We were very excited when rumors surfaced about a series of lectures from Tom Cruise, free on the web, about scientology and psychiatry. At last, we thought, a chance to glimpse the non-evidence-based innards of Hollywood’s favorite pasttime, without paying exorbitant fees (and yes, I’m talking about Scientology, not psychiatry):
Continuing his vigorous advocacy for Scientology’s solutions to mental health problems, Tom Cruise will deliver a series of four lectures on topics related to “The Modern Science of Mental Health” beginning next month….
The first lecture, set for October 15, is titled “How Psychiatry Invented Schizophrenia, and What Scientologists Can Do About It”.
The second lecture, tentatively scheduled for October 22, is on “Handling Sexual Dis-Orientation: Out of the Closet and Into the Auditing Room”.
The topic of the third lecture, in early November, will be “Diagnosis and Treatment of So-Called Clinical Depression with the Hubbard Mark Super VII Quantum Electropsychometer”.
“The E-meter is a skin galvanometer, similar to those used in giving lie detector tests. The subject or “preclear” holds in his hands two tin soup cans, which are linked to the electrical apparatus. A needle on the apparatus registers changes in the electrical resistance of the subject’s skin. The auditor asks questions of the subject, and the movement of the needle is apparently used as a check of the emotional reaction to the questions. According to complex rules and procedures set out in Scientology publications, the auditor can interpret the movements of the needle after certain prescribed questions are asked, and use them in diagnosing the mental and spiritual condition of the subject.”
Early government inquires into the E-meter revealed some limitations:
These experts also explained that the machine was not really a measure of skin resistance at all, but partially a reading of how firmly the individual was grasping the can; if the person squeezed the can, there was more contact, and apparent skin resistance would drop. If he held the cans loosely, the apparent skin resistance would simply increase.
Scientologists, on the other hand, claim that the E-meter is so sensitive that it will react not only when a person is holding onto it, but also when it is placed on a tomato — garden variety that is. While some people would view this as an argument against the meter, Scientologists feel that this proves its validity and that it also supports their hypothesis that plants have feelings like humans.
And now, the E-meter’s status is not unlike that of pro wrestling: everyone agrees it’s not real, but interested parties go through the motions for their own reasons:
The US Food & Drug Administration raided Scientology on January 4, 1963 and seized hundreds of E-meters as illegal medical devices. The incident is described in Jon Atack’s book, A Piece of Blue Sky, and in this essay by Stephen Barrett, M.D. Since that time, meters have been required to carry a disclaimer stating that they are purely a religious artifact…
This subsequent court decision says in part: “As a matter of formal doctrine, the Church professes to have abandoned any contention that there is a scientific basis for claiming cures resulting from E-meter use…”
More from Secrets of Scientology…
That’s all for this week. Thank you for stopping by. See you on Monday.