In the subjects of Dianetics and Scientology, there are fundamental points of its dogma which are accepted solely on faith and from which the techniques and methods of its practice are created. In this video, we are going to look at two of these, one following from the other, which are perhaps the first principles L. Ron Hubbard formulated, years before he even wrote Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health in 1950. Hubbard described these as axiomatic principles, meaning that they were self-evident truths. The root concept we will examine is what Hubbard referred to as the Dynamic Principle of Existence, which became the basis of Dianetics and was later incorporated into and expanded upon when Hubbard created Scientology in 1953. Let’s go ahead and see what this is all about, where Hubbard may have came up with these concepts and whether these really work out as the scientific truths Hubbard claimed them to be.
The backstory to this involves a book Hubbard wrote way before Dianetics and Scientology were even conceived of, a book which very few have read or even seen and which in the world of Scientology has achieved the status of mythic lore. This book was variously called The One Command, The Dark Sword or Excalibur, named after King Arthur’s legendary sword of power. Let’s talk about the significance of this book in the bigger picture of Scientology.
Whenever he brought up Excalibur, Hubbard was fairly consistent that he wrote it after a dental surgery gone wrong in April 1938, during which time he claimed that his heart stopped and he had a near-death experience. He imagined seeing a light and a place of wonder and woke up thinking he had been shown the secrets of life itself. Although he’d been told by some disembodied voice to forget everything he’d seen, he didn’t forget.
Here’s a bit about it from Hubbard in an April 1954 lecture:
“There’s a book called Excalibur which was written in 1938. That book is about 125 thousand words and is the theoretical top level of philosophic principles which we’re still using. But it had no connecting link with anything like therapy. It had no connecting link, really, with beingness or something of this sort. It just took off in…ten thousand feet up and climbed. Nothing connected to Earth about it. Some of its principles are quite interesting. One of them is ‘A man is as sane as he feels dangerous to his environment.’ That’s a very interesting line out of it, because as the years have gone along that has proven to be more and more an accurate statement when you consider a man as that composite of a thetan plus a body, Homo sapiens. He feels dangerous to his environment, he’s all right. When he feels that the environment is dangerous to him he’s all wrong.
“The word survive and the first principle of existence also appear in Excalibur and are run down to a considerable extent. There is a great many electronic manifestations outlined, and several new laws there. There is considerable about the somethingness and nothingness of existence, and there’s a big examination of why. Why are we living? This is something that bothers people every once in a while and there’s a dissertation in there on it.” (Lecture “Universes” 6 April 1954)
Excalibur has never been published and reportedly there are only five copies in existence in Scientology’s vaults. In a 1961 edition of an unofficial Scientology newsletter called The Aberree, Arthur Burks claimed to have been the first person to have read the manuscript. The way Burks describes it, Hubbard felt he had hit on something of singular importance – an explanation or a kind of philosophy of the mind which would enable him to have utter and complete control over other men if he so desired. Hubbard said “he wanted to make changes. He wanted to reach inside people and really work them over….” Hubbard thought this book was going to revolutionize human behavior. He said Excalibur would have a greater impact than The Bible.
It apparently explained Man’s behavior in terms of cellular activity and how it all came down to the idea of every cell trying simply and only to survive. Of course, this is fairly self-evident but Hubbard elaborated on it in such a way it really drove the point home survival was the very overriding principle of life, much more important than anything else such as love, compassion or purpose. As Burks describes it:
“As these things are pointed out to you by Ron in the first chapter, or thereabouts, you begin to see that the cells in any body that you’re looking at are all endowed with this ability to survive – a determination to survive – and with motives to survive that are sometimes extremely questionable. When you look at a person, the lips may say one thing, the eyes may say something else, or nothing, and the flesh may say something entirely different. Literally, your right hand doesn’t know what your left hand is doing. You shake hands, and this is a friendly gesture, but behind your back you may be holding a knife to plunge into him and he may be holding one for you. You can’t tell just by looking at people. One of the things Ron intended to do with Excalibur was to make it possible to see and look into this.”
When no publishers were interested in printing Excalibur, Hubbard furiously packed it up and in a fit of rage, went back to Washington and nothing more was heard about it for many years. He brought it out again with Dianetics and used what he felt he had discovered as the basis for the Dianetics axioms. Hubbard wrote about a dynamic principle of existence. Dynamic in this sense means “a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process.” It was first used in physics in the early 19th century and goes back to the Greek word “dunamis” meaning “power.”
Here’s how Hubbard first described this concept in Dianetics: The Original Thesis:
“The field of thought may be divided into two areas which have been classified as the ‘knowable’ and the ‘unknowable’….
“After exhaustive research one word was selected as embracing the finite universe as a dynamic principle of existence. This word can be used as a guide or a measuring stick and by it can be evaluated much information. It is therefore our first and our controlling axiom. The first axiom is:
“This can be seen to be the lowest common denominator of the finite universe. It embraces all forms of energy. It further delineates the purpose of that energy so far as it is now viewable by us in the ‘knowable’ field. The activity of the finite universe can easily be seen to obey this axiom as though it were a command. All works and energies can be considered to be motivated by it. The various kingdoms have this as their lowest common denominator, for animals, vegetables and minerals are all striving for survival. We do not know to what end we are surviving, and in our field of the ‘knowable’ and in our choice of only the workable axioms, we do not know and have no immediate reason to ask why.”
This somewhat underwhelming conclusion is, as far as Hubbard is concerned, the overriding principle of all life across the universe and is what drives every living and inanimate thing.
Now it is true that life is surviving. Life is also not surviving, which is kind of the point of evolution and how life changes and adapts to its living conditions in order to take a better stab at surviving. If anything, it is the inability of life to survive that drives it forward and forces evolution to happen but we don’t have to play semantics games to try to disprove what Hubbard asserts. As he said himself, this is a fairly self-evident truth, so obvious in fact, that Hubbard had to take great pains to make this sound more profound than it really is.
The meaning or purpose of life has been discussed and debated for centuries. Eventually, in Scientology, once Hubbard came up with the idea that we are all immortal spiritual entities called thetans, the idea of “survival” as an over-riding basic instinct of life went by the wayside becasue thetans can’t die. They have no choice but to go on living forever and it is only the quality of life that they would be concerned with. By 1956, when Hubbard wrote a book called Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought wherein he had decided that survival was not really where it was at anymore, but instead that life was best understood by likening it to a game. He even said this was a scientific principle and not just an opinion. In a chapter entitled “The Reason Why” he wrote:
“Life can best be understood by likening it to a GAME.
“Despite the amount of suffering, pain, misery, sorrow and travail which can exist in life, the reason for existence is the same reason as one has to play a game – interest, contest, activity and possession. The truth of this assertion is established by an observation of the elements of games and then applying these elements to life itself. When we do this, we find nothing left wanting in the panorama of life.
“By studying the elements of games, we find ourselves in possession of the elements of life.
“LIFE IS A GAME.
“A game consists of FREEDOM, BARRIERS and PURPOSES.
“This is a scientific fact, not merely an observation.”
After making this monumental “discovery,” Hubbard did not go back and revise or change one word of Dianetics or the philosophic basis upon which it was built. This idea of life being a game with the rules and elements he described in this book should have radically altered the principles of Dianetics, but because Dianetics and Scientology are based on pseudoscience and not actual scientific principles, Hubbard got away with changing the entire philosophic backbone of his movement. He did this a number of times over the years, not the least of which includes when he released OT III in 1967 with Xenu and the body thetans and all that. The entire nature of everything in Scientology changed. If something like that happens in chemistry or engineering or biology, textbooks are revised and updated to reflect those changes and the old theories are cast aside as unworkable or untrue. For some reason, this never happened in Scientology.
Going back to Dianetics, Hubbard elaborated on a corollary principle which later became very important in Scientology. This is the subdivision of the dynamic thrust for survival into separate parts. Originally there were only four of these sub-divisions but they were quickly expanded up to eight by the end of 1950.
These sub-divisions of the survival thrust of existence are called dynamics. Here’s the simplest explanation Hubbard offered in Dianetics about this:
“Survival is divided into four dynamics. Survival can be understood to lie in any one of the dynamics and by faulty logic can be explained in terms of any one dynamic. A man can be said to survive for self alone and by this all behavior can be formulated. He can be said to survive for sex alone and by sex alone all behavior can be formulated. He can be said to survive for the group only or for Mankind only and in either of these the entire endeavor and behavior of the individual can be equated and explained. These are four equations of survival, each one apparently true. However, the entire problem of the purpose of Man cannot be resolved unless one admits all four dynamics in each individual. So equated, the behavior of the individual can be estimated with precision. These dynamics then embrace the activity of one or many men.”
Later Hubbard expanded on this so the fifth dynamic is all living organisms, the sixth dynamic is the physical universe, the seven dynamic is spiritual entities and the eighth dynamic is the Supreme Being or infinity.
Graphically, the eight dynamics are laid out as concentric circles.
There are so many analogies and symbols used in mystic lore and religion of all brands to describe life and the journey to spiritual salvation, that Hubbard could have drawn from any or all of these to come up with this concept. He was really big on noting in many of his lectures that the number eight turned on its side is the infinity symbol, so I think he had a keen interest in there being eight dynamics and this may have even been the deciding factor on expanding them from four to eight.
In terms of the effort to survive being equally divided amongst these eight aspects, I would argue that this does not stand up so well to a critical analysis. There are so many exceptions and circumstances where each of Hubbard’s dynamics are not equal to the other dynamics. For example, we slaughter animals by the thousands every day so that we can eat. It could be argued that we don’t need to, but on the other hand it can be just as legitimately argued that is how the food chain works. Both arguments have their pros and cons, but this would really be debate material for a Philosophy 101 class than it would be a matter of hard scientific fact. In other words, despite Hubbard’s claims to the contrary, there is no scientific consensus or study that proves that Hubbard’s 8 dynamics model is the one and only way to break down how life works, nor is it a particularly clever one. It’s very easy to poke all kinds of holes in it. Atheists, for example, are not trying to survive on the 7th or 8th dynamics. They literally could care less about the existence of spirits or of a Supreme Diety. Does that mean that in Scientology’s eyes, all atheists are irrational or “aberrated” and need Scientology auditing to get cleared up on these dynamics? Given what we know about Hubbard’s contentious views about Jesus Christ and organized religion in general, did he need to be cleared up on these dynamics too? After all, Scientology as a religion doesn’t address the Supreme Being or one’s relation to it, leaving it pretty much up in the air for Scientologists to decide what the eighth dynamic actually represents. Then you have Scientologists who are told to cash in their children’s college funds and take out second or third mortgages on their homes in order to fund Scientology, throwing their first and second dynamics under the bus for the sake of one group, the Church of Scientology. Is that based on a rational analysis of the dynamics and giving equal weight to each of them? I don’t think so.
L. Ron Hubbard actually preached a fully developed utilitarian morality using these eight dynamics as the basis of determining what is the “greatest good for the greatest number of dynamics.” Under such a system, almost anything can be rationalized or justified. We’ll be talking a lot more about that in a later video when I break down the Scientology ethics and justice system. For now, I’ll simply say that this system can be used to justify some outrageous human rights abuses when Scientologists are convinced that whatever they are doing is rationalized by the “greatest good.”
Hubbard’s concept of Survive! being the one command that all life follows is not particularly revelatory or unique and it certainly isn’t a strong or sturdy backbone for a science of mental health. Since its release 67 years ago, Dianetics has not revolutionized our understanding or practice of psychology or psychiatry. Every professional review or critique of Dianetics I’ve seen has concluded it is a simple and mostly ineffective pseudoscience which makes tall claims but is pretty short on tangible results. You don’t have to take my word for it. Physician Martin Gumpert wrote in The New Republic in August, 1950:
“I must confess I have never been confronted by such a bold and immodest mixture of complete nonsense and perfectly reasonable common sense, taken from long-acknowledged findings and disguised and distorted by a crazy, newly invented terminology. Most revolting is the repeated claim of exactitude and of scientific experimental approach, for which every trace of evidence is lacking. The author lives continuously on borrowed concepts, though at the same time he attacks them most ungraciously and ungratefully. Whatever makes sense in his ‘discoveries’ does not belong to him, and his own theory appears to this reviewer as a paranoiac system which would be of interest as part of a case history, but which seems quite dangerous when offered for mass consumption as a therapeutic technique.”
Professor of Psychology Charles Bures wrote in his review:
“[Hubbard] is so out of touch with contemporary achievements in the fields into which he ventures that, in the reviewer’s opinion, this work does not merit serious attention. It is given critical attention here only because of the uncritical following it has attracted. If there are any suggestions of value in this movement, they will be supported by continuity with past efforts, not by evasion of intellectual responsibility.
“In summary, Dianetics mistakes a highly over-simplified model for a solution to important human problems. It disregards operational analysis and search for adequate controlled evidence in the proper directions. Because of its archaic metaphysics, its outmoded exclusive emphasis on survival, and its discredited instinctivism, it pays only lip service to the established social and cultural contributions to human personality. Its assumption of inherently perfect rationality masks for the gullible the effort, the learning and the critical attitude that are necessary for a balanced rational approach to life problems. Everything attempted here has been done better by others and with a proper sense for the protection of the uninformed.”
Dianetics and Scientology are pseudoscience. They are not valid therapies for mental health issues or spiritual salvation. In short, they are a con. The fundamental principles on which they are based are bogus and easily shown to come up short when measured against actual scientific method. For that reason alone, Hubbard’s quack theories and philosophies should simply be dismissed out of hand.
Thank you for watching.