A Synthesis of the Romantic Dystopia
by Anonymous, September 1996
It is my good fortune to work in the used and rare book field in a moderately large city in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years I have seen many strange and wonderful titles. This is a tale of one of them, a book I never thought I would see once much less twice, and some suggestions as to its true origin.
All my life I have been interested in belief and control systems: among the groups I have investigated at length is the Church of Scientology.
The literature of Dianetics and Scientology, pro and con, is extensive. Add to this the tremendous debates occurring on the Internet and an impressive library of legal documents filed around the world and it is quite possible one could spend a lifetime defending, attacking or simply studying the legacy of L. Ron Hubbard. This brief essay concerns a specific piece of Dianetic/Scientology literature titled Brain-Washing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics.
The author will assume some familiarity on the part of the reader regarding Dianetics, Scientology, Hubbard, etc.: the text of "Brain-Washing" has been posted in full to the newsgroup alt.religion.scientology and is likely archived somewhere. In brief, "Brain-Washing" presents itself as an address by Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria to American students at the Lenin University on the use of psychiatry as a means of social control.
"L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman" by Bent Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard Jr. quotes from "Brain-Washing" at length and postulates on its source. According to Corydon and Hubbard, the book first appeared in 1955. The official line was that it had been "slipped under the door of a Scientology org" (org being an abbreviation for organization). Hubbard Jr., however, states: "Dad wrote every word of it. Barbara Bryan and my wife typed the manuscript off his dictation". John Sanborne, editor of Hubbard Sr.'s books since the early 1950s, confirms that Hubbard dictated the book in 1955. Corydon also writes "The manual was later actually being distributed by such groups as the John Birch Society".
Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller adds that the Federal Bureau of Investigations's Central Research Section, upon being presented with a copy of "Brain-Washing" by Hubbard, concluded its authenticity was doubtful and did not acknowledge receipt of the pamphlet.
In November 1963 the government of Victoria, Australia appointed a Board of Inquiry into Scientology. The Hubbard Association of Scientologists International provided the Board with its literature, including "Brain-Washing". The Board attributed the pamphlet to Hubbard and quoted at length in the October 1965 report as an example of the "evil" of Scientology.
The testimony of Hubbard Jr. and Sanborne, combined with the well documented history of deception on the part of Hubbard Sr., suggests that in fact "Brain-Washing" was written by Hubbard Sr. and is not what it presents itself to be. This is the conclusion of Corydon, Hubbard Jr, Miller, of Jon Atack in his book "A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed" and the majority of Scientology critics on the Internet.
I never imagined I would actually see a copy of "Brain-Washing". But to my great surprise I found a copy for sale in a drawer of paper ephemera at a former employer's book store, along with other older Scientology material. I photocopied it immediately, then put it on display. Not long after I bought the book: failing to capture such a rare bird for my ideological garden would have haunted me forever.
The book opens with an Editorial Note by one Charles Stickley (Atack suggests this too is L. Ron Hubbard), wherein we are told there are two groups "entirely above suspicion" who were antipathetic to the Soviet programme presented in "Brain-Washing". These are "the Christian Scientists and the Dianeticists. Christian Science is an American Religion, intensely patriotic. Dianetics is the only entirely American developers in the field of the human mind". It was published as a public service by the Hubbard College of Scientology in Sussex, England.
The Editorial Note does little to add to our knowledge of the source of "Brain-Washing". To quote in full the first two paragraphs:
This book is a synthesis of information gathered through observation, discussion, investigation and experience over the last ten years.
The city I live in is not small, and the bookstores I have worked allowed me to handle thousands of books. Nonetheless, I was speechless when one day two men brought in a box of books for sale on behalf of an older relative, and tucked among the worthless paperbacks was a second - and significantly different - edition of "Brain-Washing". This time I bought it immediately: working in a used book store has its advantages.
The second copy of "Brain-Washing" I bought was published by Kenneth Goff of Englewood, Colorado. This undated edition contains much more information as to the source of "Brain-Washing" than the Scientology edition.
Kenneth Goff claimed to have been a member of the Communist Party from 2 May 1936 to 10 October 1939. He states that in 1939 he appeared before the Un-American Activities Committee in Washington D. C. (chaired at the time by Martin Dies), and that his testimony can be found in Volume Nine of that year's Congressional Report. However, if he did testify, his name is not mentioned and the themes presented in "Brain-Washing" do not appear. Goff wrote "Still it's our Ancient Foe", in which he claimed "The Frankenstein of Communism is the product of the Jewish Mind." Goff died of a heart attack in 1943.
During his membership in the Communist Party, Goff attended the Eugene Debs Labor School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (which is also not mentioned in the House Reports of the Un-American Activities Committee). Speaking of "Brain-Washing" in an Editorial Note, Goff states: "This book was used in underground schools, and contains the address of Beria to the American students in the Lenin University prior to 1936. The text in the book in general is from the Communist Manual of Instructions of Psychological Warfare, and was used in America for the training of Communist cadre. The only revision in this book is the summary, which was added by the Communists after the atomic bomb came into being."
The two editions of the book are nearly identical. The typeface, size, page count, covers and over-all look of the books have only minor variations. The significant differences in the two editions can be found only in a line-by-line, word-by-word comparison.
To achieve these goals the psychopolitician must crush every "home-grown" variety of mental healing in America. Actual teachings of James, Eddy and Pentecostal Bible faith healers amongst your misguided people must be swept aside.
Page 3 paragraph 5 of the Scientology edition reads:
To achieve these goals the psychopolitician must crush every "home-grown" variety of mental healing in America. Actual teachings of Freud, James, Eddy and others amongst your misguided peoples must be swept away.
Page 49 paragraph 4 of the Goff edition reads:
The psychopolitical operative should also spare no expense in smashing out of existence, by whatever means, any actual healing group, such as that of acupuncture, in China; such as Christian Science, Dianetics and faith healing, in the United States; such as Catholicism in Italy and Spain; and the practical psychological groups of England.
Page 49 paragraph 3 of the Scientology edition reads:
The psychopolitical operative should also spare no expense in smashing out of existence, by whatever means, any actual healing group, such as that of acupuncture in China; such as Christian Science and Dianetics, in the United States; such as Catholicism in Italy and Spain; and the practical psychology groups of England.
Page 58 paragraph 5 of the Goff edition reads:
Given any slightest encouragement, public support would swing on an instant all mental healing into the hands of the churches. And there are Churches waiting to receive it, clever churches. That terrible monster the Roman Catholic Church still dominates mental healing heavily throughout the Christian world and their well schooled priests are always at work to turn the public their way. Among Fundamentalist and Pentecostal groups healing campaigns are conducted, which, because of their results, win many to the cult of Christianity. In the field of pure healing the Church of Christ Science of Boston, Massachusetts excels in commanding the public favor and operates many sanitariums. All these must be swept aside. They must be ridiculed and defamed and every cure they advertise must be asserted as a hoax. [...]
Page 58 paragraph 5 of the Scientology edition reads:
Given any slightest encouragement, public support would swing on an instant all mental healing into the hands of the churches. And there are Churches waiting to receive it, clever churches. That terrible monster the Roman Catholic Church still dominates mental healing heavily throughout the Christian world and their well schooled priests are always at work to turn the public their way. In the field of pure mental healing the Church of Christ Science of Boston, Massachusetts excels in commanding the public favour and operates many sanitoriums. All these must be swept aside. They must be ridiculed and defamed and every cure they advertise must be asserted as a hoax. [...]
In March 1996 I had the chance to examine yet another edition of this book, one transcribed and posted on the Internet by Martin Hunt. This edition was also published by Scientologists, but includes several neologism and Scientology terms not found in my copies.
And yet another edition of the book is quoted in "Vampire Killer 2000". This time the title is "The Soviet Art of Brainwashing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psycho-politics" and is attributed to Kenneth Goff. Here, Beria is the Head of the Lenin School of Psycho-politics and speaks to a group of American/Marxist Psychology students in 1933.
And yet "another" edition of the book is listed in the catalog of A-Albionic Research: "Brainwashing: A Synthesis of the Russian Textbook on Psychopolitics; Psychopolitics and the Suppression of Man and Civilization". This edition is attributed to Kenneth Goff, and to "Stalin's head of the KGB", and to L. Ron Hubbard (all in the same sentence). It was published in 1988.
L. Ron Hubbard, like most people, on occasion told lies for personal gain. But was "Brain-Washing" one of his lies, an attempt to ride the demon engine of McCarthyism? By comparing the facts - and the lies - surrounding "Brain-Washing", an alternative origin appears in which everyone, even L. Ron Hubbard, gets to tell a little bit of the truth.
"Vampire Killer 2000" places "Brain-Washing" in 1933. Goff claims to have encountered it between 1936 and 1939, and that an appendix had been added after that time. It is attributed to Hubbard in 1955. Later on it is published by the John Birch Society and still later by A-Albionic Research. When was the book written? The time of origin of the book appears fluid, covering no less and perhaps more than fifty years.
The Goff edition speaks favorably of Pentecostal religion and faith healing: one wonders what denomination Goff was. Goff also states that earlier editions did not mention atomic warfare, which was included in later editions. The early Scientology edition does not include references to faith healing, and later editions add Scientology terms. The contents of the book also appear fluid, reflecting the personal interests and the times of the publisher.
The mailable origin and content of "Brain-Washing" suggest very strongly that it is a dystopian romance, a work of fiction that presents itself as fact to give urgency to its theme.
Dystopian works presented as fiction, such as "Gulliver's Travels" and "1984", have a ready place in literature. But when a dystopia is presented as fact, and some people accept it as a fact, its place is very different from that of literature. Dystopian fiction is traceable to a single source and is focused in its subject: dystopia presented as fact is molded to fit the agenda of the place and time it appears (or re-appears). Dystopian fiction is recognized as legitimate literature under names including satire, humor and commentary: dystopia presented as fact is not generally recognized as a literary form, although like the folk-lore it most resembles it has a very long history.
"Brain-Washing" is not the only dystopian romance. Generations have lived and died believing "The Protocol of the Elders of Zion" to be the actual meeting notes of the conspiracy that rules the world. "The Occult Technology of Power", "Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars", "Report from Stone Mountain" and "MJ-12" are more recent examples of the same literary form: social criticism presented as historic fact.
If "Brain-Washing" is a dystopian romance, it (like folklore) will have many origins and many forms. How can the claims surrounding it be best assimilated? While I have found many blossoms of this book, I have yet to see its roots and have doubts they will ever be uncovered. My comparing the different editions of "Brain-Washing", a chronological series of incarnations is suggested.
The book appears some time in the 1930s, and is used by (if not written by) Kenneth Goff to speak against Communism and for Pentecostal Christianity. Later he adds an afterward on atomic bombs, to update the red menace. When L. Ron Hubbard had need of the book in the 1950s, he reads it into a transcription machine as if he 'wrote' it. Initially he removes references to Pentecostal Christianity and faith healing and does not speak entirely unkindly of Freud; later on he demonizes psychiatry more than Communism. The John Birch Society uses the book for their ends, as do the Vampire Killers. Hubbard did indeed "write" "Brain-Washing" - but so did Kenneth Goff, the John Birch Society, the authors of Vampire Killers 2000 and probably many others.
Were it possible to trace the branches of "Brain-Washing" to a common trunk, it would likely be planted in the old soil that nourished the "Protocols" and every other urban legend you've ever encountered. Criticisms of social control mechanisms told as fact, whatever agenda they may serve, are ancient and universal. Those who have need of the dystopian romance as a literary form can pull out its skeleton, dress it in contemporary flesh and send it on its way. "Brain-Washing" belongs to us all.
About the Author
The author is familiar with the fashion by which the Church of Scientology meets its critics, and wishes to remain anonymous. No correspondance will be answered. The author is also familiar with the process of writing something, distributing it and having people believe it: magically, what once was only words becomes reality. In that spirit, let it be known the author is an independently wealthy person living in excellent health and happiness in a beautiful house surrounded by wonderful people and interesting books.
Please feel encouraged to reprint, distribute and archive this text in any form, including in print, the Internet, BBS, tape, CD, film, video, books, magazines, newspapers, in translation, etc, with or without credit given. Thank you.
An anonymous poster writes about the various editions of "Brainwashing" that he encountered, and considers some possible origins. Their (admittedly speculative) conclusion is:
The book appears some time in the 1930s, and is used by (if not written by) Kenneth Goff to speak against Communism and for Pentecostal Christianity. Later he adds an afterward on atomic bombs, to update the red menace. When L. Ron Hubbard had need of the book in the 1950s, he reads it into a transcription machine as if he 'wrote' it.
The poster makes some interesting points, but ultimately does not make a convincing case for a pre-Hubbard origin for the text.
When researching the origins of this book for The Online Books Page, I did a search of WorldCat to find out what versions were out there. WorldCat is a subscription-based database of thousands of online library catalogs; if a book has made it into any university or major public library system in North America, chances are it's in WorldCat.
WorldCat does reveal that the "Brainwashing" text is indeed now being disseminated in various forms by different (and usually somewhat paranoid) organizations, and that there are editions that credit Goff as the editor. However, there is no edition listed in WorldCat that's dated earlier than 1955, the year that Hubbard released his version of the text.
The editions that bear Goff's name either are undated or post-date 1943, which was the year Goff died. The attributions made to Goff in the editions themselves are also dubious, as can be seen by the example quotes that our anonymous poster supplies.
See, for instance:
Kenneth Goff claimed to have been a member of the Communist Party from 2 May 1936 to 10 October 1939. He states that in 1939 he appeared before the Un-American Activities Committee in Washington D. C. (chaired at the time by Martin Dies), and that his testimony can be found in Volume Nine of that year's Congressional Report. However, if he did testify, his name is not mentioned and the themes presented in "Brain-Washing" do not appear.
So there is no public record that Goff ever actually testified as to the contents of the manual; and furthermore, the assertion the book makes that he testified at all is not borne out by the record.
Speaking of "Brain-Washing" in an Editorial Note, Goff states: "This book was used in underground schools, and contains the address of Beria to the American students in the Lenin University prior to 1936. The text in the book in general is from the Communist Manual of Instructions of Psychological Warfare, and was used in America for the training of Communist cadre. The only revision in this book is the summary, which was added by the Communists after the atomic bomb came into being."
But this can't be Goff. He died in 1943, and the atomic bomb didn't actually "come into being" until 1945, when the first atomic tests were held. And Dianetics didn't get published until even later, but still is mentioned in the "Goff edition":
Page 49 paragraph 4 of the Goff edition reads:
The psychopolitical operative should also spare no expense in smashing out of existence, by whatever means, any actual healing group, such as that of acupuncture, in China; such as Christian Science, Dianetics and faith healing, in the United States...
This can't be explained away as a "later revision" either, since in the quote above this one the only thing that was claimed to have changed was the initial summary, after the atomic bomb was introduced.
Given all this, and the apparent lack of any print edition in libraries until 12 years after Goff's death and after the appearance of Hubbard's edition, I'd have to conclude that the attribution to Goff is another after-the-fact fabrication. (It's not an uncommon phenomenon for spurious origins to be added to paranoid tracts as they propagate; you'll find a number of examples in the alt.folklore.urban archives.)
So, who does that leave?
Well, Hubbard claimed to have received this text from a Charles Stickley, who claimed to be a professor writing from New York in 1955. But professors leave a rather obvious paper trail, in the form of scholarly papers, books, society and university records, and Who's Who entries. A quick check of WorldCat and Who's Who of 1955 turned up no publications or biographical information for this "Charles Stickley". I even emailed the webmaster of the Scientology™ web site, asking if they had any leads as to who he was or where he taught or published. They couldn't come up with anything.
That leaves Hubbard as the earliest documentable name attached to the document. The case for Hubbard as the author is quite good. "L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman" contains two testimonies from people who said they were present when Hubbard wrote it. The subject matter fits Hubbard's own obsessions quite closely; both about the evils of psychiatry and about the influence of Dianetics. And the vocabulary, at least in the version that's posted on the Internet, also has Hubbard's marks all over it.
You can see this for yourself. Try an Alta Vista search of the word "thinkingness". When I tried it just now, the only places the word appeared on its own over the entire Web was in material known to be written by Hubbard or Scientology™ -- and in "The Brainwashing Manual". (You'll also find a couple of hits from other sources where it's used as part of a compound construct like "forward-thinkingness" or "right-thinkingness", but the use of "thinkingness" on its own seems to be unique to Hubbard.)
Given all this, I felt confident in giving Hubbard the authorship credit for "Brainwashing..." when I listed it on the Online Books Page.
John Mark Ockerbloom,