Review and commentary:

The Book Introducing The E-Meter

by L. Ron Hubbard

Softcover, 47 pages. Available from Bridge Publications Mail Order, 4751 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles CA 90029, or call 1-800-843-7389. In Europe, order from New Era Publications Int. ApS, Store Kongensgade 55, 1264 Copenhagen K, Denmark. 1995 price US $40.

Note: all images accompanying this book review are copyright 1966, 1968, or 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard. They are reproduced here under the ``fair use'' provision of the US copyright code.

Cover of the 1983 edition.
The insignia on the cover shows two facing chairs (as in an auditing session) with an e-meter between them. The edition offered for sale in 1995 has a more modern cover design based on the Mark Super VII meter, but since it is a crime in Scientology to alter any of Hubbard's writings, one may assume that the text and photographs will never be updated.
This book, first published in 1966, was supposedly compiled from lectures and demonstrations given by L. Ron Hubbard. The compilers are never identified. Hubbard, who is referred to throughout in the third person, and with obsequious respect, is named in the frontmatter as the book's copyright owner. It seems likely that he is also the author.

The book describes the Mark V e-meter, the last simple model in the e-meter line. First issued in 1962, the Mark V uses a few transistors mounted on a single printed circuit board. (See Homer Wilson Smith's e-meter schematic for the essence of the design.) Its successor, the Mark VI, was an all-new design released in the 1980s using microprocessor technology, and is substantially similar to current top-of-the-line model, the Mark Super VII.

The venerable Mark V is still in use in Scientology today, retailing in 1995 for US $625. It is promoted as a training meter for student auditors, and as an inexpensive back-up meter, since all professional auditors are required to own two. ($625 may sound like a lot of money for such a simple device, but the more sophisticated Mark Super VII is far more dear at US $3,850.) Although The Book Introducing The E-Meter is now thirty years old, it still offers timely data for would-be Scientologists.

Candid Introduction

The book begins with a surprisingly candid introduction:
This is a Hubbard Electrometer called an E-Meter for short. Technically it is a specially developed ``Wheatstone Bridge'' well known to electrically minded people as a device to measure the amount of resistance to a flow of electricity.
Critics of Scientology sometimes deride the e-meter as ``an overpriced ohm-meter'' or ``just a wheatstone bridge''. Here we see Hubbard himself making this admission. Technically, the e-meter is an ohm-meter with continuously variable range and sensitivity settings.

Click for full-scale image.
The printed circuit board of the Mark V reveals the simplicity of the design.
As in most of its literature, here Scientology will be mixing a little fact with a lot of fiction. The hype begins almost immediately. On p. 6 we see a photograph of Hubbard checking a new Mark V against what it supposedly the prototype. ``This prototype is kept by Ron in a safe and is used by him from time to time to make sure that the standard of manufacture is maintained. It was made to his exact specifications and assembled in a Mark IV case.'' And we are told again on p. 9 that the Mark V is ``made to Ron's exact specification'', and that it is a ``precision instrument''. The fact that it's just an ohm-meter has apparently been forgotten, and no specifications for the true precision of the instrument are ever given, here or in any other Scientology publication. And another contradiction: on p. 28 we're told that in choosing electrodes for the meter,
Ordinary "tin" cans with the paper label stripped off are preferred. Although they are less attractive, they give a more accurate response.
More accurate than what? And how can the electrical properties of ordinary tin cans, manufactured for an entirely different purpose, be sufficiently uniform to qualify them for use with a ``high-precision'' resistance meter? No alternative sources of electrodes are mentioned in the book, but all the illustrations show clean, shiny cans with screw-on lids. In the center of each lid is a rubber grommet through which a wire enters. (See picture below.) These reasonably attractive looking electrodes are obviously custom jobs -- precisely what Hubbard is advising not to use.

The Measurements of the E-Meter

Another surprising statement appears on page 3:
The resistance of a dead female body is 5,000 ohms and of a dead male body, 12,500 ohms.
The alert reader is thus warned early on that the author is a quack, or to put it more charitably, has a limited understanding of biophysics. It is unusual in Scientology publications to begin with the most obviously loony bits; typically one has to wade through many pages of vague definitions and undocumented claims before discovering the true nature of the material.

The 5,000 and 12,500 ohm values have special significance in Scientology. They correspond to Tone Arm settings of 2 and 3, marked on the Tone Arm dial with an F and an M, respectively. In a normal auditing sesssion, the TA must be between 2 and 3 at the start of the session; the auditor adjusts things until this is so. However, on page 4 of the book we read:

When, however, the resistance of a live body is measured it can be as low as 500 ohms or as high as 1,000,000 ohms. These figures are mentioned as a matter of interest and to show the wide divergence of the electrical resistance of a body when it is inhabited.
On pages 35-39 we are given another example of the great significance placed on body resistance values as measured by the e-meter. One of the tests that must be passed to become a Class VI auditor is that, while holding the electrodes, the Tone Arm value with the needle at the set-point should be between 2.0 and 4.0. A value of 4.5 is considered barely passing; 5.0 or higher is a failure, as is any value below 2.0. Presumably, an individual whose Tone Arm setting cannot be brought within the ``normal'' range is too mentally unhealthy or spiritually unworthy to be a Class VI auditor. However, in other publications the Scientologists acknowledge that people with unusually dry hands may require some skin moisturizer in order to make a good contact with the electrodes. One wonders how many auditor candidates have availed themselves of this solution to their spiritual problems.

What The Meter Does

The basic claims for what the e-meter does (besides measure body resistance) are summarized in the statement below, taken from pages 5 and 6:
Tests conclusively show that an individual's emotional state, his thoughts, etc., instantly raise or lower the electrical resistance of the body. Thus the meter is an extremely valuable tool in the hands of a trained auditor... We in Scientology have come to accept the fact that the E-Meter ``talks'' to us.

We rarely give much thought to the hours and hours of work and research put in by L. Ron Hubbard, resulting in the perfect instrument -- the Mark V -- and an exact exposition of what the various readings and changes mean.

How much credence should we give to these claims? Is the Church willing to stand behind them? From the copyright page:
This book is part of the works of L. Ron Hubbard who developed Dianetics spiritual healing technology and Scientology applied religious philosophy. It is presented to the reader as a record of observations and research into the nature of the human mind and spirit, and not as a statement of claims made by the author.
In other words, ``This stuff is not supposed to be factual; it may well be rubbish. Don't try to hold us responsible. Hubbard wrote it; we publish it.'' From the same page:
The Hubbard Electrometer, or E-meter, is a device which is sometimes used in Dianetics and Scientology. In itself, the E-meter does nothing. It is not intended or effective for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of any disease, or for the improvement of health or any bodily function.
This despite the fact that Scientology claims that 70% of all illness is psychosomatic and can be cured with auditing!

Operating The Meter

The bulk of the book is devoted to the mechanics of setting up the meter and demonstrating the controls. Discussion of these topics runs from page 10 through page 39. Here is a summary of the controls of the Mark V:
Click for full-scale image.
A typical auditing session. The preclear holds the cans (electrodes) in his hands. The auditor's left thumb rests on the Tone Arm knob, so he can continually and unobtrusively manipulate it during the session.

Needle Actions

The book concludes with a summary of the major ``needle actions'' (types of motion) that may be observed during auditing. Supposedly there are 10 of these, although later, more advanced publications claim around 20. Only a few are actually explained in this book. The 10 actions listed are:
  1. Stuck needle: ``You ask the pc a question and the needle just stays stuck with no movement whatsoever.'' The term pc means pre-clear: the person undergoing auditing.
  2. Null: the needle continues to behave in whatever way it was doing, showing no influence of the auditing question.
  3. Fall: the needle moves to the right. In more advanced texts this class is subdivided into short falls, long falls, and long falls with blowdown (needle goes offscale, requiring Tone Arm readjustment.)
  4. Rise: the needle moves to the left.
  5. Theta bop: a rapid back-and-forth dance of the needle, from 1/8 to 1/2 inch wide, at a rate of 5-10 times per second. In more advanced texts it is revealed that a theta bop is seen when the thetan (spirit) is repeatedly leaving and reentering the body.
  6. Rock slam: a rapid, irregular, jerky motion of the needle, varying in width. ``The needle goes crazy.'' Significance is unexplained here, but in other literature it is revealed that a rock slam indicates that the pc has an Evil Purpose.
  7. Stage Four: the needle repeatedly rises an inch or two, sticks, and then falls, about once per second. It is unaffected by auditing commands.
  8. Floating needle, often abbreviated F/N: slow, smooth movement over a wide range. This indicates the conclusion of an auditing acitivity. It is a crime in Scientology to pursue a process beyond a floating needle.
  9. Change of characteristic: no details given.
  10. Body reactions: not explained here, but these are artifacts caused by body motion, such as the preclear yawning, coughing, moving around in the chair, or lifting a finger off the cans.


Although this is a short book on a narrow subject, to the perceptive reader it reveals much of the feel of Scientology. There is a smattering of science (``ohms'' and the ``wheatstone bridge''), a bit of the supernatural (bodies being ``inhabited''), some obvious lunacy (dead female bodies are 5,000 ohm resistors), a dose of mystery (unexplained needle actions, special tests for Class VI auditors), and much reverence for the founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Given Hubbard's obviously limited scientific understanding, one wonders whether he contributed anything at all to the design of the transistorized Mark V, though he is credited here as its developer. No mention is made of Volney Matheson, the man who designed the original e-meter. In Understanding the E-Meter, p. 97, Hubbard claims to have invented it himself.

The Book Introducing the E-Meter, this modest little 47 page softcover volume with black-and-white photographs dating from the 1960s, was being offered in 1995 for the outrageous price of US $40. That, too, makes it a telling introduction to Scientology.

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