Welcome to our ongoing project, where we blog a 1950 first edition of Scientology’s bible, Dianetics, with the help of ex-Scientologist, lawyer, and author Vance Woodward. Go here for the first post in the series.
Vance, we’ve reached a short chapter titled “Some Types of Engrams,” and it provides several examples of engrams, which we always find rather entertaining.
Our old friend Jeff Jacobsen has criticized us for not doing more in this series to explain that L. Ron Hubbard inherited many of his ideas from previous writers. And there’s no doubt, for example, that the basic notion of your adult life being affected by what happened while you were in your mother’s womb was something that had been suggested many years before Hubbard wrote Dianetics in 1950. If you haven’t seen it, you really should look at Jeff’s 1992 essay, “The Hubbard is Bare,” that lays out some of the predecessors to this book.
However, it’s Hubbard’s specific explanations for how prenatal engrams affect adults that we find astounding, and when you examine them, you simply must give Hubbard himself full credit for their creativity.
Let’s look at the doozy of an example that starts off this chapter, for example.
Hubbard asks us to imagine a pregnant woman who is struck in the stomach by her violent husband. She screams, and he says, “God damn you, I hate you! You are no good. I’m going to kill you!”
The woman responds: “Please don’t hit me again. Please don’t. I’m hurt. I’m hurt. I’m frantic with pain!”
And the father comes back with: “Lie there and rot, damn you! Good-bye!”
Now, in Hubbard’s way of thinking, the lingering effect of this sad scene results from what the fetus absorbs of this conversation after being knocked “unconscious” from the father’s blow. (And remember, this may be taking place just days after conception.)
This scene is imprinted on the reactive mind of the unborn in several different ways.
1. It is severe because it is so early — in other words, a prenatal engram rather than one that comes later in life.
2. It contains an element of hurt (“I’m frantic with pain!”)
3. The engram contains a “holder” (“Lie there”), and Hubbard says that means it will have a tendency to be “chronic.”
4. The command to “rot” will probably produce disease in the adult.
5. The “God damn you” introduces a religious aspect which will confuse the adult.
6. The “You are no good” will convince the adult that other people are not good.
7. The hostility in the tone — “I hate you” — deepens the effects of the engram.
8. And the child, once born, has to live with these awful people who were fighting while he was a fetus.
Given our history exploring this book, that last one sounds once again like Hubbard working out his own issues about his parents. He also suggests that the adult will have a tendency to take on, alternatively, the “valence” of the bullying father and the valence of the “cowardly” mother (his characterization).
And so this is how the adult goes through life with that prenatal engram residing in his reactive mind:
If he dramatizes the mother, he will feel the pain she received, which is a blow in the stomach (whereas his own was on his head and heart); if he dramatizes the father, he will be in trouble with society, to say nothing of his own wife and children.
And so our Hubbardian everyman stumbles through life, unaware that his unhappiness can be sourced to the words of an argument that occurred while he was the size of a pea in his mother’s womb.
We know from many previous examples that this is the basics of Dianetics, Vance, but it still amazes us that anyone took this idea seriously.
VANCE: Yeah. It amazes me too, and yet I did take it seriously. After I left, I concluded that the only way I could save face and not suffer enduring self-loathing was to realize that I worked very hard to make sense of Hubbard’s take on reality. So I proceeded to realize exactly that. Anyhow, here are couple of things that helped me feel a little comfortable with the wackiness while I was in. First, Hubbard claimed that engrams were more like insentient recordings than memories. So, he wasn’t claiming that knocked-out fetuses could understand the words being spoken in their vicinity. Rather, a person would have to learn language before the word content of engrams would have any hypnotic effect. That seemed plausible to me. (Don’t worry, it no longer does.)
Also, Hubbard theorized several possible causes of most maladies. So, for example, chronic saddies as an adult could come from the word content of prenatal engrams (“I’m sad”), from the raw emotional content of those engrams or from “painful emotion engrams” (i.e., traumatic losses in life). According to Hubbard, these traumatic losses are what sequester and seal up a person’s life force. In English, people who experience crappy events tend to be sad. This explains why children are happy and adults are miserable: an accumulation of losses and disappointments. That seemed pretty intuitive as a general, though not absolute, truth. But Hubbard went on to claim that prenatal engrams provide the foundation upon which painful emotion engrams rest. Get rid of the prenatal engrams and emotionally painful events would no longer stick with a person. In other words, well-audited individuals would spring back much more quickly from emotional setbacks. In theory. Well, it sounded promising. But more importantly. I was sad and wanted help with that. For me, I suppose it was a combination of incentives, an ability to self-deceive and hangups about taking drugs. Either way, happiness is something that, arguably, is always real. In other words, delusion-based happiness is happiness. In other words, reality is for people who can’t handle Scientology.
THE BUNKER: We’ll just point out one more example from this short chapter. To illustrate how powerful and resilient engrams are, Hubbard — ever fascinated with pregnancy — suggests that morning sickness is a psychosomatic condition resulting from an engram that is passed down from generation to generation because of things that pregnant women say aloud and which is heard by their unborn.
He hypothesizes that this chain of vomitous hypochondriac suggestion may have gotten started when some woman in the primordial past happened to get food poisoning while she was pregnant.
So, for thousands of years, women have been passing on to each other the idea of being sick while pregnant because of the things they blurt out while nauseous, and morning sickness is not caused by the things actually happening to a woman’s body.
Having never given birth, Vance, we’re thinking it might be best to allow our commenters to give us their thoughts on this one.
VANCE: I’m with you on that. Let’s leave that one to the crowd.
Get Your Soul Duds Ready!
We were going to save this wonderful flier for Sunday Funnies, but then Mike Rinder went ahead and put it on his blog, ruining our plans. That so-and-so!
Anyway, we can’t imagine what a fun time it’s going to be when people gather at the Inglewood facility to hear a brother from the Nation of Islam explain to them why they should give donations so Scientology can refurbish a building in the San Fernando Valley. That’s going to be some speech!
Posted by Tony Ortega on May 23, 2013 at 07:00
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