On Tuesday night’s episode of Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, the ex-Scientologist, along with her co-host Mike Rinder, her own mother and three other former members, divulged some of Scientology‘s biggest secrets.
All Scientologists, regardless of rank, work their way through Dianetics studies and courses — which can sometimes consume decades of an individual’s life — to ascend the Bridge to Total Freedom. The “bridge” consists of multiple steps and positions that a Scientologist must complete before they can move on to the next stage.
Remini and her guests broke down the journey, revealing what you “learn” during every level and estimating the approximate cost, on average, to complete the bridge. Remini and Rinder say it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for an individual to spend approximately $500,000 to reach the top tiers of Scientology.
As you get higher in the Scientology church, you’re expected to consistently take courses (beginner courses cost around $650, escalating into the thousands as you get higher) to reach the “OT Levels” (Operating Thetan levels). Not only that, but you’re concurrently shelling out big dough for “audits” ($800 per hour) and Dianetics books (a package of books costs, on average, $4,000) along the way. Scientology consistently updates the course material, so even if you reach the top, chances are you’re looking at additional courses and more spending.
“There is no other religion that I know of that requires two-and-a-half hours of your day, a quarter of a million dollars minimum, and at least 40 years of your life,” said Remini.
Don’t even think about telling anyone about what you’ve learned as you ascend, either. That’s considered “confidential information” to Scientologists, and there’s a $100,000 fine any time someone reveals details about Scientology teachings and beliefs to anyone outside the organization. It’s even punishable to tell your husband, wife, family, friends or fellow (lower ranked) Scientologist.
Luckily for Remini, she split from Scientology in 2013 so is now able to break down the church’s teachings and reveal them publicly.
Ultimately, Scientologists want to “clear the world,” and this is achieved by getting the majority of people on Earth to achieve “Clear” status on the bridge. But to reach “Clear” and move beyond, it is a very difficult challenge.
Even in the beginning, in levels like Grade I, Grade II, etc., once completing the course (see the diagram of the bridge, linked to above), a blooming Scientologist is supposed to be able to eradicate sickness from their body or develop other supernatural abilities. Remini and her guests referenced lofty Scientology claims that said you could potentially gain the powers of telekinesis, for example, if you successfully completed the ample “auditing” sessions and moved up the bridge. (For the record, no one on Remini’s Aftermath panel, despite their very senior positions within Scientology, had ever once seen anyone move up the bridge and gain extraordinary powers of any kind.)
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Remini’s mother said it took her nearly two years to hit “Clear,” but then it was on to the OT Levels, which are confidential. By the time you reach OT III, according to Remini, the materials involved in the course level are locked in a briefcase attached to the Scientologist’s body at all times. Another Scientologist on the Aftermath panel described OT III as a type of exorcism, removing spiritual beings “attached to your body.”
OT VII, one of the highest levels, costs approximately $30,000 — $40,000 per year, said Rinder, and Scientologists spend literally decades working on that level, so you do the math.
“The average Scientologist would take mortgages out on their homes, and they would get many credit cards and max their credit cards out and live below their means,” explained Remini’s mother.
The worst part of it all, says the group, is when you realize after 20 years of dedication that the upper OT Levels don’t offer any sort of magical or earth-shattering revelations, as were promised at the start of your journey. In fact, the OT Levels at VIII and above don’t offer much at all.
“It’s the opposite from an ‘Oh my god’ moment,” said Rinder. “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.’ 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.”
After Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, there were suddenly no new “discoveries,” and higher-level Scientologists were told they had to start descending the bridge, rather than ascending. Additionally, little changes like punctuation and sentence structure were made to Dianetics books and other course content, meaning any Scientologist had to retake the course/level (and re-pay the original cost, again) in order to reflect those changes.
So the big reveal of Scientology: At the top levels, you learn who you really are, which is what you were before you even started the bridge process and spent your life’s earnings. And in order to find out who you really are, you have to disregard everything you’ve learned up to that point and take even more courses. It’s no coincidence, says Rinder, that many Scientologists get disillusioned at OT Level VIII, and that’s the time when they see the most people leave the religion. (Remini’s mother left at this time.)
“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’ll be a failure. They make you believe that without it, you’ll literally die,” Remini said. “You sacrifice everything — money, time, your family, your careers — for this bridge. And I hope that we have explained to people [that you shouldn’t] waste your time.”
The Church of Scientology vehemently denies all accusations and statements made my Remini, Rinder, the former Scientologists and Aftermath. The organization has a website dedicated to disproving all the claims of Aftermath and to discrediting Remini and Rinder.
In what appears to be a common technique, the church also has a website titled “Who Is Michael Rinder?” On the site, Rinder is called “a vicious wife beater,” a “deadbeat,” and a “father from hell.” None of those declarations has been proven.
Scientology claims that because of Aftermath, the religion and its followers have increasingly become the target of acts of hate and violence.
“To date, Remini’s reality show has led to some 500 documented threats of violence, death threats, acts of vandalism and hate targeting the Church, its parishioners and its leaders,” reads its website. “One came from a 13-year-old boy who posted a death threat against a Church leader after binge-watching Remini’s show.”