Movie: Modern religions, be they cults run by men like Jim Jones (pass the Kool Aid), , or more established groups like the Catholic Church, all seem to address the needs of a certain amount of people that need a psychological crutch to get them through their troubled lives. Many people tell me that they feel better by going to church or praying at a temple and I'm certainly not going to suggest it's my place to disagree with them. After all, only you know what works for you, right? This brings me to the topic of this review of Dianetics: A Visual Guidebook To The Mind.
The DVD bills itself as an "audiovisual presentation based on the book Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard." The back of the DVD case tells us that we can get rid of the source of our stress, anxiety and unhappiness by getting rid of our reactive mind. Exactly what is a "reactive mind" and why we want to get rid of it is one of the topics covered by the show, which thankfully lasted about 40 minutes (those who've seen the book in stores know how thick it is, making me think it a true presentation of the principles involved in it should last quite a bit longer than the time allotted here.
The DVD started off by telling the viewer that: "This program is based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard. It is presented to the viewer as a record of observations and research into the human mind and spirit, and not as a statement of claims made by the author. The benefits and goals of Dianetics technology can be attained only by the dedicated efforts of the viewer." I suppose this was some kind of legal disclaimer required by a court order since it sure sounded that way to me but I could be wrong. Dianetics is a process of questionable merit used by a religious cult called the Church of Scientology. This group is well known in modern circles, and has had a number of Hollywood stars, the bastion of credibility to thinking people everywhere, publicly support it.
The show then had some talking heads tell how swell the system was for them and a brief overview of the ideas behind the program (told in an info-mercial format). The first heading was How The Mind Works. We're told that every person on Earth has the same goal in life, to survive. I thought about a number of people that have committed suicide lately and those risk takers that routinely defy the odds (and sometimes come up short). The program then tells us how our mind recalls every single thing that has ever happened to us (using the rational mind). Some information is supposed to be stored in another part of the mind, the reactive mind.
The show goes on to discuss why the analytical parts of our mind sometimes shut down and allow the reactive parts of the mind to take over. It never provided any sources to support these assertions but the show only lasts 40 minutes so I'm sure that the advances in medical science have all been wrong in the past fifty years and the author, a science fiction writer responsible (in part) for the series Battlefield Earth (the movie starred John Travolta, a follower of this program), knew better. The show then has a series of reenactments used to illustrate the ideas put forth, again with no actual documentation supporting the claim.
The program then continues by telling us that our minds record everything that is said even when we are unconscious. We store what we hear and it impacts us in numerous ways, causing us to get sick, remain sick and a host of medical claims that were left unsupported by the show. Apparently, we can't remember things incorrectly (something my professors would laugh at over the years) so anything that is said when we are under nitrous while at the dentist, for example, is locked into our brains.
The next section tells how to use Dianetics by use of a procedure called auditing. I wondered how the IRS felt about the use of the term since they seem to have had issues with this group in the past. In any case, the basic procedure requires "two relatively intelligent people" and has one listen while the other continually relives a troublesome incident. The idea is that if the one recalling the incident can relive the incident with enough detail, it will lose its hold over him/her. Once the person is cheerful about it, it has lost its power to cause him/her problems. The details about why this is supposed to work were left for another time, making me wonder if any of these people have watched some of the older Woody Allen movies about psychiatrists.
The show gave some more tips and directed the viewer to take certain steps to prevent problems in the future. Keen ideas about remaining absolutely quiet during childbirth (yeah, like that's going to happen) and not saying anything during surgery were classic tips. The bottom line is that if this type of thing works for you, there are probably a host of other techniques that would work at least as well, preferably under the supervision of a professional with some medical background.
Personally, I don't have a lot of use for cults based on pseudo-science as invented by a science fiction writer that died years ago. If it works for you, I wish you well but I strongly suggest that anyone wanting to try this process out consult with one of the multitude of sources that provide an alternative view of the system in question. One website that seems particularly informative would be Xenu. Go there and you'll find a great many links to news articles, lawsuits, and information on Mr. Hubbard (including info from his kin), as well as more than you could ever hope to know about the pitfalls of this religion and it's practices.
So, what do I rate this DVD that was essentially an info-mercial without any supporting scientific data to back up its claims? I think a Skip It is too good but that's as low as I can give it under the system in place. There were no real extras, a short program with plenty of space to provide the kind of answers that should have been made available, and a general lack of anything with merit made this an easy one to rate. If any of you believers are out there, feel free to suggest your group make a DVD that answers the basic questions or at least provides something more substantial in the future.
Picture: The picture was presented in the usual 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The lighting was even and the fleshtones look accurate. I noticed no major amounts of grain, video noise, or compression artifacts while watching the documentary.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital English with optional language tracks in Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Hungarian. Since I only speak English, I stuck to that track for purposes of this review. For the most part, the audio was clear and crisp with no discernable problems. Since the focus was on vocals and not the music, it wasn't overly challenging to my home theatre set up but that's okay, it's all about the information provided, not the gloss behind it, right?
Extras: The extras included some spam about Dianetics and a small paper insert that listed the details about how the procedure is supposed to be done. If it were that easy, I wonder why people need to go to big, expensive buildings and get lots of training but I'm sure that is mentioned in the book.
Final Thoughts: If you believe this will help you with your problems, I wish you all the luck in the world (you'll need it). The DVD was far too limited in scope to provide the kind of answers a thinking person would ask and the mumbo jumbo you'll find in the book (keeping in mind that science fiction writers of yesteryear used to pad their stories with made up words and definitions since they were paid by the word) never really makes use of any of the thousands of breakthroughs science has had in the passing years that answer (and rebuke) some of the foundational claims this system is built upon).
Note: If you'd like to see firsthand the types of mumbo jumbo the cult professes, check out their website at: Cult