E-Meter Drills Explained

by David S. Touretzky and David J. Carter

David Touretzky is a computational neuroscientist who became curious about "the tech" after reading alt.religion.scientology. David Carter is an electronics technician and former Scientologist who had reached the ranks of New OT V and class VI auditor. Both are now Scientology critics. In this essay, Touretzky and Carter go through The Book of E-Meter Drills. Touretzky summarises each drill and Carter explains the finer points of how the drill is performed, based on his years of personal experience as an auditor.

Writing this essay is a criminal act according to Scientology. It's called ``verbal tech,'' and is explicitly forbidden by published policy. Reading this material is also considered unethical for Scientologists; Hubbard's own writings are the only permissible explanations of Scientology "tech". (Many other people contributed to the technical literature of Scientology, but their writings were always issued over Hubbard's name.) Fortunately neither of us are Scientologists, and since this document makes only fair use quotations from copyrighted work, there's nothing the cult can legally do about it. Of course, illegal harassment is a popular tool of Scientology. We'll take our chances.


1... Touch and Let Go of the E-Meter
2... E-Meter Familiarization
3... Reading and Setting Up a Tone Arm Counter
3A.. Calibration of the E-Meter by External Precision Resistors
4... Setting Up an E-Meter
5RA. Can Squeeze
6... Handling the Tone Arm and Sensitivity Knob
7... Tone Arm Reading
8... Tone Arm Motion and No Motion Recognition
9... Tone Arm Motion and Body Motion.
10.. Tone Arm Blowdowns.
11.. Superlative Tone Arm Handling.
12.. Needle Actions.
13.. Body Reactions.
14.. Needle Motion and No Motion Recognition
15.. Familiarization with Reading an E-Meter
16.. The Production of Needle Actions.
17.. What Makes the E-Meter Read and Cleaning a Read.
18.. Instant Rudiment Reads.
19.. Instant Reads.
20.. How to Dirty and Clean a Needle.
21.. E-Meter Steering.
22.. E-Meter Hidden Date, This Life.
23.. Assessment by Tone Arm.
24.. Assessment by Instant Read.
25.. Track Dating.
26.. Differentiation Between Sizes of Needle Reads.
27.. Needle Observation.

  Drill 1: Touch and Let Go of the E-Meter

At first glance this drill seems like a waste of time: the student is alternately ordered to touch the meter and to let go of the meter. Each time the student complies, the coach is to respond with "thank you". There is no indication of how long this is supposed to go on, but provisions are made in case things should get weird: the coach is instructed to occasionally ask the student how he's doing, and if the student exhibits any manifestations of distress, the coach is to inquire "What is happening?"

Q: What is happening here? Do people actually do drill #1, "Touch and let go of the e-meter?" If so, how long do they spend on this childish exercise?

A: Yes it is usually done at the beginning of training when a person is not familiar with the e-meter. But it can be done whenever it is thought appropriate or if the student asks for it. All the tech is used the world over and should not be skipped or varied. Changes are called "Technical Degrades" and are serious crimes.

To skip drills or processes is called "quickying" and is also considered serious. Hubbard blamed this quickying for all the early (60's & 70's) scienos who said they hadn't gotten much out of their auditing. "Quickie Grades" he called it.

The purpose of this drill is to increase a person's confront of (ability to face up to) the meter. Some people are reluctant to touch and manipulate the thing. This drill, which is part of the "Reach and Withdraw" series, is designed to take away the fear of touching (perhaps breaking) it.

It continues until the person has a win (feels good about it, brightens up or realises something about it.) For instance if I had done reach and withdraw on the meter with you, you may have noticed that the third button was a TA reset and not something that you had a fixed idea about because of a previous encounter with something similar.

In the following scenario, Carter and Touretzky do a little drilling.

Dave Touretzky is sitting facing the front of the meter. Carter is seated beside him and giving the commands.

"Start of drill." I say.

"Touch that Tone Arm"... I point at it and Dave T touches it..."Thank you." I acknowledge.

"Let go of that Tone Arm." ... Dave does so... "Thank you."

"Touch that dial" "Thank you."

"Let go of that dial." "Thank you."

"Touch that jack." "Thank you."

"Let go of that Jack." "Thank you."

"Touch that TA reset button." Dave Touretzky touches it.

"Thank you." I say, and I notice Dave T looks a little puzzled.

"What's happening?" I ask.

"In an aircraft, which has a similar design of electronic clock, that button is used to set the timer... I didn't realise that it was the TA reset" says Dave T, smiling. (little cognition)

"Well good...We will finish off there...End of drill." I say.

If it was a reach and withdraw session you would go off to the Examiner, be checked on the meter to ensure that you are F/Ning and you might even write a "Success story". You feel good because you have realised something and I feel good because I may have helped you to realise something. The examiner is happy because he likes to see smiling faces. I might even write a success story because the 'tech' worked.

When a person is newly promoted onto a post in Scientology, a familiarisation step for the person is to do a reach and withdraw on the new area.

"Reach for that table." "Thank you." "Withdraw from that table." "Thank you." "Reach for that lamp." "Thank you." and so on until the EP is reached.
A person then notices things and becomes more comfortable in the area. This is supposed to increase the person's ability in the job by removing any fixed ideas that s/he may have which might take up attention units better used on the post.

Tedd Mayett talks about endless repetitions of drill 1.


  Drill 2: E-Meter Familiarization

In this drill the student is instructed to touch or move various controls, eg., "Set the tone arm at 2 3/4", "Adjust the needle to set", or "Touch the sensitivity knob".

Only a few items need explanation. Commands to set the tone arm at the male or female "clear read" refer to settings of 2 or 3, respectively. On the Mark V e-meter these are marked as M and F on the dial; they are not marked on the more advanced Mark Super VII.

Q: What does the command "Demonstrate an unmoving tone arm" require the student to do?

A: Well you aren't the first person to ask that question. Of course students asking it in the courseroom would be told to find their Misunderstood words (M/U's). The supervisor is not allowed to explain anything.

The accepted response is for the student to remove the thumb from the tone arm and indicate that the needle is not moving enough to require a T.A. adjustment.

Q: How about the command "Demonstrate a tone arm blowdown"? A blowdown means a reduction of TA value by at least 0.2, right?

A: Correct. In this case, because no-one is holding the cans, the student can move the tone arm so as to place the needle at the far right end of the dial. Once there s/he will turn the tone arm counter-clockwise to bring the needle to set. This will produce the equivalent of a small blowdown on the TA counter.


  Drill 3: Reading and Setting Up a Tone Arm Counter

On the Mark V, the tone arm counter is a mechanical device mounted below the tone arm knob that tallies counter-clockwise motion. This is supposedly an indication of the amount of "charge" released during the auditing session. The counter has two windows in which numbers appear. Due to some idiosyncrasy of the mechanism, the values displayed are not correct when tone arm motion occurs above a setting of 3.0. Most of this drill concerns learning to recognise when the values are incorrect, and calculating a corrected value by subtracting one quantity from 7.0 and adding in another.

Q: What can you tell me about this?

A: Most mark V's that I saw had no TA counter at all. The English version had an internal mechanical one but I think it was an unofficial model. The one with the external TA counter is a really hazy memory to me. Mine had no TA counter and we had to make very regular TA notations on worksheets and tally it all up at the end of session.

I doubt whether any mark V's are being used in session now and the Mark VI and Mark Super VII meters have a digital tone arm counter, making this exercise unnecessary.


  Drill 3A: Calibration of the E-Meter by External Precision Resistors

The meter comes with two calibration resistors, with values of 5,000 and 12,500 ohms, corresponding to tone arm settings of 2.0 and 3.0. These resistors are supposed to be high precision (tolerance of +/- 1 percent.)

To calibrate the meter, one is told to unhook the cans and put the 5,000 ohm resistor across the alligator clips. (Hubbard calls them "crocodile clips".) Set the tone arm at 2.0, the sensitivity at 16, and adjust the trim knob until the needle is exactly at the "set" position. Now replace this resistor with the 12,500 ohm resistor and move the tone arm knob until the needle is again at the "set" position. The tone arm setting should ideally be 3.0 on the dial. If it's not, then mark the position of the tone arm pointer with a fine line, and use that as the 3.0 setting.

This procedure is supposed to calibrate the meter for the current conditions, which include the room temperature and battery charge level. No indication is given of how much room temperature actually affects the readings; probably not at all.

Q: How can a possibly innaccurate 3.0 reading be reconciled?

A: As far as I remember the procedure is as follows: Set the thing up as you describe for 2.0. Then place the 12,500 Ohm resistor on the clips and ensure the needle is in the `set area' when the TA is on 3.0. If it is not in the set area (which is about 1 inch wide) then the meter is not to be used. I do not recall marking the dial with a pencil.


  Drill 4: Setting Up An E-Meter

Setting up the Mark V e-meter is a simple affair. The lid is detached from the top of meter and re-attached at the back, where it serves to prop up the meter at roughly a 45 degree angle. In this configuration, the auditor can read the needle, but the preclear sitting opposite sees only the back of the meter.

The set-up routine includes a battery test (turn the set-transit-test knob to "test" and check that the needle registers in the "test" region at the far right of the scale.) Following this is a calibration step: with the sensitivity set to its maximum value, the TA set to 2.0, and the cans unplugged, adjust the trim knob to put the needle at the "set" line on the dial. (When the cans are unplugged, an internal 5000 ohm resistor is automatically placed across the electrodes to facilitate this calibration step. No mention is made in this drill of using the external 12,500 ohm resistor to find the true 3.0 tone arm position.

Q: Why is the student admonished in this drill to never check the meter's batteries in the presence of a preclear?

A: Testing the battery on the mark V meter produces an audible `click' and doing this in session could distract the PC. The PC's attention should never go onto the meter or the auditor; it should be concentrated on the question and reactive mind.

This sort of mind set can be taken to extremes and I remember being reprimanded for laughing at something that a PC said in session. The PC was trying to be humourous and I'm sure if I hadn't laughed it would have upset the PC far more.

One friend, a class IX auditor, was in session once and he was busting to go to the toilet. He knew he couldn't close the session because the PC would get upset, so he just let it go down his trouser leg. He had to get someone else to take his PC to the examiner and that upset her anyway. Sometimes you just can't win.


  Drill 5RA: Can Squeeze

The e-meter drills were created between 1961 and 1963. This one was revised by Hubbard in 1979, hence the "RA" notation. "R" means Revised and the "A" indicates a second revision. RB would be a third revision and so on.

When the e-meter's sensitivity level is properly set, squeezing the cans will cause the needle to drop by 1/3 of the dial. In order for the auditor to be able to adjust the sensitivity control, the PC must do a proper can squeeze. The focus of this drill is on the various ways a PC can screw up. The auditor needs to be able to recognise a faulty can squeeze so he can correct the PC until a proper squeeze is obtained. Other portions of the drill deal with demonstrating the effect on the needle of a sensitivity setting that is too low or too high.

How to screw up a can squeeze:

DJC: Most people find the can squeeze particularly difficult (and frustrating) at first and it can take an auditor quite some time before getting a correct squeeze from the PC. The auditor memorises the following command and repeats it whenever the PC gives an incorrect squeeze.
"Gradually increase the pressure of your grip on the cans until a light squeeze is achieved, then relax it."
The correct can squeeze gives a smooth fall of the needle and a gentle return to the starting point. The sensitivity knob is then adjusted to give exactly 1/3 of a dial fall. The squeeze is repeated until the sensitivity is set correctly or the PC runs screaming from the room, whichever occurs first.


  Drill 6: Handling the Tone Arm and Sensitivity Knob

During auditing, the Tone Arm knob is constantly being manipulated by the thumb of the auditor's left hand in order to keep the needle close to the "set" position. (The auditor removes his thumb only to obtain an "instant read", defined later.) The normal position of the left hand is for the thumb to rest on the Tone Arm knob while the four remaining fingers curl around the back of the meter.

In the first half of this drill, the student uses his thumb to move the Tone Arm knob to specific settings called out by the coach. The coach also calls out sensitivity values, and the student auditor must remove his left hand from the TA knob, adjust the sensitivity as ordered, and return his hand to the TA knob.

In the second half of the drill the coach holds the cans and applies varying pressure to make the needle move; the student manipulates the TA to keep the needle close to the "set" position.

As the student becomes more proficient the coach can make the drill more difficult by making rapid pressure changes.


  Drill 7: Tone Arm Reading

With the Mark V meter, the auditor measures the current TA setting by observing the position of the pointer on the TA knob. (The Mark Super VII has a digital TA display.) TA values are measured idiosyncratically: in both tenths and quarters. Thus, the recognised values between 2.0 and 3.0 are:

2.0 2.1 2.2 2.25 2.3 2.4
2.5 2.6 2.7 2.75 2.8 2.9
In this drill the student learns to move the TA knob to values called out by the coach, and to accurately call out the position of the tone arm when the coach moves the TA knob.

Q: Why are the quarter divisions considered important?

A: I doubt whether this sort of accuracy is important, but as you pointed out the mark V had no digital indication of tone arm position. The auditor had to be able to quickly recognise any tone arm position and note it in the worksheets. The drill was apparently designed to give the student the ability to do that.

Q: Based on the configuration of the Mark V tone arm, and the fact that the true 3.0 position is going to be marked by a pencil line if the meter has been calibrated as described in drill 3A (thus changing the entire TA scale), there's no way that a person could accurately distinguish between TA values of 2.2 and 2.25. I doubt they can even tell 2.2 from 2.3 reliably.

A: You are right in saying that the Tone arm position on the mark V was difficult to read accurately; parallax error alone would see to that. The later meters overcame this problem of course. I do not remember marking the meter in any way and perhaps we were `out tech' on this point.


  Drill 8: Tone Arm Motion and No Motion Recognition

This drill is conducted silently, and without a coach. The student auditor observes the e-meter; another student should be holding the cans while reading a bulletin (Scientology publication.)

The student auditor is supposed to note when the tone arm "moves" and when it is motionless. With each observation, he is supposed to say one of the following to himself:

The wording of this drill is obscure: the tone arm is just a knob; it doesn't move by itself. This is a Scientology figure of speech. When Hubbard talks about the tone arm moving, he means that the student is moving the knob in order to keep the needle close to the "set" position.

Q: What does the exhortation to do something mean?

A: The whole purpose of auditing is to find `charged' areas and release that charge. If the tone arm is not moving then the auditor is not getting any charge off the case. Auditing uncharged areas is a waste of time and this drill is supposed to impress this point on a student.

If the tone arm is moving, you are on a `hot' subject so keep on going and don't change anything. If the tone arm is not moving, the subject is uncharged so you had better do something to find the charged area.

Of course in session you can't just go off and do anything you like if the TA isn't moving. That is called C/Sing in the chair. You may have to end session and tell the C/S that the subject seems flat...That would be doing something.

In the drill, someone is holding the cans and quietly reading a book; this alone will cause needle movements. The student simply watches the meter and says the words; he doesn't actually do anything.


  Drill 9: Tone Arm Motion and Body Motion

Anything that alters the quality of the contact between the e-meter's electrodes and the subject's hands will cause the needle to move, and tone arm motion may result. Since TA motion is used as a measure of "progress" in an auditing session (supposedly signifying release of mental charge), the auditor must not include in his calculations any TA motion that is merely the result of body motion.

This drill accomplishes two things. First, the coach demonstrates the effect of various body motions such as yawning, sighing, coughing, laughing, taking deep breaths, moving about in the chair, or movement of the hands (which are gripping the elctrodes.) Second, the student is taught to recognize body motion and take their thumb off the TA knob whenever it is occuring. Since he is not chasing the needle with the TA knob, the TA counter will not register any downward tone arm motion. During this portion of the drill the coach alternately reads a bulletin and makes body motions while holding the cans.

The student tallies the TA motion and passes the drill if the coach agrees that the tally is correct, meaning no body motion was recorded and no "legitimate" TA motion missed.

Q: Hubbard claims in this drill that some PCs deliberately make body movements to cause TA motion. Is this because they want to guide the direction that auditing takes?

A: Yes I think so. There may be particular areas of life that the PC does not want to address and others that s/he is happy to chat about for hours. If the Auditor can be fooled into thinking the ‘easy’ area is hot then the PC can get off scott free.

Q: Another reason Hubbard gives for PCs generating body motion is that they want to show the auditor they can control the tone arm and cause a blowdown to occur. What's going on here? Some kind of power struggle?

A: Beats me. Hubbard, like Freud I guess, had some weird ones to work with.


  Drill 10: Tone Arm Blowdowns

A blowdown is ``sudden downwards motion'' of the tone arm by at least 0.2 divisions. In this drill, the student works the tone arm knob while another student holds the cans and reads a bulletin. The student is supposed to record TA values and mark any occurrences of blowdowns.

Q: Hubbard gives the following example of a how a student might record TA values on his sheet.

     2.5  \
     2.2  / Blowdown
In this example, nothing is marked between the 2.4 and 2.1 values, presumably because the motion did not occur "suddenly". How then, does the student decide which TA values to write down? Why didn't he write down the 2.3 and 2.2 values that the TA setting must have traveled through to reach 2.0?

A: There are a number of possible explanations for this (perhaps it was body movement), but I think Hubbard was just picking numbers out of his head as a clarification of the drill.

Q: The student is also supposed to repeat this formula to himself whenever a blowdown occurs: "That which blows down the tone arm will produce tone arm motion." What can you tell me about that?

A: If the subject causes a blowdown when it is first mentioned, then it will give good tone arm action when it is run to its EP. In other words it is a hot subject.


  Drill 11: Superlative Tone Arm Handling

This drill marks a new phase in training: now the student is taught to ask a question or give an instruction while operating the e-meter. In order to get a good "read" from the pc, at the completion of the utterance the needle must be on the dial (not offscale) and the student auditor must have his thumb off the tone arm, so that any motion of the needle is due solely to changes in the pc. If the pc generates body motion the auditor must recognize this, ignore the read, and repeat the question.

This drill is initially run at low sensitivity settings, making it easier to keep the needle on-scale with the TA knob while simultaneously reading a question. No "real" auditing commands are allowed to be used. Instead the student reads a line from the "Preclear Origination Sheet", included as an appendix at the back of the book. Here are some examples:


  Drill 12: Needle Actions

Scientology attaches great significance to the motions of the e-meter needle, Needle "actions" are categorized according to size, regularity, and frequency. This drill introduces the student to 18 classes of needle actions. They are demonstrated on the meter by moving the tone arm with the cans unplugged; they may also be demonstrated on a mock-up of a meter by moving the needle directly. In the second step of the drill, the coach produces the needle actions and the student must correctly label them. Here is the list:

  1. Stuck: The needle is just sitting there and not doing anything.
  2. Null: The needle is not reacting. It may be moving, but its movement is unaffacted by the auditor's asking the question. The question is said to be "flat".
  3. Fall: A needle movement to the right on the dial.
  4. Change of characteristic: A needle is doing something, it changes momentarily and then continues with what it was doing originally. Example: a hesitation in the midst of a rise.
  5. Rise: A movement of the needle to the left on the dial.
  6. Theta bop: A rapid left and right motion of the needle.
  7. Rock slam: A wild, irregular crashing of the needle back and forth. Indicates an evil intention.
  8. Free needle: A floating needle. Nice regular left and right movement. Indicates a key out.
  9. Stage four: The needle rises, sticks and falls. Same thing over and over. This indicates the pc is below the awareness level required for auditing.
  10. Rocket read: Like a rocket taking off, this needle shoots off to the right.
  11. Dirty needle: A little jerk of the needle. Irregular and constant. It indicates a missed withhold.
  12. Clean needle: The needle is quite normal and doing what it should. It is not dirty.
  13. Tick: This is like a very tiny fall. It indicates that the question may be charged.
  14. Speeded rise: The needle is rising and it continues to rise but speeds up.
  15. Speeded fall: The needle is falling and continues to fall but speeds up.
  16. Slowed rise: The needle is rising and it slows down a little but continues to rise.
  17. Slowed fall: The needle is falling and it slows down a little.
  18. Stop: The needle is active and it stops momentarily.


  Drill 13: Body Reactions

In drill #9 the student was required to recognize body motions by observing the pc. In this drill he is required to recognize them by observing the characteristic needle movements they induce. Initially the coach demonstrates various body movements and points out the needle motion. When the student is familiar with these, the coach sits behind the student and makes one of these motions at random; the student must call it out based on what he sees the needle doing.

The list of body motions includes: sighing, yawning, stretching, coughing, breathing deeply, allowing the cans to touch each other (shorting the electrodes together), scratching a leg, rubbing one of the cans against some article of clothing, lifting a finger off the cans, tapping a finger on the cans, changing the grip on the cans, and rotating the cans in the hand.

Q: Things like coughing and sighing are audibly detectable, so the needle motion is irrelevant. Are people really capable of distinguishing, say, the effect of lifting a finger off the cans from that of rotating the cans in the hand? How precise a characterization does the coach demand?

A: Yes, students can become quite proficient at this. They are especially good at the coughing, yawning and sighing motions. Seriously though, the physical needle reactions are recognisable with practice. The coach stands behind the student and continues the drill until the student can recognise the different reactions.


  Drill 14: Needle Motion and No Motion Recognition

This is a silent drill conducted without a coach. While another student holds the cans and sits quietly (reading a bulletin, of course), the student auditor observes the needle. Here is a quote from the actual text of the drill:

When the meter reads, the student auditor says to himself, "Read". When the meter does not read, the student auditor says to himself, "Clean".
Q: The book says this drill is designed to teach the student "that when the meter reads, it reads, and that when it's clean, it's clean." What do these terms mean?

A: A read is any of the above mentioned needle actions except null and clean. For example a small fall. A clean needle is one that doesn’t react, it just keeps on doing whatever it was doing, with no variation, probably F/Ning or gently rising.

If the student has any doubts about the effectiveness of the meter to find charged areas then he will start to guess and ignore the meter. The meter might indicate that the PC is worried about fish, but the auditor thinks he "knows" that the real problem is birds. So the auditor takes up birds and the PC never addresses the real problem of fish. Auditors must learn to follow the meter.


  Drill 15: Familiarization with Reading an E-Meter

This drill combines the prevous skills of asking a question and characterizing a needle moement. The student reads a line from the preclear orignination sheet (see drill 11) while observing the needle. He then describes to the coach the needle movements that occurred. When the student becomes proficient at this, the coach starts asking about specific reads, e.g., "Where did the needle do X?", and the student must state where in the line that action occurred.

Q: How many needle motions would typically occur on a single line, say, the line "I remember a time when I fell down and hurt my zorch"? (An actual line from the preclear origination sheet.)

A: Theoretically every word could read. Usually though only one or two in a sentence like this. For example there might be a latent Fall on the word “fell” and an instant small fall on "zorch".


  Drill 16: The Production of Needle Actions

This is the first drill in which needle movements are actually produced by auditing actions, as opposed to occurring randomly or being simulated by a coach. The student auditor is supposed to produce 7 phenomena in as many coaches as he has time to work with, and maintain a written record of each session.

Q: Can you describe some of these movements and how a student might go about producing them?

A: Since each 'read' indicates a particular mental or spiritual activity, it follows that if you can reproduce the activity, you can produce a specific read. As soon as the needle reaction occurs, the student indicates it to the supervisor. The drill is passed when the supervisor is satisfied that the student can produce and recognise the various reads.

A fall for instance may be produced by asking the coach (who is on the cans) to recall a time when s/he told a lie. The coach doesn't need to say anything, just think about the circumstances of the lie.

To produce a rise the coach would be asked to think about a time when s/he was afraid or confused. Whilst thinking of the fear, the needle will move to the left, thus causing the T.A. to increase.

Recalling a time when you really hated or betrayed someone will sometimes produce a stuck needle. Here the needle just locks up or sticks for a short period.

A theta bop can sometimes be produced by the student asking "Recall an operation". I seemed to be able to produce one, as a coach, by thinking about a childhood operation where, in hospital, I had seven stitches to repair a tear in my groin.

There are a number of options for each and if one doesn't work, you just try another until you produce the read. The fall is the easiest to produce and recognise and some of the others require a quick eye to see them.

Q: Wouldn't this be restimulating for the coach?

A: This has the potential to be a little restmulative but, since the whole thing is done as a drill and kept light, there appears to be no lasting discomfort. I still squirm a bit when I recall that spear entering my groin, I guess that's restimulative but the sensation wears off (keys out).


  Drill 17: What Makes the E-Meter Read and Cleaning a Read

  Drill 18: Instant Rudiment Reads.

  Drill 19: Instant Reads.

  Drill 20: How to Dirty and Clean a Needle.

  Drill 21: E-Meter Steering.

  Drill 22: E-Meter Hidden Date, This Life.

  Drill 23: Assessment by Tone Arm.

  Drill 24: Assessment by Instant Read.

  Drill 25: Track Dating.

  Drill 26: Differentiation Between Sizes of Needle Reads.

  Drill 27: Needle Observation.