L. Ron Hubbard raised Scientology from Dianetics' ashes with the aid of a device that tracks electrical resistance on skin surfaces of the "auditee's" hands during sessions. Hubbard claimed that E-meter "reads" confirmed his notions about events, images and words making up a destructive mind he called the "bank." In the auditing procedure, the readings are supposed to signify the presence and dispersal of "charge" present in the events and other "bank" material. The meter not only keeps the processing on course but also verifies the results.
Hubbard framed his theories and method in terms that thwart comparison with the rest of the world. However, we find ready comparison between the E-meter -- a biofeedback device, the tangible element in a wash of intangibility -- and the assortment of biofeedback devices used outside Scientology to monitor physiologic functions such as brainwave frequency, pulse rate and finger temperature. The readings of the non-Scientology instruments are interpreted only to the extent that their signals (dial needle, flashing light or humming tone) are deemed to indicate moment-to-moment change in a favorable or unfavorable direction.
No doubt the auditee gets "passing" and "non-passing" readings. These reflect the rise and fall of tension, and the underlying composite of mental, physical and emotional forces. A person hypothetically "wearing" biofeedback equipment through the day would get a similar variety of readings, including the equivalents of "baseline," "rising needles," "blowdowns," and "free," "floating" and "clean needles." The readings would reflect, in part, his reaction to being on the device, i.e., to situation.
Incentive, a sense of positive purpose, tends to generate the positive type of emotion that produces favorable physiologic change and improved readings. This is precisely the working principle of biofeedback training, where the trainee's object might be to slow brainwave frequency to alpha, or raise finger temperature, for health or meditation purposes. His incentive directs him to the desired result.
Incentive, of course, is also the major part of learning to pass a lie-detector test. The lie-detector is an array of biofeedback devices that supply simultaneous readings. Clearly, the very principle that makes biofeedback training possible, and useful, makes lie-detector test results inadmissible as evidence in court proceedings: One may beat the machine.
No special magic makes Scientology biofeedback different from "wog" (non-Scientology) biofeedback. Human emotion doesn't take a holiday during an auditing session. The auditee brings his hopes and dreams to the session. His prime incentive, to succeed at auditing, is channeled through the inculcation of "stable data," "R-factor," and his own auditing experience. The regimen instills how auditing is supposed to go, what should happen, and what is expected of him. He is deluged with suggestion, and may even glean the nature of his forthcoming insights from descriptions in Hubbard's writings and the "Bridge" chart, or simply from the name of the process.
The auditee begins to associate his success with the indoctrination; following the program becomes his prime incentive. When he does as Hubbard tells him he feels positive. Compliance is then reward in itself.
The auditee's motivation to get favorable readings is tremendous. With each floating needle he is closer to his shining goal. He is probably unaware that he can control the meter. In any case he wouldn't want to, for that would defeat the assumed purpose of auditing. Here emerges one of Scientology's strange contradictions: The auditee, following his natural instincts once he's on the machine, controls it anyway -- and neither he nor the auditor knows he's doing it.
To begin with, the auditee has access to the running supply of machine-generated information that constitutes biofeedback -- directly, if he is self-auditing, otherwise in the form of cues given him by his auditor. His intellect may not register this information, but his body does. He soon learns to identify a certain special feeling with end of "cycle" or process. His inner sense learns what produces a floating needle. Also what doesn't -- as when the auditor merely acknowledges and repeats the question or instruction. At some point he experiences a subtle sense of prediction about floating needles. Again, this is not his wish to influence or control the needle, but out of a feeling of accomplishment (Certainty On The Data) wedded to compliance, as well as what body-mind physiology has learned about biofeedback.
Meeting Hubbard more than halfway and complying with the program creates another conflict, strange, too, in that it contradicts Hubbard's avowed focal intention: bring to awareness and confront. The auditing situation induces non-confrontation. Avoiding more than cursory probing of his real-life trouble spots is the auditee's most efficient tactic to get him through the process to success. Repression (what Hubbard may have meant by "non-confront," "overwhelm," "unawareness," "lack of responsibility") is, of course, an unconscious mechanism. When a loaded area looms threateningly near, the auditee's inner antennae start to twitch (in psychotherapy called "defenses" or "resistance"). He may easily evade confrontation by a diversionary maneuver such as "going to an earlier incident," preferably a "past life" -- which he probably knows he is expected to deal with at some point, if not actually directed to. The auditee thus favors Hubbard, while giving short shrift to his own material, his true access to valuable discovery.
He is rewarded for this evasion. At the very least he will be acknowledged. If he has an insight, it is not discussed or questioned, but assumed automatically true and beneficial (and, again, he may have "selected" the insight from foreknowledge). If he "cleans the needle," a substantial reward is imminent, end of process and a new grade. This is likely. His defenses proved successful; his relief at manipulating the situation, and the auditor, conduces to a "clean." The machine is still God, and God is on his side. Wog emotion blows off a ton of charge with Good Indicators In.
Constant small rewards that "free up" the needle include, besides acknowledgment, non-judgmental attention and strong eye contact -- especially from an attractive auditor. Earthly incentives -- status in the group, and less cash outlay for auditing time, for example -- make quick progress through the process additionally compelling, and nudge the needle in the right direction. The auditee also has added incentive to "clean" when he is tired, bored, feels he has done enough or covered the material before, or runs out of responses. "Certainty" and a predictable floating needle get him on to the next episode -- rewardingly.
The stylized auditing communication ensures that the auditee avoids confrontation, cuts corners and hastens through the process. The communication is new and different. The "comm cycle" exchange is worlds apart from conversation or discussion; his responses are "computations," little more than meter readings, unquestioned, unchallenged and unanalyzed. The auditee operates in a vacuum. Essentially he talks to himself.
He is only doing what he is supposed to do: tense up a bit on new material, then relax ("restim/destim"). The auditor has no way of testing the auditee's decision to "clean"; he cannot read minds with his machine, and must not "evaluate" or "invalidate" by asking, for instance, "Could that floating needle merely indicate your eagerness to pass the grade?"
Nothing, then, prevents the auditee from responding to questions, and "reading" and "cleaning," as his inner sense mandates -- as long as he "meets Hubbard" and gets through the process. He has the information, the opportunity and the inducement to rapidly ascend the various stages, methodically skirting pertinent inner data, while receiving plaudits for unearned abilities and achievements. This transaction revolves not around the "bank" but around the auditee's feelings about his situation, a situation that happens to include a presumed "bank." The "charge" is not bank, but about bank.
Hubbard said: "The E-meter is never wrong. It sees all, knows all." In the real world, auditor and auditee sit to either side of the machine -- arbiter, overseer, dispenser of judgments and gifts -- neither aware that the session phenomena and effects demonstrate not Scientology but human psychology, that Hubbard's truth is not necessarily the auditee's truth, and that they are playing a game of let's pretend -- in Hubbard's language, a "mockup."
Dianetics -- whence it all began -- was Hubbard's distortion of abreaction ("reliving") therapy, which had helped war casualties, and whose proponents made no universal claims. Disbelievers in Dianetics found numerous flaws. Hubbard's mind model adheres to the ancient morality play, Good versus Evil (Hubbard focused on "bad mind," and said next to nothing about "good mind"). The book Dianetics is a flamboyant assertion of truth on word of authority (in later years, self-proclaimed "Source"), written in a self-enclosing language, for example, "clear" used as a noun and meaningful only in Hubbard's context of other self-enclosing terms. The Dianetics theory makes no allowance for vast realms of mental-emotional phenomena. The method had no lasting success, and proved dangerous for certain individuals.
Dianetics auditing produced no "clears" worthy of the name, and its inventor had financial and organizational troubles with the Dianetics movement. The unstoppable Hubbard solved the problem by creating Scientology, an exclusive enterprise he styled a religion, through which he maintained absolute control over funds, facilities, personnel and procedures; claimed church tax deductions; distracted from the failed Dianetics with metaphysics, the paranormal, and a method that now dealt with past lifetimes, damaging word patterns, and space dramas of "entities" and "implants"; declared "reliving" unnecessary with the advent of a device that refereed the struggle with "bad mind."
In short, Scientology was Hubbard's way to capitalize on Dianetics. The E-meter was instrumental (pun intended) in the transition, since it could be "scientifically" linked with concept, method, and the spirit, or "thetan."
The E-meter was, and is, an innocent victim. Hubbard's basic confusion was his identification of a machine with his already-shaky Dianetics mind-model. Meter readings are equated with solid and persisting "bank." Subjective thought content -- meaning, significance, connection, value -- is reduced to "quantities" of objective mental content -- electricity, or "charge" -- which in turn is equated with a bounded, finite quantity of "bank" content. In other words,
where each "content" is in fact something quite different in nature from the other "contents" -- a case of equating apples, oranges and pears. Premised on these faulty relationships, favorable E-meter readings are then identified with truth, existence, reality, abilities and achievements, and spiritual revelation.
Ironically, Alfred Korzybski, whom Hubbard cited as one of his intellectual mentors, devoted his lifework in General Semantics to uprooting spurious identifications. If Korzybski had known Hubbard's particular equation, and had had reason to believe (as I think he would have) that its elements, most notably the "bank," were wishfully imagined as well as falsely linked, he might have coined his own word for Hubbard's kind of reasoning.
Scientology, like much other dogma, seeks to fit everything into its system, relying upon its followers' perceiving the world within a contrived context. Common properties are interpreted as Scientologic phenomena.
The auditee is programmed to identify his experience with Hubbard's drama, and arm-twisted ("What gains?") into attributing his positive states to auditing and to nothing else -- when in fact he never lacked native ability to achieve his goals without auditing. Hubbard's glittering promises -- communication, awareness, higher states of being -- are the auditee's rightful possession, and always were. During processing, the glittering promises manifest as imitations of a constructive life process. Imitations, suggestions, rewards and hidden incentives deceive the auditee into thinking that Scientology reveals to him his own truth.
The repeated questions and acknowledgments provoke the auditee's borderline-of-consciousness thoughts, and movement and flow in his responses. Awareness of thoughts as "things" enhances movement of thought. In this respect, auditing is a listing, or itemizing, of the auditee's thoughts. Objectification of thought is, in itself, a constructive pattern; awareness of thought movement allows detachment from "items" in the mental stream.
The problem is auditing's straight-jacketing format. The objectification is not really "objective," since thought is erroneously reduced to the common denominator of "charge." Moreover, movement of thought is valuable when it is freely expressed, not stopped by floating needles or other rewards, and when it is augmented by the very elements that Scientology rejects for a "quantitative" approach: the individual's meanings, emotions, connections, comparisons, observations of his own "process" and formulation of his own principles.
Insight also becomes an imitation: "cognition." In the English language, cognition is the act, process or faculty of knowing or perceiving. In "Scientologese," it is not "cognition" but "a cognition," again a quantity or thing. Insight is not an end in itself, but an increment in a creative thought-stream, while "a cognition" is a reward, a stopping point. The auditee begins to view his insights as a Scientology property, and express them in Hubbard's terminology.
Cognition stoppage is well illustrated by the service facsimile. The auditee attains his "release" with a sentence or two, and leaves session believing that in the space of a few hours he has unearthed and left far behind a deep-seated mechanism. If the service facsimile is a truly "serviceable" idea, the arrived-at statement is an invitation to self-discovery -- an invitation, however, that the rewarded and "stopped" auditee never receives.
A cognition may be delusory. The auditee feels gratified that he has resolved a problem and gained an ability -- but this was merely suggestion confirmed by the meter. The problem resolved may never have existed for him, and the ability gained he may always have possessed.
Ex-members have observed, accurately, that auditing gives the auditee biofeedback training. In legitimate training, prompting favorable readings is regarded as a knack, not a science. The knack has been described as "letting go of thought and effort." This is exactly what the auditee does -- for whatever reason -- but he is not aware of his skill, let alone of its plausible consequences.
A confluence of forces signals the moment that everything comes together for the auditee. Something gives him a pleasurable reading. His linkage of physical and mental effect compounds the pleasure, and he gets a "high" that he attributes to Hubbard's "tech." This "confirmation" intensifies the feeling. He may experience such moments in session or afterwards. They are really the auditee's worst moments, for he then relinquishes his reality to others, and may remain convinced that he owes his beautiful moments to Scientology and will only recapture them through further auditing.
The cognitive scramble embodying "the moment" is the gateway to a topsy-turvy world where reward is self-knowledge, stoppage is flow, automaticity is communication, judgement is non-evaluation, passivity is responsibility, and slavery is freedom.
The guru dreams up something insidious, then promises to make it vanish -- usually at cost. Hubbard revealed his contempt for his followers most explicitly in his Brave New World bulletins and money-grubbing advertisements. He also gave it away in "jokes": "thetan," which sounds like "satan" with a swish; the planet "Arcelysus," in a confidential bulletin, pronounced "arse lickers." Sinister clues appear in the advanced stages. The big cognition on Power Processing is "I am (a) source." But Hubbard is "Source." Subsuming others in one's own personality is a black magic goal, and Hubbard's twist may have been inspired by the whimsical English black magician Alistair Crowley, a Hubbard role-model in the 1940s. The theme develops on the Clearing Course, where "the preclear spots the thetan." To the conditioned follower, steeped in "as-ising something away," spotting the thetan is self-erasure.
Hubbard created Dianetics/Scientology only for his own advancement. His method for eradicating the world's ills is a conditioning system that herds members through a never-ending, increasingly-expensive series of tension/relaxation rituals, with results signifying only the auditee's belief in Scientology, and of little meaning in the outside world. Hubbard's script is foreordaining and self-confirming. The auditee is prodded to rather effortlessly win a succession of prizes, the greatest one always somewhere in the offing. The system is rigged to hook him and keep him on "maintenance," waiting for his next "fix."
Scientology auditing has also been likened to hypnotism. The auditor's eyelock and repetitious pronouncements are hypnotic. "Start," "End of process," and "That's it" forcibly separate the auditee from his other life, and demark his impressionable, or altered, state. On the Clearing Course, "spotting the light" is trance-inducing, like the hypnotist's candle.
Contradictions such as I've described above, and an abusive organization, explain Scientology's high attrition rate. The defector must have wondered at some point, What does this have to do with my life? Seemingly minor discrepancies did not go unnoticed by the then-member, and may have been his first glimmer of light. Former members have mentioned their bemusement at "false," or "session," reads. It was one thing to stretch, shuffle feet or get sweaty palms, but if all one had to do to "read" or "clean" was let one's mind wander, the fabric began to show its patches. Scientologists would not agree that anomalies or defects in the meters may influence the session. Yet members have heard of, or themselves experienced, mock horror stories of an undercharged machine holding the auditee in limbo for hours.
Older material comes back with reads; "bypassed charge" must be eliminated; there is much concern about "Keeping In Gains" -- for gains may be lost. Reason: No "quantity" of charge was ever dispersed. The gains were illusory. The ex-member again faces the unwanted emotions that Scientology claimed to free him of. Only in the group was he able to have "gains" -- by submerging his problems (it is a truism that the follower may replace all his old problems with one enormous new one). When odd reads occurred, he needed a Good Auditor.
The Good Auditor is warm, sympathetic and "validating," with a flair beyond the regimented auditing communication -- hardly the impartial recorder of computations; rather, a Certainty-bolstering personality especially desired for review sessions. The Good Auditor is yet another contributor to floating needles, and another contradiction of Hubbard's auditing method.
Will Rogers said: "It ain't what don't know but what we know that ain't so that gives us trouble." To which eminent therapist Milton Erickson added: "The things that we know but don't know we know give us even more trouble."
The auditee makes a pact with himself, and with his auditor, not to ask too many questions. He blunts his reasoning faculties so he will not know what he might know if he ever looked. When things stop going well, he squelches his doubts about Hubbard, Scientology and auditing. This holds severe penalties, for he must continue to seek solution in Scientology, where his identification with "case" smacks of hypochondria. His fate hinges on "finding the right item" in review sessions or further processing.
Perception of the world in Scientology terms may stay with the member after he leaves the group. He is tied to the experience by invisible threads (in Arthur Lokos' words), and harbors lingering seeds of concept and terminology, say, of "bank," "keying in," "blowing charge." He is not aware of how this may be affecting his life.
Many ex-members blame the organization for everything wrong with Scientology, and continue to extol "Tech." They have yet to deal conclusively with the cognitive scramble. Deeper understanding will enable them to break cleanly at last.
Understanding will also help towards an assessment of the various offshoots of Hubbard's procedure.
Splinter group and "squirrel" practices have been a tradition almost from the moment Hubbard entered the mental-spiritual marketplace. The practitioners have vested emotional and financial interest in auditing -- or by whatever name. Some of them would still be in Scientology if they hadn't suffered a "purge" several years ago.
"Squirrels" simply repeat the auditing exercise away from the stifling organization. Splinter practitioners, similarly, regard Hubbard as a great benefactor who at some point took the wrong turning. They entertain theories as to where the breech occurred, and alter "Tech" in aid of finding the right path.
Splinterers may de-emphasize the "bank" or Hubbard's science fiction incidents of duress. Or they may adopt a sophisticated approach: Hubbard's creations are not taken literally, but represent disparate aspects of the psyche. The value of the procedure would be in enhancing the auditee's ability to "move mental masses," whether real or imaginary, mocking them up and releasing them -- in line with New Age as well as Hubbardian doctrine: "Things are as you consider them to be. You create your own universe."
The splinterer may refer to past lives as "karma," a bow to Eastern philosophy. Or he may pinpoint the client's "belief system," using the E-meter as a divining rod.
Whatever ties the splinter practice to Scientology -- and by definition there is something that does -- perpetuates error. Hubbard's old habits are contagious. The splinterer's thrust remains Hubbard's thrust: Get the client to have blowdowns and completed process. The danger lies in disjointed cause-and-effect. If the client feels good about something and has a blowdown, it's because of the method. To question this connection risks undermining the practice.
Splinterers who employ the meter are hard put to avoid the situations mentioned earlier. Meter performance dominated their Scientology experience, and will dominate their clients' experience to the extent that the readings are interpreted. But how can they not be interpreted in a Hubbard-derived system -- for example, through division of the procedure into a "curriculum" of stages or levels that impose a structure of interpretation on the client? (Scientologists, when apprised of the resemblance between the lie-detector and the E-meter as used in "sec checking," have called the meter a "truth-detector." However, the "truth-detecting," whether in or out of Scientology, is not, after all, done by the device but by those who "interpret" it.)
The most pervasive element, the core of "Tech," is the process itself, a set of specific steps towards a specific end result. No doubt what attracts people to Scientology -- and, likely, to splinter practices also -- is the notion that by sitting at a table, gripping a tin can in each hand and responding to prepared lists of questions, they will gain great, or transcendent, benefit.
Hubbard's Technology of Mind and Spirit is a travesty on spiritual endeavor. Putting it more charitably to those who would improve on Hubbard, it is far from the best we are capable of.
The splinter group may specialize in speeding the recovery of ex-Scientologists. A noble motive. However, the client might recover more fully through an understanding of processing and the E-meter than through further exposure.
Martin Gardner wrote in 1952, in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science: "Of all the defenses which can be made of Dianetics, the defense that `it works' is the most irrelevant ... because in the curing of neurotic symptoms anything in which a patient has faith will work. Such cures are a dime a dozen. The case histories of Dianetics are not one whit more impressive than the hundreds of testimonials to be found in Young Perkins' book on the curative power of his father's metallic tractors. They prove that Dianetics can operate on some patients as a form of faith healing. They prove nothing more."
Hubbard talked little about "faith" and "belief." He used the words "Knowingness" and "Certainty." They all mean the same.
It scarcely matters whether Hubbard's ideas were totally wrong or touched upon truth. He used them as snares. His was the common game of wealth, power, manipulation -- "for the good of humanity."
Hubbard undeniably had great talent; some would call it genius. He led an extremely active life, and met his goals except for one, emotional comfort -- for which his wealth and power could only substitute. Dianetics/Scientology was to be his cure, but it didn't work. He fell victim to the delusions he fostered in others, and it is known that, right up to his demise or shortly before, he audited himself, or was audited, on his pack of "creatures." Perhaps he, and "they," should be put to rest.
Robert Kaufman wrote the first published disclosure of Scientology's "secret processes," Inside Scientology (Olympia Press, 1972).