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Blogging Dianetics, Part 6: Reactive Mind Games

DianeticsStandardWelcome to our ongoing project, where we blog a 1950 first edition of Scientology’s bible, Dianetics, with the help of ex-Scientologist, Bay Area lawyer, blogger, and author Vance Woodward. Go here for the first post in the series.

[NOTE: As a bonus, we’ve got the new Scientology sing-a-long sensation at the bottom of the page.]

It’s time for Hubbard to lay his cards on the table. We’ve been going through a lot of windup over the first 70 pages of frontmatter and the initial chapters of this book. Much of it has been a classic of the tall tale method: we’re told that a secret has been discovered which is going to release the superhuman inside of each of us. But what is that discovery?

Hubbard really can’t delay any longer, and it’s here, in this second chapter of Book Two, that he has to make his claim to what his discovery is and how it works. Perhaps that’s why this chapter is by far the most expressive and even operatic in tone. Hubbard is really laying it on thick, and he’s doing his best to sweep the reader into an ecstatic state as he makes his big reveal…

There’s a demon inside of each of us, holding us back, ruining our plans, keeping us from being who we really could be. And that demon is something he calls the reactive mind.

Hubbard frames this chapter in the context of evolution, arguing that although our minds — at least our analytical minds — are perfect recording computers, we evolved in a trying environment with rather traumatic experiences, such as being eaten by predators. So, in order to make that less painful, another part of the mind developed that takes over as we go through such trauma. Our perfectly recording analytical minds are then interrupted by this interloper, the reactive mind, which makes its own perfect copies of everything we experience during times of extreme stress and pain. (These moments are recorded in something called engrams, which Hubbard says are stored in cellular protoplasm. We’ll come back to that whopper in a future chapter.) The problem, Hubbard says, is that this sort of survival module in our heads is no longer needed in a modern context, and in fact has become a huge pain in the ass. Because not only does this reactive memory bank faithfully record the worst times of our lives, it makes us relive them when something similar happens to us that restimulates the earlier trauma.


It’s this reactive mind, storing up our worst fears, which keeps us from making use of that perfect analytical computer we have inside each of us, a superhuman engine that could make life full of vigor.

Gosh, it’s a nice tale, Vance, and if you’re familiar with popular literature of the time, other writers were exploring similar ideas in fiction. Throughout this book, Hubbard talks about the ability to remember every tactile detail of every moment of your life as if it were a sort of paradise we all strive for. But we can’t help thinking of a 1942 story by Jorge Luis Borges, Funes, the Memorious, in which he portrays that kind of total recall as a nightmarish prison.

Anyway, we once again run into the problem that Hubbard is telling a fancy tale about the human mind without providing any evidence to back it up. But here, at least, he makes a very bold statement — almost a dare, really.

“The detective work which was invested in the location of this arch criminal of the human psyche occupied many years. Its identity can now be certified by any technician in any clinic or in any group of men,” he writes.

Vance, does it occur to Scientologists that this simply isn’t true? Doesn’t it bother them that science hasn’t, in fact, independently found that the human mind works like this, resembling a 1950 mainframe computer, and with a “demon” side that stores traumatic memories in cellular protoplasm?

VANCE: It might occur to many Scientologists that the underlying theory is complete nonsense. But we Scientologists are very good at putting those niggling doubts into the far corners of our minds. We know any doubts come from the reactive mind, anyhow. It gives us those doubts because it’s just seeking to protect itself (ah, how very clever).

We don’t have to worry much about whether LRH got the structural aspects dead on. After all, he repeats several times in the book that the structural part of the theory is unimportant. Earlier in the book, he says, for instance, “And so bear with us, psychiatrist, when your structure is not used, for we have no need for structure here,” and, “This mind may live in the pre-frontal lobes — there is some hint of that — but this is a problem of structure, and nobody really knows about structure.” He goes on in this vein in the following chapter.

And we need to interpret this in light of LRH’s many discoveries later on. We know that we can recall countless incidents from countless lifetimes. So, presumably cells have nothing to do with memory anyhow. Our memories are somehow saved in the theta ether, or something.

Besides, it’s not surprising that wog scientists haven’t discovered anything about the mind because they don’t even have a definition of the mind. Wog scientists study brains, not minds. And they always need proof, but they can’t actually perceive the truth when they’re confronted with it. (For newcomers, “wog” is a pejorative used to refer to non-Scientologists. It’s derogatory British slang for dark-skinned people which Hubbard co-opted for his own use.)

These are the kinds of things you’ll hear Scientologists say. The retreat always ends with something like, “Just apply the technique and find out for yourself that it works” (or else you’ll be up for costly retraining or even more costly and humiliating ethics correction if you fail to discover that it works).” Those who don’t think it works quickly leave. Those who do think it works stick around despite the expense and humiliation. Some of us, (cough) might even like the humiliation.

THE BUNKER: That’s another incredibly helpful answer, Vance. Hubbard, meanwhile, really goes for broke as this chapter rolls on.

Now that he’s revealed the reactive mind to be his great discovery, he imbues it with incredible power…

“It 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.”

And he gets poetic congratulating himself for his insight…

“This is the mind which made Socrates think he had a “demon” that gave him answers. This is the mind that made Caligula appoint his horse to a government post. This is the mind which made Caesar cut the right hands from thousands of Gauls, which made Napoleon reduce the height of Frenchman one inch. This is the mind which keeps war a thing of alarm, which makes politics irrational, which makes superior officers snarl, which makes children cry in the fear of the dark. This is the mind which makes a man suppress his hopes, which holds his apathies, which gives him irresolution when he should act, and kills him before he has begun to live. If there ever was a devil, he invented it.”

Every person possesses a reactive mind, Hubbard says. And he assures us that no one tested has failed to turn up one. But he never explains to us how an independent researcher could perform such a test, or what such a test would consist of.

In fact, he’s so impressed with his own discovery, he can’t help expressing that it’s amazing he ever came up with it…

“It seems incredible at first glance that the source could have remained so thoroughly hidden for so many thousands of years of research. But at second glance, it becomes a wonder that the source was ever discovered. For it is hidden cunningly and well.”

The engram, meanwhile, is something that we are assured has been tested rigorously in a “laboratory”…

“In all laboratory tests on these engrams they were found to possess ‘inexhaustible’ sources of power to command the body.”

As we pointed out earlier, however, Hubbard already gave up that game, admitting that by “laboratory” he was talking about chatting with friends in the “world.”

And finally, Hubbard finishes this remarkable chapter of bold assertion and zero evidence with this flourish…

“An enormous quantity of data has been sifted. Not one single exception has been found. In ‘normal people,’ in the neurotic and insane, the removal of these engrams wholly or in part, without other therapy, has uniformly brought about a state greatly superior to the current norm. No need was found for any theory or therapy other than those given in this book for the treatment of all psychic or psycho-somatic ills.”

So there it is. Hubbard’s big reveal. You have a demon inside you that resisted discovery for thousands of years, and that even he had a difficult time finding. But now that he has, its days are numbered, and he’s going to turn us all into supermen.

Vance, do you remember first encountering this chapter and its claims? Can you recall how it hit you?

VANCE: Yeah, I first read Dianetics when I was fifteen, back in the pre-Internet days of 1989/90. So it was just me, my gullibility, and LRH.

I was hopeful. I didn’t exactly articulate it then, but my thinking went like this: Here’s this guy claiming a 100 percent cure. That would, I presume, include the ability to fix the emotional troubles my family and I were going through. Now, allowing for weaseliness, maybe Hubbard alone did all the tests he claimed were done. So, we don’t know that the techniques will work 100 percent of the time in everybody’s hands. Nevertheless, we assume that the techniques do, in the right hands, work 100 percent of the time.

He could have said something like (anticipating the tone of coming chapters), “Hey, this is a layman’s therapy. Anybody can use it, though you slutty, abortion-attempting women should probably stick with making sandwiches because this stuff requires vigor. Anyhow, don’t expect too much. It works most of the time on most people, but even 40 percent efficacy would be pretty terrific, right?”

Nope. He didn’t say that. He said it works 100 percent of the time. It simply never occurred to me that his claim of 100 percent efficacy could be a 100 percent shameless lie. I didn’t conceive that somebody could lie outright about such an important point. I thought that he apparently could effect 100 percent cures on a more-or-less random sample. So, it’s possible to do. And if it’s possible to do, then I can learn to do it.

And so, even before I tried the technique, I was totally primed to blame any failures on myself or my auditor … anything other than the technique and Hubbard’s communication thereof. And this is something that all Scientoloholics must do: blame all failures on themselves and their incorrect application of LRH’s faultless instructions. Even indie Scientology addicts do this, so far as I can tell.

THE BUNKER: Well, there you’ve gone and done it. No need picking fights with the indies when they’re already at each other’s throats in doctrinal disputes. We’ll just stick to those halcyon days of 1950, and the virginal eyes that first took in this material. It’s safer that way!

Next week — Blogging Dianetics, Part 7: The Hard Cell



Our thanks to those clever folks at Chanology, who very early this morning posted a real gem: a new International Association of Scientologists (IAS) video by our old friends in Melbourne. We can always count on the very sunny Scientologists in Victoria to give us a lift…

There’s so much here to savor. We can’t help thinking of the parallels to the IAS video produced by similarly fly white church members in Copenhagen, Denmark. Also, Chanology Leaks points out that using an Elvis Presley imitator is particularly bad form, since Elvis elbowed Scientology in the ribs. But ultimately, we can’t help feeling some disappointment, because seeing these Melbourne wackadoodles reminds us how much we miss the Melbourne Day Rap Battle Team, perhaps the greatest contribution to Scientology hip-hop of all time, notwithstanding the excellent stylings of the great Chill E.B.

Can someone track down for us another copy of the Rap Battle Team’s amazing song? We sure miss it.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 8, 2013 at 07:00


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