OT 1948: The Character of Engrams

Reference: DIANETICS: The Original Thesis

This paper presents Chapter 8 from the book DIANETICS: THE ORIGINAL THESIS by L. RON HUBBARD. The contents are from the original publication of this book by The Hubbard Dianetic Foundation, Inc. (1948).

The paragraphs of the original material (in black) are accompanied by brief comments (in color) based on the present understanding.  Feedback on these comments is appreciated.

The heading below is linked to the original materials.


The Character of Engrams

There are several general types of engrams. It must be understood that the mind possesses a time track of one sort or another and that this track is a specific thing. The time track of an individual will include all those things available to his analytical mind when in a light trance or during regression. However, a person can be regressed and the data which he can easily contact along his time track is definitely not engramic even if it possesses an emotional charge. Everything on this track will be rational or justified experience. It will not include engrams. It may include locks—which is to say that it may include moments of mental anguish or antagonism and may even include instants of unconsciousness which have some slight engramic command value.

The matrix model of mindfulness is more comprehensive than the time track model of Dianetics. All data merged into the mental matrix is analytical and it is available to the individual. Dianetics uses regression but there is no need for regression in mindfulness meditation. Data relevant to contemplation comes up automatically when the mind is not interfered with, and allowed to unwind at its own pace. Well-focused attention is adequate.

The content of the aberrated node is not significant. What is significant is the inconsistency which that node presents to rest of the mental matrix. In other words, the significant aspect is anything that does not make sense. As the mind sorts out the inconsistencies, charge (tension) blows off. Locks-secondary-engram is simply the gradient in which inconsistencies present themselves to be resolved. Resolution comes about as the node under attention unwinds. The contents of the node then assimilate into the matrix.

An engram has several specific, positive characteristics. It is received by the individual at some moment of physical pain. It is not available to the analyzer and it includes conceived or actual antagonism to the survival of the organism. Certain mechanics such as “forget it” may swerve a minimumly painful or unconscious experience off the time track. In that case it becomes possessed of engramic command value.

All engrams with power to derange the analytical mind and aberrate the physical body, lie off the time track and are not available to the analytical mind.

By reason of its disorganization during the moment the engram was received, or because it has been forcibly instructed that the data in the engram is not to be recalled, the analyzer cannot reach the engram by ordinary means because the data has been erroneously labelled “dangerous,” “important,” or “too painful to touch.” The engram then, by a bypass circuit, feeds hidden commands into the analyzer. By a direct instantaneous circuit it is permanently connected to the motor controls, all perceptic channels, the glands, and heart. It is awaiting a moment of low general tone, weariness, or injury when the analytical mind has reduced powers. It is also awaiting the perception of one or more of the engram’s restimulators in the environment of the organism.

At the root of engram is a shock or pain that translates as intense confusion to the mind. When the engram is received the mind is unable to process that confusion on the spot. This confusion releases when there is adequate attention and enough time to let it unwind. An individual should never be forced into the engram, especially when he is weak and tired. That will only bring the “hypnotic” effects of the engram into play.

Continuous restimulation of the engrams can, in itself, cause a low general tone which in its turn permits more engrams to become restimulated. As the reactive mind comes into a more or less completely chronic state of restimulation, the individual becomes more and more governed by this mind. His thought becomes more and more engramic and he can be seen to drop in general tone on the tone scale down to the break point which may be arbitrarily placed somewhere between 2 and 2.5 and below which lies the region of insanity.

If a person is low on the Tone Scale, and he is behaving irrationally then he has many engrams that are in an activated state. He may not be able to concentrate on them and let his mind unwind.

Engramic thought is irrational identity-thought by which the mind is made to conceive identities where only vague similarities may exist. It is necessary that the auditor thoroughly understand engramic thought, for it is with this complete irrationality of identity that he will basically deal. As he works with any preclear, he must continually employ in the bulk of his computation on the case the equation of engramic thinking.

Engramic thinking can be stated by: A equals A equals A equals A equals A.

The engram, when one or more of its restimulators is perceived in the environment during a moment of low general tone, may dramatize. The dramatization is the precise content of the engram. The aberration is the precise content of the engram. The reaction of an individual’s analytical mind when an engram is reactivated is justification.

There is reason to believe that part of this survival mechanism consists of the axiom: The analyzer must never permit an incorrect solution. The engram brings about many incorrect solutions. The analyzer may very well become entirely involved with the attempt to discover and deliver to a society, or to itself, adequate rational reasons for the behavior of the organism.

A person is irrational to the degree he is unable to differentiate among things. Since he is unable to perceive his irrationality he justifies his behavior. His irrationality may be traced through his justifications.

The analytical mind, though working from the command of the engram itself, is unaware of the source of the command. Not being able to discover the source, it introverts more and more in an effort to solve a problem which contains danger to the organism. The analytical mind tends to find the danger without and within the organism.

When a person senses that something is wrong with him, and he can’t find the reason, then he increasingly introverts.

There are five ways that the organism can react to a danger in its vicinity. It can attack it, avoid it, neglect it, run from it, or succumb to it. In just these ways can the analytical mind, which, it must be remembered, is possessed of self-determinism and will power, react to the reactive mind. As the general tone lowers, as the analytical mind becomes less and less powerful through weariness, continual reverses in general health, etc., the more and more heed it must give to the problems unsolved in the reactive mind. These are in essence unsolved problems. As such, they contain their own solutions. The analytical mind, unable to reach them, justifies the organism’s reaction to them (succumbs to them), causes the organism to attempt to flee from them, apathetically may neglect them (as in prefrontal lobotomy), avoids them in many intricate ways, or attacks them. The analytical mind is not only not certain where the experience lies on the time track, it also does not know whether the menace is within the organism or without it. So it can become entirely indiscriminate, and eventually it may achieve highly irrational solutions by which it seeks to solve the problems of the highly irrational reactive mind.

There are five ways that a person deals with a threat: attack it, avoid it, neglect it, run from it, or succumb to it. His handling of threat may become highly irrational too.

The deep sensory perception channel entering the mind is evidently equipped with an “appreciator” which sorts according to the momentary general tone or potential of the analytical mind. The higher the general tone or potential of the analytical mind the better the data in the appreciator is sorted. The appreciator circuits are evidently fully apprised of engramic content in the reactive mind and evaluate restimulators perceived in the environment against the general tone of the analytical mind. When that is low, restimulators route more or less directly to the reactive mind which instantly responds by fixed connections into the motor controls. Commands to the various members, muscles, glands and organs of the body may be sporadic or constant, producing a high variety of responses in the body. Entire vocabularies are fed into the voice circuits directly from the reactive mind when an engram is restimulated. Orders to be active or inactive are fed to other portions. The individual time track of the engram spaces the commands to the organism and a dramatization is accomplished which may contain a portion or all of the content of the engram as governed by the situation. Psychosomatic ills, hysterias, rages, tantrums, criminal acts and any and all content prejudicial to the survival of the organism in which the organism is seen to be indulging has as its source the reactive mind.

The sole and only content of the reactive mind is what exterior sources have done to the organism.

None of the content of the reactive mind is self-motivated. The auditor is then interested only in what is done to the person, not what the person himself has done, since, for purposes of auditing, the acts of the organism in its society can be discounted beyond diagnosis. Even then they are of small importance to the auditor.

The engramic node short circuits the mind when activated. Its content causes psychosomatic illnesses as well as irrational behavior. It is a systemic problem. The person cannot be blamed for it. What needs to be resolved is why the person is behaving the way he is.

An organism possessed of an analytical mind, not victimized by incapacitating disease or injury (and unimpeded) will commit no act knowingly prejudicial to the survival of the organism or other facets within the dynamics. It will combat only those dangers in society, which are actual menaces.

Whatever may be the status of the “innate moral sense,” the basic intent of the basic personality is to further various energy forms along the dynamics toward the goal. Only moments of actual dispersal of the awareness of the analytical mind permit data to be received which is prejudicial to the intent of the dynamics. Only from these “unconscious” moments can the basically stable and enormously powerful and able analytical mind be aberrated through the implantation of unanalyzed, painfully administered, and antagonistic information. It is the purpose of the auditor to find and exhaust these moments from the life of the individual. Dianetic auditing includes therefore, as its basic principle, the exhaustion of all the painfully unconscious moments of a subject’s life. By eradicating pain from the life of an individual, the auditor returns the individual to complete rationality and sanity.

The auditor should never be content with merely bringing the person back to normal. He should achieve with the person a tone 4 even though this is far in advance of the average state of society at this time. A tone 4 with his drives intact and powerful, with his rationality and intelligence increased to the optimum, becomes extremely valuable to the society, whatever his past.

Knowing this the auditor can expect a maximum result of lasting duration with any preclear not physically hopeless.

Dianetics proposes to remove all the painfully unconscious moments of a person’s life. Mindfulness focuses on the removal of all confusions. When one does the latter all painfully unconscious moments also come out in the wash. The outcome is a person who is way above normal.

The entire purpose of the auditor is to rehabilitate the basic dynamic and the normal purpose or profession of the individual whom he audits. Anything implanted by positive suggestion or “education” in the course of auditing is harmful and must be cancelled if delivered. Only the basic personality of the individual can decide and evaluate things in his environment. Therefore, hypnotism as practiced with positive suggestions should be shunned since any and all hypnotic commands with the attendant forgetter mechanisms are no more than artificially implanted engrams. Indeed, it is quite usual for the auditor to have to exhaust hypnotically implanted material received either from some hypnotist or from the analytical mind itself when the person has been operating under auto-control. Hypnotism as such does not work, and a study and short practice in Dianetics will reveal exactly why.

Any “positive suggestion” implanted in the mind through hypnotism, indoctrination or education is harmful to the individual, as it bypasses understanding and is not fully integrated into the mental matrix.

The auditor is attempting to delete the reactive mind from the individual. This reactive mind is an infestation of foreign, careless and unreasoning commands which disrupt the self-determinism of the individual to such an extent that he no longer has charge, through his analytical mind, of the organism itself but finds himself under the continual and chronic orders of unseen, never reviewed exterior forces, often and usually antipathetic to the survival of the organism.

Engrams deal with identities where no identities exist. They therefore pose many strange and irrational problems which are seen as aberrations in preclears. If a human being has been born, he can be supposed to have at least one engram. Anyone who has a birth which has not been cleared by therapy has therefore a reactive mind. There is no disgrace attached to having a reactive mind since it was thrust without his consent and without his knowledge upon an unconscious and helpless individual. Sometimes this was done by persons with the best of imaginable intentions. A person not possessed of a rational mind cannot be rationally considered to be morally responsible, no matter the demands of the current society which hitherto lacked any method of determining responsibility.

The process of birth may result in an engramic node.

The pain contained in the reactive mind is normally severe. The usual parental punishments, family complications, reprimands, minor accidents and the battle of the individual with his environment, influence but do not cause a reactive mind, nor do these things have the power to change materially the reactions of an individual.

In the background of any individual exist many hidden personalities contained in the reactive mind. Dealing in identities, the reactive mind often confuses identities of individuals. Therefore, irrational attachments and antipathies are formed by aberrated individuals who can often find no reason for such attachments or antipathies in their contemporary environment.

The content of an engram is literally interpreted, not as it was stated to the “unconscious” subject, but as it was received in its most literal phraseology and perception.

The organism possesses many inherent mechanisms and abilities by which it can learn or preserve or forward itself along the dynamics. Any one of them may be exaggerated by engrams to a point where it becomes an actual threat to the organism or impedes it. Engrams can and do aberrate all the sensory perceptions, any and all parts of the body, and the mind itself. By demanding suicide the engram can destroy the entire organism.

The error of the reactive mind was introduced by the evolution of speech, for which the basic mechanism was not designed. When all perceptics save speech formed the reactive mind, it was to some degree serviceable. With speech came such complexities of perception and such interchanges of ideas that a whole series of illusions and delusions could be derived from the reactive mind’s necessity to determine identities for purposes of emergency.

With speech the reactive mind came to possess far more power and extensive content. The analytical mind, being a delicate mechanism in some respects no matter how rugged and capable in others, then could become subjected to delusions and illusions which, however shadowy and unreal, must nevertheless be obeyed. By stripping the reactive mind of its past painful content the analytical mind may be placed in complete command of the organism.

The evolution of speech has greatly contributed to the aberrations generated by the engramic node.

The moment a man or a group becomes possessed of this ability, it becomes possessed of self-determinism. So long as these possess reactive minds, irrationalities will persist. Because it contains literal speech, no reactive mind can be conceived to be of any value whatsoever to the rational organism since the methods of that reactive mind remain intact and will continue to act to preserve the organism in times of “unconsciousness” of the analytical mind. There is no residual good in any reactive mind. It is capable of any illusion. It has no assist power along the dynamics save only to cancel or modify other reactive mind content. The source of the individual’s power and purpose is not derived from the reactive mind but from the Basic Dynamic and its eight divisions. Any auditor will establish this to his own satisfaction after he has run a very few cases.

When an individual during auditing is attempting to “hold on to his aberrations,” the auditor may be assured that that person has as part of the content of the reactive mind such phrases as, “don’t dare get rid of it,” which, identically translated, apparently applies to aberrations. It may, in fact, apply in an engram containing an attempted abortion.

The identity factor in the reactive mind may cause the analytical mind to respond irrationally in auditing and to justify the aberrations in many irrational ways. Whatever means he uses or statements he makes to avoid the exhaustion of his reactive mind is contained exactly in the reactive mind as a positive suggestion and has no application whatsoever in rational thought.

Individuality (if by that is meant a man’s desires and habits) is not traced to the reactive mind save when by individuality is meant those flagrant eccentricities which pass in Dickens for characters.

A man is much more an individual after his reactive mind has been cleared.

An individual becomes himself or herself after the confusions and flaws in the mind are cleared.



The Dianetic theory says that engrams (perceptions congealed due to shock and pain and stored) are the source of all aberrations. Engram resolves when one becomes aware of its contents. Engramic content may be accessed by guessing and mimicking it. The Dianetic approach tries to dig into the mind and is dangerous. It can have unintended consequences resulting in mental conditioning.

Mindfulness says that all aberrations are caused by perceptions that could not be assimilated into the mental matrix. Such perceptions remain as unassimilated nodes, among which are engramic nodes. Such nodes may be assimilated by letting the mind unwind without interfering with it. The mindfulness approach is a more gradient approach.

Shock corrupts the functioning of the mind by congealing the perceptions of painful experience into engramic nodes. Such nodes take time to unwind. But with mindfulness approach combined with intense focus these engramic nodes may be diffused relatively quickly.


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