A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies | View All

Dianetics / Scientology

"Hubbard reveals a deep-seated hatred of women....When Hubbard's Mamas are not getting kicked in the stomach by their husbands or having affairs with lovers, they are preoccupied with AA [attempted abortion]--usually by means of knitting needles." (Gardner 1957: 267).

In 1950, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard (1911-1986) published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (The American Saint Hill Organization, Los Angeles. All page references here are to this edition.) The book is treated as if it were a holy scripture by Scientologists and they treat it as if it were the cornerstone of their church, their religion, and what they consider to be their science. Hubbard tells the reader that dianetics "...contains a therapeutic technique with which can be treated all inorganic mental ills and all organic psycho-somatic ills, with assurance of complete cure...." He claims that he has discovered the "single source of mental derangement" (Hubbard 6). However, in a disclaimer on the frontispiece of the book, we are told that "Scientology and its sub-study, Dianetics, as practiced by the Church...does not wish to accept individuals who desire treatment of physical illness or insanity but refers these to qualified specialists of other organizations who deal in these matters." The disclaimer seems clearly to have been a protective mechanism against lawsuits for practicing medicine without a license; the author repeatedly insists that dianetics can cure just about anything that ails you. He also repeatedly insists that dianetics is a science. Yet, just about anyone familiar with scientific texts will be able to tell from the first few pages of Dianetics that the text is no scientific work and the author no scientist. Dianetics is a classic example of a pseudoscience.

On page 5 of Dianetics, Hubbard asserts that a science of mind must find "a single source of all insanities, psychoses, neuroses, compulsions, repressions and social derangements." Such a science, he claims, must provide "Invariant scientific evidence as to the basic nature and functional background of the human mind." And, this science, he says, must understand the "cause and cure of all psycho-somatic ills...." Yet, he also claims that it would be unreasonable to expect a science of mind to be able to find a single source of all insanities, since some are caused by "malformed, deleted or pathologically injured brains or nervous systems" and some are caused by doctors. Undaunted by this apparent contradiction, he goes on to say that this science of mind "would have to rank, in experimental precision, with physics and chemistry." He then tells us that dianetics is "...an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences" (Hubbard, 6).

There are broad hints that this so-called science of the mind isn't a science at all in the claim that dianetics is built on "definite axioms" and in his a priori notion that a science of mind must find a single source of mental and psychosomatic ills. Sciences aren't built on axioms and they don't claim a priori knowledge of the number of causal mechanisms which must exist for any phenomena. Of course, science presupposes a regular order to nature and assumes there are underlying principles according to which natural phenomena work. It assumes that these principles or laws are relatively constant. But it does not assume that it can know a priori either what these principles are or what the actual order of any set of empirical phenomena is. A real science is built on tentative proposals to account for observed phenomena. Scientific knowledge of causes, including how many kinds there are, is a matter of discovery not stipulation. Also, scientists generally respect logic and would have difficulty saying with a straight face that this new science must show that there is a single source of all insanities except for those insanities that are caused by other sources.

There is other evidence that dianetics is not a science. For example, his theory of mind shares little in common with modern neurophysiology and what is known about the brain and how it works. According to Hubbard, the mind has three parts. "The analytical mind is that portion of the mind which perceives and retains experience data to compose and resolve problems and direct the organism along the four dynamics. It thinks in differences and similarities. The reactive mind is that portion of the mind which files and retains physical pain and painful emotion and seeks to direct the organism solely on a stimulus-response basis. It thinks only in identities. The somatic mind is that mind, which, directed by the analytical or reactive mind, places solutions into effect on the physical level" (Hubbard, 39).

According to Hubbard, the single source of insanity and psychosomatic ills is the engram. Engrams are to be found in one's "engram bank," i.e., in  the reactive mind." The "reactive mind," he says, "can give a man arthritis, bursitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, coronary trouble, high blood pressure, and so on down the whole catalogue of psycho-somatic ills, adding a few more which were never specifically classified as psycho-somatic, such as the common cold" (Hubbard, 51). One searches in vain for evidence of these claims. We are simply told: "These are scientific facts. They compare invariably with observed experience" (Hubbard, 52).

An engram is defined as "a definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue. It is considered as a unit group of stimuli impinged solely on the cellular being" (Hubbard, 60 note). We are told that engrams are only recorded during periods of physical or emotional suffering. During those periods the "analytical mind" shuts off and the reactive mind is turned on. The analytical mind has all kinds of wonderful features, including being incapable of error. It has, we are told, standard memory banks, in contrast to the reactive bank. These standard memory banks are recording all possible perceptions and, he says, they are perfect, recording exactly what is seen or heard, etc.

What is the evidence that engrams exist and that they are "hard-wired" into cells during physically or emotionally painful experiences? Hubbard doesn't say that he's done any laboratory studies, but he says that

in dianetics, on the level of laboratory observation, we discover much to our astonishment that cells are evidently sentient in some currently inexplicable way. Unless we postulate a human soul entering the sperm and ovum at conception, there are things which no other postulate will embrace than that these cells are in some way sentient (Hubbard, 71).

This explanation is not on the "level of laboratory observation" but is a false dilemma and begs the question. Furthermore, the theory of souls entering zygotes has at least one advantage over Hubbard's own theory: it is not deceptive and is clearly metaphysical. Hubbard tries to clothe his metaphysical claims in scientific garb.

The cells as thought units evidently have an influence, as cells, upon the body as a thought unit and an organism. We do not have to untangle this structural problem to resolve our functional postulates. The cells evidently retain engrams of painful events. After all, they are the things which get injured....

The reactive mind may very well be the combined cellular intelligence. One need not assume that it is, but it is a handy structural theory in the lack of any real work done in this field of structure. The reactive engram bank may be material stored in the cells themselves. It does not matter whether this is credible or incredible just now....

The scientific fact, observed and tested, is that the organism, in the presence of physical pain, lets the analyzer get knocked out of circuit so that there is a limited quantity or no quantity at all of personal awareness as a unit organism (Hubbard, 71).

Hubbard asserts that these are scientific facts based on observations and tests, but the fact is there hasn't been any real work done in this field. The following illustration is typical of the kind of "evidence" provided by Hubbard for his theory of engrams.

A woman is knocked down by a blow. She is rendered "unconscious." She is kicked and told she is a faker, that she is no good, that she is always changing her mind. A chair is overturned in the process. A faucet is running in the kitchen. A car is passing in the street outside. The engram contains a running record of all these perceptions: sight, sound, tactile [sic], taste, smell, organic sensation, kinetic sense, joint position, thirst record, etc. The engram would consist of the whole statement made to her when she was "unconscious": the voice tones and emotion in the voice, the sound and feel of the original and later blows, the tactile of the floor, the feel and sound of the chair overturning, the organic sensation of the blow, perhaps the taste of blood in her mouth or any other taste present there, the smell of the person attacking her and the smells in the room, the sound of the passing car's motor and tires, etc" (Hubbard, 60).

How this example relates to insanity or psycho-somatic ills is explained by Hubbard this way:

The engram this woman has received contains a neurotic positive suggestion....She has been told that she is a faker, that she is no good, and that she is always changing her mind. When the engram is restimulated in one of the great many ways possible [such as hearing a car passing by while the faucet is running and a chair falls over], she has a feeling that she is no good, a faker, and she will change her mind (Hubbard, 66).

There is no possible way to empirically test such claims. A "science" that consists of nothing but such claims is not a science, but a pseudoscience.

Hubbard claims that enormous data has been collected and not a single exception to his theory has been found (Hubbard, 68). We are to take his word on this, apparently, for all the "data" he presents are in the form of anecdotes or made-up examples like the one presented above.

Another indication that dianetics is not a science, and that its founder hasn't a clue as to how science functions, is given in claims such as the following: "Several theories could be postulated as to why the human mind evolved as it did, but these are theories, and dianetics is not concerned with structure" (Hubbard, 69). This is his way of saying that it doesn't concern him that engrams can't be observed, that even though they are defined as permanent changes in cells, they can't be detected as physical structures. It also doesn't bother him that the cure of all illnesses requires that these "permanent" engrams be "erased" from the reactive bank. He claims that they aren't really erased but simply transferred to the standard bank. How this physically or structurally occurs is apparently irrelevant. He simply asserts that it happens this way, without argument and without proof. He simply repeats that this is a scientific fact, as if saying it makes it so.

Another "scientific fact," according to Hubbard, is that the most harmful engrams occur in the womb. The womb turns out to be a terrible place. It is "wet, uncomfortable and unprotected" (Hubbard, 130).

Mama sneezes, baby gets knocked "unconscious." Mama runs lightly and blithely into a table and baby gets its head stoved in. Mama has constipation and baby, in the anxious effort, gets squashed. Papa becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a running washing machine. Mama gets hysterical, baby gets an engram. Papa hits Mama, baby gets an engram. Junior bounces on Mama's lap, baby gets an engram. And so it goes (Hubbard, 130).

We are told that people can have "more than two hundred" prenatal engrams and that engrams "received as a zygote are potentially the most aberrative, being wholly reactive. Those received as an embryo are intensely aberrative. Those received as the foetus are enough to send people to institutions all by themselves" (Hubbard, 130-131). What is the evidence for these claims? How could one test a zygote to see if it records engrams? "All these things are scientific facts, tested and rechecked and tested again," he says (Hubbard, 133). But you must take L. Ron Hubbard's word for it. Scientists generally do not expect others to take their word for such dramatic claims.

Furthermore, to get cured of an illness you need a dianetic therapist, called an auditor. Who is qualified to be an auditor? "Any person who is intelligent and possessed of average persistency and who is willing to read this book [Dianetics] thoroughly should be able to become a dianetic auditor" (Hubbard, 173). The auditor must use "dianetic reverie" to effect a cure. The goal of dianetic therapy is to bring about a "release" or a "clear." The former has had major stress and anxiety removed by dianetics; the latter has neither active nor potential psycho-somatic illness or aberration (Hubbard, 170). The "purpose of therapy and its sole target is the removal of the content of the reactive engram bank. In a release, the majority of emotional stress is deleted from this bank. In a clear, the entire content is removed" (Hubbard, 174). The "reverie" used to achieve these wonders is described as an intensified use of some special faculty of the brain which everyone possesses but which "by some strange oversight, Man has never before discovered" (Hubbard, 167). Hubbard has discovered what none before him has seen and yet his description of this "reverie" is of a man sitting down and telling another man his troubles (Hubbard, 168). In a glorious non sequitur, he announces that auditing "falls utterly outside all existing legislation," unlike psychoanalysis, psychology and hypnotism which "may in some way injure individuals or society" (Hubbard, 168-169). It is not clear, however, why telling others one's troubles is a monumental discovery. Nor it is clear why auditors couldn't injure individuals or society, especially since Hubbard advises them: "Don't evaluate data....don't question the validity of data. Keep your reservations to yourself" (Hubbard, 300). This does not sound like a scientist giving sound advice to his followers. This sounds like a guru giving advice to his disciples.

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 as the one about a patient who believes she was raped by her father at age nine. "Large numbers of insane patients claim this," says Hubbard, who goes on to claim that the patient was "raped" when she was "nine days beyond conception....The pressure and upset of coitus is very uncomfortable to the child and normally can be expected to give the child an engram which will have as its contents the sexual act and everything that was said" (Hubbard, 144). Such speculation is appropriate in fiction, but not in science. Thus, we may say that Scientology is a religion built on a fiction, but what religion isn't?

One of the more controversial fictions of L. Ron Hubbard involves a story about Xenu, an alien leader who lead a contingent of space ships to Earth 75 million years ago. The great leader parked the ships around volcanoes and blew them up. Something of these annihilated aliens remains as a sort of "original sin" to be passed on by humans, causing us continual spiritual harm. The Church of Scientology considers the story of Xenu a piece of "religious writing" on par with the Old Testament.

See also my review of L. Ron Hubbard's The Rediscovery of the Human Soul.

reader comments

further reading

books and articles

Atack, Jon. A Piece of Blue Sky : Scientology, Dianetics, and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed (New York, NY: Carol Pub. Group, 1990).

Cooper Paulette.The Scandal of Scientology. 1971. Tower Publications.

Gardner, Martin. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1957), chapter 22.

Hubbard, Lafayette Ronald. Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (The American Saint Hill Organization, Los Angeles, 1950).

Miller, Russell. 1997. Bare-Faced Messiah: the True Story of L. Ron Hubbard.       Reviewed by Martin Gardner.


The Sound of One Mouth Blathering: My review of The Rediscovery of the Human Soul by L. Ron Hubbard

Scientology's Lies

Karin Spaink's Scientology stuff

Press Release by Steven Fishman

Scientology vs. the Internet

Scientology Founder - What a Nut! read about L. Ron, his commitment to a mental hospital and the F.B.I.

Scientology Associated Deaths

Scientologist's death differs in two tellings

Scientology Audited

Operation Clambake - the fight against Scientology on the Net

alt.scientology.war Wendy M. Grossman

Scientology: Religion or Intelligence Agency ? by Jon Atack (member for 9 years)

Fact Net on Dianetics and Scientology

Free Zone Association A heretical sect

Scientology launches new censorship attack on the Internet by Rick Ross

Hollywood, Satanism, Scientology and Suicide "The Fable"

Ron the Nut

An Experimental Investigation of Hubbard's Engram Hypothesis (Dianetics) by Jack Fox, Alvin E. Davis, and B Lebovit Psychological Newsletter, 1959, 10 131-134

news stories

new New Scientology Exposé: The Most Controversial Claims "In Oscar-winning director (Taxi to the Dark Side) Alex Gibney's controversial new documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which premiered to a packed house Sunday night at the Sundance Film Festival, several former Scientologists – among them, Oscar winner Paul Haggis – hold back little when it comes to long-whispered-about topics about the church, including claims of brainwashing, physical abuse, and meddling in the lives of A-listers John Travolta and Tom Cruise." [/new]

The Apostate Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, February 14, 2011 I've read about half of this 26-page article and have found it difficult to stay awake while reading material that is old, uninteresting, and repeatedly wishy-washy (XZ says blah blah blah about ABC and QED [who's dead] but RSVP, who was there, doesn't remember it ever happening.)

Another Ex-Scientologist Publishes Damning Tell-All By Tony Ortega

Last year's killer I-escaped-from-Scientology narrative was put out by Marc Headley. His Blown for Good: Behind the Iron Curtain of Scientology made for a gripping read, about a low-level grunt who spent years at Scientology's secret HQ in the California desert until he finally made a mad dash for freedom.

This year, we can report that Headley's book has been equaled. In Counterfeit Dreams: One Man's Journey Into and Out of the World of Scientology, ex-Scientologist Jefferson Hawkins provides his own dramatic tale of getting sucked into and ultimately escaping from Scientology, but Hawkins was no low-level scrub.

He may be the reason Scientology became as popular as it did. It was Hawkins's ideas for television ads (the "volcano" TV spot, for example) that propelled Dianetics to meteoric heights, leading many to wonder if Scientologists themselves weren't just buying up the books by the truckload to make sure it topped the New York Times Bestsellers List.

The Church of Scientology continues its attack on CNN's Anderson Cooper. (Why? See below.) The church magazine, called inappropriately Freedom, has an issue devoted, in part, to discrediting Cooper. To drive traffic to its magazine for the story on "the least trusted name in news," the church has bought ad space on Google. If your search includes "Anderson Cooper," an ad will appear with a link to the church's website at www.freedommag.org. The ad looks like this:

Sponsored links

  1. Anderson Cooper

    Who was the inside source for AC360
    story? Truth they refused to tell.

The Catholic Church (or anyone whose reputation has been sullied by the facts) might take a lesson from the Scientologists.

Russia Bans Scientology and Top Dead Scientologist, L. Ron Hubbard After some individuals in Siberia—literally, Siberia!—received Hubbard’s books and videos, customs officials sent the titles to psychologists, who agreed that the works should be criminalized on the basis that they contained “ideas justifying violence in general and in particular any means of opposing critics of Scientology,” according to The Moscow Times.

CNN's Anderson Cooper does a series on Scientology that adds little to the series of articles published in the St. Petersburg Times that chronicles the physical violence of church leaders. One thing these reports show is: "The church is not as powerful or threatening as it used to be," but watch out Minnesota.

Scientology's new media war The Church of Scientology has hired journalists to "investigate" one of its most aggressive critics: the St. Petersburg Times (which has earned a Pulitzer Prize for its Scientology reporting). Mike Hoyt at the Columbia Journalism Review says no right-minded journalist would take payment from an entity "notorious for bringing terrible pressure on any journalist who dares to examine it."

Scientologists 'heal' Haiti quake victims using touch

Scientologists practicing voodoo in Haiti, only their form of energy healing is called "assist." "We're trained as volunteer ministers, we use a process called 'assist' to follow the nervous system to reconnect the main points, to bring back communication," said one of the volunteers flown to Haiti by "a wealthy private donor" aka John Travolta. According to one source:

Scientologists believe that individuals are foremost spirits, or thetans, and that Scientology methods will better help the body communicate with the spirit and remove mental blocks to bring relief.

Mental blocks? What planet are these people from?

Three of Scientology's elite parishioners keep faith, but leave the church Geir Isene of Norway and Americans Mary Jo Leavitt and Sherry Katz, each having advanced to the Church of Scientology's highest spiritual level "Operating Thetan VIII recently announced they were quitting because of abusive management practices.

Scientology a 'criminal organisation' The Church of Scientology says allegations made before the Australian Federal Parliament by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon are an abuse of parliamentary privilege. Senator Xenophon said the Church of Scientology is a criminal organization that hides behind its "so-called religious beliefs". "Do you want Australian tax exemptions to be supporting an organization that coerces its followers into having abortions? Do you want to be supporting an organization that defrauds, that blackmails, that falsely imprisons?" he asked.

Church of Scientology guilty of fraud in France A Paris court convicted the Church of Scientology's French office, its library, and six of its leaders of fraud. The church used "commercial harassment" against recruits and was fined more than half a million euros. Four of the leaders were given suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. "The original complaint in the case dates back more than a decade, when a young woman said she took out loans and spent the equivalent of 21,000 on books, courses and 'purification packages' after being recruited in 1998. When she sought reimbursement and to leave the group, its leadership refused."

In an unrelated story, Oscar-winner Paul Haggis has quit the Church of Scientology because, he said, “I could not, in good conscience, be a member of an organization where gay-bashing was tolerated.”

In a further unrelated story, Australian soldier Edward Alexander McBride "was found electrocuted and hanged at an Energex substation in Brisbane in 2007, two days after completing a month of Scientology courses for which he had paid $25,000." The death was ruled a suicide, but a request for files by the Queensland coroner was denied on grounds of "confessional privilege."

In a really unrelated story, Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis stood up, tore off his microphone, and stormed off the set of ABC’s Nightline when asked by Martin Bashir, “Do you believe that a galactic emperor called Xenu brought his people to earth 75 million years ago and buried them in volcanoes?”

Russia: Scientology Ban Is Ruled Illegal The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia acted illegally when it banned the Church of Scientology.

Scientology's Creepy New Uniforms

Strength in their numbers: More Church of Scientology defectors come forward with accounts of abuse "...behind-the-scenes accounts from Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, the highest officials ever to leave Scientology, were buttressed by detailed revelations of highly placed former managers Amy Scobee and Tom De Vocht.

Now their stories have prompted other former Scientology veterans to go public about physical and mental abuses they say they witnessed and endured."

Scientology Leader David Miscavige: Still A Scary, Insane Psychopath

Scientology Expansion Statistics 2009! ("The Church’s property holdings internationally have more than doubled in the last 5 years....There are 8,071 Scientology Churches, Missions and groups in 165 nations, double the number five years ago....80 million L. Ron Hubbard books and lectures on Dianetics and Scientology have been sold in the last decade, compared to 5.6 million in the prior decade, and 60 of that 80 million have been sold in the last two years-more than during the first 50 years of Dianetics and Scientology combined." So they say. Is it true? Who knows?)

Violence common among Scientology managers ("The leader of the Church of Scientology struck his subordinates numerous times and set an example for physical violence among the tightly controlled religion's management team, four former high-ranking executives told a newspaper for a story published Sunday.

The executives who have since left the organization told The St. Petersburg Times that they witnessed David Miscavige, chairman of the board that oversees the church, hit staff members dozens of times." For more details, see Scientology: The Truth Rundown, Parts 1, 2, and 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology.)

Scientology Dirty Tricks (The COS took out a filming permit from the L.A. Film Office and used it to prevent protesters from having access to the COS building on Hollywood Blvd they were targeting.)

Wikipedia blocks access from Church of Scientology in L.A. ("The Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia has blocked all contributions from computers at the Church of Scientology's Los Angeles headquarters to stop users there from revising articles to reflect a pro-Scientology viewpoint.")

Church of Scientology goes on trial in France (The "church" is accused of organized fraud in a case that could lead to the nationwide dissolution of the organization.)

Scientology: Gays and Lesbians Should Be Quarantined and Institutionalized

Authorities in Belgium raid Church of Scientology

Tom Cruise says it all in his own words



Château Scientology: Inside the Church’s Celebrity Centre by Dana Goodyear

Looking over my shoulder, The Inside Account of the Story That Almost Killed Me June 23, 2007 By Paulette Cooper

Accused family killer was 'denied treatment by Scientologist parents'

Inside Scientology Unlocking the complex code of America's most mysterious religion by Janet Reitman

Scientology link to public schools As early as the third grade, students in S.F. and elsewhere are subtly introduced to church's concepts via anti-drug teachings

A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant

Sympathy For The Devil (Tory Bezazian was a veteran Scientologist who loved going after church critics. Until she met the darkest detractor of all.) New Times Los Angeles, September 27, 2001 by Tony Ortega

The shocking case of Scientology mistreatment of the mentally ill you haven’t heard

Scientologists loses copyright case By Jan Libbenga 08/09/2003

Church of Scientology faces French ban

For information on the devious tactics used by Scientology to recruit new members in the aftermath of the anti-American terrorist attacks on 9/11/01 see Rod Keller's page on Scientology.

Last updated 03-Feb-2015

© Copyright 1994-2016 Robert T. Carroll * This page was designed by Cristian Popa.