The E-Meter

The primary tool in Scientology auditing is the “e-meter”.  The e-meter was originally developed by a chiropractor named Volney Mathison.  Its full “formal” name is “electroencephaloneuromentimograph”.  Essentially, it is a rude galvanometer, about 10 inches by 6 inches, measuring the skin resistance of the subject that is holding two cylindrical contacts. 

The E-meter was adopted by Scientology as a means to determine what they consider areas of “spiritual distress or travail”.  It is believed by Scientologists that when these delicate areas are discussed during auditing, the negative energy charge that is associated with such troubled areas in one’s life are discharged, being clearly seen on the e-meter as a fluctuation of the needle.  Scientologists believe that over the course of time, all of the negative energy that is associated with these negative engrams will be dispelled, and the “reactive mind”, that is, the unconscious seat of all these negative energies will be vanquished in favor of the “analytical mind”, and the subject will be considered “clear”. 

Fundamentally, it is not of much value to discuss the merits of the theory behind the e-meter.  We know objectively that the e-meter measures the conductivity of electricity from contact to contact, via the skin.   There is no evidence that there is an electrical discharge in the brain of “negative energy” with each “engram” as claimed.  Because the subject is holding the cylinders, one could make the needle fluctuate merely by tightening or loosening one’s grip on the cylinders.    The only way one could allow for a more objective measuring of conductivity would be if the e-meter was attached to the subject via set contacts, as in a polygraph, which operates on the same principle.    Regarding any quantitative results from the e-meter, it is impossible.   Looking at the white meter face, one will notice that there are no numbers.  The digital displays are a clock and timers.  

If we were to allow for the possibility that a subject could hold the cylinders without any variation in the area of contact, then we could assume that the e-meter would function similar to a primitive polygraph.  Any questions or situations that caused angst or stress, would measure in needle fluctuations.  It is not therefore a big surprise that much of the  auditing involves probing into questions regarding sexuality, one’s relationship with their parents, and the like.   Auditors have a process called “baiting the bull” where they purposefully attempt to enrage or cause distress in the subject, then when the needle starts to fluctuate, convince themselves and their subjects that they have stumbled upon a bastion of engrams from the reactive mind that must be further eradicated through more auditing.     Consequently, the auditing process (which is an exceptionally costly procedure) is guaranteed to continue, resulting in more revenue for the Church of Scientology. 

Scientologists once hailed the E-meter as new “break-through” technology.  Since Scientologists are now more inclined to play the religion card, the E-meter has been classified as a “religious artifact” or relic.   This worked to their advantage recently, when a number of E-meters showed up on Ebay for auction.  The church protested, on the grounds that these were precious religious artifacts.  Ebay subsequently denied any further requests to auction e-meters.