Dianetics is the generic term for the beliefs underlying Scientology. Dianetics is the claim that each person’s painful past experiences create a lasting impression, termed an “engram,” on that person’s “reactive” (subconscious) mind. According to Dianetics, these engrams are the root cause of various diseases, conditions, neuroses, and injuries. According to Scientology, the list of maladies caused by engrams is extensive, including deficient vision, sexual problems, allergies, joint pain, headaches, and so forth. Engrams are also blamed for psychological disorders from depression to violence. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard went so far as to claim that, if dianetic therapy was applied worldwide, there no longer would be any crime, war, or insanity.
Through a process referred to as “auditing,” Dianetics principles are applied in an effort to rid the person’s soul—called a “thetan”—of these engrams, ultimately resulting in a person with no reactive, or subconscious, mind at all. This state is called “Clear.” During the auditing process, a trained auditor sits across from the subject and asks him to relive a series of past events. In theory, these events are from any part of the subject’s existence, including infancy, pre-birth, or even a former life. All “memories” are treated as legitimate, and the subject is encouraged to discuss them until he feels at ease with the event. This supposedly removes the engram, and it can no longer produce harmful effects. This process somewhat resembles hypnosis and involves the use of an E-meter, or electro-psychometer, a device that works somewhat like a lie detector.
Hubbard began teaching Dianetics principles in the 1950s. Almost immediately, his claims were derided by experts in medicine and psychiatry. Since its inception, Dianetics has been classified as a pseudoscience, in the same category as phrenology, homeopathy, and astrology. There are no scientific studies supporting its effectiveness nor any scientific reasons to think that it would work as advertised. Dianetics’ most proven capability is in generating revenue: auditing sessions are expensive, and the wealthy are profoundly over-represented in Scientology.
Biblically, the claims of Dianetics are completely false. There are no prior lives from which to remember pain and trauma (see Hebrews 9:27). A person’s primary moral problem is not the memory of pain but his own in-born sin (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Dianetics claims that a person can, through force of will, make himself a better and more moral person. The Bible teaches that true change only happens when a person is reformed by Christ (1 Corinthians 6:10–11). As a mishmash of pseudoscience, Eastern spirituality, and New Age concepts, Dianetics is not only factually false but incompatible with the worldview of the Bible (Colossians 2:8).