Imagine if we were to merge the technology of the Scientology E-Meter with the random decision-making ability of the Magic 8 Ball, the device would be a fortune-telling gadget like no other.

When we think of technology, one of the latest topics of conversation is in the fast-evolving field of artificial intelligence.

A company at the forefront of this space is OpenAI, a machine learning, and artificial intelligence research laboratory, co-founded by Elon Musk and others in 2015. In 2022, OpenAI launched ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), a natural language processing tool that can offer detailed responses and articulate answers across many domains of knowledge … a “Fortune-Telling Machine on steroids, if you will.

In a news comment of remarkable irony (considering the subject matter of this blog post), Sophie Hackford, a technology advisor to equipment maker John Deere told CNBC on the subject of ChatGPT, “We have got to be very careful that we don’t create a world where humans are somehow subservient to a greater machine future.

Take that for what it’s worth my Scientologist friends.

If you’d like to experiment on your own, you can access ChatGPT simply by visiting the OpenAI website and creating an account. DISCLAIMER: You must prepare yourself for hours of entertainment. You have been warned.

Speaking of entertainment, I asked ChatGPT to help me with this blog post, offering the following prompt: Imagine a fictional scenario whereby we could merge the electronic technology of the Scientology E-Meter with the decision-making ability of the Magic 8 Ball into a single apparatus. Describe the new gadget as a modern fortune-telling device.

ChatGPT: The new gadget would be a modern fortune-telling device that combines the electronic technology of the Scientology E-Meter with the decision-making ability of the Magic 8 Ball. It would be called the “E-Meter 8 Ball” and would revolutionize the world of divination.

The device would look like a typical Magic 8 Ball, with a black sphere and white letters. However, it would have an electronic interface on the bottom that would connect to the user’s fingertips. The user would hold the device in one hand and place their other hand on the interface, which would measure their galvanic skin response and transmit it to the device’s microprocessor.

The E-Meter 8 Ball would work by combining the user’s physical and mental state with the mystical powers of the Magic 8 Ball. The user would ask a question, and the device would use the E-Meter technology to measure their emotional and mental state, as well as any subconscious signals that they may be giving off.

Once the device has gathered this information, it would use its decision-making algorithm to provide an answer. The answer would be displayed on the Magic 8 Ball’s white letters, and it would also be accompanied by a tone or vibration that would indicate the device’s confidence in its answer.

The E-Meter 8 Ball would be marketed as a modern, high-tech fortune-telling device that combines the best of science and mysticism. It would appeal to people who are interested in both new technology and ancient divination practices, and it would be a popular item among spiritual seekers, New Age enthusiasts, and tech enthusiasts alike.

I don’t know about you,
but I certainly enjoyed that!

The original Magic 8 Ball didn’t have much “technology” going for it. Well, let’s be honest … there was no “technology” whatsoever in the oversized black billiard ball. But who needs “Tech” when you’ve got “magic?”

A well-sourced history of the Magic 8 Ball at Mental Floss is definitely worth a look, but the most interesting chapter of its development took place right when the idea was born in the mind of Albert Carter, assisted by his cousin Abe Bookman. Carter’s mother was a self-avowed “professional” clairvoyant and there was always a mystical aura that surrounded his childhood. Taking a cue from one of Mom’s “spirit writing devices,” Albert came up with his own version … he called it “Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune-Teller.” It wasn’t the planetary sphere that would become the Magic 8 Ball, and its early prototypes were complete failures, but the magic would come.

As the design evolved it eventually became a ball and was noticed in 1950 by Chicago’s Brunswick Billiards who commissioned the new shape as a promotional giveaway. The toy would eventually be named by Time Magazine as one of the “ALL-TIME Greatest Toys,” among those going back to 1923.

The Wikipedia page for the Magic 8 Ball, like most of its other entries, includes a “See also” listing with links to other pages directly related. Magic 8 Ball is in the same league with Divination, Fortune Teller Machines, Ka-Bala, and Ouija … and with approved editing privileges, we ought to throw in Retrocognition as the perfect segue into how the Scientology E-Meter and the Magic 8 Ball are uniquely connected.

And “Yes, Virginia, there IS a relationship”  🎱 … stick with me.

The E-Meter is essential to the practice of Scientology and is an indispensable feature in the auditing process. It’s mind-boggling to think that without this off-brand “lie detector,” as it is often called, there would be no Scientology. If you want to kick that “boggle” up a notch, consider that the device was actually “borrowed,” to be polite, by the church’s founder L. Ron Hubbard … depending on which elusive version of the story you want to follow. There are a variety of interesting sources available if you’d like to go down that rabbit hole … hereherehereherehere, and here. (Note: Hubbard obtained a U.S. patent on the “Scientology” version of the device in 1966 … for what it’s worth).

Without exception, the best editorial content about the E-Meter is available at Jeffrey Augustine’s “Scientology Money Project.” Set aside your evening for a deep dive into, “A Brief History of How Scientology’s E-Meter Came Into Existence – Parts 1-10.

INTRODUCTION: We take a wide systems approach in this series by reviewing the scientific history; academic and clinical sources; intellectual property issues; financial motives; the collapse of Dianetics; esoteric motifs; potential for psychological manipulation; and L. Ron Hubbard’s other varied needs which led him to adopt Volney Mathison’s e-meter and integrate it into Scientology. The story of how the e-meter became a central part of Scientology is more complex than realized. We build upon the work of other writers and add in our own original research and conclusions.

FROM PART 2: Prior to launching his book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health on May 9, 1950, L. Ron Hubbard refined his auditing techniques by experimenting on many people over a period of several years. As mentioned previously, Hubbard’s original Dianetics methodology was based upon his fusion of hypnotism, Freudian psychotherapy, and Sargant’s systematic trauma reduction. While there were other influences, Hubbard’s early writing credits Freud and others, employs hypnosis, and Sargant’s work can easily be inferred. There was never any psychogalvanometer present in Hubbard’s original system of Dianetics.

Maybe we should just let Mr. Mathison speak for himself … January 17, 1963

US Food and Drug Adminisration
1521 West Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, California

Dear Sirs:

Some years past, we supplied Hubbard with a small model electrophychometer; but canceled the distributorship because of what I considered to be possible harmful and destructive interpretations of the instrumental registrations of the psychogalvanic reflex when used in Hubbard’s classes and by his students. Hubbard subsequently began producing the spurious imitation of the patented electropsychometer which he called the “electrometer.”

I intend to take precautions to make sure that no Mathison electropsychometers are obtained by anyone for the purpose of promulgating or continuing the concepts and methods of Hubbard or his Scientology concern.

Very truly yours,

Like the ancients who penned the holy Qumran scrolls, the cave-dwelling Scientology scribes, whose only mission in life is to eternally preserve the esoteric recordings and scribblings of L. Ron Hubbard would find new evidence that refutes every detail of Mathison and his fellow detractors … but that’s not my problem.

As for the “How” of the E-Meter’s functioning, let’s leave that to the expert…

Ex-Scientologist, Mike Rinder, shares some observations from an electronics expert, Bruce Ploetz, who was also a member of Scientology (25 years) in his blog post from July 3, 2017, “What About the E-Meter?

… many have also averred, just as strongly, that Hubbard was onto something. That they experienced life changing successes using Hubbard’s techniques, especially the simpler early stages. And especially, they shout, what about the E-Meter? Doesn’t the objective use of a measurement tool remove the misty speculations and replace them with tested factual results? Can’t you “see a thought” or measure actual “mental masses”?

I am familiar with the argument because only a decade ago I would have made a similar statement.

As an electronics technician who started my career in the 70’s, working my way up to engineer, I have some experience in electronics. And as a Scientologist who used the meter for hundreds of hours as an auditor, I have some idea what it is like to use one. And as Director of Research and Design for E-Meters in the Sea Org for three years, and contributor to several E-Meter related patents including the Drills Simulator, I can say that I have studied how it works.

The E-Meter shows emotional arousal using physiological phenomena associated with brain activity. It does not show anything useful about the mind or spirit, considered separately from the body. If you are afraid of ghosts, and see one, the meter would show that something had happened that affected you emotionally. It would not prove or disprove that there are ghosts! It can’t.

You could argue that the meter is still useful in therapy. Similar instruments are used for bio-feedback and research.

But you cannot argue that it gave L Ron Hubbard any useful special knowledge that would justify his claims to have found an empirical path to higher spiritual states. His claims to have discovered past lives and recovered lost knowledge using the E-Meter are similarly bogus.

From invented “memories”, Hubbard constructed supposedly lost knowledge in ever cascading fountains. Somehow he never “remembered” anything useful, like the location of the lost mines of Solomon or how to travel faster than light. But he disseminated speculations about everything from how to wash windows to baby formula to how to cure radiation sickness. It is almost like a religion invented by a hack science fiction and fantasy writer.

Sprinkled in with the false assertions he also used true information. Almost all of the facts he states as his own are derived from other authors without credit. And the information is usually distorted or given false significance.

Hubbard built a mighty empire of fantastic assertions and claimed that he saw it all in a needle that waves about. Then he called it Sciency or Science-o-logical or something. To this day there are those who claim that Hubbard’s revelations do not require belief, that they are scientifically derived.

But they are not science. They are Scientology.

PseudoScientology‘s interest in the E-Meter at this point is not its patent ownership, its construction, circuit boards, or even its technological evolution. What we want to understand is why the seekers of the “Bridge to Total Freedom” put their unquestioned faith in its use during those auditing sessions  … which the church interestingly describes as “technology.

There are no variables in the technology of auditing, no random results of haphazard applications. Auditing is not a period of vague free association. Each process is exact in its design and in its application and attains a definite result when correctly ministered. Scientology auditing can bring anyone from a condition of spiritual blindness to the brilliant joy of knowing.



In her column for the Boston Globe, Josie Thaddeus-Johns provides a clue: “Magic 8 Balls. Coin flips. Why do we turn to objects to make decisions for us?

It’s almost impossible to put a number on how many daily decisions we need to make — 35,000 comes up a lot, though researchers I spoke to are skeptical. So let’s just say: Too many. As a result, humans have long relied on chance to help us out.

The Magic 8 Ball — perhaps the most popular modern decision-maker ­ — also has links to mysticism. Created after a boom in spiritualism and seances in the early 20th century, it was initially patented as the “Syco-Seer: The Miracle Home Fortune Teller” by Alfred Carter, whose mother claimed to be clairvoyant.

Thaddeus-Johns continues with the key component of this blog post…

Oh nothing … just the obligatory “Subliminal Message.

These tools and toys to help us make choices are ubiquitous across time. Why are we charmed by the idea of giving away our agency to an inanimate object?

Anouchka Grose, a London-based psychoanalyst and writer, suggests that it may have to do with how uncomfortable most people find the state of indecision.

This is where “decision-paralysis relief tools,” as Sisto calls them, come in. In a large-scale study by a researcher at the University of Chicago, people considering a major life decision who were told to make a change by a coin flip were both much more likely to actually make the change, as well as to be happier six months later. Apparently, chance might be more in tune with our best interests than we are.

Much to the chagrin of our Scientologist friends, and explaining yet another reason why L. Ron Hubbard created such a galactic level of hatred for psychologists is the following question asked on the Psychology & Neuroscience Stack Exchange discussion forum

Is there a cognitive bias for ascribing agency to inanimate objects?
Fortunately, some psychologists have looked into it, and in accordance to your observations, people do tend to attribute intentional agency to inanimate objects.

One of our viewers notes that user “LRH” just left the chat 👀

Let’s continue with our unpacking of more definitive answers to that question.

The profound agency relationship that we have with things “inanimate” is answered right here in the technology age that we live in.

Perhaps some key terminology about human behavior is in order as a backdrop to our research…

Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human-like physical or non-physical features, behavior, emotions, characteristics and attributes to a non-human agent or to an inanimate object (Epley et al. 2007). Anthropomorphism as a human innate tendency has been well-documented for a long time in the history of humanity. Early drawings about 30,000 years ago depict animals with human-like bodies (Dalton 2003). The main goal of the projection of human-like attributes to non-human agents is to facilitate the understanding and explanation of the behavior and intentions of the non-human agents.

Maybe an “Average Joe” on Quora, who’s NOT a psychologist, can explain what we are looking for in a plain conversational style answer…

Q: Have you ever wondered if inanimate objects could have any kind of energy or consciousness?

Jacob: “I remember when I was very young I used to worry that if I didn’t “spend equal time talking” with various toys that somehow I might hurt their feelings. I do recall being genuinely worried about that.

In general I think talking to inanimate objects is reasonably common, although many people would not think about it this way. So when I really think about it … “Yes” it does seem pretty common. And therefore by definition “normal”.

That’s interesting, but let’s put our shovel back to work in that big pile of psychological research.

And what have we here? Have we hit the “Mother Lode?

In Psychology Today magazine is this remarkable article from just a few weeks ago (March 31, 2023) … “RELATIONSHIPS: We will be unable to help ourselves from viewing AIs as sentient life forms.

As complex systems, AIs have a “black box” that makes their behavior novel and unpredictable. The mysterious, dynamic nature of AIs will likely cause us to project our own mental states onto them in an unconscious attempt to understand and explain their behavior.

Humans tend to attribute mental states, such as beliefs, intentions, emotions, desires, and knowledge, to others in order to better understand, empathize, and connect with them as well as to predict their behavior. Humans are predisposed to projecting our mental states onto others, so we will unconsciously do so with AIs that mimic us.

The ELIZA Effect: This is the specific name given to the human tendency to attribute human-like intelligence and emotions to even rudimentary AI systems when these systems are designed to act human-like. This term was coined in the 1960s when an early computer system, ELIZA, was designed to interact with humans like a Rogerian therapist. Humans tended to attribute a much greater level of understanding and control to the ELIZA program than it possessed.

The Illusion of Understanding and Control: Humans have a fundamental need to understand our environment so that we can make predictions that serve our fitness and survival goals. AIs that mimic humans will elicit a belief that we can understand and control them because this reduces uncertainty, makes them more predictable, and helps us to feel more safe and secure around them.

In the auditing session, the Scientologist is encouraged to connect with their so-called “past lives.” As the church explains it

A person participating in auditing (a “preclear” in Scientology) must direct his attention inward to the deepest recesses of his reactive mind to confront occluded past incidents, including past lives, in order to find the answers to auditing questions, erase harmful energy contained in the mental image picture recordings of these incidents, and thus experience relief from spiritual travail.

Auditing is not something done to people, but involves their active participation to increase their self-determinism.

The definition of this phenomenon is called … Retrocognition

Retrocognition (also known as postcognition or hindsight, from the Latin retro meaning “backward, behind” and cognition meaning “knowing”, describes “knowledge of a past event which could not have been learned or inferred by normal means”.

This excerpt from The Times of India, “8 Signs that you have had a past life” would almost convince one that L. Ron Hubbard copied these theories right into the Scientologist Auditing course.

It is believed that we can experience the traumas from our past lives in our present life in the form of fear or phobias. Some examples can be fear from drowning, fear of certain animal, fear of certain places, fear from a particular number, colour, object without any valid reason.

Past life regression is a hypnotherapy that can help discover the reason behind unexplained fears if they are related to your past life.

We all have experienced Déjà vu at many points in our lives. It’s a bizarre feeling that you have lived a particular moment before. While some claim Déjà vu is a neurological dissonance, others believe it is revealing something from your past life experiences.

Another term for this is Past Life Regression, representing the exact “carbon copy” that is the Scientology auditing session.

Past life regression is a method that uses hypnosis to recover what practitioners believe are memories of past lives or incarnations. The practice is widely considered discredited and unscientific by medical practitioners, and experts generally regard claims of recovered memories of past lives as fantasies or delusions or a type of confabulation. Past-life regression is typically undertaken either in pursuit of a spiritual experience, or in a psychotherapeutic setting. Most advocates loosely adhere to beliefs about reincarnation, though religious traditions that incorporate reincarnation generally do not include the idea of repressed memories of past lives.

The technique used during past-life regression involves the subject answering a series of questions while hypnotized to reveal identity and events of alleged past lives, a method similar to that used in recovered memory therapy and one that, similarly, often misrepresents memory as a faithful recording of previous events rather than a constructed set of recollections. The use of hypnosis and suggestive questions can tend to leave the subject particularly likely to hold distorted or false memories. The source of the memories is more likely cryptomnesia and confabulations that combine experiences, knowledge, imagination and suggestion or guidance from the hypnotist than recall of a previous existence. Once created, those memories are indistinguishable from memories based on events that occurred during the subject’s life. Investigations of memories reported during past-life regression have revealed that they contain historical inaccuracies which originate from common beliefs about history, modern popular culture, or books that discuss historical events.

The gobbledygook version of this phantasm as told by the CoS “enlightened ones” is as follows:

Dianetics announced the discovery of a previously unknown and harmful part of the mind which contains many recordings of past experiences of loss, pain and unconsciousness in the form of mental image pictures. These exist below a person’s level of awareness and collectively accumulate to comprise what is called the Reactive Mind — the source of all unwanted fears, emotions, pains and psychosomatic illnesses. Step-by-step, auditing addresses the Reactive Mind until its previously unknown content is uncovered and its harmful effects over an individual are erased. When such occurs, one has achieved a new state of being that in Scientology is called Clear.

The core sentiment of the practitioners of Scientology is a phrase taken right from an iconic item from The X-Files. When it became a hit in the mid-90s, this poster was found on the bedroom wall of all the self-respecting X-Philes. And just like Mulder’s tortured conviction that the truth was out there, the Scientology faithful cling to the ever-unreachable “joy of knowing” that is out there, waiting to be uncovered because they … “Want to believe.”

The origin story of the “I Want to Believe” poster is that
Mulder bought it from a head shop on M Street in Washington, D.C.
The poster is ever present in the pitiful basement office
to which the supernaturally focused X-Files are assigned.