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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.

Basic concepts

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.

According to Bent Corydon, Hubbard created the illusion that Dianetics was the first Psychotherapy to address traumatic experiences in their own time but others had done so as standard procedure.

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.

Scientific evaluation and criticisms

Hubbard's original book on Dianetics attracted highly critical reviews from science and medical writers and organizations. The American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1950 calling "attention to the fact that these claims are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations.

Subsequently, Dianetics has achieved no general acceptance as a bona fide scientific theory. Many scientists have described Dianetics as a classic example of pseudoscience.

Few scientific investigations into the effectiveness of Dianetics have been published. Professor John A. Lee states in his 1970 evaluation of Dianetics:

Objective experimental verification of Hubbard's physiological and psychological doctrines is lacking. To date, no regular scientific agency has established the validity of his theories of prenatal perception and engrams, or cellular memory, or Dianetic reverie, or the effects of Scientology auditing routines. Existing knowledge contradicts Hubbard's theory of recording of perceptions during periods of unconsciousness.

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:

What Hubbard touts as a science of mind lacks one key element that is expected of a science: empirical testing of claims. The key elements of Hubbard's so-called science don't seem testable, yet he repeatedly claims that he is asserting only scientific facts and data from many experiments. It isn't even clear what such "data" would look like. Most of his data is in the form of anecdotes and speculations ... Such speculation is appropriate in fiction, but not in science.

W. Sumner Davis similarly comments that

Dianetics is nothing more than an example of pseudoscience trying to legitimize itself ... Hubbard, had he indeed been a scientist, would have known that truth is not built on axioms, and facts cannot be found from some a-priori knowledge. A true science is constructed on hypotheses, which are arrived at by the virtue of observed phenomena. Scientific knowledge is gained by observation and testing, not believing from some subconscious stipulation, as Hubbard would have us believe.

Procedure in practice

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:

1. The auditor assures the preclear that he will be fully aware of everything that happens during the session.

2. The preclear is instructed to close his eyes for the session, entering a state of "dianetic reverie", signified by "a tremble of the lashes". During the session, the preclear remains in full possession of his will and retains full recall thereafter.

3. The auditor installs a "canceller", an instruction intended to absolutely cancel any form of positive suggestion that could accidentally occur. This is done by saying "In the future, when I utter the word 'cancelled,' everything I have said to you while you are in a therapy session will be cancelled and will have no force with you. Any suggestion I may have made to you will be without force when I say the word 'cancelled.' Do you understand?"

4. The auditor then asks the preclear to locate an exact record of something that happened to the preclear in his past: "Locate an incident that you feel you can comfortably face."

5. The preclear is invited by the auditor to "Go through the incident and say what is happening as you go along."

6a. The auditor instructs the preclear to recall as much as possible of the incident, going over it several times "until the preclear is cheerful about it".

6b. When the preclear is cheerful about an incident, the auditor instructs the preclear to locate another incident: "Let's find another incident that you feel you can comfortably face." The process outlined at steps 5 and 6a then repeats until the auditing session's time limit (usually two hours or so) is reached.

7. The preclear is instructed to "return to present time".

8. The auditor checks to make sure that the preclear feels himself to be in "present time", i.e. not still recalling a past incident.

9. The auditor gives the preclear the canceller word: "Very good. Cancelled."

10. The auditor tells the preclear to feel alert and return to full awareness of his surroundings: "When I count from five to one and snap my fingers you will feel alert. Five, four, three, two, one." (Snap!)

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 [1950] 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.


According to Hubbard, the majority of the people interested in the subject believed they could accomplish therapy alone. "It cannot be done" and he adds: "If a patient places himself in autohypnosis and regresses himself in an effort to reach illness or birth or prenatals, the only thing he will get is ill".


Hubbard always claimed that his ideas of Dianetics originated in the 1920s and 1930s. By his own account, he spent a great deal of time in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital's library, where he would have encountered the work of Freud and other psychoanalysts. In April 1950, Hubbard and several others established the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey to coordinate work related for the forthcoming publication. Hubbard wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health at that time, allegedly completing the 180,000-word book in six weeks.

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.

See also



  • Atack, Jon: A Piece of Blue Sky, Lyle Stuart, London, 1988
  • Benton, P; Ibanex, D.; Southon, G; Southon, P. Dianetic Processing: A Brief Survey of Research Projects and Preliminary Results, Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation, 1951
  • Breuer J, Freud S, "Studies in Hysteria", Vol II of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Hogarth Press, London, 1955).
  • Carroll, Robert T: 'Dianetics', Skepdics Dictionary
  • Fischer, Harvey Jay: "Dianetic therapy: an experimental evaluation. A statistical analysis of the effect of dianetic therapy as measured by group tests of intelligence, mathematics and personality. " Abstract of Ph.D. thesis, 1953, New York University
  • Fox, Jack et al: An Experimental Investigation of Hubbard's Engram Hypothesis (Dianetics) in Psychological Newsletter, 1959, 10 131-134
  • Freeman, Lucy: "Psychologists act against Dianetics", New York Times, 9 September 1950
  • Gardner, Martin: Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, 1957, Chapter 22, " Dianetics"
  • Hayakawa, S. I.: "From Science-Fiction to Fiction-Science," in ETC: A Review of General Semantics, Vol. VIII, No. 4. Summer, 1951
  • Hubbard, L. Ron:

* "Anatomy of the Theta Body", lecture of March 1952
* "The Anatomy of Thought". Hubbard Communication Office Policy Letter 26 April 1970R, revised 15 March 1975
* "Auditor attitude and the bank", lecture of 10 October 1969
* Child Dianetics, p. 178. Publications Organization Worldwide, Edinburgh (1968 edition)
* "Dianetics", Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950
* "Dianetics: its background". HCO Bulletin of 22 May 1969.
* Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (New Era Publications, 1988)
* Dianetics Today, Church of Scientology of California (1975 ed.)
* "E-meter", lecture of 19 May 1961
* "Final Lecture", lecture of 8 November 1959
* "How we have addressed the problem of the mind", lecture of 4 July 1957
* "My Only Defense For Having Lived", 1966.
* "Review of progress of Dianetics and dianetic business", lecture of 25 February 1952
* "Ron's Journal 67", taped message of 20 September 1967
* Science of Survival, Hubbard College of Scientology (1967 ed.)
* "SOP 5 long form step III - spacation", lecture of 19 January 1953
* "The Story of Dianetics & Scientology", 1958
* "Terra Incognita: The Mind"
* "Universes", lecture of 6 April 1954

  • Lee, John A.: Sectarian Healers and Hypnotherapy, 1970, Ontario (Excerpt)
  • Miller, Russell: Bare-Faced Messiah, 1987
  • Miscavige, David: Speech to the International Association of Scientologists, 8 October 1993
  • O'Brien, Helen: Dianetics in Limbo. Whitmore, Philadelphia, 1966
  • Streissguth, Thomas: Charismatic Cult Leaders. The Oliver Press, Inc, 1995
  • van Vogt, A.E.: Dianetics and the Professions, 1953
  • Williamson, Jack: Wonder's Child: my life in science fiction. Bluejay Books, New York, 1984
  • Winter, J.A.: A Doctors Report on DIANETICS Theory and Therapy, 1951

Chronology of Dianetic texts by Hubbard

  • 1949 Terra Incognita: The Mind, an article originally in The Explorers Journal magazine, winter 1949/spring 1950 edition. Republished in The Technical Bulletins of Dianetics and Scientology volume I, page 4, published by Bridge Publications, Inc. ISBN 0-88404-475-0 (also available onlne)
  • 1950 Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-416-5
  • 1951 Advanced Procedure and Axioms Bridge Publications ISBN 87-7336-604-8
  • 1951 Child Dianetics, Dianetic Processing for Children Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-421-1
  • 1951 Dianetics: The Original Thesis, Bridge Publications, ISBN 0-88404-002-X. Republished in 1983 with the title The Dynamics of Life by Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-343-6
  • 1951 Handbook for Preclears Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-420-3
  • 1951 Notes on the Lectures of L. Ron Hubbard Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-422-X
  • 1951 Science of Survival: Prediction of Human Behavior (original title: Science of Survival: Simplified, Faster Dianetic Techniques) Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-418-1
  • 1951 Self Analysis Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-449-1
  • 1954 Dianetics 55! Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-417-3
  • 1955 Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science (Original publication 1950, as an article) Bridge Publications ISBN 1-4031-0544-8
  • 1975 Dianetics Today Bridge Publications ISBN 0-88404-036-4

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