Why L. Ron Hubbard Patented His E-Meter — The device was intended to put the science in Scientology

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To call L. Ron Hubbard a prolific writer is an extreme understatement. From 1934 to 1940, he regularly penned 70,000 to 100,000 words per month of pulp fiction under 15 different pseudonyms published in various magazines. Not to be constrained by genre, he wrote zombie mysteries, historical fiction, pirate adventure tales, and westerns.

But by the spring of 1938, Hubbard started honing his craft in science fiction. The publishers of Astounding Science Fiction approached Hubbard to write stories that focused on people, rather than robots and machines. His first story, “The Dangerous Dimension,” was a light-hearted tale about a professor who could teleport anywhere in the universe simply by thinking “Equation C.”

Twelve years and more than a hundred stories later, Hubbard published a very different essay in the May 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction: “Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science.” In the essay, Hubbard recounts his own journey to discover what he called the reactive mind and the “technology” to conquer it. The essay was the companion piece to his simultaneously released book, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, which in turn became the foundation for a new religion: the Church of Scientology.

Marrying technology with spirituality, Hubbard introduced the electropsychometer, or E-meter, in the 1950s as a device to help his ministers measure the minds, bodies, and spirits of church members. According to church dogma, the minds of new initiates are impaired by “engrams”—lingering traces of traumas, including those from past lives. An auditor purportedly uses the E-meter to identify and eliminate the engrams, which leads eventually to the person’s reaching a state of being “clear.” Before reaching this desirable state, a church member is known as a “preclear.”

During an auditing session, a preclear holds the E-meter’s two metal cylinders, one in each hand, as a small electrical current flows through them. The auditor asks a series of questions while operating two dials on the E-meter. The larger dial adjusts the resistance; the smaller dial controls the amplification of the needle. The auditor doesn’t read specific measurements on the meter but rather interprets the needle’s movement as the preclear responds to the questions.

Content retrieved from: https://spectrum.ieee.org/e-meter-history.

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