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The Axioms of Dianetics: L. Ron Hubbard’s science-y foundation of Scientology ‘tech’


Former Scientology ‘Sea Org’ executive Chris Shelton has been diving into L. Ron Hubbard’s “technology” lately, making videos about basic Scientology ideas. In this piece for the Bunker, Chris helps us understand one of Scientology’s bedrock concepts — the “Axioms.”

Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health took the United States by storm when it was published in May 1950. However, the fantastical claims and promises made by its author, L. Ron Hubbard, were quickly diminished by the uncertain results it produced on only a percentage of its users. Reviews by clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and other science professionals lambasted the work as pure pseudoscience.

On June 31, 1950, the New York Times published psychologist Rollo May’s scathing review, which was not at all shy about calling Hubbard out on his nonsense when he wrote, “I believe my review is open to one sound criticism, namely, that of trying to deal with Dianetics as a scientific work.”

Just a month later, Dr. Martin Gumpert lamented in New Republic magazine: “I must confess I have never been confronted by such a bold and immodest mixture of complete nonsense and perfectly reasonable common sense, taken from long-acknowledged findings and disguised and distorted by a crazy, newly invented terminology. Most revolting is that repeated claim of exactitude and of scientific experimental approach, for which every trace of evidence is lacking.”


The first public demonstration of a “Clear” at the Shrine Auditorium in August of 1950 before 6,000 avid watchers was a complete disaster. The supposed Clear, a young woman, was unable to even recall the color of Hubbard’s necktie, much less perform the kind of feats of eidetic memory which Hubbard claimed Clears would have.

By September 1950, Time magazine was describing Dianetics as “psychiatric home-treatment practiced as a sort of parlor game.” Despite its status as a bestseller, with co-auditing groups and fledging organizations opening up around the US, the fact is that Dianetics suffered from a big credibility problem. It was a problem the Hubbard Dianetics Research Foundation was unable to resolve when it tried actually applying some science to test Hubbard’s claims in November 1950. A Dianetic volunteer there had been knocked out with sodium pentothal and read a 35-word passage from a physics text, yet after 31 hours of Dianetics auditing, he had been unable to recall any of the passage. This was covered up by Hubbard and the HDRF at the time.

It was a problem that Hubbard was not able to resolve by getting an “Honorary Degree of Doctorate of Philosophy” from the Sequoia University degree mill. It was a problem Hubbard was not able to resolve by writing his own psychometric tests to replace standardized tests which, unfortunately for Dianetics, were not showing much in the way of real results.

It was a problem Hubbard was not able to resolve by writing an even harder-to-digest second book of Dianetics in the winter/spring of 1951, called Science of Survival (published in August 1951). In its cover notes and appendices, there was an attempt to present some definitions and axioms, such as a frustratingly simplistic formula to determine someone’s “potential value,” along with some Greek symbols thrown in for no good reason except to make these look more “science-y.”

But this was a problem Hubbard thought he could finally resolve after he hit the first “reset” button on the Dianetics movement and relocated to Wichita, Kansas in April 1951, under the sponsorship of millionaire Don Purcell. Part of this reset was to give Dianetics a scientific foundation of bedrock principles which Hubbard could point to and say, “There you go. There’s some science right there!”

Perhaps, as Jon Atack described here at the Bunker a couple of years ago, these axioms were just the product of a night of drunken revelry with Perry Chapdelaine. Then again, maybe Hubbard took the whole thing a bit more seriously because he really was worried about the perceived legitimacy of his faltering “modern science of mental health.” Either way, the resulting list of 24 “Logics” and 194 “Axioms” were presented to the public at the October Midwest Conference in Wichita, Kansas in October 1951. The Logics are Hubbard’s attempt to take on the subject of logic itself and I’ll take that apart in another article. Today, let’s take a look and see whether these Dianetics Axioms actually amount to anything.

First, what is an axiom? According to L. Ron Hubbard, it’s a “self-evident truth.” More precisely, according to our Oxford English Dictionary, it’s “a statement or proposition which is regarded as being established, accepted or self-evidently true.” It’s important to understand that axioms don’t have to be “true” or be “proven” in an objective sense. Obviously, they aren’t much good if they don’t describe true things, but axioms are really just tools that are used to build coherent, integrated systems of thought or ideas. An axiom is simply a starting point for logical reasoning. The important thing in any set of axioms is that they not contradict one another and integrate to give the basis for understood truths which can then be used to deduce new knowledge. This was the system of logic setup by the ancient Greeks and for thousands of years it has served us in developing systems of knowledge and reason.

And make no mistake, because Hubbard was not shy about his claims that Dianetics was a scientific venture on par with mathematics and the physical sciences. “…we have here now something which is a mathematical science — mathematical. The test of a science is in, does it need phenomena which does not exist in order to prove itself? Does it explain existing phenomena? And will it predict phenomena which, when looked for, will be found to exist in fact?” (lecture of Oct 8, 1951, “Axioms and Effort Processing”).

So, the key first question we have to ask in examining Hubbard’s work is “Is this internally consistent?” And of course, the answer is a resounding “No.” We don’t even have to go ahead in time to the Pre-Logics or the “Qs” or the Scientology Axioms or the countless other writings and lectures Hubbard gave trying to clarify and explain his pseudoscientific claptrap to find these inconsistencies. They are all right there in the initial body of Dianetics Axioms. The first contradiction comes straight out of Axiom 1 itself when compared to Hubbard’s statement above.

Do the Dianetics Axioms meet Hubbard’s own criteria of not having to invent new phenomena to explain itself? No, they do not. Right from the first axiom, Hubbard is simply making things up:

Axiom 1: The source of Life is a static of peculiar and particular properties.

Here Hubbard literally invented a “nothingness” (a static – a thing which supposedly exists without any reference to matter, energy, space or time) as the underlying principle to explain all the rest of the phenomena of the mind, life and existence. This is the basis of the entire faith of Scientology. “Theta has no physical universe wavelength; it doesn’t have any time in it, so therefore it can’t have any wavelength…. It doesn’t have any mass; it doesn’t have any of these things. And it’s very funny that the more we play with this stuff called theta, the more answers we get…. But it’s not in the physical universe, more or less; but it is in the physical universe because there are living organisms here in the physical universe.” (Lecture of Oct 8, 1951, “The Logics”).

One kind of boggles at the mental gymnastics behind having to rationalize the Thetan Theory. It takes some pretty big balls as a “scientist” (which Hubbard most assuredly was not) to claim with a straight face that you have not only solved ALL of the problems of the humanities and religion itself by inventing nothing from nothing and saying it’s something. This isn’t like the “dark matter” of astrophysics because there we have something which we know does exist in the real universe and which is influencing things around it, even if we don’t yet know its exact properties and origins. The only reason anyone has any idea that theta is a thing is because L. Ron Hubbard said it was.


I wonder how many answers I could get if I started explaining the universe in terms of The Great Blue Smurf. Given that our imagination and rational mind are capable of almost anything given enough time and attention, I think it would be pretty easy to base an entire religious philosophy on the vicissitudes of the Great Blue Smurf (“Look at those storm clouds, He must be mad!” “What a nice day it is today; I guess the Great Blue Smurf is smiling on us.”). The plain truth is that once you start making up answers to feel good, you can invent almost any answers you want and you can dream up any number of reasons why they make sense. Studies in evolutionary psychology indicate that our rational minds evolved to do this very thing.

It’s interesting that in that same lecture I quoted above, Hubbard said that there was going to be a book of these Axioms and he imagined it was going to be put in university libraries and psychologists were then supposed to sit and cogitate on their empirical greatness and stop lambasting Dianetics in the press. Hubbard said “…the first Axioms will be across the page, top of the page in italics; then there will be a little graph of some sort and then an explanation of the graph. And then the phenomena which proves up this Axiom – the logic behind it, how it joins other Axioms….then the next Axiom is on the next page in italics with a graph, with an explanation of the graph, with the whole thing laid out, in other words, just like a geometry book.” I’ll give you three guesses as to why this book was never written and the first two don’t count.

But, given that axioms don’t have to be objectively true or provable in order to be accepted, let’s put that contradiction aside and agree that such a thing exists. Let’s now see where this takes us.

In going over the lectures Hubbard gave when he released these Axioms, it really is quite telling how sloppy of a thinker he actually was. It’s not that he’s uttering pure gobbledy-gook, it’s that he utters conclusive statements as though they are facts when he has done nothing more than seen an instance or two of the phenomena he describes. But in and amongst the detritus of broken ideas and half-cocked conclusions, Hubbard did utter something about “Cause” that is worth noting because, in the end, it was Hubbard’s motto for his own life: “Rather weird sort of an idea but actually if you could just put this down as a philosophy of existence, ‘I am going to live as a Cause and not as an Effect of my own causes,’ you’d be happy people. If you could do just that.” (lecture of Oct 9, 1951, “Statics and Motions and Axioms 1-14”) Hubbard spent the next 35 years of his woeful life trying to pull just that off and failed miserably at every turn. He was living the impossible dream of a life without consequences.

Axiom 2: At least a portion of the ‘energy’ of Life is impinged upon the physical universe.

[Quoted from the original lecture on this subject; the wording changed slightly at some later point but retained the same basic meaning]. Now here we have a real problem because how is it possible for a non-physical, motionless, timeless form of Life energy to “impinge” on anything? Can one only speak of this static in physical universe terms even though it has no physical universe form? Apparently, that is the limit of Hubbard’s imagination. In the lecture on this, Hubbard spoke of “A sort of MERGENCE at which time all theta would become as thoroughly static and chaotic, and so forth, as the physical universe. It’s heading, via motion, into the static of complete order." It appears to me that here Hubbard is saying that theta itself is going to end up in a chaotic, motion-filled state but what exactly could be “in motion” given theta’s very definition relies on it being a static? Well, he gives up trying to explain that after acknowledging “there is no point of impingement between theta and the physical universe for the excellent reason they do not have their space and time in common.” (Lecture of Oct 9, 1951, “Statics and Motions and Axioms 1-14”)

It must have been a weird experience for those early Dianeticists to go to Wichita and hear Hubbard contradict himself every few minutes when he was explaining these axioms to them. And, of course, as has been noted in the past here at The Bunker, the wording of this and other axioms entails a lot of wiggle words and hedging of bets.

Now if Axiom 2 wasn’t odd enough, Axiom 3 is where things start really getting weird.

Axiom 3: That portion of life energy which is impinged upon the physical universe has for its dynamic goal, survival.

It’s been made clear that the static is ageless and timeless (being without either of those properties) so my first question is why would its goal be "survival" in the physical universe? Hubbard’s explanation for this one is a sort of shrug. "Here we have theta moving in on the physical universe. I haven’t any idea at all why theta is trying to survive through MEST time. It’s an imponderable. It’s a strange thing that it should be trying to survive through MEST time. But it evidently depends to some degree upon MEST itself for its survival.” (Lecture of Oct 9, 1951, “Statics and Motions and Axioms 1-14”).

I’ll leave it to greater minds than mine to figure out how the guy who wrote these Axioms doesn’t even understand them himself. A nameless, faceless, formless entity that cannot ever die has as its highest aspiration to make a body move around in the physical universe? Sure, Ron, whatever you say.


Axiom 4: The physical universe is reducible to motion of energy operating in space through time.

In retrospect, one of the things that I was so disappointed in myself about after escaping Scientology and getting some time and distance away from Hubbard’s doublespeak, was how often Hubbard actually complained in his public lectures about the very things he himself was doing to his followers. At this point, I’m positive this served as a kind of mis-director and that Hubbard did this on purpose. For example, Dianetics comes straight out of hypnotism. Hubbard even maintained much of the hypnotist terminology until just before Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was published. Yet in later lectures, whenever Hubbard brought up hypnotism, he always positioned Dianetics as the polar opposite of it, claiming that hypnotism puts people to sleep whereas Dianetics "wakes them up.” There is no better way to set up a dichotomy in your audience’s mind than to position yourself or your own subject as the exact opposite of what it really is. And in this Oct 9 lecture, Hubbard didn’t disappoint when he did this exact same thing describing a “bugger factor:”
“You take quantum mechanics and you work out a formula in quantum mechanics and it runs from here clear across the board several times over, and you keep throwing in figures like .0032,15 billion squared, 85. And you finally ask this boy that’s working in physics, you say, ‘Hey, what are these figures here in the midst of these x, y’s and alphas and things and…?’

“‘Oh,' he says cheerfully, ‘those are bugger factors.’

“And you say, ‘What are those?’

“‘Well, the equations don’t work unless you throw those in.’

“And you say, ‘Well, what are they?’

“And he says, ‘Well, we just found out that when the equations – when they worked, they had these figures in them and so we just keep putting them in.' That is the way they figure the critical mass, by the way, of plutonium. You couldn’t hire me to go near Oak Ridge. They don’t know what its critical mass is — except empirically. That’s right. And one of these days they’re going to build a pile that’s much bigger than any other pile that ever got piled up, and here they’re going to figure it all out and they’ll figure it out by quantum mechanics and somebody will forget to throw in a couple of 15 billions in the right place and the whole thing will go boom and New Mexico will disappear off the face of the map and somebody will say, ‘Darn those quantum mechanics anyway!'”

The spoiler, of course, is that a life static (thetan) is Hubbard’s “bugger factor.” Scientology doesn’t work without it, but when you come down to it, “nothing” really is all that’s there. The rest of the Axioms break down in a similarly silly fashion when you pin them down and actually try to take them apart, but I think I’ve made my point in just examining these first few. It would take a short book to deconstruct all 194 of them, but it’s an understatement to say they are all just as silly as these first four. I mean, do I really need to explain why “Axiom 143: All learning is accomplished by random effort" is just a silly thing to say?

Scientologists regularly pay hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars chasing this ephemeral pipe dream of spiritual resurgence and personal immortality. Unfortunately, because of the authoritarian nature of any organization which has to force its followers to believe in fantasies, they end up getting a lot worse than nothing, with physical and psychological abuse, financial ruin and destroyed families the order of the day. A piece of blue sky for half the price would have been a bargain instead.

— Chris Shelton


Graham Berry updates us on Brandon Reisdorf

Attorney Graham Berry sent us this dispatch late last night…

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office had until noon today (Thursday) to decide whether to charge Brandon with a misdemeanor charge of willfully disobeying a court order (Penal Code section 166 (4)). The video courtroom receives the new case arraignments in hourly batches. There is no advance warning. Consequently, I spent the morning hanging out in the courtroom and the cafeteria. Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon was there as well. I was back at my hotel during the lunch recess when the City Attorney’s Office kindly sent me an email advising that they were not filing a new case, although Brandon would still have to deal with the separate probation issues and would be held in custody until his appearance on Thursday, February 21, in Department 101. I then visited with Brandon at the County jail. He was in good spirits and said that he was being treated well by the deputies and other ‘guests.’ It was certainly warmer and drier in there than outside in the very heavy rain and strong winds that were buffeting the city and blowing umbrellas inside out.


Start making your plans!


Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Kelly Preston, Beck, and Anne Archer]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Scientology mag: Why aren’t you in Florida already dumping all that sweet cash?
[TWO years ago] Federal judge once again finds for Scientology’s nonexistent and Orwellian ‘arbitration’
[THREE years ago] Chuck Beatty is right: L. Ron Hubbard lofted culty cosmic ideas a decade before ‘Dianetics’
[FOUR years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: New ‘Continental’ Narconons opening soon?
[FIVE years ago] Did John Travolta reveal too much about Scientology?
[SIX years ago] Blogging Dianetics, Part 7: The Hard Cell


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,361 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,492 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,994 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,474 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 537 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 425 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,732 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,600 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,374 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,148 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,494 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,060 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 6,980 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,147 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,728 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,988 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,028 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,740 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,266 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,355 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,495 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,815 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,671 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,790 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,146 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,448 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,554 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,957 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,828 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,411 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,906 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,160 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,269 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on February 15, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


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