Dianetics

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According to its adherents a science, according to its disbelievers a Pseudoscience, founded by L Ron Hubbard, at the time a pulp writer whose main market was the sf magazines. Hubbard's sf had always emphasized the powers of the mind and deployed protagonists who maintained to the end a heroic stance against a corrupt Universe. The former interest was translated into real-life terms in the late 1940s, and the latter vision may be what sustained Hubbard against the widespread execration he and his movement received from some quarters, both outside and inside sf.

The editor of Astounding, John W Campbell Jr, began experimenting with Hubbard's ideas in 1949 and believed them valid. In May 1950 Astounding (after much prior publicity) published a long article on Dianetics, seen as a form of psychotherapy that could achieve miraculous results in sweeping away the dross that encumbers ordinary minds, to leave uncovered the Superman latent in us all. Follow-up publicity went well beyond the sf magazines. Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950) was published in the same year, and immediately became a bestseller. The attractions of Dianetics were manifold: it could be practised after mere hours of training, with no formal education necessary; it proposed an apparently simple and coherent model of the mind; it offered an explanation of why so many people feel themselves to be unappreciated failures – and, better than that, it offered a cure.

In Dianetics an "auditor" (the therapist) encourages the patient to babble out his/her fantasies. The E-meter, a form of lie-detector, early on came to be an essential item of equipment. In theory, the needle on the meter swings over whenever a traumatic area of memory is uncovered, and the auditor then disposes of the trauma by revealing its meaning. So far, this is rather like an sf version of conventional psychoanalysis. However, Hubbard also taught that traumas could be pre-natal, and eventually that they could have been suffered during previous incarnations (> Reincarnation) right back to the dawn of time. A "clear" – a person who had successfully rid himself/herself of aberrations – would possess radically increased intelligence, powers of Telepathy, the ability to move outside the body and to control such somatic processes as growing new teeth, and a photographic memory. Here was the superman figure of so much contemporary pulp sf made flesh – at least if Dianetics worked (> Edisonade).

Film stars took up Dianetics; centres were opened all over the USA; many thousands were converted, including A E van Vogt, whose own sf had produced many protagonists not unlike Dianetics's "clears". One of Hubbard's assistants was Perry A Chapdelaine, who later became an sf writer himself. In 1952, after an organizational rift, Hubbard left the Dianetic Foundation and soon advertised his new advance on Dianetics, Scientology, in the entry for which this story is continued. [PN]

see also: Paranoia.

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