Last night's episode of A&E's docuseries Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath offered the host's overview of what it means to be a Scientologist and what needs to happen in order to to spiritually progress in the Church. In a way, they were giving away for free what the organization charges its members to learn over the course of their life. Here are five things we learned:
1. What it means to be "clear"
The first big goal for any new Scientologist is to reach a state of "Clear," L. Ron Hubbard's word for being free of the "reactive mind." A person is considered a "Clear" once they have been deemed free of "engrams," or the unwanted emotions/painful traumas not readily available to the conscious mind. To the average person in therapy, this probably sounds like letting go of one's "baggage" — but to get there requires countless hours of "auditing" on a small machine called an "e-meter."
During an auditing session, a Scientology auditor asks the "pre-Clear" to answer a variety of questions while holding two metal cans that are connected to a machine. As the pre-Clear answers the questions, the auditor interprets the movements of the machine's needle in order to determine whether they've overcome that particular issue. Eventually, after many hours, the auditor will determine that the person is no longer under the influence of the reactive mind. According to the show, this is the beginning of a very long – and potentially very expensive – journey.
2. The goal for Scientologists is advance up "the Bridge to Total Freedom"
Scientologists who have reached a state of Clear are what Hubbard called "Operating Thetans," or OTs – people who are in control of themselves and their environment. The goal for any OT is to reach "higher states of existence" by following Hubbard's precise roadmap to spiritual supremacy, known as "the Bridge to Total Freedom." According to Aftermath, advancing up "the Bridge" – by taking an untold number of specific Scientology courses – is what a Scientologist will dedicate the rest of this lifetime to. There are eight OT levels that have been released by the Church, though allegedly there are as many as 10 "unreleased" levels. For years, the OT levels were treated as highly secret. The rise of the Internet, now means they are accessible to anyone with a Wi-Fi connection.
3. Highly advanced OTs are said to have extraordinary powers
Aftermath alleges that, per the organization, OT VIIIs are supposedly telekinetic, telepathic, and said to have fully recovered from the "amnesia" of their past lifetimes. This state is so special, Remini claims, that it can't even be achieved on dry land — parishioners take courses aboard the Freewinds, a Scientology cruise ship. The show claims that a significant part of achieving OT VIII involves intense sessions of what Hubbard called "sec-checking," which is similar to auditing on the e-meter, but allegedly much more intense. The cost for completing such course are reportedly thousands of dollars.
4. Advancement requires a good deal of effort – and isn't cheap
The cost and time commitment of the Scientology courses and auditing required for the OT levels are supposedly the same for parishioners of all income brackets; Remini estimates that the average public Scientologist will spend at least $250K working their way up the Bridge. Parishioners have been known to go to great lengths to continue to afford the next Scientology OT level, and the show alleges that includes the mortgaging their homes. "Every Scientologist is required to read every page and listen to every lecture that L. Ron Hubbard ever wrote," Remini claims, and if you have a job, "you work it out."
Remini estimates that she spent, over the course of her time in Scientology, "millions" on courses, auditing and materials. She claims that there is also pressure to donate Scientology materials to libraries and other public institutions which, the Church says, "are requesting L. Ron Hubbard's works." She suggests that this is because the Church disseminates millions of copies of their own materials, paid for by parishioners, to suggest that the religion is constantly growing.
5. Not everyone can handle OT courses – and bowing out can have consequences
Last night's episode of Scientology and the Aftermath featured the story of Mary Kahn, a Scientologist since 1973, who says she decided to leave the Church in 2013 after her training nearly broke her. Kahn and her husband David talk about their sons – one of whom embraced the religion and who they claim disconnected from them when they were declared Suppressive Persons. Mary alleges that the Church began submitting "knowledge reports" about her misgivings.
"If you get your family in, you'd better make sure you get them on board with getting out before it all hits the fan for you," Kahn says on the show. "If I could have a do-over, I would start communicating to my family well ahead of when it all came crashing down. Because once that happens ... you won't have a chance to get to them."
A spokesperson from the Church of Scientology was contacted about this article and responded with the statement below:
"Leah Remini is doing this for the money and now tries to pretend otherwise. Ms. Remini is being compensated for this show, just as she profited from her book. In addition, she attempted to extort the Church by first demanding $500,000, followed by an additional $1 million, because the Church invoked its First Amendment right to respond to her false claims with the truth. This shows the extent Leah Remini is willing to go to in order to distort the truth about Scientology."