: The Hermit Scientist :

an excerpt by Martin Gardner

 

The creation of dianetics is a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his invention of the wheel and arch.” This is the modest opening sentence of L. Ron Hubbard's recent bookDianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.

An engineer and writer of science fiction, with no status whatever in psychiatry, Hubbard has created all by himself what he and his followers believe to be a revolutionary science of mental therapy. Already, dianetics threatens to become a cult of wide proportions, especially in Los Angeles, and no less a distinguished scholar than Frederick L. Schuman, professor of political science at Williams College, has become an enthusiastic convert. In a letter to the New Republic (September 11) protesting an unfavorable review of Dianetics, Schuman wrote, “Not the book, but the review, is 'complete nonsense,' a 'paranoiac system' and a 'fantastic absurdity.' There are no authorities on dianetics save those who have tested it. All who have done so are in no doubt whatever as to who is here mistaken.”

There is no need to go into the weird mixture of myths which form the core of Hubbard's book, except to point out in passing that it revives the ancient superstition that experiences of the mother can leave an impress on the mind of a foetus within a day after conception. “What's that chronic cough?” Hubbard asks in his first published article on dianetics (Astounding Science Fiction, May, 1950), and then answers, “That's mama's cough which compressed the baby into anaten [Hubbard's term for unconsciousness; derived from the words analytical and attenuation] when he was five days after conception … . What's arthritis? Foetal damage or embryo damage.” And so on ad nauseam.