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Historical – e-meters

This and other historical articles will eventually be placed under the heading Early Scientology History. Present day Scientology leadership gives very little attention to how Scientology developed, and its history (for instance never announcing the death of Hubbard's wife and business companion over many years, Mary Sue Hubbard) so here you will find something of what I experienced since 1954.

My first meeting with an emeter was in Easter 1954. I came home for Easter (I worked in Cambridge) with a problem, and my father gave me a session to handle that. He used the small emeter which will be depicted in pictures here (page will be tidied up a bit, but temporally:).

Picture of whole meter:

Picture of dial:

Picture of inside of meter circuitry:

The box is 17 cms x 14 cms x 8 cms deep

An important thing to bear in mind is that transistors (and of course printed circuits) were not discovered at that point. The emeter my father used had no means of magnifying the reads, and I understand it consisted of a simple wheatstone bridge, and it worked off a 28 volt battery. If my father turned it on after I held the cans, I got a very unpleasant (to me) shock. Apart from the on/off switch there were only two controls, two knobs, marked balance and tone, and I could not figure out how they worked (but it was different from later meters).

The emeter was not used in the following years, so the auditing and training I got in 54, 55 and jan 56 was without an emeter.

In 57 or early 58 the emeter was introduced again. The first edition of Dianetics 55 was from 1955, where it was explained that the emeter was no longer used, but comm lag was used instead. Later editions had a footnote explaining why the emeter was being used again, or handled the question in other ways. One reason for its reintroduction was that transistors had been invented, making emeter circuitry much easier and more reliable.

At the time it was re-introduced I remember in the London Academy students brought in various “home made” meters, using valves, which they had from the first time emeters were used, they worked mostly on batteries. A valve, “tube” in American, needs to be heated. I remember one that worked off the mains electricity (240 volts at that time in England) and consisted of two metal boxes, with metal grills to allow air in for cooling, the one box contained solely a transformer.

At that time the London Org produced an emeter, which we called the green and gold meter (green and gold being Scientology colors). It consisted of a meter above the controls. In the USA a meter was produced where the dial was to the right and the controls to the left. 

There were no restrictions preventing other people than the Scientology body, HASI, making emeters, and in about 1960, I shared a flat with a Scientologist, Jim Pembry, who worked on making his own meter for sale. He wanted to improve the circuit's stability under temperature changes and we would at times find a meter “under test” in the refrigerator or the oven.

At a point, which I do not remember, the Mark IV meter was introduced. This was in a wooden box and worked off batteries which you had to change now and again. 

A little later the Mark V was introduced, which had rechargeable batteries. The earlier Mark fives charged from the mains, which is to say that mains electricty (240 volts in Great Britain, 110 volts in USA) went straight in to the emeter. One was able to audit while the emeter was charging, and thus, if there was a fault in the emeter, one could give the preclear a shock – this form of charging circuitry was illegal in some countries, and later emeters charged with low voltage current from a small transformer plugged into the mains.

These meters used the only type of transistor available at that time, germanium. A germanium transistor was not very stable, being affected by temperature changes, and thus these early emeters had a trim knob, enabling one to set the emeter correctly to the resistance of a female body. When the "cans" (electrodes) were not plugged in, a resistor came into the circuit instead, which was the equivelent of a female "clear" body's resistance. You always trimmed the emeter before a session.

During the time the Mark V was produced a small number of Azimuth emeters were produced. The Azimuth emeter, I believe, had the same circuit as the Mark V, but the meter dial was placed above the controls, and had glass also behind it. I believe the purpose was so that you could write reads down on your worksheet, while looking through the meter, thus reducing the possibility of missing reads.

While I was still in the "Church" the Mark VI came out, which was in a plastic case (different colors possible). It was supposedly better, but there seemed to be different opinions on that.

The man responsible for emeters when I was responsible for the Department of Production Manufacture in Publications Org, was Barry Penberthy. I believe he told me the following. The germanium transistor had been replaced by a different, and better, type, and it became difficult to get them. There was a standard Mark V meter which had been approved by Ron, and this had germanium transistors. Barry sought permission from Ron to use a more modern, and easily available transistor. His request “up the lines” got stopped by some one on the way up, and returned, with the reason that if Ron had approved it, it was not for Barry to propose changes to what Ron had approved.

I was thrown out of the church in 1983, so know nothing of what happened within the church after that. Outside, there have been masses of developments and different models, which I can not go into in detail. My first experience was when Barry Penberthy, now outside of the Church, produced his Ability meter. There were various models. Picture of Ability meter here:

One thing about the Churches emeters was that up to that point meter movements in industry generally (as I understand it) were intended to measure a static thing, like the voltage. Thus it did not matter if the needle moved about a bit before it came to its final point. We were forced to use for economic reasons that commonly produced type of meter. It was not particularly good for auditing, as the preclear's body resistance could alter again, while the needle was settling down. As I understand it, when they measured up the Mark V which Ron had approved, the needle would swing about ten times before reaching its final position and Mark Vs were approved if the needle moved between 8 and 12 times before reaching it final position. But they had to do that – a meter which came straight to the point was not standard, the standard being the early one Ron had approved.

The Ability meter needle (and probably on all other Free Zone meters) moves straight to its final position, and there is no swinging back and forth other than movements caused by the preclear's resistance changing.

Other developments in Free Scientology meters were many improvements in circuitry, including the ability to not show body movements, recording tone arm changes on a graph, and associating it with a standard computer, including the ability to record and play back both sound (auditor and preclear) and emeter changes and to do these things over the Internet.

I am not an experienced emeter user. At the moment I audit without an emeter. So you will have to look for other sources for a detailed history in the changes with regard to use of the emeter in auditing over the years. I can however draw attention to the fact that before the middle of the sixties the term floating needle was not used. What I noticed was that before floating needle came into the language Ron began to talk about a free needle, and I did not really understand what he meant when I first read the words. But perhaps you know of a source I can refer readers to for more detailed history in the use of the emeter and the various types and meanings of emeter reads over the years. Write to me, via the “contact Ant” clickable thing on the left.

I do remember in the 50s the distinction was made between an instant read and a latent read.  An instant read had to occur within a precise fraction of a second of saying the last word (of a question or item), and Ron at one point reccommended the purchase of a shutter from an old camera, setting it to the time he mentioned and looking at the meter needle (or something) while the shutter was open. I bought such a shutter, tried it, and did not achieve anything out of the excercise, which was supposed enable one to judge whether a read was latent or instant

At one point, after floating needles became known and important floating needles were invalid if they did not occur with the Tone Arm between 2 and 3 and this was possibly the reason for the fitting of a trim knob on the Mark V and later "Church" meters.