Advance comes from asking free-minded questions of nature,
not from quoting the works and thinking the thoughts of
by-gone years. (1)
There is certainly no book in existence quite like Dianetics,
with its wild scientific claims and unsubstantiated arguments.
The claim is that dianetics was a totally unique theory of the
mind wrought from Hubbard's "many years of exact research and
careful testing." (2) But was it rather a loose composite of already
existing theories mixed with novel, unproven ideas? Despite
Hubbard's claims of originality, many of the ideas in dianetics
were already existing and even in vogue before dianetics
appeared. Either Hubbard really studied other (uncredited) works
before he wrote Dianetics, or he wasted years of his time
re-inventing the wheel.
Although there are no reference notes in Dianetics to see what
are Hubbard's ideas and what are borrowed, we can quickly
eliminate the idea that dianetics appeared "from the blue" by
Hubbard's own statements. In Dianetics itself is the statement
that "many schools of mental healing from the Aesculapian to the
modern hypnotist were studied after the basic philosophy of
dianetics had been postulated". (3) Alfred Korzybski, Emil
Kraepelin, Franz Mesmer, Ivan Pavlov, Herbert Spencer, and others
are mentioned as resources in Dianetics, so we must assume
Hubbard was crediting these people to some degree. He must
certainly have known, then, of at least some of the research from
his time which will be mentioned in this article. Hubbard in
other settings acknowledged Sigmund Freud (especially through
Commander "Snake" Thompson), (4) Count Alfred Korzybski, (5) and
Aleister Crowley, (6) as contributors to his ideas on the human
mind. In a speech in 1958, Hubbard stated that he had spent much
time in the Oak Knoll Naval Hospital medical library in 1945
during a stay for ulcers, where "I was able to get in a year's
In fact, many of the theories and ideas in Dianetics can be
found in scientific and philosophical literature previous to the
first publishing of Hubbard's theories. Parts of Dianetics, for
example, have striking resemblance to two articles found in
Volume 28 (1941) of the Psychoanalytic Review.
Dianetics theory posits the existence of engrams. These are
memories of events that occur around us when our analytical mind
is unconscious, and they are recorded in a separate area of the
mind called the reactive mind. A seemingly unique theory in
Dianetics is that these memories begin being stored "in the cells
of the zygote - which is to say, with conception." (8) These
engrams can cause problems for the person throughout life unless
handled through dianetics auditing.
Dr. J. Sadger, nine years before the introduction of Dianetics
in 1950, wrote that several of his patients were not cured of
their psychological problems until he had taken them back to
their existence as sperm or ovum. He declared that "there exists
certainly a memory, although an unconscious one, of embryonic
days, which persists throughout life and may continuously
determine an action." (9) Sadger spends much time explaining how
his patients' memories of the time when they were zygotes or even
sperm or ovum had affected their adult behaviors, noting that "an
unconscious lasting memory must have remained from these
embryonic days." (10) There were "unmistakable dreams" of being a
sperm in the father's testicle.
Engrams, those unconscious memories in dianetics, are said by
Hubbard to be stored in the cells of the body and passed on to
their clone cells and finally on to the adult being. Hubbard
claimed to discover that "patients sometimes have a feeling that
they are sperms or ovums... this is called the sperm dream." (11)
It was impossible, he claimed, to deny to a pre-clear that he
could remember being a sperm. But Sadger wrote about this first,
and Hubbard could well have read this in his "year's study" at
Oak Knoll Hospital.
Another coincidental "discovery" of Hubbard and Sadger was
that mothers often attempt to abort their child. Sadger states
that "so many a fall or other accident of a pregnant woman is
nothing else than an attempt at abortion on the part of the
unconscious, not to mention those cases where the mother seeks to
free herself more or less forcibly from the unwanted child." (12)
Hubbard concurs; "Attempted abortion is very common," (13) and in
fact "twenty or thirty abortion attempts are not uncommon in the
aberee". (14) Again, not an idea "from the blue."
Life in the womb was not very kind, according to one of
Sadger's patients; "Perhaps when father performed coitus with
mother in her pregnancy I was much shaken and rocked. Shall that
have been one reason that I so easily became dizzy and that all
my life I have had an aversion even as a child from swings and
carousels?" (15) Hubbard, in a similar vein, insists that the
mother "should not have coitus forced upon her. For every coital
experience is an engram in the child during pregnancy." (16) "Papa
becomes passionate and baby has the sensation of being put into a
running washing machine." (17)
There are at least three other similarities like the "sperm
dreams", commonality of abortion attempts, and fetus discomfort
during parental sex. This seems quite a coincidence, but it is
not known whether Hubbard read Sadger's article. Suffice it to
say that these are major ideas in dianetics, but they are not new
The second article under discussion from Psychoanalytic Review
deals with the unbearable conditions during birth and the affects
of these in later life. Grace W. Pailthorpe, M.D., argued in
this 1941 article that patients should be psychoanalyzed more
deeply into the period of infancy, or at least to the 'trauma of
birth'. Otherwise no lasting therapeutic effect could be
expected. Birth has traumatized all of us, she declares, and
these unconscious memories drive us in our adulthood. "It is
only when deep analysis has finally exposed the unconscious
deviations of our vital force" (18) that we can recover and enjoy
"It was no obscure theory," wrote Hubbard, "which brought
about the discovery of the exact role prenatal experience and
birth play in aberration and psychosomatic ills." He
coincidentally concurs with Pailthorpe's obscure theory, however.
With Pailthorpe's article, for example, we can also note the
dramatic similarities of dianetics with simple Freudian
psychoanalysis. There is in both the return to past times in the
patient's life to search for the source of his or her current
problems. Once these problematic memories are discovered and
treated the problems vanish. In Pailthorpe's article we have a
man who was hopelessly traumatized by the events at his birth.
He was cruelly kicked out of his "home" in the womb, and his
resistance to this was assumed to be the cause of the immediate
traumas of the nurse's and mother's attentions (which were
"painful to the child's sensitive body" (19)). These traumas caused
headaches and social disorders in adult life. Psychoanalysis
discovered the causes (birth trauma) and when these were brought
to the conscious level with their meaning explained, the
headaches and social dysfunctions were alleviated.
Dianetics follows this line of reasoning to a great degree.
According to Hubbard, engrams (past traumas) are discovered in
the pre-clear's past, and bringing these engrams into
consciousness (from the reactive to the analytic mind) alleviates
the disorder. Hubbard claims that after auditing people (he had
the pre-clear lie on a couch in Freudian imitation),
"psycho-somatic illness...by dianetic technique...has been
eradicated entirely in every case." (20)
In Dianetics, the reader is left with the impression that the
ideas of birth and pre-birth memories and traumas, multiple
abortion attempts, and fetal discomfort in the womb are new
discoveries. As can be seen, this is not the case. And there
are many impressions of "new" and "unique" that are incorrect as
Another important "discovery" of Hubbard's is that "Man, as a
life form, can be demonstrated to obey in all his actions and
purposes the one command: 'Survive!'." (21) Hubbard's four
"dynamics" of self, sex (meaning procreation), group, and
mankind, all deal with survival of man. Although Hubbard makes
grandiose claims that he discovered that man's ultimate goal is
survival, one can trace this idea back to Thomas Hobbes, an
English philosopher who wrote in the 1600's. In his famous work,
Leviathan, Hobbes wrote; "The Right of Nature... is the Liberty
each man hath, to use his own power, as he will himselfe, for the
preservation of his own Nature; that is to say, of his own Life;
and consequently, of doing any thing, which in his own Judgement,
and Reason, hee shall conceive to be the aptest means
thereunto." (22) This, in Hubbard's terms, is the first dynamic, or
personal survival. Leviathan is divided into three parts, on
Man, Commonwealth, and Darkness. The first, in Hubbard's terms,
could be said to deal with the first dynamic (self-survival), and
the second with the third dynamic (group survival). "The finall
Cause, End, or Designe of men... in the introduction of that
restraint upon themselves (in which wee see them live in
Common-wealths), is the foresight of their own preservation." (23)
Again we have an idea which Hubbard claims to have discovered,
found in another's writings years earlier.
Coincidentally (?), Hobbes has some other ideas in common with
Hubbard. At the beginning of every dianetics and Scientology
book is this note: "In reading this book, be very certain you do
not go past a word you do not understand." (24) Throughout both
dianetics and Scientology training is the notion that words must
be clearly understood before course study can continue. This is
a useful suggestion, and many Scientologists may believe Hubbard
"discovered" this idea, but Hobbes stressed it over 300 years
before Hubbard did. In Leviathan, Hobbes derided others whose
ideas he was critical of thusly; "The first cause of Absurd
conclusions I ascribe to the want of Method; in that they begin
not their Ratiocination [argument] from Definitions; that is,
from settled significations of their words." (25) Hobbes covers
this idea several times, stressing that "in the right Definition
of Names, lyes the first use of Speech; which is the Acquisition
of Science: and in wrong, or no Definitions, lyes the first
abuse; from which proceed all false and senselesse Tenets." (26)
I will leave it to the reader to investigate the other similar
ideas between Hobbes and Hubbard, and will leave the question
open whether Hubbard borrowed rather than discovered these ideas,
since again there is no complete list of what books Hubbard had
- Dianetics, p. 173
- Dianetics, p. ix of 1975 edition.
- Dianetics, p. 165.
- Bare-faced Messiah, pp. 230-1
- L. Ron Hubbard, cassette tape, "Introduction to Dianetics", Dianetics Lecture Series 1. 1950. Bridge Publications, Inc.
- L. Ron Hubbard, Philadelphia Doctorate Course series, cassette #18
- L. Ron Hubbard,"The Story of Dianetics and Scientology" , 1958, cassette tape #581OC18
- Dianetics, p. 176.
- Dr. J. Sadger, "Preliminary Study of the Psychic Life of the Fetus and the Primary Germ." Psychoanalytic Review July 1941 28:3. p. 333
- Sadger, p. 343-4.
- Dianetics, p. 391.
- Sadger, p. 336.
- Dianetics, p. 211.
- Dianetics, p. 214.
- Sadger, p. 352.
- Dianetics, p. 214.
- Dianetics, p. 176.
- Grace W. Pailthorpe, M.D., "Deflection of Energy, As a Result
of Birth Trauma, and its Bearing Upon Character Formation", (The
Psychoanalytic Review, vol. 27, pp. 305-326) p. 326
- Pailthorpe, p. 307.
- Dianetics, p. 123.
- Dianetics, p. 29
- Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London; Penquin Books, 1968) p. 189
- Leviathan, p. 223
- Dianetics, p. vii
- Leviathan, p. 114
- Leviathan, p. 106
Reprinted with permission from The Hubbard is Bare by Jeff
Jacobsen. Copyright © 1992 by Jeff Jacobsen, P.O. Box 3541,
Scottsdale, AZ 85271.