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In Dianetics and Scientology, an engram is defined as a painful memory containing unconsciousness and contained as part of the mind. It is stored in the stimulus-response unconscious (the reactive mind) rather than as a normal memory.

The term engram was coined by Richard Semon and had previously been used prior to the inception of Dianetics; Semon defined it as a "stimulus impression" which could be reactivated by the recurrence of "the energetic conditions which ruled at the generation of the engram."[1] It continues to be used in other contexts unrelated to Hubbard's theories. According to Joseph Winter, M.D.. Hubbard had taken term "engram" from the 1936 edition of Dorland's Medical Dictionary for use to describe his own unique concepts (Winter, 1951). Hubbard's earliest public writings on Dianetics, (an article published in the Astounding Science Fiction pulp magazine) [1] he referred to engrams by the term "Norns". [2]

Dianetics defines an engram as "a mental image picture which is a recording of a time of physical pain and unconsciousness. It must by definition have impact or injury as part of its content."[2] Engrams are said to contain all of the perception and experience of any memory but are not easily available to an individual because they are overlaid with some kind of pain. A goal of Dianetics is to assist a person in confronting such memories and thus to bring the memory into full conciousness.

Principle of the engram Edit

Engrams are said to contain all sensory perceptions, but are not directly available to the conscious mind, which is termed the analytical mind; engrams are considered to be formed when the analytical mind is not fully functional, in moments of physical pain and painful emotion. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

Dianetics holds the engram to be the single source of all psychosomatic illness and aberrations of the human mind via the literal content of these engrams being imposed on to the analytical mind when similar sensory perceptions unconsciously recall the engram; this process is referred to as "keying-in the engram". [How to reference and link to summary or text]

As a consequence these memories are ascribed by Dianetics to cause stimulus-response behaviour to occur unconsciously in an individual, which may be pro-survival or contra-survival depending on the content of the engram (Hubbard, 1958, pp.59). 70% of all health ailments are attributed by Hubbard to the harmful effects of engrams (Hubbard, 1958, pp.5).

Origins of the conceptEdit

Hubbard conceived of the engram as a form of "memory trace", an idea which had long existed in medicine. He initially proposed using the terms norn, impediment or comanome but eventually settled on "engram", based on the definition in Dorland's 1936 Medical dictionary: "a lasting mark or trace .... In psychology it is the lasting trace left in the psyche by anything that has been experienced psychically; a latent memory picture." (Winter, 1951)


  1. Corydon, Bent; L. Ron Hubbard, Jr. (1987). L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman?, Secaucus, New Jersey: Lyle Stuart. ISBN 0-8184-0444-2. Convenience link at .
  2. Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary pg. 141 pub. Bridge Publications, USA ISBN 0884040372



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