Nov 5, 2015


Jonny Jacobsen 
November 5, 2015

Day Two of the Belgian Scientology trial: The judge questioned one defendant closely on the e-meter, a device used during Scientology counselling; and on the Church’s Purification Rundown.

The next defendant to be questioned was Patricia R.*, who explained that she had been a member, off and on, since 1997, having worked contracts as an auditor and course supervisor.

During her time on the stand, Patricia was not particularly forthcoming. It was not that she was being deliberately unhelpful: more that she seemed to have trouble understanding some of the questions. Her answers tended to be short, and not always to the point.

Judge Régimont, referring back to the questions put to the previous defendant on the stand, asked her if people being audited could say they didn’t want to answer an auditor’s question.

At first the answer seemed to be yes. Then it was less clear.

“Would you like me to put the question again?” asked the judge. No, she replied.

“Auditing is for the person themself to reach fixed objectives,” she said. “And it goes without saying that if she does not answer she will not reach those objectives.”

So if you did not want to answer you could choose not to?

“No, it doesn’t work like that. An auditor puts a question and perhaps the PC [preclear; the person being counselled] is not interested and the PC is not obliged to answer.” There were different kinds of auditing and different kinds of questions you could put, she added.

In response to further questioning, she said that Hubbard’s book, Dianetics, talked about auditing. She also said that two people could do auditing by themselves without having to come into the church.

That struck the judge as strange, given that auditing appeared to be a relatively directed spiritual programme. That’s how it was sometimes, Patricia answered. She had been a low-level auditor until 1996, when she left the Church for a couple of years. When she came back, she said, she was no longer qualified.

“So professional auditors can lose their status,” said the judge. “Did they not tell you at some point that it was only for five years?” She had not known, she said: but she was not especially bothered. She didn’t do auditing any more.

The judge asked her about the electropsychometer, or e-meter, the device used in Scientology auditing. He wanted to know how it worked, but she didn’t know.
“I’m not an expert,” she said. “But I can tell you that an e-meter itself does nothing.”

“That’s obvious,” said the judge. “I have a microphone. On its own it does nothing.”

But did it react the same way if different people gave the same answer? Was it different every time, or what? Judge Régimont wanted to be clearer on how it worked.

“Everyone is different,” said Patricia. “I am someone who reacts easily, so it may react differently for me.”

So, the judge asked: the same question can make the e-meter react differently, depending on who’s answering? Yes, said Patricia.

“So then what’s the objective value of this device?” But the judge was asking the wrong person.

“There are all kinds of reasons the e-meter might react that have nothing to do with the question [asked],” said Patricia.

“So when it reacts, it’s a way for the auditor to say, ‘Ah, there is a problem’,” the judge suggested.

“The auditor will work with the person to resolve that question,” said Patricia. Then, or later, said the judge.

“No, no, no,” said Patricia, for the first time animated. “You don’t want to restimulate,” she added, using a Scientology term for unlocking bad memories.
“If someone has an emotion they don’t like, they can get rid of it,” said Patricia. “The e-meter is a machine that helps you go in the direction you want to. It is just a machine: it is nothing in itself,” she added.

“And who says that you have arrived at the state of Clear?” the judge asked.
“The qualified people,” said Patricia. “I don’t know about that. I’m not qualified.”
The judge said he understood and moved on to discussing the price. Patricia she had bought one in 1990 for around 100,000 Belgian francs (a little under 2,500 euros). But there were deluxe models that could cost around 6,000 euros, she said. It was the difference between buying a standard car and a Porsche, she said.

But the judge was back to thinking about just how the device worked.
“The function of an e-meter, I suppose it was set down by Mr. Hubbard,” he began. But from what she had told him, it seemed that the e-meter gave different readings for different people. “So how can Mr. Hubbard in the 1950s, have anticipated the way that one interprets the movement of a needle today?”
Patricia wasn’t sure. “By auditing people, he must have learned,” she said.
“But he could only have had a limited sample,” the judge objected. “Do you have a critical spirit towards the e-meter?” he asked. “I’d take it with a pinch of salt.”

“So far as I’m concerned, I always applied what I’d learned,” she insisted.
How, exactly?

It was like life, said Patricia. “If it works for me, then it works.”

And could one reach a certain spiritual level without auditing?

When she started out, she said, it was possible to reach Clear – about halfway up Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom – with basic Dianetics auditing, she said. (Dianetics auditing, at least as the original book describes it, does not require the use of an e-meter.)

“And who says that you have arrived at the state of Clear?” the judge asked.
“The qualified people,” said Patricia. “I don’t know about that. I’m not qualified.”
“So if I do 50 sessions with the clerk here,” said the judge, indicating the court official sitting to his left. “Who says…,”

“You are an individual person,” said Patricia. “You can say if you are Clear from the definition in the book.”

“So I can be Clear without knowing it,” said the judge. “Just as I can not be Clear in someone else’s view.”

“The specialist can say that you are Clear,” said Patricia. “That can happen.”
“Bien,” said the judge. Fine – which was his way of punctuating proceedings. It was time to move on.

Now Judge Régimont asked about the Purification Rundown, a Scientology programme that involves aerobic exercises, sessions in a sauna and the consumption of large quantities of vitamins and minerals. One of the charges alleged against some of the defendants was illegal practice of medicine.
Patricia had been one of those who supervised the programme and the judge wanted to know how it was organised.

She explained how she prepared the sauna and how there was a pharmacist who prepared the doses in advance (though as the court had already heard, that was something any Scientologist doing the Rundown had to pay for on top of the basic cost).

“I went to see people when they came out of the sauna to see how they were,” said Patricia.

To explain the programme? Yes, said Patricia: when she was there. But the person doing the Rundown also kept a journal, she added.

And who decided the doses of vitamins? That was determined by the writings of Mr. Hubbard, she said. She mentioned something about how she had had people who believed in homeopathy doing the Rundown on significantly reduced doses.

“With all due respect to Hubbard,” the judge said, “he could not have thought of every individual case.”

When the judge asked about the role that doctors played in the procedure, she explained that they issued medical certificates if they thought their patient could do the Rundown. But Judge Régimont established that the doctors had not always read Clear Body, Clear Mind, Hubbard’s book on the Rundown.

That suggested to him that some doctors might be clearing patients for the Rundown without knowing about the large quantities of vitamins and minerals that would be consumed: quantities that some doctors contacted by investigators had expressed concern about.

Patricia tried to reassure him: she insisted on cardiology and full medical tests, she said. You couldn’t just walk in and do the Purification Rundown.
“And there are no checks afterwards?” asked the judge. No, said Patricia: that was for the doctor to do. Though sometimes doctors refused to let someone do the Rundown at all.

So Hubbard determined the doses, said the judge, picking up his earlier thread again.

“If you like,” said Patricia. Mr. Hubbard’s book on the subject, Clear Body, Clear Mind, explained everything.

“With all due respect to Hubbard,” the judge said a little later, “he could not have thought of every individual case.”
The defendant agreed. It was not just done by the numbers: one person could finish the Rundown in a matter of days on a very low dose, while others would take longer.

“And who decides?” the judge asked. That depended on the phenomenon, said Patricia, which appeared to mean what the person doing the Rundown was experiencing and reporting. The judge was still not satisfied, however: who decided on these phenomena?

“You just told me the doses are in the book of Mr. Hubbard, but that the doses depend on the phenomenon.”

Yes, said Patricia.

“Who decides what the phenomena are to change the dose?” asked the judge. “Is it you, the course supervisor?”

She made a couple of false starts at answering, but she was struggling. “I don’t understand the question,” she said. So the judge tried again.

“Who determines the dose, case by case?” he asked.

“Okay. It is me and Mme C. [her fellow supervisor],” she answered. “If you had put the question clearly…” she added, a little reproachfully.

Judge Régimont had his clerk record the response. “Madame answers that it is she who determines on a case-by-case basis … the quantities of vitamins that should be taken by the person on the Purification Rundown.” The course supervisor made those decisions in correlation with what Mr. Hubbard had written about the “phenomena” in his book, he added.

Patricia’s lawyer, Maître Cedric Vergauwen, asked that two key points in her testimony be formally entered into the record: that candidates for the Purification Rundown were sent for a full medical check before doing the programme; and that they were not allowed to take part if the medical opinion was unfavourable.

But the defence lawyers had other points to raise about the way the judge had been questioning the defendant.

* While Belgium law allows me to identify the defendants, most of the news media here choose not to do that. After consulting with local colleagues, I was told that the convention is to wait until the judgment. It seems only reasonable to respect that practice.

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