The Scientology Money Project

Science Vs. Pseudoscience: A Brief History of How Scientology’s E-Meter Came Into Existence – Part 5



Having discussed Sigmund Freud and Volney Mathison in our previous installments, we produce a remarkable document later in this in article written by L. Ron Hubbard in August 1952. In this document, Hubbard confirms that Freud and Mathison are the main sources of what we call First Generation Scientology. It is quite stunning.

Before we produce the document, however, we review the final days of First Generation Dianetics (1950-1952) and the events surrounding it. We define First Generation Dianetics as the period from the April 1950 incorporation of the Hubbard Dianetic Research Foundation in Elizabeth, New Jersey through February 12, 1952 when Don Purcell put the the Dianetics Foundation of Wichita into bankruptcy.

We consider First Generation Scientology as having formally commenced on September 9, 1952 in Phoenix when Ron Hubbard incorporated the Hubbard Association of Scientologists (HAS). We emphasize that the HAS this was not the Church of Scientology, which would come later, but rather a secular membership organization only. Therefore, First Generation Scientology was founded as a secular organization and had no pretensions of being a religion. Ron Hubbard was still very committed to psychotherapy in First Generation Scientology.


Volney Mathison filed for a US patent on his electropsychometer on  August 1, 1951. Based upon our 30 years in the electronics industry, we assume a one year R&D period (September 1950-August 1951) during which Mathison designed, prototyped, field-tested, and put his e-meter into production with Arcon Manufacturing in Los Angeles. We say this because Mathison began selling production e-meters coincident with his patent filing. This filing allowed Mathison to sell his e-meter with a “patent pending” designation. With each meter sold, Mathison also included an instruction book for users to perform electropsychometric analysis.

In his patent application, Mathison states that his device is intended for use by psychoanalysts and psychotherapists (emphasis ours):

1. A bio-electronic instrument which registers the varying degrees of tension and emotion that may exist in the general physical and nervous structure of a person undergoing any kind of psychoanalysis or psychotherapy

2. The registrations observed on the scale of the indicating microammeter are rapid, sharp, and highly informative to the professional psychoanalyst or psychotherapist…

In his sales literature Mathison stated the same thing: His electropsychometer is for use in psychotherapeutic procedures:

Volney Mathison designed and built his electropsychometer for use by psychologists and psychotherapists. Mathison’s included medical doctors and chiropractors within his definition of psychologists and psychotherapists.

The key points here are that Scientology did not even exist on August 1, 1951 when Volney Mathison filed his patent application for his electropsychometer. Second, Volney designed his meter for psychoanalysts and psychologists. We will return to this point later in the article. 

We further note that Ron Hubbard did not file his copyright application for the word “Scientology” until November 1, 1951.

February 12, 1952: After Ron Hubbard resigned and tendered his shares back to the Board of Directors, Don Purcell places the Dianetics Foundation of Wichita into bankruptcy. Hubbard immediaetly sues Don Purcell over this matter.

February 12, 1952: Hubbard incorporated and opened the Hubbard College of Wichita. It is here that Hubbard introduced “Scientology” and the e-meter to his eighty or so remaining followers in Wichita. There were thousands of Dianeticists scattered across the US at this time. There were perhaps a few thousand Dianeticists in England, Australia, and New Zealand. Hubbard’s major problem was how to reach these Dianeticists now that he had resigned from the Dianetics Foundation; been barred from entering its premises; and had no access to its mailing list. This was a crisis of the first order — particularly if Don Purcell used the mailing list to tell Dianeticists his side of the story first.


In the tumult and chaos of the Dianetics bankruptcy period, Hubbard and his crew burglarized the Wichita Foundation and stole the master Dianetics mailing list. Hubbard needed the mailing list to poison Dianeticists against Don Purcell. Hubbard also was in a frenzy to do some emergency fundraising as he no longer had access to Don Purcell’s ample Wichita bank accounts. The mailing list for the Wichita Foundation had about sixteen thousand names; this was a big audience Hubbard had to reach before Purcell got to them.

While Hubbard and his crew were burglarizing the Wichita Foundation, they also stole Dianetics books and the reel-to-reel tape masters of Hubbard’s lectures. These items were needed so that the Hubbard College could get sell them and get a cash flow started. The Hubbard gang also took the expensive office equipment and furniture from the Wichita Foundation as the Hubbard College needed these things.

Back in prehistoric days of 1952, a “mailing list” was not a computerized list of names as we have today. Rather, most companies used the Addressograph system.

The Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation of Cleveland, Ohio created a breakthrough with its Addressograph system. Invented in the 1890’s and continually improved over the ensuing decades, the system used a small metal printing plate onto which a special heavy-duty typewriter imprinted the name and address of an individual.

Right: A metal addressograph plate.

An Addressograph mailing list was scalable and could consist of anywhere from hundreds of plates to tens or hundreds of thousands of plates. When a mailing needed to be done, an operator stacked the plates into the Addressograph machine. The machine inked the address plates and pressed them against envelopes. A human operator was needed only to feed envelopes into the machine.

In its technical literature, the Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation claimed efficiencies as high as 3,000 addressed envelopes per hour; an impressive throughput of 50 envelopes per second. For over one hundred years, the Addressograph system was the standard system for sending mass-mailers. The Addressograph system was finally overtaken only by the advent of computer printing.

The Wichita Dianetics Foundation used the Addressograph system. What L. Ron Hubbard and his agents stole were three heavy boxes containing seventy-five pounds of addressograph plates and the Addressograph machine itself. What Hubbard stole, therefore, was not only the mailing list but the mechanical means to reach the Dianetics customer base with great speed. Hubbard’s theft of the mailing list and other equipment effectively crippled the Wichita Foundation.

Although he did not call his insane need for revenge against Don Purcell “Fair Game” at the time, Ron Hubbard quickly used the stolen Wichita mailing list to send out an astonishing thirty-one poison pen letters attacking Don Purcell, this according to our 2017 podcast with our good friend, the esteemed historian and researcher Jon Atack. These letters accused Purcell of attempting to destroy Dianetics. Hubbard even spun a wild story in which he insisted that the American Medical Association had paid Don Purcell $500,000 to destroy Dianetics.

March 13, 1952: Ron Hubbard uses the addressograph plates to send a letter out from the Hubbard College (scroll down to the bottom of this article to read the letter in PDF form). In this letter Hubbard does three things. First, he begins selling Mathison’s meters to Dianeticists. However, due to Hubbard’s apparent lack of familiarity with terminology, he misstates the matter and calls Mathison’s electropsychometer a psychogalvanometer:

Second, Hubbard informs Dianeticists that the Hubbard College has obtained exclusive distribution rights to the Volney Electropsychometer. Again, he mistakenly calls Mathison’s device a psychogalvanometer:

In the excerpt above “H.D.A.’s” is an abbreviation for “Hubbard Dianetics Auditors.” We note in this excerpt that Volney Mathison kept the lucrative New York City and Los Angeles markets for himself. In actual practice, Hubbard sold meters to Scientologists in L.A. and New York City and everywhere else and stayed away from Mathison’s client base of chiropractors, psychologists, and psychoanalysts. Likewise, Mathison conducted seminars on electropsychometry for his client base in cities throughout America which were, technically at least, Hubbard’s sales territories. In essence, then, the real agreement was that Hubbard obtained a monopoly on sales of Mathison meters to Scientology whereas Mathison had a monopoly on his client base of chiropractors, psychologists, and psychoanalysts.

When Hubbard sold a Mathison meter to a Dianeticist, he paid Mathison a royalty. As Mathison included a copy of his Electropsychometry manual with each meter sold, Hubbard Dianetics Auditors received both the e-meter and the teaching manual on how to audit using an e-meter. Despite this arrangement, Hubbard quickly began to incorporate Dianetics terms and concepts into the foundation of Volney’s auditing techniques. Ron Hubbard had clear designs on co-opting Volney Mathison’s e-meter over time.

Third, Hubbard eerily prefigured the later Guardian’s Office and OSA data collection programs by ordering Dianeticists to send in everything they come across on Dianetics. Hubbard even wanted jokes about himself and Dianetics sent in to headquarters. This foreshadowed his later “Jokers and Degraders” policy:

April 2, 1952: The Leavenworth Times of Kansas reported the news that the assets of the Hubbard Dianetics Foundation, Inc. of Wichita had been sold in bankruptcy. The liabilities of the Foundation were $212,394.38 against assets of $40,763.19.

Don Purcell purchased the assets of the Foundation in a bankruptcy auction for $6,124. The assets included the rights to Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and the right to use Hubbard’s name. As an added bonus, the federal bankruptcy referee allowed Purcell to continue to operate the Dianetics Wichita Foundation. Purcell had outplayed Hubbard and now owned everything related to Dianetics.

As Purcell was legally obligated to pay the debts of both the Elizabeth and Wichita Dianetics Foundations, he was well within his rights to protect his interests by purchasing the assets. Purcell would incur the wrath of Hubbard and Scientology forever for having taken this action. Nevertheless, Purcell and his colleagues were not afraid of L. Ron Hubbard and fought back against his threats, smear campaigns, and vindictive tactics. Purcell and company would continue to operate the Wichita Dianetics Foundation for many more years after breaking off from Hubbard.

Don Purcell hit back hard against Hubbard’s burglary. Jon Atack related the following in his book, Lets sell these people a piece of blue sky: Hubbard, Dianetics and Scientology. The “address plates” are mentioned:

In March [1952], a restraining order was put on Hubbard and his lieutenant, James Elliot, requiring that they return the mailing lists, the address plates, tapes of Hubbard’s lectures, typewriters, sound-recorders, sound-transcribers and other equipment which had disappeared from the Wichita Foundation. Elliot admitted having “inadvertently” removed this immense haul from the Foundation. When they were eventually returned, in compliance with a court order, some of the master tapes of Hubbard lectures had been mutilated.

February-March 1952: Ron Hubbard launches Scientology and the Mathison electropsychometer at the Hubbard College in Wichita.

May 1952: With legal pressures escalating in Wichita between Hubbard and Purcell, Hubbard Ron folds up the Hubbard College. He and his pregnant new bride Mary Sue packed up their luggage The couple drove 1,039 miles to Phoenix in Ron’s dark green 1948 Buick Roadmaster. Although Scientology was introduced in Wichita, Phoenix is considered the birthplace of Scientology so far as the Church of Scientology in concerned.


L. Ron Hubbard was extremely canny in having registered and put the name “Scientology” into play in December 1951 as it gave him a new business to open in Phoenix. Armed with Mathison’s e-meter and electropsychometry manual, Ron Hubbard headed west to launch his brand new copyrighted “science” of Scientology.

September 9, 1952: From his new headquarters in Phoenix, Ron Hubbard incorporated the Hubbard Association of Scientologists. (HAS) was the first official membership organization of Scientologists. HAS preceded by two years the founding of the Church of Scientology. Hubbard fired up his mimeograph machines and mailing lists and began sending letters to Dianeticists. These letters introduced Scientology.

August-September 1952: Ron Hubbard created the Journal of Scientology. Issue 1-G is the first Journal and was published in this time frame. Hubbard’s article on page 5 says it all: Electronics Gives Life to Freud’s Theory. What Hubbard admits in his article is that “Scientology” is Freudian psychotherapy, free association in particular, greatly improved upon by the use of Mathison’s e-meter. We argue that this is exactly what First Generation Scientology was in its fundamental form. Ron claimed Scientology addressed the spirit, but this article shows him still operating from, and fixated in, his pseudo-psychoanalytical paradigm of Dianetics. Ron Hubbard published this astonishing article on page 5 of the Journal of Scientology 1-G:

Hubbard tells two falsehoods in his article. The first is when he writes:

“Years after free association as developed by Sigmund Freud had been abandoned as a therapy….”

This is not true. Free association was still in wide use in psychotherapy in the 1950’s and had been since Freud developed it in the 1890’s. While free association had, and has, its critics, Freud’s technique is still in wide use today. In the abstract of a 2014 study by Hélène Joffe of the University College of London and Jamie Elsey of the University of Amsterdam, the two scholars cite free association as a technique still used in addressing contemporary psychological issues ranging from climate change, earthquakes, urban living, and — as we are all profoundly and existentially affected by now — pandemics. Joffe and Elsey write:

This article traces the history of free association in psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, and social psychology and builds on these traditions to develop a novel research method for eliciting how people think and feel about social and personal issues. These range from climate change to pandemics, from earthquakes to urban living. The method, termed the grid elaboration method (GEM), is distinctive in tapping the naturalistic thoughts and feelings that people hold in relation to such issues. It provides an instrument that elicits ecologically valid material that minimizes the interference of the investigator’s perspective. A further aspect of the method is that it taps chains of association that are often emotive and implicit in nature, in keeping with current trends in psychological research. These facets are elaborated in this article, with reference to an exploration of the history of free association methodologies in psychology. The efficacy of the method is demonstrated using examples drawn from recent empirical work utilizing the GEM in a variety of domains. The method is evaluated, with areas for future exploration elucidated.

Hubbard’s second falsehood in the 1952 article:

While this instrument [Mathison’s electropsychometer] was developed primarily for the needs of Scientology…

This is simply not true and is not borne out by the timeline we outlined at the beginning of this article. As we noted, Scientology didn’t even exist when Volney Mathison filed his patent of August 1, 1951 for his electropsychometer. Hubbard’s embellishment was nothing more than a transparent attempt to associate his new Scientology business with Mathison’s e-meter. As we demonstrated from Hubbard’s 1952 letter, all that existed at this time was a distribution agreement whereby Hubbard could sell the Mathison Electropsychometer.

Although Volney Mathison became a Scientologist, he and Hubbard would acrimoniously part ways in a few years and Volney would leave Scientology altogether. Before they went their separate ways, however, there was an extraordinary act of diva mind-fuckery played out against Scientologists by Ron Hubbard. Volney wasn’t having any of it and this was a big reason for his departure. We cover this in our next installment.

By 1955, L. Ron Hubbard had changed his position on Sigmund Freud and psychotherapy. This is excerpted from Ron Hubbard’s Professional Auditor’s Bulletin 92 of 10 July 1956. Entitled A Critique of Psychoanalysis, Hubbard candidly states that Dianetics was a psychotherapy. It is clear from what we have shown in this article that Hubbard wanted the luster of Freud, the e-meter, and psychoanalysis in 1952 to save him from financial and reputational ruin. However, once Ron Hubbard had things up and running in 1956 in his “Church”, Freud became a Psych and psychoanalysis had incurable problems. The only answer was Scientology, and of course, the e-meter.

In the earliest beginnings of Dianetics it is possible to trace a considerable psychoanalytic influence. There was the matter of ransacking the past, the matter of believing with Freud that if one could talk over his difficulties they would alleviate, and there was the matter of concentrating on early childhood. Our first improvements on psychoanalysis itself consisted of the abandonment of talk alone and the direct address to the incident in its own area of time as a mental image picture susceptible to erasure…

It was in Scientology and the anatomy of life that one departed entirely from the tenets and teachings and fundamentals of psychoanalysis and sprang forward into the actual causes of things, for Scientology, unlike Dianetics, is not a psychotherapy.
It is therefore from the dominance of Scientology rather than from the viewpoint of Dianetics that one can understand the failings of psychoanalysis, its dangers and the reasons why it did not produce what it should have produced. This is not to enter Scientology as a mental therapy, but Scientology is a broad understanding of life and is certainly capable of looking at a mental therapy AND delineating its errors.

This is L. Ron Hubbard’s 1952 letter referenced in the text:

2 replies »

  1. Excellent work Jeffrey. So appreciated your fine tooth comb over the history.

  2. Thank you Chuck. You know it’s all hidden in the details and secret issues. I wish I knew what you did.

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