L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology, and the Visual Arts. 1. The Aesthetic Mind

The founder of Scientology devoted much attention to aesthetics. However, his texts on the subject remain little-known.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 1 of 8.

L. Ron Hubbard, portrait by Peter Green (1999). Courtesy of Peter Green.

Aesthetics and relations with the artists are not the first topics that come to mind when one thinks of Scientology. However, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (1911–1986) considered them very important, and his writings on the subject shed light on many other aspects of his thinking. In this series of articles, I will try to examine them in depth, then discuss how Hubbard’s ideas inspire contemporary figurative artists who are part of Scientology.

Dianetics and Scientology represent two distinct phases of Hubbard’s thought. Dianetics deals with the mind, and studies how it receives and stores images. Scientology focuses on the entity who looks at the images stored in the mind. Mind for Scientology has three main parts. The Analytical mind observes and remembers data, stores their pictures as mental images, and uses them to make decisions and promote survival. The reactive mind records mental images at times of incidents containing unconsciousness and pain, and stores these images as “engrams.” They are awakened and reactivated when similar circumstances occur, creating all sorts of problems. The Somatic mind, directed by the Analytical or reactive mind, translates their inputs and messages on the physical level. Dianetics aims at freeing humans from engrams, thus helping them achieve the status of “clear.”

Dianetics, however, leaves open the question of who, exactly, is the subject continuously observing the images stored in the mind. To answer this question, Hubbard introduced Scientology and moved from Psychology to metaphysics. At the core of Scientology’s worldview there is a gnostic narrative. At the beginning, there were the “thetans,” pure spirits who created MEST (matter, energy, space, and time), largely for their own pleasure. Unfortunately, incarnating and reincarnating in human bodies, the thetans came to forget that they had created the world, and to believe that they were the effect rather than the cause of the physical universe. Their level of “theta,” ie of the creative energy peculiar to life that acts upon the physical universe and is directed towards Survival (the name comes from the Greek letter theta, used by the Greeks to represent thought), gradually decreased and, as they kept incarnating as humans, the part of mind known as the reactive mind took over.

The more the thetan believes to be the effect, rather than the cause, of the physical universe, the more the reactive mind exerts its negative effects and the person is in a state of “aberration.” This affects the Tone Scale, showing the emotional tones a person can experience, and the levels of ARC (Affinity – Reality – Communication). Affinity is the positive emotional relationship we establish with others. Reality is the agreement we reach with others about how things are. Communication is the most important part of the triangle: through communication, we socially construct reality and, once reality is consensually shared, we can generate affinity.

Hubbard was familiar with the artistic milieus as a successful writer of fiction. However, he struggled for years on how to integrate an Aesthetic and a theory of the arts into his system. In 1951, Hubbard wrote that “there is yet to appear a good definition for aesthetics and art.” In the same year, he dealt with the argument in “Science of Survival,” one of his most important theoretical books. He returned often to the arts, particularly in 17 articles included in technical Bulletins from 1965 to 1984, which form the backbone of the 1991 book “Art,” published by Scientology after his death.

The first edition of “Science of Survival,” 1951.
The first edition of “Science of Survival,” 1951.

In “Science of Survival,” Hubbard explains that “many more mind levels apparently exist above the Analytical level.” Probably “immediately above” the Analytical mind, something called the Aesthetic mind exists. Aesthetics and the Aesthetic mind, Hubbard admits, “are both highly nebulous” subjects. In general, the Aesthetic mind is the mind that “deals with the nebulous field of art and creation.” And “the aesthetics have very much to do with the tone scale.” By introducing the Aesthetic mind, Hubbard somewhat changed his usual model based on the interplay of the Analytical and reactive minds.

One might expect that the Aesthetic mind would be incapable of functioning until most engrams have been eliminated and the state of clear has been reached. Strangely, Hubbard claims that it is not so: “It is a strange thing that the shut-down of the Analytical mind and the aberration of the reactive mind may still leave in fairly good working order the Aesthetic mind.” “The Aesthetic mind is not much influenced by the position on the tone scale,” although “it evidently has to employ the analytical, reactive, and Somatic Minds in the creation of art and art forms.”

Not that aberration is irrelevant for the artist. In fact, “the amount of aberration of the individual greatly inhibits the ability of the Aesthetic mind to execute.” What amount of theta the artist initially owns is also important. “A person with a great deal of theta as an initial Endowment may be potentially a powerful musician,” or visual artist, by reason of his Aesthetic mind. However, the Aesthetic mind cannot “execute” and produce art directly. It should operate through the Analytical and reactive minds, “through both the Analytical power of the individual and the aberrations of the individual.”

Being “a person of great theta,” as artists often are, is also a mixed blessing. Hubbard explains that “a person of great theta Endowment Picks up more numerous and heavier Locks and secondaries than persons of smaller endowment.”

The E-Meter helps Scientology Auditors to locate and handle engrams.  Credits.
The E-Meter helps Scientology Auditors to locate and handle engrams. Credits.

Locks and secondaries are mental image pictures through which we are reminded of engrams. They wouldn’t exist without the engrams, but they may be very disturbing. Persons with a great amount of theta, including artists who use all this energy to produce art forms, “seek to control enormous quantities of MEST and other organisms.” The environment reacts to this attempt to control with what Hubbard calls counter-efforts and counter-attacks, through which engrams are used against the individual.

Even before Scientology offered a scientific explanation of these phenomena, they were obvious enough to be noticed but, Hubbard claims, they were often misinterpreted. Many claimed that it was normal, if not “absolutely necessary,” for an artist to be a “neurotic”: “Lacking the ability to do anything about neurosis, like Aesop’s fox who had no tail and tried to persuade the other foxes to cut theirs off, frustrated mental pundits glorified what they could not prevent or cure.”

The dysfunctional artist was hailed as a counter-cultural hero. Being “crazy” was regarded as a blessing for the artist. Not so, Hubbard argues. Going down the tone scale is not good for anyone and is not good for artists either. The artist, “as he descends down the tone scale, becomes less and less able to execute creative impulses and at last becomes unable to contact his creative impulses.”

We will return to the theme of the neurotic artist in the second article of this series.

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