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Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

The Voice has obtained hundreds of new renderings of Scientology's Super Power Building in Clearwater, Florida, as well as a comprehensive collection of its architectural drawings. [Go here for our primer: What is Scientology? Update: More renderings of the building's odder features. And we reveal part of how the Super Power Rundown itself works.]

A few renderings of Scientology's expensive new "mecca" were published as long ago as 2007, but that release, and a few since, have included only a few images of how the building's interiors will look once it is finished.

This new leak of material to the Voice is much more comprehensive, and includes detailed information down to the building's fasteners, fixtures, and signage, not to mention its major architectural schematics.

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard devised the "Super Power Rundown" in 1978. He envisioned it as a series of counseling routines, some of which would be used to enhance the human senses with the use of elaborate and futuristic platforms and machines. Hubbard died in 1986, and it wasn't until the early 1990s that the rundown was performed on a few wealthy donors at Scientology's secretive "Int Base" in the California desert. Then, in November 1998, Hubbard's successor, church leader David Miscavige, broke ground on a massive new building project, "Flag Mecca," known commonly as the Super Power Building, where the new rundown would be housed. Thirteen years and $145 million in fundraising later, the building is thought to be largely completed, but it is still not open for business. On the following pages you'll get a detailed look at what's inside...


Exteriors and Ground Floor

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

In November, the (formerly) St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) published a devastating expose about Scientology's obsession with fundraising. The series, "The Money Machine," appeared in four parts, and the final installment was about the Super Power Building and what a cash cow it has been since Miscavige broke ground.

The exterior of the building has been completed for several years.
The exterior of the building has been completed for several years.

After the 1998 start, the exterior of the building went up, then construction halted in 2003. But St. Pete Times journalists Tom Tobin and Joe Childs revealed that fundraising for it never stopped.

Construction started again in 2009, but this year, the city of Clearwater hit Scientology with a fine of $413,500 for overruns and delays. It's believed that the building's interiors, designed by the Atlanta firm Gensler, are largely finished. When Tobin and Childs asked the church in November when the building might finally be opened, spokeswoman Karin Pouw replied, "Soon."

As we mentioned before, several renderings have been released in the press of Gensler's designs for the building's interiors, including some that show the fifth floor's futuristic "Perceptics" installations -- about which we'll have much more later in this story.

The files leaked to the Voice include those renderings and many more, as well as hundreds of architectural drawings that go into minute detail. For the most part, we're using those schematics to help us describe the facility, and we're not going to release drawings whole -- we're not going to open ourselves up to the claim that we're creating a security problem for an already paranoid organization.

However, we do want to provide some limited glimpses at that material -- call it fair use. For example, if you go into the building at its grand entrance on its northwest corner, then hook a left around the reception desk to a door that pulls open toward you, then make another left, you'll find yourself at the door to the Commodore's Office.

Every Scientology "org" is supposed to create an office for Hubbard, even 26 years after his death, in case the "old man" suddenly returns. Here's what his office looks like on one of the architectural drawings, just one small room in a city-block sized building...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

[Most images will enlarge if you click on them.] Here's the office in a couple of renderings. First, a view from left of the entrance, looking at Hubbard's desk to the right, and a ship model on the far wall...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And here's another view, from behind Hubbard's chair...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

But let's back up and start from the outside. Several renderings of the exterior were made, including a few showing the Super Power Building lit up at night. Fancy!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

We also found that even the exterior landscaping was planned by Scientology's pricey architects, as we learned from renderings like this...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

So let's go inside. Here's the first place you'll encounter when you go in the grand entrance, the reception area leading to the building's big first floor "Atrium." On the far side is the Atrium itself. To the left of that entrance is a display of the "Materials Guide Chart" -- a schematic of all the Hubbard books and other materials church members are expected to purchase and learn during their careers as they move up "The Bridge to Total Freedom," which has its own schematic on the right side of the Atrium passageway...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Here's another view from the reception area, looking to the left and revealing another wall display, "Organizations Around the World." (Behind that display is the door -- not visible in this view -- which leads to the Commodore's Office which we mentioned before)...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Let's head on into the Atrium itself, due south of the reception area. Quite a few of L. Ron Hubbard's basic Dianetics and Scientology concepts are represented in sculpture and other displays here. The tall, ribbon-like structure to the left is meant to evoke the "Tone Scale," which Hubbard invented (or discovered, depending on how you feel about it) and is used to describe a person's emotional state -- the higher you go, the better off you are. Other sculptures evoke Hubbard's "dynamics" -- his concept of different contexts in which we try to survive (self, family, group, mankind, animals and plants, physical universe, spirit, infinity)...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Let's move further in and then turn back, looking north at the entrance where we came in. The Tone Scale is now on our right, and it looks to me that sculptures representing the fourth and fifth dynamics -- mankind and animals -- are to the left...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And now a look from above, showing the entire Atrium...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

A look out the Atrium's western windows, with sculptures representing dynamics one through four visible...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And what would an Atrium be without a cafe?

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Now let's go through some doors just north of the Atrium cafe and then hook a right, taking us into...the big chapel!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

The real stuff of Scientology involves members working individually with auditors or on their own. But sensitive to public perception, orgs put on "Sunday Services" with the help of "volunteer ministers." Chuck Beatty, a former Sea Org member and something of an unofficial church historian, tells me that the ministers choose from a standard set of "sermons" -- about 90 of them.

"It's just a show, but some people go on Sunday for the show," he says. Weddings are also held in the chapel. Here's another view, with a better look at some of that timeless Hubbard wisdom etched on the windows: One of them appears to read, "In the beginning and forever is the decision and the decision is TO BE."

Major.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Now let's head back up to the north end of the building. Just outside the Commodore's office we showed you before, there's this small foyer, dedicated to the Sea Organization, Scientology's hardcore elite of workers who sign billion-year contracts and agree to work for the church, lifetime after lifetime, for about $50 a week. In this view you can see a tribute to the yacht Apollo from which Hubbard ran Scientology while plying the Mediterranean in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (Each Friday, we publish excerpts from the dispatches that Hubbard produced during this time.)

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Looking back from the opposite end of the room, there's a tribute to Scientology's private cruise ship, the Freewinds, which was the subject of a series of stories recently about a young woman, Valeska Paris, who says she was held on the vessel against her will from 1996 to 2007.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And there's also this recreation of a deck on the Apollo, complete with lifeboat and a jovial photo of the Commodore himself...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Now let's head through a doorway and down a hall to the east. We'll pass by a stairway, and then on our left we come to Flag Mecca's boardroom...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Next to the boardroom is a public entrance and reception room. According to an architectural drawing, it includes a listing of job openings -- score!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Now let's head south, to one of many large course rooms on this level. (Is the sheer scale of this building starting to hit you yet?) This one has a couple of different labels, Division 6B Theory Room, and Public Courses Practical, but as long as superhuman training is going on, does the name matter?

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Moving back a little west, we reach a place where the real action happens. These are small offices for registrars -- the true stars of Scientology, who work day and night to pry cash out of their fellow church members...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Now that we've had that whiff of money, let's head upstairs!

 

Second, Third, and Fourth Floors

Up the sweeping stairs from the Atrium we take a left, bringing us to the Bridge reception area. Things are starting to get a little more Space Age...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Stepping north, to the far side of the reception area, we arrive at the lounge for the International Association of Scientologists (IAS), which Chuck Beatty told us Friday was started as a non-profit litigation war chest in 1983, ten years before the church itself got its own tax exempt status.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And what would a Scientology building be without a bookstore? It's Hubbard's bread and butter.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And here's another view...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Of course, it wouldn't be a Scientology facility without ethics officers ready to crawl up your ass with e-meters to get you to confess your crimes. And here's where the Sea Org master at arms makes his or her home!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Just imagine what sorts of crimes will get ironed out here in the "Ethics Workspace"...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Hey wait a minute. They have a Time Machine!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Still on the second floor, we find the office of the Captain FSO. Today, a man named Harvey Jacques holds that office, a high-ranking official who has been described as the "CEO" of Scientology's operations at Flag Land Base in Clearwater. Previously, the post was held for 17 years by a woman named Debbie Cook. Her New Year's Eve e-mail, calling on her fellow church members to question the way David Miscavige has turned Scientology into a constant fundraising operation, was a stunning reflection of an internal rift that seems to be tearing the church apart.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

On the third floor, near the northwest corner of the building, we find this reception room for the Religious Technology Center. RTC is an odd entity that owns the trademarks and copyrights of Scientology; its chairman of the board ("COB"), David Miscavige, is the overall leader of the church. This office, however, is surprisingly modest...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

There are many large course rooms on the third floor. This one is on the west side of the building, and on the schematic is labeled "Hubbard College of Improvement, Theory Course"...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Also on the third floor, a pleasant space to take in a Scientology film...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

On the fourth floor, we find a large space labeled the Hubbard Guidance Center...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

...and it leads out to a 4th floor terrace, which looks lovely:

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Near the terrace is this "Cornerstone Lounge" in the southwest corner of the building...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And one more look at the Hubbard Guidance Center, with this room marked for "admin"...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Meanwhile, there are literally hundreds of rooms on several floors set aside for auditing: small rooms, they have enough space for an auditor, a subject, and an e-meter...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Auditing rooms line hallways on several floors. Hundreds of Scientologists will be able to audit at the same time in the building...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

OK, enough of the preliminaries. This building is about more than offices for the usual Scientology entities -- RTC, IAS, etc. The real promise of the Super Power Building is what it delivers on its fifth floor -- Super Power!

 

Fifth Floor -- Super Power and PERCEPTICS

The fifth floor is where things really get turned up to eleven. Note this special lounge which has been set aside for "Key Contributors" (i.e., donors of big dollar amounts, the people who helped get this building finished)...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

It's also the fifth floor where celebrities will have their auditing done in special rooms. Because when Tom Cruise wants to grab the cans, you can't have his needle floating with the hoi polloi...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

So now we move onto the really special area of the building that looks for all the world like the interiors of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The platforms and equipment you're going to see have been designed for what Hubbard called "perceptics." This was another of his made up words, which he used to describe the human senses -- but instead of the five senses that usually come to mind, he came up with 57 of them!

I'm going to list them here because, well why not: Time, sight, taste, color, depth, solidity, relative sizes, sound, pitch, tone, volume, rhythm, smell, touch (pressure, friction, heat or cold, oiliness), personal emotion, endocrine states, awareness of awareness, personal size, organic sensation, heartbeat, blood circulation, cellular and bacterial position, gravitic, motion of self, motion (exterior), body position, joint position, internal temperature, external temperature, balance, muscular tension, saline content of cells, fields/magnetic, time track motion, physical energy, self-determinism, moisture (self), sound direction, emotional state, personal position on the tone scale, affinity, communication, reality, emotional state of groups, compass direction, level of consciousness, pain, perception of conclusions, perception of computing, perception of imagination, perception of having perceived, awareness of not-knowing, awareness of importance, awareness of others, awareness of location and placement (masses, spaces, location itself), perception of appetite, kinesthesia.

So what does this have to do with "super power?" Well, Chuck Beatty helped work on the first super power rundowns at Int Base in the early 1990s. He remembers building a giant chair for subjects to sit in. "And then we built a miniature city. It was a prop. I guess it was to give people different size definitions," he says.

Another former church member, Dan Koon, has written a fascinating history of the super power rundown. In it, he explains that in 1978, L. Ron Hubbard wanted to cure the malaise that sometimes slowed down his workers. Developing this new rundown was a way to perk up his employees and make them more productive, Koon writes. In part, Hubbard tried to accomplish this by having a subject concentrate on his or her sense perceptions.

"There were drills for each perceptic, which basically alternated between putting your attention on a specific perceptic and then taking your attention off of it. For instance, there might be a clock ticking in the room and the [subject] would be directed to put his attention on the sound of the clock ticking and then take his attention off the clock and listen only to the other ambient sounds in the room or environment," Koon wrote to me in an e-mail. "The results, by the way, experienced by the pilot [subjects] were pretty spectacular on this step of the overall rundown as well as the entirety of Super Power itself. On the Perception Rundown, people turned up their perceptics very, very high from the auditing processes as well as the drills. A couple remarked about how it was almost scary how sharp and attuned their senses had become."

Well, who knows. Maybe my endocrine states could use a tuning. Anyway, in order to isolate these perceptions, elaborate devices were dreamed up (like the miniature city Beatty referred to at Int Base). Here at the Power Building, no expense has been spared to give subjects an intergalactic experience.

There's little doubt, Koon tells me, that the space-age appearance of the Perceptics installations has been a major selling point of the Super Power Building fundraising (the first images of a few of these renderings, as we pointed out, were first released in 2007). But Koon says there's a major bait-and-switch going on here.

"The thing about this that DM will never promote while milking parishioners out of further big bucks is that very, very few of these items will ever be used," he tells me. The reason, he explains, is that according to the Super Power Rundown, it's only when an auditor perceives a certain problem with a subject's progression (a reading on an e-meter) that a situation will need solving on a perceptics apparatus.

"In other words, it will probably be a cold day in hell when something like the endocrine states reads, thus necessitating the use of that egg-shaped room. In fact, as I recall, when we piloted Super Power on a dozen or more people at the Int Base, the only perceptics that read were the usual suspects: sight, hearing, smell, etc," Koon says. "Miscavige is going to hype the shit out of Super Power and PR it as the next big thing that all Scientologists must do, which is complete crap. Hubbard developed Super Power to help staff members become more effective on their jobs."

I think I see what Koon is saying: Miscavige has spent something like $100 to $145 million to build a freakishly overstuffed building in order to attract wealthy Scientologists who are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for hours and hours of odd counseling. (Some examples of Super Power Rundown instructions: "1.Get the idea that you have infinite power. 2.Get the idea that another has infinite power. 3.Get the idea that others have infinite power. 4.Get the idea that you can cause yourself to have infinite power," etc., ad nauseum...) [Update: Koon tells me that I relied on bad online information for those refrains. We have some actual Super Power Rundown material in a new story.] But it's only going to be on occasion that an auditor will determine that the way a needle on the e-meter moves suggests that a subject needs to have his or her sense of touch tested, or experience the "smell wall" or the "oiliness table." But shazam, those things are there! Let's look at some renderings.

These devices are designed to test a subject's sense of balance...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

This contraption will mess with your magnetic sense, apparently...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

This station measures your "physical energy," among other things...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

These are individual audiovisual stations for the Super Power rundown itself, apparently...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

A "smell wall" and "taste wall" are apparently going to offer containers with things to sniff and taste...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Get ready to have your sense of touch tested here...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

We're feeling a bit squeamish about something called the "oiliness table"...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Even the bathrooms in this section are super duper...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

It makes my pituitary gland ache just trying to figure out what goes on in that egg-shaped room to the right, labeled "Endocrine States"...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

One of the more famous images that had previously been released, this "motion quadrant" will spin you like a gyroscope...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Something called "muscular tension" is being checked here...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

The Super Power elevator lobby even looks classy...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

...as do the hallways...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Drawings show a couple of sound chambers, and among them was this rather interesting cutaway view of one...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And finally, when you've had enough of the Holodeck, there's a nice terrace on the fifth floor...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

 

Sixth Floor, Seventh Floor, and Basement

Now let's go to the sixth floor, which has one of the strangest features in the entire building. Most of this floor consists of one giant, circular space. And before we show it to you, consider these fancy gym changing rooms outside...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

You're certainly going to need those changing rooms to get out of your sweaty clothes after you spend some twelve straight hours running around in circles in the odd running room on the sixth floor.

Known as "the running program," this strange ritual in self-abuse was something Hubbard came up with that would supposedly clean out the toxins in your body. But as for running tracks, this one is simply bizarre. It's a darkened dome, and you run around an illuminated column in the middle. Run, Scientologist, run!

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And that's not the only detoxing happening on the sixth floor. There's also a Purification Rundown facility on this floor -- the "Purif" is Scientology's well-known self-torture program that has its subjects sitting in a sauna for hours and hours while hopped up on superdoses of niacin. We recently talked to actor Philip Boyd, who said he bailed on the Purification Rundown after he began throwing up following 29 days of sitting in a sauna for five hours a day. "I finally told them, 'I'm done.' I wanted no more part of it," he told us. Here in the Super Power Building, however, you'll find the Purif's trappings, such as treadmills...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

...and happy spaces where people "cleansing" themselves (and risking the health of their livers) can hang out together...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Well, after all that running and detoxing and getting super power, it's time we went to the uppermost floor of this amazing building.

On the seventh floor, we find the offices of the man in charge. And here's the board room where the really big decisions get made, apparently...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

The seventh floor is also where celebrities get the VIP treatment. Although we have to say, after all that Star Trek gee-whiz-bangosity of the fifth floor, this VIP lounge strikes us as a bit tacky...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And now we get to the holy of holies. Here on the seventh floor, it's time to see the offices of the Pope of Scientology himself, known as COB or DM or simply by his name, David Miscavige. (Though he was "Davey" back in South Jersey, we recently learned.)

We get a couple of looks at DM's office...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And even a couple of peeks at the big man's crapper...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

And when Miscavige wants to get away from it all, there's yet another terrace, this time on the level of the seventh floor, for soaking up the Florida sunshine...

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

From the lofty heights, we'll finish up in the basement, where we find the mess halls of the lowly Sea Org members who make all this run -- and at only $50 a week, even for 100-hour weeks.

Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building
Scientology: Secrets of the Super Power Building

Well, we hope you enjoyed this tour of DM's mecca. We have more photos that didn't fit into this file (which is nearly maxing out our blog engine). We'll save a few for future posts. And of course, it will be fun to check these renderings against what the place actually ends up looking like, once we get a tour. We get a tour, Davey, right?


Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.

tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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