By Is that clear enough
Any South African coming into Scientology today will make the rapid discovery that the Bridge to OT is simply not affordable unless they are already extremely wealthy. The last generation for whom the Bridge was relatively affordable was those who joined in the 90s. Even in their case it would not have been possible without extensive co-auditing.
Of course, affordability is a subjective point. We are talking here of an ordinary employed middle class, middle management type individual, a professional or self-employed. Even that population group in South Africa is a select one – anything less and we are then talking of an entirely elitist group of probably 0.5% of the population. So to be in the game of clearing this country at all, Scientology needs to at least cater for the demographic of salaried people supporting a family.
Yet, this group and all the way on up to upper middle class will not be able to afford to go up the Bridge in South Africa (or probably anywhere) under current pricing and stops to training. But let’s get down to specifics – we will use the analogy of the ‘ordinary man in the street’, albeit with the proviso he needs the above-average intelligence to train to a Class 4 auditor.
One particular individual interviewed for this article came into Scientology in 1988 as a salaried person supporting a family on a modest income. By 1995 his then salary of R10,000 a month (about R25,000 in today’s money) wouldn’t have got him far as a paying PC. However, in the early 1990s it was still possible to co-audit, which is what he did.
Even then co-audit was so little encouraged that one would have to view it as being in effect actively discouraged. Scarcely a handful of those who came into Scientology in the late 80s and early 90s accomplished auditor training in the org. For the previous generation, the Bridge was apparently affordable all the way – something that only started changing in the 80s. But even for them, those that lingered on OT7 for decades found the affordability factor catching up and entrapping them between the conveyor belt of refreshers and poverty.
None of us will easily forget when Robin Peglar (on OT7 for decades) dropped the body. His England-based, non-Scientologist brother who came out to wrap up his ‘affairs’, confided with a look of deep anguish and abhorrence on his face that his brother died a pauper. Yet Robin was a highly educated, intelligent and refined man who could easily have flourished in investment banking. Instead, he devoted all his energies to the Bridge and paid the ultimate price of a rather shabby ending.
So how did our middle class Scientologist interviewee achieve the impossible?
He came in through the somewhat alternative route of the Jory mission where the emphasis was still on producing dedicated Scientologists rather than making money. He achieved big wins through a comm course, massive amounts of objectives co-audited on the HQS course and completed the Purif – through to the maximum daily intake of 50 niacin – for a total cost of no more than about R2,000 (that is, maybe half one month’s salary at that time). He was particularly wise in following Bronwyn Jory’s advice and bought a training package from the org that cost around R3,000 – and that package saw him pretty much all the way to Clear for very little cost through co-auditing – which is what he did.
Training in those days was fun (little known fact: you had to get early onto course to bag a seat). The pre-requisites were kept to a minimum of obvious courses such as the Student Hat, Pro TRs and Upper Indoc – no Basics to slog through or Pro Metering course. It was straight on to the Levels and you were auditing literally within a couple of weeks. Regging wasn’t nearly as bad as it came to be (though certainly it existed and a reg was always a person to avoid). Without today’s back-off of being in the org, a standard schedule wasn’t a hardship. In fact, this particular student even put in extra time. This in turn qualified him for scholarship rates on professional auditing. He got through Grades 0, 1 and 2 (professionally audited) in no more than 6 or 7 intensives at the then scholarship rate of R900/intensive.
He then co-audited Grades 3 and 4 (as well as Method One right at the start) with a fellow student and some FPRD lists with another co-audit partner as well to really set himself up for a fast ride through OT levels. In terms of hours, the vast bulk of his Bridge was therefore co-audited and even the intensives bought were remarkably cheap.
Throughout this time money that otherwise would have been spent on Grades he was able to flow towards OT levels at Anzo. Even in the mid-90s, the exchange rate was probably less than R2 to the Aussie dollar and before he knew it, even on his meager salary he had paid up to OT4.
One thing which helped the prior generation is that Miscavige hadn’t yet changed the definition of an FN. Slow eligibilities, queues at Examiner and consequent red tags were virtually unheard of, and PCs could expect to complete everything according to TIP or faster. However, after the new definition of an FN many PCs found their progress slowing and chewing up unnecessary intensives at the exact time they were paying maximum rates for them.
Once at Anzo (or Flag) a new problem materialises – it becomes less a matter of expense as time. As an employee it is not easy to get sufficient leave for months away – and retain your job.
This challenge only gets worse as you further walk the Bridge. OT5 is next, and based on the experiences of many South African Scientologists this is often the first time (but very sadly not the last) they have to borrow the money to do a level. So it was with our interviewee, and because he also couldn’t get the open-ended months off work, he also had to resign his job.
In summary, our interviewee went from a basic comm course at the Jory Mission to OT5 at Anzo in just six years, and at a total cost of less than R100,000. OT5 in 1995 cost R50,000, OT1-4 a year earlier about R30,000. In contrast, those recently completing – Sally-Anne Cooke and Diane Cooke for example – paid R250,000 just for OT5, not to mention many months off work, a cost which often exceeds that of the level. Both these recent OTs spent a million and more just for the OT levels component of their Bridge. Inspection of those getting onto OT7 over the past decade will reveal hardly if any who earn anything less than very high incomes, and typically have no dependents at all.
Back in the 90s, donations were not an integral component of OT levels. We know of one OT who as recently as six years ago got on to OT6 (not 7, however) with just an annual IAS membership! What this all suggests is that the Bridge is being made more and more unaffordable for ordinary people, and this has been happening for the past 30 years’ of Miscavige’s ‘reign’. At the Fort Harrison in 1992, each hotel room had an LRH reference on costs and ‘where your money goes’. It explicitly stated that though costs were high (though nothing like today) the idea was that they would steadily come down with the economies of scale.
As with so many things in Scientology, the exact opposite of what LRH intended has taken place.
People who earn the same equivalent amount today that our interviewee did, even if they co-audited – a much tougher proposition post-GAT2 – could not make it.
Three factors have changed the affordability equation:
• The cost of services and e-meters is today far higher
• The exchange rate in 1992-5 was about 2:1, and today is about 11:1
• The training route (quite apart from the far higher cost) has been put out of reach by the arbitrary lengthening of the runway which didn’t exist pre-GAT
By the way, this isn’t news. The reference to Stairway to Heaven is that in the early 1970s Led Zeppelin apparently wrote the iconic song on being introduced to Scientology and the Bridge to Total Freedom (if you can afford it).