Interesting subject. One I’ve been meaning to write about for a while. A subject that I’m sure will elicit strong opinions.
The promise of OT Abilities was one which first attracted me to Scientology. I avidly read the “OT Phenomena” stories from OTs in Advance Magazine. Then in the 1970s, I became the Editor of Advance Magazine, and eagerly collected and published these stories. In some ways I was the perfect candidate for Editor – I was not yet OT myself and held an eager fascination for the subject. My sense of awe and anticipation translated itself into the magazine and helped to create a sense of mystery and wonder surrounding the OT Levels.
And the stories certainly were amazing. Stories about communicating over long distances through the mind (telepathy), remote viewing (extrasensory perception or clairvoyance), influencing matter, energy, space and time as a spirit (telekinesis or psychokinesis), supernatural healing, predicting future events (precognition), remembering past lives, dealing with ghosts and haunting, and more. Exciting, heady stuff. Exhilarating and empowering.
And the LRH articles reinforced the sense of wonder. Hubbard told us that we could become a super-being: “A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends interested in existence.” (Scientology 8-8008)
When I actually did go OT, I was looking forward to beginning to exercise these types of abilities. I eagerly tried out my remote viewing abilities, my mind-reading abilities, my abilities to move or effect matter from a distance. The results were, well, disappointing. Oh well, I thought, maybe it will happen on the next OT level. Or the next one after that.
I told this story to a doctrinaire Scientologist one time, a Freezoner, and got an interesting reaction. This person implied that I was the odd man out – that everyone else had achieved these abilities and that there was something wrong with me that I hadn’t. Well maybe so. Maybe I was the only person who hadn’t reached these types of abilities due to some personal flaw, but everyone else was happily levitating objects, reading minds, viewing far-away events and so on. But somehow I don’t think so. In fact, in my 35 years in Scientology, I never met a single Scientologist who could actually demonstrate these types of abilities. I never met a super-being. Sure, I met a lot of wonderful people, intelligent people, dedicated people. But no one who could demonstrate what the Church promoted as “OT Abilities.” (I would be happy to hear from anyone who has a different experience.)
But before we go any further in the discussion, let’s define a few terms:
Psychic Abitilies vs. OT Abilities
Scientologists tend to collapse these two terms. But let’s be clear: the general term used in society to refer to these things is “psychic abilities” or “paranormal phenomena,” or similar terms. OT Abilities should be used to refer specifically to those abilities gained by Scientologists as a result of going up the Bridge to OT.
If you don’t clarify these definitions, then you get into this kind of a discussion: A skeptic questions the validity of Scientology’s “OT Abilities.” The Scientologist then argues that “psychic phenomena DO exist, and accuses the skeptic of being a materialist who negates any sort of spiritual ability. The Scientologist may then quote selectively from the many, many studies that have been done over the last 100 years on paranormal phenomena to demonstrate that such things as telekinesis or remote viewing DO actually exist. The skeptic is put on the defensive and the discussion becomes all about “do these phenomena exist?”
No, let’s keep on track here. The point is not “do paranormal phenomena exist?” That discussion could go on and on endlessly. The question is “does Scientology produce these abilities?”
Phenomenon vs Ability
The other thing to differentiate is phenomenon versus ability.
A phenomenon is something that happens, an observable event. I have personally experienced what could be termed paranormal phenomena – and this was before Scientology. In one case, I was in a strange city and somehow remembered being there before, and in fact I was able to find my way around without a map. On another occasion I was able to accurately see something without using my eyes. If you talk to a dozen people, non-Scientologists, you’ll probably get a dozen such stories. Many people have strange, unexplained things like this that have happened to them. These are phenomena – strange, odd or bizarre observed events.
An ability, on the other hand, is something one has learned to do. Playing piano or programming a computer are abilities. One can do them any time. If asked to demonstrate these abilities, one could do so without hesitation.
Ability also contains the idea of permanence. They are not fleeting. One does not play the piano one day and then forget how the next. One doesn’t suddenly become unable to play the piano because someone looked at them wrong or invalidated their performance. It might upset them – but they can still play the piano.
It’s no accident that the stories in Advance Magazine were called “OT Phenomena.” They were singular occurrences. Sure, they sounded amazing, like my finding my way around a strange city. But they were not something the story teller could necessarily repeat at will. I recall one story about magically finding a parking place in a crowded city. Fine, but can you find a parking place every time you go to the city? Or “I thought of my aunt Martha and she called me.” Great, but can you get anyone to call you at will just by thinking of them?
So a valid challenge to someone claiming OT Abilities would be to ask them to demonstrate those abilities. That isn’t unreasonable or “entheta.” If someone says they have an ability, then demonstrate it. If you have the ability to view things remotely, then tell me what’s in the next room. If you have the ability to move objects, then move one. If you can read minds, then tell me what I’m thinking.
Of course, the minute you suggest this, you tend to get things like “Asking for proof is an invalidation of an OT,”or “I don’t do parlor tricks,” or “that’s a hidden standard.” (No, it’s not hidden. It’s in scores of Advance Magazines and LRH references. It’s not hidden when you’re promoting it. It’s only hidden when you’re asked to prove it.)
And another added one I hadn’t thought of: “People who demand physical universe proof of OT abilities are down tone brain dead skeptics and cannot perceive spiritual things anyway. Why waste my precious time tossing pearls to swine.” Really? I’m sorry, but I don’t see how asking for proof of these claims is either downtone or spiritually unaware. What, it’s “uptone” or “spiritually enlightened” to take these things on faith and not ask for some kind of proof??
And of course, you hear that OTs that cannot demonstrate these abilities “have out-tech on their case” or “are PTS” or “are the effect of David Miscavige.” Sure, they could play the piano if only it weren’t for all these SPs!
Or people will begin citing paranormal research that has nothing to do with Scientology. Like quoting Ian Stevenson’s research on reincarnation to prove “past lives exist.” To repeat, the point is not “do these phenomena exist?” The question is “Does Scientology processing actually reliably produce or create these abilities in people?”
Well, maybe my Freezoner friend was right. Maybe I’m the odd man out, the only one who didn’t get these kinds of paranormal abilities from the OT Levels. Maybe everyone else got these things and kept it a secret from me.
But what are your experiences? What abilities did you gain or not gain from the OT Levels? And remember, we are not talking about phenomena you have experienced, we are talking about abilities you gained. Can you knowingly and at will perform the sorts of paranormal feats that were hinted at in the “OT Phenomena” stories?
I yield the floor…