L. Ron Hubbard was clearly not keen on the subject of psychiatry.
But, it wasn’t always that way. In the late forties and early fifties Hubbard put a lot of effort into selling the psychiatric profession on the virtues of Dianetics. In response, he was not only rebuffed but targeted by a well- financed campaign directed by the “very best” psychiatrists to expose Hubbard and Dianetics as alleged frauds. That campaign gained momentum for a couple of decades as it was joined along the way by numerous Federal and State agencies.
Increasingly, Hubbard fought escalating fire with escalating fire. He gradually came off his original, soft conclusion from his first book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, that psychiatrists and psychologists did not achieve results mainly because they did not possess a workable mental technology. In the early fifties he often poked fun at the unworkability of psychiatry, psychology and psycho-analysis (their practioners collectively referred to as ‘psychs’ in Scientology) in his lectures. Then he began to deride mental health professionals as working not to help humankind but instead to control it. His position, while stated with increasing vehemence that betrayed a personal hurt at being attacked instead of recognized by the mental health establishment, was not without support. A four-part BBC documentary, Century of Self (available for free at freedocumentaries.com), though evidencing no connection with Scientology or Hubbard, very competently sums up the valid criticisms Hubbard had been levying for decades prior to its making and airing. It documents the primary use of mental health methodologies for controlling populaces rather than in improving or curing them.
By the mid sixties the organized psychiatric and psychological associations’ attacks were so effective, Scientology was in danger of being banned in every country it had been established in across the globe. Hubbard took off the gloves. He created an international intelligence and propaganda network, the Guardian’s Office, and directed it to infiltrate, expose and destroy the major national and international mental health associations attacking Scientology. So hard-hitting and dedicated were church campaigns against psychiatric associations and front groups in the sixties and seventies that Scientology survived attacks that no other organization likely would have.
By the time I took charge of church external affairs in the early eighties, there were few organized psychiatric attacks extant on Scientology. There were a handful of expert psychiatric witnesses in damages cases against Scientology just as there were in any other lawsuit dealing with issues of emotional distress. But the behemoth organizations Hubbard confronted and combatted (American Psychiatric Association/American Psychological Association) were no longer a factor in attacks on Scientology.
Ironically, it was after he had won the war against organized psychiatry that Hubbard issued his final salvos against it that would justify his successors tilting against psychiatric windmills as a matter of religious conviction for the next thirty years. From the isolation of the seclusion he imposed upon himself for the final five years of his life, in 1982 Hubbard pronounced as a matter of church policy and doctrine that psychiatrists constituted a special, identifiable type of evil spirit. That is, no person within the ranks of psychiatry or psychology was anymore simply a person who wanted to help others but was misguided into unworkable fields. Instead, psychiatrists and psychologists were a special breed of being who had been psychiatrists lifetime after lifetime, for millions of years, and were programmed to create chaos and destruction to earth. His final pronouncement on the subject directly contradicted and tore the heart out of essential basics of the philosophy he had created over three decades in that it adjudicated a class of people as inherently evil. Hubbard pronounced that the sole cause of crime on earth was psychiatrists – “There’s only one remedy for crime – get rid of the psychs. They are causing it!” Perhaps by the time we move up to May 1982 (when Hubbard published this anti-psych tract) in the larger narrative of Scientology’s history we’ll better understand Hubbard’s level of vehemence during that particular period of time.
Such context will no doubt be suppressed among corporate Scientologists. The truth might slow the momentum of a very lucrative con built on Scientologists’ fear of ‘psychs.’ The church has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from spirited annual rallies condemning psychiatry and calling for the “obliteration” of ‘psychs’ as a duty dictated by religious faith. In the year 2011 corporate Scientology leader David Miscavige announced “Global Vengeance” campaigns against “psychiatry”, receiving wildly enthusiastic ovations from his core contributors.
One highlight of that presentation that ignited a particularly raucous response was the announcement that the annual American Psychiatric Association convention that year had featured a seminar organized to try to figure out why Scientology was waging war against psychiatry. Miscavige was clearly tickled when disclosing this tidbit to the crowd. In fact, he was giddy in his dandy, tailor-made tuxedo standing behind his elaborate, custom-made podium.
It made me consider the irony that the head of the American Psychiatric Association probably understood the cross L. Ron Hubbard’s had once borne better than Miscavige ever would. After all, he was in nearly the same position Hubbard found himself in sixty years earlier when he no doubt perplexedly pondered , ‘why on earth has organized psychiatry decided to wage war against me and Scientology?’