The contrast has often been remarked between the different responses that physical and mental illness get from the general public. Injured people who can show blood and bandages receive immediate aid and support. In our society there is also a ready sympathy for cripples, the aged and the infirm. The existence of mental illness was largely ignored until this century. Even during the First World War, victims of shell shock and nervous breakdowns were regarded by many as malingerers.

Public awareness of mental illness has increased since then but it is still not a subject that gains ready sympathy or support. The largest group of patients in the care of the National Health Service are those suffering from mental illness and related conditions. Mental hospitals are still feared and joked about, and this sector of medicine still does poorly in the competition for financial and human resources. The most that can be said is that there is now some recognition that stress and nervous tension can cause temporary disability and that some medical conditions, such as allergies and migraine, are 'stress related'.

Over the last thirty years a number of fundamental discoveries have been made about how the human mind operates and why it causes so many people distress and unhappiness. This has happened against a background of popular belief that not much can be done about the mind. The mainstream medical profession seems to have given up hope of finding cures for mental illness and places its reliance mainly on suppressant drugs. The universities have largely intellectualised the subject of Psychology (study of the mind) and concentrated mainly on producing longer and more complicated descriptions of symptoms and conditions.

The human mind is not a subject which is easily confronted or talked about by the man or woman in the street. It may seem unrealistic to expect an open and sensible debate about theories of the mind in terms which can be understood by the lay person. Fortunately, we do not need to make the assessment in medical terms but in the more practical way of asking - 'Does it help people?'. If the new understanding of the way the mind works can lead to doing things that make people feel better, helps them to get rid of stress and tension and to control their body and environment better, then that is the only test that we need be concerned with.


This is the key test we should apply in looking at Dianetics. It was first released to the public in 1950 in the form of the book 'Dianetics - Modern Science and Mental Health' by L. Ron Hubbard. How it came to be written and what happened as a result of the remarkable interest it produced is covered later in this book.

The Theory section of 'Dianetics - MSMH' takes the position that the mind is a machine, just like your television or motor car. In the case of the mind, it is a processor of information for living. Because it is a machine it operates according to predictable patterns and, when working properly, serves us very well. Hubbard maintains that there are a limited number of things that cause it to go wrong and these can fairly easily be identified and remedied Basically, he makes the case that the mind is not an over complicated mechanism, even though it is extremely powerful and has enormous capacity.

In addition to providing a comparatively simple explanation of how the mind works, the book also contains a practical therapy section. This covers how a person may venture into the darker recesses of his mind and dig out the source of the mental aberrations that cause undesirable variations from usual thinking or behaviour. By finding and identifying the hidden causes of these things, the person would be cured of the compulsions and inhibitions that they had previously suffered from, Suddenly the possibility of removing the phobias, obsessions and feelings of guilt that many people are afflicated by seemed available. Experience can now be called on to show that the therapy method, and its later refinements, has actually produced this for many people. In fact it has produced improvements quite quickly in the majority of cases.

Some people who remember the 1940's and 1950's may recognise something of the principles outlined in the book as stemming from Sigmund Freud and his idea of the subconscious mind This said that those the mind found too unpleasant to face were suppressed below the level of normal recall into a subconscious region of the mind. From here they could not be brought up in normal memory but were still able to influence the ideas and behaviour of the person. This is indeed the starting point of Hubbard's work. What he provided, that was new, was a systematic and easily learnt method of enabling the person to dig out these suppressed memories. Until then the only help that had been was the psychoanalyst's couch, maybe combined with hypnosis, for the fortunate few.


It will have become apparent already that this therapy method was of a rather different nature than breathing exercises or twice daily meditation done by people on their own. The method involves the person under treatment receiving help from another person, called an Auditor The word is used in the original sense of a 'listener'. The Auditor or listen both listens and directs the attention of the person being treated.

So far, this is not so very different from the traditional picture we have of Psychoanalysis carried out by Freud and his pupils in Vienna before the First World War. These ideas had been developed and applied by mar in the twenties, thirties and forties. Many books were written on the subject and an indication of its widespread acceptance at the time can be seen in the Alfred Hitchcock thriller 'Spellbound', released in 1948.

What was different about Dianetics was that Hubbard claimed that the Auditor could train himself by reading the book. Provided he follow the procedure and rules in the book he could quite easily cure people their mental troubles and physically related ailments. As a development from this came the equally revolutionary idea that two people could together and audit each other in turn to achieve mental and physical gains.

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