For the seekers of fabricated happiness

"New York Herald Tribune Book Review",
September 3, 1950

Erich Fromm

"Chelovek" magazine, 1996, No. 2. pp. 54-59

Translator's note: This text and the pictures are from "Chelovek" magazine. For the original English, visit http://www.erichfromm.de/lib_1/1950b.html

Erich Fromm
"Chelovek" magazine

Never have more people been as interested in the art and psychology of life as today. The attraction for books relating to this are a symptom of a serious preoccupation with people, and not for the material aspect of existence. And the medium of books on the topic has not only appeased the need for various handbooks, it has also attracted readers who crave fabricated happiness and miraculous cures. "Dianetics" - is the latest in this series of books, and its author uses the entire collection of formulae for success, and he does it with an extraordinary lack of any embarrassment. "The creation of Dianetics here is a basic milestone for Mankind, comparable to the discovery of fire and superior in importance to the invention of the wheel and arch." The author [Lafayette Ronald (Ron) Hubbard] stated that he discovered not just "the only source of any kind of neuroses, psychoses, criminality and psychosomatic illnesses," but he also discovered the therapy which makes the cure for all these illnesses possible. "Dianetics cures and cures without fail."

The author at first introduced the general theory with respect to the structure of the mind and then, using that as a foundation, built the theory of mental disorders and the technique of treatment. "Man's only reason for existence is survival." He desires to survive for himself, for sex, for groups and for mankind, and each of these "expedient, sub-units of the whole dynamic principle" were called a "dynamic." The author makes a distinction between the "analytical mind," which "perceives and preserves experienced facts and direct the organism to the four dynamics," and the "reactive mind," which remembers and preserves physical pain and painful emotions, and which tries to direct the organism only on the basis of responding to these "stimuli." While the analytical mind is compared to an extraordinarily powerful computer and it supposedly thinks using similarities and differences, the reactive mind thinks using only one identity."

The concept of the reactive mind is presented as the basis for the author's offering of the theory of mental disorders and their cures. In moments of intense physical and emotional pain the analytical mind does not work, and words uttered in the presence of the "unconscious" person accumulate as "engrams." These "engrams" are inaccessible for normal memory processing. Unaware of this, the person reacts to the content of this "engram" similarly to the way a person behaves who receives a post-hypnotic suggestion. "If the devil ever existed, then it was none other than he who created the reactive mind.... It never does anything, but at the same time it created everything that we find in any list of mental disorders: psychosis, neurosis, compulsion and obsession... Because of the reactive mind, arthritis, bursitis, asthma etc. could appear in people ... all categories of psychosomatic disorders... Engrams appear to be the one and only source of deviancy and of psychosomatic illnesses."

Dianetic therapy is done on this premise. The patient ("preclear") is ailing, therefore "engrams" have compelled him into this state. When remembering ("going back to") all the significant "engrams," especially those having to do with prenatal periods, the patient is forever freed ("cleared") of all "aberrations," he surpasses ordinary people through his intellect. The therapist ("auditor") facilitates such "going back to" the engrams by putting the patient into a "dream" state. "When I count from one to seven, you eyes will shut. You are aware of all events." The auditor "slowly and deliberately" counts while the are are still open. Then, in the "dream" period the patient is told to "return" to an early period of his life, all the way back to his moment of conception. Towards the end of the session they "come back" to the present. The "engrams" need to be talked over many times until they are finally "erased."

Despite all the fantastic pretensions by the author, it is difficult to find anything original in his theories besides new words for a mixture of misunderstood and overdone Freudianisms and experiments on regressive aging hypnotism. Even the "original" words cannot evoke wonder. Like we hear from the patient the words which Doctor [Jacobi] spoke to the patient's pregnant mother, or the father's words to the mother immediately after conception. Reading this story of illness raises a question. Wasn't the author trying to write an entertaining popular novel on one more psychiatric theory and a trusting public?

It is difficult to examine Hubbard's book in earnest as a contribution to the science of Mankind. But it needs to be read in all seriousness as a symptom of a dangerous tendency. If it would merely have been an oversimplification of early, popular Freudian theory, then it would have been harmless. But "Dianetics" is a distinct spirit which diametically opposes the position taught by Freud. Freud's goal was to assist patients in understanding the complexities of their minds and his therapy was based on the idea that by understanding ourselves, we are released from the irrational strength of the chains of slavery which drive us to unhappiness and to mental disorders. Such a vision presents a component in part from the great tradition of East and West - from Buddha and Socrates to Spinoza and Freud. "Dianetics" has no understanding or respect for the complex human personality. Man is this machine and rationality, value judgments and mental health are defined with the assistance of engineering work. "In a science of engineering like Dianetics, we operate by pushing buttons." There is no need to know or understand anything, only the demand to apply the Hubbardist engram theory. If somebody does not accept this theory, then he must have had a hidden motive, or he is found to be under the influence of the "deniers" that are present in all engrams and which force patients to think that engrams do not exist." As simple as that. If you read Hubbard's book, then you know and he knows how to push the buttons of people and of society.

Costly problems or scruples do not exist. If "engrams" are erased, then you have no conflicts. All the great teachers of philosophy and religion have been wasting their time for nothing. There is no problem which will not depart with an "engram" as a result of a command. No use reflecting on the problem if you know about Hubbard's discoveries. Although the author says that the "philosophical foundations" of his work were formed by "ancient Hindus," from the works of the "the ancient Greeks and Romans," and also included Lucretia, works of Francis Bacon, studies by Darwin and ideas from Herbert Spencer, I hardly believe that. "Dianetics" without a doubt would not be at home with any of these teachings. Sheer survival as the only goal in life simply does not appear as a central idea of the "ancient Hindus" or "Greeks," but is a coarse biologism for which all ethical values are subordinate to the desire for survival (if any ethical values are left at all).

But worst of all is how "Dianetics" is written. A mixture of a certain amount of oversimplified truths, half-truths and obvious absurdities, propagandist techniques stupefying the readers with his grandeur, infallibility and the author's novel systems, and promises of prodigious results are attained simply by following "Dianetics" - these are the techniques which brought about the most ill-fated results in the fields of patent medicine and psychiatry. This will not be less harmful.

This negative view of "Dianetics" does not imply that the researcher thinks that the methods of modern-day psychiatry are satisfactory; there is a real need for new ideas and experiments. Fortunately, this fact is realized by many psychiatrists and psychologists; the profession is in search of more effective methods of approaching the level of unconsciousness ("Looking-in" test of Slesinger, for example). But a prerequisite for this search has to be the reinforced responsibility, critical thinking and clear mind for the patient.

translated from the English by A.M. Rutkevich

Epilogue by the translator

E. Fromm's review of "Dianetics" by L. Ron Hubbard was first published in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review on September 3, 1950. It was found and re-published not long ago by Fromm biographer Rainer Funk. Back when he wrote it, Fromm could not have known that in several decades, the Church of Scientology, founded by Hubbard, was to turn into an entire empire: hardly is there a megalopolis in the West where, outside a building equivalent in splendor to a palace, the church adepts pester passersby on the street, asking, "Do you think clearly?" and "Do you know that you use only 1/10,000 of your brain?" They offer you the state of "clear," i.e., people whose minds have been purged (cleared) of "engrams." If you talk to these people, then you will find out very quickly that they are more than just half brainwashed - in this they differ very little from adepts of some other sects.

The truth is they all have some of the same characteristics. Not all sects use refined psycho-technical treatment on their congregation, not all of them offer "therapy" and promise to give you a cure for all illnesses, to make you healthier, more clever and more "effective" while you're still here on Earth. The "Church of Scientology" - its name alone astonishes anyone who in any way has had to study the history of religion. For more than one scientist, serving science replaces serving god, but even the most fanatical scientists would not think of making science into a church. Getting more acquainted with Scientology reveals that there is no science there at all; Hubbard's scientific terminology was formulated for those who had never had classes in the theory, but were ready to believe that everything had already been verified by the property and authority of science. Having gained popularity as a science fiction writer, Hubbard first created a doctrine which used science fiction buzzwords for vocabulary, and then a "church," conversion into which requires "therapy." Probably Fromm's opinion regarding dilettantish and rather dangerous therapy would have been much more vocal had he known that it functioned as indoctrination.

Much has been written about the practices of this self-proclaimed church. As a matter of fact, there is not a trace of worshipping a transcendental power in it. The brain helps us to survive and achieve material well-being, and Hubbard, the prophet of the brain, teaches us to use the "analytical mind." In the history of philosophy there have been quite a number of thinkers who have already pondered all about methods (starting with Bacon, Descartes and Locke) and they strove to reveal the method of clear thinking that would yield freedom from prejudice and from any sort of "idols." Scientology does not have the slightest relationship to this venerable tradition, and even the most shallow luminaries and positivists considered scientific style of thinking to be directly connected to human freedom and dignity. In Scientology they have only machines which work poorly and which have to be "debugged' for more effective action. All the "therapy," if we leave Hubbard's self-glorification and wild combinations of words for his own conscience to deal with, amounts to hypnosis. Of course, hypnotic therapy can be rather effective, and trained Scientology "clears" are capable of helping to save someone from neurotic symptoms. But they do this not for the sake of the patient's welfare, as is expected from the Hippocratic oath, but for the sake of "converting" people into their strange faith.

The main goals of this "religion" are wealth and power. It is quite well-known that these are what Scientology strives for. The solution to all problems for the adept is to be "totally clear"; he is able to act effectively, but his "intention" is already under control. Into his duties now enter work for his "benefactor." Some of them become unfit for anything other than annoying passersby with advertising leaflets. But among the rest are much more important people. Western publications have repeatedly noted that the main target for the Scientologists are the small and mid-range businessmen and managers. After being "brainwashed" themselves, they force their employees to go through it also. Because in these small firms there is only a small number of trade union members, dissenters can be threatened with dismissal, or workers may even agree to improving their minds and memories for "free." They become fellow converts, they begin to work better insofar as they are prepared to make sacrifices for the "church." Business entrepreneurs obtain disciplined, effective, human machines, and in the hands of Scientology they turn out whole companies, which are capable of sacrificing more than a few resources for the benefit of matters that "please god."

But this is not the limit of Scientology's ambition. It tries to exert influence in politics and to infiltrate diverse political organizations, usually the local divisions of political parties. Several years back in the German State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the conservative [ruling] party (CDU) had to arrange a regular purge of a number of Scientologists who evidently started to gain control of some of the local organizations. There, as well as in Hamburg, led by the social democrats, justice agencies have taken away the right to have privileged church organizations from Hubbard adherents. This right is valued insofar as without it, Scientology has to pay considerably more tax - the Scientologists arranged a strong propaganda campaign in the press which presented the German justice agencies as trying to ban "freedom of conscience."

Precisely that sort of campaign is carried out in the USA every now and then for the "persecuted church." We [in Russia] are well acquainted with this type of campaign. Even back before the gas attack in the Tokyo subway, there were days when some of our "democratic" publications (e.g., "Izvestia") defended the right of "Aum Shinrikyo" to operate openly. It is interesting that advocates for communicating with the "valuable world civilizations" ignore the current legislation in western countries in which church operations have varying restrictions imposed on them. And they [the legislations] restrict everybody, and not just the obviously harmful sects like "Aum Shinrikyo", "White Brotherhood" and the sect led by D. Koresh, against whom the American police employed armed force. Take, for example, the laws of Germany. In the 1949 constitution (Grundgesetz) all basic freedoms are declared, including the freedom of worship, freedom to create religious organizations, etc. But the Weimar republic laws are still in effect, and they impose certain restrictions on the activities of newly created churches. To be allowed to exist as such, they have to be properly registered, have a certain number of members, have to pay taxes, the same with any other organization which deals with "spreading a world view" as the constitution says. Their property, recreational aspects, teaching and beneficial activities need to be revealed for government and social monitoring.

For many religions, such monitoring by the government might seem humiliating. Religion, the revelation of God, turns out to be under the control of secular authority which, ever since Pilate, has been demanding suspiciously, "What is truth?" Exactly that sort of question is part of conventional coexistence between people of different religions and worldviews in a lawful, democratic government. That sort of supervision is partly for the benefit of churches that already exist as far as it impedes contemporary, religious "competition." But plain common sense says to take advantage of similar legislation rather than give full freedom to preachers and sects. Too many of them are not interested in everlasting truth, but in perfectly earthly goals, like the Russian "Christianization" from Atlanta, USA, although their methods are not as refined and they do not have as many government representatives in their pocket as Scientology, the Moon Church and others similar to those.

"Dianetics" had already been translated into the Russian language when Scientology began its campaign in Russia. There was an interesting article in "Spiegel" magazine about how Scientology got into Russia. According to that publication, the first action taken by the loyal Hubbard disciples was the printing of 3,000 copies of the Russian "Dianetics" book, which were donated to Russian militia (police) officers. First, from Scientology's point of view, those officers had been trained in the spirit of communism, but they, as a rival, were starting with basics; second, having received these gifts under the table, these servants of the law were not subsequently in a position to hinder operations of the "church." It was well-known that the translation of "Dianetics" made it practically impossible to read: in the fantastic terminology of Hubbard, it evidently added the "engrams" of an almost illiterate translator; hardly any of the officers were able to digest its knowledge. But other translations followed that one and "engineer" religion could inspire a response in those who did not know anything about religion and who today long to stand in the temple with candles, but know no deities other than material success and power. Hubbard has the full answer for such an outlook. There will be journalists who are ready to defend freedom to preach even for the most dangerous sects, some of which do not at all have the slightest regard for religion or conscience, all for the fancy words about religious freedom - which in truth, means merely unrestrained activity of the Protestant preachers, which some of our politicians see as vehicles for the "spirit of capitalism."

A. M. Rutkevich, PhD. Science, professor

Russian Scientology News