October 16, 1950
Poor Man's Psychoanalysis
Since last May when "Dianetics, The Modern Science of Mental Health,"
was published (NEWSWEEK, Aug. 21), thousands of readers of this best
seller have tried the "therapy" which the author, L. Ron Hubbard,
will "help to eliminate any psychosomatic illness."
But the majority of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and other doctors
have read the amazing volume refuse to dignify dianetics as a serious
scientific effort. The 39-year-old Hubbard has no medical degree. He
an engineer, explorer, and writer of science fiction and, as such,
beneath the professional notice of practicing physicians. To most
doctors, the dianetics concept is unscientific and unworthy of
discussion or review.
But even as medical men maintain their haughty silence, the dianetics
vogue flourishes. Latest reports show that the Hubbard Dianetics
Research Foundation has set up an elaborate office with eighteen
consulting rooms in Elizabeth, J.J. There is a "dianetics house" in
York, another in Los Angeles, and branches in Washington, Chicago, and
These signs of public approval were too much for Dr. Morris Fishbein,
former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and
a free-lance with a dozen jobs in medical foundations and on
For 30 years, Fishbein's voice has sounded out against cults of all
kinds with a peculiar vigor that has blighted some of the hardiest.
week, in an editorial in Postgraduate Medicine, the voluble doctor got
around to dianetics, or as he terms it, "Poor Man's Psychoanalysis."
"The writer of this weird volume suffers apparently from a caco?thes
scribendi," Fishbein writes. "Some of his paragraphs are lush
outpourings of exuberant diction funnier than anything attempted in
verbal caricatures that distinguished Robert Benchley."
Fishbein has conscientiously tried to uncover the meaning of this new
treatment. "According to Hubbard's system, psychologic difficulties
caused by "blocked engrams." The engram is said to be 'a moment of
unconsciousness containing physical pain or painful emotions ... and
not available to the analytic mind as experience.' Again, an engram is
'definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of
tissue.' This assumption leads to the statement that every cell in the
body has memories, and these include 'memories derived from ancestors
and others and developed in the womb, all of which mark the entire
of the unfortunate individual whose body is composed of these talented
Hubbard, says Fishbein, is "so concerned about the effects of engrams
that he demands that all operative procedures be conducted in complete
silence. Anything said during coitus, he claims, creates engrams for
mother and for fetus. Attempted abortion that fails creates engrams
show up in the life of the fetus years later."
As nearly as Dr. Fishbein can make out, "therapy in dianetics consists
of unblocking, or releasing the engrams. As with psychoanalysis, the
patient is at ease. The therapist, called an auditor, puts him in
'reverie.' Then he 'installs a cancellor.' He tries to make the
remember a 'prenatal.' Ultimately, he gets at a 'basic-basic.' The
discussion includes mentions of 'preclears,' 'somatic strips,'
shifts,' and other jargon, perhaps even beyond some of the
individualistic nomenclature of advanced Freudians. The similarities
psychoanalysis are obvious. A 'clear' is a person without engrams,
as if he had been analyzed and was free from inhibitions."
"The United States is overwhelmed with mind-healing cults," Fishbein
concludes. "A new one like dianetics simply adds to the fun and the
fury. Sooner or later some official agency will give this method a
-- either the practice of medicine, mind-healing, or some other
classification covered by the laws of the individual states.
dianetics is good stuff for resort conversation; perhaps by next
something even more comical will come along."