GSR — A question Answered

The concept of the baseline increase corresponding to improvement of case shape will be familiar to those who know about the development of Hubbard’s GSR technology. When Hubbard was introduced to GSR by Volney Matthison, he initially adopted the understanding that higher baseline indicated better case shape. That’s why they called the baseline dial the “Tone Arm”-the more processing a person got, the higher the base line got, and so the person was becoming “higher toned.” The trouble is that Hubbard observed that the person often didn’t feel better with the tone arm way up there, and he did something that no one else in the established lines of research had done (and evidently haven’t done since): he discarded the accepted paradigm and constructed a new one based on his observations, his understanding of “by-passed-charge”, and whatever other hints he may have been channeling.

For one thing, Hubbard established the principle of “over-run”, and observed that it was an undesired aspect of unskilled processing that could shoot the “tone arm” up while the person felt like hell. It has been my understanding that Matthison and Hubbard parted over Hubbard’s rejection of the old (but yet current) theory. Hubbard must have subsequently recognized the importance of a highly responsive needle movement in the voltmeter. According to Bent Corydon’s biography of Hubbard, he had the help of Don Breeding and Joe Wallice in developing the final 1958 version of the his meter. [By the way, I would very much appreciate an article from someone out there who has more complete data about the actual technical evolution of the “E-meter” form of GSR device. H.L.]

The clearing bio-meter is actually a modification of a very old device called a Wheatstone bridge. Physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone died in 1875. Who knows how many great minds probed at the possibilities of this device, which is the backbone of any tool which measures electrical resistance? Wundt, Jung, Korzybski, perhaps Chandra Bose (read The Secret Life of Plants) and many others. Nearly every college psychology department in the country now possesses some form of “skin galvanometer.”

So the question is, if it’s so damn useful, and it’s been known about for so long, why can’t we get one at Radio Shack for $19.95 and learn how to use it from the instructions? Even if you were wary of delving into past traumatic incidents, you could at least fascinate yourself and enhance your study ability with word clearing. So where is it?

My work in the last few years has involved extensive use of GSR, and I have discovered (standing, as it were, on the shoulders of giants) that the uses to which our meters can be put are even more fabulous than we were led to understand! And so my curiosity has grown even more piqued as time goes on.

Well, I think I have discovered a good part of the reason for this neglect I would like to share it with you…

I recently attended a workshop given by one of the world’s foremost experts on biofeedback I prefer to leave him unnamed for now, as my intention is not to make an enemy; but some of my perceptions would be of interest to some of you out there with similar training to my own.

First of all, I must say that I was quite impressed with the number and extent of other forms of biofeedback in use besides skin electrical resistance. There is muscle-tension measurement (electromyographic or EMG), brain-wave feedback (electroencephalographic or EEG), skin temperature feedback, heart rate, and blood pressure. All of these are quite sensitive to changes in the mental processes. The state of the technology is such that a person can evidently be coached into such abilities as learning to change one’s heart rate, relax, or increase control over sexual functions. As a classical guitarist who has trouble with cold hands, I was fascinated with the claim that people have been trained to regulate their hand temperature-in individual hands!

There is a small amount of utilization of these biofeedback effects for locating stress areas for the purpose of handling them. But in my consideration this practice does not come anywhere near its potential, by our own understanding. Indeed, that tool which we have found to be eminently useful, the GSR, is regarded with some dissention. It seems there is little agreement on what its measurements reflect. The meters I observed had a latency of 1 to 2 second and take about 5 to 20 seconds for a read to return to its original level of response. They are used primarily to demonstrate the interconnectedness between stress and skin resistance, but as you will see, the construction of the meter in conjunction with the lack of understanding of the nature of thought precludes its real usefulness.

Allow me to share with you the GSR demonstration which I participated in and observed. The device was remarkably similar to an “E-meter” in layout. It was somewhat smaller than a Mark V, with the “baseline adjuster” placed similarly to the “tone arm” and functioning identically. The voltmeter itself was calibrated differently, but its needle read in the same direction, making its overall function quite familiar to me. The needle movement was extremely slow in its response, rather like the fuel gauge in a car! (No instant reads or small dirty needles from this puppy!). The electrodes applied around two fingers with velcro tape bands-a nice touch, but I don’t know if it would be responsive enough on my own devices.

It was explained that a needle dip to the right (this would be a “fall” on my own unit) equated with stress. (Fine so far.) Conversely, a needle move to the left indicated a centering of the person’s mind-the opposite of stress. (Uh, oh!)

A series of people, starting with myself, were brought up and attached to the meter. My own vanity called for me to look good, so I sat there for a minute (as the professor explained the device to his students) spotting my disagreements and generally “blowing down”. By the time he turned his attention to me I was pretty much out of my body with a “floating TA”. Showing a bit of disappointment with my “state of case,” he announced to the group “We can all see from the meter this fellow is a lot more uptight than he looks.!”

You see, he explained, since a needle move to the right equals stress, then a needle move continuously to the right-especially if it necessitated an adjustment of the baseline potentiometer (TA) to keep the needle on the dial-indicates more stress. See the logic? (That’s right?no blowdowns allowed!)

To demonstrate the GSR meter’s response to stress, the professor commanded “Think about something stressful.” There was of course no kind of instant read, but in a moment I thought of something, and of course it blew down a bit more. Then he commanded me to put it out of my mind, which I did. The needle lolled around without moving the baseline. (A rudimentary “floating needle”.) The professor shook his head. He explained that if I’d had the ability to dismiss the thought, the meter would have shown a rise in the baseline (TA) position! Obviously the only resolution to “by passed charge” (stress, negative mental energy, or what have you) these guys ever see is “not-is”!

For the next person, an oscillator which is built into the meter was switched on. It is installed so that when the baseline (TA) goes down-more stress, right?-it buzzes at a higher and more obnoxious frequency. This gentleman was asked to “think of something stressful”. The needle dipped obligingly after a few moments. Then he was asked to let go of the thought. The needle blew down-an expected response which to us would indicated a successful resolution of the “charge” (i.e., a cognition). The poor bloke was immediately reprimanded by the professor for failing to put the stress out of his mind, the oscillator shrieking in agreement meanwhile. When the needle then climbed out of sight (and the buzzer quieted) the fellow was congratulated and the next person brought up!

This proceeded until all of the people in the class who were interested had attained a “subjective reality” on GSR biofeedback technique. The final demonstration was a woman who was the personification of “uptight”. Her eyes darting fearfully about behind coke-bottle glasses, she looked like the last place she ever wanted to look was inside. Hooked up, sure enough her baseline was hugging the upper limit of the machine. Elated, the professor beamed “Now here’s a person who’s really centered!.”

I swear it happened.

I tried very hard to conceal my own considerations about what I was observing. After all, I had come there to learn, not to teach. However, I couldn’t resist asking if he had ever observed that a lowering of the baseline sometimes corresponds to the erasure of stress when an incident or situation is viewed repeatedly. To this the professor responded that stress cannot be erased, it can only be suppressed.

After the seminar I spoke with the good professor in private. I indicated that I was indeed ignorant about most of the forms of biofeedback that had been presented, but that I have worked with GSR for 20 years. (Indeed, I was also a presenter at this event.) I mentioned that I routinely used it to guide regressions, and that I could easily get someone to recall exact details of operations in which they had been anesthetized. I said that I used somewhat different interpretations of the responses and offered to discuss it with him, but he waved it off saying that there are many ways of interpreting GSR. Seeing no reach at all, I demurred.

So what’s the point? Well, if you’ve been trained at any level to use the meter, you know that it’s a remarkable tool for handling past traumatic incidents, sorting out and handling other kinds of stress, and even enhancing study abilities. It is probably the most responsive, versatile, and handy divining tool there is. In fact, it would be an excellent assistance to many kinds of consultation and therapy. Furthermore, I say to you that it can be used in other ways most of us never dreamed of in the C of S. The dread most of us associate with the meter’s use, and threat of dire consequences if it was “mishandled” seems to have stifled just about all curiosity and experimentation on the part of Ex-Scns and Independents. Personal failed purposes regarding the “Bridge” and “total freedom” block us from not only investigating (which is understandable) but from sharing what we know works (which is inexcusable). The fact is that the most clumsily trained of you is in a better position to use GSR technology to help others than most of the so-called professionals. A little practice…a little confidence…

Here’s what’s at stake: In the wrong hands, this technology (like so many others) could be used to hurt and suppress people. But more importantly, it is indeed capable of undoing the effects of expensive and sophisticated brainwashing in a ridiculously small amount of time. About seven months ago a friend loaned me a book called Operation Mind Control by Walter Bowart I scanned through it and decided it was more of the same “paranoid sensationalism” that I had come to associate with LRH. But then I ran my first “this lifetime” pain-drug-hypnosis incident on a client a few months ago. I went back and looked at this book, and realized it was important. I tried to buy one. They are out of print and unobtainable even from the publisher, although it is a definitive work on the subject and only 11 years old! I tried to call Mr. Bowart, but he is (it seems) virtually incommunicado in the mountains of New Mexico.

The prospect of regulation and prohibition of workable GSR technology and equipment to public individuals is not hard for me to imagine. It would be comparable to the regulation and prohibition of computers and copy machines in places like China and Africa. Such prohibitions always occur with a lie that convinces the public that such equipment is not only nefarious, but hopelessly complex and unfathomable. It’s hard to imagine us falling for that here regarding computers. Why? Because we have thousands of 12 & 15 year olds who have mastered computer technology and not only understand it but even create with it! This goes along with easy and cheap availability of the equipment. The only way for us to really protect our GSR technology is to create such a widespread grassroots interest in it that it becomes a fad pastime for adolescent experimenters. The basic principles, which could actually be stated on the back of a carton, are very easy to confirm by demonstration. Sure, they can be mishandled, just as kids can hack into databanks and create viruses. But at least no one can tell us that personal computers are just too expensive and complex to understand without a college degree, a Federal license, and clearance from the National Security Administration, can they?

Haven’t we all had enough of “Keeping S____ Working”? Do you see it working? Where is it? See you at Radio Shack!

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