The meter is called an "E-meter", which is an abbreviation of the "electropsychometer" or "electrometer". The E-meter has been improved and developed over the past fifteen years, and there have been five models, ranging from Mark I to Mark V. There is some suggestion that shortly there is to be a Mark VI model, and even another model which is to be used for auditing to OT.
When used in scientology auditing, the cans are held by the preclear, one in each hand, and the auditor, sitting opposite, faces the meter and records and interprets the readings on the dial, making various adjustments with the tone arm as the general level of resistance recorded by the meter rises or falls. The auditor writes down the various readings of the meter which are said to be correlated to whatever is being discussed by the auditor and preclear. The detail of such discussions is also written down.
It is claimed that emotions and emotionally charged thought can register electrically on the E-meter. When a preclear is "in session" and is holding the cans, questions which stir his emotions are said to produce a "read" on the meter. Hubbard and scientologists generally regard the E-meter as a most important adjunct to auditing, an almost indispensible tool.
In a book entitled The Hubbard Electrometer, said to be based on research and development by Hubbard, written by one John Sanborn and copyrighted by Hubbard in 1959, the operation of the E-meter in scientology is explained. It is there stated that
"The E-meter works on a very easily understood principle. It measures the relative density of the body. The relative density is changed as the facsimiles change. The E-meter then measures shift in thought. It registers in particular shifts in thought relating closely to the questions asked by the E-meter operator. The operator asks, the facsimiles shift under his asking. The E-meter measures the shift and thus the mind is read."A facsimile is defined in scientology as a recording in energy of an incident or part of an incident from the past. It is "picture" in motion. When the picture comes into play again, it produces motion," writes Hubbard.
"What we are reading, or measuring", writes Sanborn, "is specifically the impingement of the individual himself (the spirit) upon the body by the direct action of thought. It is to be emphasized that this does not mean the brain .... We mean that thought is direct and that thought is produced only by the spirit, and that in the aberrated individual (one who lives by mental image pictures seen or unseen, reactively) it just happens that whatever thought he thinks, he accompanies by the automatic production of mental image pictures Mental image pictures impinge upon the body. Thetans are quite obsessive about this."It is then explained that the ohms resistance in the body always registers in one of several ways.
"Thus we could say simply that the E-meter measures what and how much the spirit is doing to the body. It is therefore a precision aid to clearing."In his handbook E-meter Essentials, Hubbard writes, "the meter tells you what the preclear's mind is doing when the preclear is made to think of something", and that the "current is influenced by the mental masses, pictures, circuits and machinery. When the unclear pc thinks of something these mental items shift and this registers on the meter."
The thetan is said to produce a change in resistance this way: the auditor asks a question which produces a facsimile or a mental image picture, which is said to contain pain or heavy emotion. The "heavier" the emotion the "heavier" and "more dense" is the facsimile. The facsimile or mental image picture impinges on the body, the relative density of which is changed as the facsimile changes, and such impingement produces changes in the resistance of the body. The idea of energy and thought having physical weight and physical density is quite foreign to science, but finds ready acceptance in scientology. Williams spoke at some length, purely speculatively,
about the possibility of the thetan having an electrical field somewhere around or in association with the body and he said that the effect of emotional activity flowing from the thetan through its electrical field and through the nervous system could produce a change in resistance.
Williams, likewise without any evidence to support it, toyed with the idea that the thetan produced a change in voltage in some way whereby the E-meter recorded not only a change in resistance but also a change in voltage. His attitude was consistently scientological, but quite illogical, and was to the effect that if and when a sufficiently sensitive meter was developed it might record a change in voltage and, if it did, the change was due to the activity of the thetan; and therefore, since a thetan produced a change in voltage which was recorded on the E-meter, the theories of scientology as to the thetan were thereby confirmed. It is standard technique with scientologists not only in relation to the E-meter, but generally, to make unfounded or illogical claims and then to challenge those who criticize such claims to prove them wrong. In effect, their attitude is, "We say a thetan causes a change in resistance, prove us wrong."
A great air of mystery and reverence surrounds the E-meter. It is accorded almost magical powers. It is said to be infallible. Of it Hubbard writes, "The E-meter is never wrong. It sees all; it knows all. It tells everything."
In fact, it is no more than a powerful gimmick for controlling preclears and developing in them a sense of awe and of submission to and dependency on the HASI. It is merely an electrical measuring instrument, with no other capacity than to detect and record the degree of resistance to the flow of electricity of any medium placed between its terminals to complete the circuit.
It is unnecessary, of course, to concoct the fantastic theories of scientology to explain the functioning of the E-meter. The principles involved and the reasons for the changes in resistance recorded by the E-meter are well known to science. This was made clear by evidence the Board heard from a number of expert witnesses, including one who was Reader in Biophysics at the University of Melbourne, and had the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy, Master of Science and Bachelor of Arts; and another who was a research student, a Bachelor of Science, who was completing his Master of Science degree in Physiology. These witnesses examined and tested two E-meters, one of which was a Mark IV model supplied by the HASI.
The E-meter is not a new type of instrument. It is one which is well known to science and has been in use in one form or another for many years. As early as the 1920's, experiments were conducted in psychological research with what was then called an electro-galvanometer or psycho-galvanometer. Such meters had and have specific but limited use in psychology, but their use in no way relates to such fanciful things as electronic fields of the thetan and the measuring of the weight and mass of thought. The E-meter, like one form of "lie detector", is merely a development or modification of these earlier instruments. The current models of the E-meter are well constructed, accurate, sensitive - almost too sensitive - instruments capable of doing what their specifications claim for them, namely, indicate "variations in the electrical resistance of the human body." There is no reason at all to suppose that they can do anything more then register resistance. The scientology rejoinder that the thetan caused the change in resistance in the manner described above was not supported by any evidence. On the contrary, the Board heard abundant expert evidence which explained the phenomena which produced the variations in resistance.
Expert evidence which the Board heard showed that once the outer layer of skin of the human body was penetrated the resistance of the body between two specific points is low and uniform. However, should the human body be introduced into the circuit by means of the hands holding electrodes, a condition occurs which may well produce apparent changes in the conductivity of the body, for the skin and associated physiological factors have to be taken into account, and the resistance of the whole of the body may vary because of variations in conductivity between the electrodes and the hands. These variations are due to such factors as the dryness or dampness of the hand, the amount of salt present in any moisture on the hand and minute sweat secretions. Furthermore, blood circulating in the tissue layers immediately beneath the skin may also cause changes in resistance. An important cause of variation in conductivity is due to involuntary muscle movement resulting in a change in the contact between the hand and the can. Once the hand is held in a posture, such as that assumed when the can is grasped, there occur minute changes in the grip, thereby altering the degree of contact with the can and producing a change in conductivity. Variations in the dampness of the hand by sweat, the changes in blood circulating in the skin tissues and the muscle variations altering the grip may be caused by emotional stress; they are generally involuntary though attempts may be made to control them (especially the muscles of the hand) and they may be minute and unknown to the subject. However, the more sensitive the instrument the more likely it is that it will detect slight changes in resistance caused by these factors.
Though Williams said in evidence that hand contact had nothing to do with variation in resistance, the Board is satisfied that hand contact is an important factor in the operation of the E-meter, and it witnessed an experiment by an expert witness, a psychiatrist, who demonstrated
that by the application of a contact cream on the hands greatly increased conductivity was obtained. In the early days of scientology the meter was used with cans as the electrodes but as time went on other types of electrodes were introduced. At first Hubbard considered that these were equally effective but eventually he discovered that only cans were reliable and effective and he banned the use of other devices as electrodes. This emphasizes the significance of the good contact given by the wide surface of the cans which lessens the resistance.
Scientologists, without any proof that thought causes a facsimile which alters the density of the body or the electrical field of the thetan or the voltage passing through the E-meter, proceed on the assumption that it is the thetan which causes the E-meter to register.
Hubbard claims in E-meter Essentials and elsewhere that what the E-meter records is the reaction of the reactive mind, that is, the thetan, which quite independently of any answer which the conscious preclear may give, responds accordingly as it knows the answer to be by reference to the incidents recorded on its time track. The conscious mind, so it is said, may be quite unaware of the effect of the question upon the reactive mind and a negative answer by the preclear may be accompanied by a read on the meter which is equivalent to a positive answer.
The E-meter is said to provide conclusive evidence of the existence of thetans and past lives and the validity of scientology theories generally. Scientologists contend that if a preclear is asked such a question as, say, "Have you ever committed adultery", and there is a "read" on the meter then, though the preclear may answer, "No", adultery of which the thetan is aware has nevertheless been committed. Then, if the same question is asked, but preceded by the words, "In this lifetime...", and there is no "read" on the meter, the scientology explanation is that, though there may have been no adultery in the lifetime of the thetan's present mest body, the thetan was aware of adultery in the lifetime of some other body to which it had earlier been assigned, and it had irresponsibly caused the meter to read in answer to the first question because it had been imprecise. The reactive mind is quite unanalytical, writes Hubbard, and it does not reason. "A equals A equals A equals A" is how the reactive mind works, and adultery to the thetan is adultery whenever it occurred, and it answers the question asked irrespective of the experiences of the mest body which it occupies for the time being.
Amongst the various uses to which the E-meter has been put in scientology is the determination of the dates of incidents in the distant past on the time track of the preclear. This is done by time spotting, the auditor and the preclear co-operating to ascertain by the reaction of the meter when the incident in question happened. Frequently, while on the E-meter, preclears have described events trillions of years ago, even though the preclear in some cases did not know whether it was the English trillion or the American trillion to which he was referring, Hubbard, however, cleared this matter up by indicating that he meant the American trillion when he used the term in his writings. It was said that the E-meter is capable of great precision when it comes to fixing a date in the past. Scientology witnesses gave evidence and files showed that dates had been fixed down to the second, such precise fixings as 43,851,924,801 years, 94 days, 12 hours, 1 minute and 3 seconds, being quite common.
Hubbard, however, had set the fashion for such precision, as indicated in the Heaven Bulletin, which is dealt with at length in Chapter 27. In this bulletin of the 11th May, 1963, Hubbard tells of one implant he received "43,891,832,611,177 years, 344 days, 10 hours, 20 minutes and 40 seconds from 10:02.30 P.M. Daylight Greenwich Time May 9, 1963", and of another implant which he received "42,681,459,477,315 years, 132 days, 18 hours, 20 minutes and 15 seconds from 11:02 P.M. Daylight Greenwich Time May 9, l963."
Such is the reverence in which the E-meter is held that it is almost axiomatic that when the E-meter reads it is recording something. Hubbard, however, is constrained to make a few modifications of such superlative claims. In HCO Bull. of the 30th November, 1961, he makes the concession that "An E-meter has a frailty I have just discovered. It operates only if the auditor has some, even small, command value over the pc, and operates hardly at all when the auditor has no command value over the pc". This is a remarkable, though possibly unintended, admission that in order to achieve results in auditing the auditor has to be in a dominating position; in other words, at least some hypnotic or other similar control over the preclear is necessary.
Hubbard repeatedly berates auditors for failure to operate the meter efficiently. He even claims that, with his perfected techniques and good auditing with an E-meter, preclears can be audited to clear and even to OT. The trouble, he complains, is that auditors are incompetent. He maintains that it is impossible to audit to clear without the E-meter. It tells an auditor immediately, says Hubbard, what eventually he would otherwise find out only by long and arduous processing.
In 1962 Hubbard was becoming concerned about the embarrassing interest which the United States Food and Drug Administration was taking in the E-meter and claims made for it. In Pol. Ltr. of the 29th October, 1962 he endeavoured to change the role which the E-meter played in
scientology, and he wrote that "regardless of any earlier uses of psychogalvanometers in Dianetics or Psychology or in early Scientology publications when research was in progress, the Electrometer in Scientology today has no other use than" to "disclose truth to the individual who is being processed and thus free him spiritually", and that "the Electrometer is a valid religious instrument, used in Confessionals, and is in no way diagnostic and does not treat." Such a change of attitude, by Hubbard was evidently dictated by the circumstance that the Food and Drug Administration was making investigations and did subsequently institute proceedings in respect of the E-meter on the basis that unfounded and illegal claims to treat illnesses were being made for it. These proceedings, which began towards the end of l963, were still pending when the Board finished hearing evidence. Whether or not the use that is claimed for the E-meter in the United States constitutes an offence against the laws of that country is immaterial. Whether or not its use is in breach of any existing law, the use to which the E-meter is put in scientology is dastardly.
None of the scientology theories associated with, or claims made for, the E-meter is justified. They are contrary to expert evidence which the Board heard and are quite fantastic and inherently improbable. Nothing even remotely resembling credible evidence was placed before the Board in attempted justification.
The E-meter is an instrument which efficiently registers electrical resistance and nothing more. But, when used in scientology auditing, its impact is alarming. Its assumed infallibility and the theories founded on it are not questioned in any way by scientologists. The preclear is introduced to the meter at an early stage; it is often used in the personal efficiency stage; and, throughout his whole association with the HASI, it is kept prominently in the preclear's mind. The fear or the threat of being put on the E-meter because of some ARC break with the organization deters the incipient rebel.
The E-meter enables the HASI to assume, intensify and retain control over the minds and wills of preclears. Fears of its abilities keep them in constant subjection. Its use can be so manipulated by cunningly phrased questions that almost any desired result can be obtained, and it is used unscrupulously to dominate students and staff alike. All the evil features of scientology are intensified where the E-meter is involved. When used in conjunction with hypnotic techniques, its evil impact is greatly increased.
This simple electrical device is not, of course, the sole basis for the condemnation of scientology, but without the E-meter scientology would be partly disarmed.
Last updated 21 February 1997
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