Scientology's Fraudulent Study Technology

Please see the New, Updated Version of this essay at The version below is provided for the historical record.

  The Hidden Message in L. Ron Hubbard's "Study Tech"

	David S. Touretzky
	Computer Science Department & 
	Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition
	Carnegie Mellon University
	Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3891

	Version of November 30, 2000.

	Copyright (c) 2000 by David S. Touretzky

In July, 1997, the Los Angeles Unified School District considered an
application by public school teacher Linda Smith to establish a new
charter school.  Smith admitted under questioning that she and her two
partners were Scientologists, and that the plans for their school
included some unusual educational materials.  Called "Study
Technology," they are based on the teachings of the late science
fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the
reincarnation/psychotherapy cult known as the Church of Scientology.
The story was broken by Duke Helfand of the LA Times in an article on
July 27, 1997.

Also that month, the California state Department of Education gave
preliminary approval (later withdrawn) for the use of five volumes in
the Study Technology series as supplemental textbooks, meaning they
could be purchased with taxpayer funds and used by schools throughout
the state.  (See second Helfand article, LA Times, July 29, 1997.)
The books fall into two groups.  The first three, Basic Study Manual,
Study Skills for Life, and Learning How to Learn, cover Study
Technology proper, but are targeted at different grade levels.  These
three books are the primary focus of this essay.  The remaining two
titles, How to Use a Dictionary, and Grammar and Communication for
Children, are unremarkable introductions to grammar and punctuation
that show only a few tiny traces of Hubbard's influence, and thus are
not really objectionable on anti-Scientology grounds.

All five books are published by Bridge Publications and distributed by
Applied Scholastics International (ASI).  The latter is in turn part
of the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE).  "The
Bridge" is Scientology's term for its series of religious training and
counseling courses; Bridge Publications is Scientology's publishing
house.  And ASI and ABLE are Scientology front groups formed and
controlled by the Church.  This raises the question of whether Smith
and the other supporters of Study Technology are attempting to use
public funds for religious instruction.  Smith and Applied Scholastics
insist the books are non-religious in nature, and a spokesperson for
the Department of Education said a committee that examined them could
find no references to Scientology (Helfand, 1997b).  It's true that
the word "Scientology" does not occur in any of these volumes.  But
Scientology jargon and religious beliefs appear throughout the three
study skills books; they are inseparable from Study Tech.  This should
preclude the use of Study Tech materials in publicly-funded
classrooms.  A previous attempt by Applied Scholastics to infiltrate
public schools in Calfornia was also rebuffed when it became clear
that Applied Scholastics was a front group for Scientology (Myslinksi,


Study Tech is founded on three principles: (1) use pictures and
diagrams to illustrate the concepts being taught, (2) break down
complex concepts so they can be mastered in a series of simple steps,
and (3) always seek definitions for unfamiliar terms.  These rules
make sense and are harmless enough when phrased in plain English.  But
the Study Tech books present them in a different manner.  The three
principles are called "mass", "gradients", and "misunderstoods":
special terms that are loaded with significance in the Scientology
religion.  And these concepts are presented in a doctrinaire manner
that is also characteristic of Scientology religious instruction.
Study Tech actually helps lay the groundwork for introducing
Scientology into the schools.

The three principles of study tech, including the peculiar terms and
physical symptoms that Hubbard associated with violations of them, are
laid out in HCO Bulletin of 25 June 1971 (revised 25 November 1974),
"Barriers to Study".  The HCO, or Hubbard Communications Office, is a
division of the Church of Scientology, and HCO bulletins, printed in
red ink on white paper, are published by the Church in a series of
hardcover books known as the "red volumes", or "tech volumes".  In
fact, the tech volumes are one of the major components of what
Scientology considers its sacred scripture.  The HCO bulletins on
study technology are also reprinted in various Scientology course
packs, such as The Student Hat, that are sold as part of the cult's
entry-level "religious services" (courses offered for a fee).  A
disclaimer at the front of each tech volume and each course pack,
including those containing the Study Tech bulletins, states: "This
book is part of the religious literature and works of the Scientology
Founder, L. Ron Hubbard."


The first principle of Study Tech states that when introducing a new
concept, it is important to have an example physically present to "get
its mass" (a uniquely Scientological phrase).  If it's not possible to
present a physical example, then a picture or diagram should be
provided.  This is not bad advice; educational psychologists have long
known that a large component of human learning is visually based.  But
a picture is worth even more than a thousand words in Scientology,
because according to Hubbard, ONLY pictures can provide the "mass"
required to understand a concept.  Nothing else will do:

  "Photographs help and motion pictures would do pretty good, as they
  are a sort of promise or hope of the mass, but the printed page and
  spoken word are not a substitute for a tractor if he's studying about
  tractors." (HCOB 25 June 1971, "Barriers to Study").

And these words are repeated in the Study Tech books:

  "If one is studying about tractors, the printed page and the spoken
  word are no substitute for having an actual tractor there.  Photographs
  or motion pictures are helpful because they represent a promise or
  hope of the mass of a tractor."  (Basic Study Manual, p. 31)

  "If you are studying about tractors, words on a page or someone
  telling you about tractors is no substitute for having an actual
  tractor there.  Photographs or motion pictures are helpful because 
  they at least give the hope of the mass of a tractor."  
 (Study Skills for Life, p. 21.)

  "But reading books or listening to someone talk does not give you
  mass."  (Learning How to Learn, p. 70).

And what is "mass"?  The definition offered in Study Tech is:

   "The mass of a subject refers to the parts of that subject
   which are composed of matter and energy and which exist in
   the material universe."  (Basic Study Manual, p. 24)

In other words, mass is what can be visualized.  But Hubbard's
pronouncement that learning cannot take place without visual aids goes
too far.  Must every sentence of every book be accompanied by a
picture?  Does a book on political theory, quantum physics, or the
life of Shakespeare require a picture to illustrate each concept?
Certainly not.

The study tech books claims that several physical maladies are
associated with lack of mass:

  "Such an absence of mass can actually make a student feel squashed.
  It can make him feel bent, sort of spinny, sort of dead, bored, and
  exasperated."  (Basic Study Manual, pp. 25-30)

This too comes directly from Scientology scripture:

  "Education in the absence of the mass in which the technology will
  be involved is very hard on the student.  It actually makes him feel
  squashed, makes him feel bent, sort of spinny, sort of dead, bored,
  and exasperated."  (HCOB 25 June 1971, "Barriers to Study")

Hubbard was fond of making bold assertions unsupported by evidence.
We will return to the issue of Study Tech's dubious physiological
claims later.


    "Gradient: a gradual approach to something, taken step
    by step, level by level, each step or level being, of itself,
    easily surmountable -- so that, finally, quite complicated and
    difficult activities or high states of being can be achieved
    with relative ease.  This principle is applied to both Scientology
    processing and training."
       -- from a glossary provided by ABLE, the parent organization
	  of Applied Scholastics (the promoters of Study Tech).

There is nothing objectionable in the notion that complex ideas should
be mastered by breaking them down into simpler steps done in a logical
order.  But Study Tech turns this sensible advice into rigid dogma,
with a warning that violations can have unpleasant consequences.  "If
you have skipped a gradient you may feel a sort of confusion or
reeling" (Learning How to Learn, p. 84.)  The illustrations of this
idea on pp. 84-85 show a boy who was trying to build a doghouse
"seeing stars" as if he just got whacked in the head with one of the
boards he was hammering.  Once again, these claims are right out of
Scientology scripture:

  "There is another series of physiological  phenomena that exist 
  which is based on the fact of too steep a study gradient... It's a
  sort of confusion or a reelingness that goes with this one."
  (HCOB 25 June 1971, "Barriers to Study")

Within Scientology, the gradient doctrine is an important tool for
controlling how members approach the group's literature.  It
discourages beginning students from looking too closely into
Scientology's claims about what lies at the far end of "The Bridge":
an "advanced spiritual technology" by which adepts can achieve power
over "matter, energy, space, and time."  Students are told they're not
yet ready to learn about such things, but it is the bait used to
attract many a new member.  Once indoctrinated into the principles of
Study Tech, adherents accept that they must approach Scientology on
the "gradient" the Church lays out for them, or else suffer the

Being "out-gradient" is actually considered an ethical violation in
Scientology, because it is "out-tech", or contrary to Hubbard's
teachings about how one should study.  But if a beginning student does
encounter some of Hubbard's more outrageous writings, the gradient
concept offers a way for them to avoid acknowledging the absurdity.
Consider two remarkable claims in Hubbard's book "Scientology: A
History of Man": that human beings evolved from clams who were preyed
upon by birds (p. 53), and that the spirits of most humans go to Mars
for re-brainwashing when their bodies die (p. 116).  Rather than
trying to defend this nonsense when low-level Scientologists or
members of the public ask about it, the response of Scientology
officials is that History of Man is an advanced text -- too steep a
gradient for non-believers or beginning Scientologists to deal with --
which conveniently rules out any possibility of debating the book on
its merits.  The questioner is then directed toward entry-level
courses so that he or she can learn be properly conditioned before
being exposed to this "advanced" material.

An even more troubling application of the gradient principle is
Scientology's belief that truth itself must be approached on a
gradient.  This provides the rationale for Scientology's lying to the
public about its most controversial teachings, because according to
Hubbard, when dealing with "raw public" one must be careful to give
them an "acceptable truth" (both are Hubbard's terms.)  For example,
Scientology publicly claims to be compatible with all other religions
(see What is Scientology?, 1992 edition, p. 545.)  But the truth is
that reincarnation, central to the Scientology belief system, is
considered a heresy by the Catholic Church and most other Christian
denominations.  In his more advanced lectures, withheld from the
public as "confidential data", Hubbard expresses outright contempt for
Christianity, stating that the concepts of heaven, angels, and "the
man on the cross" are fictions implanted into mankind's collective
subconscious by malicious space aliens (Class VIII [Auditor's] Course,
"Krakatoa and Beyond", October 3, 1968; Professional Auditors
Bulletins, vol. 2, p. 26, copyright 1954; see also Scott, 1996).
Hubbard's views are hardly respectful toward, much less compatible
with, Christian beliefs.  Revealing this truth too early would surely
interfere with Scientology's marketing efforts.  In Scientology-speak,
telling the truth about what the group actually believes is "out-tech"
because it would result in "too steep a gradient" for the potential
recruit.  Hence, deception is the "ethical" course.  (Hubbard's book
Introduction to Scientology Ethics illustrates how Scientology
redefines "ethical" to mean that which best advances the interests of


The third principle of Study Tech centers on the concept of
misunderstood words.  They're called "misunderstoods" in the books,
and abbreviated as M/U or Mis-U in Scientology.  Misunderstoods can be
"cleared" by looking up the word in a dictionary.  This is fine as far
as it goes; students should certainly learn to use a dictionary.  But
according to Hubbard, misunderstood words are not a minor problem;
they are "the most important barrier to study" (Learning How to Learn,
p. 101; Basic Study Manual, p. 49), and "the only reason a person
would stop studying or get confused or not be able to learn" (Learning
How to Learn, p. 114; Basic Study Manual, preface).  In fact, "THE
to Use a Dictionary, p. 282; capitalization as in the original.)  This
sentence also appears in the frontmatter of all Scientology religious

This emphasis on the misunderstood WORD, in isolation, turns common
sense into dangerous dogma.  Students are told explicitly that when
they have a problem with understanding, "It's not a misunderstood
phrase or idea or concept, but a misunderstood WORD" (Basic Study
Manual, p. 153, emphasis as in the original.)
According to the Study Tech materials, a single misunderstood word can
cause a person to not remember anything on the page they just read, or
make them want to stop studying the subject altogether (Learning How
to Learn, p. 116; Basic Study Manual, pp. 58-59).  The books also
teach that misunderstood words cause physical symptoms: feeling blank,
tired, worried, upset, "like you are not there", or suffering "a sort
of nervous hysteria" (Learning How to Learn, pp. 110-112; Basic Study
Manual, pp. 50-52.) Again, these symptoms come directly from
Scientology scripture:

  "A bypassed definition gives one a distinctly blank feeling or a
  washed-out feeling.  A not-there feeling and a sort of nervous
  hysteria will follow in the back of that."
  (HCOB 25 June 1971, "Barriers to Study")

Hubbard's obsession with misunderstood words leads to a number of
uniquely Scientological practices, such as a fondness for
dictionaries.  Several large dictionaries are found in all Scientology
churches.  Hubbard's religious writings forbid the use of pocket
dictionaries, which he dubbed "dinky dictionaries", because of the
inferior quality of their definitions (HCO Bulletin of 19 June 1972
revised 3 June 1986, "Dinky Dictionaries", and HCO Bulletin of 13
February 1981, revised 25 July 1987, "Dictionaries".)  Scientology
also publishes several dictionaries of its own extensive jargon,
including the Basic Dictionary of Dianetics and Scientology, the much
more comprehensive Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary
(known as the "tech dictionary"), and Modern Management Technology
Defined: Hubbard Dictionary of Administration and Management (the
"admin dictionary").

Another strange Scientology practice associated with "misunderstoods"
is the treatment of yawning.  Since misunderstoods are supposed to
make one feel tired, anyone caught yawning in a Scientology courseroom
is thought to have overlooked a misundersood word and thus be in dire
danger of failing in their studies.  They are ordered to go back over
what they were reading until they find the misunderstood word and
review its definition in the dictionary (Wakefield, 1991, ch. 4).
This treatment for yawning is also mentioned in the Basic Study Manual
(p. 154) and Learning How to Learn (p. 136), both of which include
pictures of a yawning boy.  Beverly Rice, who once taught at a school
run by Applied Scholastics, reported that her students learned to
"... NEVER yawn if you were tired.  A yawn would bring the supervisor
running and meant having to go backwards on your course in the great
MU hunt" (message posted to the alt.religion.scientology newgroup on
August 17, 1997.)

Yawning may simply mean that a student needs to take a break.  And
there are many other factors besides misunderstood words that can
cause lack of comprehension.  The material itself could have problems.
Bad grammar, faulty logic, disorganized exposition, and obviously
false factual statements are examples.  Why place all the emphasis on
just one possible source of confusion?

Study Tech's focus on misunderstood words is not just some arbitrary
bit of educational dogma.  It is an intentional and effective device
for suppressing critical thought.  If one expresses disagreement with
the material one is studying in Scientology, that's taken as evidence
of a misunderstood word.  And each M/U must be located and cleared
before moving on to other material.  Hence, unless a student of
Scientology wants to be stuck reading the same page over and over
again, looking up definitions in a dictionary ad nauseum, he must keep
any negative feelings about the content to himself.  If he expresses
dislike for a subject and a desire to stop studying it, that is taken
as further evidence that he has a misunderstood word.  The idea that
one can have a legitimate disagreement with something written by
"Source", as L. Ron Hubbard is referred to in Scientology, is simply
not on the table.  All disagreement is dismissed as misunderstanding
-- a dangerous attitude for an educational system to promote.

After the appearance of the July 1997 LA Times story about Linda
Smith's charter school proposal, Joe Harrington, who was active in
Scientology for 24 years, wrote the following in a posting to the
alt.religion.scientology newsgroup:

  The fundamental tenet of Hubbard's "study tech" is that ANY
  disagreement with the subject matter being studied, ANY inability to
  apply the materials, and any non-comprehension of the materials stems
  ONLY from "misunderstood words" in the "Source" materials.  With this
  mechanism, Hubbard made his "source" materials infalliable. In the
  Scientology "study tech" mindset, there can be NO dissent with
  Hubbard's utterances and ANY difficulty the student is having with the
  subject or the organization stems ONLY from misunderstood words he
  went past.

  Using Hubbard's notion of the "misunderstood word", one could
  introduce a "Source" textbook on geology, written by the President of
  the Flat Earth Society and have every student who disagreed with the
  materials look up all the "misunderstood words" they went past, until
  harmony with the Source material was in place.

Harrington's characterization seems accurate.  When I asked Heidrun
Beer, at the time a devoted Scientologist, what she would do if she
found a Hubbard policy she could not agree with, her reply was: "I'd
go back and find my misunderstood word."  Beer has since broken with
the Church.


The most bizarre application of Scientology's mythology about
"misunderstoods" occurs in NOTs, a series of 55 memos that constitute
the highest levels of the group's "advanced spiritual technology".
These materials are now available on the Internet, despite the
Church's strenuous objections; see (Touretzky, 1996) for details.
NOTs stands for New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans.  "Thetan" is
Scientology's term for the spirit, and an "operating thetan" is a
person who has acquired enhanced abilities or magical powers through
Scientology training.  The basis for all of the operating thetan
literature is the Scientology doctrine that a terrible holocaust,
initiated by the evil galactic ruler Xenu some 75 million years ago,
caused the human race to become infested with the spirits of billions
of murdered space aliens.  These luckless spirits, victims of Xenu's
genocide, are called "body thetans", or BTs, because they attach
themselves to our bodies.  Essentially, BTs are spiritual parasites.
The most advanced levels of Scientology "auditing" (counseling) are
devoted to exorcising them.

The NOTs documents describe a variety of procedures for ridding
oneself of BTs.  The basic idea is that one must make telepathic
contact with the BT and communicate with it while using an electronic
device called an E-meter to monitor the results.  The communication
consists of various questions or commands to the BT, with the goal of
getting the BT "unstuck" so that it can depart.

In NOTs number 46, "BTs With Misunderstood Words", Hubbard reveals
that some body thetans are hung up because they suffer from
misunderstood words, just as humans do:

  "BTs can get Mis-Us from reading matter, foreign languages, and I
  have found BTs that don't speak English. Where it really goes wild
  is in auditing, where the BT has a Mis-U on the auditing command or
  question. They would then answer the auditing question wrong to
  themselves, causing a case hang up right there.

  There is also a basic consideration that the Dead would not
  understand anything anyway."
    -- from NED for OTs Series 46, "BTs with Misunderstood Words",
       by L. Ron Hubbard.  HCO Bulletin of 22 February 1979.

According to the procedure outlined in the NOTs 46 bulletin, a BT with
this problem can be exorcised by finding out, through a series of
prescribed telepathic questions, the exact nature of its
misunderstanding.  (But it does not need to look up the word in a
dictionary.)  Hubbard writes:

  "And of course the fact that these Mis-Us may be a BT's Mis-Us
  rather than the person's own Mis-Us, will dispel any mystery about
  why one can run into Mis-U word phenomena when one knows the word
  himself... These BT with Mis-Us are easily handled by use of the trick 
  of communicating with them conceptually, rather than with words."
    -- NED for OTs Series 46, ibid.

Note: the NED for OTs documents are considered highly confidential by
the Church of Scientology.  Most Scientologists, if asked about them,
will deny ever hearing of body thetans and insist that the quotations
must be forgeries intended to discredit the Church.  But the
authenticity of these materials has been confirmed by Scientology's
own lawyers in a number of lawsuits in the US and Europe, and in legal
threats addressed to me personally.  Devoted Scientologists who ARE
familiar with Church doctrine on body thetans refuse to discuss it
with non-members, because doing so would be "out-gradient" and violate
a confidentiality agreement they have signed.  But ex-members are more
than willing to spill the beans (Atack, 1990; Wakefield, 1991).

In summary, the "misunderstood word" is a crucial concept in the
Scientology belief system.  Misunderstood words are so dangerous, they
may manifest as physical illness, emotional outbursts, or "nervous
hysteria".  Even alien spirits are susceptible to their effects.  This
belief in the power of "the misunderstood" provides Scientology with a
fiendishly clever tool for blocking adherents from expressing any
disagreement with the material they're given to read.  In Scientology,
all disagreement with Hubbard is really misunderstanding.  Critical
thinking, for a Scientologist, is unnecessary and disruptive.


The remedy for misunderstood words is "word clearing".  Study Skills
for Life (pp. 66-74) includes a simplified treatment of word clearing,
using a six-step procedure that begins with looking up the word in a
dictionary and using each of its definitions in several example
sentences.  The student then reviews the derivation of the word, and
studies any idioms associated with it.  Finally he reviews any
additional information provided in the dictionary, such as usage notes
or synonyms.

The more comprehensive Basic Study Manual describes three separate
techniques for "word clearing".  They are called Method 3, Method 9,
and Method 7, in that peculiar order.

Method 3 Word Clearing is to be used when the student is showing a
lack of enthusiasm, is yawning, doodling, daydreaming, or otherwise
failing to make progress.  The student is instructed to go back over
the material he's been reading until he finds the misunderstood word.

  "There is one always; there are no exceptions.  It may be that the
  misunderstood word is two pages or more back, but it is always earlier
  in the text than where the student is now" (Basic Study Manual,
  p. 155).

The word is then looked up in a dictionary, and "cleared" by studying
the definition, using the word in several sentences, reviewing the
derivation, and so on.  The Basic Study Manual admonishes (p. 159):

  Good Word Clearing is a system of backtracking.  You have to look
  earlier than the point where the student became dull or confused and
  you'll find that there's a word that he doesn't understand somewhere
  before the trouble started.  If he doesn't brighten up when the word
  is found and cleared, there will be a misunderstood word even before
  that one.

No doubts about the effectiveness of Hubbard's methods are permitted.
One must simply apply them until they work.

In the second approach, Method 9 Word Clearing, the student reads
aloud to a partner, the "word clearer", who watches for stumbling
points.  Any hesitation, mispronunciation, or fidgeting is taken as
evidence of a misunderstood word.  The word clearer must interrupt the
student and get him to go back and find this word, which is then
cleared by looking it up in a dictionary, verbally paraphrasing each
of the definitions to the word clearer, and then using the word in
several sentences.  In an example given in the Basic Study Manual
(pp. 188-195), the student reads "The quick brown fox jumped over the
lazy fence", but the last word was supposed to be "dog".  The word
clearer points out the error, and the student goes back and discovers
that it is the word "lazy" that she does not understand.  After
reviewing the dictionary definition, she is able to read the sentence
correctly.  Later, the two persons switch roles, and when the former
word clearer (now in the role of student) reads the same sentence, it
comes out "The quick brown fox jumpled..."  This mispronunciation is
caught and discovered to be due to a lack of understanding of the word
"quick", so the dictionary is brought out again.

It's hard to take these idiotic examples seriously, or imagine anyone
wanting to subject themselves to such a tedious procedure every time
they yawn or make a slip of the tongue.  But this is what Scientology
says one must do to overcome "the most important barrier to study".
And this is what the Study Tech books teach.

Method 7 Word Clearing is intended for "children, foreign language
persons, or semiliterates" (Basic Study Manual, p. 199), and also
involves reading aloud.  The word clearer follows along in his own
copy of the text, and checks for omitted or misread words,
hesitations, or frowns.  When one of these signs occurs, the word
clearer identifies the misunderstood word and looks it up for the
student in a dictionary, or simply explains it to him.  Method 7 is
intended to be used when the student lacks the ability to look up
words for himself.

One might wonder why only methods 3, 9, and 7 appear in the Basic
Study Manual.  Why are they numbered so strangely?  From what larger
list were they drawn?  Once again, the answer lies in Scientology
religious scripture.  HCO Bulletin 1 July 1971, revised 11 January
1989, "The Different Types of Word Clearing", defines all nine
methods.  Before describing the methods left out of the Basic Study
Manual and why Scientology doesn't want to discuss them, we need to
take a look at Scientology's teachings about "mental mass" and the
E-meter device.


One of the most fundamental teachings of Scientology is that painful
events are permanently recorded in our minds as mental image pictures,
called "engrams", or "mental mass".  This includes not just the pain
associated with physical injury, but also simple discomfort, or
unpleasant emotions such as fear, confusion, or embarassment.  Hubbard
constructed an elaborate pseudo-science around the idea of mental
mass.  According to Scientology doctrine, focusing attention on a
mental image picture causes its mass to increase.  And:

  "... mental mass is mass.  There's no doubt about that.  It has
  weight.  Very tiny, but it has weight.  And it actually has size
  and shape."  (Hubbard, 1982, p. 106.)

  "... an increase of as much as thirty pounds, actually measured on 
  scales, has been added to, and subtracted from, a body by creating 
  `mental energy'."  (Hubbard, 1982, p. 50.)

The elimination of mental mass is the central ritual -- and the
largest source of income -- of the Church of Scientology.  It is
accomplished by replaying the mental image pictures until the "charge"
(or mass) associated with them blows off.  Scientologists believe that
the mass of an engram can be measured electronically, using their
E-meter device, short for "electropsychometer".  The E-meter is
essentially an ohmmeter; it measures skin resistance the same way a
lie detector does.  Scientology auditing (counseling) sessions use the
E-meter to help the subject "locate" and "erase" their mental mass,
supposedly thereby freeing them from the emotionally and physically
harmful effects of their bad memories (Cooper, 1971, ch. 18).  The
E-meter can detect when engrams are discharged -- according to Hubbard
-- because the body's electrical resistance decreases as mental mass
is eliminated.  More information on the E-meter can be found on my
"Secrets of the E-Meter" web site (Touretzky, 2000).

Scientology has a history of making unsubstantiated claims about the
power of E-meter auditing to cure disease.  On January 4, 1963, the US
Food & Drug Administration raided the Washington, D.C. headquarters of
the Church of Scientology and seized more than one hundred E-meters as
illegal medical devices.  This was as a direct result of fraudulent
claims Hubbard had been making about the machine (Atack, 1990, pt. 3,
ch. 7; Miller, 1989, ch. 15, pp. 246-248.).  The subsequent legal
battle over the raid led eventually to a settlement under whose terms
E-meters were required to bear a printed disclaimer.  The disclaimer
found on current models begins: "By itself, this meter does nothing.
It is solely for the guide of Ministers of the Church in Confessionals
and pastoral counselling.  The Electrometer is not medically or
scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily function of

The latest model of the E-meter, known as the Hubbard Professional
Mark Super VII Quantum, was unveiled in 1996.  The Church Of
Scientology charges its members more than $3,500 for it, although the
cost of the components is at most a few hundred dollars.


As described earlier, Study Tech associates different physiological
symptoms with violations of each of the three "barriers to study":

 - Lack of mass causes one to feel squashed, bent, "spinny", dead,
   bored, or exasperated.  In Learning How to Learn, additional 
   symptoms listed include headaches (p. 64) and eyestrain (p. 66).

 - Too steep a gradient causes a feeling of confusion or "reelingness".

 - A misunderstood word causes one to feel blank, washed-out, or
  "not-there", or to suffer a sort of nervous hysteria.

These symptoms are reinforced throughout the books:

   "What would you do if you and your brother were in your 
   bedroom and he was explaining to you about the engine in
   your dad's car and you started to feel bored and your head
   started to ache?"  (Learning How to Learn, p. 73)

   "... if a child were studying and felt sick and it was
   traced back to a lack of mass, the positive remedy would 
   be to supply the mass -- the object itself or a reasonable
   substitute -- and the child's sickness could rapidly clear
   up."  (Basic Study Manual, p. 35)

Scientologists believe all of these unpleasant feelings are recorded
as engrams.  Therefore, they are detectable by the E-meter.  And this
brings us to the word clearing methods that were omitted from the
Basic Study Manual.  Methods 1, 2, 4, and 5 involve use of the
E-Meter, the device intended "for religious use by students and
Ministers of the Church of Scientology only" (another quote from the
disclaimer attached to the Mark Super VII.)

In Method 1 Word Clearing, the "auditor" goes through a long list of
subjects while the student listens.  The auditor notes those subjects
that cause "reads" (abnormal needle movements on the meter, indicating
mental mass.)  Afterward, the auditor goes back and, for each noted
subject, finds a chain of earlier words or earlier subjects,
considering each in turn to see what problems the student may have
with them.  Reviewing these problems is supposed to release the
"charge", meaning the mental mass evaporates.

According to Scientology, when we die and are reincarnated, we take
our accumulated mental image pictures along with us.  This can include
mental image pictures of the discomfort caused by misunderstood words:

  "If it didn't clear up at once he would send them back to get them to
  look up the word and use it in a couple of sentences.  Then if THAT 
  didn't clear it up he'd send them to the Word Clearer and really let 
  them get worked over, because it goes way back.  They even found a 
  student who had a misunderstood word clear back into his last life."
  (HCO Bulletin of 25 June 1971, revised 11 January 1989, "Supervisor
  Two-Way Comm and the Misunderstood Word")

Method 2 word clearing is used to clear words in specific materials.
The student reads the material to himself while holding the E-meter
electrodes.  The auditor monitors the E-meter, and misunderstood words
are detected by meter readings.

Method 4 is used by "cramming officers" to search for misunderstood
words. (Cramming is Scientology's term for remedial instruction
ordered when a student shows lack of mastery of prevously studied
material.)  The cramming officer reviews the material with the student
and uses the E-meter to "fish" for misunderstoods.

In Method 5, the word clearer feeds words to the student one at a time
and asks for their definitions.  Those the student cannot define are
looked up in the appropriate dictionary.  (A Scientology dictionary is
used for Scientology terms.)  This may be done with or without the
E-meter.  Method 5 is the method used to clear words used as auditing
commands in Scientology counseling sessions.

Method 6 is called Key Word Clearing, because it focuses on the key
terms associated with a specific post (i.e., a job, either within the
Scientology organization or in the secular world), or a specific
subject.  The word clearer makes a list of these terms in advance, and
then asks the student to provide a definition for each one.

Method 8, which appears to no longer be in use, was supposed to
produce something called "superliteracy".  Students make an
alphabetical list of every word in a piece of material to be studied.
They then look up the definition of every word.  This was claimed to
give complete mastery of the material, but, unsurprisingly, it never
lived up to Hubbard's promise.

It should be evident by now that word clearing with or without an
E-meter is a prominent part of the Scientology religion.  The Study
Tech books discuss only three methods, and make no mention of the
E-meter, in an effort to hide the essentially religious nature of the
practice.  But a secular version of the E-meter, called a "Learning
Accelerator", is reported to have been used in at least one supposedly
non-denominational private school controlled by Applied Scholastics,
with wider release planned once Study Tech gains a foothold in the
public schools.

Joe Harrington, who was active in Scientology from 1966 to 1990 and
has studied the highest levels of its scripture, wrote in 1997 that:

  The e-meter is extensively used in the "study tech" setting.  Students
  are periodically subjected to questioning on the meter to ascertain if
  they have any disagreements or misunderstood words they have not
  looked up. Students who refuse to submit to meter checking are routed
  to ethics, or required to write confessions of all their transgressions  
  while they were being a student.
    -- from a posting to alt.religion.scientology, cited earlier


All three Study Tech books also include sections on "demo kits" and
"clay tables" as a means of "getting the mass" of the ideas the
student is studying.  A demo kit is a collection of odds and ends,
such as rubber bands, paperclips, corks, pen tops, thumbtacks,
erasers, etc.  The student is supposed to "demo" a concept by choosing
several objects, assigning them significance, and verbalizing or
physically demonstrating the relationships between them.

In secular terminology we would call this "making a model".  And while
such activities are certainly beneficial at times, the authors of the
Study Tech books seem to have no clue about when models are
appropriate and when they're not.  The example given in the Basic
Study Manual shows a girl looking down at a random collection of
objects on the table in front of her, including a key, a rubber band,
and a paperclip.  The accompanying thought bubble reads:

  "The key represents the student and he is reading a page which is
  this rubber band, and he goes past a misunderstood word, shown by
  a paper clip.  When he gets here to the bottom of the page, he will
  feel blank because of the misunderstood word he didn't look up.
  Right!  That makes sense!"   (Basic Study Manual, p. 140)

If this is the best example they can come up with, then the utility of
demo kits is a dubious proposition at best.

The clay table is a more elaborate model-making practice, unique to
Scientology.  Once again, the instructions for this activity come
directly from Scientology scripture, such as HCO Bulletin 11 October
1967, "Clay Table Training".  Students construct a "clay demo" of a
concept by modeling its components in clay and assigning a paper label
to each.  The instructor is supposed to be able to infer the concept
by viewing the completed clay demo scene.  An example given in the
Study Tech books is a clay demo of a pencil: the labeled parts are a
thin cylinder with a point on one end labeled "lead", another cylinder
wapped around it labeled "wood", and a blob at the end opposite the
point labeled "rubber".

Students are cautioned to label each object as they make it, for a
rather peculiar reason:

  This comes from the data that optimum learning requires an equal
  balance of mass and significance and that too much of one without the
  other can make the student feel bad.  If a student makes all the
  masses of his demonstration at once, without labeling them, he is
  sitting there with all those significances stacking up in his mind
  instead of putting down each one (in the form of a label) as he goes.
  (Basic Study Manual. p. 144)

The books go on to show how thoughts can be represented in clay.  One
makes a human figure (with a label saying "person"), and then makes a
sort of clay lariat coming out of its head.  The loop of the lariat
lies on the table, and within the loop one puts a model of the thing
being thought about.  For example, a person thinking of a ball would
be modeled as a human figure labeled "person", a lariat labeled
"thought" coming out of its head, and a ball of clay labeled "ball"
sitting within the loop of the lariat (Basic Study Manual, p. 145;
Study Skills for Life, p. 92).

Clay table work is not only used to improve the student's
understanding of ideas.  Within Scientology, "clay table processing",
using the same materials and notational conventions, is a type of
auditing, or religious counseling.  In HCO Bulletin 27 October 1989,
"How to Do Clay Table Processing", Hubbard warns:

  "Clay Table Processing is an AUDITED action and is done per the rules
  of auditing and is always done with an auditor or student auditor or
  Supervisor standing right there running the process on the person."

Whether religious or not, clay table work is a clearly a simple-minded
approach to understanding abstract concepts.  Critics of Scientology
charge that the real purpose of the exercise, when done by adults, is
to foster a kind of age regression, thereby making them more
suggestible and hence more easily indoctrinated into Scientology's
mode of thinking.


A curious fact about the Study Tech books is that they list no author
or editor.  The covers all say "Based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard",
and the coyright registration is held by the L. Ron Hubbard Library.
But while the copyright dates are 1992 (or in the case of the Basic
Study Manual, 1990), Hubbard died in 1986.  So who wrote these books?

The decision to list no author or editor was made by Scientology's
publisher, Bridge Publications, on the grounds that:

  "Mr. Hubbard was the author of the ideas and the technology of
  study... As they are Mr. Hubbard's ideas and methodologies, and his 
  alone, Bridge Publications assigned the credit where it is  
  incontrovertibly due, to L. Ron Hubbard, the originator." 
    -- Scott D. Welch, Senior Vice President of Bridge Publications, 
       in a letter to the editor of Education Week, published 
       October 10, 1997.
But why was no one credited for the work of putting Hubbard's ideas
into textbook form?  With a few minor exceptions very early in the
Church's history, no one other than L. Ron Hubbard has ever received
named authorship or editorial credit for any publication containing
Scientology "technology".  Scientology holds Hubbard to be the only
source of approved knowledge.  He is in fact referred to as "Source"
in the Church's publications.  During Hubbard's lifetime, aides wrote
many of his technical bulletins, but the faithful were told that the
aides wrote only what Hubbard dictated, and that he approved every
document before it was issued.  Despite his death, Scientology
continues to publish new Hubbard religious works, with the explanation
that Hubbard left a huge body of unpublished material, and as these
documents are "discovered" they are readied for publication by the
Church.  Scientology even manages to issue revised versions of
previous Hubbard publications, by "discovering" Hubbard's "original"
text, which had somehow been altered by a disloyal staffer prior to

It is a high crime in Scientology to alter any of Hubbard's writings.
This explains why the Basic Study Manual has to list the three word
clearing methods as numbers 3, 9, and 7.  Renumbering these methods
would be an alteration of "the tech", and would make the Basic Study
Manual incompatible with Scientology scripture.


Bridge Publications publishes Hubbard's most famous book, Dianetics,
and all his other writings that make up Scientology's religious
scripture.  It also publishes his fiction, including the novel
Battlefield Earth that was recently made into a film starring John
Travolta.  When Bridge published the Study Tech books, it included
some interesting legal boilerplate.  William J. Bennetta, President of
the Textbook League in Sausolito, California, calls it "one of the
most bizarre disclaimers I have ever seen. "  Mr. Bennetta's
observation appears in a highly critical letter to the editor
published in Education Week on October 8, 1997, in response to a story
about the recent attempt to introduce Study Tech into California
schools.  The disclaimer in each of the Study Tech volumes reads:

  This book is part of the works of L. Ron Hubbard.  It is presented to
  the reader as part of the record of his personal research into life,
  and the application of same by others, and should be construed only
  as a written report of such research and not as a statement of claims
  made by the author.

Mr. Bennetta was apparently unaware that essentially the same legal
disclaimer appears in all of Scientology's religious publications.


The job of Applied Scholastics is to promote Study Tech.  The group is
run by Scientologists, and its celebrity spokesperson is the actress
(and prominent Scientologist) Anne Archer.  In addition to
distributing the Study Tech books, Applied Scholastics operates
several schools that utilize Study Technology.  Some of these are
supposedly secular schools, but attendance is mainly by children of
Scientologists.  Applied Scholastics also offers training courses for
teachers, and other training services that businesses can contract for
their employees.  These courses are promoted as teaching such things
as communication skills and time management techniques, but in
reality, they teach Scientology.  In a 1992 lawsuit in Santa Clara,
California, three persons who were subjected to Applied Scholastics
courses sued their employer, Applied Materials, for retaliating
against them when they refused to continue participating in training
that amounted to Scientology indoctrination (Hemet (California) News,
July 29, 1992.)  The employer eventually settled the case for an
estimated $600,000.

The World Literacy Crusade is a reading program headquartered in
Compton, California that utilizes Study Tech.  Long-time Scientologist
Isaac Hayes is the celebrity spokesperson, and Baptist minister
Alfreddie Johnson is the founder and putative CEO.  While teaching
people to read is a praiseworthy activity, the real goal of the WLC is
to disseminate Study Technology and generate positive publicity for
Scientology.  The WLC also promotes Scientology's Narconon program for
drug rehabilitation (see the WLC's web site at

Although advocates of Study Tech insist that Applied Scholastics and
the World Literacy Crusade are secular organizations, the claim is
made only half-heartedly.  Scientology created an umbrella
organization called ABLE, the Association for Better Living and
Education, to coordinate several social betterment projects used to
generate positive publicity for the cult, and thereby assist it in
making inroads into conventional society.  The programs ABLE oversees
are Narconon, Criminon, the Way to Happiness Foundation, Applied
Scholastics, and the World Literacy Crusade.

Narconon is a drug rehabilitation program, and Criminon is a program
for rehabilitating criminals.  Both are of dubious effectiveness, and
both are used as recruiting vehicles for the cult.  Their therapies
consist largely of courses similar in content to basic Scientology

The Way to Happines Foundation distributes a pamphlet Hubbard wrote
with the same title.  It's an awkwardly written and in places
downright creepy rewrite of the Ten Commandments, but there are 21 of
them, and God is never mentioned.  It can be read online at

The Church of Scientology loses no opportunity to claim the credit for
the activities of Applied Scholastics, the World Literacy Crusade, and
the other divisions of ABLE, both in its publications (see any edition
of "What is Scientology?") and on its web sites.

Applied Scholastics is housed along with Narconon and the Way to
Happiness Foundation at 7060 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.  The
parent organization, ABLE, has its offices nearby at 6331 Hollywood
Boulevard, which also holds the offices of the Church of Scientology
International.  The California Department of State lists Applied
Scholastics' registered agent as Sherman Lenske, the man who was once
L. Ron Hubbard's personal attorney, and who is a founder and lifetime
member of the board of directors of the Church of Spiritual
Technology: the shadow corporation that is believed to hold the real
power in Scientology.


During the controversy in California, reporter Sara Catania
interviewed several educators about the Study Tech books for an
article that appeared in LA Weekly on November 12, 1997.  The result:

  Johanna Lemlech, a professor of education at USC specializing in
  curriculum and teaching, calls the books "awful."  They "violate
  everything we know about how children learn, and appropriate
  pedagogy," she says. "In short, these books should be carefully placed
  in the cylindrical file."  (Catania, 1997)

Ms. Catania also interviewed members of the Los Angeles school board,
about which she wote:

  One member of the Los Angeles school board is unimpressed.  A former
  high school history teacher, David Tokofsky calls the books "remedial"
  and says they would be of little use to any but the lowest-performing
  students. "If you walked into an eighth-grade class and tried to use
  these books on kids who are at the proper level, you'd kill them,"
  says Tokofsky, who coached the Marshall High School Academic Decathlon
  team to a national championship in 1987.  "They're not even good comic
  books."  (Catania, ibid)

Journalist Mark Walsh, in a September 17, 1997 article in Education
Week, interviewed MaryEllen Vogt, a professor of education at
California State University at Long Beach.  Professor Vogt expressed
concerns about the Study Tech books' reliance on Word Clearing as the
only route to comprehension.  Walsh quotes her directly:

  "The reading process is so complex," she said. The principles in
  Hubbard's three barriers to learning focus primarily on reading at the
  word level.

  "But there is a whole other aspect of the reading process that is
  ignored," added Ms. Vogt, who is a former president of the California
  Reading Association and a past board member of the International
  Reading Association.

  "For older readers, we sometimes say, 'Skip a word you don't
  understand and try to gain comprehension from the whole context,'" she
  said. "We don't say that for young readers. But for older readers, it
  is extremely cumbersome to try to attend to every word."
  -- from (Walsh, 1997)
Walsh's article also quotes a representative of the local ACLU, which
had become involved in the debate over Study Tech books in California:

  "I have some fairly serious questions about the constitutionality and,
  from a public-policy standpoint, the propriety of using these
  materials in public schools," said Douglas Mirell, a board member of
  the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who has
  examined some of the study-skills books and compared them with
  materials from the church.  "It seems like the books go out of their
  way to use terms that have a technical definition within the
  religion."  (Walsh, ibid)


The Study Tech books are rife with Scientology jargon.  Besides
"mass", "gradient", "misunderstood" (used as a noun), and "word
clearing", other examples of Scientology-specific terms or usage found
in the Basic Study Manual include "reelingness" (p. 37), "blow"
(pp. 58, 97), "doingness" (p. 66), "reality factor" (p. 144), "senior
data" (p. 260), and "cause" and "effect" (pp. 273)..  A similar set of
terms can be found in Study Skills for Life, and in Learning How to

The Basic Study Manual also contain a number of anti-intellectual digs
that reinforce Scientology's view of itself as the only true source of
knowledge.  In a section labeled "False Data", the book states:

  There is no field in all the society where false data is not rampant.
  "Experts," "advisers," "friends," "families," seldom go and look at
  the basic texts on subjects, even when these are known to exist, but
  indulge in all manner of interpretations and even outright lies to
  seem wise or expert.
   -- Basic Study Manual, p. 256

Scientology's animosity towards intellectuals is nothing compared to
the hatred it holds for the mental health professions -- with whom it
competes for customers.  This too is evident in the Basic Study
Manual, where students are given a twisted, highly derogatory
definition for psychology:
  "The subject of psychology began its text by saying they [sic]
  did not know what the word means.  So the subject itself never
  arrived.  Professor Wundt of Leipzig University in 1879
  perverted the term.  It really means just a study (ology)
  of the soul (psyche).  But Wundt, working under the eye of
  Bismarck the greatest of German military fascists, at
  the height of German war ambitions, had to deny man had a
  soul.  So there went the whole subject!  Men were thereafter
  animals (it is all right to kill animals) and man had no soul,
  so the word psychology could no longer be defined."
   (Basic Study Manual, pp. 79-80)

What is this diatribe doing in a study manual?  Through another of its
front organizations, a hate group called the Citizens Commission for
Human Rights, Scientology has been waging a religious war against
psychiatry and psychology.  CCHR opposes any provision of mental
health services in the schools, and has specifically targeted the use
of Ritalin for attention deficit disorder.  The group also gained
notoriety for vehement attacks on Eli Lilly, maker of the
anti-depressant drug Prozac.  The church itself had a publicly-stated
goal to "wipe out psychiatry by the year 2000," so propagandizing
against psychology in a children's textbook is not out of character,
even if the book in question is part of what it promotes elsehwere as
entirely secular "study materials".

From HCO Bulletin of 16 July 1970, "The Psychiatrist at Work", by
L. Ron Hubbard (published in the "red volumes" of Scientology

  The psychiatrist has masters.  His principal organization, World
  Federation of Mental Health, and its members, the National
  Associations of Mental Health, the "American" Psychiatric Association
  and the "American" Psychological Association, are directly connected
  to Russia.

  Even the British Broadcasting Company has stated that psychiatry and
  the KGB (Russian secret police) operate in direct collusion.

  A member of the WFMH sits on every major "Adisory Council" of the US
  government, to name one government.

The above is just a tiny sample of Hubbard's voluminous rantings
against the mental health profession, which continue to this day in
Scientology's Freedom Magazine, and in CCHR publications such as
"Psychiatry: The Ultimate Betrayal" and "Psychiatry: the Men Behind
Hitler" (available on the web at


Study Tech has been around for several decades, but today, only
Scientologists recommended it for use in public classrooms.  Its
proponents claim miraculous results, yet no independent evaluation of
its effectiveness has ever been done.  One thing is certain, however:
the Church of Scientology is quite successful at convincing members
that its so-called technologies work.  There are, after all, hundreds
of advanced Scientologists in the United States who believe they've
made telepathic contact with space aliens, and thousands of
lower-level members who have learned to "recall" details of their past
lives, sometimes on other planets, through Scientology auditing
(Hubbard, 1977).  It is thus not surprising that Church members report
great gains wherever L. Ron Hubbard's "technology" is employed, even
when such gains are not evident to anyone else.  The effectiveness of
what Scientologists call "the tech", of which Study Tech is a part, is
a matter of religious doctrine.  It HAS to work.

But Study Tech is no more a secular learning methodology than wine and
communion wafers are a Sunday morning snack.  The core ideas may be
plain common sense and familiar to any trained teacher, but "mass",
"gradient", and "misunderstoods" are part of a religious vocabulary
closely tied to Scientology beliefs.  Indoctrinating students into
Study Tech's unconventional language and world view, with its implied
acceptance of L. Ron Hubbard as authority figure, would do much to
soften them up for future recruitment into Scientology itself.  That
is the real goal of Applied Scholastics.


Critical comments, reference materials, and other assistance with this
article were provided by Jeff Jacobsen, Deana Holmes, Joe Harrington,
Tory Bezazian, and several anonymous posters to the
alt.religion.scientology newsgroup.


Atack, Jonathan. (1990).  A Piece of Blue Sky.  Lyle Stuart Books.
Available at

Applied Scholastics International (1996) Home page for Study
Technology; part of the Church of Scientology's massive Internet web

Basic Study Manual.  (1990).  Los Angeles: Bridge Publicatons.

Catania, Sara (1997) Can L. Ron Hubbard's "study technology" make kids
smarter?  LA Weekly, November 12, 1997.

Cooper, Paulette (1971) The Scandal of Scientology. New York: Tower
Publications.  Available on the web at

Helfand, Duke (1997a) Special report: Hubbard teachings in public classrooms.
Los Angeles Times, Sunday, July 27, 1997.

Helfand, Duke (1997b) Hubbard textbooks have state approval.  Los
Angeles Times, Tuesday, July 29, 1997.

Hubbard, L. Ron (1950) Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health.
Los Angeles: Bridge Publications.

Hubbard, L. Ron (1952) Scientology: A History of Man.  Los Angeles:
Bridge Publications.

Hubbard, L. Ron (1968) Introduction to Scientology Ethics.  Los
Angeles: Brifge Publications.

Hubbard, L. Ron (1977) Have You Lived Before This Life?  Los Angeles:
Bridge Publications.  Revision of earlier version published by Hubbard
Communications Office in 1960.

Hubbard, L. Ron (1982) Understanding the E-Meter.  Copenhagen,
Denmark: New Era Publications.  Available in the US from Bridge
Publications, Inc.

Learning How to Learn. (1992) Los Angeles: Bridge Publicatons.

Miller, Russell. (1988) Bare-Faced Messiah.  New York: Henry Holt.
Available on the web at

Myslinksi, Mike (1980) Group linked with Scientology cult denied
school lease.  Cupertino Courier, vol. 34, no. 29, July 16, 1980.

Scott, Perry (1996) The Scientology Comparative Theology Page.$/Christian.

Touretzky, David S. (1996) The NOTs Scholars Home Page.

Touretzky, David S. (2000) Secrets of the E-Meter.

Wakefield, Margery (1991) The Road to Xenu.  Self-published book, now
available on the web at

Walsh, Mark (1997a) Texts highlight Scientology's role in education.
Education Week, September 17, 1997.

Walsh, Mark (1997b) Hubbard's Education Theories Focus on 'Barriers to
Learning'.  Education Week, September 17, 1997.

What Is Scientology? (1992) Los Angeles: Bridge Publications.

Dave Touretzky
Last modified: Sat Mar 25 15:12:39 EST 2006