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Dianetics is the name given to a set of principles designed to explain the functioning of the human mind, and as a system for curing some forms of mental and psychosomatic illness. Devised by L. Ron Hubbard, theretofore best known as a science fiction author, it was first mentioned in a series of articles by Hubbard in Astounding Science Fiction magazine[?] during the 1940s. Dianetics was published as a complete system of self-improvement techniques in the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (DTMSOMH) on May 9, 1950. This was followed by the more organized Science of Survival in 1951, and finally Dianetics 55! in 1955, by which time Hubbard had characterized Dianetics as a minor sub-study of Scientology.

DTMSOMH quickly became a best-seller[?], and spawned a multitude of (mostly short-lived) "Dianetics clubs" and similar organizations. The novelty of Dianetics soon wore off, and Hubbard was facing public criticism as well as legal action from the established mental health community[?], whom Hubbard had taken every opportunity to attack and insult in his book. In 1952, Hubbard[?] presented Scientology, a religious philosophy[?] based on the same basic principles as his Dianetic techniques, and claimed the protection afforded to all religions by the United States constitution[?]. Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science (1983) is Hubbard's (possibly ghostwritten) account of his development of dianetics and its eventual evolution into Scientology. By the time he died in 1986, Hubbard had published hundreds of books on Scientology, and only a few on Dianetics.

Dianetics presents itself as a systemic method of identifying the causes of and relieving many of an individual's mental, emotional or (psychosomatically) physical problems. Fundamental to the system is the concept of the engram, which is defined as "a definite and permanent trace left by a stimulus on the protoplasm of a tissue.". Engrams are created during periods of psychological distress or trauma, and are at the root of all mental disorders.

Dianetics is by some regarded as a pseudoscience, as it presents itself as a "scientific" system of knowledge, yet fails to meet the requirements of the scientific method. Many people also view dianetics as pure science fiction, and a practical joke, based upon testimony by witnesses that Hubbard stated he would create a science-fiction religion to make money.

Hubbard in Dianetics states: "[Dianetics is]...an organized science of thought built on definite axioms: statements of natural laws on the order of those of the physical sciences". Critics would argue that a 'definite axiom' is an oxymoron, and regardless, a science cannot be based on axioms, only on hypotheses based on experimental evidence.

Dianetics is the seed from which the philosophical framework of Scientology grew, and on this basis the book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is often jokingly referred to as The Old Testament by Scientologists.

Most Scientologists today regard the original Dianetics techniques as valid, but outdated and view Dianetics largely as an easy introduction to Scientology. As of 2001, the Church of Scientology was still running television advertisements[?] promoting Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Allegedly, the Church indirectly purchases most of the copies of DTMSOMH sold for the sole purpose of keeping the book on the New York Times best seller list[?].

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