There is one other feature of Scientology processing which merits our close attention because of the important role it has played in the official persecution of Scientologists, especially in America.
That is use of the device known as the Hubbard Electrometer or E-meter.
Technically, the instrument is a highly refined type of Wheatstone Bridge - an electronic device used to measure the resistance (in units called "ohms") to a flow of electrical current passing through it.
The Hubbard version of the E-meter (Mark V) has been specially designed to measure both large and minute changes, regardless of how quickly they occur, in the resistance of the human body to a very low-voltage current of electricity. The instrument contains transistorized, printed circuitry, connected to a galvanometer which indicates the amount of resistance offered by a body connected between two electrodes attached to either side of the device.
The display panel is equipped with an on-off switch, a "tone-arm", and three knobs for adjusting the instrument's sensitivity, for changing the calibration and for varying the range. Re-chargeable batteries provide power for the meter's operation.
During processing, the preclear grips two tin cans, one in each hand, attached to the electrode lead wires.
The dial and the control panel of the instrument face the auditor, usually out of view of the person being audited. As the pc responds to questions or reacts to mental stimulus, the auditor observes the action of the needle on the ohmmeter dial. According to Scientology theory, based on extensive tests made with the instrument, the individual's emotional state instantly causes an increase or a decrease in his body's resistance to the small trickle of electricity being passed through him. In the book, E-Meter Essentials, Hubbard says: "This 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."
There are ten principal kinds of needle activity that are considered indicative in auditing. These are: the stuck needle (no movement); fall (movement to the right); rise (movement to the left); theta bop (steady dance of the needle); rock slam (when needle back and forth in unequal jerky motion); stage four (needle goes up an inch or two, sticks, falls and repeats this action;) floating (when the needle floats free over a wide area, unaffected by questions or commands); nul (when needle is active on its own, but uninfluenced by auditing questions); change of characteristic and body reactions.
Scientologists regard the E-meter as an indispensable auditing tool when employed by an auditor thoroughly trained in its operation. They say it answers a long-felt need for scientific accuracy in measuring "the impingement of the individual himself upon the body by the direct action of thought".
To prove that the E-meter does, in fact, measure the intensity of facsimiles or mental-image pictures of past incidents, Scientologists often invite the preclear to participate in a simple test. Hubbard gives the following instructions for the demonstration:
"Place the electrodes in the hands of a person. Then pinch that person. You will see the needle of the E-meter duck. Now tell the person to go back to the moment you pinched him and 'feel the pinch again'. He will do so and you will see that the needle ducks just as it did when you first pinched him. In other words, you made a facsimile containing pain when you pinched him. Now you command the facsimile to come back. You see it read again on the meter just as it did when you pinched him. If you make him go through the pinch several times, you will find the needle action grows less and less. This, in essence, is a primary principle in Dianetics: that facsimiles exist. It is a prime factor in Dianetic processing that facsimiles can be reduced in intensity."
The auditor does not read the E-meter to detect untruthful answers or lies that the preclear might tell, but only as a measurement of stress. "And stress is what the auditor is trying to find. For stress is the thing which makes the pc ill and aberrated."
According to Hubbard, an experienced auditor can size up the type of person he is dealing with even before the preclear takes the electrodes into his hands. Various attitudes and comments beforehand will give him away. For example:
"If the pc invalidates the instrument, says, 'Oh, one of them things. I hear as how they ain't regular', the auditor knows he is dealing with a case he will have to use a dredge on to find bottom. For this character sees in the E-meter something which is going to 'find him out', something he cannot cheat and lie around, something which will locate and bring sunlight into the dark caverns of his loathsome and horrendous guilt. In this E-meter he sees a tattle-tale
which will expose his extra-curricular activities on the second dynamic, his masturbation at the age of one and the real reason dogs hate him, why he shoots ducks and committed grand larceny in college and makes improper proposals in the little boy's room. He doesn't spell it E-meter, he spells it Enemy. And when put on the instrument, he will usually register almost 'off the bottom'; that is to say, the range expander will be over at minus, the tone handle so low the light flickers, and the sensitivity knob so shut down that when asked about the time he murdered his mother, the auditor has to have a magnifying glass to see if the needle moved."
Bob Thomas, senior executive of the Church of Scientology in the United States, described the E-meter as "a confessional aid in Scientology processing".
"The things that people think that other people can't confront listening to or hearing about them are always the first impediments to a complete communication, interpersonal communication between two people; and this kind of communication is an indispensable pre-requisite to any kind of deep, meditative examination. And, of course, those things have to be gotten out of the way. But that is not the total objective of what we think of as the confessional. Our idea of the confessional is the total self-examination of the enlightened spirit.
"Such an examination implies that the barriers that are normally present that prevent such an examination will be removed. We have found that to dissipate those barriers requires a disciplined approach, a routine, a standardized, introspective methodology. Preliminarily, the individual cannot do it by himself, but there are stages of an advanced nature where he does begin to do it by himself.
"The immediate goal of the E-meter is to enhance communication. In other words, just take a parallel: if an analyst were allowing his patient to free-associate, and the patient were connected in some way with a galvanometer which showed the analyst what things the patient men-
tioned were emotionally charged and what things were not emotionally charged, a lot of time would be saved. So it's simply an assist for the practitioner to direct the individual to areas which he himself may not realize are troubled or charged with emotion or are repressed; and to better direct his attention into those areas, in a very selective way, and in a gradient way - the easiest things first, and the deeper and more difficult confrontations succeeding.
"The E-meter is used throughout Scientology processing, but there are certain processes at certain stages which do not require an E-meter; e.g., directing the person's attention to the environment -what we call objective processing - simply to familiarize himself with his environment. Sometimes people get too introspective and then interiorize; sometimes they need a kind of vacation from themselves. So we have procedures which simply externalize their attention temporarily so they can re-focus their attention to the interior with a renewed vigor. Those kinds of processes don't require the E-meter.
"When the student audits himself, it is called solo auditing. There are one-handed electrodes - where you have two electrodes connected and it can be held in one hand, so they can write and manipulate the dials with the other hand, but that is a very advanced stage of auditing.
"The E-meter is a simple psycho-galvanometer. It's got some increased sensitivity built into it and the myological reactions that you sometimes get in the galvanometer have been damped out by the circuitry, so that the mental reactions, the reactions of the spirit, on the body are emphasized and can be read more clearly. But that's simply the design of the circuitry; it doesn't basically affect the kind of device.
"It registers what is called, commonly, the psychogalvanomic reflex, which is a reflex that is a poorly understood mechanism of the psyche. The body resistance seems to vary when the individual thinks of a painful or painassociated or traumatic-associated concept, or word or idea.
This can be by self-stimulation or by external stimulation; by reading a list of words, for example. There are certain words that will be charged and will have significance for the individual that he isn't immediately aware of. And if you ask him about those words, you'll find he will very quickly get into some traumatic area.
"Some very early work on this was done by Jung, who used a list of words. I think he combined it with the psycho-galvanometer. By this word association, he was attempting to increase the effectiveness of the free association techniques, which he was not sure about. Of course, our orientation is not exactly psychotherapeutic because of the total background emphasis we are putting on the enquiry, which is essentially spiritual. What we have essentially is a physical-universe aid to communication. It aids the minister communicating to the parishioner. It's to both their benefits because it enhances the degree and intensity and directness of the communication.
"We have very sophisticated listing processes, in which we ask a general question and get the person to give us a long list of answers. Then we assess that list with the meter. We find out which of those answers gives the largest read and we go in with that as a topic."
Hubbard relates that in the early days of Dianetic auditing, by keeping his fingers on the pulse of the preclear during auditing, he was "crudely and unsatisfactorily" able to detect a reaction when his questions were leading to a heavily charged incident.
Then, during a series of lectures which he gave in California in 1950, an inventor and electronics expert named Volney G. Mathison heard Hubbard mention the problem and set to work constructing an instrument which would be capable, as Hubbard put it, "of measuring the rapid shifts in density of a body under the influence of thought and measuring them well enough to give an auditor a deep and marvelous insight into the mind of his preclear".
This first device was known as the Mathison Electropsycho-meter. During the ensuing years, the instrument was refined and modified through several generations and in accordance with data provided by continuing research. The literature states that the present E-meter is fabricated and assembled according to Hubbard's exact specifications. To ensure that manufacturing standards are maintained, from time to time he random checks the devices being marketed, against the prototype which he keeps in a safe.
Critics of Scientology have sought to discredit the E-meter by asserting that the varied readings are not measurements of emotional states as claimed, but are due to such factors as quantity and salinity of sweat on the palms, area of contact, force of the preclear's grip on the terminals, and variations in the electrical resistance of his skin.
That such is not the case may easily be demonstrated by a number of simple tests, including that cited above, in which the preclear recalls the experience of being pinched.
In connection with our present inquiry, there is another observation to be made regarding the E-meter. It is that the device is harmless, even in the hands of a person ignorant of its proper purpose and operation.