It’s interesting how insecure men with ardent imaginations seem to be the source of reckless passion. Before starting Frankenstein I was reading a book by Lawrence Wright called Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief about Scientology and it’s creator L. Ron Hubbard. Shelly’s description of a young Frankenstein reminds me of Wright’s description of a young Hubbard. Both men rejected modern science and were led to their creations by fantasies of the supernatural and both were sexually frustrated. What does that mean we should do about every nerd, geek and dweeb out in the world now? Quick, get them all on a dating show!
Frankenstein grew up reading accounts of ancient science and black magic. Upon moving to Ingolstat for university and meeting his professor M. Kempe, Frankenstein learned that all his knowledge from the authors that motivated him to pursue a life in science were considered a joke compared to modern science. Although he rejected what the professor was saying he decided to learn the science they wanted to teach him while continuing to pursue his real interest.
As a child, I had not been content with the results promised by the modern professors of natural science. With a confusion of ideas only to be accounted for by me extreme youth, and my want of a guide on such matters, I had retrod the steps of knowledge along the paths of time, and exchanged the discoveries of recent enquirers for the dreams of forgotten alchymists. Besides, I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different, when the masters of the science sought immortality and power, such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the enquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those vision on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth. (Shelly, 26)
We clearly see a conflict between Frankenstein’s values and those of his society. While knowledge of modern science allows him to understand natural occurrences (“realities of little worth”), the ancient sciences (black magic, witchcraft) promise “chimeras of boundless grandeur” – glorious discoveries that wield real power rather than power through knowledge and understanding.
Hubbard struggled with modern science too and decided to create his own science.
Throughout his youth, Hubbard was fascinated by shamans and magicians. . . . What a lot of people don’t realize is that Scientology is black magic just spread out over a long time period. Black magic is the inner core of Scientology–and it is probably the only part of Scientology that really works. (Wright, 45)
Prior to establishing Scientology, Hubbard spent most of his time writing sci-fi for pulp fiction with the hopes that the stories would get him attention from Hollywood in what Wright calls “a long-term, unrequited romance” (Wright, 28). Still, Hubbard currently holds the world record for publishing the most titles of any author – 1,084 titles in total (Wright, 24). His most popular book, Dianetics, serves as the basis of Scientology. “It ain’t a religion,” Hubbard writes to his friend. “It just abolishes it….It’s science, boy, science” (Wright, 57). The self-help-esq book sold very well when it was released in 1950 which stupefied the scientific community.
“This volume probably contains more promises and less evidence per page than has any publication since the invention of printing,” the Nobel physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi wrote in his review of Dianetics for Scientific American. “The huge sale of the book to date is distressing evidence of the frustrated ambitions, hopes, ideals, anxieties and worries of the many persons who through it have sought succor.” (Wright, 65)
Ouch! After reading a review like that, how could someone keep working on something that is now scientifically-deemed a piece of crap? It’s the lure of the medium these men were raised on and as Frankenstein explains, these writers were “lords of my imagination” (Shelly, 22). “I took their word for all that they averred, and I became their disciple” (Shelly, 21). For these two men, reality was unsatisfying and full of problems that modern science wasn’t capable of solving.
Another harsh reality these men faced was the opposite sex. Frankenstein, although engaged and married (very briefly) to his childhood companion Elizabeth, never had intimate (sexual or nonsexual) relations with her while they were together. During his time away from home he only writes Elizabeth at her anxious request. “I have written myself into better spirits, dear cousin; by my anxiety returns upon me as I conclude. Write, dearest Victor – one line – one word will be a blessing to us” (Shelly, 42). Alone this evidence isn’t very compelling of a man with a sexual insecurity. But add this to the mix: I have a theory that Shelly, intentionally or not, wrote Frankenstein as gay – or at least “attracted to men” – based on his description of M. Waldman on page 27. From this I’m lead to conclude Frankenstein is at least in some state of sexual dissatisfaction. I wish I could tell Frankenstein “It Gets Better!” but for him it does not get better.
Although confident of his sexual orientation Hubbard was sexually frustrated. In a very private journal whose contents came to light during a court hearing (not so private anymore!), Hubbard reveals not only a teenage-like lust for women but also a deep insecurity over their power to humiliate him. Below is a mantra that he recorded and played back on a loop while he slept as a self-hypnosis technique. Warning: they are quite amusing.
I can write.
My mind is still brilliant.
That masturbation was no sin or crime.
That I do not need to have ulcers anymore.
That I am fortunate in losing Polly and my parents, for they never meant well by me.
That I believe in my gods and spiritual things.
That my magical work is powerful and effective.
That the numbers 7, 25, and 16 are not unlucky to me.
That I am not bad to look upon.
That I am not susceptible to colds.
That Sara is always beautiful to me.
That these words and commands are like fire and will sear themselves into every corner of my being, making me happy and well and confident forever! (Wright, 52)
Hubbard suffered from both adultery and impotence and later in his journal expressed concern over his “very bad masturbation history” (Wright, 51) which is particularly funny because in his 20s and 30s he participated in several occult “experiments” in which he was required to perform such a task (one of the ceremonies was called “Babylon Working” and it’s purpose was to impregnate a young (willing) woman with a “moonchild” which becomes the Antichrist. This “experiment” took place every night for a month until the woman became pregnant. A few weeks later she decided to abort the Antichrist.).
It seems that these sexually-frustrated men take their inhibited passion and built-up frustration and unleash their “creative power” on a dark magic conquest resulting in monsters that roam the world freely and unguided. The cases of Frankenstein and Hubbard demonstrate “acts of sexual power” overcompensating for sexual insecurity.
Knowing that Frankenstein is a character that exists in nonfiction. What is Shelly saying about the nature of man? That sci-fi/fantasy stories are bad? No, because she’s a sci-fi/fantasy storyteller. That an unhealthy relationship with women leads to problems? Possibly, Shelly is a woman. That monstrous creations can be anything you contribute to this world? Yes! And that blind passion can be dangerous? Yes! And that what you make and contribute to this world won’t just float idly by like an old dutch couple on a tandem bike? It might, actually, if you’re the old dutch couple, but it could cause much more action – big or small – good or evil – Playstation 4 or Xbox One.