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Operating Thetan

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In Scientology, Operating Thetan (OT) is a state of complete spiritual freedom in which one is a "willing and knowing cause over life, thought, matter, energy, space and time".[1]: 279  The Church of Scientology offers eight "levels" of OT, each level costing thousands of US dollars.[2] The OT levels are confidential and not revealed to Scientologists until they reach the third Operating Thetan level. In practice, the objective of these levels is to remove "body thetans" which are "confused, disembodied souls from other planets who have attached themselves to us".[3]: 18 


The OT symbol is incorporated into the middle of the Freewinds ship logo, among several other Scientology symbols

The OT levels are the upper part of "The Bridge to Total Freedom", which is the set of levels within Scientology. After having removed one's own "reactive mind" and thus attaining the state of "Clear", Scientologists may then go on to the OT levels.[4] Scientology doctrine defines OT as the "highest state there is".[1]: 283  Operating Thetan is represented by a symbol consisting of the letters OT with the T inside the O and each of the points of the T ending at the O's circumference.[1]: 280 

An Operating Thetan (OT) is described within Scientology as a state of godliness, and Scientologists are taught they will have godlike control over "matter, energy, space and time" (known in Scientology jargon as MEST).[5] Hubbard claimed that thetans were once tricked into following religions, which prevented them from using their own power to create and destroy universes.[6]: 81–82  The Church claims that an OT is not dependent on the physical universe, and Scientologists who have attained the highest Operating Thetan level claim that they have control over their lives and can "go exterior" from their bodies.[7]

According to religious scholar J. Gordon Melton, "[The OT levels are] basically a variation of the Gnostic myth about souls falling into matter and the encumbrances that come with that. ... In the OT [levels], you're finding out that you're a thetan, that you've come into bodies before. Part of what you're trying to learn is exteriorization — how to get out of your body. You also learn that you carry a lot of encumbrances from past lives."[8]

While there are fifteen OT levels listed on Scientology's Classification, Gradation and Awareness Chart, the Church only offers eight.[4][7] According to former Scientologist and critic of the Church Mike Rinder, the promise of new levels has been used for decades to motivate church members to donate or repeat courses they have already taken in preparation. Rinder has said he doesn't believe these courses exist.[9][10]

Confidential materials[edit]

Since the 1960s when Hubbard invented the OT levels, they have been considered confidential. Those who read such documents do so in locked rooms, transport them in locked briefcases attached to their wrists, and the documents are securely locked up when not in actual use. Members are forbidden to discuss the OT levels with anyone, may not disclose the contents or procedures, and may not make copies or even notes.[6]: 100–102 [11]

One must be "invited" to do the OT levels. OT preps are preparatory steps to ensure that one is ready for them, and this includes security checks (confessionals) to make certain that the person is not a security risk and will keep the confidentiality of the OT materials.[12]: 17–19 [11]

Scientology has been active in litigating to keep their OT levels secret. In the 1980's Wollersheim case, the OT III materials were entered into evidence by Wollersheim to show how they made him psychotic, eventually getting published in the news when an agency got their hands on a copy from the courthouse. In the 1990s Fishman case, the entire OT levels from I to VIII were presented, eventually leading to others obtaining them and later duplicated on the internet.[13]: 19  This led to several raids of homes and offices, and lawsuits against several people who had put copies on the internet. Such acts collectively became known as Scientology versus the Internet.

On March 24, 2008, WikiLeaks published on its website the previously secret training instructions for all eight OT levels. Three days later the law firm of Moxon & Kobrin sent a letter to Wikileaks on behalf of the Church of Scientology demanding to have the documents removed. In response, Wikileaks stated they would not comply and would instead post even more Scientology documents. The Church of Scientology failed to get the documents removed from the website.[14][15]

Hugh B. Urban explores the purpose of secrecy in the Operating Thetan levels in the Church of Scientology by discussing its related controversy. He claims that secrecy is a motivating tool for Scientologists to desire to climb "The Bridge of Total Freedom," specifically to attain the level of OTVIII.[16]

OT levels[edit]

Although The Bridge to Total Freedom lists 15 OT levels above the state of Clear, only seven were released during Hubbard's lifetime,[6]: 101  while OT VIII was released to the public in 1988, two years after Hubbard's 1986 death.[17]: 126 

Levels OT I through OT V can be delivered only at Church of Scientology Advanced Organizations. OT VI and OT VII can be delivered only at Flag Service Org. OT VIII can be delivered only at Flag Ship Service Org aboard Scientology's ship Freewinds.[4][17]: 126 

OT I[edit]

"This Solo-audited level is the first step a Clear takes toward full OT abilities, and that first step is a fresh causative OT viewpoint of the MEST universe and other beings."[18] The cost to move to level OT I was $2,750 as of 2013.[19]

OT II[edit]

"By confronting hidden areas of one's existence on the whole track [that is, by confronting past incarnations], vast amounts of energy and attention are released. Those on this Solo-audited level experience a resurgence of self-determinism and native ability. OT II unlocks the aberrative factors on the whole track that have allowed the thetan to lose his innate freedom and ability and one achieves the ability to confront the whole track."[18] The cost to move from OT I to OT II was $5,225 as of 2013.[19]

OT III: Wall of Fire[edit]

Media attention has mostly focused on Operating Thetan Level III, which reportedly tells the history of the universe from 75 million years ago. This level is called the "First Wall of Fire" and claims to "reveal the cause of earthly human suffering". It is claimed that even Hubbard himself had difficulty attaining it.[13]: 18 

Hubbard announced discovering an important breakthrough within less than a month of founding the Sea Org, the religious order of the church that consists of its most dedicated members. He described it as a "means of erasing those mental factors that stand in the way of peace and toleration of mankind". The new material made up the new Operating Thetan III.[20]

"This Solo-audited level goes through what is called the 'Wall of Fire' that surrounds a previously impenetrable whole track mystery. What prevents a being from being himself? This level answers that question. Once complete, a being is free of the whole track overwhelm that has trapped him. Here he confronts and eradicates the fourth dynamic engram that has plagued this universe for millennia."[18] The cost to move from OT II to OT III was $8,910 as of 2013.[19]

Church dogma regards OT III as a dangerous process which can lead to pneumonia, to lack of sleep or even to death if not run correctly. In Church of Scientology of California v. Kaufman, it was noted that the defendant had been required to sign a waiver to the effect that "the Scientology Organization, its branches and members, and L. Ron Hubbard are not responsible for anything that might happen to my body or mind on OT III".[21]

Within OT III is the secret doctrine of the church. Members must be invited to "do it", and they sign a contract of secrecy.[22][11]

OT IV: OT Drug Rundown[edit]

"This level handles the hidden problems and stops in a being's universe caused by the effects of drugs and poisons on the whole track. This is the final polish that rids one of any last vestige of the effects of drugs on the spirit. Ministered at Advanced Organizations or Flag. Approximately 12½ to 25 hours."[18]

OT V: Audited New Era Dianetics for OTs (NOTs)[edit]

"The Second Wall of Fire consists of 26 separate rundowns and has been described as dealing with 'living lightning, the very stuff of life itself.' This level addresses the last aspects of one's case that can prevent him from achieving total freedom on all dynamics. An audited level ministered at Advanced Organizations or Flag. Approximately 50 hours."[18]

OT VI: Solo NOTs Auditing Course[edit]

"The training one receives before starting to solo audit on New OT VII is so powerful that it actually constitutes an entire OT level. On Solo NOTs one is dealing with complexities intended to crush one's true power and abilities as a thetan. Solo NOTs auditors acquire a wide range of auditing skills to handle the vast phenomena that can occur on OT VIII. Approximately 3–4 weeks with the new Solo Auditor Course done."[18]

OT VII: Solo NOTs[edit]

"On New OT VII one solo audits at home daily. This is a lengthy level, requiring a considerable amount of time to complete. It is the final pre-OT level, and culminates in attainment of the state of CAUSE OVER LIFE."[18]

OT VIII: Truth Revealed[edit]

Many who had spent decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the pinnacle of the scientology Bridge were so disgusted when they finally got there that it was the last thing they did in scientology.[17]: 126 
— Mike Rinder

OT VIII is the highest level in Scientology, and is only offered aboard the Freewinds ship.[23] It supposedly reveals "the ultimate secret of Hubbard's teachings".[13]: 19 

The original version of OT VIII was released in 1988 and was authored by Hubbard himself, while a second "revised" version was released in 1991 by an unnamed editor. Both versions were released after L. Ron Hubbard's death. The original contains a Doomsday Prophecy that the Galactic Confederacy will return soon and telepathically enslave the universe but Hubbard wrote that he will return after his death and in a Messiah-like role "halt a series of events designed to make happy slaves of us all".[24] Early participants in this version balked at it and the church subsequently revised it into its current form. The church initially stated the original version found in the Fishman Affidavit is a forgery but later admitted it was copyrighted by the church thus establishing authenticity. The revised version they currently use also has an editor's note that states "it is not the original".[25]

The revised version is completely redacted from the original and states "This Solo-audited level addresses the primary cause of amnesia on the whole track and lets one see the truth of his own existence. This is the first actual OT level and brings about a resurgence of power and native abilities for the being himself. This may be done at the Flag Ship Service Organization."

According to interviews performed by Mike Rinder, Scientologists have described OT VIII as "less than overwhelming".[17]: 126 

OT IX to OT XV[edit]

Since 1986, Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige has dangled the hope of OT IX and X being released in the near future, pending certain conditions, which have shifted over time. It has been widely reported that Hubbard never wrote OT IX and above; therefore, those levels do not exist.[9][26]: 153 [17]: 126–127 [12]: Ch.5

Cleared Theta Clear[edit]

Beyond the attainment of the state of Operating Thetan is that of Cleared Theta Clear, which Hubbard describes as such:

A thetan who is completely rehabilitated and can do everything a thetan should do, such as move MEST and control others from a distance, or create his own universe; a person who is able to create his own universe or, living in the MEST universe is able to create illusions perceivable by others at will, to handle MEST universe objects without mechanical means and to have and feel no need of bodies or even the MEST universe to keep himself and his friends interested in existence.

— L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology 8-8008, p. 114 (1st ed), p. 151 (1990 ed.)


A growing number of former Scientologists have made public allegations that the church encourages its members to complete very expensive courses and expect wonderful results; when the improvements fail to happen, further courses are then promoted to facilitate the anticipated changes. Criticism stems from a pattern of cycles wherein members continue to pay increasing amounts for these courses, while some even put their families into debt chasing the elusive life-changing results under the stewardship of the church.[27]: Chapter 3 

Legal issues and copyright[edit]

In March 2008, WikiLeaks leaked the Church of Scientology's Operating Thetan documents.[28] The Church of Scientology portrayed hosting the documentation as a copyright violation implying that the collection is Church doctrine. A court found that it was legal to download, use, read, and practice these teachings outside the Church.[14][failed verification]

In 1997, Zenon Panoussis, a resident of Sweden, sent copies of NOTs documents to various government authorities, thereby making the documents public according to the Swedish principle of public access to official records. The Church of Scientology responded by ordering members to continuously borrow the available copies in order to prevent non-members from reading them. The Church of Scientology also sued Panoussis for copyright infringement, since he had made the documents available online without authorization.[29]

A similar incident occurred during the 1980s, during the trial of Wollersheim v. Church of Scientology. When the OT III documents had been entered into evidence, 1,500 Scientologists crammed the courthouse in an attempt to block public access to the documents by each requesting to photocopy them, thus overwhelming the clerk's office so no one else could access them.[27]: 350, 356–357 [12]: 178–179 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hubbard, L. Ron (1975). Dianetics and Scientology Technical Dictionary. Church of Scientology. ISBN 0-88404-037-2. OL 5254386M.
  2. ^ Wakefield, Margery (1991). "OT -- Through the Wall of Fire and Beyond". Understanding Scientology. Tampa, Florida: Coalition of Concerned Citizens. p. 97. Archived from the original on December 3, 1998.
  3. ^ Lewis, James R. (2016). "Scientology: Religious Studies Approaches". Numen. 63 (1): 6–11. ISSN 0029-5973. JSTOR 24644837.
  4. ^ a b c "The Bridge to Total Freedom : Scientology Classification Gradation and Awareness Chart of Levels and Certificates" (Chart). Church of Scientology.
  5. ^ Westbrook, Donald A. (2017). "Researching Scientology and Scientologists in the United States: Methods and Conclusions". In Lewis, James R.; Hellesoy, Kjersti (eds.). Handbook of Scientology. Vol. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion. Brill. pp. 30–31. ISBN 9789004330542. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c Urban, Hugh B. (2011). The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14608-9.
  7. ^ a b Tobin, Thomas C (December 31, 2009). "Climbing The Bridge: A journey to 'Operating Thetan'". tampabay.com. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Verini, James (June 28, 2005). "Missionary Man: Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology". Salon.com. Spiegel Online. Archived from the original on July 5, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2008.
  9. ^ a b Rinder, Mike (October 4, 2015). "New OT IX & X Are Closer Than You Think". mikerindersblog.org. Retrieved May 24, 2023.
  10. ^ Jancelewicz, Chris (September 6, 2017). "Leah Remini reveals what happens when you reach the top of Scientology – National | Globalnews.ca". globalnews.ca. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  11. ^ a b c Reitman, Janet (February 23, 2006). "Inside Scientology". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 2, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c Wright, Lawrence (2013). Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief. Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-70066-7. OL 25424776M.
  13. ^ a b c Urban, Hugh B. (2017). ""The Third Wall of Fire": Scientology and the Study of Religious Secrecy". Nova Religio. 20 (4): 13–36. ISSN 1092-6690. JSTOR 26417719.
  14. ^ a b Metz, Cade (April 8, 2008). "Scientology threatens Wikileaks with injunction". The Register. Retrieved April 10, 2008.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Dericquebourg, Regis (2017). "Scientology: From the Edges to the Core". Nova Religio. 20 (4): 5–12. doi:10.1525/nr.2017.20.4.5.
  17. ^ a b c d e Rinder, Mike (2022). A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-982185-76-3.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Church of Scientology International (1998). What is Scientology? (Based on the works of L. Ron Hubbard, compiled by staff of CSI). Bridge Publications. pp. 676–677. ISBN 1-57318-122-6. OL 16726573M.
  19. ^ a b c Wakefield, Margery (February 24, 2010). "Chapter 7 : OT — Through the Wall of Fire and Beyond". Understanding Scientology : The Demon Cult. ISBN 978-0-557-10926-5. Retrieved February 12, 2013 – via David S. Touretzky.
  20. ^ Lewis, James R. (2009). Scientology. Oxford University Press. p. 2009. ISBN 978-0-19-533149-3.
  21. ^ Church of Scientology of California v. Kaufman, [1972] F.S.R. 591 per Goff J – in the Chancery Division of the High Court
  22. ^ Lewis, James R.; Petersen, Jesper (2014). Controversial New Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-931532-1. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
  23. ^ Burke, Daniel (May 3, 2019). "Here's what happens on Scientology's cruise ship, the Freewinds. It sounds pretty intense". CNN.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Ortega, Tony. "UP THE BRIDGE: We finally reach 'OT 8' — but was its first version really a hoax?". The Underground Bunker. Retrieved June 13, 2021.
  26. ^ Reitman, Janet (2011). Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-618-88302-8. OL 24881847M.
  27. ^ a b Atack, Jon (1990). A Piece of Blue Sky: Scientology, Dianetics and L. Ron Hubbard Exposed. Lyle Stuart Books. ISBN 0-8184-0499-X. OL 9429654M.
  28. ^ n:Church of Scientology's 'Operating Thetan' documents leaked online
  29. ^ Macavinta, Courtney (March 30, 1999). "Scientologists settle legal battle". CNet News. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved May 12, 2015.

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