The Story of the e-Meter Part 6: L Ron Hubbard and Volney Mathison Together in the Garden of Eden

mk1 emeterAs described in part three of this series, in 1950 Volney Mathison (the inventor of the e-meter)  was seeing a psychoanalyst to be treated for depression after suffering a business failure.

Disillusioned with this therapy he attended a’ lecture’ by L Ron Hubbard. Hubbard bemoaned the fact that there was no way to objectively measure  a patients mental state, and that psychotherapy would be transformed by a device that did this. Mathison was inspired to create just such an instrument.

He revived a simple device for measuring galvanic skin response (GSR) and added an amplifier to the circuit. Although this made the device more sensitive and easier to use, his innovation came a little late – GSR had been rejected as a therapeutic tool by mainstream psychiatry at the beginning of the century.

This did not deter him from inventing and practising his own form of psychotherapy to complement his e-meter. He describes this in his books  “Electropsychometry” (Extract: Read Online | Download as .pdf ) and “Creative Image Therapy”.

Mathison also played the part of a ‘researcher’ in early Dianetics and collaborated with Hubbard, who gradually incorporated Mathison e-meters into Scientology practice.

This story is traced via extracts from the pages of the  “Journal of Scientology” which can be downloaded here  Open folder to download individual issues | Download all issues in a .zip file.

In the first issue of “The journal of Scientology” download here Mathison was apparently already well established  as Hubbard’s collaborator. Journal of Scientology Issue 1-G

The front page announces the news that Mathisons “mini meter” (a small, battery-powered version) was now available for sale, and page 4 is devoted to an advertisement for both the mini and the ‘standard’ (AC powered) meter.

Scientologists were strongly encouraged to buy a Mathison e-meter. The copy reads, “Auditor’s log: without E -meter 1,000 hours With E-meter 80 hours! Can you afford the time?”

This hype was not limited to advertising. On page 8 a substantial article by Hubbard himself recommends the e-meter for reasons which go back to Mathisons initial inspiration.

It was entitled “electronics gives life to freud’s theory – associative process quickly breaks case with use of e-meter” (all lower case in original)

Years after free association as developed by Sigmund Freud has been abandoned as a therapy, the development in electronics has revised, at least in part, the techniques of the Viennese master. […] .

There were many difficulties with the technique of free association but the main one was the lack of positive evidence for the doctor on what the patient was avoiding, or repressing.

Years later, the technique is made workable for the first time by the development of an electronic instrument, the electropsychometer, which was invented by Volney Mathison of California. While this instrument was developed primarily for the needs of Scientology, Mathison has furthered its use by developing, as well, what he calls “Technique 100″ or Associative Processing”. the technique is so-called because it imposes and even guarantees absolute honesty on the part of the patient and provides the doctor with adequate and useful clues.

It has been said by those who have employed this process that they cannot how analysis could possibly be conducted with the use of the electropsychometer.

Does This Article Make Sense?

In actual fact, Hubbard makes a variety of  mistakes.freud The article appears concerned only with establishing the e-meter as part of Scientology practice so that it can sold for a profit, and plays fast and loose with the facts in order to achieve this.

Freud  abandoned hypnotism – but continued to use  free association throughout his life. He considered  this to be a an essential technique, as did the psychoanalysts that followed him.

Freud, and his pupils, used human judgement and empathy to assess the things that their patients revealed during free association.  A “[…] lack of positive evidence” did not bother them because they know it was not possible for doctors to read their patients minds.

The idea that this can be done – and with a simple circuit which measures skin resistance – is the central problem with Mathisons e-meter. It  is an attempt to replace human judgement and empathy with a device whose power to ‘read minds’ exists only in the imagination of a quack therapist.

As discussed previously, the best the e-meter can  possibly do is provide some measure of   ‘Arousal’ – you could be having the most profound insight – or thinking about the moment when you stubbed your toe on the way to the doctors office. There is no way to tell the difference.

Finally, the e-meter was not a new idea. Karl Jung (one of Freud’s’ more prominent pupils) experimented with a version of the e-meter in 1906, but rejected it as a diagnostic tool because it told him nothing useful. Mathison merely made this discredited device easier to use by adding electronic amplification.

What Does Hubbard Reveal About the History of Scientology Here?


  • Explicitly states that Mathison developed the  e-meter long before he claimed credit for himself
  • Explicitly states that the e-meter is an essential tool for Scientologists
  • Was heavily promoting  and selling someone else’s product in his own periodical

The most remarkable point for Scientologists today is the fact that they are told that L Ron Hubbard developed the “Hubbard Electropsychometer”, and yet here he is not only giving credit to someone else, but (apparently) admiring their achievement.

Issue 2 of the “Journal of Scientology” download  underlines this. hub books and math meter not galleryOn page 8  – a full-page advertisement appears, which sells  a package for Scientology “Study Groups” consisting of books and audio tapes by Hubbard, and a Mathison e-meter.

Issue three download includes a full-page advertisement for Mathison’s ‘mini-meter’ on page 4. From this point, ads for  various models of Mathison e-meters start to appear in almost every issue.

On page 3 of  issue 5 download there is an article by Volney Mathison himself, which is entitled “either cans, sponges make good electrodes when used on e-meter” (lower case in original) This is close by a prominent advertisement for Mathison e-meters and  demonstrates to readers that Hubbard was actively collaborating with Mathison.

On page 3 of issue 8 download there is an article by Tom Easterbrook entitled “e-meter is precision instrument when used skilfully by auditor” (lower case in original). Ton Easterbrook was probably one of Hubbard’s pen names, indicating that he was doing his utmost to promote Mathison’s meter.

What Changed?

In this loosely -organised, early period of Scientology, the organisation operated as a network. Scientology published several periodicals which advertised books, meters and training, and Hubbard mounted frequent get-togethers (which he called ‘Congresses’) where he ‘lectured’ to  and ‘trained’ aspiring auditors.

In this environment, it made sense for Hubbard to ‘sub-contract’ the supply of e-meters to Mathison. Writing and attending congresses was time-consuming. Since collaborators  (like Mathison and most auditors) could make  money for themselves, they were motivated to promote Scientology for him.

However, as Hubbard grew richer, he began to formalise the organisation. As the number of Orgs began to grow. He was able to dispense with his collaborators, and begin to establish absolute personal control over every aspect Scientology.

In some ways, this period was Scientology’s ‘Garden of Eden’. There was excitement, optimism and a degree of freedom. It could not last.  Hubbard’s need for power and control could not tolerate continued collaboration – what might happen if one of these people became popular, and threatened to displace him?. Also, of course, Hubbard resented other people making money from his ideas. He wanted it all for himself.

Volney Mathison was about to fall from grace, and be expelled from the garden.


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