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E-meters, personality tests form Scientology trappings

Title: E-meters, personality tests form Scientology trappings
Date: Sunday, 22 October 1978
Publisher: Chronicle-Telegram
Author: Cynthia Roberts
Main source: link (542 KiB)

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Like any other religion, Scientology has its trappings. Not crisp, rich-colored vestments. Not silver chalices, nor flasks of holy water.

No, there are other things. Like personality tests and E-meters.


Scientologists rely heavily on counseling methods to cure psychosomatic ills and mental blocks. They believe in the powers of the "reactive mind" — a portion of the mind which records unpleasant experiences which may later be triggered by outside influences.

TO CLEAR the mind of "engrams" (the unsavory experiences), Scientologists "audit" or listen to each other as therapeutic counseling.

And that's, where the E-meter comes in. It's a simple skin galvanometer, similar to lie-detecting instruments. The counselor who is monitoring a church member uses the E-meter as a "spiritual barometer" to show areas which may cause stress to an individual, Sanford Block, the church's minister for public affairs, said.

The E-meter is an innocent looking gadget with a couple of knobs, a needle gauge and two wires running from the bottom. They're attached to tin cans (yeah, tin cans!) that pick up the electrical flow.

Holding the cans in both hands, Block demonstrated by pinching my arm. The needle lurched violently to the right. When the pinch stopped, it returned to normal.

"NOW THINK about that pinch," he urged. The needle slid obediently over to the right, though not as far. It returned to center, I thought about it again, and it meandered over to the right once more — each time getting fainter.

Like many groups, the Scientologists believe the body can heal itself. "Nerve energies can be directed by an individual," Block said, citing the health of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback John Brodie as an example.

Troubled by pain in his throwing arm, Brodie consulted a number of speciaists before attending a Dianetics meeting. "He said he wasn't sure why it worked, but all of a sudden his arm was feeling better. That year he won the NFL player of the year award," Block said.

Another tool of the Scientologists is the personality test, given free at the Cleveland Heights center, 2055 Lee Road.

THERE ARE 200 questions, many of them seeking the same response to differently worded inquiries, which are designed to elicit personality traits. The test results, which are graphed according to a person's "yes-no-maybe" responses, are used to pinpoint areas Scientologists feel an individual should study.

The mission's full-time employee, Jane Bosan, computed the results of my test and explained the peaks and valleys running through blocks of gray and white on the graph.

When I asked to see samples of other graphs, she produced a loose-leaf notebook of before-and-after Scientology tests. Predictably, the "before Scientology" graphs wallowed in the negative end of the graph. After counseling, and another test, the lines soared into the positive quadrants

—Cinthia Roberts

[Illustration of a personality test graph]