Saturday, January 26, 2008

Chapter 2: The Reactive Mind

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more..."--Henry V

After a lengthy hiatus, here is the next installment of my critique of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics. This chapter discusses the reactive mind, the source of all our psychological problems. In this section, Hubbard provides a better definition of engrams and discusses some scientific "tests" that have been done confirming his theory of the reactive mind.

After a short description of cells, including the curious assertion

In the finite realms and for any of our purposes, man could be considered to be a colonial aggregation of cells and it could be assumed that his purpose was identical with the purpose of his building blocks.
It appears that Hubbard believe man's cell obey the same drive that man obey. Does that mean that when there is a time when man is more driven by sex than personal survival that his cells have the same motivation? We're already off to a strange start. You might have noticed that there is talk of "finite realms". Hubbard elaborates,
It was understood perfectly that this was a study in the finite universe only and that the spheres and realms of thought and action might very well exist above this finite sphere.
This is Hubbard saying that the results of his Dianetics studies only consider the known universe, and there may be unknown and unknowable factors which could affect our minds. This is a fair claim to make and a similar one to that which science makes. Scientists only claim to deal with the rational, material world.

Hubbard then considers the reactive mind, which
managed to bury itself from view so thoroughly that only inductive philosophy, traveling from effect back to cause, served to uncover it.
After this philosophizing was over, Hubbard could then test subjects for presence of the reactive mind. He states
Two hundred and seventy-three individuals have been examined and treated, representing all the various types of inorganic mental illness and the many varieties of psychosomatic ills. In each one this reactive mind was found operating, its principles unvaried.
This is the first time Hubbard tries to provide us with evidence for his claims. Never mind telling us HOW he experimentally determines the presence of the reactive mind, he found it in 273 people. It must be true!

By now, you must be writhing with anticipation. What is the reactive mind? Well, the reactive mind, present in ALL people, is just another name for our "engram bank", the repository for all the engrams we acquire. What's so bad about having an engram bank?
It can give a man arthritis, bursitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, coronary trouble, high blood pressure and so on, down the whole catalogue of psychosomatic ills, adding a few more which were never specifically classified as psychosomatic, such as the common cold.
That's right. The common cold is all in your head, caused by engrams. I guess that explains why it is so hard to treat. All of us who do not practice Scientology have no way of exorcising our engrams and curing our colds. Hubbard reiterates,
And it is the only thing in the human being which can reproduce these effects.
I cannot emphasize enough how radical this claim is. The cold, proven to be caused by rhinoviruses, among other things, is claimed to be caused by the infestation of engrams and ONLY the infestation of engrams.

After repeating at least twice that " If there ever was a devil, he designed the reactive mind", Hubbard assures us that cleaning out our engram bank will alleviate all those ills listed above. Hubbard insists
These are scientific facts. They copare invariably with observed experience.
At this point, I would like to remind my audience that there is no such thing a proof by assertion.

Even though he does not state how he came upon these facts in any meaningful way, Hubbard gives us some enumerated scientific facts which he claims are clinically proven.
1. The mind records on some level continuously during the entirely life of the organism.
2. All recordings of the lifetime are available.
3. "Unconsciousness," in which the mind is oblivious to its surroundings, is possible only in death and does not exist as total amnesia in life.
4. All mental and physical derangements of a psychic nature come about from moments of "unconsciousness."
5. Such moments can be reached and drained of charge with the result of returning the mind to optimum operating condition. [Hubbard defines charge as "harmful energy or force accumulated and store in the reactive mind, resulting from the conflicts and unpleasant experiences that a person as had." I think this is the same as an engram.]
I would like to point out that "facts" number 3 and 4 seem to be in direct contradiction as written.

Hubbard proceeds to describe the "experiments" to test whether "unconsciousness" is the single source of aberration.
If you care to make the experiment you can take a man, render him "unconscious," hurt him and give him information. By Dianetic technique, no matter what information you give him, it can be recovered. This experiment should not be carelessly conducted because you might also render him insane [emphasis Hubbard].
While Hubbard is telling us that we should not double-check his experiments because they are dangerous, there is a more interesting question hidden in this statement (even more interesting than why Hubbard just suggested we hurt people). How many people did Hubbard render insane by perfecting this process? Also, does this explain Tom Cruise? If only it were that simple.

Hubbard then proceeds to express his distrust of hypnotism. He calls is a "laboratory tool" which "serves as a means of examining minds and getting their reaction". A "wild variable", hypnotism is inconsistent and often leads to undesirable results. However, Hubbard compares many of the maladies from the reactive mind to things that can be experienced while hypnotized. While interesting to read though, this would make this post many pages longer, so I will refrain from going into detail about the comparison. Hubbard asserts that hypnotism can be used to make the subject mimic the maladies of repressions, compulsions, neuroses, psychoses, schizophrenic insanities, paranoid-schizophrenic insanities, manic-type insanities, depressive-type insanity, and hypochondria, admitting there are more.

After the discussion on hypnotism, there is a curious note on the bottom of the page.
An injunction here. These are tests. They have been made on people who could be hypnotized and people who could not be but who were drugged. They brought forth valuable data for Dianetics. They can be duplicated only when you know Dianetics, unless you want to actually drive somebody insane by accident. For these suggestions do not always vanish. Hypnotism is a wild variable. It is dangerous [emphasis Hubbard] and belongs in the parlor in the same way you would want an atom bomb there.
Ignoring the strange reference to the atomic bomb, it is very telling that Hubbard warns us against reproducing his experiments yet again. This time he says that only those trained in Dianetics can successfully carry out his experiments. This is a great tactic for someone trying to make his claims unfalsifiable.

Hubbard now turns to discussing the reactive mind in detail. If you remember the discussion of the analytical mind from my last post, you will recall that the analytical mind stores all memory. What the reactive mind does is replace the analytical mind during times of unconsciousness. The problem is, the reactive mind is not as good as the analytical mind in doing the job of remembering.
The reactive mind is very rugged. It would have to be in order to stand up to the pain waves which knock out other sentience in the body. It is not very refined. But it is most awesomely accurate. It possesses a low order of computing ability, and order which is submoron, but one would expect a low order of ability from a mind which stays in the circuit when the body is being crush on or fried.
Even though the reactive mind is "most awesomely accurate", it stores engrams instead of memories. It is here where Hubbard finally supplies up with a workable definition of engram, 82 pages into his book.
The word engram [emphasis Hubbard], in Dianetics is used in it severely accurate sense as a "definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue." If is considered as a unit group of stimuli impinged solely on the cellular being.
If the trace is definite and permanent, why can this not be seen by a microscope (and since when did "severely accurate" mean slightly less vague than before?)? For example, why can a doctor not compare the cells of a patient before and after being anesthetized for surgery? Hubbard must explain how we could detect these engrams.

Instead of delving into how engrams are detected, Hubbard makes more assertions about their nature.
In all laboratory tests on the engrams they were found to possess "inexhaustible" sources of power to command the body.
How would you even test such a thing? There is much need for detail. Also, what does it mean to "command the body" regarding an engram. Does an engram use a source of energy different from adenosine triphosphate?

Instead of providing us with the detailed explanation of the methods needed to understand his experiments, Hubbard explains the three types of engrams.
First is the contrasurvival engram [emphasis Hubbard]. This contains physical pain, painful emotion, all other perceptions and menace to the organism.
The second type of engram is called the prosurvival engram. It is
the most aberrative since it is reinforced by the law of affinity which is always more powerful than fear.
This is the engram which hypnotism preys on. The third type of engram is the painful emotion engram.
It is caused by the shock of sudden loss, such as the death of a loved one.
Hubbard in no way discusses how these engrams differently affect the protoplasm of a cell which would be necessary for us to truly understand the difference between these engrams. Hubbard needs to take us to the cellular and chemical levels, something I do not believe he is qualified to do.

While there are many pages left in this chapter, little of it is new or sensible. I will hit the highlights.

The most interesting claim that Hubbard makes at the end of this chapter is his assertion of how the reactive mind works. In a normal memory, our mind is able to distinguish relationships between objects. This is how we make associations. We learn to associate stoves with hot and water near outlets as bad this way.
But not the reactive mind! That's so beautifully, wonderfully simple that it can be stated, in operation, to have just one equation: A=A=A=A=A.
That is, in a memory from the reactive mind, everything is equivalent. For example, if you were unconscious and someone played a video about a birthday in the background, you might remember the cake is the candles is the song is the child is the presents is the guests. Don't worry. It doesn't make any sense to me either, but I am fairly certain this is Hubbard's assertion. Also note, this is the second equation Hubbard was written. This one was slightly more meaningful albeit odd.

As the chapter concludes, Hubbard asserts
If man had not invented language, or, as will be demonstrated, if his languages were a little less homodynamic [containing homonyms] and more specific with their personal pronouns, engrams would still be survival data and the mechanism [the primal reason for engrams, simple-minded association] would work.
That is, Hubbard asserts that engrams started harming mankind because they learned to talk. "The proof of any assertion lies in its applicability," Hubbard say. While I do not agree with this statement at all, I would at least like to see him try to fulfill it.

Words Defined: pillory, inductive, engram bank, arthritis, bursitis, sinusitis, coronary, Caligula, Gauls, myopia, schizophrenic, manic-depressive, neurotic, dipsomaniac, fuse, charge, hypochondriac, engram, memory, Alfred Korzybski, key-in, restimulation, predisposition, restimulator, loose, cohabit, dramatization, lock, mange

I often wonder what you think when reading through the words defined. You must wonder in what context some of them appear.

Next: Chapter 3: The Cell and the Organism

Note: All quotes are from
Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics. Los Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, Inc, 1986, unless noted otherwise.