By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
But at the time, he was hooked. He remembers thinking, Let me do this clear thing, figuring that it might cost as much as $10,000. Instead, he was asked for $50,000 to start his progress on the Bridge. I probably had $60,000 to my name. But I plunked it down.
Over the next year, Beghe says he rocketed through Scientologys expensive levels like no one else. Along the way, he got plenty of special treatment. Celebrity Centre. My own private sauna. Everybody kissing my ass, which I was uncomfortable with. But nice people. Couldnt be nicer, he says.
His move to clear was so rapid, Beghe was told that diminutive Scientology leader David Miscavige considered him a poster boy for the religion.
I was Miscaviges favorite boy, so they were doing all kinds of things to keep me happy, he says. I moved up the Bridge faster than anyone in history. I went at it 24/7 for about a year. I went clear. Got to OT V. I was a trained auditor. (OT stands for operating thetan, and the highest level in the church is said to be OT VIII.)
Im farther up the Bridge than Travolta, and hes been in there a thousand years. Hes not a trained auditor. To Beghe, some of the celebrities seemed like dilettantes, enjoying the perks but not really working hard at being Scientologists.
I was on a spiritual journey. I wasnt trying to make money, or influence people. I just wanted to try it.
His wife also trained as a Scientologist and, like Beghe, reached OT V. Over his twelve years in the church, Beghe estimates that he gave Scientology about a million dollars.
Only about three years after joining, however, he says he started to have major problems. He had reached OT IV and was doing some special auditing, something referred to as L Rundowns or Ls. Beghe says the rundowns cost $150,000 to $160,000, but the payoff was immense: successfully completing the series would give someone serious juju. Youre supposed to have the power to like take over a country, he says.
I didnt like that question. I was just experimenting. Beghe went through daylong sessions in which he was peppered with questions about his ethics and behavior while holding onto an e-meter, a device that tests have shown simply measures skin galvanism, but that Scientologists believe reveal deep secrets in the mind. Beghe had used the e-meter many times before. But these sessions were a disaster for him. For six hours at a time, hed be hit with questions (Is there an upset? Did you commit a crime? Did someone almost find out something you did?). But I had nothing to say. I wasnt hiding anything. His auditors werent satisfied. They were waiting for a floating needle on the e-meter to show he was in the right state of mind, but it kept spiking.
I was sitting there for hours, at $1,000 an hour. It went for weeks, he says. And it cost that much, he says, because Ls required a class 12 auditor.
A class 12 auditor has more training than a brain surgeon. Theyre the cream of the crop. Theyre the only ones who can deliver the Ls. And they were making the biggest fucking mistakes, he says.
Beghe says the proof that Scientology was no longer working for him came when he was almost killed in a car accident. After the Ls, he points out, that shouldnt happen. A clear isnt supposed to have a car accident. Youre supposed to be practically immortal.
To the Scientologists, the accident was an indication that someone was suppressing Beghe. So they pulled him in for more interrogation.
What about this gay person youre friends with, Beghe says one official asked him, implying that somehow the gay friend was causing Beghes clear state to be sabotaged. When Beghe objected, he says the official responded, Well, hes gay.
His training, meanwhile, continued to go badly. The next step, OT V, he says, was terrible. OT V should take 3 to 5 weeks, and it took me three to five years.
Not only were his auditing sessions grinding on him, Beghe says he was also expected to keep quiet about his troubles, and still make many appearances at Scientology events to keep up the fiction that he was doing well.
Courting celebrities is one of the things that Scientology is noted for, but Beghe says it goes beyond simply a PR tool. Hubbard had made it clear that one way to clear the contents of ones ethics filethe record of misdeeds a parishioner admits to in auditingwas to recruit a celebrity to the fold. Bring in a star, and all crimes are forgiven. So the care and feeding of celebrity members is paramount on everyones mind.