The Church of Scientology's teachings consist of dozens of levels, shown in the "Bridge to Total Freedom," akin to a course list a student may encounter when entering high school or college. The bridge has two sides: training and processing, both designed to reach the most common goal of becoming "Clear."
According to the What is Scientology? book, based on the works of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and compiled by the church's staff, "a Clear is a person who no longer has his own reactive mind and therefore suffers none of the ill effects that a reactive mind can cause."
Training levels are mostly attained by taking various courses through the church, which includes "auditing," a type of therapy in which students have one-on-one counseling with a trained auditor. The auditing sessions range in cost from about $200 to several thousand dollars for 12 1/2-hour blocks, depending on the type of training, according to Margarita Davis, executive director of the Church of Scientology Ann Arbor.
The blocks are called "intensive" sessions and all the hours must be completed within a week, Davis said. Students are taught to co-audit each other in Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, the foundation of Hubbard's writings on Scientology. Many levels can be attained through co-auditing, although Davis said the process takes longer that way.
The processing side of the bridge is based more heavily on auditing with a trained auditor using an Electropsychometer (known as an E-meter) that uses a small electrical current to measure the impact of different thoughts and emotions. The auditor then reads the change in the current on the meter to determine which thoughts and answers may cause concern for a person and should be addressed, according to What is Scientology?.
Students must take courses up to Class V - 10 courses in all with a total cost of between $19,000 and $33,000, with course materials - to become a certified auditor, Davis said. When students are taking a course, they are required to come to the church to study at least 12-1/2 hours a week, Davis said.
On average, if a student takes classes regularly, it will take between 18 months and two years to become "Clear," Davis said. Students also can become "Clear" by just taking the processing side of the bridge, which usually takes about 150 hours of auditing and students can buy in bulk for $26,400.
Taking just the processing side is discouraged, Davis said, thus the high cost, but it could be done in about three months. "We want them to train as auditors and once they're trained, they can co-audit and become Clear and, at the same time, they can help another go Clear," Davis said.
Most students pay for some auditing to speed the process, Davis said. The first five courses on the training side of the bridge are not given a class level, according to the church. Further steps are given a class number, beginning with Class 0 and on up to Class XII (12). The upper echelon of the bridge is compromised of 12 Operating Thetan levels, known as OT levels. The OT levels themselves are confidential.
According to What is Scientology? "... a very small portion of the scriptures that deal with the advanced levels of spiritual counseling is restricted to those parishioners who have attained the prior levels of spiritual awareness.
"Scientologists believe that one must be properly prepared - spiritually and ethically - to receive these materials and that premature exposure could impede spiritual development."
The church in Ann Arbor, and the church that is planned for Battle Creek, only offer courses up to Class V. Higher courses can be taken at larger church organizations in either Los Angeles or Clearwater, Fla.