The E-METER is a device for displaying and/or recording the
electrodermal activity (EDA) of a human being. The device is used
frequently for auditing in
Scientology and divergent groups. The
efficacy and legitimacy of Scientology's use of the
E-meter has been
subject to extensive debate and litigation and in accordance with a
federal court order, the Church of
Scientology now publishes
disclaimers in its books and publications declaring that the E-meter
"by itself does nothing" and that it is used specifically for
Electrodermal activity measuring devices similar to the Scientology
E-meter have historically been used by counselors of psychology and
psychoanalysis . Such devices have been used as a research tool in
many human studies , and as one of several components of the Leonarde
Keeler 's polygraph (lie detector) system, which has been widely
criticized as ineffective or pseudoscientific by legal experts and
* 1 History
* 2 Modern applications
* 3 Functional description
* 4 Law
* 4.1 United States
* 4.2 Europe
* 4.3 Australia
Scientology beliefs and theories
* 6 See also
* 7 References
* 8 External links
Electrodermal activity Illustration provided by
Volney Mathison in the original 1951 patent application for the
E-meter, registered as U.S. Patent 2,684,670 .
Electrodermal activity (EDA) refers to the changing electrical
charges observed on the surface of the skin. EDA meters were first
developed in 1889 in Russia, and psychotherapists began using them as
tools for therapy in the 1900s.
Volney Mathison (chiropractor , radio engineer , psychologist , and
hypnotist ) built an EDA meter based on a
Wheatstone bridge , a
vacuum tube amplifier , and a large moving-coil meter that projected
an image of the needle on the wall. He patented his device in 1954 as
an electropsychometer or E-meter, and it came to be known as the
"Mathison Electropsychometer". In Mathison's words, the
a needle that swings back and forth across a scale when a patient
holds on to two electrical contacts". Mathison recorded in his book,
Electropsychometry, that the idea of the
E-meter came to him in 1950
while listening to a lecture by
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard : p. 64
In 1950 ... I next attended a series of lectures being given by a
very controversial figure, who several times emphasized that perhaps
the major problem of psychotherapy was the difficulty of maintaining
the communication of accurate or valid data from the patient to the
therapist. ... it appeared to me that the psychogalvanometer showed
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard told of that encounter in a 1952 recorded lecture:
This machine, the electropsychometer, has been acting as a pilot
since about the first of January 1952. Very early I wanted a pilot; I
had to have some method of metering preclears which was not dependent
at all upon opinion or judgment. And I went out and looked at the
existing lie detector equipment and I could not find anything which
would do a job of work. Now,
Volney Mathison out on the Coast heard a
talk out there one day, and I mentioned this fact. ... I had one of
the fanciest electroencephalographs made and it didn’t do anything
very much, police detectors didn’t do anything very much, and
Mathison went to work and he floated a current within a current. This
machine is relatively simple, but it’s a current floating inside
another current .. And I am, by the way, very much indebted to
Mathison just on this basis of all of a sudden having a pilot.
Mathison began working with Hubbard in 1951 and that year filed
application for his first
E-meter patent, U.S. Patent 2,684,670. After
the partnership broke up in 1954, Mathison continued improving his
E-meters with additional patents (U.S. Patent 2,736,313 , U.S. Patent
2,810,383 ), marketing them through his own company and publications,
retaining many of the concepts and terms from his time with Hubbard.
In a separate line of development, EDA monitors were incorporated in
polygraph machines by
Leonarde Keeler . Rigorous testing of the
polygraph has yielded mixed results (see
Polygraph main page ), and
some critics classify polygraph operation as a pseudoscience .
Mark Super VII Quantum E-meter, The previous standard model
E-meter was adopted for use in
Mathison collaborated with
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard in 1951. Some sources say
E-meter was "developed by
Volney Mathison following Hubbard's
designs", or that Hubbard invented it. Hubbard falsely claimed to be
the inventor of the E-meter, a claim which is in keeping with the
Scientology stance that Hubbard is the “source,” or “the only
originator of all
The e-meter was not part of the early days of
Scientology. Auditing was composed of conversation and not led by a
mechanical device. Hubbard introduced an
E-meter prototype during the
1952 Philadelphia Doctorate Course but did not introduce his
transistorized version after several years later. The
“the principal material artifact” of
Dianetics and Scientology
from the 1960s onward.
In the book,
L. Ron Hubbard, Messiah or Madman? ,
Bent Corydon wrote:
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..."
Though it seemed for a while that Scientology's more advanced
techniques would serve without an E-meter, a few months later in May
1955, Hubbard wrote:
And here come E-Meters back into the picture. The HASI is, at this
moment, building a new and better E-Meter than has ever been built
before, under the trademarked name of Physio-galvanometer, or O-Meter.
It has very little in common with the old type E-Meter. Nevertheless,
an old type E-Meter can be utilized.
Scientology meter was smaller, based on transistors rather than
vacuum tubes , and powered by a low-voltage, rechargeable battery
rather than line voltage .
From then on, the
E-meter was a required tool for Scientology
ministers. The "Hubbard Mark II"
E-meter was christened in 1960 and
the Hubbard Mark III shortly after. On December 6, 1966, Hubbard won
a patent on the Mark V version under the name "Hubbard
Electropsychometer". Corydon wrote that the Hubbard
actually developed by Scientologists Don Breeding and Joe Wallis,
though the patent (U.S. Patent 3,290,589 ) does not list other
Corydon's account was said to be based on the memoirs of Hubbard's
Ronald DeWolf , but in 1987, DeWolf sued the publisher to prevent
publication and swore an affidavit repudiating everything in the book.
E-meter has been redesigned and re-patented several
times since its first introduction to
Dianetics (e.g.: U.S. Patent
4,459,995 , U.S. Patent 4,578,635 , U.S. Patent 4,702,259 ).
Scientology was accepted as a religion by the Court of
Appeal and declared that the
E-meter was useful in “bona fide
religious counseling.” District Court Judge Gesell, while denying
medical validity to the device, returned the e-meter to the Church.
All e-meters from this point forward had to be inscribed with a
disclaimer that it was not for medical or scientific diagnoses,
treatment or prevention of any disease. The church reformulated the
disclaimer into: “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
A Scientologist administers a stress test using an e-meter.
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. 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."
E-meters are used in
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. Religion scholar Dorthe Refslund Christensen describes
the e-meter as “a technical device that could help the auditor
locate engrams and areas of change when auditing a preclear .”
Some critics of
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 a popular method for investigating human
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
* 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 Church claims that the
E-meter can be used to assess the emotion
charge of single words, whole sentences, and questions, as well as
indicating 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
New religious movement scholar Douglas Cowan writes that
Scientologists cannot progress along the Bridge to Total Freedom
without an e-meter, and that Hubbard even told Scientologists to buy
two e-meters, in the event that one of them fails to operate.
According to anthropologist Roy Rappaport, the e-meter is a ritual
object, an object that “stand indexically for something
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 electric
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 .
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, measuring variations in electrodermal activity (which
can be highly responsive to emotion ), functions on one of the same
physiological data sources as the polygraph or lie detector .
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
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 traditional theory of EDA holds that skin resistance varies with
the state of sweat glands in the skin. Sweating is controlled by the
sympathetic nervous system , 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. This phenomenon is not completely understood, and further
research needs to be performed.
Main article: History of
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
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
Washington, D.C. and confiscated
more than three tons of property p. 135 including 5,000 books, 2,900
booklets, and several hundred E-meters. :1151 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 claimed that they had not written any publication that the
E-meter could or would heal anything, p. 136 and sued to get the
property back. Years of litigation ensued. In the first trial
beginning on April 3, 1967, the jury found that the Church
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:
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
Having found that
Scientology was a religion, the Court wrote that
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 Gerhard Gesell
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. All this was and is false.
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
E-meter may be used only in "bona fide religious
counseling". All meters and referring literature must include a label
disclaiming any medical benefits:
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
The church adopted a modified version of that statement, which it
still invokes in connection with the E-meter. The current statement
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.
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. He also required the church to pay the
salaries and travel expenses of FDA agents who might, from time to
time, inspect for compliance with the court's order. p. 143 The raid
was ruled illegal, but the government retained copies of the
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 .
Scientology in Australia
In 1964, the government of
Victoria, Australia held a Board of
Scientology which returned its findings in a document
colloquially known as the
Anderson Report . Psychiatrist 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
"...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."
In 1965, Victoria banned the use of the
E-meter without a license,
with Western Australia and South Australia following suit. In 1969,
the High Court of Western Australia ruled the ban illegal. South
Australia repealed its law in 1973, and Victoria repealed it in 1982.
In 1983, the High Court of Australia ruled that
Scientology was a
religion, and as such had the same rights and protections.
SCIENTOLOGY BELIEFS AND THEORIES
Within the Church of Scientology, the early psychoanalysts are
credited with first use of the E-meter.
Bob Thomas, senior executive of the Church of
Scientology in the
United States, described the
E-meter ... '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.'" p. 62-64
L. Ron Hubbard
L. Ron Hubbard credited Mathison with recreating the
bringing the first model to Hubbard for use in Dianetics. Hubbard set
out his theory of how the
E-meter works in his book Understanding the
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
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
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".
Bob Thomas, senior executive of the church in the early 1970s, gave a
The immediate goal of the
E-meter is to enhance communication. In
other words, just to 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
mentioned 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 ...
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 pain-associated or
traumatic-associated concept, or word or idea. ... Some very early
work was done on this by Jung ..." p. 62-64
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