The E-meter is a device for displaying and/or recording the electrodermal activity (EDA) of a human being. The word is a common abbreviation for Electropsychometer, also known in various applications as Electroencephaloneuromentimograph, Electrodermal Activity Meter, Electrodermal Response Meter, Electro-psychogalvanometer, Electrogalvonometer, Electrogalvometer, Skin Galvanometer, or Psychogalvanometer.
The E-meter has been used for more than a century by counselors of psychology and psychoanalysis, as an auditing tool in Scientology and divergent groups, as a research tool in many human studies, and as one component of the Keeler polygraph (lie detector) system.
In 1849, Dubois-Reymond in Germany first observed that human skin was electrically active, a phenomenon that is now generally known as electrodermal activity (EDA). The elements of EDA include moment to moment variation in skin conductance, resistance, and internally generated potential, measured between the palms or the soles of the feet, or between two positions on the same palm or sole. Other more complex activity in response to alternating current has been studied.
In 1878 in Switzerland, Hermann and Luchsinger demonstrated a connection between EDA and sweat glands. Vigouroux (France, 1879) was the first researcher to relate these phenomena to psychological activity. In 1888, the French neurologist Féré demonstrated that skin resistance activity could be changed by emotional stimulation and that activity could be inhibited by drugs.
The first EDA meter was developed in Russia 1889 by Ivane Tarkhnishvili. It was popularized for psychotherapy by Carl Gustav Jung in a series of papers published in German in 1906 and in English in 1919. Jung and his colleagues used meters to evaluate the emotional sensitivities of patients during word association. Jung was so impressed with the instrument, he allegedly cried, "Aha, a looking glass into the unconscious!" Jung described his use of the device in counseling in his book, Studies inWord Association, and such use has continued with various practitioners.
In the 1940s, Volney Mathison (chiropractor, radio engineer, psychologist, and hypnotist) built an EDA meter based on a Wheatstone bridge, an integrated vacuum tubes amplifier, and a large moving-coil meter that projected an image of the needle on the wall. He patented his device as an electropsychometer or E-meter, and it came to be known as the "Mathison Electropsychometer." In the words of Mathison, the E-meter "has a needle that swings back and forth across a scale when a patient holds on to two electrical contacts."
It was the Mathison E-Meter, and Mathison was determined to keep it that way. So in late 1954 the use of the E-meter was discontinued by Hubbard. Wrote Hubbard: "Yesterday, we used an instrument called an E-Meter to register whether or not the process was still getting results so that the auditor would know how long to continue it. While the E-Meter is an interesting investigation instrument and has played its part in research, it is not today used by the auditor... As we long ago suspected, the intervention of a mechanical gadget between the auditor and the preclear had a tendency to depersonalize the session..."
On December 6, 1966, Hubbard patented a smaller, transistor-base E-meter that ran on a rechargeable battery, dubbed the "Hubbard Electropsychometer." Corydon wrote that the Hubbard E-meter was actually developed in the preceding years by Scientologists Don Breeding and Joe Wallis, though the patent (U.S. Patent 3,290,589) does not list other developers. Corydon's account is allegedly based on the memoirs of Ron DeWolf, but in 1987, DeWolf sued the publisher to prevent publication and swore an affidavit repudiating everything in the book.
The Scientology E-meter has been redesigned and re-patented several times since it's first introduction to Dianetics (e.g.: U.S. Patent 4,459,995, U.S. Patent 4,578,635, U.S. Patent 4,702,259). Mathison continued with his own enhancements (U.S. Patent 2,736,313, U.S. Patent 2,810,383).
Other patents cover the inclusion of EDA monitors in polygraph machines. Rigorous testing of the polygraph has yielded mixed results (see Polygraph main page), and some critics classify polygraph operation as a pseudoscience.
Some critics of Dianetics and Scientology assert that the Scientology concepts associated with the E-meter and its use are regarded by the scientific and medical communities as pseudoscience, and that the E-meter has never been subjected to clinical trials as a therapeutic tool. Nevertheless, by 1972, more than 1500 articles on electrodermal activity (EDA) had been published in professional publications, and today EDA is regarded as the most popular method for investigating human psychophysiological phenomena. Even apart from Scientology, EDA monitoring is on the increase in clinical applications. Hugo D. Critchley, Chair in Psychiatry at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School states, "EDA is a sensitive psychophysiological index of changes in autonomic sympathetic arousal that are integrated with emotional and cognitive states."
EDA meters are used in both therapist-patient and bio-feedback settings. EDA is one of the factors recorded by polygraphs, and EDA meters are often used in human studies to gauge psychological responses.
E-meters are used in Scientology and Dianetics by Scientology ministers known as "auditors." Scientology materials traditionally refer to the subject as the "preclear," although auditors continue to use the meter on subjects who are well beyond the "clear" level. The auditor gives the preclear a series of commands or questions while the preclear holds a pair of cylindrical electrodes ("cans") connected to the meter, and the auditor notes both the verbal response and the activity of the meter. Auditor training includes familiarization with a number of characteristic needle movements, each with a specific significance.
Scientologists claim that in the hands of a trained operator, the meter can indicate whether a person has been relieved from the spiritual impediment of past experiences. In accordance with a 1974 federal court order, the Church of Scientology asserts that the E-meter is intended for use only in church-sanctioned auditing sessions; it is not a curative or medical device. The E-meters used by the Church were previously manufactured by Scientologists at their Gold Base facility, but now are manufactured in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
According to Hubbard, the E-meter is used by the operator for three vital functions:
- To determine what process to run and what to run it on.
- To observe how well the process is running.
- To know when the process should be stopped.
The E-meter is used to assess the emotion charge of single words, of whole sentences, and of questions. It can also indicate the general state of the subject when the operator is not speaking. Few users of the E-meter claim that it does anything to the subject. To most, it does no more than suggest to the operator a change of mental, emotional, or parasympathetic nervous state or activity.
One of E-meter's primary components is a Wheatstone bridge, an electrical circuit configuration invented in 1833 that enables the detection of very small differences between two electrical impedances (in this case, resistance). The E-meter is constructed so that one resistance is the subject's body and the other is a rheostat controlled by the operator. A small voltage from the battery is applied to electrodes held in the subjects hands. As the electrical properties (electrodermal activity) of the subject's body changes during the counseling, the resulting changes in the small electrical current are displayed in needle movements on a large analog panel meter. The dial face is without numbers because the absolute resistance in ohms is relatively unimportant, while the operator watches primarily for characteristic needle motions. The voltage applied to the electrodes is less than 1.5V, and the electric current through the subject's body is less than a half a milliampere.
In the Scientology E-meter, the large control, known as the "tone arm," adjusts the meter bias, while a smaller controls the gain. The operator manipulates the tone arm to keep the needle near the center of the dial so its motion is easily observed. A simple E-meter powered by direct current, such as that used by the Scientologists and the like, displays several kinds of electrodermal activity (EDA) on the one dial without distinction, including changes in conductance, resistance, and bioelectric potential. Researchers in psychophysiology are also exploring admittance and impedance aspects of EDA that can be observed only with alternating current.
The E-Meter is similar in mechanism to a polygraph or lie detector, measuring variations in galvanic skin response that can be highly sensitive to emotions. Fear, anger, startled response, orienting response and sexual feelings are among the reactions which may produce similar skin conductance responses, and these responses account for the changes picked up by E-Meter measuring. According to Scientology doctrine, the resistance corresponds to the "mental mass and energy" of the subject's mind, which are claimed to change when the subject thinks of particular mental images (engrams). One account tells about L. Ron Hubbard using the E-meter to determine whether or not fruits can experience pain, as in his 1968 assertion that tomatoes "scream when sliced."
The standard medical explanation for the movement of the needle is the operation of the sympathetic nervous system on the sweat glands. Because sweat contains dielectrics (salt, etc.), conductivity is increased when the sweat glands are activated. But some advocates argue that the meter responds more quickly than would be possible by the exudation and drying of sweat, They propose an additional mechanism termed the "Tarchanoff Response" through which the cerebral cortex of the brain affects the current directly. Still others researchers confess that the phenomenon is not completely understood, despite more than 150 years of research.
E-meter and the law
The medical establishment had been watching Hubbard's enterprises since 1951 when the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners prosecuted the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation (Elizabeth, NJ) for teaching medicine without a licence. In 1958, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seized and destroyed 21,000 Dianazene tablets from Hubbard's Distribution Center, Inc., charging that they were falsely labeled as a treatment for radiation sickness.
On January 4, 1963, in service of an FDA complaint, more than 100 US marshals and deputized longshoremen with drawn guns raided the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C. and confiscated more than three tons of property including 5,000 books, 2,900 booklets, and several hundred E-meters. The FDA accused the Church of making false medical claims that the E-meters could treat physical and mental illnesses. The FDA also charged that the meters did not bear adequate directions for treating the conditions for which they were recommended.
The Church sued to get the property back, and years of litigation ensued. In the first trial beginning on April 3, 1967, the jury found that the Church misrepresented the E-meter and the judge ordered the confiscated materials destroyed. But in 1969, the US Court of Appeals reversed the verdict; the Church, it said, had made substantial showing that Scientology is a religion and the government had done nothing to rebut the claim. The US Court of Appeals wrote:
[The Founding Church has] made no attempt to contradict the expert testimony introduced by the Government. They have conceded that the E-meter is of no use in the diagnosis or treatment of disease as such, and have argued that it was never put forward as having such use. Auditing or processing, in their view, treats the spirit of man, not his body, though through the healing of the spirit the body can be affected. They have culled from their literature numerous statements disclaiming any intent to treat disease and recommending that Scientology practitioners send those under their care to doctors when organic defects may be found. They have introduced through testimony a document which they assert all those who undergo auditing or processing must sign which states that Scientology is "a spiritual and religious guide intended to make persons more aware of themselves as spiritual beings, and not treating or diagnosing human ailments of body or mind, and not engaged in the teaching of medical arts or sciences * * *."
Finally, with respect to their claim to be a religion and hence within the protection of the First Amendment, they have shown that the Founding Church of Scientology is incorporated as a church in the District of Columbia, and that its ministers are qualified to perform marriages and burials. They have introduced their Creed into evidence. The Government has made no claim that the Founding Church is not a bona fide religion, that auditing is not part of the exercise of that religion, or that the theory of auditing is not a doctrine of that religion.
Having conceded that Scientology is a religion, wrote the Court, the government was forbidden by the First Amendment of the Constitution to rule on the truth or falsity of the Church's doctrines and interfere with its practices, provided the claims are not manifestly insincere and the practices are reasonably harmless. The Court ordered a new trial with the mandate that the trial court could not forbid auditing, use of the E-meter, or purveyance of the literature within a religious context. The FDA appealed the decision, but in 1969, the US Supreme Court declined to review the case, commenting only that "Scientology meets the prima facie test of religion." In his 1973 judgment, District Court Judge Gerhardt A. Gesell (presiding over the trial) expressed his own opinion of Scientology in strong words:
Hubbard and his fellow Scientologists developed the notion of using an E-Meter to aid auditing. Substantial fees were charged for the meter and for auditing sessions using the meter. They repeatedly and explicitly represented that such auditing effectuated cures of many physical and mental illnesses. An individual processed with the aid of the E-Meter was said to reach the intended goal of 'clear' and was led to believe that there was reliable scientific proof that once cleared many, indeed most, illnesses would successfully be cured. Auditing was guaranteed to be successful.
Unable to do more under the mandate from the Court of Appeals, Judge Gesell ordered all the property to be returned to the Church, and thereafter, the E-meter may be used only in "bona fide religious counseling." All meters and referring literature must include a label disclaiming any medical benefits, thus:
The E-Meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.
The church adopted a modified version of that statement, which it still invokes in connection with the E-meter. The current statement reads:
The Hubbard Electrometer is a religious artifact. By itself, this meter does nothing. It is for religious use by students and Ministers of the church in Confessionals and pastoral counseling only.
Since the FDA's legal objective was to outlaw and condemn the E-meters and literature (as had been ordered in the first trial), this was a substantial defeat for the FDA. For the Church of Scientology, it was not a significant change. The Church had not stated in any publication that the E-meter could or would heal anything.
Judge Gesell also ordered the Church to pay all the government's legal fees and warehousing costs for the confiscated property for the nine years of litigation. The Church is also required to pay the salaries and travel expenses of FDA agents who might, from time to time, inspect for compliance with the court's order. The raid had been ruled illegal, but the government retained copies of the documents.
In 1979 in Sweden, a court forbade calling the E-meter an invaluable aid to measuring man's mental state and changes in it in an advertisement. The prohibition was upheld by the European Commission of Human Rights in case X. and Church of Scientology v. Sweden.
In October 2009, a three-judge panel at the Correctional Court in Paris, France convicted the church and six of its members of organized fraud. The Court's decision followed a three-week trial, where two plaintiffs alleged they were defrauded by the organization. One plaintiff's complaint involved the use of an E-Meter by Scientologists with medical implications. This plaintiff claimed that, after being audited with the device, she was encouraged to pay tens of thousands of euros for vitamins, books, and courses to improve her condition. She argued that amounted to fraud. The Court agreed, and the ruling was upheld on appeal in 2013. See Scientology in France#Conviction for fraud.
In 1964, the government of Victoria, Australia held a Board of Inquiry into Scientology which returned its findings in a document colloquially known as the Anderson Report. Psychiatrist Dr. Ian Holland Martin, honorary federal secretary of the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, gave evidence that the E-Meter 'used for Scientology' was a 'psycho-galvano-meter' and was 'dangerous in unqualified hands'. He said that if the E-meter 'was suggested to possess mysterious powers' to someone who did not understand that it had 'been thoroughly discredited as a lie detector' then 'that person would be suggestible to ideas foisted on him by the operator'. The final report of the inquiry stated that the E-meter enabled Scientology:
"...to assume, intensify and retain control over the minds and wills of preclears. Fears of its abilities keep them in constant subjection. Its use can be so manipulated by cunningly phrased questions that almost any desired result can be obtained, and it is used unscrupulously to dominate students and staff alike. All the evil features of scientology are intensified where the E-meter is involved. When used in conjunction with hypnotic techniques, its evil impact is greatly increased. This simple electrical device is not, of course, the sole basis for the condemnation of scientology, but without the E-meter scientology would be partly disarmed."
Other states echoed the ban. But then in 1969, the High Court of Western Australia ruled the ban illegal, and South Australia repealed its law in 1973. Victoria repealed its law in 1982. And in 1983, the High Court of Australia granted Scientology full rights as a religion in all respects.
In 2014, a number of government dignitaries attended and spoke at the grand opening of a new Church of Scientology overlooking the Sydney harbor, including: National Member of Parliament, Julie Owens; President of the Australian Human Rights Council for Education and Medal of the Order of Australia recipient, Seweryn Ozdowski; Programs Manager, Young Offenders Support Service, Kalisi Bese; and Aboriginal Elder of the Dunghutti People, Bill Allen.
As of January 2005, the cost of the Mark V was $900 and the Mark VII Super Quantum E-meter was US $4,650 (up from US $3,850 in 1995). Scientologists of the Free Zone have developed their own E-meter models which are available at much lower prices. They also offer circuit diagrams and instructions for building a meter.
Scientology's views on the device
For the meter to be read, the tiny flow of electrical energy through the preclear (person) has to remain steady. When this tiny flow is changed the needle of the E-Meter moves. This will happen if the preclear pulls in or releases mental mass. This mental mass (condensed energy), acts as an additional resistance or lack of resistance to the flow of electrical energy from the E-Meter.
Hubbard claimed that this "mental mass" has the same physical characteristics, including weight, as mass as commonly understood by lay persons:
In Scientology it has been discovered that mental energy is simply a finer, higher level of physical energy. The test of this is conclusive in that a thetan "mocking up" (creating) mental image pictures and thrusting them into the body can increase the body mass and by casting them away again can decrease the body mass. This test has actually been made and 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." Energy is energy. Matter is condensed energy.
This text in Understanding the E-Meter is accompanied by three drawings. The first shows a man standing on a weighing scale, which reflects a weight of "150" (the units are not given). The next shows the man on the same scale, weighed down under a burden of "Mental Image Pictures", and the scale indicates a weight of "180". The last picture shows the man standing upright on the scale, now unburdened by "Mental Image Pictures" and with a smile on his face, while the scale again indicates a weight of "148".
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By 1906 [Jung] was using GSR and breath measurement to note changes in respiration and skin resistance to emotionally charged worlds. Found that indicators cluster around stimulus words which indicate the nature of the subject's complexes...Much later L. Ron Hubbard used this approach in Scientology's "auditing," using the "e-meter" (a galvanic skin response indicator) to discern the presence of complexes.
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The E-meter is not a new type of instrument. It is one which is well known to science and has been in use in one form or another for many years. As early as the 1920's, experiments were conducted in psychological research with what was then called an electro-galvanometer or psychogalvanometer.
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Some form of 'E-meter' has actually been in use since before WWI
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Current research using the skin's electrical activity as a communications medium between patient and therapist looks promising in such stress problems as drug abuse, alcoholism, neuroses and other tension states.
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Carl Jung, possibly the most creative psychologist who ever lived, experimented with skin talk in 1900. Using a primitive instrument to record changes in skin electrical activity, he conducted psychological interviews with patients and found that the skin responded to hidden emotions. It is said he was so astounded by this phenomenon that he exclaimed, 'Aha, a looking glass into the unconscious!'
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As described, Scientology does not assert that the E-meter can directly cure or mitigate disease; rather, the E-meter plays a vital role in the allegedly illness-alleviating process of auditing by identifying the presence and location of the cause of psychosomatic illnesses. Other systems work to actually accomplish the discharge of illness-causing agents.
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An Instant Read. An instant read is defined as that reaction of the needle which occurs at the precise end of any major thought voiced by the auditor. (quoting HCO B May 25, 1962)
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The GSR Meter helps the Practitioner to discover these key items, since when one’s attention is drawn to an item, the charge on the item will cause an increase in brain arousal, which is visible on the GSR Meter as a sudden fall in body resistance, i.e. an instantaneous fall of the needle.
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... the U.S. Court of Appeals ... reversed the decision of the federal jury and stated that until the government can offer proof that Scientology is not a religion, the E-Meters and the literature seized are protected by our rights of freedom of worship.
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- Secrets of Scientology: The E-Meter REFERENCE: Stephen Barrett, MD, and William Jarvis, PhD (editors), "The Health Robbers", Prometheus Books, Buffalo NY (1993). Chapter 23, "The Gadgeteers", by Wallace Janssen, pp. 321-335.
- "Court Order - FDA - Scientology Dianetics Hubbard E-meter". Scribd.com. 2008-08-25. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
- Dianetics: self-improvement home study course, Bridge Publications, 2002.
- "Appeals: Victory for the Scientologists". Time Magazine. Time, Inc. 14 February 1969. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- AFP (17 October 2013). "Scientology's fraud conviction upheld in France". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
- "SCIENTOLOGY VENUS TRIP 'A DELUSION'.". The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995) (ACT: National Library of Australia). 2 June 1964. p. 27. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
- State of Victoria (1965) Report of the Board of Inquiry into Scientology p.96 http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Cowen/audit/ar14.html
- Lewis, James R. (2009). Scientology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. Introduction: 5, 6. ISBN 9780199887118. Retrieved 14 April 2015.
- "New Ideal Org in the Heart of Australia's Harbour City". Church of Scientology International. Church of Scientology International. 3 May 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
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- United States District Court, District of Columbia, 1971. United States of America, Libelant, v. An Article or Device... 'Hubbard Electrometer' or Hubbard E-Meter,' etc., Funding Church of Scientology, et al., Claimants. No. D.C. 1-63 (July 30)
- "Victory for the Scientologists". Time. 1969-02-14. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
- Pilkington, Mark (2005-02-17). "Clear thinking". The Guardian. Far out. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
- Official Church of Scientology site of the E-Meter
- What is Scientology: The E-Meter
- Scientology Today: What is the E-Meter and how does it work?
- The Scandal of Scientology
- The E-Meter Papers
- Secrets of Scientology: The E-Meter, David S. Touretzky
- E-Meter Patent
- Scientology abuses eBay's VeRO program to practice religious, price discrimination