What is Dianetics – Part 1

by L. Ron Hubbard

(This first article is a brief discussion for the benefit of those who have not read Mr. Hubbard’s books or articles on Dianetics and have no previous knowledge of the subject.-Ed) PLEASE NOTE DEFINITIONS OF WORDS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE. Words that are defined are followed by a number in parentheses.

For  centuries many scientists and philosophers have been studying the convolutions(1) (see definitions at bottom of page) of human thinking. The longer the study, the greater their reassurance that we are the possessors of a most complex and challenging instrument called the mind. What they refer to is now called the analytical mind.

But describing its behavior did not make the ways of the mind any less baffling. Our knowledge of how it functions continued to be only approximate at best. There were still unknown stimuli and unaccountable factors—until the theory of Dianetics was applied.

Dianetics is from the word of Greek origin meaning “to revolve in the mind; or of or pertaining to reasoning, especially digressive(2) or cursory(3) reasoning,” wherein the mind hops and skips from one thought to another or from clarity to confusion without apparent cause and as if under some strange and seemingly uncontrollable compulsion. That obviously was the unknown stumbling block to a fuller understanding of how the mind functions.

The stumbling block, Dianetics proved after twelve years of experimentation, is the fact that we are also the possessors of another mind, a reactive mind, which has far greater force and compulsion upon us than the so-called analytical mind. In fact, when brought into play, the reactive mind can and does overpower the analytical mind. Worse, the reactive mind badgers and bedevils(4) us throughout our entire life span.


Like the analytical mind, the reactive mind is also a mental function of the brain. It is a kind of primitive function in that it is a vicious and violent survival mechanism in the brains of all living organisms. But the reactive mind does not analyze. It thinks only in terms of identities and similarities, but not in difference like the analytical mind. It is strictly a literal mind that responds defensively every time something reminds it of a similar painful incident.

The animal mentality, being largely reactive, is a good illustration of this. Suppose a deer walked under a tree and a snake dropped down upon it and terrified it (threatened its survival). The terror would cause its meager analytical faculties to become attenuated(5) or partly unconscious, whereupon its strong reactive mind would take over. The impression would be recorded, filed away for future survival use. Thereafter that tree and all others resembling it would be associated with the snake threat in the deer’s mind. Every time the deer saw such a tree, the fearful incident would cause it to shy away on pain of death. For to the reactive mind, pain means death and pleasure means survival.

To civilized human beings, however, the reactive mind has become a leech upon rational behavior. It is the hypothetical(6) cyst(7) which occludes the proper functioning of the analytical mind. It is the root of all our psychosomatic  ills(8) and the barrier which  prevents us from attaining the optimum of our thinking abilities and aspirations.


It is remarkable what powerful pressures the reactive mind can exert upon the individual in order to make him obey its commands. Even though it is presumably a pro-survival monitor, you must remember that it cannot analyze and know the difference between things.

Thus if a brindle cow kicked you and inflicted pain while you were getting yourself a case of sunstroke out in the pasture one day,  thenceforward all brindle cows would become hateful creatures to you and all sunny pastures would restimulate the unconsciousness. You would even re-experience the pain of that kick each time you were restimulated.

Of course it doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way the reactive mind works. It can’t think things out. And yet by means of Dianetics we have discovered that hundreds of other psychosomatic ills are imposed upon the human body in exactly that crazy way.

What does this reactive mind consist of? It is a kind of storage bank of memory, mostly of unpleasant things done to us from the very first moment of cellular life, but only of those events which happened while we were unconscious or in pain. As such, it differs from our previous understanding of the meaning and uses of memory.

Here it is necessary to define memory as a process of recalling, at will or in response to appropriate stimuli, impressions previously made on the senses and recorded in the mind. The process of recall is essentially one of perceiving those impressions and understanding them. It is an analytical process.

What was not before understood by the mental sciences, but can now be demonstrated conclusively by Dianetics, is that yet another file of impressions exists. This other file is one in which impressions are recorded by the reactive mind and held prisoner there until such times as that functional apparatus has occasion to call them into play.

In other words, the reactive mind reacts to certain stimuli but in a manner so incapable of rational explanation, so random and erratic, that it frequently does incalculable harm to the human body and impedes its maximal performance.

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(To Be Continued)


1 – convolutions: complexities  or intricacies, as of form, pattern etc., likened to something having many folds, turns or twists.

2 – digressive: tending to digress, deviate, wander away or depart from the main topic or the principal line of reasoning, argument or the like.

3 – cursory: (in thought, reasoning or the like) touching on something broadly or generally, or passing rapidly over something without review of details.

4 – bedevils: troubles, harasses or torments in a way that seems caused by a devil.

5 – attenuated – weakened or reduced as in force, intensity, effect or the like.

6 – hypothetical: based on an idea that is possible and imagined rather than real or true.

7 – cyst: something in the mind that is separated off, likened to a physical cyst, a protective sac enclosing fluid or semisolid material, that develops abnormally in the body and that can block normal flows or even become cancerous.

8 – psychosomatic illness: a term used in common parlance to denote a condition “resulting from a state of mind.” Psycho refers to the mind and somatic refers to the body; the term psychosomatic means the mind making the body ill.