Scientology 101, Part 2
An interview with Tony Ortega
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TONY: There's a thing called Superpower they do now that's relatively new, and it's not on the Bridge, but it's a separate thing and…
NIKITA: When you say the Bridge, you’re referring to this path, or a hierarchy of levels or states that...
Right. The Bridge is the regiment of courses and auditing levels that take you through your whole journey of Scientology from your $50 initial course up to the very top of the Bridge, where you're talking $800 an hour for an auditing, and near the top of the bridge, there's this thing called Superpower.
I talked to a former top technical person in Scientology about it, and he gave me one example. The Superpower is made up of several different, it's called “rundowns,” and we talked about one rundown in particular, which would cost you ten—I'm saving you $10,000, Nikita.
...by revealing this to you.
What you get for this $10,000 price is something called the Bright Think Rundown.
You sit with your auditor and the auditor asks you a question, and that question is “Where do you feel safe?”, and you're supposed to come up with a response.
Like you said earlier, the question is asked again and again, and each time, you’ve got to keep coming up with details.
That's all it is: the question “Where do you feel safe?” which is asked over and over and over, and I couldn't believe it. I said, "That's worth $10,000, really?"
The person I was talking to about that said, "Well Tony, you know, if you answer that question 300 times, you'll be amazed at some of the things you come up with.”
I mean, that's hypnotism, that's trance state. That's what it's trying to produce—things, like you said, that aren't even real, that you're just using to fill in the gaps. But that's what Scientology is.
If this happens closer to the end of that Bridge, I guess it means that, by that time, you have received all of those pieces of secret knowledge pertaining to your actual nature. We'll get to that in a second...
Let me make an important point. You gave a very good description of what the initial kind of auditing was like, and I just gave you a sense of what some of the high levels are like, and you can see that there's a continuity, that they're fairly simple.
What happens along the way is that you're asked to do something called Keeping Scientology Working, KSW. It's a very important policy, and it starts to be laid into you fairly early on, that this is not a game, Scientology is the be-all end-all. You have to be totally committed to this thing. Tom Cruise talked about it in that funny videotape that was leaked—"KSW," he says.
Yes, the additional courses do seem light, and they're not high pressure, and they don't seem very spiritual. They're weird, but right from the beginning, they're starting to give you the idea that you need to give yourself up to this process, and that eventually this needs to replace everything else in your life.
You can't do other religions, you can't do yoga. Everything becomes Scientology—and not just Scientology, but only the most standard kind of Scientology according to L. Ron Hubbard.
And it's your job as a Scientologist to keep Scientology pure. There's definitely an indoctrination and conditioning being laid in besides this auditing that we're talking about.
Now, Scientology isn’t only about improving your life because it gets woven into a larger picture. There's this whole space opera mythology to it, and then at some point, you become... I guess this is when you get really serious about it and go beyond a certain threshold, but don't they sign a billion-year contract saying they're going to be responsible for this sector of the Universe?
Well, what you're talking about is employees. Not everybody who works for the church but...
You can get to higher levels, but still not be in this inner structure?
Right, but you're getting at something really important, I think, and that is earlier on, the space opera and the science fiction was a much bigger draw for Scientology. If you talk to longtime Scientologists, people that got into it in the '60s and '70s, they'll admit to you that they were science fiction fans, and they liked this idea that they were joining a group—I mean, there was something exciting to the idea that you're going to remember what happened to you 10 thousand years ago on another planet—and so joining Scientology meant joining this worldview where we're all part of this major Star Wars narrative. There was definitely an appeal for the early people about that.
I think today, they tend to suppress that a little bit more, which I think is a shame, because, personally, I think that's some of the most fun stuff.
If you go listen to the early lectures, Hubbard is talking about how he was a time traveler, he went through all these previous lives. In one tape, he talks about how 40,000 years ago, he was a race car driver on Earth.
Right? I mean, race cars 40,000 years ago. And it was all part of this earlier civilization on Earth, and these were really advanced race cars on a track that was booby-trapped with atomic bombs. If you took a wrong turn, you blow up the whole city.
And he talked about traveling to Venus and Mars and tripping through space.
There was definitely a sense that L. Ron Hubbard the science fiction writer had become L. Ron Hubbard the science fiction guru.
Those early lectures were filled with these claims. He said that he wanted people to think that there was this grand space narrative going on, which human beings were ignorant of, and that by joining Scientology he was letting you in on this larger story going on, where our solar system was actually known as Space Station 33, and there were invader forces that were on Mars and Venus. When you die, your soul, which is called a Thetan, leaves the body and goes to Mars or Venus, gets new implants of the mind, and then comes back to Earth and starts a new life in a new baby.
I want to flesh out this—I guess we can go to this famous Xenu story, the creation myth or Scientology, but before we do...
It sounds that when Hubbard wrote Dianetics, it is at least plausible that this was a genuine attempt to come up with a theory of mind that would help people in their daily lives—without the extra weirdness. I think I've heard you say that the idea about past lives was not even his, right?
Yeah, that's true, and there's no hint of past lives in Dianetics. Like I said, the idea is to go back to the womb and try to remember what you experienced as a fetus. Honestly, I don't know how much of that was his ideas, but he liked people to think that some of his followers wanted to go back farther, and he went there reluctantly with them. Now, I think John Atack, who's the real historian of this period would tell you that that was just a marketing move, and that Hubbard was just as interested in past lives as anybody, but at least publicly, he wanted people to think that it was his followers who were demanding that they go farther in the past lives.
Do you have a sense of the ratio between his actual beliefs, convictions, and practices—and what he made up for others?
He did audit himself, right? But, certainly, a big part of the structure that he later developed was there to... I mean, past lives are a great device because you can audit indefinitely. You can remember more-
...and more past lives.
Some of Hubbard’s stories sound almost intentionally silly, with atomic bombs on the race car track and all that. Is there some sort of an understanding of how much of this thing that he developed was his actual, like how much he bought into his own thing?
Well, you're asking me was he a conman or did he really believe what he was saying, right?
That's the big question everybody asks. Well, I'll tell you one thing that I discovered and that I put into my book about Paulette Cooper was that in the summer of 1972, Paulette worked with Hubbard's son, L. Ron Hubbard Jr...
Paulette was a journalist, right?
Paulette Cooper was a journalist. She was one of the first people to write a book about Scientology, which came out in June 1971, and the following year, 1972, she spent the summer working with L. Ron Hubbard Jr. who also went by the nickname Nibs, and the thing about Nibs is he would be with his dad and in his father's favor, and then he would break away and say bad things about his dad, and back and forth, and back and forth. In the summer of '72, he was out of Scientology, he wanted to expose his dad, and so Paulette worked with him for a few months to put together this really well-done 60-page piece of writing where it's Nibs' version of watching Scientology developed with his dad.
He really characterized his father as a very self-conscious hypnotic conman that had found a way to convince people that he had all these secrets and would impart them to you, and was taking advantage of people.
However, what he also pointed out was that it was so successful that over time, he began to believe his own creation. I think there's no question about that. Lawrence Wright makes the point: if he was just a conman, he would have left with all the money. I mean, there was so much money, and he ended up just leaving it to the church, right? Half a billion dollars when he died, he left to the Church of Scientology and only gave his children like $10,000 each, right?
The other thing that some of us point to is at the very end of his life, he was still auditing himself. He was still trying to chase away these invisible entities and stuff...
Auditing himself—you’re not talking about auditing other people?
At the top levels of the Bridge, you learn what's called “solo auditing," and you learn how to audit yourself, but only at the very top; and he was auditing himself, and he was trying to chase away these body things—we’ll get into that.
Based on what Lawrence Wright said, based on what Nibs told Paulette, I think that there's probably some truth to the notion that he may have started out knowing that he was turning a parlor trick into a lucrative business, but that he started to believe his own hype, his own myths about himself—that he really was this great scientist who had brought this new discovery to the world.
But yet he had some early problems early on, one of which is... I mean, if this really was a science—and the reason I stress that is, if you look at the first book Dianetics, its subtitle is “the modern science of mental health.” He sold this as a science at first. Well, the nature of science is that, if a person makes a discovery, and it's an actual true discovery, then another scientist can discover it for themselves and replicate those results. That's the nature of science. Science is not owned by one person, right?
People would get into Dianetics. They'd say, "This really is a good science. I like how it's helping my mind. I don't need Hubbard. I'm going to go make my own discoveries about it." Well, that drove him crazy. He hated that, and the cynic would say it was because he was losing income. After developing Dianetics and Scientology in the early '50s, later, in late '50s and in the '60s, a lot of his time was spent writing all these policies and rules to control and to try to keep people from leaving, to keep people from taking out the materials. Scientology then becomes obsessive about what they call “ethics," which I think is just a euphemism for control, so that's what Scientology really becomes in the '60s.
The other thing to keep in mind is that, from the beginning, the goal everyone was chasing was something called “clear.” As you erase those negative... In your case, you had that memory of the food when you were a child, and so the point was to talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, talk about it, and what happens is whatever was painful about it goes away because you've talked about it so much, and that's a real phenomena. That's not original to L. Ron Hubbard, but that's a real phenomena. Other therapists use that as a way to help you deal with something.
Well, Hubbard's theory was that, as you were doing that, you were actually erasing that half of your mind called |the reactive mind,” and if you could completely erase it, you became “clear,” then you would only have your analytical side of your mind, which is a perfectly reporting computer.
Your IQ would go up. You'd have total energy. You'd have perfect recall. You'd be impervious to sickness. Basically, he was promising superhuman abilities.
So, by the mid '60s, he started declaring people clear. They had reached that plateau, so what does he do next? He puts things beyond that. He moves the goalposts, and he puts new levels that he calls OT or Operating Thetan—so now it wasn't enough to reach clear.
Now, the scientologists would tell you that he's made new discoveries. Again, the cynic would say, "Well how do you charge money if they've finished clear, right? You got to put other things out there for people to spend money on." He had to come up with these Operating Thetan levels, and it's OT3 that is the most famous, and this he came up with in... I believe it was 1967, 68.
At that point, he was running Scientology from a ship, and they were docked to the Canary Islands.
The ship situation started because Hubbard wanted to get to the neutral waters so that the government doesn't get to them, right?
He had to leave the United States because when he said that Scientology can make impervious to disease, he was making a health claim. Not so much today, but back then, the US government took that kind of thing very seriously, and he got investigated. He went to England from '59 to '66, had huge success there, but then the English government started investigating him. In '67, he decided to take Scientology to sea, and so, from '67 to '75, eight years, he ran Scientology from a ship—a little group of three ships, but he was on one ship called the Apollo, and it was on that ship in 1968, I think, where he came up with this OT3 that's so famous…