A Doctor's Scathing 1950 Takedown of L. Ron Hubbard's 'Dianetics' - 2015-05-05
In 1950, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard published a $4 self-help book he called Dianetics, drawing on Greek roots for "through" and "the mind." Hubbard claimed to be able to cure "human aberrations" with auditing, an intensive form of counseling. Readers ignored rebukes by medical and therapy professionals; the book quickly became a bestseller. Scientologists—of which there are currently about 25,000 in the United States—now refer to the text as "Book One."
In his review of the book for The New Republic, physician Martin Gumpert outlined the dangers of following Hubbard's advice. "There can be no doubt that many will feel helped by the new fad," Gumpert wrote, sensing the allure of easy-fix pseudoscientific suggestions such as taking Vitamin B1 to prevent auditing-induced nightmares. While Gumpert at times tilted towards hyperbole ("It may prove fatal to have put too much trust in the promises of this dangerous book," he wrote), his warnings against the false prophets of science ring true today.
This piece originally appeared in The New Republic on August 14, 1950.