Thursday, January 3, 2008

Still not to Chapter 1 yet!

As I mentioned yesterday, I am going to be writing about Dianetics for a while. I am going to take it slowly for my sanity and for yours. A chapter every day or two should be fine. Anyway, there is a section called "How to Read This Book" that is ripe for commentary so here I go...

Ah, the first sentence. "Dianetics is an adventure." Well I sure hope so!

This section of the book claims that Dianetics is the result of "exact research and careful testing" and seems to be designed as a sort of therapy (That I am seeking therapy is assumed in this section). Apparently, Dianetics will help you learn about yourself and "some of the things you will find may astonish you, for the most important data of your life may be not memory but engrams." What are engram? Well L. Ron was kind enough to put a definition at the bottom of the page:

engram: during moments when the conscious mind is suspended in operation--by injury, anesthesia, illness such as delirium--there is a more fundamental level still in operation, still recording; anything said to a man when he is unconscious from pain or shock is registered in its entirety; it then operates, on the return of consciousness, as a positive suggestion, with the additional menace of holding in the body the pain of the incident.

So...what is an engram? There seems to be a little story instead of a definition. If I had to guess, I would say that an engram is supposed to be that "more fundamental level". (In my previous post, I noted that L. Ron told me, the reader, that if I did not understand something it was because I did not know the definition to a word. He would provide definitions for the hard words so I wouldn't be so confused. What do I do if I don't understand his definition? I guess I'll keep reading against Hubbard's wishes.)

Hubbard then goes on to state that "you will find as you read that many things 'you always knew were so' are articulated here. You will be gratified to know that you held not opinion but scientific facts in many of your concepts of existence." This sentence is a little scary to me. It screams confirmation bias, but it may not be that bad. I'll have to read more before I can really weigh in on that.

There are some amazing passages in this section. I will mention again (and probably hundreds of times) that Hubbard told me, the reader, that if I did not understand a passage, it is my fault for not understanding the vocabulary. Well in this section, he also states that

This volume has made no effort to use resounding or thunderous phrases, frowning polysyllables [frowning?-me], or professorial detachment. When one is delivering answers which are simple, he need not make the communication any more difficult than is necessary to convey ideas.

I agree with the second sentence emphatically, but if there is such a large effort to use colloquial terminology, then why the warning at the beginning that any confusion on my part will be due to my poor vocabulary? Is my vocabulary going to be so bad that even when you shy away from "frowning polysyllables", I will still be scratching my head? I guess there is nothing really deep here. I just find it the next passage:

And so bear with us, psychiatrist, when your structure is not used, for we have no need for structure here; and bear with us, doctor, when we call a cold a cold and not a catarrhal disorder of the respiratory tract. For this is, essentially, engineering, and these engineers are liable to say anything [what?-me]. And "scholar" you would not enjoy being burdened with the summation signs and the Lorentz-FitzGerald-Einstein equations, so we shall not burden the less puristic reader with scientifically impossible Hegelian grammar which insists that absolute exists in fact.

Okay, that was quite a passage. After some nonsense about engineers saying, well, "anything", Hubbard lists some interesting concerns. He seems to be worried that scholars will not find his work rigorous enough. I would also like to point out that that a summation sign is not a "burden". It means "add this stuff up". How hard is that to understand? As for the Lorentz equations, I hope to learn why those would be necessary in this book in the first place. Perhaps engrams travel near the speed of light. Oh and "scientifically impossible" grammar? Does that not just mean a scientifically impossible idea, more commonly referred to as nonsense? This passage however, employs an interesting tactic. Hubbard realizes that the scientific community is not going to find this work as enlightening as he does, so before he receives criticism, he offers the explanation that the criticism is only because because he lacks the proper formalism. It has nothing to do with his reasoning of lack thereof. It also provides the less-astute reader with a handy reason to dismiss and scientific criticism.

I think that is all the time I am going to spend on preface material, but before I wrap up, I would like just provide a list of the words Hubbard defines in this section. I will not include his definitions unless, like engrams, it was particularly strange. It might be enlightening to see what Hubbard expects will confuse his readers. I will provide a similar list for every chapter.

Words defined: terra incognita, engram, articulate, catarrh, Lorentz-FitzGeral-Einstein equation (just that they are "mathematical equation in the field of physics"), Hegelian ("after Hegel"), dynamic principle of existence (survival), aberration, postulate

Next: Chapter 1: The Scope of Dianetics

Note: All quotes are from
Hubbard, L. Ron. Dianetics. Los Angeles, CA: Bridge Publications, Inc, 1986. The above figure is located on p. 32 of this edition.


Flavin said...

"Oh and "scientifically impossible" grammar? Does that not just mean a scientifically impossible idea, more commonly referred to as nonsense?"

I'd say he means "2b: extremely awkward or difficult to deal with" from Merriam-Webster.

@L. Ron
"...bear with us, doctor, when we call a cold a cold and not a catarrhal disorder of the respiratory tract."

I cannot verify that a doctor would ever call a cold that. However, scientific language can be ungainly and awkward, but it is so for a reason. The words scientists use have very precise meaning. Scientific jargon is very precise and conveys exactly what one is talking about, provided one is speaking to another specialist in one's field.

A cold, in fact, can be many things. Over 100 different viruses cause colds with a variety of different symptoms. So in an effort to, presumably, simplify the language, L. Ron has deliberately sacrificed specificity.

Ben said...

It was not the term "impossible" that I was confused with. It was that grammar can be impossible in a scientific manner. I did not know that grammar fell under the laws of physics. It was more amusing than important anyway.

Prazzie said...

I had hoped the engram definition would be clearer. As I understand it, engrams are subconscious memories that continue to exert influence over our conscious minds and are capable of recreating any physical pain that may have occurred during the formation of the memory.

Codswallop. Looking forward to the thetan bits.

Ben said...

My understanding is that the crazy theta/Xenu stuff is not in Dianetics. It's something that is not revealed until you have enough invested in the religion that you can't really justify running away in a fit of laughter, or so I have heard.

Prazzie said...

That's a pity. Do you know if we'll at least get to learn about how bad medication is, why psychiatrists are evil, how to cure dyslexia and learning disabilities, how to kick your drug habits and how women should give birth in silence?

Ben said...

Based on the chapter titles, it seems likely!

Anonymous said...

Brevity is the soul of wit. Ron is simply saying that he is writing this as simple as possible for there is no need to complicate the matter because his discoveries are basically very simple to understand. btw, there is a lecture in 1950 where Ron Hubbard says that the publisher insisted that that book title include the word "Science."