the Dianetics text called Science of Survival he began to focus on the capabilities of "the theta body or, as it might otherwise be called, the individual soul.
Dianetics is also practiced by independent groups, collectively called the Free Zone. The Church disapproves of Free Zone activities and has prosecuted them in court for misappropriation of Scientology/Dianetics copyrights and trademarks.
Hubbard coined Dianetics from the Greek stems dia, meaning through, and nous, meaning mind, resulting in a word similar to the already-existing Greek adjective dianoētik-os διανοητικ-ός, meaning "mental" (compare Aristotle's dianoetic virtues). Hubbard stated that Dianetics "forms a bridge between" cybernetics and General Semantics, a set of ideas about education originated by Alfred Korzybski that was receiving much attention in the science fiction world in the 1940s.
Hubbard described Dianetics as "an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences". These Dianetic axioms can be found in many Hubbard books such as Scientology 0-8: The Book of Basics and Advanced Procedures and Axioms. Unlike conventional therapies, Hubbard said, Dianetics would work every time if applied properly and "will invariably cure all psychosomatic ills and human aberrations." In April 1950, before the public release of Dianetics, he wrote: "To date, over two hundred patients have been treated; of those two hundred, two hundred cures have been obtained.
In Dianetics, the unconscious or reactive mind is described as a collection of "mental image pictures," which contain the recorded experience of past moments of unconsciousness, including all sensory perceptions and feelings involved, ranging from pre-natal experiences, infancy and childhood, even the traumatic feelings associated events from past lives and alien cultures. The type of mental image picture created during a period of unconsciousness involves the exact recording of a painful experience. Hubbard called this phenomenon an engram, and defined it as "a complete recording of a moment of unconsciousness containing physical pain or painful emotion and all perceptions.
Hubbard proposed that, via pain, physical or mental traumas caused "aberrations" (deviations from rational thinking) in the mind, which produced adverse physical and emotional effects. The conscious or analytical mind, out of a desire for survival, would instinctively shut down during moments of stress. The memories recorded during this period would be stored as engrams in the unconscious or reactive mind. (In Hubbard's earliest publications on the subject, engrams were variously referred to as "Norns", "Impediments," and "comanomes" before "engram" was adapted from its existing usage at the suggestion of Joseph Winter.) Some commentators noted Dianetics' blend of science fiction and occult orientations at the time.
Dianetics claims that these engrams are the cause of almost all psychological and physical problems. In addition to containing the experience of physical pain, engrams can also include words or phrases overheard by the patient while he was unconscious. For instance, Winter cites the example of a patient with a persistent headache supposedly tracing the problem to a doctor saying "Take him now" during the preclear's birth. Hubbard similarly claims that the cause of leukemia is traceable to "an engram containing the phrase 'It turns my blood to water.' While it is sometimes claimed that the Church of Scientology no longer stands by Hubbard's claims that Dianetics can treat physical conditions, it still publishes them: "... when the knee injuries of the past are located and discharged, the arthritis ceases, no other injury takes its place and the person is finished with arthritis of the knee. "[The reactive mind] can give a man arthritis, bursitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, coronary trouble, high blood pressure ... And it is the only thing in the human being which can produce these effects ... Discharge the content of [the reactive mind] and the arthritis vanishes, myopia gets better, heart illness decreases, asthma disappears, stomachs function properly and the whole catalog of ills goes away and stays away.
Some of the psychometric ideas in Dianetics can be traced to Sigmund Freud, whom Hubbard credited as an inspiration and was said to have used as a source. Freud had speculated 40 years previously that traumas with similar content join together in "chains," embedded in the unconscious mind, to cause irrational responses in the individual. Such a chain would be relieved by inducing the patient to remember the earliest trauma, "with an accompanying expression of emotion.
One from which Hubbard drew in his deveopment of Dianetics, was abreaction therapy.
Abreaction is a psychiatric term defined as, "the process of bringing to consciousness and, thus, to adequate expression, material that has been unconscious. It includes not only the recollection of forgotten memories and experience, but also their reliving with appropriate emotional display and discharge of effect. This process is usually facilitated by the patient's gaining awareness of the causal relationship between the previously undischarged emotion and his symptoms.
According to Hubbard, before Dianetics psychotherapists may have been able to deal with very light and superficial incidents e. g. an incident that reminds you of a moment of loss; but with Dianetic therapy, the patient can actually erase moments of pain and unconsciousness. He emphasizes: "The discovery of the engram is entirely the property of Dianetics. Methods of its erasure are also owned enirely by Dianetics...
With the use of Dianetics techniques, Hubbard claimed, the reactive mind could be processed and all stored engrams could be refiled as experience. The central technique was "auditing," a two-person question-and-answer therapy designed to isolate and dissipate engrams (or "mental masses"). An auditor addresses questions to a subject, observes and records the subject's responses, and returns repeatedly to experiences or areas under discussion that appear painful until the troubling experience has been identified and confronted. Through repeated applications of this method, the reactive mind could be "cleared" of its content having outlived its usefulness in the process of evolution; a person who has completed this process would be "Clear".
The benefits of going Clear, according to Hubbard, were dramatic. A Clear would have no compulsions, repressions, psychoses or neuroses, and would enjoy a near-perfect memory as well as a rise in IQ of as much as 50 points. He also claimed that "the atheist is activated by engrams as thoroughly as the zealot". He further believed that widespread application of Dianetics would result in "A world without insanity, without criminals and without war.
According to the Scientology journal The Auditor, the total number of "Clears" as of May 2006 stands at 50,311. One critical organization's analysis, however, brings the accuracy of the official figures into question.
Few scientific investigations into the effectiveness of Dianetics have been published. Professor John A. Lee states in his 1970 evaluation of Dianetics:
The MEDLINE database records two independent scientific studies on Dianetics, both conducted in the 1950s under the auspices of New York University. Harvey Jay Fischer tested Dianetics therapy against three claims made by proponents and found it does not effect any significant changes in intellectual functioning, mathematical ability, or the degree of personality conflicts; Jack Fox tested Hubbard's thesis regarding recall of engrams, with the assistance of the Dianetic Research Foundation, and could not substantiate it.
Hubbard claimed, in an interview with the New York Times in November 1950, that "he had already submitted proof of claims made in the book to a number of scientists and associations." He added that the public as well as proper organizations were entitled to such proof and that he was ready and willing to give such proof in detail. In January 1951, the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation of Elizabeth, NJ published Dianetic Processing: A Brief Survey of Research Projects and Preliminary Results, a booklet providing the results of psychometric tests conducted on 88 people undergoing Dianetics therapy. It presents case histories and a number of X-ray plates to support claims that Dianetics had cured "aberrations" including manic depression, asthma, arthritis, colitis and "overt homosexuality," and that after Dianetic processing, test subjects experienced significantly increased scores on a standardized IQ test. The report's subjects are not identified by name, but one of them is clearly Hubbard himself ("Case 1080A, R. L.").
The authors provide no qualifications, although they are described in Hubbard's book Science of Survival (where some results of the same study were reprinted) as psychotherapists. Critics of Dianetics are skeptical of this study, both because of the bias of the source and because the researchers appear to ascribe all physical benefits to Dianetics without considering possible outside factors; in other words, the report lacks any scientific controls. J.A. Winter, M.D., originally an associate of Hubbard and an early adopter of Dianetics, had by the end of 1950 cut his ties with Hubbard and written an account of his personal experiences with Dianetics. He described Hubbard as "absolutistic and authoritarian", and criticized the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation for failing to undertake "precise scientific research into the functioning of the mind". He also recommended that auditing be done by experts only and that it was dangerous for laymen to audit each other. Hubbard writes: "Again, Dianetics is not being released to a profession, for no profession could encompass it.
Commentators from a variety of backgrounds have described Dianetics as an example of pseudoscience, that is, information which claims to be scientific but which fails to meet the basic criteria for science. For example, philosophy professor Robert Carroll points to Dianetics' lack of empirical evidence:
W. Sumner Davis similarly comments that
The procedure of Dianetics therapy – known as auditing, from the Latin audire, "to listen" – is a two-person activity. One person, the "auditor", guides the other person, the "preclear". The preclear's job is to look at the mind and talk to the auditor. The auditor acknowledges what the preclear says and controls the process so the preclear may put his full attention on his work.
The auditor and preclear sit down in chairs facing each other. The process then follows in eleven distinct steps:
Auditing sessions are kept confidential. This has come into question, though, that confidential information has been used to black-mail possible defectors (see Fair Game Scientology) However, a few transcripts of auditing sessions with confidential information removed have been published as demonstration examples. Some extracts can be found in Dr. J.A. Winter's book Dianetics: A Doctor's Report. Other, more comprehensive, transcripts of auditing sessions carried out by Hubbard himself can be found in volume 1 of the Research & Discovery Series (Bridge Publications, 1980). Examples of public group processing sessions can be found throughout the Congress Lecture series.
According to Hubbard, auditing enables the preclear to "contact" and "release" engrams stored in the reactive mind, relieving him of the physical and mental aberrations connected with them. The preclear is asked to inspect and familiarize himself with the exact details of his own experience; the auditor may not tell him anything about his case or evaluate any of the information the preclear finds.
The validity and practice of auditing have been questioned by a variety of non-Scientologist commentators. Commenting on the example cited by Winter, the science writer Martin Gardner asserts that "nothing could be clearer from the above dialogue than the fact that the dianetic explanation for the headache existed only in the mind of the therapist, and that it was with considerable difficulty that the patient was maneuvered into accepting it.
Other critics and medical experts have suggested that Dianetic auditing is a form of hypnosis, although the Church of Scientology has strongly denied that hypnosis forms any part of Dianetics. To the contrary, L. Ron Hubbard expressedly warns not to use any hypnosis or hypnosis-like methods, because a person under hypnosis would be receptive to suggestions. This would decrease his self-determinism instead of increasing it, which is one of the prime goals of Dianetics. Winter  comments that the leading nature of the questions asked of a preclear "encourage fantasy", a common issue also encountered with hypnosis, which can be used to form false memories. The auditor is instructed not to make any assessment of a recalled memory's reality or accuracy, but instead to treat it as if it were objectively real. Professor Richard J. Ofshe, a leading expert on false memories, suggests that the feeling of well-being reported by preclears at the end of an auditing session may be induced by post-hypnotic suggestion. According to Hubbard: "Laughter is definitely the relief of painful emotion.
The success of selling Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health brought in a flood of money, which Hubbard used to establish Dianetics foundations in six major American cities. The scientific and medical communities were far less enthusiastic about Dianetics, viewing it with bemusement, concern, or outright derision. Complaints were made against local Dianetics practitioners for allegedly practicing medicine without a license. This eventually prompted Dianetics advocates to disclaim any medicinal benefits in order to avoid regulation.
Hubbard explained the backlash as a response from various entities trying to co-opt Dianetics for their own use. Hubbard blamed the hostile press coverage in particular on a plot by the American Communist Party. In later years, Hubbard decided that the psychiatric profession was the origin of all of the criticism of Dianetics, as he believed it secretly controlled most of the world's governments.
By the autumn of 1950, financial problems had developed, and by November 1950, the six Foundations had spent around one million dollars and were more than $200,000 in debt. Disagreements emerged over the direction of the Dianetic Foundation's work, and relations between the board members became strained, with several leaving, even to support causes critical of Dianetics. One example was Harvey Jackins, founder of Re-evaluation Counselling, originally a sort of discrete reworking of Dianetics, which L Ron Hubbard later declared suppressive to Scientology.
In January 1951, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners instituted proceedings against the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth for teaching medicine without a licence. The Foundation closed its doors, causing the proceedings to be vacated, but its creditors began to demand settlement of its outstanding debts. Don Purcell, a millionaire Dianeticist from Wichita, Kansas, offered a brief respite from bankruptcy, but the Foundation's finances failed again in 1952.
Because of a sale of assets resulting from the bankruptcy, Hubbard no longer owned the rights to the name "Dianetics", but its philosophical framework still provided the seed for Scientology to grow. Scientologists refer to the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health as "Book One." In 1952, Hubbard published a new set of teachings as "Scientology, a religious philosophy." Scientology did not replace Dianetics but extended it to cover new areas. Where the goal of Dianetics is to rid the individual of his reactive mind engrams, the stated goal of Scientology is to rehabilitate the individual's spiritual nature so that he may reach his full potential.
In 1978, Hubbard released New Era Dianetics (NED), a revised version supposed to produce better results in a shorter period of time. The course consists of 11 rundowns and requires a specifically trained auditor. It is run (processed) exactly like Standard Dianetics (once very widely practiced before the advent of NED) except the pre-clear (parishioner) is encouraged to find the "postulate" he made before the incident occurred. ("Postulate" in Dianetics and Scientology has the meaning of "a conclusion, decision or resolution made by the individual himself; to conclude, decide or resolve a problem or to set a pattern for the future or to nullify a pattern of the past in contrast to its conventional meanings.)
New Era Dianetics is really only a prelude to what is available at the high levels of the Bridge including the incidents: New Era Dianetics for OTs also known as NOTS. It is available after Xenu and the now well known First Wall of Fire. NOTS is also known as the Second Wall of Fire. Free Zone (Scientology) offers a version of it in the Internet.