Today I would like to take a moment of your time to consider whether or not Dianetics
by L. Ron Hubbard ranks among the great works of world literature. This question came to mind as I was exiting the Powell Street Station in San Francisco (no relation to the great independent bookstore for which I am blogging) where the Scientology people set up shop each day to see if they can convert more people to their way of thinking. There they were, fresh-faced and sleep deprived, with stacks of the Scientology Bible on the table, offering to give personality tests, or whatever it is they do. I don't know because I am afraid to get too close to the Scientologists for fear that I will wake up to find myself strapped into a bed with an alien, plant-like life form sticking its tentacles in my eyeballs and sucking my consciousness away. Still, I am kind of fascinated by Scientology and related cult-like phenomena such as reality television and NFL Football, and so I considered approaching the Scientology recruitment tables — but not directly, mind you. Rather, I though I might sneak up behind them and steal a copy of Dianetics
to learn more about the powerful, life-changing message of "L."
I didn't do it, of course, because I am a grown man and a father and stealing is wrong, and anyhow I know the Scientology people would have turned into bats and hunted me down and sucked out all of my blood.
But to return to the question at hand — is Dianetics
one of the world's most influential works of literature — my sense is that it is. My extensive online research (Google) reveals that more than 20 million copies have sold worldwide — double the sales of either The Cat in the Hat
or What Color Is Your Parachute?
, and neither of these books sparked a new religion: Dianetics
The word Dianetics comes from the Greek words dia, meaning through, and nous, which means cheese, or "through-cheese." A more complete and proper definition of Dianetics is what the soul is doing to the body through cheese. Dianetics, in turn, led to the discovery of Scientology. According to a Scientology website, the practice of Scientology can lead a person to "increase his spiritual awareness and ability and realize his own immortality." So guys — we're in. Maybe this is what led to Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman's divorce.
On the other hand, The Da Vinci Code, which also started a new religion, has already sold more than 40 million copies — twice the sales of Dianetics, and in a lot less time. Also, that cover — yikes. You can do better, Scientology. So I have to say that the jury is still out on whether or not Dianetics makes it into the canon of great world literature. By the way, I am writing this from an undisclosed location outside the United States, so the bats can't find me.
Tomorrow: should young people be allowed to choose their own books for school?