The Brain-Washing Manual 50 years on

Posted on October 8, 2010 by

Still a matter of considerable controversy is a document entitled Brain-Washing which appeared in several different editions in the 1950s. It claims to be A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook of Psychopolitics and is ostensibly a summary of manuals circulating in the Soviet Union and written by the chief of the secret police, Lavrenti Beria (1899-1953).

The introductory text purports to be an address delivered by Beria to American students at the Lenin University. It outlines the key concepts of dialectical and historical materialism, before introducing “psychopolitics” and suggesting that Communist doctrines could be implanted in victims by hypnosis after creating “artificial exhaustion” through drugs and pain. This is defined as PDH, ‘pain-drug hypnosis’ and the use of the term in early Scientology was confirmed by Hubbard’s eldest son, L. Ron Hubbard Junior (1), who was involved with his father in the development of Scientology in the 1950s. At that time academic hypnologists objected to brainwashing theories on the grounds that an individual in hypnotic trance would never be persuaded to perform acts that were radically contrary to his or her will and best interests. The Manual claims that this objection was created by communist propaganda: “It is in the interest of Psychopolitics that the population be told that an hypnotized person will not do anything against his actual will, will not commit immoral acts, and will not act so as to endanger himself. While this may be true of light, parlour hypnotism, it certainly is not true of commands implanted with the use of electric shocks, drugs, or heavy punishment.” (2) The booklet then relates brainwashing to the larger picture and indicates that Communism in America faces two main dangers: American individualism (to be replaced, through brainwashing, by a form of group-think), and religion.

The Manual played an important role in the contemporary discussion on brainwashing. It was reprinted some twenty times, and often quoted. The question of who wrote it remains controversial. Kenneth Goff (1909-1972) claimed that he had compiled it. Goff was a member of the U.S. Communist Party in the 1930s. He later converted to Fundamentalist Protestantism, only to move later towards anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and Identity Churches (3). In the 1940s and 1950s Goff published several autobiographical books and pamphlets, where he graphically described both his conversion and his previous “conditioning” as an American communist by Soviet agents (4). In 1955, the Manual was published by the Church of Scientology “as a public service” (without mentioning Goff) and with an editorial note signed by Professor Charles Stickley, about whom no information is available. The editorial note in other editions is attributed to Goff (5). Both the early Goff edition, and the CoS edition refer to Christian Science and Dianetics as groups that Communist psychopolitics should try to discredit. The Goff version also includes Pentecostals who are not mentioned in the CoS edition.

The text published in 1955 contains a reference to Dianetics, and paragraphs supporting Scientology’s well-known antipathy to psychiatry. Goff could certainly have written the original version of the Manual. He remained active in the US right-wing subculture until the early 1970s, and died in 1972. But the style of the Manual is more sophisticated than his usual style.

Critics of Scientology have no doubt that the book was written by L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), inventor of Dianetics and founder of Scientology. Bent Corydon claims, on the basis of a statement made by Hubbard’s son L. Ron Hubbard Jr. (Ron DeWolf, 1934-1991), that “Dad wrote every word of it”, having apparently been influenced by John Sanborn who at the time was Hubbard’s editor (6). Subsequently, DeWolf retracted this and stated under oath (but also under duress) that Corydon had incorrectly quoted many of his statements. Despite the pressure put on him by the Church – or perhaps because of it – most critics believe DeWolf’s testimony is reliable.

Hubbard discussed brainwashing in several other works. To anyone who knows his writing, it is not surprising that he exposes brainwashing as something that should not be practiced as he gives detailed instructions about how it works. Hubbard also preached kindness and gentleness towards children while exposing his own to cruel, damaging and dangerous treatment.

Hubbard first encountered brain-washing in his studies of Nazi Germany. In a technical bulletin of July 22, 1956, Hubbard wrote “We can brainwash faster than the Russians: 20 secs to total amnesia against three years to slightly confused loyalty.” When he fears that the practice of brainwashing could only end up in disaster, and convert those subject to it into pathetic victims, as such of no much use to any organization (7) he is describing Scientology’s ‘failures’, its psychotics and suicides. Hubbard associated brainwashing not with religion but with a variety of techniques using drugs and physical violence in connection with hypnosis.

Hubbard’s version of events is told in two technical bulletins of 13 and 19 December 1955. In the first case he claims that a book called Psycho-Politik had been found in the Library of Congress. “It is in German. It was written by a man called Paul Fadkeller, and was published in Berlin in 1947.” This is factually true. Hubbard, who could not read German, says that this book is probably the Russian (sic) translation of the Manual. But a few days later there is a new story. This time two manuscripts, of unknown origin, had been “left at the front desk [of our Phoenix office] with the request that they be mailed back to their owner” (the elusive Charles Stickley). Hubbard claims he read these MSS on to tape, which allowed them to disappear as mysteriously as they had arrived. He decided to publish the text for the benefit of his Dianetics auditors who may face victims of brainwashing. That the contents were from the start destined for his auditors cannot be doubted.

Still pursuing facts, the Library of Congress does not hold either the Scientology or the Goff version of the Manual but it does have an unrelated text by Paul Fadkeller, a German philosopher (1889-1972), called Psycho-Politik which was published in Berlin in 1947. It has in common with Hubbard’s Manual only the first part of the title and the term Psycho-Politik which, however, is given an entirely different meaning. Evidently Hubbard’s German went no further. This is not the text which Hubbard allegedly put on tape but he took one or two things from it.

It is probably significant that he terms PDH – “pain-drug hypnosis” – and “thinkingness” are found only in the Manual and in Scientology publications. PDH is also mentioned by Goff after the 1950s: but did Hubbard derive it from Goff or vice versa? It seems to have been created by Hubbard. His son said: “His initials for it were PDH – pain, drugs, hypnosis. The use of PDH, coupled with black magic, was an effective for brainwashing or mind control. You’ll see throughout early Scientology literature, ‘PDH.’” This links Hubbard quite conclusively to the Manual and eaves little doubt about his approach to brain-washing, whatever he may have said about it elsewhere.

For “thinkingness” there are pre-Hubbard precedents. Hubbard’s statement in his 1951 Science of Survival. Simplified, Faster Dianetic Techniques (Hubbard Dianetic Foundation, Wichita 1951, pp. 223-224) that “an individual in an hypnotic trance will rarely perform an immoral act even though commanded to do so by the hypnotist, unless that individual would normally perform such acts” was the exact opposite of the statement in the Manual but in fact means nothing. Dianetics was devoted to proving that it was not true. Hubbard was a master of the bluff and only occasionally said what he really meant, and then most people did not believe him.

References and Sources

1 Brain-Washing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook of Psychopolitics, Los Angeles : The American St. Hill Organization, 1955, p. 36. K. Goff, Brainwashing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics, Englewood (Colorado): Kenneth Goff, n.d. For PDF see L. Ron Hubbard Jr.

2 Ibid., pp. 32-33.

3 For Kenneth Goff see Jeffrey Kaplan, Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right, Altamira Press, 2000, pp. 120-122.

4 See, for example, Kenneth Goff, This is My Story: Confessions of Stalin’s Agent, Englewood (Colorado) 1948; The Red Betrayal of Youth, Englewood (Colorado) 1948; Strange Fire, Englewood (Colorado) 1954.

5 In 1970, Morris Kominsky (1901-1975), a left-wing activist, published a book whose intent was to expose the pathological anti-communism of the American right (The Hoaxers: Plain Liars, Fancy Liars, and Damned Liars, Boston: Branden Press, 1970), which contains (1970, 537-586) a detailed analysis of the Manual showing that it could not have been written in the Soviet Union. Kominsky had no doubt that the author was Goff.

6 Bent Corydon – L. Ron Hubbard, Jr., L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?, Lyle Stuart Inc., Secaucus (New Jersey) 1987, pp. 101-111.

7 The Technical Bulletins of Dianetics and Scientology. Vol. II, 1954-1956, reprint, Copenhagen – Los Angeles : Scientology Publications, 1986, p. 474.

L. Ron Hubbard, Kenneth Goff, and the “Brain-Washing Manual” of 1955 by Massimo Introvigne