Claire 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.
And now we come to it. After taking us all the way up from the bottom rung of Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom,” Claire Headley has brought us to the most legendary level of all, Operating Thetan Level Three. Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard claimed to have nearly died learning its secrets. He warned that anyone unprepared for it would catch pneumonia and perish.
Before we dive into those secrets ourselves, we wanted to ask Claire and her fellow tech expert Bruce Hines about expectations.
We often hear that Scientologists are encouraged to believe that they’re going to experience something big on OT 3. That they’re going to pass through “The Wall of Fire.” Can you tell us what had you been told about OT 3 before you experienced it? What was the build-up like, how high were your expectations? And how did the experience itself enhance that feeling — you were taken into a room and had suitcase unlocked in front of you, right? Or something like that?
CLAIRE: I first heard about the OT Levels, the Wall of Fire and OT phenomena, at around age 7. It seemed like a mystical thing that only certain people had attained, and those people were highly revered. I can’t say I understood it at that age, but I remember thinking that these people must have special powers.
For years, I heard “wins” from people completing OT 3 at graduations. The statements were always vague as to what they had accomplished exactly, but I was left with the distinct impression that OT 3 had changed their lives irrevocably.
As a child, it was surreal. I had no desire for super powers of any kind. So it was really over my head, and certainly not something I was fretting over in terms of how I was going to reach those levels, since they were well beyond my means.
I’d almost say I developed two separate compartments, one that contained my expectations of what the OT levels might one day mean for me and the other contained the reality I saw of “OT” people.
For example, my family moved to North Hollywood in September 1988. For several weeks we were living with a woman who had recently finished OT 8, so she was highly revered as an “OL” — opinion leader. Meanwhile she was also going through a divorce, and her stepchildren were home alone by themselves most of the time and not doing the greatest. So again, I wasn’t too impressed with how her OT powers translated into real world living.
In terms of the experience itself, OT 3 started out much the same as the other levels, with study of basic theory, KSW 1, some basic references, and then a few references that talked about “appropriate” demonstration of OT powers. In other words, if you could levitate objects, it was probably best not to do so in public since it would be “out reality.” And then RJ 67, where Hubbard tells you that he had near-death experiences searching for and traversing the Wall of Fire. But he finally made it through.
So it would be accurate to say that I was certainly curious about what would be revealed.
And yes, your description of the binder and briefcase in a locked room is pretty accurate to my experience.
BRUCE: For me, the build-up and expectations for OT 3 were major. I have to admit that I was pretty much of a sucker. The very first time I went to the Denver Mission in 1972 (they were called franchises back then) the guy who interviewed me talked about OT phenomena, like out-of-body experiences and the like. I was pretty jazzed about all that and the major impetus for me getting involved in Scientology in the early years was to become OT. I viewed it as an escape from the life I had then. Not that my life was bad, but I was 20 years old, unsatisfied, somewhat insecure, and curious. Things like the Kent State massacre and the Vietnam War had me thinking the world was kind of crazy. So this OT stuff was very appealing to me.
Not long after that first course, I found myself in Germany, where I did some more introductory courses in Stuttgart. At that time, OT 3 was the big thing. Though its attainment seemed very far off, that is what I yearned for. I truly was not evaluating things in a logical manner. The Scientologists that I knew there looked forward to the next issue of Advance! mag. We would get a copy of it and turn immediately to the OT Phenomena section. People talked about OT 3, and not so much about the other OT levels, or the State of Clear.
I remember when I saw a person who had done OT 3 for the first time. This was a woman who had been in the Sea Org in Copenhagen, trained as an auditor to Class VIII (you had to be OT 3 to do the Class VIII course), and then left the Sea Org with her husband, who had done OT 2. This was in 1973. I expected them to have special powers — like maybe they could read my mind or something. It was like they were big movie stars. That woman later became my first auditor. A couple of years after that I joined staff at their mission and got to know them really well.
Like Claire, I observed these OTs to be very un-OT in their personal lives. I saw vicious arguments, instances of emotional and physical abuse by the husband toward the wife, fraudulent financial dealings, and a whole bunch of other unbelievable things. Yet, somehow, my enthusiasm for OT 3 was not dampened. Also, in 1975, I spent four months at the Advanced Org in Copenhagen on training. There I met a lot of people who had done OT 3 and above. There was nothing remarkable about any of these people. But I still wanted to make it onto OT 3, though it still seemed a long way off. I still don’t fully understand it, but I could explain away or ignore obvious bad things or fallacies, as Scientologists are wont to do. I am still amazed at what an effective carrot OT 3 was for me and for a lot of other people that I knew.
Fast forward to early 1979 when I was about to do OT 3 in Los Angeles. That I was full of anticipation is an understatement. After many twists and turns that my life had taken — and I think that Scientologists tend to have more twists and turns in their lives than the average person — I had somehow made it to that supposed magic point. Looking back at it is amazing to me. I was given the materials to study in a small locked room, though in those days the course pack was not hardwired into an alarm system like the upper level course packs are now. Seeing Mr. Hubbard’s hand-written notes on the OT 3 story had an impact on me. I think Hubbard knew that issuing copies of his actual hand writing, as opposed to having everything typed up as usual, would lend credibility to the whole outlandish story. Also, the fact that the materials were always under lock and key made them seem special, sensitive, dangerous. It all contributed to an air of excitement.
Then, silly ol’ me read the description of those whole-track incidents with relish. However, I struggled with things that did not make sense, fragmentary accounts of things, terminology that was new yet poorly defined, and a less than optimum organization of the materials and sequence of actions. I figured that was my own shortcoming. I was able to overlook the impossibility of the incidents having happened as described. It seems I was the perfect mark.
THE BUNKER: Hold that thought, Bruce. Next week, we’ll take a closer look at just what was in those handwritten materials and how each of you reacted to them then, and how you feel about them today.
Another instructive video from Karen de la Carriere…
Posted by Tony Ortega on December 3, 2013 at 07:00
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