The Tone Scale: Background data


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Hubbard's tone scale tech is one of the most fundamental of Scientology basics. Science of Survival (1951) and its "Hubbard Chart of Human Evaluation" provides the criteria with which Scientologists evaluate each other's relative worth, psychiatric range, truth factor, how they handle other people, etc. [Scientology definition: Tone scale]

As a Scientologist, I would have been shocked to discover that the psychs were using emotional tone scales before Hubbard. It's still a bit of a shocker. A current discussion about sociopathy led me to Hervey Cleckley's 1941 The Mask of Sanity in which mention was made of an emotional scale. I'll repost that quote for convenience:

Cleckley said:
54. General poverty in major affective reactions

In addition to his incapacity for object love, the psychopath always shows general poverty of affect. Although it is true that he sometimes becomes excited and shouts as if in rage or seems to exult in enthusiasm and again weeps in what appear to be bitter tears or speaks eloquent and mournful words about his misfortunes or his follies, the conviction dawns on those who observe him carefully that here we deal with a readiness of expression rather than a strength of feeling.

Vexation, spite, quick and labile flashes of quasi-affection, peevish resentment, shallow moods of self-pity, puerile attitudes of vanity, and absurd and showy poses of indignation are all within his emotional scale and are freely sounded as the circumstances of life play upon him. But mature, wholehearted anger, true or consistent indignation, honest, solid grief, sustaining pride, deep joy, and genuine despair are reactions not likely to be found within this scale.

Cleckley, Hervey. (1941). The Mask of Sanity: An Attempt to Reinterpret the So-Called Psychopathic Personality (Digital 1988 ed.): Emily S. Cleckley.

The idea of an emotional scale with positive and negative polarity also preceded Hubbard.

Who does not know that sorrow or grief can be delighted in and savored as though they were joy, that fear and horror can be sought and gloated over? Yet who, from these facts, would conclude that the feelings of grief, or of fear or of horror, belong on the positive rather than on the negative side of the emotional scale, or that they are not states of feeling at all? Is it not clear that it is their very affective negativity which becomes the basis for a superimposed emotion which is positive, as the sense of beauty is sometimes deepened by elements of discord genuinely felt as such? Who that enjoys a tragedy imagines that the grief of Lear in which by sympathy he participates is good and wish fulfilling in the same sense as the enjoyment of the tragedy as a whole is so? In short, it is bad reasoning to take a paradox which results from the assumption that pain is affective as a disproof of that assumption, and as a reason for excluding pain from the affective realm, when it must be admitted that precisely that paradox, or something as yet not clearly distinguished from it, governs the affective realm throughout, is, as it were, a sort of little-understood law of the emotional life. As for the statement that a pain may be absolutely indifferent, I ask for an explanation of the manner in which such "absolute" negatives can be substantiated. After all, the failure to note any such feeling tone is not to be safely converted into the definite observation that none is present, unless it is assumed that introspection is capable of infinite accuracy (for given any degree of inaccuracy, given any margin of error however small, then a sufficiently slight feeling tone could remain undetected).

Hartshorne, C. (1934). The philosophy and psychology of sensation. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Hubbard described his own mental state in terms of scales or graphs in a letter to Robert Heinlein dated 24 November 1948. Hubbard said he was "dizzily going daffy trying to solve [his] problems in existence" and that he was "not yet retired, and so am roller coastering up and down the graphs." [CORR306-02:007] Heinlein didn't ask Hubbard what he meant by "rollercoastering up and down the graphs." Heinlein wished Hubbard and Sara good luck and hoped that they would "stick the tax payers for plenty."

Hubbard sent Heinlein a lengthy explanation of his tone scale theory in his 31 March 1949 letter, which he introduced by saying "... At first glance this business is a trifle involved unless it is derived from its keys. But this much can be said: [four typed pages of garbled but still recognizable tone scale theory.]"

Hubbard's scale went to Tone 10, but "when you get to about Tone 6 you levitate and live forever."

While talking about "hauling it to Tone 4" Hubbard interjected that "the Navy grading is accidental as it was computed on its own." [CORR-306-02:024] When Heinlein replied, he didn't ask what "Navy grading" Hubbard was talking about.

Heinlein replied to Hubbard on 24 April 1949 expressing his intrigue about Hubbard's "method, system or whatever it is." Heinlein had earlier been asking for galley proofs of the book Hubbard said he was writing (Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health.) Now he didn't want to wait for the galley proofs but instead wanted to know how soon he could see the carbons, complaining to Hubbard, "you talked a great deal about it but damn it you don't tell me anything." [CORR-306-02:033]