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The E-Meter Scam – Using a Belief System for Profit

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The E-Meter Scam – Using a Belief System for Profit

If anyone has ever thoroughly studied Dr. Hal Puthoff’s history, it quickly becomes apparent that his activities throughout the years go far beyond simple scientific research. Hal has consistently and aggressively pursued any and all avenues of alternative funding for fringe research. The most important question any researcher should ask is this:

Would a “genius” scientist, who was a renowned quantum laser expert, truly believe that such a ridiculously simple and basic electronic device as the “E-Meter” could seriously be considered as a new discovery? Surely, a man trained in the electrical engineering aspects of lasers would recognize the history and operation of such a basic galvanometer?

Puthoff Promotes E-Meter Research

In Martin Gardner’s 1998 article titled Zero-Point Energy and Harold Puthoff, he described how, in 1970, Hal Puthoff wrote a notarized letter that was later published by the Church of Scientology in which he wrote:

“Although critics viewing the system [Scientology] from the outside may form the impression that Scientology is just another of many quasi-educational quasi-religious ‘schemes,’ it is in fact a highly sophistical and highly technological system more characteristic of the best of modern corporate planning and applied technology.”

According to Gardner, the letter praises the E-meter, which Scientologists believe is capable of revealing “engrams.” Puthoff writes:

“In the technical community here at Stanford, we have projects underway employing the techniques developed in Scientology.”

Evidence Against E-Meter Legitimacy

However, years earlier, in the Report of the Board of Enquiry into Scientology by Kevin Victor Anderson, Q.C., and published in 1965 by the State of Victoria, Australia – the Board of Enquiry, upon investigating Scientology’s claims regarding the E-Meter, reported the following:

“The E-meter is not a new type of instrument. It is one which is well known to science and has been in use in one form or another for many years. As early as the 1920’s, experiments were conducted in psychological research with what was then called an electro-galvanometer or psycho-galvanometer.


There is no reason at all to suppose that they can do anything more then register resistance. The scientology rejoinder that the thetan caused the change in resistance in the manner described above was not supported by any evidence. On the contrary, the Board heard abundant expert evidence which explained the phenomena which produced the variations in resistance.”

This was a report published years before Hal began publicly promoting the device as some form of new “breakthrough” technology. As though the above comments weren’t convincing enough regarding the E-Meter scam, the board continued to pound the final nails in the coffin.

“Whether or not its use is in breach of any existing law, the use to which the E-meter is put in scientology is dastardly. None of the scientology theories associated with, or claims made for, the E-meter is justified. They are contrary to expert evidence which the Board heard and are quite fantastic and inherently improbable. Nothing even remotely resembling credible evidence was placed before the Board in attempted justification.”

emeter scam

It should not have taken a brilliant scientist – a fringe technology maverick like Hal – more than just a bit of superficial research to discover what other professionals were actively revealing about this electronic device. If he didn’t find the report from the Australian authorities, he should have at least found the report that came from the African authorities who also investigated Scientology claims.

In 1969, the President of the Republic of South Africa appointed a Commission of Enquiry into Scientology within the Department of Health. The report appeared in the Government Gazette No. 2351 of the 11th April, 1969.

On the E-Meter, this commission stated the following:

“8.9. Neither in Mr. Hubbard’s books nor in evidence before the Commission are the claims referred to in the preceding paragraph substantiated or proved. They rest in the main on the ipse dixit of Mr. Hubbard or other spokesmen of the Church of Scientology.


In conclusion[21b] the witness expressed the view that tests made by the meter are virtually of no value at all unless done under ideal scientific laboratory conditions and even then their value remains unknown by reason of the danger inherent in inferring personality patterns and reactive dispositions from movements of a needle of a dial.”

emeter scam

Puthoff Defends His Scientology Involvement

In response to direct questioning in 2007 regarding an unrelated issue, Hal Puthoff responded indirectly to Gardner’s claims, via email, as follows:

“4. Finally, FWIW, with regard to my own involvement in scientology, below is what I wrote in the Skeptical Inquirer in response to a criticism by Martin Gardner:

‘…. let’s take the subject of my brief involvement in Scientology in the early 1970s to which Gardner devotes considerable space. He notes, correctly enough, that I am on record as being no longer involved, but asks ‘but how much of it does he still buy?’ What I ‘still buy’ is that GSR (galvanic skin response) can be used to dredge up forgotten traumatic memories from youth, with some cathartic effect. I learned this first by accident during routine polygraphing for security purposes when I was an NSA employee in the early 1960s. It was this experience that led me out of curiosity to later investigate Scientology procedures from an empirical, firsthand viewpoint. It became obvious to me, however, that, in addition to the expected defects that accompany any circumscribed belief structure, the ethics of the organization in those years was developing some fatal flaws as well, so I severed all connections. It is ironic to me that during the time I was being accused of being a Scientology member by Martin Gardner and others, the Scientologists were picketing me for my outspoken support of those who would dare to call them to task for their activities. So it goes.


As a side note, and a good topic for future analysis, good researchers who are looking into the background of the tales should pay close attention to Hal’s admission above, that he was providing, “…outspoken support of those who would dare to call them to task for their activities.” So who was this breakaway group that Hal speaks of? A good starting point for future examination would be splinter Scientology organization that Bill Ryan, of Serpo fame, is a member of.

Aside from the obvious fact that there wasn’t really anything brief about his involvement, and level reached, within Scientology – his statement above does confirm the history of his involvement in the organization as well as his private scientific research’s relationship to it. He clearly “bought” (and still does today) that there is some significance to the galvanic skin response (a fancy phrase for skin resistance) related to memories and emotion.

While I have a feeling most scientists and engineers familiar with what biological processes can effect galvanic skin response would probably agree that emotions and memories have an effect on galvanic skin response – what Hal alludes to above is that the galvanic skin response, via feedback (a.k.a. the E-meter), can be used with some “cathartic effect.” Today, of course, this concept is called bio-feedback.

emeter scam

The E-Meter – More Promising or Better Funded?

However, the important issue here isn?t whether bio-feedback is a valuable or useful technology in therapy or spiritual practices. The issue is this: what was it about Scientology that drove him to leave such a successful and promising field of research as quantum lasers?

What was it about his exposure to the E-meter that convinced him that it would be a more rewarding technology to research? Was his public promotion of E-meter technology related to the fact that a wealthy Scientologist and owner of Church’s Chicken, Bill Church, was willing to invest into the technology?

According to Jeffrey Richelson’s book The Wizards of Langley, Puthoff obtained the desired funding from Bill Church, the owner of Church’s Chicken, to the tune of $10,000 seed money in order to start conducting “ESP experiments.”

In the 1973 book, The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, the authors outlined an example of how this brilliant scientist, who was formerly on track to become one of the world’s foremost quantum physicists, started conducting E-meter research. One particular experiment involved connecting an E-meter to one egg in order to measure the galvanic response when he broke another egg nearby.

Needless to say, he made the absolutely groundbreaking discovery that chicken eggs do not have feelings.

Originally published on

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