Scientology's "Super Power Rundown:" What is it, Anyway?
On Monday and Tuesday, we released previously unseen renderings and architectural drawings of what Scientology's $100 million "Flag Mecca" -- also known as the "Super Power Building" -- is going to look like when it finally opens. (The building will open "soon," according to the church. Go here for a basic primer on Scientology.)
As we explained Monday, it was a new counseling process that L. Ron Hubbard came up with in 1978 -- the Super Power Rundown -- that eventually resulted in current church leader David Miscavige breaking ground in 1998 on the massive new building.
Drawings show that it's on the building's fifth floor that special equipment is being installed to help deliver the "Super Power" process -- equipment that includes an "oiliness table," a "smell wall," and a pain station, among other oddities.
But what is the Super Power Rundown itself -- what amazing philosophical, mental and spiritual insight is it that Hubbard came up with that calls for a $100 million building more than 13 years in the making?
After the jump, we'll reveal it to you. Prepare to be stunned.
In Monday's story, we included a few lines from what we believed was the rundown, something we had found online:
"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.
But Dan Koon, a former Sea Org member who wrote a history of the Super Power Rundown, told me that the refrains I had quoted were bogus. "Some idiot invented them around 2000. They have nothing to do with Super Power," Dan e-mailed me.
So I asked him, if that material was incorrect, did he have the actual rundown itself?
He said that he did, and he sent over a document written by Hubbard in 1978, the "Bright Think Rundown," which Koon says is one part of the Super Power process (I confirmed this with three other former longtime Scientologists who had all had a hand in developing the Super Power Rundown at the church's "Int Base" -- its secretive California desert headquarters -- in the early 1990s.)
I have spent some time reading through this three-page document, and for those who don't want to struggle through L. Ron Hubbard's jargon-filled mental effluent, I'll take a shot at translating it.
Hubbard begins by lamenting the state of society, and suspects that drug use is causing a condition he labels "disassociation."
That sounds similar to "dissociation," a psychological term that can describe something as benign as the way the mind wanders during a repetitive task, but can also describe mental breakdowns. We know how Hubbard and Scientology feel about psychology and psychiatry, so we won't go there.
Hubbard then explains that a subject who is disassociating is out of sorts. The subject will see connections between things where none exist, for example, and will confound anyone trying to reason with him. "You make a statement and he bends it over to something that has nothing to do with the price of fish," Hubbard complains.
But Hubbard proposes an interesting explanation for why this type of subject is so distracted and uncooperative: it's not that he's hung up on something happening to him now, he's hung up on something that might have happened to him ages ago. Scientologists believe that we are each "thetans" -- spirits -- that have lived countless times over the age of the universe, and that our current "life" is just a blip on our actual "whole track" of existence. Disassociation occurs, Hubbard argues, when we are distracted by an event from something that happened to us countless lifetimes in the past. "It is not that he is stuck on the track where he is, but is stuck on the track elsewhere, often eons ago," he writes.
So what to do about it? Hubbard says that a subject has to be convinced to get back into the current time frame. And to do that, the Bright Think Rundown can help.
The rundown itself consists of a single question that an auditor asks while the subject is holding the "cans" -- the sensors -- of an e-meter. When the subject answers the question, the auditor observes the e-meter's indicator needle, waiting for it to achieve the condition of "floating." Until then, the auditor will simply repeat the question, eliciting responses from the subject. And then ask it again. And again. And again.
The question? In this case, it seems remarkably simple: "Where would you be safe?"
And that's it.
Ask it enough times, and the subject will give a response that correlates to a floating needle, indicating that the subject is in "PT" -- present time. "The end phenomena of the process is a realisation by the pc that he's really in present time. This EP is normally expressed with some variation of the statement 'I'm here!'," Hubbard writes.
I wanted to make sure I understood this correctly, so I reviewed the rundown with Dan Koon, and several other longtime former Scientologists, and they all assured me that I had grasped the situation.
It is this: Scientologists will be asked to pay fairly exorbitant rates to take the Super Power Rundown. On the lower end, ex-Sea Org member Chuck Beatty estimated that this up-front charge will be about $10,000 to $15,000.
Jason Beghe, an actor and former Scientologist who took courses at "Flag," the church's spiritual home in Florida, estimates the Super Power price higher, at $35,000 to $50,000.
So let's split the difference and assume that a wealthy Scientologist will pay something like $30,000 for the Super Power Rundown.
"You have to understand, you pay that before you even get on the plane," Beghe told me yesterday by phone. "But then you get to Clearwater, and you check into the Fort Harrison Hotel, and that's not cheap."
Before you can begin the process that you've come to do, he says, you will be asked to do "prep" to make sure that you are in the right condition to accept the rundown. Invariably, he says, the executives at Flag find that you need preliminary auditing that can take considerable time.
"You're going to be on a False Purpose Rundown for at least a week -- it's basically a sec check that they'll have you on until you admit that you lost your temper at work and screamed at someone, or whatever it is that you have to confess before you can get to what it is you arrived to do," Beghe says.
In "sec checking," a subject is interrogated while holding onto the e-meter and is asked to confess any "crimes" that he or she might have committed which may have put him or her into a lower ethical "condition."
"So maybe you're there three weeks dealing with that before you can get to what you went there for, and that's something you have to pay for at something like $8,000 per intensive," he says, referring to the 12.5-hour intervals of auditing that Scientologists are sold -- not to mention all the arrangements you'll have to make, and pay for, to keep things going at home while you're away. "I ran into people at the hotel who had been there two or three months waiting to be ready for what they went there to do. 'Oh, I'm just waiting to get into my L11 rundown,' they'd say or whatever. Think of what that cost. Because you're not only staying at the hotel, but you're eating in their restaurants and paying for all that sec-checking."
Finally, once a subject is properly prepared, they can do the rundown they have come to Clearwater for.
I asked Beghe, what goes through a Scientologist's mind once he realizes that he's gone through all of that, and spent tens of thousands of dollars, only to find that what he's paid for is an auditor asking him over and over again, "Where would you be safe?"
"Well, I'll tell you this, afterwards, they'll be walking around telling everyone they know, 'Yeah, that motherfucking Super Power Rundown, it's the shit!' That's how it works. No one wants to admit that they've been had. But you have to understand all of the rundowns are like that. It's all just magical thinking," Beghe says.
Another former Scientologist, Marc Headley, echoed that response. "Sometimes it's just ten different questions. Sometimes it's just four questions. Sometimes it's just one question. Or it can be three hundred questions. But they're always just simple questions. That's Scientology," he says.
But thirty thousand dollars to be asked by some goof in a naval outfit, "Where would you be safe?" a hundred times?
"I know, I know. People just don't get it but that's all there is to Scientology," Headley says.
I am grateful to Dan Koon for sharing this material with me, but I told him that I was shocked at how utterly simple it was. An "independent Scientologist" who still adheres to Hubbard's ideas even as he rejects the corporate church run by Miscavige, this was his response:
"Yep, but it's what happens when you really think about the answer to the question that counts. If you were to answer that question 100 times, say, you might find some pretty interesting considerations starting to bubble up from your depths," he wrote to me in an e-mail.
Interesting? I suppose. But worth $30,000 and weeks of expensive prep training at the Fort Harrison Hotel? And worth a $100 million building for delivering it? All for "Where would you be safe?"
This is Scientology.
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
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