Saturday, September 8, 2018

The mental mind

"Brainwashing" (also called "The Brainwashing Manual") is an extremely curious text published in 1955 by the Church of Scientology. The book is supposedly a summary or "synthesis" of several secret Soviet manuals on brain-washing. It also contains a speech supposedly given by Stalin's most notorious henchman, Lavrentiy Beria, to American Communist students at the Lenin University in Moscow. The leader of Scientology, Ron Hubbard, claimed that the original manuals were sent to the Church by a mysterious man named Charles Stickley, a professor in New York City. Most people suspect that Stickley is a purely imaginary character, and that "Brainwashing" is really the brain-child of Hubbard himself. In other words, the book is a forgery. Hubbard sent the book to the FBI and other government authorities, but despite the Cold War paranoia prevalent at the time, nobody seems to have taken the work seriously. Hubbard already had the reputation of being a crank, and a secret FBI file referred to him as "a mental case".

That "Brainwashing" can't be based on an actual Soviet manual, secret or not, is obvious. The Soviet Union is constantly referred to as "Russia", the work contains no Russian cultural references while at one point mentioning "Alice in Wonderland", and there are no quotations from Stalin, despite the prevalent cult of his personality. "Beria" at one point expresses the hope that the Russians will control Vienna, strangely oblivious to the fact that the Soviets *did* control parts of Vienna already. Austria was under joint Allied occupation until 1955 - presumably, Hubbard had never seen "The Third Man"! Hubbard attempted to silence the critics by the claim that the book was a summary or synthesis, rather than a verbatim translation, but that's what they always say, isn't it? Since nobody has seen the original, his apologia is worthless.

The strongest indication of the real authorship is the actual content of "Brainwashing". Hubbard believed that psychiatry was a gigantic, evil conspiracy against mankind. For instance, psychiatrists opposed his own system of mental healing, Dianetics. Thus, the "Soviet" manual describes how Communists infiltrate American psychiatry, take over the nation and (surprise) do everything possible to discredit Dianetics! One method of doing so is to secretly inject drugs into people being treated by Dianetic auditors, thereby driving them insane and blaming their mental breakdowns on Dianetics. (Hubbard's critics had charged that some patients really did suffer mental breakdowns during auditing.)

The manual further says that opponents of psychoanalysis should be diagnosed with insanity and committed to some suitable mental institution. Apparently, the paranoid Hubbard had often expressed the suspicion that his opponents wanted to incarcerate him in precisely this manner. "Brainwashing" expresses strong support for drugs, lobotomy, electric shocks and brutality against the mentally ill in general. Hubbard strongly claimed to oppose such methods. The obsession with hypnosis and the sexual undertones of some sections also strike me as typically Hubbardian traits.

"Brainwashing" obviously doesn't tell us much about actual Soviet strategy during the Cold War. Indeed, it may not even tell us much about Western, anti-Communist propaganda. At bottom, this is a sneak peek into the "mental" worldview of Lafayette Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology.

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