``By itself, this meter does nothing.''
Excerpt from a disclaimer found in every E-meter book, and on the device itself.
This photo from the St. Petersburg Times shows an E-meter with the optional remote tone arm to the left.
The two "cans" in the photo are joined together by a plastic insulator insert, allowing both to be held in one hand for solo auditing. This type of auditing is practiced only on the most advanced (and most expensive) Scientology levels, namely, OT III and Solo NOTs (New Era Dianetics for Operating Thetans.)
The remote tone arm attachment, sitting to the left of the meter, is used in solo auditing. The person holds the cans in one hand and uses their other hand both to take notes and to work the large knurled knob on the left side of the remote. The knob is geared to the dial on the front of the remote, so moving one also moves the other. Alternatively, the person could move the front dial with their pen.
What is metered auditing really like? Robert Kaufman spills the beans in his book Inside Scientology/Dianetics, which the Scientology organization tried to suppress.
Embarassing E-Meter Facts
Although Hubbard's name is on the patent application, the E-meter was actually invented by a chiropractor named Volney Mathison, and was originally called the Mathison Model B Electropsychometer.
Mathison's Electropsychometer was promoted as an aid to psychotherapy and psychoanalysis, which is anathema to Scientologists!
The more modern "bathroom scale" E-Meter design was registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 1997 under registration number 2056778. (Thanks to Scientology attorney Samuel D. Rosen, of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, for pointing this out.) Here is the trademark registration. In August 2001, Scientology also registered "E-Meter" as a word mark; the registration is here. But there are many other commercial uses of the term "E-Meter"! It appears the main point of the trademark registration would be to prevent FreeZone groups from marketing their own electropsychometers under this name.
Needle actions can be faked. Martin Hunt confessed to faking an F/N (floating needle, a movement that signals the end of an auditing process) by gently squeezing the cans. E-meter drill 9 and drill 13 are supposed to teach auditors to recognize such actions, but they don't always catch them. Patrick Jost and Arnie Lerma have found that a violent needle movement called a rockslam can be produced simply by checking the electrode leads, or by corrosion in the plug contacts.
The ``metabolism test'' done at the start of each session has nothing to do with metabolism.
The mechanical meter movement is specially designed to bounce around a lot, producing extra ``phenomena'' for the auditor to interpret.
The US Food & Drug Administration raided Scientology on January 4, 1963 and seized hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices. The incident is described in Jon Atack's book, A Piece of Blue Sky, and in this essay by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Since that time, meters have been required to carry a disclaimer stating that they are purely a religious artifact. This appellate court decision describes the trial and the various witnesses who appeared.
This subsequent court decision says in part: "As a matter of formal doctrine, the Church professes to have abandoned any contention that there is a scientific basis for claiming cures resulting from E-meter use. The Church, however, continued widely to circulate Scientology literature such as Government's exhibits 16 and 31, which hold out false scientific and medical promises of certain cure for many types of illnesses." Also see this decision by the US District Court in Minnesota concerning the E-meter and unlawful medical claims.
The 9th Circuit reached a similar conclusion, noting that "Labels of disclaimer, to-wit: 'Not intended or effective for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease,' found on about half of devices, were not controlling in determining whether devices were mislabeled within Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and thus subject to prohibition of importation, but were to be considered together with any extrinsic evidence of intended use of device."
E-meters are assembled at "Gold Base", Scientology's armed compound in Hemet, California.
The St. Petersburg Times reports it takes only 80 minutes to put one together.
And for this they charge over $4,000???
E-Meter-like devices are available from sources outside the Church of Scientology at much lower prices. Rest assured, these fine products are every bit as worthless as the Scientology models. Check out this Google directory for links. But if you want a genuine Scientology E-Meter, you can purchase the "Mark Super VII Quantum E-Meter® pastoral counseling device" from the FLAG bookstore. Or pick up a used one on eBay.
From the "idols with feet of clay" department: even L. Ron Hubbard had "discreditable reads" (indications of serious aberration or criminality) on the E-Meter. This really ticked him off!
Until the release of the Mark VII Quantum model in 1996, the Hubbard Professional Mark Super VII was the latest (mid-1980s) and most sophisticated model E-meter sold. Scientology doesn't want anyone looking too closely at their "advanced" technology, but this web page offers you a guided tour of the device, with exterior and interior views including the main circuit board, charging circuit, jacks, and data plate. "Hey, it's got Intel inside!"
Battery leakage can be a problem.
Understanding the E-Meter, an old book by L. Ron Hubbard that Scientology now prints with a more modern sci-fi cover.
Here's the book description from the Church of Scientology's own web site: "Is the theta being inside or outside the mest body or both? How big is a theta being in relation to his body?" The answers aren't very convincing, but it's unusual to see Scientologists even asking loopy questions like this in front of raw public, much less purporting to answer them. Bottom line: $50 buys you a load of comic book physics and a revealing look at what constitutes a "scientific explanation" in the cult of Scientology.