According to a letter written by a physician in late 1950 and published in JAMA in January 1951, by that time Dianetics meetings were already demonstrating the trappings of a cult, by relying on personal testimonials and shouting down those who questioned the inconsistency of their writings. This was long before techniques of "confront," including how to handle reporters and "SP's," were enacted in policies from the Church of Scientology.
Journal of the American Medical Association
To the Editor,
With considerable anxiety I have watched the cult "dianetics" develop from the first appearance of its principles in Science Fiction Magazine.
I am concerned about its growth and popular acceptance, and I fear that the world has had dumped on it a new therapy which will have the staying power of chiropractic, with as little scientific background to support it.
It is a phenomenon of some sort, and full of meaning, that over 500,000 copies of the book are supposed to have boon sold. Countless persons,
without proper background and without understanding of basic human motives and drives, are "auditing" each other, and as a result mental hospitals may receive as patients many whose first psychotic breakdown occurred during such "auditing." The "auditors" simply do not know how to handle the material elicited. The dangers inherent in such amateurish "auditing" are readily apparent. Since those persons cannot recognize an incipient psychosis, adequate treatment may be delayed, and delay, as pointed out in Bellak's book "Dementia Precox" definitely reduces the chances for recovery or improvement.
In a short time there has developed a demand on the part of thousands of persons for training as professional "auditors." To meet this demand,
there have been two established training centers in the United States, in Elizabeth N.J., and in Los Angeles. The course lasts one month, and
tuition is said to be $500. The initial Los Angeles enrollment was 1,000 persons, many haveing been turned away. An income of $500,000 for the
Dianetic Foundation in one month is certainly not bad. This, however, is only the beginning. There is being projected a Dianetic College or
University, with a two year course, which will no doubt give graduates greater prestige.
Devotees of dianetics, like the devotees of cults, are not moved by unfavorable statements made by men of recognized scientific background.
These fanatics support the new cult with a religious fervor. In vain have I shown them comments by scientific critics. One gets the same
answers that have so often been heard from enthusiasts for other cults. For one thing, one hears that the medical profession is really a medical
trust that is trying to keep out all forms of treatment but its own. The new cult is growing by the vigorous exploitation of testimonials.
I have already listened to a testimonial of a cure of agoraphobia. Another person has reported that since he has been "audited" he is a
better conversationalist. One woman I know is about to start being "audited" after listening to a testimonial by someone who had gotten
rid of many "engrams" through dianetics. This dianeticized person claimed that her thinking had improved and hence her abilities as a stock market trader had become markedly sharper, the whole process resulting in her taking profits of $13,000 within a few days. And so the testimonials go.
In Los Angeles the dianetics enthusiasts meet every Sunday morning in a theater to hear about he latest procedures and to listen to exegeses
of the great book. As one would expect, the spirit of these meetings has the coloring that goes with religious zeal. At one of these meetings
I saw one man get up and call attention to some contradictory phases of the teachings of the book. He was booed and hooted down, to the relief of the moderator. Professional "auditors" are setting up offices throughout the country and advertising for patients in the good old chiropractic way. Something should be done to expose irrefutably this nonsensical tomfoolery.
Samual J. Ravitch, MD
A place to post and debate the Church of Scientology.
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