In 1990, author Jon Atack published what is still one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, A Piece of Blue Sky. Atack now has a new edition of the book out, and it reminded us what an encyclopedic resource he is. So join us as we rely on Jon’s expertise to sift through the legends, myths, and contested facts about Scientology that tend to get hashed and rehashed in books, articles, and especially on the Internet.
Jon, it struck us (based on what you wrote in Blue Sky) that you and Paul Haggis had about the same reaction to Scientology’s most legendary stop on the Bridge, Operating Thetan Level III. For those new to the subject, we’ll summarize that material in a moment, but we wanted to know, what are the range of reactions that Scientologists tend to have when they encounter OT III? And how literal are church members supposed to take it (even if some ex-church members are now calling it metaphorical)?
JON: Only a squirrel (Scientology’s word for a heretic) would think that OT III is metaphorical. Nothing in Scientology is metaphorical and Hubbard makes that very clear in his policy “Keeping Scientology Working.” I met a number of people who were simply devastated by OT III. One friend, who had been bubbly and outgoing, became sullen and withdrawn. A few years later, when I was finally allowed to ask (keep in mind the injunction on conversation about either ‘the Tech’ or your ‘case’), she said that she had not been able to find any Body Thetans. I have never seen such a marked negative change in anyone. An OT who I’d thought was simply aloof approached me while I was on OT V (as was she) and said, “Isn’t it great that Ron found something to tidy up the mess made by OT III?” An oldtimer — in from 1954 — told me that he’d thought it was nonsense when he read it, but had confirmed it on the E-meter (he paused when I asked if he’d ever suspected the meter). I’ve yet to meet anyone who has said that it seemed exactly right. Most people do seem to react as if they were reading hastily written science fiction (so there is hope for us all).
THE BUNKER: Let’s make sure our readers understand what we’re talking about. As South Park made famous in an episode in 2005, when Scientologists reach a certain level (usually after several years of dedicated coursework and something like $100,000 in fees) they will be let in on the secret of Operating Thetan Level Three. (You are an immortal being called a “thetan” which is being held back by something called your “reactive mind.” After clearing away the reactive mind to become “clear,” your inner thetan can then really flex its muscles in the “operating thetan” levels.)
When you’ve been cleared for OT III, you’re shown material that L. Ron Hubbard penned in late 1967 while docked in North Africa. Here’s what the first page looks like, and a transcript…
Data (1) The head of the Galactic Confederation (76 planets around larger stars visible from here)(founded 95,000,000 yrs ago, very space opera) solved overpopulation (250 billion or so per planet — 178 billion on average) by mass implanting. He caused people to be brought to Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H Bomb on the principal volcanoes (Incident 2) and then the Pacific area ones were taken in boxes to Hawaii and the Atlantic Area ones to Las Palmas and there “packaged.” His name was Xenu. He used renegades. Various misleading data by means of circuits, etc. was placed in implants. When through with his crime Loyal Officers (to the people) captured him after 6 years of battle and put him in an electronic mountain trap where he still is. “They” are gone. The place (Confed.) has since been a desert.
(You can see a transcript of the rest here.) Yes, Hubbard is saying that 75 million years ago a galactic ruler named Xenu dealt with an overpopulation problem by bringing billions of surplus aliens to Earth and vaporizing them with hydrogen bombs. He then collected their disembodied souls and indoctrinated them with 36 days of 3-D images which included God, Satan, and the world’s religions, which are all just false images. Then he loosed them on the world, and these invisible souls took up residence in various living creatures, eventually infesting human beings. So the upshot is that you are not just you, but you are actually a composite creature made up of hundreds or thousands of invisible “body thetans” left over from that genocide of 75 million years ago. The point of OT III, Hubbard writes, is to drive those body thetans away with (very expensive) solo auditing.
In other words, Scientology charges you something like $800 an hour to perform an alien exorcism on yourself in the privacy of your own home. (And yes, Tom Cruise and John Travolta and other high-level Scientology celebrities have all done this.) At higher levels, OT IV through OT VII, there’s even more clearing away of body thetans. Scientologists can spend hundreds of thousand dollars more and several years on these exorcism levels.
But Jon, some who have left the church are saying that those of us outside make too much of Xenu and OT III — that only a minority of Scientologists get that far, and even those who do make it to the upper levels don’t spend much time on the Xenu thing. And once they’ve finished that level, it’s not like it remains a part of their experience in the church.
JON: It is surely the intention of Scientology that everyone on the planet — with the exception of “Suppressive Persons,” such as thee and me — will be Cleared. That is only two short steps away from OT III. I find it hard to believe that anyone involved in Scientology does not want everyone (except for thee and me) to do the OT levels (and, I, of course, already have, and they are childishly silly). If the argument is that Scientology does not work (with which I tend to agree), then it would be OK to strip out the components. And maybe you could abandon ‘ARC Straightwire’ or a couple of ‘objective processes’ (wonderful for inducing hypnotic conditions). But the Bridge leads to Full OT. Stopping between Clear and OT III is technically forbidden, because the ‘pre-OT’ is now in the ‘non-interference zone’ so must be rushed to OT III. All of Scientology is a metaphor. Not a scrap of it is actually, scientifically provably true, whether the promised results of the ‘processing’ or his descriptions of his own ‘quadrillion year’ past.
OT III can be a very severe experience. I met a guy who had spent 13 years doing OT III. He saved himself the expense of the OT III continuation courses: OT IV through OT VII. There really isn’t anything else to the OT levels. You start excavating for Body Thetans on OT III and you carry on, and carry on, and carry on. The guy who had been on it for 13 years (and all inside the ‘Church’ — no squirreling involved), was actually running Body Thetans on a woman who was his housemate, because she smelled and he didn’t have the communication skills to suggest deodorant. The woman continued to smell. The guy attested OT III and finally found a job (he was a skilled engineer) and got back to having a life. So, OT III can be a very overwhelming experience (although it promises ‘freedom from overwhelm’). You cannot remove it from the cosmology and trying to do so makes what you are doing no longer Scientology. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but why not just accept that no Operating Thetans have been made using this ‘technology’? Nor have there been any Clears, or Communication Releases (who can speak to anyone on any subject, apart from the long list of forbidden subjects, of course), or Problems Releases or any of the other spurious states advertised and sold by Scientology. Simple answer: OT III is the most important level of the Bridge, according to Hubbard.
Blue Sky quotes him, thusly: “The material involved in this sector is so vicious that it is carefully arranged to kill anyone if he discovers the exact truth of it … I am very sure that I was the first one that ever did live through any attempt to attain that material.”
If it can be dismissed, then you have to dismiss ‘engrams,’ too. Remember that Ron went through almost a century of research in a few months and almost lost his life (he said he broke his back), so it seems incredibly ungrateful to push his achievement aside. Unless you know that he was taking contraindicated drugs at the time he ‘researched’ it.
Blue Sky has: “Hubbard claimed he had broken a knee, an arm, and his back during the course of his research. He attributed this to the tremendous increase in ‘OT power’ he achieved doing OT III, making accidental damage to his body all too easy. While he was certainly accident-prone at times (a characteristic of those surrounded by Suppressives, according to Hubbard), the cause was not necessarily paranormal. The evidence does not support these claims of injury.”
This is Hubbard’s take on the idea that you can change anything that he said. It was reprinted in the excellent Foster Report:
THE HUBBARD COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE
Saint Hill Manor, East Grinstead, Sussex
HCO POLICY LETTER OF 18 OCTOBER 1967
POLICY AND HCOB ALTERATIONS
Recently, during the reorganisation of WW, it came to light that in some Continental orgs EXEC SECS an SECS had an occasion actually ordered that certain Pol Ltrs and HCOBs were not to be followed.
This order is an illegal order and any staff following it is guilty of executing an illegal order.
Any executive issuing such an order shall hereafter be considered as committing a high crime which on proof beyond reasonable doubt constitutes a HIGH CRIME and can carry the assignment of the Condition of TREASON for both the person issuing the order and the person who receives and executes it.
All such instances MUST be reported at once to the International Ethics Officer at WW.
Failure to report such an order to the Int E/O when one knows of it carries with it the assignment of a Condition of Liability.
Lines for the amendment of Policy already exist as per other Pol Ltr and until an amendment is legally and completely passed the old policy must be followed.
HCOBs cannot be amended.
THE BUNKER: Well there you have it. OT III is the most important step on the Bridge, and must be taken literally.
Next week, in part 2: Why did Hubbard come up with this stuff, anyway?
SMERSH Madness: Sowing the Seeds of World Domination!
As we announced on March 1, we’re joining bracket fever with a tournament like no other. It’s up to you to decide who should be named the new SMERSH, the traditional nemesis of Scientology. Cast your vote for who’s doing more to propel the church down its long slide into oblivion!
Continuing in the first round, we have a fascinating matchup this morning…
David Miscavige is the Chairman of the Board of the Religious Technology Center, but don’t let that confuse you: Miscavige rules every corner of the Church of Scientology with absolute authority. He would say he’s just carrying on the wishes of the founder, L. Ron Hubbard, but the large number of longtime members leaving the church these days tend to blame Miscavige for turning them away and putting the church into crisis. Some would say he’s driving it into the ground with extreme fundraising and harsh “ethics.” But what do we know.
Vance Woodward rocked our world with his account of 22 years in the church, Addicted to Scientology. Few writers have captured the everyday Kafkaesque nightmare of trying to negotiate Scientology’s bizarre bureaucracy with so much humor and insight. Now he’s helping us to understand Dianetics, and we will never look at it the same way again.
We have another bracket’s first round complete…
Posted by Tony Ortega on March 9, 2013 at 07:00