Scientology and the E-Meter
About the E-Meter
What is the E-meter?
The E-meter is a Hubbard electro-psychometer. It's basically a crude lie detector device used by during the Scientology practice called auditing. Scientologists claim the device allows people to "see a thought" and "helps the auditor and preclear locate areas of spiritual distress or travail". An E-meter consists of two metal cans (originally, they really did use soup cans) connected to a measuring device. The electronic foundation of an E-meter is a Wheatstone bridge.
How does the E-meter work?
The meter measures subtle changes in a person's electrical current. The person being audited holds the cans in each hand (or, if auditing oneself, holds both cans in one hand). When the person is asked a question, the auditor watches the E-meter for a response. Different types of responses are interpreted as indicating different things about the person's mental or spiritual state.
Does the E-meter really show what a person is thinking? Can you "see a thought"?
No. The meter simply shows whether your body is experiencing a change in stress level. It doesn't show whether you're telling the truth or lying, and it doesn't reveal what you're thinking about.
The meter measures changes in the body's electrical resistance. These changes are caused by chemicals in the blood, such as adrenalin, and by nerve signals. Both of these are, to some extent, under your concious control - you can intentionally calm yourself down or get yourself worked up. While the meter may correctly show whether a question or directive makes you feel stressed, it doesn't show the nature of that stress (whether it's fear, guilt, anger, or something else). It's possible to fool the meter by thinking pleasant thoughts or even by squeezing the cans.
History of the E-Meter
Who invented the E-meter?
Volney Mathison invented and patented the E-meter.
When Hubbard first wrote about Dianetics in 1950, no meter was used, so no meter was mentioned in the book. Scientologists began using Mathison's meter in the early 1950s, but after he refused to surrender the patent to Hubbard, Hubbard directed auditors to stop using the meter. Four years later, Don Breeding and Joe Wallis developed a modified version, which was then sold as the Hubbard E-meter. Since then, Scientology has emphasized that using a meter in auditing is essential.
Why do some E-meters carry a disclaimer?
The court found that Scientology was making claims that auditing with an E-meter could cure illness. The court ruled that E-meters and any literature describing their use must carry a disclaimer stating that the device " ... has been condemned by a United States District Court on the grounds that the literature of Dianetics and Scientology contains false and misleading claims of a medical or scientific nature and that the E-meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease ..."
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