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Jon Atack: Scientology’s elusive ‘Clears’ and ‘Operating Thetans’ — where have they been?

Jon_AtackJon Atack is the author of A Piece of Blue Sky, one of the very best books on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. He has a new edition of the book for sale, and for more than a year on Saturdays he helped us 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. He was kind enough to send us a new post.

Jon, we’ve wondered about the earliest group around L. Ron Hubbard when he published Dianetics, and where were the results of this research he had supposedly done before the book came out. As you point out, we thoroughly went through the book and were pretty surprised by its claims about how easily it would be to create Clears. And so we’re very excited that you’re taking a close look at that period and the claims Hubbard made for Clear and later “OT.” Take it away!

JON: I spend very little time surfing the Internet. I find that researching my pieces for the Bunker uses every moment of my spare time. I did spend a little while in Jeff Hawkins’ fascinating corner of the Bunker, last year, but I’ve finally peeked at the equally fascinating Blogging Dianetics series, with Vance Woodward, and was struck by this L. Ron Hubbard statement (as I have been several times before, in the — oh, no! — forty years since I first read it):

“You will find as you read that many things ‘you always knew were so’ are articulated here. You will be gratified to know that you held not opinions but scientific facts in many of your concepts of existence.”

About three decades ago, it was first put to me that Scientology snares people, because it is based upon the truth. This idea nagged me, because it seemed to me that Scientology is based upon telling people what they want to hear. Mixed in with a certain amount of folkloric wisdom (ie, bullshit). “What’s true for you is true,” minus the elaboration that you should check it thoroughly before accepting it. “Scientific fact” was not of much interest to Ron Hubbard, much less so scientific method.

This perhaps seems harsh, but I am not aware of these truths that Scientology is based upon. Whenever I look at the basics of Scientology, I see hyperbole and verbal deception, not testable scientific evidence. No single scientific study (save for the failure to recover an “engram” at the LA Foundation, using “pain, drug hypnosis”). However, I do know what most people want to hear, at least in western culture: We are immortal beings with the power of gods. Or should I say “powers?”


The initial promise was that 273 people had successfully achieved a permanent state of “Clear.” This was announced in 1950, in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The Clear was very exactly defined, as this extract from Let’s sell these people A Piece of Blue Sky shows:

A “Clear,” according to the book, would have no compulsions, repressions, or psychosomatic ills. A “Clear” would have full control of his imagination, and a near perfect memory. With Dianetic counseling, IQ would “soar” by as much as “50 points,” and the Clear would be “phenomenally intelligent.” Dianetics would even rescue a broken marriage.

It was claimed that through Dianetics the individual would be freed of psychoses and neuroses. Among the “psychosomatic” conditions Dianetics claimed to cure were asthma, poor eyesight, color blindness, hearing deficiencies, stuttering, allergies, sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure, coronary trouble, dermatitis, ulcers, migraine, conjunctivitis, morning sickness, alcoholism and the common cold. Even tuberculosis would be alleviated. Dianetics would also have “a marked effect upon the extension of life.” A Clear could do a computation which a “normal would do in half an hour, in ten or fifteen seconds.”

Hubbard claimed to have examined and treated 273 people and, through this research, found the “single and sole source of aberration.” The book claimed that Dianetics was effective on anyone, who had not had “a large portion of his brain removed,” or been “born with a grossly malformed nervous structure.” Better yet, Dianetics could be practiced straight from the book with no training. Therapy would take anything from 30 to 1,200 hours, by which time the person would be Clear and thus free of all irrationality, and every psychosomatic ailment.

In the 31 years since I began interviewing former members, no one has ever claimed to be one of those 273 mysterious, and vanished, Clears (except for the occasional and untested claim of reincarnation by younger members, not one of whom offers any proof). No one who was still “in the body” among those 273 Clears ever made a public statement of any kind, as far as I can tell. And believe me, I’ve read an awful lot of material over the years, and spoken to hundreds and hundreds of former members. From the publication of Dianetics: MSMH, in 1950, to the present, not one of these people has spoken out about their experience with Hubbard. Not one of them came to his defense when the first demonstration of a Clear went so horribly wrong, at the Shrine Auditorium in 1950. The only explanation for this is that Hubbard’s statement was simply not true, and there is plenty of evidence to support this.


We do know that the core group around Hubbard during the creation of Dianetics all abandoned him. Not simply the one in forty who are by Hubbard’s estimate “Suppressive,” but every last one of them.

Joseph Winter was a medical doctor who worked with Hubbard in the months leading up to the release of the book. Winter later wrote two interesting books about Dianetics — in which he continued to believe, though his belief was faltering by the time he wrote the second. Winter complained that he had met none of these 273 Clears. He was highly critical of Hubbard’s behavior and pretty much describes him as a narcissist, self-obsessed and more or less a confidence trickster. His first book, A Doctor’s Report on Dianetics, is a must read for anyone who is serious about the history of this strange subject.

Don Rogers was Hubbard’s other close co-worker during the months when Dianetics was honed into a “modern science of mental health.” He left Scientology in 1954 — because he felt it had worked — and was on the board of every Foundation from the first to, I think, the fourth. Don Rogers had no particular beef with Hubbard, though by the time we corresponded he felt that the effects of auditing had long since faded.

Rogers wrote to me, in considerable detail, with his account of Dianetics. His appendices to Dianetics: MSMH remained in the book far longer than Joe Winter’s introduction (well into the Miscavige era). Don told me that right up to the commissioning of the book, at the beginning of 1950, Hubbard had always used deep trance hypnosis (there is frequent evidence of this in Hubbard’s own statements. See my “Never Believe a Hypnotist”). He explained to Don that deep trance was unpopular with the general public, so he was changing the method.

So much for the scientific basis of Dianetics. With no further “research,” Hubbard switched from deep trance to light trance hypnosis. The common term for this, at the time and since, is reverie. Hubbard, who insisted that we understand words thoroughly if we are to truly understand meanings, chose this word for the state induced for a Dianetics session.

Here is a section from “Never Believe a Hypnotist,” showing, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that Hubbard withdrew the use of Book One “auditing” precisely because it induces hypnotic trance and heightens suggestibility. No shadow of a doubt:

Hubbard was also aware of the signs of trance: “a pre-clear after he closes his eyes will begin to flutter his eyelids. This a symptom of the very lightest level of hypnotic trance” (Science of Survival II, p.227); “A simple test is to watch the person’s eyeballs. You will find as he lies there that the eyeballs under the closed eyelids will hunt back and forth. You can see the bump of them on the eyelids, and they will be wandering … the hunting indicates a hypnotic state” (Research & Discovery, vol. 1, p.336); “The eye moving underneath the eyelid is the indication of when a person is lightly or deeply tranced. That is the second stage of which the fluttering eyelid is the first” (R&D 3, p.94); “The preclear’s eyes will roll a little bit under the lids and when he returns, particularly, the eyelashes will flutter, which tells you immediately that he has become more suggestible than he ordinarily would be.” (ibid); “Sometimes you will notice a tremble on the eyelids. This means the preclear has deepened his sense of sleep and has left some of his attention units somewhere. This is a very early stage of hypnosis. Be careful of such a patient.” (R&D 4, p.38)

The current [1994] use of the Hubbard Dianetics Auditor Course and the Hubbard Dianetics Seminar is in total contradiction to these admonitions. By returning to the 1950 method, Scientology has returned to direct trance induction. Both of these courses give: “When the preclear’s eyes close and you notice his eyelids flicker, finish counting…” (p.54 and p.42 respectively, step two).

These are not the only signs: “If the person begins to answer you literally … that means your preclear is now a hypnotic subject and you are running him in hypnosis.” (R&D 3, p.94; see also R&D 1, p.336). These prohibitions form no part of any auditor training course known to this author.

John W. Campbell Jr., was another member of this close circle, at Bay Head, New Jersey, in the closing months of 1949 and through the Spring of 1950. He is famous as the editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. He really was a nuclear physicist, too (an attribute that Hubbard simply borrowed, given his own rather lax scholarship, as he admitted in lectures, and as supported by his college transcripts). Campbell had suffered for years from a variety of “psychosomatic” ailments — the sort that deep trance can switch off for days at a time. All of which ailments gradually returned, in spite of the initial adrenaline rush of Dianetics. Campbell’s enthusiasm for Dianetics waned and he withdrew from Hubbard’s circle.


Art Ceppos was the publisher who had brought the book so quickly to the shelves. In the normal process, at the time, it might take two years for a book to run from contract to publication. Dianetics: MSMH went from contract to print in just a few months. Ceppos too had been an advocate. Until the excitement died down, and the old aches and pains returned. He withdrew the book from sale, even though it had sold 150,000 copies (the last even possibly trustworthy estimate of the sale of a Hubbard book). Ceppos had decided that Dianetics was a scam and was willing to lose money by withdrawing D:MSMH. He then published Dr Winter’s Doctor’s Report, which criticized both Hubbard and his exaggerated claims.

The last member of that inner circle, and perhaps intellectually the major contributor, was Sara Northrup, the second wife that Hubbard would later claim on film to have never had (just a first wife followed by a third, it seems. He did say he wasn’t very good at mathematics, a severe failing for a scientist). Hubbard had married Sara bigamously in 1946, a year before his divorce to his first wife, Margaret “Polly” Grubb, was finalized. Sara explained Korzybski to Hubbard (as did his friends, Robert Heinlein and A E Van Vogt — who gave up his own topline career as a science fiction author to pursue Dianetics for the rest of his life, though remained an atheist and abhorred the supernaturalism of Scientology).

Only months into the success of Dianetics, Hubbard had taken up with Barbara Klowden, as he and Sara split. He would soon afterwards steal their baby, for three months, to force Sara to withdraw her public statements about him.

Sara was the last of the Bay Head Circle to leave Hubbard. Ask the cult to have an “event” for the first 273 Clears and no one will turn up. There has never been anyone who lived up to Hubbard’s bragging. And notice that he says Clears will live longer, where he actually died at age 74, while his own father lived to be 91. Just boat loads of wishful thinking, eagerly consumed by the Dev-OTs.

But Clear was what people wanted to hear and they still want to hear it. Scientology is now carefully cloaked as religion, so that the most outlandish claims can be made without any recourse to proof. As a Clear you will have the abilities listed above, guaranteed. But sadly, even if you do feel on top of the world for a few days, reality (the real stuff, not the agreed upon apparency) will return, and the need for the next auditing fix along with it.

There was no basis in proof, save for a few deep trance suggestions that clicked for a while. Hubbard was at times very good at perpetuating the trance, so those subjected to the regime will use certain thought-stopping phrases (just as Hubbard explained in Dianetics: MSMH!) to “restimulate” the “reverie.” The believer will use a stock phrase — “make it go right,” for instance — and refocus, back into the suspended reasoning that is trance. Robert Jay Lifton, in his remarkable analysis of Chinese thought reform speaks of the “thought terminating cliches” that prohibit rational thought. Hubbard was able to extend these into trance-reinforcing slogans, which are often meaningless (“the way out is the way through”).

But heck, you are immortal and possibly all-powerful. You can fix everything you’ve broken in some other lifetime (or just pay us to forgive you!). You will achieve Total Freedom (on the next level). Just ignore the stomach ache, and the red bills, and your children, and your spouse and borrow the money to do that next level!

All too often, we fit into a group simply because we want to belong. It might be a soccer team, especially among some supporters, who happily call themselves “fanatics.” Some people seem to have an addictive response to behaviours. Or perhaps we are all on a spectrum when it comes to obsessive and compulsive disorders. But it does seem to me that Vance Woodward was right to complain of the addictive nature of Scientology. I’ve spoken elsewhere of “auditing junkies” and I know I’m not the only one to remark the dopamine response induced in Scientology “processing.” Outside of the occasional burst of euphoria at your own fantastic (if as yet unrehearsed) supernatural abilities, Scientology has little to offer, unless you want Cruise-mania.

Hubbard was a dreadful husband and father. Scientology has often been the cause for the breakdown of a family — Hubbard even published a disconnection contract for spouses! Scientology coerces core members to have abortions, who may not retain high position if they have children. It may be by now that thousands of wanted pregnancies have been terminated by this doctrine. The Pro-Life movement doesn’t seem to be in the least concerned, but we should be.

Scientology finally escaped the need for honesty by withdrawing most of the specific claims — including cures for cancer, blindness and leukemia, and the ability to raise the dead — and becoming holy. Now, this is a “religion” in the worst sense of the word, because it allows for deception of the most advanced order. But hang on, didn’t Hubbard say “honesty is sanity?”

Almost twenty years before his lonely, demented demise, Hubbard had expanded his guarantees to this: “For thousands of years men have sought the state of complete spiritual freedom from the endless cycle of birth and death and have sought personal immortality containing full awareness, memory and ability as a spirit independent of the flesh. {…} In Scientology this state has been attained. It has been achieved not on a temporary basis, subject to relapse, but on a stable plane of full awareness and ability, unqualified by accident or deterioration. And not limited to a few. We call this state ‘Operating Thetan’.” (“1967 The Year of Expansion And Beyond,” The Auditor: The Journal of Scientology, Number 19).

And, just so that we can be sure we know what an “Operating Thetan” is:

“An Operating Thetan (OT) is able to control matter, energy, space and time rather than being controlled by these things. As a result, an OT is able to be at cause over life.” (What Is Scientology?, 2nd edition, pp.565-6)

By 1970, Hubbard was circulating this outcome for the later withdrawn OT VI course: “Ability to operate freely as a thetan exterior and ability to act pan-determinedly; extends the influence of the thetan to the universe of others.”

A “thetan exterior” is a spirit outside of the body, capable of perceiving and directing events from this dissociated state. These were guaranteed “end phenomema,” given in the book Scientology: 0-8. The “states attained” section of this book was soon afterwards removed and replaced with the guarantee that the level would achieve its “confidential end phenomena” and nothing more, just in case anyone sued when they didn’t achieve stable “exteriorization.” The level actually recycled material from the 1954 book, Creation of Human Ability. It didn’t work in 1954, either.

So, Hubbard offered two significant goals. The states of Clear and Operating Thetan. Already in 1970, he promised “full OT” at the eighth level of the “Bridge.” Only after his death in 1986 was OT VIII released, and disappointed Scientologists with its bizarre assertion that Jesus was a gay pedophile (the vistaril was kicking in). The stated “end phenomena” for this level are “ABILITY TO BE AT CAUSE KNOWINGLY AND AT WILL OVER THOUGHT, LIFE, FORM, MATTER, ENERGY, SPACE AND TIME, SUBJECTIVE AND OBJECTIVE” (Scientology 0.8). We await any demonstration of this pipe dream.

The actual “EP” of Scientology is “very good indicators,” which is to say, euphoria. It is induced by the sense of belonging to an elite, and by direct hypnosis (Hubbard admitted that the Book One technique is hypnotic, but the truth is that all Scientology “processes” induce altered states). It can remove adherents from normal society and leave them impacted for decades with post-Scientology syndrome.

We wanted to believe that we could be super-beings and ignored the vast weight of evidence, which demonstrated that there was not a single Clear — as defined by Hubbard — nor yet a single OT. We should challenge the Scientology organization to offer proof, or withdraw the numerous bloated claims made by its creator. I often ask OTs to shift a piece of tinfoil an inch by use of their mental powers, to show that they really can move the clouds, as they so often claim. As yet, in over 30 years, the tinfoil has stayed put.

Scammers focus on hope and despair. Scientology “finds the ruin” and then offers godly powers. It is a scam and all of those exposed to it have been scammed and are worthy of sympathy and support.

THE BUNKER: Thank you, Jon. And you wanted us to let the Bunker community know that on February 6 and 7 you’ll be taking part, by Skype, in the Dublin conference planned by Pete Griffiths.

The conference will take place on Friday February 6 from 6:30 p.m., and Saturday February 7 from 12 noon at Filmbase, Curved Street, Temple Bar, Dublin. Jon’s participation should be viewable on the conference’s Ustream channel.


Scientology’s calamity corps

Karen de la Carriere has another great video — this time about Scientology’s “Volunteer Ministers” and the fundraising opportunities in natural disasters!



Bonus photos from our tipsters

Actual caption for this Instagram photo: “Laurence completes the Professional Training Routines course and can now use communication alone to handle any situation in life.” Translation: “With no customers walking in the door here in London, we keep running staff through courses so we can get rid of these certificates!”


Meanwhile, in Tampa, staff member Emma Kamhi goes Clear! Maybe she’d better check in with Jon Atack about her superhuman abilities?


The dream of Russian Scientologists everywhere — grad night at Flag! These folks celebrated their new certificates last night while, back in Moscow, the “org” was raided by local authorities. We’ve asked Jonny Jacobsen to look into this latest move by the Russian government (which tends to go about things all wrong).


Note to Scientologists in Durban, South Africa: When you’re raising money for the church, it’s maybe not such a good idea to wear an actual tin foil hat…


Hey, let’s get some Mad Hatter action with more TRs down in South America — Another certificate, this time in Colombia!


And here’s the Scientologist comment of the day. Over at that Facebook conversation about Alex Gibney’s film we showed you the other day, this amazing statement was added a little later. This, folks, is how a Scientologist explains why he’s not going to see Going Clear

Great post – thanks! HBO is owned by Time Magazine which made Hitler their man of the year in 1938 thus assisting him in the slaughter of 6 million jews and many more millions of Europeans. HBO’s “news” programs are controlled by the UK/EU/US Bilderberger pedophile sociopaths. Those who who push HBO’s propaganda are ALL headed for prison and the ash heap of history – where they belong.

Katie’s now an advanced auditor at the Mace-Kingsley center in Clearwater — just imagine the kind of engrams she can pry out of your toddler!



Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 31, 2015 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.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ


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