Dianetics is a psychological theory and set of practices invented by L. Ron Hubbard, and used by followers of Scientology. Hubbard believed that by using Dianetics, followers could increase intelligence, control emotions, and cure illnesses he claimed were psychosomatic – including asthma, arthritis, and manic depression.
Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was first published in 1950, and immediately earned scathing reviews from scientists, medical professionals, and other critics, who charged that it presented scientific claims in superficially-scientific language (“pseudo-science”) but without any real evidence in support.
The American Psychological Association passed a resolution in 1950 stating that Dianetics’ claims “are not supported by empirical evidence of the sort required for the establishment of scientific generalizations.”
Reviewing the book for Scientific American in 1951, physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi criticised the lack of either evidence or qualification, saying it “probably contains more promises and less evidence per page than has any publication since the invention of printing.”
According to Consumer Reports, the book over-extends scientific and cybernetic metaphors, and lacks the needed case reports, experimental replication, and statistical data to back up its bold claims. Both Consumer Reports and Clinical Medicine also warned of the danger that the book would inspire unqualified people to harmfully intervene in others’ mental problems.
The Dianetics process involves “auditing,” in which a scientology auditor helps one to address and overcome the pain associated with upsetting memories. Scientologists believe that such painful memories impede psychological progress. Through auditing, one can aspire to the superhuman state of “clear,” accompanied by higher IQ, superior morality, and greatly improved mental and physical health.
As one delves deeper into scientology, things get weirder. Hubbard writes of an ancient galactic overlord, Xenu, who placed billions of his people around Earth’s volcanoes and killed them with hydrogen bombs. The ubiquitous volcano seen on the cover of Dianetics is related to this event. Scientology states that the essences of these ancient aliens remain, interacting with humans and causing them spiritual harm.
The Xenu story is part of the Scientology’s secret “Advanced Technology,” normally only revealed to members who have already contributed large amounts of money. They avoid mention of Xenu in public statements and have gone to considerable effort to maintain confidentiality, including legal action, on the grounds of both copyright and trade secrecy.
In addition to spreading pseudo-science, Scientology has attracted a great deal of controversy for the exorbitant costs of its “courses,” and for its aggressively litigious bullying of those who dare to criticize it.
Bizarrely, Scientology makes other pseudoscientific assertions, warning that reading about the Xenu story without proper authorization could cause pneumonia.
There is no objective, scientific evidence to support the propositions of Dianetics other than the writings of one man with a fanciful imagination.