Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath's second season broke from format for its fourth episode to explain Scientology's "Bridge to Total Freedom," aka the foundation on which the Church is built. It acted as a sort of primer on the basics of the Church's beliefs, as explained by Remini and three other round table members, all former multi-decade Scientologists.
Remini's partner on the series, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, explained the Bridge as the "foundation of everything in Scientology. It is a delineated path that every Scientologist must follow, and when you progress on these exact steps, you're supposed to achieve exact results."
The first step on the bridge is Dianetics, the book authored by L. Ron Hubbard that, according to Rinder, "is the foundation of everything that followed in Scientology. The theory of Dianetics is very clever. It says whatever your problems are, whether you're upset, whether you have pains, you have sensations, you have emotions and things that you don't like, it's not your fault. There is this reactive mind that you have."
Added Remini, "that's below your conscious mind."
Continued Rinder, "and that we have the answer of how you can eradicate that. The idea then becomes that you can eradicate your reactive mind and become what's known in Scientology as a Clear. Clear in Scientology is the most important step to be achieved for everybody."
Previous episodes have referred to Scientologists as wanting to "Clear the world," which Remini and Rinder clarified means wanting the majority of people in the world to achieve Clear status on the Bridge. With the help of 31-year Scientology member Bruce Hines, who spent thousands of hours auditing fellow Scientologists, and 34-year member Vicki Marshall, Remini's mother, Remini and Rinder explained many other basic tenets of the Church.
They explained how people get into Scientology in the first place: typically thanks to a stress test with an e-meter, the device that Scientology claims verifies truthfulness and pinpoints areas of distress. People are then are sold incentives, typically 12.5-hour blocks of auditing/counseling around $5000. Hines, who said he joined Scientology in part because of how it promised he would stop getting sick and would gain supernatural abilities, said he never saw any of his auditing subjects gain any sort of supernatural ability.
"Never, never was there any supernatural ability that you could verify from any of these people," he said—which helped sell more incentives to members hoping to achieve the next level. If people complained that they didn't gain any of those abilities, they would be "declared," a.k.a. called a "suppressive person."
The roundtable then examined different levels of the Bridge, and gave examples of questions asked during each level's auditing, along with the results the person completing the courses were supposed to achieve and the amount of money they would likely pay. For example, a person attempting Grade 2 would be asked about things they think they shouldn't have done to someone else.
By the group's estimates, it would take approximately $40,000 to achieve Level IV. To get to Clear, it took Remini's mother around two years. But even after achieving Clear, Marshall said every Scientologist is always searching for the next level—the confidential "OT" levels, the "Operating Thetan" levels above Clear on the Bridge which Scientology defines as "knowing and willing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time."
The next auditing level Scientologists typically strive to reach is OT III, which Remini said involves the materials being locked in a briefcase attached to their body at all times and threatened with a $100,000 fine for revealing what they include. Hines described OT III as a type of exorcism removing spiritual beings attached to your body—which Remini explained happened in an incident 75 million years ago involving the galactic leader Xenu who wanted to control the population.
"It's insane," Remini said with a laugh, "but we all did it anyway."
In OT V, Hines and Remini explained, members felt they were curing their diseases—but as Hines said, his sister completed the level but still died of cancer.
"She did all the things she was supposed to do, but it certainly didn't work out for her," he said.
OT VII typically costs $30,000 or $40,000 a year, Rinder said, and members typically stay on that level for 10 to 20 years. Marshall was on OT VII for 18 years. That means it could cost more than a half a million dollars (including additional mandatory materials).
"The average Scientologist would take mortgages out on their homes," Marshall explained, "and they would get many credit cards and max their credit cards out and live below their means [to afford it]."
It was at OT VIII when Marshall told Remini she wanted out, because it was nothing like she thought it would be. Explained a user on Rinder's ex-Scientology blog, the level revealed that the person had become the true version of the person they were before they started Scientology.
"It's so opposite from an oh my god moment. It's like, yeah? The truth of the matter is the end result of all of this is to be told eh, it wasn't any of that. You weren't any of those things, sorry. Now you get the chance to find out who you really are," said Rinder. "The final carrot is you will find out who you really are on OT IX and OT X, but OT IX and OT X do not exist."
Essentially, explained the group, when Hubbard was alive, there were always new discoveries. But after his death, there was nowhere else to climb—so the higher-level Scientologists were told they now had to descend the Bridge. It became circular rather than something to cross.
"There's a lot of trauma connected to what we've all been through, what Scientologists and Sea Org members have been through. They take you absolute prisoner—your life, your spirituality, your freedom—they make you believe that without it you will be a failure. They make you believe that without it, you will literally die," Remini said.
She added, "you sacrifice everything—money, time, your family, your careers—for this Bridge. And I hope that we have explained to people don't waste your time."
The Church of Scientology challenges the credibility and statements of the contributors appearing in the series, and A&E provides information from the Church regarding claims made in each episode online.
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