Erich Fromm’s review of Dianetics

Posted: February 7, 2008 in Hubbard
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fromm.jpg“Dianetics” – For Seekers of Prefabricated Happiness
by Erich Fromm

This is a review of L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics with which Hubbard founded his Scientology-Church. The review originally was published in The New York Herald Tribune Book Review of September 3, 1950, p. 7.

Dianetics is the latest in this series of books and the author uses all ingredients of the success formula with a remarkable lack of embarrassment.

In spite of the authors fantastic claims there is hardly anything original in his theories except new words for a mixture of misunderstood and undigested Freudianism and hypnotic age regression experiments.

Hubbard’s book can hardly be taken seriously as a scientific contribution to the science of Man but it must be taken seriously as a symptom of a dangerous trend.

But perhaps the most unfortunate element in Dianetics is the way it is written. The mixture of some oversimplified truths, half truths and plain absurdities, the propagandistic technique of impressing the reader with the greatness, infallibility and newness of the author’s system, the promise of unheard of results attained by the simple means of following Dianetics is a technique which has had most unfortunate results in the fields of patent medicines and politics; applied to psychology and psychiatry it will not be less harmful.

Fromm, a contemporary of Hubbard, was an interesting character. He came from an orthodox Jewish family but he became something of a blend between atheism & mysticism later in life. Fromm was a brilliant thinker and understood more than most about human pathology. He was not exactly loved by post War Americans for his wayward interest in Marxism as a philosophy, but he was none-the-less appreciated by many for his insights into the psyche of man. One of his more contemplative thoughts reflected on his study of the Biblical subject of idolatry (perhaps not doctrinally accurate, but certainly a statement worthy of of personal reflection):

Idolatry is not the worship of certain gods instead of others, or of one God instead of many. It is a human attitude, that of the reification of all that is alive. It is a man’s submission to things, his self-negation as a living, open, ego-transcending being. … The modern concept of alienation expresses the same idea as the traditional concept of idolatry. The alienated man bows down to the work of his own hands and the circumstances of his own doing. …Today’s idols are the objects of a systematically cultivated greed: for money, power, lust, glory, food, drink. Man worships the means and ends of this greed: production, consumption, military might, business, the state. The stronger he makes his idol, the poorer he becomes, the emptier he feels. Instead of joy he seeks thrills, instead of life, he loves a mechanized world of gadgets, intead of growth he seeks wealth, instead of being he is interested in having and using.

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