Illness Researches
Chris Owen

In the past three installments of this series, I've discussed some methods of Scientology recruitment, as proposed and used by L. Ron Hubbard. They have all been rather dubious. Few can have been more so than the method he suggested in the Professional Auditors Bulletin of 28th February, 1956: the euphemistically-titled "illness researches".

This was first used in the fall of 1951 when Hubbard was based in Wichita, during the brief but heady period when Dianetics was a nationwide fad in the USA. He had claimed in "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health" that "70 percent of Man's illnesses" could be cured by using Dianetic auditing. This was not as a side-effect of auditing; it was explicitly a direct effect of being audited. As he put it,

"Psychosomatic ills such as arthritis, migraine, ulcers, allergies, asthma, coronary difficulties (psychosomatic - about one-third of all heart trouble cases), tendonitis, bursitis, paralysis (hysterical), eye trouble (non-pathological) have all responded .... without failure"
[LRH, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health"]
These days it is claimed that Scientology does not, of itself, heal people. Improvements in health may be a side-effect of auditing but are apparently not the basic objective. However, as "Illness Researches" makes clear, Hubbard explicitly regarded Scientology as being a miracle cure. In particular, he targetted people suffering from the AIDS of the 1950s, polio. In the PAB of 28 Feb, 1956, he acknowledges that this method of dissemination requires deception and misrepresentation, and admits that it is a deliberate attempt to get around the medical laws, but justifies it on the grounds that
"It was tremendously successful and would have continued successfully if anyone else had wanted any success in Witchita. The very first person who applied for this ad immediately after a test audit, enrolled in a professional course. The second person at once purchased a 75-hour intensive [i.e. 75 hours' auditing], and so it went. If I merely wanted a fortune out of Scientology and did not desire the health of Scientology itself, the good presence and skill of its auditors, I would long since have abandoned this research, leaving things just as they were and would have continued to run this ad and run a clinic and school to care for its resultant callers. The exact wording of this ad was as follows:
'Polio victims. A research foundation, investigating polio, desires volunteers suffering from the after effects of that illness to call for examination at address.'
When the people arrived, usually with a phone interview first, they were immediately given about three hours of auditing. The techniques in use at that time were effort processing and overt acts and motivators. We alleviated the majority of preclears reporting, using only those three hours. We did this for polio victims, arthritics and were about to do it for asthmatics when the surging success of the project frightened various individuals who had other plans for Dianetics. However there was no protest whatever from the newspapers, the public or the preclears. The auditing was given free of charge. It was given under the guise of investigation and was in actuality a research project. Any auditor anywhere can constitute [sic] himself as a minister or an auditor, a research worker in the field of any illness. In that he is not offering to treat or cure the illness but is strictly investigating it, the laws concerning medicine do not obtain [sic] to him. Anybody, even a ditch- digger, can look over polio or arthritis or asthma or anything else. It is best that a minister representing himself as a "charitable organisation", which is what he is, do the research himself so that the ad would then read:
'Polio victims - a charitable organisation investigating polio desires to examine several victims of the after effects of this illness. Phone So-and-so.' "
Honesty was clearly not one of Hubbard's strong points. However, there is an interesting subtext in the above piece. There are a couple of references to people hindering the use of "Illness researches" - "if anyone else had wanted any success in Witchita" and "the surging success... frightened various individuals who had other plans for Dianetics". It is highly probable that this refers to the other members of the board of the Dianetics Foundation, which was at that time established at Witchita. Hubbard was merely one of the directors; the others included such figures as John W. Campbell, the science-fiction editor, and Dr. Joseph Winter, M.D., who was later to publish a critical book on Dianetics entitled "A Doctor's Report on Dianetics".

The board, and the Foundation itself, soon disintegrated as a result of Hubbard's authoritarianism, financial mismanagement and descent into the pseudo-occult world of thetans, clam engrams and Invader Forces. The Foundation was later resurrected as the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation, a Church of Scientology front group. Personality Tests are administered under the aegis of the HDF, even though they are actually given by Scientologists, often in Scientology Orgs.

From what Hubbard says, it is likely that the other (more ethical?) members of the Dianetics Foundation were unhappy about the callous, unscrupulous methods of dissemination which he was employing. He admits being forced to stop using those methods but shows no regrets - indeed, he declares that he wants to continue using them for disseminating Scientology. It is interesting that, although the method was originally designed for use in Dianetics - which is claimed to cure directly - Hubbard was also willing to use it to disseminate Scientology, which is supposedly not about effecting improvements in health. He goes on to explain, with his usual lack of compassion, just what one is supposed to do with an individual who expresses an interest in being "examined":

"The interesting hooker in this ad is that anyone suffering from a lasting illness is suffering from it so as to attract attention and bring about an examination of it. These people will go on being examined endlessly. The technique which would be used today would be with the repair and remedy of havingness ["the feeling that one owns or possessses"], appertaining to the illness or injury itself "Invent a problem that leg (or arm or lungs or stomach) could be to you". One would use only this process as it is the only safe process to use against a chronic somatic and successfully alleviates such. One would NEVER use "What problem could lameness (a condition) be to you". Always run the process of problems on the subject of terminals, never on conditions. Of course one would repair the havingness of lame legs and eventually get the individual to throw a bad leg away. If the preclear could not at once invent, one would have him lie about legs or stomach or arms, or whatever is affecting him. One would use up at most about two hours of auditing time on each case. He would not tell the person he was doing other than investigating the cause. He would tell them that he was not interested in curing their polio but that educationally he could of course improve their ability to walk or breathe or whatever. As a side comment, one would omit arthritis as one of these quickies as it showed the lowest level of recovery ..."
So far, the purpose of "Illness research" has been pretty clear: to get "bodies into Orgs". Hubbard makes this explicit in emphasising what the bottom line is and, no doubt conscious of the potential P.R. problems which his methods could cause, goes on to explain how to construct a smokescreen to divert attention away from the real objective:
"This plan has the advantage of not unduly exciting the press, but if the press were to arrive, one would simply tell them, expanded, the subject of the ad. A minister investigating polio would have many reasons to do so. He would want to know how much of a drain the illness really was on the society around him; what charitable resources were necessary in order to care for it; how much difficulty it was to people in the immediate family. He would want to know whether it was a major or minor factor in the society. But basically he would want to get his hands on those preclears and alleviate their condition. In other words, improve their ability to walk or to breathe. He would want to do this and he would carry the project along by having a group and from this group getting basic courses. Remember, today it is no fantasy whatsoever that you can alleviate the majority of sufferers of various chronic illnesses. It is a very simple thing really. We have been able to do it for four years and very good auditors have been doing it regularly for five. We are not in the business of healing here. We are in the business of educating people to walk, to talk, to breathe."
As walking and breathing are two things which are seriously affected by polio (remember Roosevelt?), it is clear that Hubbard's disclaimers are mere sophistries. No matter what he says, it is apparent that he is expressly making the point that Scientology can alleviate symptoms of diseases. As the noun "cure" is defined as meaning "restoration to health" - which is what Hubbard is promoting - what other interpretation is possible?

It is unlikely that "illness research" is used today, at least in the West, but it does raise some interesting questions. If Hubbard was convinced in the late 1950s that Scientology - which was only a few years old and far less convoluted than it is today - was capable of miraculous cures, why does the Church of Scientology now claim that Scientology does not cure, despite 40 years of refinement? Does this mean that 40 years of development in Scientology has actually reduced its effectiveness, since far less is claimed for it now? We should be told...