Clearwater -- Matt Feshbach believes he has super powers. He senses danger faster than most people. He appreciates beauty more deeply than he used to. He says he outperforms his peers in the money management industry.
He heightened his powers of perception in 1995 when he went to Los Angeles and became the first and so far only "public" Scientologist to take a highly classified Scientology program called Super Power.
Where in L.A. did he do this?
"Just in Los Angeles," is all Feshbach will say. Super Power is that secret.
Under wraps for decades, Super Power now is being prepped for its eventual rollout in Scientology's massive building in downtown Clearwater. That will be the only place worldwide where the program, much anticipated by Scientologists, will be offered.
A key aim of Super Power is to enhance one's perceptions - and not just the five senses we all know - hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard taught that people have 57 "perceptics." They include an ability to discern relative sizes, blood circulation, balance, compass direction, temperature, gravity and an "awareness of importance, unimportance."
Church officials won't discuss specifics of Super Power. But Feshbach and another prominent Clearwater Scientologist who, like Feshbach, is a major donor to Super Power's building fund, provided some details in interviews with the St. Petersburg Times. A group of former Scientologists who worked for the church on a campus in California where the program was in development also described elements of it.
Super Power uses machines, apparatus and specially designed rooms to exercise and enhance a person's so-called perceptics. Those machines include an antigravity simulator and a gyroscope-like apparatus that spins a person around while blindfolded to improve perception of compass direction, said the former Scientologists.
A video screen that moves forward and backward while flashing images is used to hone a viewer's ability to identify subliminal messages, they said.
Hubbard promised Super Power would improve perceptions and "put the person into a new realm of ability." He believed it would unlock abilities needed to spread Scientology across the planet.
For Feshbach it's like nothing he has ever done in Scientology.
"I got it. I loved it," he gushed.
Feshbach, 52, and his two brothers became famous in investment circles during the 1980s as the kings of short selling stocks - essentially betting which stocks will tank. At one point, the California-based Feshbach Bros. managed $1-billion for clients.
Feshbach now lives in Bel Air, where his wife, Kathy, runs a Scientology mission. Because he donated millions to the Super Power building fund, he was invited to undergo the program.
It's geared toward creating a "more competent spiritual being," he said. "I'm not dependant on my physical body to perceive things."
He offered this anecdote:
He had just finished his perceptics training and was at the Los Angeles airport, preparing to fly home to the Tampa Bay area. He stood at a crosswalk with perhaps 20 others, including a woman and her son, an antsy boy 6 or 7 years old.
As the light turned green, the boy bolted into the street, ahead of his mother. Feshbach perceived a pickup bearing down on the boy, driven by a young woman.
He yelled and saved the boy's life by a quarter of an inch, he said.
Coincidence? Feshbach doesn't think so. No one else saw the pickup, he says. He believes that, through the Super Power program, he elevated his perceptive abilities beyond those of the others at that crosswalk. His enhanced perceptions have played out numerous times since, he said.
Super Power takes "weeks, not months" to complete, said Feshbach. He would not discuss the specific machines and drills that former Scientologists said are used to enhance perceptions.
The perceptics portion of Super Power is one of 12 "rundowns" in the full program, Feshbach said. But it clearly is a key aspect.
Details of Super Power training have been kept secret even from church members. Like much of Scientology training, details aren't revealed until one pays to take the course.
Asked about Super Power, church spokesman Ben Shaw provided a written statement: "Super Power is a series of spiritual counseling processes designed to give a person back his own viewpoint, increase his perception, exercise his power of choice, and greatly enhance other spiritual abilities."
Shaw would not say how much the program will cost. Upper levels of Scientology training can run tens of thousands of dollars.
He declined to provide further insight into Super Power. "It's not something I'm willing to provide to you in any manner," Shaw said.
Scientologist Ron Pollack, who donated $5-million to the Super Power fund after making millions in hedge funds in the 1990s, said he got a sneak peek. The head of fundraising for the project showed him a photo of "some high-tech thing" developed by engineers in Southern California that offers different aromas on demand. It's for a drill to enhance one's sense of smell, he said.
Pollack said he has no idea how Super Power will be set up, but is excited about the parts on ethics and perceptics, which he likened to a "trip to Disney."
Former Scientologists Bruce Hines and Chuck Beatty, once staffers at the church's international base in Hemet, Calif., said that while on punishment detail, they made chairs of various sizes - ones big enough for a giant, others too small even for a child - that were set up in a room designed to hone one's sense of relative sizes.
Hines also said the Super Power program, which Hubbard wanted rolled out in 1978, met with delays during the 20-plus years that it was being piloted on church staffers.
One setback occurred when the church checked back on the staffers who had been through Super Power. It turned out, Hines said, many had left the church - hardly the expected outcome.
"The fact that it was around in 1978 and it's still not worked out 28 years later, that's pretty significant," Hines said.
Hines, who said he once performed Scientology's core practice of auditing on celebrity Scientologists Kirstie Allie, Anne Archer and Nicole Kidman (she no longer is a Scientologist), worked at the California facility until 1993 and left the church staff in 2003. He and other ex-Scientology staffers are convinced that church brass delayed completion of the big building in Clearwater because the Super Power program was not finished. The exterior was completed three years ago, then construction stopped.
"The building was getting done faster than the tech program itself," said Karen Pressley, a former church staffer at the same California campus, who left the church in 1998.
"This is a flap of magnitude in Scientology management," Pressley said.
Shaw said those ex-members are just wrong.
"These people know absolutely nothing" about the Super Power pilot, he said.
Scientology processes are technical and cannot be understood out of context, Shaw said. "If someone is interested in Scientology, they should read a book and find out for themselves what Scientology is and thus begin their own spiritual journey," Shaw said.
Super Power is ready, he said, and 300 staff members are being trained to deliver it.
Construction delays in Clearwater, Shaw said, are due to a recent explosion of church expansion worldwide. The church has spent hundreds of millions to purchase and renovate properties. Last year, it purchased nearly 1-million square feet of buildings in 18 cities around the world.
That expansion, by far the largest in church history, diverted the church's attention, he said. Plus, he said, Scientology leaders have been compelled to redesign the building's interior repeatedly to make it a crown jewel.
The Super Power program will be ready to go the moment the new building is completed, he said. Scientology officials promise that will be 2007.
Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's list of 57 perceptics. Words in parentheses are his:
Tasten Colorn Depth
Relative sizes (external)
Touch (pressure, friction, heat or cold and oiliness)
Awareness of awareness
Organic sensation (including hunger)
Cellular and bacterial position
Gravitic (self and other weights)
Motion of self
Saline content of self (body)
Time track motion
Physical energy (personal weariness, etc.)
Emotional state of other organs
Personal position on the tone scale*
Affinity (self and others)
Communication (self and others)
Reality (self and others)
Emotional state of groups
Level of consciousness
Perception of conclusions (past and present)
Perception of computation (past and present)
Perception of imagination (past and present)
Perception of having perceived (past and present)
Awareness of not knowing
Awareness of importance, unimportance
Awareness of others
Awareness of location and placement (masses, spaces and location itself)
Perception of appetite
*Scientology's tone scale, as defined in The Scientology Handbook: A scale which shows the successive emotional tones a person can experience.Source: Scientology 0-8, The Book of Basics, by L. Ron Hubbard.