Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Scientology’s Needle Exchange: When David Miscavige Got Technical

EmeterClaire Headley is taking us on our journey to train as Scientologists. She and her husband Marc were Sea Org workers who escaped from Scientology’s International Base in 2005. She spent years working with Scientology’s “tech,” and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Go here to see the first part in this series.

Claire, after last week’s interruption for a discussion of “disconnection,” we’re getting back to our progression in Scientology this week.

CLAIRE: Yes, let’s get back on track! After Pro TRs and Upper Indoc TRs, our next step is the Professional Metering Course.

First, I’d like to point out that this course was not on the Bridge when I started my auditor training. But it is now.

THE BUNKER: That seems unusual. Since founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, technical matters in Scientology tend to be set in stone. What happened?

CLAIRE: This is a course that David Miscavige directed after two things had happened in the mid-1990s.


The first was that he found out pretty much all auditors were “falsely calling F/Ns.”

An F/N is a floating needle, a needle movement on the e-meter that is supposed to indicate some sort of release of charge.

My memory is that it is defined as “the rhythmic sweep of the dial at a slow even pace of the needle, back and forth, back and forth.”

In Scientology auditing, you run a process, a series of commands or steps. These are often repetitive processes (where the same question or series of questions are asked over and over again) until the “EP” or end phenomena is achieved.

The end phenomena of a particular process is generally comprised of 4 things:

1. VGIs — very good indicators.
2. F/N — a floating needle
3. Cognition — a realization about life
4. Release — a release of charge and, basically, an improved outlook on life.

But after Miscavige changed things, suddenly the only thing that became really important was #2, the floating needle.

THE BUNKER: So let us get this straight. Around 1995 or so — about nine years after the death of L. Ron Hubbard and Miscavige’s takeover — Miscavige suddenly changed the focus of how auditing was judged. During auditing, a subject is asked a question or a series of questions, often with what to an outsider seems a maddening level of repetition. This is supposed to bring about a “release of charge,” and a result that is a benefit to the subject. But rather than a well-rounded approach on the person and how they were doing, suddenly Miscavige wanted people to pay almost all of their attention on something technical — how a needle on the e-meter reacted.

CLAIRE: Yes, that’s exactly right. All of a sudden, there became an extreme focus on mechanics, not people.

I really didn’t understand why this became the focus. From my perspective, Miscavige had been tied up in legal matters until 1993. I’d never considered him a “tech” guy. He was the head guy.

Up_The_BridgeHe didn’t get involved in the technical side of things. Ray Mithoff did that. After all, the tech training Miscavige did was in the 70s as a teenager at Saint Hill in England. Now, suddenly, he was the expert and made this major change.

He then issued an “amnesty,” where anyone trained as an auditor was to write up all of their “crimes” of falsely calling F/Ns.

It’s hard to explain the impact this had.

But I can tell you without a doubt that it had a huge impact on pretty much anyone who was in Scientology.

All of a sudden, you’d have auditors riveted to the E-meter, staring and “waiting” for the F/N, no longer really interested in the person in front of them — they were paranoid about “mis-calling” an F/N.

THE BUNKER: Wasn’t there also something about Miscavige redefining a floating needle so that it needed a precise three-time back and forth, which also made things more difficult?

CLAIRE: Yes, the focus on at least three swings back and forth was intense. Any auditor who “falsely called F/Ns” was assigned a condition of Treason. Repeated offenses were met with Committees of Evidence, the Scientology justice action that I’ve heard is similar to a tribunal.

THE BUNKER: So what happened after an auditor determined that a proper floating needle had occurred?

CLAIRE: After a session you go to the Examiner, who then has you hold the cans and checks to make sure that you have the four signs of having achieved the end phenomena.

But all of a sudden there were many “red tags” — in other words, the Examiner flunked the subject for no floating needle or bad indicators.

The Religious Technology Center [Scientology’s controlling entity] and David Miscavige would watch videos of all session F/Ns. And this is the back story of how Miscavige ended up involved in and supervising Lisa McPherson’s auditing. You see, she was one of those who flunked at the Examiner.

The story I heard is that Debbie Cook ended up taking Lisa in session to handle the red tag after no one else could, and that was with direct coaching and direction from Miscavige. I wasn’t there, but that’s what I heard.

THE BUNKER: So here was a woman — Lisa McPherson — who obviously had major problems, but because Miscavige was focused on her needle’s reactions (while watching videos of her sessions remotely, from across the country), he passed her as “Clear” when she was actually on the verge of a major breakdown? (She then was held at the Fort Harrison Hotel under church care and died after 17 days, leading to one of Scientology’s all-time worst press nightmares.)

CLAIRE: I really can’t say what might have happened. But I am saying Miscavige was intimately involved. And this is what led to him being so involved with Lisa specifically.

Another change that happened is that David Miscavige redefined an “instant read.”

In Scientology processing, the way you determine what processes to run is by asking a question. If you get an “instant read” — a reaction of the needle at the very end of your question — that means it is “charged” and you run that process.

Once again, the result was that auditors were sunk into the mechanics, instead of the focus being on the person in front of them.

So this was the birth of the Pro Metering Course.

In the course, you do all E-Meter drills 3 times over. There are 26 drills in full. Some of the drills include:

— Reach and Withdraw on the E-Meter
— How to do “Can Squeeze.” This is where you set the E-Meter sensitivity for the individual person
— What did the needle do while reading the line
— Instant reads
— Assessments (where you call off a list and mark which items on the list react)

The assessments are done on lists of insignificant items. For example:

What is your favorite country?
United Kingdom?

The total list is probably 50 items.

The final step of the Pro Metering Course is to get a video pass on a “Drill session.” This then had to be passed by RTC.

In 1996 I was at Flag as an RTC Rep in training. We were charged to get all outer org trainees through Pro Metering. I don’t remember the exact numbers but I believe it was around 350 people.

It was a boat load of videos.

And anyone who had ever been trained as an auditor was required to do this new course and then re-do all their auditor training from the bottom up with the release of the Golden Age of Technology. So that meant even more repetition and re-doing of steps already done and completed. And for the public, that meant more money down the drain.

THE BUNKER: And it meant a real headache for one person in particular. As we recall, this new focus on the mechanics of the needle put you into an interesting situation with Tom Cruise.

CLAIRE: Yes, that’s right. Tom Cruise was at the Int Base in 2003 and I was his examiner. He had no F/N so he was red tagged.

THE BUNKER: So he had finished a process, but then had come to you to sign off on it, and when you didn’t see the proper floating needle, you didn’t pass him.

CLAIRE: Yes, and it became a huge flap with Miscavige. I didn’t know it, but Tom was scheduled to leave the next day. And because he was red tagged, he would have to go back in session to correct that. Well, that went over like a fart in church.

The next thing I know, Miscavige is writing out an “R-factor” [“reality factor”], telling Cruise it was all a big mistake and that he’s awesome and good to go. And that was that. All of a sudden, all those years of focus on mechanics and the man himself could set his own rules and do whatever worked out for him. It was an extremely eye-opening experience.

THE BUNKER: Sounds like it was. According to the 2001 price list, the cost for this course is $5,000. Total so far: $22,697.

Thank you for another great look at how Scientology works, Claire.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 30, 2013 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

If you’d like to help support The Underground Bunker, please e-mail our webmaster Scott Pilutik at


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email