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Ah, the reveries of 1950: When Dianetics was in full bloom

Tuesday will mark 67 years since L. Ron Hubbard published the book that would start a movement, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. For that reason, May 9 — Dianetics Day — is one of the most important dates on the Scientology calendar. Jeffrey Augustine is helping us mark this anniversary by looking back at how the book was treated in the press at the time with some clippings you don’t see every day.

Let’s start with a fun piece from October 1950…



Eleanor Dove writhes in a Dianetics reverie while a photographer from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographs her ecstatic swoon. Under the control of a Dianetics auditor, Eleanor is re-experiencing engrams lodged in her reactive mind during a public demonstration.

In the next demonstration we witness Thea Van Runkele being Dianetically processed during a two-hour ordeal. Her “professional auditor” is her husband and fellow Dianeticist Larry Van Runkele.


During Thea’s trip back into childhood and into the “basic-basic” prenatal engrams she received in the womb, she too writhes in the agony of what surely must be the unspeakable things done to her as a fetus. Perhaps, as described in the pages of Dianetics, mother got out the knitting needles? As Hubbard wrote:

A society which suppresses sex as evil and which is so aberrated that any member of it will attempt an abortion is a society which is dooming itself to ever-rising insanity. For it is a scientific fact that abortion attempts are the most important factor in aberration… Use contraceptives, not a knitting needle or the douche bag, to hold down population.

Hubbard then added:

A large proportion of allegedly feeble-minded children are actually attempted abortion cases, whose engrams place them in fear paralysis or regressive palsy and which command them not to grow but to be where they are forever. However many billions America spends yearly on institutions for the insane and jails for the criminals are spent primarily because of attempted abortions done by some sex-blocked mother to whom children are a curse, not a blessing of God.

As the Dianetics craze swept America in 1950, newly-minted Dianetics professional auditors who had paid $500 and spent a month in training took their show on the road. Public demonstrations of Dianetics were all the rage and there we no shortages of “aberrees” or what are now called “preclears” who were willing to be publicly audited and photographed by the newspapers as they plumbed the depths of the dangerous and heretofore unexplored reactive mind, that diabolical entity that was the source of all of humanity’s problems.

July 1951: Thomas Rother of Minneapolis, Minnesota is placed into a Dianetic reverie by professional auditor Donald Schuster and his two assistant auditors. The photo shows the middle auditor smoking a cigarette as he intently studies the aberree.


The photographer for the Minneapolis Star works to get a few close ups in order to show Thomas Rother’s intense range of emotions during the Dianetic reverie.


Minneapolis Star writer Wendell Weed raised an interesting question in his story of July 2, 1951:


The Dianetics craze began to quickly fade in 1951. This was in part due to the wave of published criticism in newspapers and magazines such as Wendell Weed’s piece for the Minneapolis Star. Hubbard had taken a great deal of cash out of his operation. He also didn’t know how to manage a startup and had quickly over-expanded and rented buildings in five cities to serve as Dianetics centers. Hubbard also had huge printing, telephone, advertising, and travel expenses. In the end, the expenses outstripped the income.

Don Purcell, a multimillionaire oil man, real estate developer, and early Dianeticist stepped in to help bail out the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation of Elizabeth, New Jersey as it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Hubbard and Dianetics relocated to Wichita and a new foundation was created. But it was too late.

With the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation of Elizabeth already having filed for bankruptcy, the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation of Wichita soon followed. Dianetics met an inglorious end. But this did not bother Hubbard for Don Purcell was on the hook for the bills. Besides, Hubbard was already off on his next adventure, which he would call Scientology. All he needed to do there was to wrest control of this contraption called an “e-meter” from its inventor and patent holder Volney Mathison.


— Jeffrey Augustine


Chris Shelton and Jeffrey Augustine

Says Chris: “In this week’s podcast, and by popular demand, Jeffrey Augustine and I finally got together to talk current events in Scientology, including much of what has been reported on here on Tony’s blog recently, as well as how the contracts that Scientology makes its members sign actually work and what people are signing away when they join Scientology. I think anyone interested in the subject will find this interesting and informative. Enjoy!”



Countdown to Denver!


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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,742 days.
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Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,620 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 6, 2017 at 15:00

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The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
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