A Hierarchy of Higher Statuses

In their article, Scientology: To Be Perfectly Clear, William Sims Bainbridge and Rodney Stark offer a unique and highly insightful analysis into the functioning of the cult. The following brief excerpt discusses the role of the OT levels in preserving the illusion of efficacy of ``the tech''.

The full article is available in The Future of Religion: Secularization, Revival, and Cult Formation, by Rodney Stark and William Sims Bainbridge, University of California Press, 1985. Chapter 12, pp. 263-283. You may order this book from www.amazon.com (paperback; $17.00).

Cult advertisements and informal comments vary, but, in general, it is no longer boldly asserted that clears are geniuses or that they never get colds. Clear status has been mystified and subtly deflated. Even the most doctrinally learned Scientologists may be unsure exactly what palpable qualities a clear is supposed to manifest, other than confidence and loyalty to the cult. Therefore, new clears may not feel justified in criticizing the quality of the clear experience, but they still may want more than they have received. The original promise of clear, and much more, is offered by a still growing series of levels above clear, the operating thetan or "OT" statuses....

Progress up the Scientology status pyramid remains slow, and only just over a thousand persons had achieved OT VII at the Los Angeles org by mid-1979. A high proportion of these probably consists of professional auditors committed by all aspects of their lives to the cult. Therefore, the value of the top OT levels has not been disconfirmed within the cult, and they may be followed by yet other levels in future years. Essential to preservation of their value are two conditions: (1) maintaining secrecy and isolation of these statuses and (2) keeping the numbers of people at the top of the Scientology pyramid relatively small. If everyone were at the top, and everyone could see that even OTs are not superhuman, the entire structure might be threatened. But, for the time being, the OT levels serve to defend clear and other lower statuses by offering continued hope that ultimately all the promised benefits will be provided.